Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal Volume 1.2

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Baptist Theological Journal

  Maranatha Baptist Bible College
   Maranatha Baptist Seminary

          Volume 1, Number 2
            FALL 2011
Baptist Theological Journal

ISSN 2160-1623

Published semi-annually by

Maranatha Baptist Bible College and Seminary
745 W. Main Street
Watertown, Wisconsin 53094
Marty Marriott, President

Editor: Larry R. Oats
Communications and books for review should be addressed
to the editor.

The Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal is published
two times a year (spring and fall).

The Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal is a ministry of
Maranatha Baptist Bible College and Seminary.

Copyright © by Maranatha Baptist Bible College and

All rights reserved. Materials in this publication may not be
reproduced without the permission of the Editor, except for
reproduction for classroom use by students or professors.
         Baptist Theological Journal
             Volume One, Number Two

INTRODUCTION __________________________________________ 141



FROM IGNATIUS TO ORIGEN _______________________________ 223


BOOK REVIEWS __________________________________________ 287
    The purpose of the Maranatha Baptist Theological
Journal is to provide for our constituency, and for others
who may be interested, articles from a Baptist,
dispensational, and conservative theological position.
Articles will be academic and practical, biblical and
theological, focused on the needs of the pastor and church
leader, and, above all, faithful to God‘s Word.
    The education of a person in ministry, whether he or
she is serving in vocational ministry or as a volunteer, is a
continuing process. For that reason, Maranatha publishes
the Theological Journal to assist individuals in their ongoing
education. Through the Journal, our monthly webinars,
Sunesis, and other venues, Maranatha Baptist Seminary
and Maranatha Baptist Bible College seek to assist God‘s
servants in whatever ways we are able. Our faculty are
available to speak in churches and conferences on the
topics on which they write, as well as in other areas of their
    We trust that you will be blessed and challenged as you
read this issue of the Maranatha Baptist Theological

Marty Marriott
Maranatha Baptist Bible College and Seminary

Larry R. Oats
MBTJ 1:2 143-194

           A Warning for True Believers
                 who Lack Faith
                       Hebrews 6:4–8

                       Andrew Hudson1

     Hebrews 6:4–8 is one of the most difficult New
Testament passages to interpret. Almost every article
written on this passage begins with a statement of its
difficulty.2 At the same time, the interpretation of this
passage is crucial to the interpretation of the other warning
passages in Hebrews and to the development of one‘s
theological position on several soteriological issues.
     There are three key issues in Hebrews 6:4–8 that must
be interpreted in order to arrive at an acceptable
interpretation of the entire paragraph. The first issue is
whether or not ―those who were once enlightened‖ are
actually saved.3 The second issue is the nature of the falling

    1  Dr. Hudson is Professor of New Testament at Maranatha
Baptist Seminary.
     2 For  example, Wayne Grudem says, ―For centuries
Christians have been puzzled by Hebrews 6:4–6.‖ ―Perseverance of
the Saints: A Case Study from Hebrews 6:4–6 and Other Warning
Passages in Hebrews,‖ in The Grace of God, The Bondage of the
Will, eds. Thomas Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware (Grand Rapids:
Baker, 1995), 133. Scot McKnight says, ―Few are the number of
Christians who have not been at least troubled by the warning
passages of Hebrews, troubled perhaps to the point of despair or
even terror.‖ ―The Warning Passages of Hebrews: A Formal
Analysis and Theological Conclusions,‖ Trinity Journal 13 (1992):
     3 David deSilva argues that asking whether the people

described in Hebrews 6 are saved distorts the author‘s meaning.
He suggests instead that the people should merely be presented
as recipients of the gifts of God in a patron-client social
144         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

away in verse six. Is it a rejection of Christ‘s offer of
salvation, or is it a rejection of some aspect within
Christianity? The third issue is the nature of the judgment
for falling away in verses four and eight. Is the judgment
eternal damnation of an unbeliever, or is it the severe
chastisement of an erring believer? The proper
interpretation of Hebrews 6:4–8 must provide solutions for
each of these issues.
    The purpose of this article is to suggest a solution for
each of these issues. First, ―those who were once
enlightened‖ are true believers. They have been regenerated
and are part of the body of Christ. Second, ―falling away‖ is
a conscious rejection of Christ‘s high priestly ministry for
the believer.4 It is not a rejection of Christ‘s offer of
salvation. It is a reference to faulty devotion and worship,
not a faulty salvation experience. Third, the judgment for
rejecting Christ‘s high priestly ministry for the believer is
severe chastisement (up to and including physical death
and/or loss of eternal reward). It is not a reference to the
eternal damnation of the unbeliever.
    This article begins with a brief review of the major
interpretations proposed for Hebrews 6:4–8. This review

intertexture. ―Hebrews 6:4–8: A Socio-Rhetorical Investigation
(Part 1),‖ Tyndale Bulletin 50 (1999): 42-44. This view suffers from
an either-or fallacy. Either the author of Hebrews is speaking of
salvation, or he is speaking of the patron-client relationship. It is
entirely possible to see the ―gifts‖ that came to the ―clients‖ as the
gifts associated with salvation. The author may be speaking of
both salvation and the patron-client relationship. deSilva himself
identifies the individuals in Hebrews 6:1–2 as ―converted.‖
―Hebrews 6:4–8: A Socio-Rhetorical Investigation (Part 2),‖
Tyndale Bulletin 50 (1999): 226.
     4 Christ‘s high priestly ministry for the NT saint provides

access to the grace and mercy that helps the saint in time of need
and provides access to the throne of God to request that help
(Heb 4:14–16). It is the blood of Christ which makes this
fellowship and provision possible for the believer.
                A Warning for True Believers                145

sets the context for the current discussion of this
paragraph of Scripture. Next, the article places Hebrews
6:4–8 in its biblical context. Last, the article provides a
detailed study of Hebrew 6:4–8 in order to argue for the
solutions to the three issues mentioned above.
     It is not the intention of this article to deal with all of
the warning passages in the book of Hebrews. Other
warning passages are mentioned only as they relate to
Hebrews 6:4–8. Neither is it the intention of this article to
argue for the eternal security of the believer from this
passage.5 While this passage may support the perseverance
of the saints, this article suggests that Hebrews 6:4–8 is not
even talking about soteriological issues. Instead, it is
discussing the spiritual health of a true believer‘s lifestyle.

          Proposed Solutions for Hebrews 6:4–8

    There are several ways to categorize the various views of
Hebrews 6:4–8. Each of the three issues discussed above
generates a variety of opinions. Perhaps the best way to
organize this data is to divide the various views by means of
the first issue discussed above. Are ―those who were once
enlightened‖ saved or not?

Professing Believers—Truly Unsaved

    Some suggest that the descriptive phrases in Hebrews
6:4–5 describe an individual who has adequate knowledge
of the truth of salvation, and yet, consciously rejects
Christ‘s offer of salvation.6 Compton argues that ―the

    5  Some have used this passage to argue for the doctrine of
the eternal security of the believer. See R. Bruce Compton,
―Persevering and Falling Away: A Reexamination of Hebrews 6:4–
6,‖ Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 1 (Spring 1996): 135–167 and
Wayne Grudem, ―Perseverance of the Saints.‖
     6 Roger Nicole, ―Some Comments on Hebrews 6:4–6,‖ in

Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic Interpretation, ed. G.
146        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

passage refers to those who have heard the gospel, have
made a profession of faith, yet are not saved.‖7 Those who
hold this view readily admit that the description of the
person in Hebrews 6:4–5 appears to suggest a genuine
Christian.8 However, they assert that the description itself
is inconclusive, so the context must be the determining
    Those who hold this view identify the ―falling away‖ as
apostasy. Compton says, ―its use in the LXX, the parallel
expressions in the other warning passages, and the
descriptive phrases accompanying it here and elsewhere in
Hebrews lead inevitably to the conclusion that the sin of
apostasy is meant.‖10 Apostasy is the conscious rejection of
the gospel of Christ after receiving a thorough and

Hawthorne (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975) 355–364; Stewart
Custer, ―The Awfulness of Apostasy,‖ Biblical Viewpoint 24 (April
1990): 45−50; Wayne Grudem, ―Perseverance of the Saints,‖ 133–
182; Compton, ―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 135–167; L. S.
Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press,
1947), 3:302–303; Robert A. Peterson, ―Apostasy,‖ Presbyterion 19
(1993): 17–31; Yoon Duk Kim, ―The Peril of Apostasy in Hebrews
6:4–6‖ (Th.M Thesis, Talbot School of Theology-Biola University,
1989); Andrew Fredrick Foth, ―The Awful Possibility: A Study of
Hebrews 6:4–8‖ (Th.M. Thesis, Central Baptist Theological
Seminary, 1981); John E. Ward, ―The Perplexing Problem of
Hebrews Six‖ (Th.M. Thesis, Grace Theological Seminary, 1982);
George H. Guthrie, The NIV Application Commentary: Hebrews
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998) 230–231; Robert A. Peterson,
―Apostasy in the Hebrews Warning Passages,‖ Presbyterion 34
(Spring 2008): 27–44; Dave Mathewson, ―Reading Heb 6:4–6 in
Light of the Old Testament,‖ Westminster Theological Journal 61
(1999): 209–225.
    7 Compton, 145.

    8 Compton, 145–146; Grudem, 137. Grudem says, ―If we

confine our attention to verses 4–6, a good case can be made for
viewing these people as those who were once truly saved.‖
    9 Compton, 146; Grudem, 139–140, 152.

    10 Compton, 156.
                A Warning for True Believers               147

understandable explanation of it. In fact, those described in
Hebrews had even assented to the truth of the gospel for a
time; however, their profession was not real.
     According to this view, the judgment faced by those
who reject the gospel of Christ is eternal damnation.
Compton says, ―Under the pressure of persecution, these
abandon the faith and are faced with eternal condemnation
and judgment.‖11 Grudem calls the judgment ―the final
judgment of God‖ and the apostate‘s final state one of
―cursing and fiery judgment.‖12
     In summary, this view proposes that Hebrews 6:4–8
describes individuals who heard the gospel of Christ and
made a profession of faith.13 They lived as Christians for a
while within the fellowship of the church. When persecution
came, however, they rejected the gospel and publicly
ridiculed Christ. As a result of their rejection they are
beyond repentance (i.e., permanently hardened) and can
only look forward to God‘s fiery judgment on the unsaved.

Genuine Believers—Truly Saved

    There are several views that present those described in
Hebrews 6:4–8 as genuinely saved individuals. These views
accept the natural reading of the descriptions in verses 4–5
as those who have been regenerated and are truly saved.
Even though these views agree that Hebrews 6:4–8 is
describing saved individuals, there is no consensus
regarding the nature of ―falling away‖ or the nature of
judgment. There are at least four variations within this
general category.

    11 Ibid., 145.
    12 Grudem, 155.
    13 Peterson suggests that only a small number were actually

in a professing-only state. He says, ―The writer issues a real
warning to a minority of his readers whom he fears may not know
Christ and may show it by committing apostasy‖ (Peterson, 43).
148        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

    Hypothetical rejection. Those who hold the hypo-
thetical rejection view suggest that the author of Hebrews
desires to shake true believers loose from their moral
lethargy by mentioning what would happen if they ―fell
away.‖14 These believers would lose their salvation and face
eternal condemnation. According to this view ―fall away‖
means to reject the gospel of Christ, and the judgment that
follows is the eternal condemnation of the unsaved.15
However, proponents of this view are quick to point out that
this ―falling away‖ is impossible for true believers. The
author of Hebrews is merely using a hypothetical
impossibility to warn true believers about continuing in
their spiritual immaturity. Hewitt states, ―The writer by the
use of the phrase if they shall fall away does not say that
the readers or anyone else had fallen away. He is putting
forward a hypothetical case as the RSV translation, ‗if they
then commit apostasy,‘ suggests.‖16
     This view has at least two problems. First, it would
make no sense to warn believers about something that
would be impossible for them. If it were impossible for them
to fall away, then why would they need a warning against
falling away?17 Second, if it is impossible to fall away, then

      14Thomas Hewitt, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Tyndale New
Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960), 106–
111; Homer Kent, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids:
Baker, 1972) 107–114.
     15 Kent, 109–110. Kent explains ―fall away‖ as ―a complete

and final repudiation of Christ.‖
     16 Hewitt, 108. Kent follows Hewitt saying, ―All things consid-

ered, the last view [hypothetical rejection] commends itself to the
present writer as dealing most adequately with the text‖ (Epistle to
the Hebrews, 113–114).
     17 Grudem, 152. Kent responds to this claim of irrelevancy by

citing three New Testament verses where a hypothetical or even
impossible case is given (Gal 3:12; Jas 2:10; John 9:39). However,
none of these cases are in the context of a warning, and thus, do
not support Kent‘s claim (Epistle to the Hebrews, 114).
                A Warning for True Believers                149

there should be no one who has fallen away. Hebrews
10:25, which is part of a passage that parallels 6:4–8,
mentions some who have fallen away. Therefore, the text of
Hebrews itself argues against this view.18

    Community rejection.19 Verlyn Verbrugge has sug-
gested that Hebrews 6:4–8 is not even talking about
individual salvation, rejection, and judgment. Instead, the
concept of community is intended.20 Therefore, it is the
believing community that is rejected, not each individual
member. Verbrugge summarizes his view,

         When we examine the Old Testament passage
    referred to here [Vineyard Song–Isa. 5:1–7], we will
    note that the primary concept in the author‘s mind
    is that of a covenant community and not the
    individual child of God. Thus when we read of the
    falling away and of God‘s subsequent rejection, it is
    rejection of a community that is in focus. Such a
    rejection does not necessarily include every
    individual member of the community; in both Old
    Testament and New Testament parallel passages,
    this same theme can be found. In other words,
    God‘s rejection of his covenant community does not
    jeopardize the doctrine of election and the

    18 Compton, 142.
    19 Verlyn Verbrugge, ―Towards a New Interpretation of
Hebrews 6:4–6,‖ Calvin Theological Journal 15 (April 1980): 61–
73; Noel Weeks, ―Admonition and Error in Hebrews,‖ Westminster
Theological Journal 39 (Fall 1976): 72–80; Brent Nongbri, ―A
Touch of Condemnation in a Word of Exhortation: Apocalyptic
Language and Graeco-Roman Rhetoric in Hebrews 6:4–12,‖
Novum Testamentum XLV (2003): 265–279; Peter S. Perry,
―Making Fear Personal: Hebrews 5.11–6.12 and the Argument
from Shame,‖ Journal for the Study of the New Testament 32
(2009): 99–125.
    20 Verbrugge, 61–73.
150         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

      preservation or perseverance of the saints as it
      applies to the individual believer.21

     Nongbri says, ―The author of Hebrews has thus
appropriated the language of apocalyptic and snapped it
into a rhetorically proper format to further his goal of
exhorting his addressees to persevere in their marginalized
     This view is not convincing. The warnings and the
exhortations to persevere given in the book of Hebrews are
given to individual Christians.23 The concept of God only
―rejecting‖ part of a community is inconsistent with the Old
Testament teaching concerning blessings and cursing. The
entire nation of Israel was either blessed or cursed, not just
parts of it (see Deut 28–30). Hebrews 6:7–8 also states that
the entire land was either blessed or cursed.

   True (phenomenological) rejection. Some propose that
true believers can change their mind about their faith in
Christ. These believers, after being saved and experiencing
the Christian life, reject the message of the gospel. These
former believers then lose their salvation and, most likely,
any future hope of being resaved.24 The ―falling away‖ is a

      21Verbrugge, 62.
      22Nongbri, 266.
     23 See McKnight, ―The Warning Passages of Hebrews,‖ 54.

     24 R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle to the

Hebrews and the Epistle of James (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1966),
179–187; William L. Lane, Hebrews 1–8, Word Biblical
Commentary (Dallas: Word, 1991), 141–143, 145–146; Paul
Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews, New International Greek
Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 318–
325; Herbert H. Hohenstein, ―A Study of Hebrews 6:4–8,‖
Concordia Theological Monthly 27 (June 1956): 433–444, 536–
546; McKnight, 21–59; Wayne R. Kempson, ―Hebrews 6:1–8,‖
Review and Expositor 91 (1994): 567–573; Martin Emmrich,
―Hebrews 6:4–6—Again! (A Pneumatological Inquiry),‖ Westmin-
ster Theological Journal 65 (2003): 83–95.
                 A Warning for True Believers                151

conscious choice to reject the gospel of Christ. Hohenstein
says, ―[T]he writer [of Hebrews] makes it unmistakably clear
that if men who have been enlivened choose to return to the
death of unbelief, there is no hope that the quick and
powerful Word . . . will resurrect them from their gloomy
grave of spiritual darkness.‖25 The judgment for returning
to a condition of unbelief is eternal damnation (―death of
unbelief‖). These former believers are treated in the
judgment as if they had never been saved.
    McKnight emphasizes the progressive nature of
salvation. He identifies two categories of salvation:
inaugurated salvation and final salvation.26 In the
inaugurated stage of salvation, he includes conversion
(past) and perseverance (present). Final salvation is future
complete salvation. He asserts that someone can have a
conversion experience and begin to persevere. However, if
they fail to persevere and instead apostatize, they will not
attain final salvation. McKnight concludes,

       In light of the futurity of salvation in Hebrews it
   is reasonable to contend that one cannot in fact
   ―lose one‘s salvation,‖ since one has not yet
   acquired it. One cannot lose what one does not in
   fact have. But perhaps we are playing semantics
   here. Perhaps we should say that we can ―lose‖ the
   present dimensions of salvation that have already
   been inaugurated and experienced (6:4–5; 10:14;
   12:22–24). But, we certainly need to be careful of
   what we are saying if we say that the author of
   Hebrews states that we can ―lose salvation‖
   because, for him, salvation is largely a future state
   of affairs. In light of his hesitancy to apply the term
   to the present time, it is perhaps wisest for us to
   avoid its use in this sense. Rather, I think it is

   25   Hohenstein, 538.
   26   McKnight, 57.
152         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

      wisest    to    say   that    those    who      are
      phenomenologically believers can ―lose their faith‖
      and the enjoyment of God‘s salvation that
      persevering faith would have made possible for

     McKnight‘s change in terminology from ―lose salvation‖
to ―lose faith‖ does not free him from a theological tension.
If final salvation is dependent upon human perseverance,
then final salvation is based on human works. This is
contrary to the teaching in Scripture that salvation is a free
gift of God (Eph 2:8–9).
     Kempson likens salvation to a journey toward future
salvation that can only be reached through continued
faith.28 He says, ―Those who quit the journey have no other
options, for there is no other pathway that leads to life
other than the path of faith in Christ.‖29 McKnight,
Kempson, and others who think that salvation or faith can
be lost also have to assert that there is no security for the

    Fellowship/Dependence rejection. Those who hold
this view are confident that those described in Hebrews
6:4–5 are true believers.31 However, they define the ―falling

       McKnight, 58.

       Kempson, 570.

    29 Kempson, 571. He also says, ―Ultimately, salvation is

measured only at the end of life.‖
    30 McKnight tries to soften this fact by stating, ―[T]he only sin

that can separate the believer from final salvation is the sin of
apostasy‖ (McKnight, 58). It is beyond the scope of this paper to
argue for the eternal security of the believer.
    31 J. B. Rowell, ―Exposition of Hebrews Six: An Age-Long

Battleground,‖ Bibliotheca Sacra 94 (July-September 1937): 321–
342; Thomas Kent Oberholtzer, ―The Thorn-Infested Ground of
Hebrews 6:4–12,‖ Bibliotheca Sacra 145 (July-September 1988):
319–328; Randall C. Gleason, ―The Old Testament Background of
                  A Warning for True Believers                  153

away‖ and judgment differently than any of the previous
views. ―Falling away‖ is not a conscious rejection of
salvation or loss of faith, but rather, it is a conscious
rejection of Christ‘s high priestly ministry in their Christian
life. Oberholtzer says, ―the ‗falling away‘ relates to the
withdrawal     from     their   Christian     confidence   and
worshipping function in God‘s house.‖     32 Gleason compares

the Hebrew Christian‘s plight to that of the nation of Israel
saying, ―Understanding παραπίπηω as expressing a decisive
refusal to trust God which results in a general state of
spiritual retrogression parallels the experience of the
Israelites at Kadesh–barnea.‖33
     The judgment suggested by those who hold this view
varies some. Oberholtzer says, ―Theologically it is clear that
present unfaithfulness will result in loss of reward at the
judgment seat of Christ. The result for the believer is not
loss of eternal salvation but a forfeiting of inheritance–rest,
reward, and position in the coming millennial kingdom.‖34
In other words, present unfaithfulness will result in future
punishment at the judgment seat of Christ when the
unfaithful saint suffers the loss of eternal reward.
     Gleason, on the other hand, suggests that present
unfaithfulness results in loss of present blessing and the
present chastisement of the believer (even to the point of
death). He says, ―In light of the Old Testament blessing–
curse motif, the judgment in view in Hebrews 6:7–8 is best

the Warning in Hebrews 6:4-8,‖ Bibliotheca Sacra 155 (January-
March 1998): 62–91; Rodney J. Decker, ―The Warning of Hebrews
6,‖ Journal of Ministry and Theology 5 (Fall 2001): 26–48.
     32 Oberholtzer, 322–323.

     33 Gleason, 82. Gleason identifies this refusal to trust God in

Hebrews as the Jewish believer‘s desire to return to Judaism,
which resulted in a persistent state of spiritual retrogression (91).
Note that the author of Hebrews is comparing the experience of
the individual NT saint to the experience of the nation of Israel in
the OT. He is not comparing OT individuals to NT individuals.
     34 Oberholtzer, 326. See also Rowell, 337.
154            Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

understood as the forfeiture of blessing and the experience
of temporal discipline rather than eternal destruction.‖35
This does not mean that there is not a future loss of reward
at the judgment seat of Christ. The author is simply
emphasizing the present results of unfaithfulness in order
to encourage believers on to maturity.

Summary of Proposed Views

    There are at least five different views regarding the
interpretation of Hebrews 6:4–8. Those views differ in three
areas: genuineness of salvation, nature of falling away, and
nature of the judgment. The views discussed in this paper
are summarized in the following chart.

                  Spiritual State     Fall Away           Judgment

 Informed           Professing        Reject the           Eternal
 rejection           believers         gospel             damnation

                                       Reject the           Eternal
Hypothetical         Genuine        gospel, though       damnation,
 rejection           believers         not really         though not
                                        possible        really possible
Community            Genuine         fails to fulfill    Community is
 rejection           believers         covenant         rejected by God

   True                                                     Eternal
                     Genuine          Reject the
 rejection           believers         gospel
                                                        (lose salvation)

 Fellowship                         Refuse to trust
                     Genuine                                Divine
                                    Christ for daily
  rejection          believers                            discipline

      35   Gleason, 86–87.
                A Warning for True Believers                155

               The Context of Hebrews 6:4–8

    The proper interpretation of Hebrew 6:4–8 must be
consistent with its context. Therefore, three aspects of its
context are discussed. First, the context of the entire book
of Hebrews is summarized. Second, the immediate context
of the paragraph (6:4–8) is examined. Third, several Old
Testament themes that form the background to the
paragraph in Hebrews 6:4–8 are discussed.

General Context of Hebrews 6:4–8

    The book of Hebrews was most likely written to a group
of Jewish believers who were part of the same house
church.36 The location of this house church has been the
subject of great debate.37 Fortunately, it is not necessary to
specify the exact location of the church in order to interpret
Hebrews 6:4–8. It is necessary, however, to clarify three
introductory issues. First, what is the purpose and theme of
the book of Hebrews? Second, what is the author‘s method
for accomplishing that purpose? Third, what content does
the author of Hebrews use to fulfill his purpose?

    Purpose and Theme of Hebrews. There is great
difference of opinion as to the purpose and theme of the
book of Hebrews.38 Hebrews 13:22 summarizes the book as

    36  For a good discussion see Lane, Hebrews 1–8, Word
Biblical Commentary, xlvii–clvii. See also Donald Guthrie, New
Testament Introduction (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 685–
     37 Several   locations have been suggested including
Jerusalem, Palestine outside of Jerusalem, Rome, and others.
This article works from the assumption that the church was in
Rome. However, this does not greatly affect the interpretation of
Hebrews 6.
     38 Guthrie discusses four possible purposes: ―to warn Jewish

Christians against apostasy to Judaism,‖ ―to challenge restricted
Jewish Christians to embrace the world mission,‖ ―to announce
156         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

a ―word of exhortation.‖ This same phrase is used in Acts
13:15 in reference to an encouraging sermon. According to
Lane, ―‗Word of exhortation‘ appears to be an idiomatic,
fixed expression for a sermon in the Jewish-Hellenistic and
early Christian circles.‖39 The book of Hebrews appears to
be a written sermon intended to encourage its Jewish
Christian readers.
    What is the author of this sermon encouraging these
Jewish believers to do? The author of Hebrews is writing to
encourage those associating with a particular New
Testament house church to continue to remain faithful to
Christ. In other words, do not fall away from true faith. This
sentiment is stated in Hebrews 10:35–39,

           Cast not away therefore your confidence, which
      hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need
      of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God,
      ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while,
      and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
      Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw
      back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But
      we are not of them who draw back unto perdition;
      but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

     Members of this church had faced severe persecution in
the past and were about to face it again (Heb. 10:32ff). At
the same time, they had failed to mature in their Christian
life (5:11–14). They appear to have begun to doubt the
efficacy of Christ‘s sacrifice for their daily living (10:35). The
author of Hebrews was afraid that these believers would

the absolute character of Christianity to mainly Gentile
Christians,‖ and ―to counteract an early type of heresy‖ (New
Testament Introduction, 704–710).
    39 Lane, Hebrews 1–8, lxx. See also Leon Morris, ―Hebrews,‖

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
1981), 156.
                   A Warning for True Believers             157

make a conscious choice to live in their own strength and
will and not by faith in Christ‘s provision and Lordship
when renewed persecution came. Therefore, he exhorted
them to strive to mature in their Christian lives by living a
life that was committed to Christ. Lane summarizes the
purpose of the book of Hebrews:

         The purpose of Hebrews is to strengthen,
    encourage, and exhort the tired and weary
    members of a house church to respond with
    courage and vitality to the prospect of renewed
    suffering in view of the gifts and resources God has
    lavished upon them. The writer‘s intention is to
    address the sagging faith of men and women within
    the group and to remind them of their responsibility
    to live actively in response to God‘s absolute claim
    upon their lives through the gospel.40

      Several points merit mention in summary. First,
Hebrews was written to encourage Christians. It was not
written to warn unbelievers. Second, the general appeal of
the book is to remain faithful to Christ and not fall away
(i.e., live by faith). The appeal is not to make sure you are
saved (i.e., hold on to saving faith). Third, the believers‘ lack
of maturity caused the author of Hebrews to be concerned
about their susceptibility to ―falling away.‖ It was not their
lack of saving faith (or regeneration) that concerned the
author of Hebrews.

    Method of Hebrews. It appears that the author of
Hebrews used a form of written sermon to encourage
believers to live by faith. How did the author of Hebrews
organize his sermon to accomplish this end? The author of
Hebrews encourages church attendees to remain faithful to
Christ by means of providing a brief study in Christology.
There are five main sections in the book which detail

    40   Lane, Hebrews 1–8, c.
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theological information about Christ. After each of these
Christological sections, there is an explanation as to how
the Christology should affect the way that a true believer
should live. Therefore, the book of Hebrews shifts back and
forth between Christology and Christian life. All of this
doctrine and application is given in order to exhort genuine
church saints to endure the severe trials and persecution
they were about to face so that they would not suffer
judgment for abandoning their trust and reliance upon the
high priestly ministry of Christ.
    The doctrinal sections appear to form the basis for the
practical applications (warning passages/parenesis).41 The
author‘s primary purpose is not to teach the doctrine of
Christology. It is to encourage his readers to live by faith. At
the same time, some teaching of Christology was necessary
to provide the basis of his practical applications. Buist
Fanning says,

           The writer‘s compelling view of Christ is that of
      God‘s Son and High Priest exalted now to the
      position of greatest honor in God‘s presence. This
      picture of Christ gives the right perspective for
      seeing who He is and all that He fulfilled in God‘s
      eternal purpose by following the path of obedience
      set out for Him. It also gives a clear view of what He
      meant for the readers in their situation. With this
      view of the exalted Son, they could look in a fresh
      way at their own difficult circumstances and move
      forward with renewed hope along the trail He blazed
      for them.42

    In summary, the author of Hebrews interweaves
theology and practical application throughout his book in

       See Lane, Hebrews 1–8, c.

       Buist Fanning, ―A Theology of Hebrews,‖ in A Biblical

Theology of the New Testament, ed. Roy B. Zuck (Chicago: Moody,
1994), 369.
                A Warning for True Believers               159

order to encourage believers to live by faith in the face of
impending persecution.

    Content of Hebrews. Current scholarship offers no
agreement on how to divide the book of Hebrews.43 The
purpose of this section is to suggest a working outline that
adequately describes the interweaving of doctrinal and
warning sections. This outline is made with the following
presuppositions. First, the warning passages in Hebrews
are based on the doctrinal teaching about Christ. Second,
the purpose of the book of Hebrews is to encourage
believers to live by faith. The following outline is suggested:


 Doctrine 1    1:4–14
                             →           Warning 1    2:1–4

 Doctrine 2    2:5–18                    Warning 2   3:1–4:16

 Doctrine 3    5:1–10
                             →           Warning 3   5:11–6:20

 Doctrine 4   7:1–10:18
                             →           Warning 4   10:19–39

 Doctrine 5   11:1–40
                             →           Warning 5   12:1–29

                          Final Appeal

    43 Lane says, ―There is at the present time no consensus

regarding the literary structure of Hebrews‖ (Hebrews 1–8,
160         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

     This chart merely shows the flow of thought in the book
of Hebrews. In order to understand the content of the book,
it is necessary to further define each of the divisions in the
chart. Introduction—God used to speak via prophets in a
number of different ways, but now he speaks to believers
through Christ, his Son. Doctrine 1—Christ has been
exalted to the eternal throne, a position that is superior to
the angels. Warning 1—Since Christ has been exalted to the
throne of the eternal kingdom, Christians must not drift
away from his message.
     Doctrine 2—Even though God put everything under the
control of Christ, Christ is not ruling on earth at the
present time; He humbly gave up control so that He could
taste death in order to defeat Satan and provide atonement
for sin, and, as a result God crowned Him with glory and
honor. Warning 2—Since Christ humbly submitted to death
to atone for sins, Christians must not let their persecution
cause them to become hardened by sin and turn away from
the benefits of true salvation; instead, they are to remain
faithful, and thus, enter into the promised rest of salvation.
     Doctrine 3—After Christ learned obedience through
suffering on the cross that qualified Him to be a high priest,
God appointed Him to be the high priest in the heavenly
tabernacle. Warning 3—Just as Christ learned obedience
through suffering before He became high priest, Christians
also need to learn obedience through their own suffering; it
is not enough to simply avoid falling away, they must also
learn and grow in their obedience.
     Doctrine 4—Christ‘s high priestly sacrifice on the cross
was effective in atoning for sins in a way similar to Old
Testament sacrifices; however, Christ‘s sacrifice was
superior to Old Testament sacrifices because Christ as
eternal high priest only had to sacrifice once for all to gain
permanent access to the heavenly holy of holies.44 Warning

      44Access to the heavenly holy of holies refers to the believer‘s
ability to boldly approach God in fellowship. This access is made
possible by the high priestly ministry of Christ. Christ‘s sacrifice
                A Warning for True Believers              161

4—Since the blood of Christ‘s high priestly sacrifice has
made us holy, Christians should not despise His blood and
face certain judgment; instead they must do all they can to
serve God (and help others serve God) while they await the
promise to come.
     Doctrine 5—There are many Old Testament examples of
believing men and women who served God by faith while
waiting for what was promised; they did not fall away even
though they did not see the promise fulfilled; New
Testament believers have been given something much
greater in Christ, so there is even less reason for them to
fall away. Warning 5—In light of these Old Testament
examples of believers living by faith, and since Christians
have been granted access to the very God of heaven
through Christ‘s high priestly ministry, they need to
persevere in their service to God; they must not neglect or
refuse this access (fellowship) to God by rejecting Christ‘s
high priestly sacrifice or they will face certain judgment.
     Final appeal—Since believers are receiving an
unshakable kingdom, they must continue to serve God with
a proper reverence and awe for his person and his
judgment, and with a genuine thankfulness for Christ‘s
high priestly ministry. Conclusion—the author of Hebrews
makes some concluding remarks regarding prayer, his
readers‘ reception of his exhortation, and his plans to visit
his readers.

Specific Context of Hebrews 6:4–8

    Now that the general context has been established, it is
helpful to discuss the specific context of Hebrews 6:4–8. In
order to define the specific context of this paragraph, it is
necessary to discuss the section in which it is located (5:1–
6:20). The following outline is suggested:

on the cross makes continual fellowship with God possible. See
Hebrews 4:14–16; 10:19–22.
162       Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

I.  Christ was Appointed by God as High Priest in the
    Heavenly Temple (5:1–10)
    A. Every high priest is chosen from among the people
        to represent the people before God (5:1–3)
    B. Jesus did not appoint Himself high priest, but God
        gave Him this position after Jesus experienced
        human suffering that qualified Him for the position)
II. How Should I Live Then? Just as Christ learned
    obedience through suffering before becoming high
    priest—you also need to learn obedience from your
    persecution; it is not enough to simply avoid falling
    away, you must also learn and grow in your obedience
    A. There is much more to learn by Christ‘s high
        priesthood, but your lack of maturity has made it
        difficult for you to understand (5:11–14)
    B. Abandon your spiritual laziness so that we can
        leave the elementary teachings and go on to teach
        you (Lord willing) a mature presentation of Jesus‘
        priesthood (6:1–20)
        1. Be diligent in your spiritual life so that we do
             not have to teach you the elementary
             foundation of your faith again (6:1–3)
        2. The reason you need to be diligent in these
             elementary things is because there is no other
             adequate foundation on which to grow, and
             failure to do so will result in certain judgment
             a) Christians who fall away (return to a
                  sacrificial system) cannot move on to
                  spiritual maturity because they are denying
                  the efficacy of Christ‘s sacrifice, and they
                  lay a false foundation (6:4–5)
             b) Christians who fall away do not produce
                  the fruit of the Spirit and are in grave
                  danger of judgment that is similar to the
                  curses of the Mosaic covenant (6:7–8)
                 A Warning for True Believers                 163

         3.   We are confident of better things for you than
              judgment; we trust that you will diligently
              mature until the end, and then receive the
              inheritance promised to you (6:9–20)

    In summary, Hebrews 6:4–8 provides some motivation
for the believer to press on to maturity. Hebrews 5:11–14
describes the spiritual laziness that the believers were
demonstrating. In 6:1–3, the author of Hebrews appeals for
these apathetic Christians to press on to spiritual maturity.
Verse 4 begins with the word ―for‖ (γa,ρ), indicating that
what follows is a reason why the believer should press on to
spiritual maturity. Donald Hagner says,

         The manner in which this section is connected
    with the preceding material, with the logical
    connective ―for‖ (untranslated in the NIV), suggest
    that if the readers do not ―go on‖ into fullness of
    Christian doctrine, they will be in grave danger of
    falling away altogether, back into Judaism, thereby
    committing apostasy. In their present state, indeed,
    even their grasp of the ―elementary truths of God‘s
    words‖ (5:12) is questionable. Thus, as further
    motivation for the readers to press on to a mature
    understanding of their Christian faith, the author
    points out the seriousness of apostasy.45

    Hebrews 6:4–8, then, appears to be motivation for a
believer to abandon spiritual laziness and press on to
spiritual maturity.

    45  Donald A. Hagner, Hebrews, New International Biblical
Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1990), 90, 91. Hagner
identifies apostasy as the unforgivable sin of Mark 3:29 and 1
John 5:16. Even if ―falling away‖ is defined as something other
than apostasy, Hagner‘s point is still valid. The content of verses
4–8 provide a motivation for the believer to press on to spiritual
164         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

The Old Testament Background of Hebrews 6:4–8

    The book of Hebrews makes frequent comparisons
between the Old Testament Mosaic system and the New
Testament believer. A proper understanding of the Mosaic
system is a prerequisite for a proper interpretation of the
book of Hebrews. Several aspects of this system are
relevant to the interpretation of Hebrews 6:4–8. These
aspects are: the high priesthood, the purpose of the
tabernacle, the purpose of animal sacrifices, and the
concept of blessing and cursing.

   OT high priesthood. The high priest in the Mosaic
system was the mediator between God and his people. He
was responsible for all of the sacrificial responsibilities of
the tabernacle (and later the temple). McCready
summarizes the high priest‘s duties:

          The primary function of the high priest was to
      administer and direct the sacrificial system. He
      alone was allowed to go behind the veil of the holy
      of holies on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:2). He
      dealt with the sin offerings whose blood was
      brought into the sanctuary of the temple (Lev. 4:3–
      21). The high priest‘s responsibilities included all
      the sacrificial activities that took place inside the
      temple, either with his direct involvement or under
      his supervision.46

    The author of Hebrews calls Christ a high priest
throughout the book.47 Christ functions as the high priest

      46W.O. McCready, s.v. ―Priest, High,‖ International Standard
Bible Encyclopedia, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1986) 3:962.
     47 For example, 2:17; 3:1; 4:14–15; 5:1, 10; 6:20; 7:17, 21;

8:1–2; 9:11; 10:21; 12:24; 13:11–12. Fanning says, ―The picture
of Jesus Christ as High Priest is the most distinctive theme of
                  A Warning for True Believers                  165

for the New Testament believer. Christ has entered the
heavenly holy of holies on the believer‘s behalf to provide
continual, permanent access to God (Heb 6:14–16; 10:19–
21). Christ the high priest is also presented in Hebrews as
Christ the sacrifice (Heb 10:10–12). Mosaic priests offered
animals. Christ offered Himself.

    Purpose of the tabernacle. After Israel‘s exodus from
Egypt and their accepting of the Mosaic covenant, God
commanded his people to build a tabernacle. The purpose
of the tabernacle was to provide a dwelling place for God
(Exod 25:8). This dwelling place would be the place where
God‘s people would come to worship and fellowship with
Him. The tabernacle was God‘s means for restoring a
fellowship similar to the kind man had with God in the
Garden of Eden. Several parallels have been suggested
between the creation accounts and the construction of the
tabernacle.48 Sailhamer concludes, ―By depicting the
Garden of Eden in conjunction with the tabernacle, the
writer [of the Pentateuch] apparently wants to show the
purpose of the tabernacle as a return to the Garden of
Eden.‖49 Man had perfect fellowship with God in the
     While the tabernacle was designed to provide a place for
Edenic-type worship, it only had limited success. God took
up residence in the holy of holies; only the high priest could

Hebrews, and it is central to the theology of the book. As already
stated, its doctrine of sonship is foundational to its teaching
about Christ‘s priesthood. Likewise, its view of salvation, of the
Christian life, and of salvation-history are all vitally connected to
the theme of His high priesthood‖ (―A Theology of Hebrews,‖ 388).
     48 See Victor Hamilton, Handbook on the Pentateuch (Grand

Rapids: Baker, 1982), 233–234; and John Sailhamer, The
Pentateuch as Narrative (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 300–
     49 Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, 300.
166         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

enter his presence and that only once each year. This
ministry of the high priest is referred to in Hebrews 6:19–
20. Christ‘s high priestly sacrifice provided a means for the
New Testament believer to have continual access to the
heavenly holy of holies (and thus, the ability to enter God‘s
presence to worship). The ordinary Old Testament believer
could only worship God through the ministry of the
priesthood and could never have direct access to God‘s
    The Old Testament believer went to the tabernacle to
worship God. He did not go to maintain his salvation. The
tabernacle was a place of fellowship and worship, not a
place to procure salvation.

    Purpose of animal sacrifices. Levitical sacrifices were
never intended to atone for sin resulting in a person‘s
salvation. They were only designed to restore fellowship
between God and the Old Testament believer when
inadvertent or unintentional sins had interrupted that
fellowship. Neither were animal sacrifices ever capable of
atoning for sins resulting in salvation (Heb 10:4, 11). They
were only able to atone for sins resulting in restored
fellowship between a believer and God. Carpenter says,

           Both Abba and Saydon pointed out the
      shortcomings of the OT sacrificial system. It was
      not meant to be final; it had a limited range of
      effectiveness, operating only within the covenant.
      Only sins of ignorance or of human frailty were
      forgiven within this cultic system. No sacrifice could
      atone for deliberate, rebellious acts against God
      that were adamantly continued.50

     50 Carpenter, s.v. ―Sacrifices and Offerings in the Old

Testament,‖ International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised
edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 4: 272.
                 A Warning for True Believers                 167

    There appears to have been no sacrifice that could
atone (restore fellowship) for an intentional sin.51 However,
this may not necessarily be the case. The sins listed in
Leviticus 6 are surely intentional. They include sins such as
keeping something that someone loans you and then lying
about it, stealing from someone, and finding something and
lying to the person who lost it. These sins are atoned for by
a trespass offering. This offering is only given after
restitution to the other person is made. It appears that an
intentional sin can be moved into the category of
unintentional by means of confession and restitution.52 A
sacrifice then can be made to restore fellowship with God.
Therefore, the only time a sin cannot be sacrificed for in the
Mosaic system is when the one who committed the sin is
    It is not the person who intentionally sins who is barred
from fellowship in the Old Testament, but the person who is
not repentant of their sin. Hamilton says that this is exactly
what is referred to in the book of Hebrews.

          To say this is to echo exactly what is said by
    Hebrews. Compare the language of Hebrews 6:4, 6,
    ―For it is impossible to restore again to repentance
    . . . if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify
    the Son of God. . . .‖ Or this, ―if we sin deliberately
    after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no
    longer remains a sacrifice for sins‖ (Heb. 10:26). It

     51 It is sometimes argued that this is what makes Christ‘s

sacrifice better. His sacrifice atoned for intentional and
unintentional sins.
     52 Hamilton says ―To solve the dilemma—how can deliberate

sins be forgiven?—we may turn to a variant of Leviticus 5:14–6:7,
the passage in Numbers is that confession is essential in the case
of a deliberate sin. It must succeed conviction and precede
restitution (Num. 5:7). Thus the sin moves into the category of
inadvertent sins and may be expiated‖ (Handbook on the
Pentateuch, 261).
168         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

      is the absence of confession and contrition that
      bars the way of the backslider into restored,
      redemptive fellowship with Christ.53

   Blessings and Curses. The concept of blessing and
cursing is a common theme throughout the Old Testament.
Both blessings and curses are recorded in Deuteronomy
28–30 as part of the Mosaic covenant. Blessings and curses
were a normal part of the covenant relationship during this
time period. Walton and Matthews conclude,

            Curses and blessings are standard elements of
      the ancient treaties of the third, second and first
      millennia B.C., though they vary in specificity and
      proportion from one period to another. Since the
      treaty documents were confirmed by an oath in the
      names of deities, the curses and blessings were
      usually those that were to be brought by the deities
      rather than the parties to the treaty. Here that is of
      little difference because God is a party to the
      covenant rather than simply the enforcer of it.
      Many of the curses found here are found in similar
      wording in the Assyrian treaties of the seventh
      century B.C. Similarities can also be seen in the
      Atrahisis Epic, where, prior to sending the flood,
      the gods send various plagues on the land. These
      include the categories of disease, drought and

      53Hamilton, Handbook on the Pentateuch, 262. Hamilton‘s
point is valid in Hebrews 10 when there is no mention of
repentance. But it is off the mark slightly with regard to Hebrews
6:4–8. In Hebrews 6, even repentance cannot prevent the
infliction of judgment (see interpretation later in this paper).
               A Warning for True Believers                 169

    famine, sale of family members into slavery, and

    Blessings were given when a covenant people fulfilled
the stipulations of the covenant. Curses were sent when the
covenant people disobeyed the stipulations of the covenant.
This is also true for the Mosaic covenant (Deut 28:1ff). In
the Mosaic system, cursing could be reversed if there was
genuine repentance (Deut 30), though the consequences of
sin were not always removed.
    God chose to incorporate blessings and curses into the
Mosaic system to give visible expression to his response to
the choices of man. Hamilton says,

         Toward the law no believer can be neutral.
    Either he will choose to live by it or he will choose
    to ignore it. What Moses is interested in
    establishing here is the fact of consequences, or
    retribution, a divine response that is commensurate
    with the choices made by the individual.55

    God used the curses of the Mosaic system to draw
Israel back to a place of obedience. Throughout the history
of the nation of Israel, there is a cycle of obedience
(blessing), disobedience (curses), and repentance (retracted
curse/restored blessing). This cycle indicates that Israel
never lost her position as God‘s covenant people when she
rebelled. She only experienced the curses of the covenant.
    The blessings included wealth, abundant crops, land,
and proliferation of family. Curses included poverty,
drought, captivity, and infertility. Sailhamer likens the
blessings to the experience in the Garden of Eden and the

    54 John Walton and Victor Matthews, The Bible Background
Commentary: Genesis–Deuteronomy (Downers Grove: InterVarsity,
1997), 263.
   55 Hamilton, Handbook on the Pentateuch, 455.
170        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

curses to the experience of the post-fall generation.56 The
illustration in Hebrews 6:7–8 is a direct allusion to the Old
Testament blessing and cursing concept. Verse 7 refers to
blessings for obedience, while verse 8 refers to the curses
that result from disobedience. Cursing under the Mosaic
system never removed anyone from the covenant
community. It is logical, then, to conclude that cursing
(God‘s response to the disobedient believer) mentioned in
the New Testament never removed anyone from God‘s

              Interpretation of Hebrews 6:4–8

    The interpretation of Hebrews 6:4–8 must address the
three issues raised at the beginning of this article. First, are
those mentioned in verses 4–5 truly saved or not? Second,
what is the exact nature of the ―falling away‖ mentioned in
verse 6? Third, what is the judgment described in verses 7–

Saved or Not?

    There are several descriptive phrases in verses 4–5 used
to identify the person who ―falls away.‖ Each of these
phrases is evaluated individually first. Then the context of
the phrases is discussed to aid in their interpretation.
Finally, a conclusion will be offered for the question of
whether or not they are truly saved.

   Once enlightened. The first phrase used to describe the
person in Hebrews 6:4–8 is ―those who were once

       Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, 471. He says, ―The

nature of the blessings is reminiscent of the blessings in the
Garden of Eden—enjoyment of God‘s good land. . . . The
description of the curse is reminiscent of the curse after the Fall
in the Genesis narratives—affliction and ultimately exile from
God‘s land.‖
                  A Warning for True Believers                  171

enlightened‖ (τοὺσ ἅπαξ φωτιςθέντασ). A case can be made that
―enlightened‖ means that the person heard and believed the
gospel. The same word is used in Hebrews 10:32 of these
same people to refer to true salvation.57 Also the noun form
of ―enlightened‖ is used twice in 2 Corinthians 4 in
reference to true salvation.58 Finally, the adverb ―once‖
argues in favor of a reference to a conversion experience. It
is a reference to a once for all enlightenment at the
beginning of the Christian life.59 The cumulative weight of
this evidence suggests that ―those who were once
enlightened‖ are truly saved people.
    However, Compton, Grudem, and others make an
adequate case that the word ―enlightened‖ is inconclusive
with regard to salvation. First, the use in 10:32 does not
necessarily mean regeneration. Compton says,

        The expression in 10:32, ―after having been
    enlightened,‖ is parallel with the expression in
    10:26, ―after having received a knowledge of the
    truth.‖ There is no indication in the latter that
    receiving a knowledge of the truth suggests the idea
    of regeneration. It simply means that the readers

     57 Since Hebrews 6:4–8 and 10:26–31 are parallel passages

and 10:32 obviously refers to true salvation, it is logical that
―enlightened‖ in 6:4 refers to true salvation. For an excellent
comparison of Hebrews 6:4–8 and 10:26–31, see Lane, Hebrews
9–13, 296–297.
     58 2 Corinthians 4:4, 6 says, ―lest the light of the glorious

gospel of Christ . . . should shine upon them . . . For God, who
commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our
hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the
face of Jesus Christ.‖
     59 Grudem says, ―That the word hapax can be used to

describe a one-time, never to be repeated event is clear, for
example, from its use in Hebrews 9:26–28‖ (―Perseverance of the
Saints,‖ 138).
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      had been taught or instructed in the truth of God‘s

     If Compton is correct, then neither 6:4 nor 10:32
necessarily refer to true salvation. They simply mean that
the person understood the gospel.
     Second, Grudem argues that the noun form of
―enlightened‖ in 2 Corinthians 4 itself does not necessarily
mean true salvation. It is the context of those uses that
gives them the meaning of true salvation. The noun form of
―enlightened‖ itself is not a technical term for salvation.61
Therefore, 2 Corinthians 4 does not necessitate that
Hebrews 6:4 is definitely speaking of truly saved people.
     Third, Compton suggests that the adverb ―once‖ does
not have to mean a one-time conversion experience. It could
also mean a one-time understanding experience. This use
might be paraphrased, ―those who once came to
understand (and later rejected).‖ Compton suggests that
―once‖ should not even be understood as a once-for-all
action. He argues that it is best to translate it ―initially‖ or
―at the first.‖62 Therefore, the adverb ―once‖ does not argue
for the fact that these people were truly saved.
     Fourth, Grudem concludes that the word ―enlightened‖
is not a technical term for salvation. Grudem summarizes,

     60 Compton, ―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 148. Compton

has overstated his case by saying that there is no indication that
10:26 refers to regeneration. The result of sinning willfully in
10:26 is the judgment mentioned in 10:27–29. In 10:30 the
author of Hebrews says of this judgment, ―The Lord shall judge
His people.‖ The phrase ―His people‖ is an obvious reference to
truly regenerate people. Therefore, 10:26 likely refers to truly
saved people.
     61 Grudem, ―Perseverance of the Saints,‖ 141.

     62 Compton, ―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 147–148. The

word ―once‖ is used in Hebrews 9:7 to refer to a once each year
event, so the conclusion that it does not necessitate a once for all
event is accurate.
                 A Warning for True Believers               173

―It occurs eleven times in the New Testament, sometimes
just referring to a literal giving of light by a lamp (Luke
11:36), and other times referring to learning in general, not
specifically a learning that results in salvation.‖63 John 1:9
refers to Jesus as the ―true Light, which lighteth every man
that cometh into the world.‖ This is an obvious example of a
case where ―enlightened‖ (lights) cannot mean true
salvation, because not every man is truly saved.
     Compton, Grudem, and others give adequate reason to
conclude that the phrase ―those who were once
enlightened‖ itself does not have to mean truly saved. It
could also refer to a person who was only mentally
―enlightened‖ (i.e., understood the gospel). Ultimately,
context must determine the exact meaning of this phrase.64

    Tasted the heavenly gift. The second phrase used to
describe those in Hebrews 6:4–5 is ―have tasted of the
heavenly gift‖ (γεσζαμe,νοσς ηε ηῆς δωρεᾶς ηῆς evποσρανi,οσ). A
good case can be made that this phrase is intended to mean
true salvation. First, the author of Hebrews uses the word
―tasted‖ to mean a full and complete experience of
something. For example, Hebrews 2:9 says that Jesus
―should taste death for every man.‖ Jesus did not sample
death to see if He wanted a fuller experience of it. He had a
full and complete experience of death. In the same way,
those in Hebrews 6:4–5 had a full and complete experience
of the ―heavenly gift.‖
     Second, the ―heavenly gift‖ is most likely a reference to
salvation. While the exact phrase ―heavenly gift‖ is not used
elsewhere in Scripture, salvation is often referred to as a
gift in the New Testament (Rom 5:15, 17; Eph 2:8–9).

    63  Grudem, ―Perseverance of the Saints,‖ 141.
    64  The evidence from the context is discussed later in this
article. Therefore, a decision concerning the best interpretation
here is delayed until then.
174        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

Therefore, the entire phrase means that those in 6:4–5 have
had a complete and full salvation experience.
    A case can also be made that this phrase itself does not
necessarily mean the person was truly saved. First, the
word ―tasted‖ can mean ―a nibble.‖ This ―nibble‖ may or
may not be followed by a fuller experience.65 In this case the
person would have had a taste of the heavenly gift and
based on that taste could decide if they wanted to ―eat‖
(accept) the whole gift.
    Second, not every figurative use of the word ―tasted‖
means to experience salvation. For example, 1 Peter 2:3
speaks of tasting the Lord‘s goodness. Compton concludes
from this that ―every figurative use of taste in the NT
involves a genuine experience, not every use involves a
saving experience.‖66 Since the word ―tasted‖ itself does not
have to refer to salvation, something in the context must
supply that meaning.
    Third, the ―heavenly gift‖ does not necessarily mean
salvation either. It is used in the New Testament for Christ
(John 4:10), the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 8:20; 10:45; 11:17),
and justification/salvation (Rom 5:15, 17; Eph 2:8–9). It is
possible to experience a ministry of the Holy Spirit without
actually being truly saved. Grudem concludes,

      65See Grudem, ―Perseverance of Saints,‖ 145. Grudem offers
Matthew 27:34 as an example of this meaning. It says of Jesus on
the cross, ―When he had tasted thereof, he would not drink it.‖
Grudem also says this meaning is true when ―tasted‖ is used in a
figurative sense. He cites Josephus (The Jewish War 2.158) as an
example. Josephus says of the Essenes, ―[T]hey irresistibly
attract all who have once tasted their philosophy.‖
     66 Compton, ―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 149. Compton

also says, ―While τρηζηός [goodness] in 1 Peter 2:3 does appear to
refer to the saving goodness of God, that does not prove that
γεύομαι [taste] carries this sense. This meaning of 1 Peter 2:3 is
based on the meaning of τρηζηός, not γεύομαι.‖
                A Warning for True Believers                  175

    In fact . . . it is likely that Hebrews 6:4 means that
    those who ―tasted the heavenly gift‖ had some
    experience of the power of the Holy Spirit—perhaps
    in convicting them of sin (cf. John 16:8), perhaps in
    casting a demon out of them (cf. Matt. 12:28), or
    perhaps in receiving some kind of healing (cf. Luke
    4:14, 40; 1 Cor. 12:9). But such experiences of the
    Holy Spirit do not themselves indicate salvation, for
    it is possible to ―resist the Holy Spirit‖ (Acts 7:51),
    and even, for those who are under conviction from
    the Holy Spirit, to resist so strongly that one
    commits ―blasphemy against the Spirit‖ (Matt.

     It seems that the phrase ―have tasted of the heavenly
gift‖ is inconclusive as to its intended meaning. It could
possibly refer to either a saved or an unsaved person.
Therefore, context must be allowed to determine its exact

     Partakers of the Holy Spirit. The third phrase used to
describe those in Hebrews 6:4–5 is they ―were made
partakers of the Holy Spirit‖ (μεηo,τοσς γενηθe,νηας πνεu,μαηος
a`γίοσ). The most likely interpretation of this phrase is that it
refers to true salvation. In Hebrews 3:14 it is stated that
true believers were ―made partakers of Christ.‖ There seems
to be little doubt that 3:14 refers to saved individuals. In
fact, Compton says, ―It is difficult to see from this verse how
‗partakers of Christ‘ could be describing other than those
who are saved.‖68 It seems likely that ―partakers in Christ‖
is parallel to ―partakers of the Holy Ghost.‖69 Therefore,
Hebrews 6:4 most likely refers to truly saved people.

    67 Grudem, ―Perseverance of Saints,‖ 146.
    68 Compton, ―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 151.
    69 In addition, Hebrews 12:8 speaks of true believers
―partaking‖ in the discipline of the Lord. Those who do not
partake in this discipline are not God‘s children. The author of
176         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

    Attempts are made to argue that the phrase ―partakers
of the Holy Ghost‖ refers to unsaved people.70 Compton
argues that it is possible for the term ―partakers of the
heavenly calling‖ in Hebrews 3:1 to refer to a general calling
of God through the gospel.71 Not all who experience God‘s
call respond to it, and some who do respond are not
genuine. Therefore, the word ―partakers‖ in 3:1 does not
necessarily mean ―saved.‖ The same could also be true for
6:4. ―Partakers of the Holy Spirit‖ may refer to participation
in some non-salvific ministry of the Holy Spirit.72

Hebrews seems to use the word ―partake‖ with reference to truly
saved people.
     70 No one would say that this is the natural or likely

interpretation of the text. However, it is argued that it is at least
possible that the phrase refers to the unsaved. Compton admits,
―This is perhaps the most difficult statement in vv. 4–5 to
counter‖ (―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 151).
     71 Compton, ―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 152. This is very

unlikely since the phrase ―partakers of the heavenly calling‖ is
parallel to the phrase ―holy brethren.‖ ―Holy brethren‖ is definitely
a reference to saved people.
     72 Compton identifies these non-salvific ministries of the Holy

Spirit either as experiencing the general convicting ministry of the
Spirit, or as witnessing the use of spiritual gifts, or as benefiting
from someone else‘s use of the gifts of the Spirit (i.e., being
healed, etc.) (―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 152). Grudem goes
a step further in identifying these non-salvific ministries of the
Holy Spirit when he says, ―The phrase may mean simply that
these people had come into the church and there had experienced
some of the benefits of the Holy Spirit in answers to prayer or
even in using some spiritual gifts. All that we can say with
confidence is that they were partakers of some of the benefits that
the Holy Spirit gives‖ (emphasis his] (―Perseverance of the Saints,‖
148). Grudem mistakenly identifies answers to prayer and
spiritual gifts as non-salvific ministries of the Spirit. 1
Corinthians 12 teaches that the Spirit gives gifts to those who are
baptized into the body of Christ (i.e. truly regenerate). Rather
than argue for Hebrews 6:4 referring to unsaved people as
Grudem wishes, he has argued for truly regenerate people in 6:4.
                  A Warning for True Believers                   177

    The most likely understanding of the phrase ―were
made partakers of the Holy Spirit‖ is that it is a reference to
salvation. Arguments that the phrase refers to unsaved
people are not convincing.73 However, there is a very remote
possibility that the phrase could refer to unsaved.
Therefore, context is allowed to determine interpretation.

    Tasted the good word and powers. The fourth phrase
used to refer to those in Hebrews 6:4–5 is they ―have tasted
the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come‖
(καλo.ν γεσζαμe,νοσς θεοῦ r`ῆμα δσνa,μεις ηε μe,λλονηος αivῶνος). This
phrase is probably parallel in thought to the content of
Hebrews 2:1–4. The ―word of God‖ is the gospel message,
while the ―powers‖ refer to the miraculous signs given to
confirm that gospel.74 The question of the extent of the
experience (―tasted‖) still remains, though. Did those in
Hebrews 6:4–5 merely understand the gospel and witness
the miracles, or did they accept the gospel and perform the
miracles (spiritual gifts)? Either scenario is possible.
Therefore, the context of 6:4–5 must be the determining
factor in making a decision.

   Context determines? Compton argues that the wider
context argues in favor of the view that those in Hebrews
6:4–5 are unsaved.75 The only parts of the context that
Compton uses are those verses that follow 6:4–5.76 He

    73  Compton‘s attempt to identify the ―calling‖ in Hebrews 3:1
as a general call for all men is troublesome. ―Calling‖ in 3:1 is
synonymous with the phrase ―holy brethren.‖ It is very difficult to
attribute the phrase ―holy brethren‖ to all mankind. It is almost
certainly a reference to truly saved people.
     74 Compton does an excellent job substantiating this thought

(―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 152–154).
     75 Compton, ―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 155–167.

     76 Compton says, ―The decision about the spiritual status of

those in view must be based on evidence from the wider context,
178         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

makes three points. First, ―fall away‖ in verse 6 means
apostasy. Second, the judgment mentioned in verses 7–8
refers to eternal condemnation of the unsaved. Third, verse
9 can be paraphrased, ―In spite of the fact we were talking
about things that belonged, not to salvation, but to divine
condemnation and judgment, nevertheless, we are
confident that you are saved.‖77
    Compton‘s logic can be summarized as follows: 1)
Presupposition—it is impossible for a saved person to lose
his salvation; 2) Premise 1—the spiritual status of those in
6:4–5 is uncertain; 3) Premise 2—these people reject the
gospel of Christ and face eternal condemnation; and 4)
Conclusion—therefore, the people mentioned in 6:4–5 must
be unsaved. Grudem makes a similar conclusion:

          While the positive experiences listed in verses
      4–6 do not provide us enough information to know
      whether the people were truly saved or not, the
      committing of apostasy and holding Christ up to
      contempt do reveal the true nature of those who fall
      away: all along they have been like bad ground that
      can only bear bad fruit. If the metaphor of the
      thorn-bearing land explains verses 4–6 (as it surely
      does), then their falling away shows that they were
      never saved in the first place.78

     There are at least three problems with Compton and
Grudem‘s conclusion. First, it is based as much on theology
as it is context.79 It is their allegiance to the perseverance of
the saints that forces them to say that those in verses 4–5

particularly from the verses that follow‖ (―Persevering and Falling
Away,‖ 155).
     77 Compton, ―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 166.

     78 Grudem, ―Perseverance of the Saints,‖ 156–157.

     79 While theology does play an important role in determining

the meaning of a text, both Compton and Grudem imply that it is
the context alone that determines spiritual status in 6:4–5.
                A Warning for True Believers              179

are unsaved. The meaning of verses 6–9 does not
necessitate they were unsaved. Many have suggested they
were saved and then lost their salvation. The truth is that
Compton and Grudem‘s interpretation is theologically
driven rather than contextually driven as they claim.
    Second, Compton and Grudem base their conclusions
of verses 4–5 on their interpretation of verses 6–9. They say
that context must determine the meaning of verses 4–5,
because the phrases themselves are inconclusive.80
However, they do not apply this same logic to verses 6–9.
The certainty they attribute to their interpretation of verses
6–9 is not as strong as they suggest. Other legitimate
interpretations have been offered for verses 6–9, making
them as inconclusive as verses 4–5. Compton and
Grudem‘s logic could easily be reversed as follows: 1)
Presupposition—it is impossible for a saved person to lose
his salvation; 2) Premise 1—the interpretation of the falling
away and judgment in verses 6–9 is uncertain; 3) the people
in verses 4–5 are truly saved; and 4) Conclusion—therefore,
verses 6–9 do not refer to rejection of the gospel and eternal
damnation. Note the contrasting logic between those who
argue for professing believers and those who argue for true
believers in the chart below.

    80 Compton says, ―All that really needs to be demonstrated
with vv. 4–5 is that the phrases themselves are ambiguous or
undetermined concerning the spiritual status of those in view‖
(―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 146).
180           Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

                   Professing Believers           True Believers

                    It is impossible for a      It is impossible for a
                  saved person to lose his    saved person to lose his
                           salvation                   salvation

                                              The interpretation of the
                  The spiritual status of
                                                  falling away and
  Premise 1         those in 6:4–5 is
                                             judgment in verses 6–9 is

                  These people reject the
                                              The people in 6:4–5 are
  Premise 2      gospel of Christ and face
                                                   truly saved
                  eternal condemnation

                                             Verses 6–9 do not refer to
                 The people mentioned in
 Conclusion                                  rejection of the gospel and
                  6:4–5 must be unsaved
                                                 eternal damnation

     Again Compton and Grudem‘s conclusion is not based
on the entire context. Their conclusion is based on what
they perceive as the more conclusive element of the two
inconclusive elements in verses 4–9. If the interpretation of
both verses 4–5 and 6–9 is inconclusive, it would be better
to let the broader context determine both elements.
     Third, Compton and Grudem‘s view does not make
logical sense out of the ―for‖ at the beginning of verse 4.
Verses 4–8 are intended to be a motivation for the believer
to go on to maturity (i.e., fulfill the exhortation in 6:1–3).
According to Compton and Grudem, it is impossible for
truly saved people to apostatize; therefore, the teaching of
verses 4–8 concerns unsaved people. Thus, the argument of
Hebrews 6 would be for Christians to move on to maturity,
because unsaved people will fall away and face judgment.
This makes no sense. How could judgment they will never
face motivate true believers to move on to maturity? One
might suggest that the exhortation is to make sure you are
saved, because if you are not you will face judgment.
                  A Warning for True Believers                  181

However, Hebrews 5:11–6:3 and 6:9–12 present believers
who need to mature, not a group that needed to make sure
they were saved.
     There are at least six factors in the broader context that
suggest those in Hebrews 6:4–5 are truly saved individuals.
First, the entire section from 5:1 through 6:20 is set in the
context of the high priestly ministry of Christ. The high
priest in the Old Testament entered the holy of holies once
each year in order to restore fellowship and worship. It had
nothing to do with anyone‘s salvation. The same is true in
Hebrews 5:1–6:20. Christ entered the heavenly holy of
holies (6:19–20) in order to restore fellowship and
worship.81 Christ has provided the believer permanent and
uninterrupted access to God through his ministry as high
priest for the believer. This ministry of Christ is the theme
of the entire section of Hebrews 5:1–6:20.
     Second, Hebrews 5:8 says that Christ learned
obedience through the suffering that He faced. Verse 9 says
that this suffering made Him ―perfect.‖ This is obviously not
a reference to Christ‘s salvation, because He needed none.
The author of Hebrews says that Christ learned obedience
through suffering as an example for all believers to follow.
Believers are to learn obedience (mature) from the suffering
that they face. The recipients of the book of Hebrews were
about to face severe persecution once again. The author of
Hebrews was encouraging them to use it as a means of
     Third, the concern of Hebrews 5:11–14 is the spiritual
immaturity of true believers. There is no discussion as to

    81 It is true that Christ‘s sacrifice provided salvation from the
penalty of sin which is received at the moment of regeneration.
His sacrifice also provided for salvation from the power of sin
which involves a continual struggle in the believer‘s earthly life.
Daily maturing in Christ is the theme of 5:1–6:20. Therefore, it
seems likely that the high priestly ministry of Christ referred to in
5:1–6:20 is salvation from the power of sin for daily living (i.e.,
restoring and maintaining fellowship and worship).
182        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

whether these people are saved or not. The entire passage
assumes salvation and laments spiritual immaturity.
     Fourth, the appeal in Hebrews 6:1–3 is for the true
believer to progress in his spiritual maturity. This appeal
would be senseless for an unsaved person.82 Again,
salvation is assumed in this passage.
     Fifth, Hebrews 6:9–10 recounts past and present fruit
of the Spirit that accompanies salvation. The author of
Hebrews states that the recipients of his exhortation have
produced this fruit. Therefore, the author of Hebrews must
believe his readers were truly saved.
     Sixth, Hebrews 6:11–12 encourages true believers to be
diligent in their Christian walk and not slothful. It does not
say that they should become saved, because it is assumed
that they are true believers already.
     In conclusion, the entire context of Hebrews 5:1–6:20 is
an appeal to true believers. The entire context encourages
true believers to grow spiritually and seems to indicate that
those in 6:4–5 are truly saved. This is especially true when
6:4–8 is designed to motivate true believers to grow
spiritually. Information about a judgment they will never
face would not encourage true believers to mature. The
judgment has to be a real possibility for believers in order
for it to encourage them to avoid that judgment.

     82 Note Kent‘s response to this concern in footnote 12 of this

paper. Thomas Schreiner and Ardel Caneday (following
Berkouwer) offer another possible response to this concern. They
claim, ―Warnings and admonitions, however, express what is
capable of being conceived with the mind. They speak of
conceivable or imaginable, not of things likely to happen. . . .
Thus, all warnings caution us concerning conceivable
consequences. They do not confront us with an uncertain future.
They do not say that we may perish. Rather, they caution us lest
we perish. They warn that we will surely perish if we fail to heed
God‘s call in the gospel‖ (The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical
Theology of Perseverance and Assurance [Downers Grove:
InterVarsity, 2001], 207–208).
                 A Warning for True Believers                  183

Nature of Falling Away

    There are three words or phrases in Hebrews 6:6 that
describe what it means to ―fall away.‖ Each of these is
discussed individually.

    Fall away. The first word used to describe falling away
is ―fall away‖ (παραπεζo,νηας).83 There are two broad categories
of understanding concerning the nature of falling away.
Some suggest that falling away is absolute apostasy, a total
rejection of Christ and his gospel, an alignment with those
who crucified Christ.84 Others suggest that falling away is a
serious sin that a believer can commit which is usually
identified as a decisive refusal to trust Christ‘s high priestly
ministry for help in daily living.85 The word ―fall away‖ itself
does not help in choosing which view is correct, because it
does not have an object in Hebrews 6:6.86 It is uncertain

    83 It is probably best to take this participle as an adjectival-

substantival use (as does the NASB, ASV, and NRSV), rather than
an adverbial-conditional use (as does the NIV, KJV, and RSV). See
John Sproule, ―παραπεζόνηας in Hebrews 6:6,‖ Grace Theological
Journal 2 (1981): 327–332.
    84 Compton,    ―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 156–158;
McKnight, ―The Warning Passages of Hebrews,‖ 36–43; Grudem,
―Perseverance of the Saints,‖ 153–154; Hohenstein, ―A Study of
Hebrews 6:4–8,‖ 536–537; Some like Hohenstein liken this
apostasy to the unpardonable sin (Nicole, ―Some Comments on
Hebrews 6:4–6,‖ 362–363).
    85 Oberholtzer,   ―The Thorn-Infested Ground,‖ 322–323;
Gleason, ―The Old Testament Background,‖ 78–83.
    86 BDAG defines παραπi,πτω as ―to fail to follow through on a

commitment.‖ In other words, the word itself is not a technical
term for apostasy. Without a qualifier to clarify what one falls
away from, its meaning in Hebrews 6:6 is uncertain. W. Bauder
says, ―The fig. sense peculiar to the NT, to lose salvation, and so,
to go to eternal destruction, is found in the Gospels, Paul, Heb.,
and Rev‖ (The New International Dictionary of New Testament
Theology [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975], 1:610–611). He then
184         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

from what one falls away. Neither does its use in the LXX
aid one‘s decision.87 Gleason concludes,

      pαραπi,πηω does not express the idea of an absolute
      apostasy involving a complete turning away from all
      belief in God. Not a mild term for sin, it denotes a
      serious sinful act or attitude against God. The exact
      nature of the sin must be determined from the

     A review of all of the NT uses of παραπίπηω and its
cognate group89 demonstrates that there are two possible
metaphorical uses (see chart below). ―Falling away‖ could
mean to reject the gospel, although this use is not clearly
illustrated in the New Testament. The second possible
metaphorical meaning for παραπi,πηω would be ―to fail to live
the Christian life in a ‗Christian‘ manner‖ (trust the high
priestly ministry of Christ for daily living). The context must

proceeds to also give examples of failure to live the Christian life
successfully rather than losing one‘s salvation (e.g., Romans
     87 Michaelis defines παραπίπηω in the LXX as ―to be in vain,‖

―not to be carried out,‖ ―to sin.‖ ―In all of the Ez. refs. the context
shows that what is at issue is a culpable mistake, of sin.‖
Nowhere in his discussion of its use in the LXX does he mention
apostasy (TDNT [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968], 6:170).
     88 Gleason, ―The Old Testament Background,‖ 81. This is

contrary to Compton‘s suggestion that the LXX argues for the
idea that ―fall away‖ means absolute apostasy (―Persevering and
Falling Away,‖ 156–157).
     89 Warren Trenchard lists the following words as part of the

cognate group of παραπίπηω( πίπηω( ἀναπίπηω( ἀνηιπίπηω( ἀποπίπηω(
γονσπεηε,ω( ἐκπίπηω( ἐμπίπηω( ἐπιπίπηω( καηαπίπηω( περιπίπηω( πρoζπι,πηω(
ζσμπίπηω( πηῶμα( πηῶζις( παράπηωμα( διοπε,ηης, προηε,ηης (The Student’s
Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament [Grand
Rapids: Zondervan, 1992] 90).
                  A Warning for True Believers                      185

determine which of these two possibilities is intended in
Hebrews 6:6.

                Justification     Sanctification     Glorification

                Penalty of sin     Power of sin      Presence of sin

                                    Rom 8:1ff
                  Acts 2:21                          Rom 8:23–24
  Biblical                           Phil 2:12
                 Eph 2:5, 8                           Rom 8:30
  support                           1 Tim 4:16
               1 Tim 1:15; 2:4                        2 Tim 2:10
                                     Jas 1:21

                 Not clearly        Failure in         Impossible
                 illustrated       Christian life

               Luke 2:34–Israel     Rom 14:4         Rom 8:29–30
               Acts 7:51–Israel    1 Cor 10:12
               Rom 11:11, 12,         Gal 6:1
 ―Fall away‖      22–Israel        1 Tim 3:6, 7
                 Gal 5:4–??          Jas 5:12
                1 Tim 6:9–??        2 Pet 3:17
                  Parable of         Rev 2:5

  Result of                        Lose reward–1      Impossible–
               Spiritual death
  ―falling‖                         Cor 3:10–15      Rom 8:29–30
                                  Lose usability–1
                                     Cor 9:27

    The context of 5:1–6:20 is an appeal for true believers
to diligently grow spiritually rather than display spiritual
laziness. In this context it is more likely that the author of
Hebrews is warning against a refusal of a believer to trust
Christ‘s high priestly ministry than for one to reject the
186         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

     Scot McKnight includes an excellent list of words and
phrases from the entire book of Hebrews that are parallel to
―falling away.‖90 He lists several in Hebrews 10, including
―deliberately sinning‖ (10:26), ―enemies of God‖ (10:27),
―reject‖ (10:28), ―trample the Son of God‖ (10:29), and
―regarded the blood of the covenant as common‖ (10:29). He
concludes that these words and phrases have to mean
apostasy.91 Therefore, ―fall away‖ in Hebrews 6:6 also
means apostasy. However, he fails to mention that the
judgment in Hebrews 10:26–30 falls upon ―his people‖
(10:30). Therefore, all of the words and phrases used in
10:26–30 must refer to true believers. According to
McKnight‘s logic, Hebrews 6:6 must also be possible for
true believers.
     Hebrews 3:16–19 illustrates this ―falling away‖ with the
experience of the Israelites at Kadesh (Numbers 13–14).92
The Israelites refused to trust God to help them claim the
Promised Land. As a result everyone twenty or older at the
time was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, but
instead, their judgment was to die in the wilderness. They
made a conscious choice not to trust God to help them

      90McKnight, ―The Warning Passages of Hebrews,‖ 37–38.
      91This is an invalid conclusion. True believers can intention-
ally sin (Acts 5:1–11; Heb 10:25; Jas 5:11), be considered the
enemies of God (Matt 16:23; Jas 4:4), reject or despise the truth
about how they should live (1 Tim 5:12), figuratively trample the
Son of God and regard the blood of Christ as common by failing
to take advantage of the benefits of Christ‘s blood for the believer.
     92 Mathewson says, ―I would propose that, like the other

warnings in Hebrews, a specific OT example can also be detected
in the warning of 6:4–6, and that this constitutes one of the keys
to interpreting this warning. More specifically, behind 6:4–6 lies a
reference to the wilderness generation and the Kadesh-barnea
incident (cf. Numbers 13–14; Psalm 95) which featured
prominently in the warning in 3:7–4:13‖ (―Hebrews 6 in Light of
the Old Testament,‖ 211). The negative OT examples of faithless
living alluded to in the warnings are nicely contrasted by the
positive examples of faithful living in Hebrews 11.
                  A Warning for True Believers              187

conquer the land. They were not removed from the
covenant. In fact, the very next day they repented and God
forgave them (Num 14:20). Still, because of their refusal to
trust God, they were not allowed to enter the Promised
Land (even when they attempted to do so the next day).
     The situation in Hebrews 6:6 is very similar. Believers
are faced with impending persecution. They have a choice.
They can trust God (through the high priestly ministry of
Christ) for help, or they can refuse to trust God for help.
Gleason concludes, ―Like the Exodus generation, the initial
readers of Hebrews were at their Kadesh. They were faced
with a decision. If they chose not to trust God (through the
high priestly ministry of Christ), severe judgment would fall
on them.‖93 It was not a choice of whether or not to reject
the gospel.
     ―Fall away‖ in Hebrew 6:6, then, is a decisive refusal to
trust Christ‘s high priestly ministry which gave the believer
access to God and enabled him to grow spiritually. If, in
fact, he was returning to a Mosaic worship system, he was
saying that Christ‘s high priestly ministry (including
sacrifice) was not sufficient for daily living. Animal sacrifice
also had to be offered to maintain fellowship with God.

   Crucify Christ. The phrase ―they crucify to themselves
the Son of God afresh‖ (ἀναςταυροῦντασ ἑαυτοῖσ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ)
does not necessarily mean that they were rejecting the
gospel. It simply means that they were saying that Christ‘s
sacrifice was insufficient to meet their needs for daily living.
Therefore, another sacrifice was necessary for them to
maintain fellowship with God. They were denying Christ‘s
high priestly ministry on their behalf that guaranteed them
access to the heavenly holy of holies.

   Open shame. The phrase ―put him to open shame‖ (καὶ
παραδειγματίζοντασ) does not necessarily mean that they

    93   Gleason, ―The Old Testament Background,‖ 83.
188        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

verbally ridiculed Christ in public. Neither does it mean
that they publicly rejected the gospel of Christ. They were
asserting that Christ‘s high priestly ministry was
insufficient to meet their needs for daily living. Therefore,
they were saying to the world that Christ‘s cross work was
defective. Instead of proclaiming the sufficiency of Christ,
they were criticizing his ministry publicly. Therefore, they
were shaming Him rather than glorifying Him.
     David deSilva suggests that the concept of shame in
this verse is best understood within the context of the
patron-client relationship that was part of the fabric of first
century life.94 In the patron-client relationship, the patron
would bestow gifts upon his client.95 Those described in
Hebrews 6:4–5 are clients of God, their patron, who have
been granted abundant grace gifts.96 In response to those
gifts, the client would speak well of the patron and show
loyal obedience to his patron. For a client to speak poorly of
his patron or of his patron‘s gifts was the ultimate
expression of ingratitude and insult.97 It would have
brought shame on one‘s patron. Consequently, this would

       deSilva, ―Hebrews 6:4–8,‖ 48–51.

       For a description of the patron-client relationship, see

Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 3rd ed.
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 67; James S. Jeffers, The
Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era: Exploring the
Background of Early Christianity (Downers Grove: InterVarsity,
1999), 72–83; David Arthur deSilva, An Introduction to the New
Testament: Contexts, Methods and Ministry Formation (Downers
Grove: InterVarsity, 2004), 111–144; David A. deSilva, s.v.
―Patronage,‖ in Dictionary of New Testament Background
(Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000), 766–771.
    96 deSilva says, ―The subjects of 6:4–5 are clearly described in

terms of the reception of benefits. They have been graced by God
in this variety of ways, being granted great privileges and
promises, as well as proofs of their patron‘s good will toward
them‖ (―Hebrews 6:4–8,‖ 47).
    97 Ibid., 49.
                 A Warning for True Believers               189

have been met with severe punishment from the patron.
deSilva applies the patron-client concept to Hebrews 6:4–6.

        The people who reject their obligation to show
    honour, loyalty, and obedience to their patron when
    the cost of such witness and loyalty becomes too
    high are thus charged in Hebrews with bringing
    public shame on the patron, making a mockery of
    his beneficial death as they cut themselves off from
    the Son of God. Because the author has spent
    considerable space developing the honour and
    authority of the Son in Hebrews 1:1–14; 2:5–9 (and
    continues to do so throughout the letter), offering
    an affront to this Son is a dangerous course of
    action. The Son occupies the most exalted position
    in the Jewish and Christian cosmos; he awaits the
    subjection of all his enemies and promises to return
    as judge. Those who ‗crucify the Son of God‘ will not
    merely lose a reward, but will become subjects of
    divine vengeance.98

    While deSilva seems to be accurate in understanding
this passage in light of the patron-client relationship, he
misinterprets two aspects of these verses. He misinterprets
both the nature of falling away and the nature of the
ensuing judgment.99

Nature of Judgment

    There are two basic views of the nature of the judgment
mentioned in Hebrews 6:6–8. Some suggest that the
judgment is that of eternal damnation.100 McKnight collates
all the information concerning judgment from the entire

    99Both of the concepts are discussed elsewhere in this paper.
   100 McKnight, ―The Warning Passages of Hebrews,‖ 33–36;

Compton, ―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 161–164.
190         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

books of Hebrews and concludes the following: ―In light of
the final sense of several of these expressions (cf. especially
the harsh realities of 10:30–31, 39) and the use of imagery
in Hebrews that elsewhere is used predominantly of eternal
damnation, it becomes quite clear that the author has in
mind an eternal sense of destruction.‖101
     The second possible interpretation of the judgment in
Hebrews 6:6–8 is that it entails loss of God‘s blessing and
the onset of cursing (up to and including physical death).102
Gleason summarizes, ―In light of the Old Testament
blessing-curse motif, the judgment in view in Hebrews 6:7–
8 is best understood as the forfeiture of blessing and the
experience of temporal discipline rather than eternal
     There are four basic arguments given in favor of eternal
damnation as the judgment in 6:6–8. First, the terms used
for the judgment, especially in 10:26–31,104 taken together
give a clear indication that eternal damnation is in view.
McKnight concludes,

           Nonetheless, when the exegete ties together ―no
      escape‖ (2:2; 12:25), God‘s anger (3:10, 17), falling
      short of the rest (3:11, 18–19; 4:1, 6, 11), a
      condition where no sacrifice remains for someone
      (10:26), a fearful expectation of judgment (10:27),
      fire (10:27; 12:29), death without mercy (10:28),
      and God‘s judgment (10:30–31), one is forced to
      conclude that the author is presenting eternal
      damnation as a potential consequence for those to

        McKnight, ―The Warning Passages of Hebrews,‖ 36.

        Gleason, ―The Old Testament Background,‖ 86–90;

Oberholtzer, ―The Thorn-Infested Ground,‖ 323–326.
    103 Gleason, ―The Old Testament,‖ 86–87.

    104 McKnight, ―The Warning Passages of Hebrews,‖ 34.

McKnight says, ―The language of 10:26–31 is particularly clear
and needs to be the decisive evidence if other images and
expressions remain ambiguous.‖
                 A Warning for True Believers                 191

    whom he gives his warnings about sin and his
    exhortations to persevere.105

     McKnight‘s interpretation may be possible. However, he
fails to include a significant phrase when he lists the
judgment of God in 10:30–31. The phrase that is omitted is
the phrase ―his people‖ (10:30). The ―clearest‖ passage in
defining this judgment calls the judgment a judgment of
God‘s people. So, contrary to what McKnight argues, the
clearest passage in Hebrews says that the judgment is for
true believers. Therefore, it cannot be eternal damnation.106
     Second, the fact that the person is not able to be
brought back to repentance (avδύναηον γa.ρ . . . πa,λιν
ἀνακαινίζειν εἰς μεηa,νοιαν) indicates that the issue is a
rejection of the gospel, not a believer‘s rejection of
fellowship.107 Compton concludes, ―the author of Hebrews
is saying that it is impossible to restore those who heard
and understood the gospel but who reject it. This
irreversible act has as its only prospect the judgment of
God.‖108 McKnight claims, ―One is pressed to agree that the

    105  Ibid.
    106  This conclusion is based on the presupposition that no
true believer can lose his salvation.
     107 There is a good deal of discussion regarding the extent of

this impossibility to repent. Both Gleason (―The Old Testament
Background,‖ 84) and Oberholtzer (―The Thorn-Infested Ground,‖
323) argue that it is impossible for man but not for God, since
God can do anything. Compton, on the other hand, argues that it
is impossible for both God and man since the person has
hardened his heart so severely (―Persevering and Falling Away,‖
159–160). While this is an interesting discussion, it does not
greatly affect the understanding of the judgment in Hebrews. If it
is impossible for God, it is only because He has limited Himself in
some way. God has chosen to respond to the sin of the
unrepentant believer as well as the unbeliever. In a sense, it is
impossible for God to ignore the sin of either party.
     108 Compton, ―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 161. The

problem with this conclusion is that many hear and understand
192         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

author is not dealing here with the impossibility of
reclaiming a recalcitrant sinner (who will nevertheless be
saved in the end) but with eternal damnation because that
person has apostatized from a former commitment to God‘s
salvation in Christ.‖109
    McKnight mistakenly concludes that if the text is not
referring to bringing a sinner back into fellowship with God,
it must be referring to eternal judgment. A third possibility
exists. Since the blessing/cursing motif is in the immediate
context (6:7–8), it is likely that the author of Hebrews is
simply saying that it is impossible to avoid losing God‘s
blessing and experiencing God‘s curse of temporal
discipline (even if they repent and restore fellowship with
    This is exactly the same thing that happens to the
Israelites at Kadesh (Num 14). They refused to trust God to
conquer the Promised Land. God removed his blessing and
cursed the Israelites. The next day they repented of their
lack of trust. God forgave them, but it was impossible to
escape God‘s curse. All those over twenty died in the
wilderness instead of entering the Promised Land (even
though God forgave them).110
    Hebrews 6:6, literally, is saying that it is impossible to
renew someone to a former state by means of repentance.111

and reject the gospel (some several times) and then later place
their faith in Christ for salvation. What implications does this
view have for one‘s evangelistic efforts?
     109 McKnight, ―The Warning Passages of Hebrews,‖ 34.

     110 Another interesting example is Esau not being allowed to

―repent‖ his decision to sell his birthright (Hebrews 12:16–17).
     111 Εivς is probably used to identify means just as it is in Acts

7:53 (the law was delivered by means of the direction of angels;
see Richard A. Young, Intermediate New Testament Greek
[Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1994], 94). Thus, the person
cannot be delivered to a former state (i.e., ―wipe the slate clean‖)
by means of repentance. In other words, a believer cannot escape
the consequences of his sinful action by simply repenting.
                 A Warning for True Believers                193

The person who fails to trust Christ‘s high priestly ministry
for daily living cannot escape God‘s chastisement by
repenting (even though God forgives him of his lack of
trust). This interpretation provides a strong motive for the
believer to move on to maturity in his Christian life—if he
does not, he will have no way of escaping God‘s
     A third argument used to support eternal damnation as
the judgment in Hebrews is the combination of the curse
with fire in 6:8. McKnight says, ―The image of being cursed
by God, with its close association with fire, can only
adequately be explained as an allusion to Gehenna or hell,
an allusion to God‘s punishment and retributive justice.‖112
     When the people of God in the Old Testament
experienced the curses that were part of the Mosaic
covenant, they were not removed from God‘s people. The
purpose of the curse was to bring Israel back into
fellowship with God. If this concept of a curse is applied to
Hebrews 6:8, it argues in favor of God‘s New Testament
people being disciplined in order to bring them back into
fellowship with God. It certainly does not argue for an
eternal damnation of those removed from God‘s New
Testament people.
     McKnight counters, ―If willful disobedience and
apostasy in the Mosaic era brought discipline and
prohibited entrance into the Land (a type of the eternal

    112 McKnight, ―The Warning Passages of Hebrews,‖ 35. See
also, Grudem, ―Perseverance of the Saints,‖ 154–156. Compton
concludes, ―The description of this judgment in 10:27 as a raging
fire that will consume the enemies of God hardly sounds like
God‘s judging the saved‖ (―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 163).
Compton fails to note that 10:30 says that this is a judgment of
―His people.‖ Therefore, even if it does not sound like a judgment
of ―the saved,‖ it is the best interpretation. Also, there is fire
connected to the judgment of believers in 1 Cor 3:13. Both
Hebrews 6 and 1 Cor 3 are in the context of the believers building
their Christian lives on the correct foundation.
194            Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

rest), then surely willful disobedience and apostasy in the
new era will bring eternal exclusion from the eternal
rest.‖113 In other words, the judgment in the New Testament
is greater in kind than the judgment in the Old Testament.
     Gleason agrees that there is a heightening of some kind
in the judgment of the New Testament. However, he reasons
that it is greater in degree, not in kind. He says,

           It seems better to explain the increasing
      intensity of coming judgment in terms of degree in
      light of the severe devastation and physical
      suffering foreseen by the author as coming on the
      inhabitants of Judea and Jerusalem. Most of those
      in the Exodus generation died a natural death in
      the wilderness, their punishment being their
      forfeiture of blessings in the Promised Land.114

     Therefore, just because there is a heightening of the
judgment       does    not   necessarily    mean     that   the
blessing/cursing motif is drastically altered. If the curse in
Hebrews removes one from God‘s people (as McKnight
suggests), then it is drastically different than the Old
Testament curse.
     A fourth argument used to support eternal damnation
as the judgment in Hebrews is the word ―rejected‖ in 6:8
(ἀδόκιμοσ). Since the word ―rejected‖ is used for the unsaved
and its antonym ―approved‖ is used for the saved, ―rejected‖
in 6:8 must refer to the unsaved.115 It is undeniable that
the word ―rejected‖ refers most often to unbelievers in
Scripture; however, it is also used at least once of a
believer. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:27, says that he must
strive to live a self-controlled Christian life so that he does
not become a ―castaway‖ (avδo,κιμος—―rejected‖). Compton

      113   McKnight, ―The Warning Passages of Hebrews,‖ 35–36.
      114   Gleason, ―The Old Testament Background,‖ 90.
      115   Compton, ―Persevering and Falling Away,‖ 162.
                  A Warning for True Believers              195

rejects the idea that this word means ―disapproved‖ by
saying, ―It is questionable whether it has this sense in 1
Corinthians 9:27 or elsewhere in the NT.‖ 116 What is
undeniable, however, is that Paul understands this term
(―rejected‖) as a very real possibility for him if he does not
live a disciplined life. A disciplined, growing life is also the
theme of Hebrews 6. Therefore, it seems likely that
―rejected‖ in this passage could also be a real possibility for
a believer.
     In conclusion, the judgment in Hebrews 6 is not eternal
damnation. It is the loss of God‘s blessing and the onset of
God‘s curse. God‘s curse is temporal discipline of the
believer, which may even include physical death.


    Hebrews 6:4–8 will always be a difficult paragraph to
interpret. A proper interpretation must explain the three
key elements in this passage of Scripture. This article has
attempted to provide the best possible explanations for
these key issues.
    First, those described in 6:4–5 are truly regenerate
people. The natural reading of the descriptions of these
people argues for this interpretation. 5:1–6:20 is an
extended exhortation to believers to mature in their faith.
This fact lends support to the notion that true believers are
described in 6:4–5. If 6:4–8 is referring to unbelievers, it
makes little sense as an exhortation for believers to mature.
    Second, the ―falling away‖ mentioned in 6:6 is not a
total rejection of the gospel of Christ. The term itself is not a
technical term for apostasy. This ―falling away‖ is presented
as a real possibility for true believers. It is parallel to
Israel‘s failure to trust God at Kadesh when they were
considering     conquering     the    Promised     Land.     The
combination of all this evidence argues for the notion that

    116   Ibid.
196         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

―falling away‖ in 6:6 is a decisive refusal by a Christian to
trust God for daily living (i.e., not living by faith).
     Third, the judgment for the one who ―falls away‖ is not
eternal damnation, but rather the loss of God‘s temporal
blessing upon the believer and the onset of cursing (which
may include physical death). The direct connection of the
judgment in 6:4–8 with the blessing/cursing motif in the
Old Testament argues that the judgment in 6:4–8 is not an
eternal damnation. Just as curses in the OT did not remove
one from God‘s people, cursing upon a true believer does
not remove him from God‘s fold. Also, 10:30 states that the
judgment in the Book of Hebrews is on ―God‘s people.‖
     This author suggests the following paraphrase for
Hebrews 6:4–8:

           For it is impossible for true believers who have
      been once enlightened, and have accepted the
      heavenly gift, and have been indwelt by the Holy
      Spirit, and have experienced the good word of the
      gospel and the power of the coming kingdom; and
      then they fail to live their daily life by faith in
      Christ, to return by means of repentance to a place
      where they can escape God‘s curse (temporal
      chastisement and eternal loss of reward), because
      they have openly claimed that Christ‘s sacrifice was
      insufficient to maintain fellowship with God and
      they have publicly embarrassed and dishonored
      Christ, their patron. Let me illustrate the
      impossibility of escaping God‘s curse by means of
      an allusion to the OT blessing/cursing motif. The
      earth which drinks in the rain (accepts the gospel)
      and produces good fruit (lives by faith) for the one
      who tends the crops receives blessing from God.
      However, the land that drinks the rain (accepts the
      gospel) and does not produce good fruit (does not
      live by faith) receives the curse of God.
MBTJ 1:2   197-222

  Filled with or Full of the Spirit:
         Acts and Ephesians
                       Larry R. Oats1

      In the Book of Acts, various disciples of Christ were
―filled with the Spirit,‖ some apparently more than once. In
Ephesians 5:18 Paul commanded the believers to be ―filled
with the Spirit.‖ There is, however, no commandment in
Acts to be filled, and there are no examples of anyone
actually being ―filled with the Spirit‖ in the Epistles.
Because of Paul‘s command and the results that happened
when the early believers were filled with the Spirit in the
book of Acts, some believers today seek some kind of
miraculous work of the Spirit to demonstrate their
obedience to the Word.
      This article will examine the concept and language of
being ―filled with the Spirit‖ in Luke and Acts (the phrase is
not used in Matthew, Mark or John) and compare that with
Paul‘s commandment in Ephesians 5:18, in order to
demonstrate that these two fillings are not the same. This
article will also examine the empowering ministry of the
Holy Spirit in the Old Testament to lay a foundation for this
New Testament study.


    There were numerous ministries of the Holy Spirit in
the Old Testament. A common reference in the Old
Testament, one which relates to this article, is the

    1 Dr. Larry Oats is the Dean and Professor of Systematic

Theology at Maranatha Baptist Seminary.
198        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

phraseology of the Holy Spirit coming upon a person.2 It will
be seen that these passages speak of the Holy Spirit
empowering or enabling someone for special ministry.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, it will be demon-
strated that the leaders of God‘s people were enabled to
function by the empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit. The
judges, Saul, David, the prophets, the apostles and the
elders of the church at Ephesus are all examples.3
      The first references to the Spirit coming upon someone
are Numbers 11:17, 25, and 26. The Spirit was taken from
upon Moses and put upon others. This should not be taken
to mean that the Holy Spirit can somehow be divided or
separated. In this passage, the Lord enlarged the ministry
of Moses by placing his Spirit upon the elders who would
assist him (24–30). The sign of the Spirit‘s coming was
prophecy, as at other times (for instance, 1 Sam 10:6–13;
Joel 2:28; Acts 2:4; 1 Cor 12:10). Numbers 11:29 goes
further by indicating that Moses desired that the Spirit
would come upon all the Israelites (although that did not
      In Numbers 24:2 the Spirit of God came upon Balaam.
The text states that Balaam ―lifted up his eyes and saw.‖
This is referring, both here and elsewhere, to an individual
―seeing or observing perceptively.‖ The combination of this
perceptive vision with the Holy Spirit coming upon him
demonstrated that Balaam was ―endowed with divine
insight as he observed the Israelites below him in the
wilderness of Moab.‖4
      In Judges 3:10, the Holy Spirit came upon Othniel, a
little known judge of Israel who brought peace to the nation
for forty years. This is a good example of the Spirit‘s

      The preposition routinely used is l[;.

      D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition,

4th ed. (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1994), Num 11:16–35.
    4 R. Dennis Cole, Numbers, The New American Commentary

3B (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2001), 416.
               Full of or Filled with the Spirit          199

ministry of empowering and authenticating ―individuals
who are unqualified for or indisposed to service for him. In
the present instance the empowering presence of the Spirit
of God transforms this minor Israelite officer from Debir
into the ruler (šôpēṭ) of Israel and the conqueror of a world-
class enemy.‖5
     In Judges 6:34 the Spirit of God came upon Gideon.
Gideon seems to have done all he could to avoid the
leadership to which God was calling him, but his people
rallied around his leadership nevertheless.

        Why are Gideon‘s clansmen, tribesmen, and
   countrymen so ready to respond to him? Are they
   impressed with his leadership ability or his courage? Do
   they recognize him as the ―valiant warrior,‖ whom the
   messenger of Yahweh had addressed in v. 12? Not if one
   may judge from his expressed perception of his standing
   within his own family and his tribe (v. 15) when God
   calls him to military leadership or from the trepidation
   with which he destroyed the Baal cult site in the
   preceding account (v. 31). From the succeeding
   narrative of the dew and the fleece (vv. 36–40) it seems
   that nothing has changed internally or personally.
   Gideon remains hesitant.6

    That the people would rally around Gideon was
undoubtedly because of their recognition of the empowering
of the Spirit on his life. Verse 34 may give an indication of
the reason, for the text indicated that the Spirit of Yahweh
―clothed‖ Gideon.
    The Holy Spirit came upon Jephthah (Jud 11:29). The
Lord had rejected the prayer of Israel for deliverance from
the Ammonites, because he knew their hearts.

    5Daniel Isaac Block, Judges, Ruth, The New American
Commentary 6 (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2001), 155.
   6 Block, Judges, Ruth, 271–72.
200            Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

Nevertheless, he took pity on the nation and raised up a
judge, Jephthah, to deliver them. Jephthah, rejected by his
family because he was the son of a prostitute, was sought
to lead Israel against the Ammonites. Judges 10 and 11
reveal his political and scheming nature. Yahweh took pity
on Israel, but Jephthah was more interested in elevating his
own status. In spite of his selfish motives and lack of
spirituality, God still sent his Spirit upon him and
Jephthah experienced the kind of empowerment that
preceding judges had experienced.
     Similarly, the Spirit of God came upon Samson (Jud
14:6, 14:19, and 15:14). His lack of spiritual maturity is
clearly demonstrated in the narrative, but in his grace,
Yahweh sent the Spirit to come upon Samson. ―As we have
noted earlier . . . , if anything positive happens to Israel in
the Book of Judges, the credit must go to God.‖8
     This coming upon various men continued through the
Old Testament. In 1 Sam 10:6, 10:10, 11:6, and 19:23, the
Spirit of God came upon Saul. In 1 Sam 19:20–21 the Spirit
of God came upon the messengers of Saul. In 1 Samuel 19
Saul was attempting to capture David, but the Holy Spirit,
coming upon both Saul and his messengers, caused them
to prophecy for a lengthy period of time, ruining Saul‘s
purpose and humiliating him at the same time. In 1 Chron
12:18 the Spirit of God came upon Amasai. In 2 Chron 15:1
the Spirit of God came upon Azariah. In 2 Chron 20:14 and
20 the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah. In Ezekiel 11:5
the Spirit of God came upon Ezekiel. Space constrains a
fuller discussion of these incidents, but they are similar to
what has already been presented.
     An important reference concerning this ministry of the
Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is 1 Sam 16:13. The Spirit
of God departed from Saul and came upon David,
apparently at the same time. David viewed this ministry of

      7   Carson, Judges, 11:12–28.
      8   Block, Judges, Ruth, 272.
               Full of or Filled with the Spirit           201

the Holy Spirit, sometimes referred to as the ―theocratic
anointing,‖ as necessary to rule the nation effectively and
righteously.9 It was for this reason that he prayed that God
would not remove his Spirit from him after his sin with
Bathsheba (Ps 51:11). This confirms the intimation from
the preceding passages that the Spirit coming upon a
person was a temporary ministry. He could come upon
someone, but he could also depart from them.
     There are prophesies concerning a future descent of the
Spirit upon the Messiah and his followers. Isaiah 42:1 and
61:1 declare that the Spirit of God will come upon the
Messiah. Ezekiel 39:29 states that the Spirit of God will
come upon the nation of Israel eschatologically. Joel 2:28–
29 prophesy that the Spirit of God will come upon the Jews‘
sons and daughters, the young men and old, and even
upon the slaves.
     In every Old Testament instance, the Holy Spirit was (or
will be) empowering an individual, or in a few cases a
group, for a specific ministry or activity. There is no
indication of a universal or permanent empowering of all
believers in the Old Testament; instead the indication is
that this is a temporary situation for a select few.
     There are only a few references in the Old Testament
that use the language of filling, fullness, or being full of the
S/spirit. Exodus 28:3 speaks of God filling individuals with
the spirit of wisdom. Whether this is the Holy Spirit or
simply ―a wise spirit‖ (a special measure of wisdom) is
difficult to ascertain. Most commentaries take this to mean
a wise spirit.10 A similar statement is found concerning

    9 There is no room at this point for a discussion of whether
David, or indeed any of the Old Testament saints, understood the
Holy Spirit to be a separate person of the Godhead or to be an
extension, in power or presence, of the one true God, Yahweh,
and thus the spiritual presence and power of God.
    10 See   Douglas K. Stuart, Exodus, New American
Commentary (Nashville: Broadman, 2006), 601; John I. Durham,
Exodus Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word, 1987), 381;
202        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

Joshua when he is said to be full of the spirit of wisdom
(Deut. 34:9). In Exodus 31:3 and 35:31, the text clearly
declares that God filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God for the
purpose of leading the workers who would build the
Tabernacle.11 This ―filling‖ was focused in the areas of
wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and workmanship for
the purpose of designing artistic works in gold, silver,
bronze, jewels, wood, and finally a general statement of ―all
manner‖ of workmanship.
    The references to the Holy Spirit filling, empowering, or
coming upon someone in the Old Testament are few and
narrative in character. There are some clear conclusions
which may be drawn, however. First, this was a sovereign
act of God. No one prayed for, requested, sought, or asked
in any way for this filling or empowering. Second, the
personal character of the recipient was not a defining norm.
Third, this was a special activity, reserved for a very few
select individuals. Fourth, it was designed to provide the
necessary ability for a specific ministry.

          The Holy Spirit in the New Testament

     In the New Testament, there are significant changes to
the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Believers are given far more
information concerning the Spirit and his ministry. The
varied ministries of the Holy Spirit encompass a broader
body of individuals. Some ministries, such as the indwelling
presence of the Spirit involve all believers. The filling or
empowering ministry is at least available for, if not used by,
all believers.

Waldemar Janzen, Exodus Believers Church Bible Commentary
(Scottdale, PA: Herald), 353; Carl F. Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Old
Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Associated Publishers
and Authors, nd), 1: 525.
    11 The word for ―fill‖ or ―full‖ in all these passages is alm.
                Full of or Filled with the Spirit           203

                         The Promise

    Jesus told the disciples that they were to wait in
Jerusalem until he sent the Promise of the Father upon
them (Luke 24:49). The promise is clearly the Holy Spirit.
The timing of the coming of the Promise was said to be
future, but not too far in the future, for the disciples were
to wait in Jerusalem until it came.
    This Promise is repeated by Luke in Acts 1:4–5. The
statement is phrased differently in Acts, for Luke is not
quoting Jesus directly, but rather speaking about the
Promise. In this passage, the Promise of the Father is linked
directly to the Spirit.
    Jesus had previously promised that the Holy Spirit
would come after he departed (see John 7:37–39 and 16:7).
In John 20:22, Jesus breathed on the disciples and
commanded them to receive the Spirit. Calvin argued that
this was a precursor to Pentecost, a sprinkling of the Holy
Spirit, while Pentecost was an outpouring.12 An early
dispensational view was that John 20:22 was referring to a
temporary filling of the Spirit given to the disciples to
provide for their spiritual needs prior to Pentecost.13
Another interpretation is that this was the power for the
new life, while Pentecost was the power for ministry.14
Another view argues that there were two comings of the
Holy Spirit; John 20:22 was the fulfillment of the promises
in John 17:17–19, and Pentecost was the fulfillment of the
Paraclete promises. However, all of these create a problem.
Jesus had promised that the Spirit would come after Jesus
ascended to the Father. The actual empowerment came in
Acts 2. Therefore, it may be best to take John 20:22 as a

    12 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2. 205.
    13 Robert Gromacki, The Holy Spirit (Nashville: Word, 1999),
    14 B. F. Westcott, The Gospel according to St John: The Greek

Text with Introduction and Notes (London: John Murray, 1908), 2:
204        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

symbolic fulfillment or prospective fulfillment of the soon-to-
be-given gift of the Spirit, which would actually take place
later at Pentecost.15
    In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter referred to
the Spirit coming in two distinct, but related ways. In Acts
2:17, Peter referred to the events of Pentecost as the
fulfillment of Joel 2:28ff. A discussion of whether the
prophecy in Joel was completely or partially fulfilled is
beyond the scope of this paper. In the context of this article,
however, it is sufficient to note that in the Old Testament
the Father promised to send the Holy Spirit to believers in
the last day. Peter declared that ―this is that which was
spoken by the prophet Joel.‖
    Later in the Sermon, however, Peter further developed
his theology of the Spirit. He declared to the multitude what
Jesus had told the disciples earlier would happen—that
Jesus received the Holy Spirit from the Father in order to
pour out the Spirit on the believers (Acts 2:32–33). Peter
linked the promised coming of the Spirit with the ascension
of Christ. In these verses, Peter drew a distinction between
the apostles who had seen the risen Christ (―we all are
witnesses‖) and the multitude that had not. The activities
on the day of Pentecost were proof of the promise that the
Holy Spirit had been sent (―what you now both see and
hear‖). Thus, Peter linked Jesus‘ ascension and place at the
right hand of God (compare Acts 5:31) with the coming of
the Spirit. It was from his position at the right hand of the
Father that Jesus fulfilled the promise that the Father
would send the Holy Spirit.16 Paul referred to the Holy Spirit

    15 Andreas J. Köstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commen-

tary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic,
2004), 574.
    16 Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles,

New Testament Commentary 17 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990),
100–01. Elsewhere Peter indicated the similar idea that Jesus
appeared only to the disciples ―who were appointed beforehand by
God‖ (Acts 10:41).
               Full of or Filled with the Spirit          205

as the promise of the Father in Gal 3:14 and Eph 1:13. In
Galatians Paul, defending his position against the
Judaizers, argued that the blessing of Abraham would come
to the Gentiles so that they could receive the promised
Spirit just as the Jews did. In Ephesians Paul declared that
believers are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.
    It may be argued, then, that the Holy Spirit‘s ministry in
the New Testament would be a combination of what he did
in the Old Testament, on a broader scale, with a new
ministry unknown in the Old Testament.

                    The ―Upon‖ Ministry

     The New Testament speaks of the Holy Spirit coming
upon people in language that is essentially identical to that
of the Old Testament. Matthew 12:18 is a quotation from
Isaiah 42:1, indicating that God would put his Spirit upon
the Messiah. Jesus quoted this, indicating that he was the
fulfillment of the prophecy. This pouring out of the Spirit
upon the Messiah was done ―without measure‖ (Matt 3:16
and John 3:34). ―The Spirit is given in some measure to all
who serve God, but clearly here it is envisaged that the
servant will have a special endowment.‖17 This indicates
that the Spirit‘s relationship to the Messiah was similar to,
but in some way different from, that of human believers.
The reference to ―measure‖ indicates that there is a
quantitative, but not necessarily a qualitative, difference.
     Luke 4:18 refers to Jesus in the synagogue reading
from Isaiah 61:12 and indicating that he was the fulfillment
of this Old Testament prophecy. Like Matthew 12:18, Jesus
indicated that the Holy Spirit would be upon the Messiah,
empowering him for his ministry.

    17 Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 310.
206        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

    In Luke 2:25 the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon. Simeon
had already been informed that he would live to see the
coming of the Messiah. The Holy Spirit brought him to the
temple at just the right time to see the child Jesus and
particularly equipped him to identify the child as the
    These references in the Gospel of Luke indicate that the
Holy Spirit continued to come upon men and women in a
manner similar to that of the Old Testament; this coming-
upon ministry empowered an individual for a specific task
at a specific time.
    In Acts 1:8 Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would
come upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost. This
statement was in response to the disciples‘ question
concerning when the kingdom would be coming, and it put
the disciples‘ question in proper perspective. The
restoration of the kingdom was a far future event, one
which the disciples were not to worry about. Instead, they
were to focus on the current needs, which included
worldwide evangelization and church planting. Therefore,
Jesus promised the disciples two necessary elements:
power and witness. John Polhill points out that in this
context the future tense has an imperatival sense: ―you will
[must] receive power‖ and ―you will be my witnesses.‖19 The
power the disciples would receive was divine power, δύναμις,
which is the same word used to refer to Jesus‘ miracles. This
power would come from the Spirit, for the disciples had to
wait at Jerusalem until the Spirit came. In this context, the
link between the Spirit coming upon someone and the
Spirit empowering them for ministry is clear.

    18 See I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary

on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament
Commentary (Exeter: Paternoster, 1978), 118.
    19 John B. Polhill, Acts, The New American Commentary 26

(Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2001), 86.
               Full of or Filled with the Spirit         207

     Acts 2:17-18 has already been noted, but it is the next
occurrence of the Spirit coming upon someone. Peter
quoted Joel 2:28–29, which states that the Spirit of God
would come upon numerous people. Joel prophesied of this;
Peter experienced it on the day of Pentecost.
     In Acts 8:16 the Holy Spirit came upon the believers in
Samaria. The language is a little different, for Luke
indicates that the Spirit had not yet fallen upon them, but
when the disciples came from Jerusalem, they then
received the Holy Spirit. Some are concerned that the
arrival of the Spirit is separated chronologically from the
new disciples‘ believing and baptism, but Luke is not
speaking of the indwelling presence of the Spirit. He clearly
speaks of the Spirit having not yet come ―upon‖ them. Luke
is not using this terminology any differently than in his
previous references. The Spirit came ―upon‖ the Samaritans
and empowered them for ministry. Here the ministry seems
to be primarily confirming that the Samaritans were to be
included in the proclamation and reception of the gospel in
equal standing as the Jews. ―Many interpreters point to the
significance of the experience being one of an outward
demonstration of the Spirit in some visible sign that Simon
could ‗see‘ (v. 18). Therefore this does not rule out the
Spirit‘s having worked inwardly in them at the point of their
initial conviction and commitment.‖20 Others have noted
that the imagery in this passage is that of a community
empowering, like the day of Pentecost, rather than an
individualized ministry. This reinforces the idea of an
empowering for ministry, rather than an individual salvific
     Acts 10:44 is very similar. Peter had taken the good
news of the coming of the Messiah to Cornelius. While Peter
was preaching, the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his

    20Polhill, 218.
    21Richard Belward Rackham, The Acts of the Apostles
(London: Methuen, 1925), 117.
208        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

household. Cornelius was already a believer in the Jewish
religion and in the true God; with Peter‘s coming, he
learned the truth of the coming of the Messiah.22 The
language and context is similar to Acts 2. When Peter
defended his actions upon his return to Jerusalem, he used
this similarity as his defense. In Acts 11:15 Peter argued
that the Holy Spirit came upon the household of Cornelius,
with the accompanying miraculous sign of speaking in
tongues (Acts 10:46) as it did upon the disciples ―at the
beginning,‖ a clear reference to Pentecost. In his defense,
Peter included the words of Jesus when he compared
John‘s baptism in water with Jesus‘ baptism in the Holy
     A final reference to the Spirit coming ―upon‖ someone is
found in Acts 19:6. Twelve men in Ephesus had, at some
point, become followers of John the Baptist. The point of
the narrative seems to be that they were only that—
followers of John and ill-informed followers at that. Part of
John‘s message had been the future baptism by Jesus in
the Holy Spirit, but these men were not even aware that
there was a Holy Spirit. Paul, therefore, introduced these
men to the Messiah. The timeline of the passage is
instructive and should not be ignored. Verse 4 summarizes
Paul‘s message to them. Following this they were baptized
in the name of Jesus. Paul laid his hands on them, and at
that point the Holy Spirit came ―upon‖ them and they spoke
in tongues and prophesied.
     Had this event not occurred, the previous three
narratives would have concluded a neat package—the Spirit
had come upon Jews in Jerusalem, half-Jews in Samaria,

       There is not enough time to comment thoroughly on the

dispensational transition hinted at here. He and his household
were already devout God-fearers (Acts 10:1–2), when an angel
directed him to Peter so that he might hear the news of the
Messiah. This writer suggests that, like the Eleven before him, he
was already a believer, but needed to learn the greater revelation
which was only now being made available to him.
               Full of or Filled with the Spirit           209

and Gentiles in Caesarea. These three would seem to have
symbolized the completion of the command to be witnesses
to the entire world.23 The addition of this fourth similar
pouring out of the Spirit seems to be best explained by

         A possible answer is to consider the extension
    of the church in Jerusalem, Samaria, and Caesarea
    as a first phase of mission work among Jews,
    Samaritans, and Gentiles. A second phase relates
    to the work of evangelizing persons who have an
    inadequate     knowledge    of   Christ   but    are
    subsequently instructed in the truth of the gospel.
    If we consider the first phase to be extensive, then
    the second is intensive.24

    The preposition for this ―upon‖ ministry is evpi,. When
used with the genitive, it commonly has a physical meaning
of being upon its object. It also carries the meaning of
―over‖ in the sense of ―power, authority, control.‖25 While
the physical concept fits the descent of the Spirit ―as a
dove‖ at the baptism of Jesus, the concept of the Spirit
taking ―over,‖ controlling the individual or assuming
authority over him may better fit its more common usages
in the New Testament.

                    Filled with the Spirit

    Πίμπλημι. Luke, in both his Gospel and in Acts, refers to
a variety of individuals being ―filled with the Spirit.‖ One of
the Greek words for filled in the phrase ―filled with the

    23 See Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Acts of the

Apostles, New Testament Commentary 17 (Grand Rapids: Baker,
2001), 681.
    24 Kistemaker, 681.

    25 BAGD, evpi,.
210        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

Spirit‖ is πi,μπλημι pimplemi. In the New Testament it is used
in the following passages in connection with the Holy Spirit.
      The angel who spoke to Zacharias and foretold the birth
of his child declared that John the Baptist would be filled
with the Holy Spirit from his mother‘s womb (Luke 1:15).
The external evidence for this is found a few verses later in
Luke 1:41. When Mary walked into the home of Zacharias
and Elizabeth, the baby John, still in his mother‘s womb,
leaped for joy at the presence of the Messiah (see also verse
44). Kistemaker notes concerning the infant John: ―That at
this stage of its development it already has all the nerves it
will ever have and is normally able to react to stimuli is well
known. In view of verse 15 it should be added that in some
mysterious manner, incapable of further analysis, the Holy
Spirit was already actively present in the soul of Elizabeth‘s
child.‖26 There is no natural way for John to have known
that Jesus was present in the same room with him, except
through the miraculous work of the Spirit. This event fits
with the previous discussions of the ―upon‖ ministry of the
Holy Spirit; it was a special empowering for a specific task
at a given time. The following instances of individuals being
―filled with the Spirit‖ seem to fit that same model.
      In Luke 1:41 Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
The result of this was her hymn of praise directed toward
Mary and the unborn Messiah. Similarly, in Luke 1:67
Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied
concerning the future ministry of his son, John, and his
role in preparing the way for the Messiah.
      In the book of Acts, the ―filling of the Spirit‖ is
interpreted in problematic ways. Referring to Acts 2:4, John
Polhill declares:

    26 Simon  J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary:
Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke, New Testament
Commentary 11 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 97.
                Full of or Filled with the Spirit           211

       Verse 4 gives the result of the Spirit‘s coming on
   those gathered in the upper room. They were ―filled with
   the Holy Spirit,‖ and this led them to ―speak in other
   tongues.‖ From this point on in Acts, the gift of the
   Spirit became a normative concomitant of becoming a
   Christian believer (2:38). The expression of this differs;
   in 9:17 Saul is said to have been ―filled‖ with the Spirit,
   as here. Sometimes this experience is described as a
   ―baptism‖ in the Spirit (1:5; 11:16). In other instances
   the word ―poured out‖ is used (2:17ff; 10:45) or ―came
   upon‖ (8:16; 10:44; 11:15) or simply ―receive‖ (2:38;
   10:47). All these instances refer to new converts and
   point to the Spirit‘s coming in various ways, not always
   signified by tongues, as a permanent gift to every
   believer. This should be distinguished from other
   references to ―filling,‖ where the Spirit comes upon one
   who is already a believer in a time of special inspiration
   and testimony to the faith (cf. 4:8, 31; 7:55; 13:9).27

    The result of an interpretation like Polhill‘s (and he is
not alone in this) is that the gift of the Spirit, the baptism of
the Spirit, the filling of the Spirit, and the receiving of the
Spirit all become the same event, with the same theological
and practical implications. Yet even Polhill acknowledges
that this broad approach does not always work, since there
are times when these events happen to believers and other
times when they happen to unbelievers. There is a better
way to understand this ―filling of the Spirit.‖
    In Acts 2:4 the disciples in the upper room were filled
with the Holy Spirit, which resulted in preaching on the day
of Pentecost. The text indicates that it was only the
disciples, not those who would eventually come to salvation
that day, who were filled with the Spirit.

    27 John B. Polhill, Acts, The New American Commentary 26

(Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2001), 98.
212        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

    In Acts 4:8 Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. The
result of this filling of the Spirit was that Peter preached
about Jesus and his miracles and proclaimed that there is
no other name under heaven which can save. Some would
argue that the filling of the Spirit is a permanent state for
the believer and that the reference here is only a reminder
of what had already happened to Peter at Pentecost.28
Others argue that the filling is a temporary event.29 This
writer agrees with the latter position. The ―filling of the
Spirit‖ and the coming ―upon‖ ministry seem to have the
same purpose and result – to empower individuals for
specific acts or times of ministry.
    Acts 4:31 declares that the church as a whole was filled
with the Holy Spirit. It is important to note the prayer in
verse 29. This was not a prayer for a special ―filling,‖ but
one for boldness. The connection between filling and
speaking in Acts 4:8 and 31 shows ―that the filling is not an
end in itself, but the condition for speaking with boldness
in the missionary situation.‖30 In Acts 9:17 and 13:9, Paul
was filled with the Holy Spirit, with the result being the
preaching of the Word (Acts 9:20).
    In each case of these fillings of the Spirit, the individual
was the passive recipient. ―The Spirit-filling (with pimplemi)
in Acts is never commanded, nor is it related particularly to
sanctification. Rather, it is a special imbueing [sic] of the
Spirit for a particular task (similar to the Spirit‘s ministry in
the OT).‖31

       Polhill, Acts, 98.

       Kistemaker, Acts, 152.

    30 Colin Brown, ―Fulness,‖ in The New International Dictionary

of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Regency, 1975),
    31 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics

(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 94.
                  Full of or Filled with the Spirit         213

   πληρo,w. Luke used another phrase that is very similar
and is sometimes translated identically to what has already
been presented; this phrase is ―full of the Holy Spirit‖
(sometimes translated ―filled with the Spirit‖). In these
cases, Luke used the Greek verb πληρo,w pleroo and its
related adjective πλh,ρης pleres. In this article, to maintain
the distinction between the Greek words, the author uses
―filled‖ to refer to πi,μπλημι pimplemi and ―full‖ or ―to make
full‖ to refer to πληρo,w pleroo and πλh,ρης pleres.
      In Luke 4:1 Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit as he
entered into the temptation. He returned in the power of the
Spirit (v. 14). This is the only occurrence of this idea in
Luke‘s Gospel.
      In Acts 6:3 the apostles instructed the church to select
seven men who were ―full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom,‖
which the church as a body did (see also 6:5 and 7:55).
These were to be men who had a ―good reputation.‖ ―[F]or
the task of distributing food and money a person must have
a reputation that is above reproach and a recommendation
that his peers and superiors gladly provide (compare 10:22;
16:2; 22:12).‖32 The end result was nothing miraculous or
even extraordinary; the church selected seven men of good
character who set about to solve a problem. The first
deacon mentioned is Stephen, who is said to have been full
of faith and the Holy Spirit. In Acts 7:55, as he was being
martyred, Luke portrayed him as a man ―full of the Holy
      Acts 11:24 describes Barnabas as a good man, full of
the Holy Spirit and faith. This is the same terminology that
was used of Stephen, except that the order of the words is
      In Acts 13:52 the believers in Pisidia were full of joy and
the Holy Spirit. Paul and Barnabas had led these
individuals to Christ and had begun to establish them in
the faith. Because of persecution incited by the Jews, they

    32   Kistemaker, Acts, 222.
214        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

were forced to leave. ―We would expect these fledgling
believers to be disheartened by the departure of Paul and
Barnabas. Instead they are filled with joy and with the Holy
Spirit. God fills the vacuum created by the sudden exit of
the teachers by giving the disciples the gift of joy, which is a
fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). The presence of the Holy
Spirit in the hearts of the believers is in itself indescribable
     Luke also used this word group to refer to individuals
being full of wisdom, full of faith, and full of grace and
power. Luke also used the words to refer to people who had
certain vices as he spoke of individuals who were full of
wrath (Acts 19:28 and Luke 4:28), full of fury (Luke 6:11)
and full of jealousy (Acts 5:17 and 13:45).
     In Acts 5:3, Peter asked Ananias why he allowed Satan
to make full his heart to lie to the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:9 has
an interesting combination of πίμπλημι pimplemi and πλήρης
pleres. Paul, filled with the Spirit, confronted Elymas the
sorcerer and accused him of being full of deceit and fraud.
     The conclusion that can be drawn from these references
is that when Luke used πίμπλημι pimplemi, he was referring
to a sovereign act of God, in which the Holy Spirit
empowered individuals for a particular ministry at a
specific time. When he used πληρo,w pleroo or πλήρης pleres,
he was referring to the character of the individual. The
former is temporary and outside the control of the
individual. The latter is a reference to a person‘s character.
―As contrasted with ‗filled with the Holy Spirit‘ in [Acts]
1:41, 67 the phrase ‗full of the Holy Spirit‘ refers to a
permanent condition, not a momentary experience.‖34 To be
full of the Spirit indicates that a person is spiritual,
spiritually minded, spiritually mature, and characterized by
spiritual qualities such as joy, wisdom, faith and grace.

      Kistemaker, Acts, 498.

      J. Reiling and J. L. Swellengrebel, A Handbook on the

Gospel of Luke (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993), 186.
                Full of or Filled with the Spirit           215

                    Paul‘s Commandment

     Ephesians 5:18–19 is the key passage to the under-
standing of Paul‘s teaching on the fullness of the Spirit.
Paul used the present passive of πληρo,w pleroo. It is usually
translated, ―be filled,‖ but to maintain the English
distinction used in this article, it will be translated
routinely as ―be full,‖ or to better reflect the passive, ―be
made full.‖
     Grammatically, this passage is a transition. It is the
final imperative in a series with a not . . . but contrast. Verse
18 states, ―Do not be drunk . . . but be full.‖ Verse 17
states, ―Do not be unwise . . . but understand.‖ Verse 15
says, ―Not as fools, but as wise.‖ The final ―not . . . but‖ is
―be not drunk with wine . . . but be full of the Spirit.‖
     Paul‘s command then leads into a chain of participles,
all of which are subordinate to the imperative, ―be full by
the Spirit‖ and are best understood as results of the
fullness. Those who are full of the Spirit will sing praises to
God, have their hearts filled with these praises, give thanks
for all things in their lives, and live lives of spiritual
submission to one another.
     The reason why Paul used being ―drunk with wine‖ as
the contrast with being ―filled with the Spirit‖ is debated.35
It may be a command directed against misconduct in the
assembly, similar to the drunkenness taking place in
Corinth.36 Others suggest that Paul has in view the pagan
mystery cult celebrations, particularly that of Dionysius.37
Still others view Paul as saying that drunkenness (part of
the old lifestyle) is no solution to the cares and worries of

    35  ―Wine‖ and ―Spirit‖ are contrasted in Luke 1:15 and Acts
2:13–18, but nowhere else in the New Testament.
     36 P.  W. Gosnell, ―Ephesians 5:18–20 and Mealtime
Propriety,‖ Tyndale Bulletin 44 (1993): 363–71.
     37 C. Rogers, ―The Dionysian Background of Ephesians 5:18,‖

Bibliotheca Sacra 136 (1979): 249–57.
216        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

this life and that only the Spirit can enable a person to live
in these days.38 More likely, however, Paul is drawing a
contrast between folly and wisdom; drunkenness is folly,
and being full of the Spirit represents the wise way to live.
The contrast is not between the wine and the Spirit, but
between the state of being drunk which leads to dissipation
and the state of being full of the Spirit which leads to joy
and obedience. Both involve bringing oneself under the
influence of a controlling agency.39
     Paul added to the mix of terms πλh,ρωμα pleroma, the
noun form of πληρo,w pleroo. He used the word four times in
Ephesians, twice in Colossians, and six times in the rest of
his epistles. Six of these occurrences have no significance to
this article.40 The remaining usages of the term (all in
Ephesians and Colossians) are full of meaning.
     In Eph 1:23 the church is described as ―the fullness of
the one making full all in all.‖ There is not agreement to
who or what is the ―fullness.‖ There are some who argue
that the precedent should be Christ, not the body or the
church.41 This is argued because it has fewer theological
problems, since the implication would be that Christ is the
fullness of the church. It also makes Eph 1:23 parallel to

      38William Hendriksen, Exposition of Ephesians (Grand
Rapids: Baker, 1967), 239.
     39 It is noteworthy that the apostles at Pentecost, filled with

the Spirit, were accused of being drunk.
     40 Rom 11:12 speaks of the fullness of the Jews at the end of

the church age. Rom 11:25 speaks of the fullness of the Gentiles
in this age, as does Gal 4:4 and Eph 1:10. Rom 13:10 says that
love is the fullness of the law. When Paul would finally arrive in
Rome, he would come in the fullness of the gospel. 1 Cor 11:26
refers to all the fullness of the earth as the Lord‘s.
     41 See A. E. M. Hitchcock, ―Ephesians 1:23,‖ Expository Times

22 (1910–11): 91; G. B. Caird, Paul’s Letters from Prison (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1976), 49; C. F. D. Moule, The Epistles of
Paul the Apostle to the Colossians and to Philemon (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1968), 164–69.
                 Full of or Filled with the Spirit               217

Col 1:19 and 2:9, where the fullness clearly relates to
Christ. This interpretation, however, stretches the gram-
mar. ―Fullness‖ follows immediately after ―body‖ in the
Greek. ―Christ‖ comes twelve verses earlier and would
require a quite awkward grammatical construction.
Additionally, the emphasis of the context (especially 1:22b)
is on the church, not Christ. Verse 23 is best taken as
enlarging Paul‘s definition of the church. Therefore, it is
more reasonable to conclude that Paul is arguing that the
church is the fullness of him who makes full all in all. This
will also make Eph 3:19 parallel to this verse.
     How then can the church be the ―fullness‖ of Christ?
The ―fullness‖ can be taken in two ways. One interpretation
sees the church as that which is filled up or made complete
by Christ.42 The other interpretation sees the church to be
that which fills or completes Christ.43 The latter seems to be
problematic. This interpretation makes Christ somehow
defective without the church. Elsewhere Christ is seen as
the one completing or finishing the church, not vice versa.
Thus, it is best to interpret this fullness as Christ, who fills
all things in all places and who, therefore, makes the
church full of all that is godly and necessary for its
existence and ministry.
     Eph 3:19 enlarges upon Paul‘s discussion of fullness.
The immediate context is Paul‘s prayer that introduces the
latter half of Ephesians. Paul makes a request that the
believers ―be full toward (or with reference to) all the
fullness of God.‖ The content of the fullness (the Greek uses

     42 See J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and

Philemon (London: Macmillan, 1879), 261 and H. Ridderbos, Paul:
An Outline of His Theology, tr. J. R. de Witt (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1975), 390.
     43 See T. K. Abbott, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on

the Epistles to the Ephesians and to the Colossians (Edinburgh: T.
& T. Clark, 1897), 27; J. A. T. Robinson, The Body (London: SCM,
1952), 43–44, 255–59; P. D. Overfield, ―Pleroma: A Study in
Content and Context,‖ New Testament Studies 25 (1979): 393.
218        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

the preposition eivj eis with the accusative to indicate
content) is God‘s fullness, probably a reference to his moral
attributes, which believers should emulate. In Eph 1:23 the
church is described, theologically, as already the fullness of
Christ. In this passage, as Paul turns his attention toward
the practical application in chapters 4–6 of the theology
which he developed in chapter 1–3, he prays that the
believers would actually attain to that which they are
already in principle.44
     In Eph 4:10 Christ is said to be the agent of the filling.
He will ―make full all things.‖ While it is undoubtedly true
that Christ ―fills the universe through the exercise of his
lordship over everything,‖45 in the context Paul is not
concerned about the universe; his focus is on the church
and its ministry. Paul adds the specifics of that fullness:
apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers.
Paul expands this in verse 13 to indicate that the goal
toward which believers are moving is mature manhood,
defined by the fullness of Christ.
     Paul next speaks of the fullness of the church and/or
believer in Ephesians 5:18–19 where he commanded the
believers: ―Be full of the Holy Spirit.‖ He used the present
passive imperative, which may be translated ―be continually
being full of the Holy Spirit.‖ This is something that should
be routine in the Christian life; the Spirit‘s fullness is to be
a continuing state.
     The case of ―Spirit‖ is dative. Normally a verb of filling
takes a genitive (which is called the genitive of content). In
Acts, whenever Luke speaks of the ―filling of the Spirit,‖ the
case of ―Spirit‖ is genitive. There are no clear examples in
biblical Greek in which evn en plus the dative indicates

     44 Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, Word Biblical Commentary

(Waco: Word, 1990), 214.
     45 Peter Thomas O'Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The

Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
1999), 297.
                    Full of or Filled with the Spirit     219

content. It would, therefore, be ―grammatically suspect‖46
for Eph 5:18 to mean to be filled with the content of the
Spirit. The concept that ―the Spirit is the content with
which one is filled is most likely incorrect.‖47 No other
Pauline text focuses on the Spirit as the content of the
filling. Wallace argues, effectively, that ―be not drunk by
means of wine‖ is a direct parallel to ―be filled by means of
the Holy Spirit‖ (both verbs are passive imperatives) and the
use of evn en with the dative suggests not the content, but
the means. He concludes that ―the idea intended is that
believers are to filled by means of the [Holy] Spirit. If so,
there seems to be an unnamed agent.‖48
      The church already shares the fullness of Christ (1:23),
yet Paul‘s petition concerning the Ephesians is that they
might be full of the fullness of God (3:19). The prayer in
3:19 and the use of the imperative in 5:18 implies that this
is not an automatic status. God began to answer Paul‘s
request in the present, but will ultimately complete the
fullness in the final day. The petition of 3:19 is addressed to
the Father, so he is the one who is doing the actual filling.
Yet it is also Christ who fills all things (4:10).
      The reasonable conclusion is that both the Father and
the Son, by means of the Spirit (in his various ministries of
indwelling, illuminating, sealing, etc.), make full God‘s
people with God‘s character. All believers are urged to be
imitators of God. The fullness theme is concluded with
believers being made full by Christ by means of the
indwelling presence of the Spirit in their lives with the
content being the fullness of God.49 Put simply, Christ,
through the Holy Spirit, makes believers godly. Believers
are to be receptive to the Spirit‘s transforming power; they
cannot fill themselves. That which causes believers to obey

    46   Wallace,   Greek   Grammar,   375.
    47   Wallace,   Greek   Grammar,   170–71.
    48   Wallace,   Greek   Grammar,   375.
    49   Wallace,   Greek   Grammar,   375.
220        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

Paul‘s command is what precedes this passage—wisdom.
The result of that obedience is what follows—worship and
     Many commentators see Colossians 3:16 as a parallel
passage.50 The latter portion of Col 3:16 is very similar to
the results of Eph 5:19–20. The command to be full of the
Spirit in Ephesians is replaced with the command to have
the Word of Christ dwell richly in all wisdom. ―Of Christ‖ is
an objective genitive, indicating that Paul is referring to the
message that centers on Christ.51 Believers, then, must be
subject to the Spirit‘s control, ―which is tantamount to
letting Christ‘s word rule in our lives (Col 3:16), so that we
may walk wisely (Eph 5:15).‖52 ―Be full by means of the
Spirit‖ and ―let the Word of Christ dwell in you‖ are parallel
and mean essentially the same thing.


     The indwelling of the Spirit takes place at salvation.
There is no command anywhere in the New Testament to be
indwelled. Rom 8:9 declares that if a person is not
indwelled by the Spirit, he is not saved. The indwelling of
the Spirit is not an option for the believer.
     On the other hand, there are commands to be ―made
full‖ by the Spirit and to ―walk‖ by the Spirit. If a person
were only full of wisdom, he would experience only an
impersonal influence on his life. This fullness is not an

       Peter T. O‘Brien, Colossians, Philemon, Word Biblical

Commentary (Waco: Word, 1982), 208–209 and Ephesians, 392;
Howard W. Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary
(Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 704; Lincoln, Ephesians, 339ff. See
especially J. B. Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians
and to Philemon, A Revised Text (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969),
    51 O‘Brien, Colossians, 206.

    52 Peter T. O‘Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians (Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 394.
               Full of or Filled with the Spirit          221

automatic bestowal at conversion, but an injunction for
every believer to follow.
     There are significant differences between being filled
with the Spirit and being made full by the Spirit. Different
terms are used. The grammatical structures are not the
same. Miraculous events are never associated with the
fullness. The filling is routinely an aorist passive with the
genitive case. The people who were filled had no control
over the filling; it was a sovereign work of God. The fullness
commanded by Paul in Ephesians, on the other hand, is an
imperative passive, meaning that believers are commanded
to allow it to happen; they can control their willingness to
be filled. The purpose of the fullness is oriented toward a
person‘s character and is not task-oriented.53 The contrast
is between the filling of the Spirit in Acts, which was a
momentary empowering for a specific ministry, and the
fullness of the Spirit in Ephesians, the long-term
characteristic of a person‘s life.54
     This writer would argue that the filling of the Spirit is
still a legitimate ministry of the Holy Spirit, minus the
miraculous signs and wonders, which are no longer for this
age. However, a person can do nothing to claim that filling,
and thus no one should pray for it or seek it. Likewise, he
should not seek the miraculous signs and wonders that
sometimes accompanied the filling of the Spirit in the New
     Instead, the believer should seek the fullness of the
Spirit. Paul commanded believers in Ephesians 5:18 to be
full of the fullness of God by means of the ministry of the
Holy Spirit; believers are to allow themselves to be governed
by the fullness of Christ in their lives. Wisdom brings about
this obedience; the result is joyful singing, giving of thanks,

    53 Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, Holman New Testament
Commentary 8 (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1999), 180.
    54 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to

Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 782.
222            Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

and a purity of relationships between husbands and wives,
parents and children, and even masters and slaves.55

      55   Anders, Galatians-Colossians, 180.
MBTJ 1/2: 223-252

 Tracing the Thread of Trinitarian Thought
          from Ignatius to Origen

                        Mark Hanson1


    One of the most contested theological issues
throughout church history is the doctrine of the Trinity. For
many people the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD is a natural
starting point for the orthodox position of the church
regarding the Trinity. Prior to Nicaea the concept of the
―Trinity‖ was not clearly defined or articulated, so the
doctrine, as most understand it today, does appear at first
glance to derive its founding from the events of that historic
council which formed the common formulation in use
today. But what of the earlier church fathers? Origen is
often referenced as a key figure in the development of the
formulation leading up to Nicaea,2 but this focus on a single
individual neglects the development of others who had a
hand in shaping doctrinal articulations for the following

    1  Mr. Hanson is the Assistant Librarian and Bible faculty
member at Maranatha Baptist Bible College.
     2 While Lewis Ayres in Nicaea and its Legacy (Oxford: Oxford

University Press, 2004) traces ―theological trajectories‖ (41–84)
from Nicaea forward, he does little work tracing the trajectories
leading up to Nicaea. A prime example is when he states that ―the
theology of Origen of Alexandria (c.185–c.251) lies beneath the
surface of many early fourth-century theologies‖ (20, see also
pages 1–40). While true to some extent, this generalizes and
overlooks that there were other theologians prior to Origen who
had already begun to address issues around the concept of the
Godhead, even if less directly.
224       Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

decades. This then raises the important point that merely
referencing one council, Nicaea, as ―the‖ starting point or
one man, Origen, as being ―the‖ foundation ―of many early
fourth-century theologies,‖3 is incomplete.
     The purpose of this article is to explore how Origen‘s
predecessors viewed the relationship among the Godhead,
and to examine if there was a developing theology prior to
Origen. This study endeavors to determine if earlier church
fathers developed their theologies along the same trajectory
traced through Origen and then to the formula later
articulated at Nicaea. As theological engagement passes
down from one generation to the next, it would be logical to
assume that the teaching found in Nicaea would be a
synthesis from centuries of increasingly significant
reflection. This will be evaluated by comparing Origen‘s
work and writings against five major contributors to early
church theology: Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus,
Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria.

                 IGNATIUS [A.D. 30–107]4

    Ignatius is one of the earliest church fathers whose
writings have been preserved. His correspondence has a
genuinely pastoral, New Testament epistle-type flavor since
the bulk of his extant writings are specifically addressed to
churches in a manner similar to Paul. Quotations from
Paul‘s epistles in the New Testament comprise more of his
writing than his own thoughts on almost any given
subject.5 He viewed the Father as ―the one true God.‖6 In

      3Aryes, Nicaea and its Legacy, 20.
      4For uniformity, all dates and quotes are taken from the
material found in the Anti-Nicene Fathers translated by A.
Cleveland Coxe, edited by Alexander Roberts and James
Donaldson (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004).
     5 This is interesting when compared with the other church

fathers who quote Scripture less as the interval between their
writings and the New Testament grows larger.
                        Trinitarian Thought                   225

the same vein, he also stated that whoever ―declares that
there is but one God, only so as to take away the divinity of
Christ, is a devil.‖7
    In his Epistle to the Magnesians, Ignatius briefly
references a view of the Godhead, perhaps even within the
time of the writing of the New Testament.

        ―Study, therefore, to be established in the
    doctrines of the Lord and the apostles, that so all
    things, whatsoever ye do, may prosper both in the
    flesh and spirit; in faith and love; in the Son, and in
    the Father, and in the Spirit. . . . Be ye subject to
    the bishop, and to one another, as Jesus Christ to
    the Father, according to the flesh, and the apostles
    to Christ, and to the Father, and to the Spirit.‖8

     While not directly expounding on the specific
relationship between the three persons of the Godhead, it is
obvious that Ignatius intended to communicate that their
unique roles were distinct and equally important in the
lives of believers. With such a pastoral flavor, Ignatius did
not seem to delineate a specific doctrinal position. Rather,
he focused on integrating God into life on the practical
level, so that no aspect of the Godhead was ignored or
neglected. Obviously, the church understood early on that
there were inseparable elements which bound the Father,
Son, and Spirit together as unity, or as a unit, while still
distinguishing them as individuals. Yet, Ignatius notes that
Christ submitted Himself to the Father willingly, just as
Christians should to those who have been given authority
over them.
     By examining all the epistles Ignatius wrote to the dif-
ferent churches, small pieces of his broader theology

    6   Ignatius Epistle to the Antiochans 4.1.
    7   Ibid., 5.1.
    8   Ignatius Epistle to the Magnesians 8.1.
226          Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

emerge. Ignatius clearly notes the importance of the Father,
Son, and Spirit, but he also details that Christ was
completely God: ―To the church . . . elected through the
true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ our
God.‖9 ―For our God, Jesus Christ was, according to
appointment of God conceived in the womb of Mary . . . God
Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of
eternal life.‖10 Christ‘s deity is seen early on in the church
and is a key element around which many heresies arise due
to misinterpretation or misunderstanding.
    In his greeting to the Smyrnæans, he references the
Godhead in this manner: ―Ignatius, to the Church of God
the Father, and of the beloved Jesus Christ . . . through the
immaculate Spirit and Word of God.‖11 Ignatius‘ opening
greeting to God’s church, of Christ, through the Spirit shows
his understanding of the working of the Godhead that
places God as the element of authority, Christ as the
relational element, and the Spirit as the empowering
element. But Ignatius uses a bit of analogy when he details
a Christian‘s relationship to the three persons of the
Godhead when he spoke of

      stones of the temple of the Father, prepared for the
      building of God the Father, and drawn up on high
      by the instrument of Jesus Christ, which is the
      cross, making use of the Holy Spirit as a rope, while
      your faith was the means by which you ascended.12

    Here the three persons are intricately woven together,
and yet distinctly recognized, as Ignatius notes that ―there
are not then either three Fathers, or three Sons, or three
Paracletes, but one Father, and one Son, and one Paraclete

      9 Ignatius Epistle to the Ephesians 1.1.
      10 Ibid., 18.1.
      11 Ignatius Epistle to the Smyrnæans 1.1.

      12 Ignatius Epistle to the Ephesians 9.1.
                        Trinitarian Thought                  227

. . . into three possessed of equal honor.‖13 While this is not
formed in the same organized manner found in later creeds,
Ignatius clearly places an emphasis on the Father and the
Son, and does not neglect the role of the Spirit.

                JUSTIN MARTYR [A.D. 110–165]

    The writings of Justin Martyr are apologetic in scope
and often directly address problems which lie in a realm
outside the church, namely, the Roman government. For
this reason his theological conception of the relationship
between the members of the Godhead is assumed rather
than stated. There are several instances where he lays out
his basic beliefs in defense of his faith. In his Dialogue with
Trypho he states that:

        Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God . . .
    appears arrayed in such forms as the Father
    pleases; and they call Him the Word, because He
    carries tidings from the Father to men: but
    maintain that this power is indivisible and
    inseparable from the Father, just as they say that
    the light of the sun on earth is indivisible and
    inseparable from the sun in the heavens . . . so the
    Father, when He chooses, as they say, causes his
    power to spring forth, and when He chooses, He
    makes it return to Himself. . . . I asserted that this
    power was begotten from the Father, by His power
    and will, but not by abscission, as if the essence of
    the Father were divided (Italics mine).14

    Because he is addressing a Jewish audience, he
highlights the conjoined divine nature of the Father and the
Son. Justin Martyr is arguing for the fact that God‘s power

    13   Ignatius Epistle to the Philippians 2.1.
    14   Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew 123.1.
228        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

is completely manifest in Christ, something possible only
because God‘s essence is not divided, implying that Christ
is of one essential nature with God. He illustrates this using
fire as an example. When one puts a stick in the first fire
and pulls it out with a flame to start a second fire, the two
―fires‖ can be seen to be distinct, yet, in substance, are not
lesser or different fire.15 The only distinction is in the
multiple locations which can be observed so that one may
perceive two fires where there was once one.
     This interesting analogy also bears striking resemb-
lance to the work of the Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2:3.16
While perhaps a bit of a stretch to say that Justin was
alluding to this specific passage, his illustration does find a
biblical precedent for the work of the Holy Spirit. The
closest he comes to including all three persons in close
contextual proximity is in a discussion about the Lord‘s
supper where the overseer takes the ―bread and a cup of
wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise
and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name
of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks.‖17 Here
he incorporates all three persons into one of the
sacraments, but does not go into depth as to their
     In Justin‘s First Apology, he also brings to light the
unity of God and Christ in a different manner when
referencing the work of demons who ―attempt nothing else
than to seduce men from God who made them, and from
Christ His first-begotten . . . those who devote themselves
to the contemplation of things divine, they secretly beat

      15Ibid., 60.1.
      16―And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and
rested on each one of them.‖
     17 Justin Martyr The First Apology 65.1.

     18 Ibid., 58.1.
                      Trinitarian Thought                      229

    Being ―seduced‖ away from both God and Christ is an
interesting implication Justin draws from the role demons
play in the spiritual realm. He evidences that, from the
enemies‘ perspective, the influences of God and Christ are
of equal importance.
    Along a similar vein, Justin frequently connects God
and Christ together in many of these passages, often where
the conception of ―God‖ is treated in a more general sense.
When God and Christ are placed in a parallel position
regarding devotion and worship, it keeps the same tension
found in the New Testament with which the Jews
struggled.19 Justin later states this belief: ―the Father of the
universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word
of God, is even God.‖20 ―For next to God, we worship and
love the Word who is from the unbegotten and ineffable

          We worship the God of the Christians, whom we
    reckon to be the one from the beginning, the maker
    and fashioner of the whole creation, visible and
    invisible; and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God
    . . . what I can say is insignificant in comparison
    with His boundless divinity . . . concerning Him of
    whom now I say that He is the Son of God.22

    It is evident that Justin connected God and Christ
together in some sort of unity as he indicates that worship
was ascribed to both. This is further confirmed as he also
recognizes Christ‘s divinity as limitless in nature as God

    19  Christ was obviously communicating on such a level that
the religious leaders clearly perceived a claim of equality with God
in John 5:18 and 10:30–33.
     20 Justin Martyr The First Apology 63.1.

     21 Justin Martyr The Second Apology 13.1.

     22 Justin Martyr The Martyrdom of the Holy Martyrs 1.1.
230         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

    Justin details more specifically the role and position of
Christ with respect to the Father, yet does not deny Christ‘s
deity when he states:

          And His Son, who alone is properly called Son,
      the Word, who also was with Him and was begotten
      before the works, when at first He created and
      arranged all things by Him, is called Christ, in
      reference to His being anointed and God's ordering
      all things through Him; this name itself also
      containing an unknown significance; as also the
      appellation ―God‖ is not a name, but an opinion
      implanted in the nature of men of a thing that can
      hardly be explained.23

     One can find that several elements from the above
quote are specifically addressed in the beginning of the
Nicene Creed.24 Justin touches on the preexistence of the
Son to God and also the role Christ played in creation. Both
of these indicate threads of a pre-Nicene theology regarding
the Godhead some two centuries before the first church
sanctioned theological debates and treatises on the Trinity.

                 IRENAEUS [A.D. 120–202]

     Irenaeus, a contemporary of Justin Martyr, is another
key leader in early Trinitarian development. In Against
Heresies he sets forth a theological construction of the
Trinity that is very similar to the Trinitarian formula
articulated two hundred years later at Nicaea, with the

      Justin Martyr The Second Apology 6.1.

      ―One Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, begotten from the

Father . . . through Whom all things came into being.‖ Cited in
J.N.D Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (Rev. Ed., San Francisco:
HarperCollins, 1978), 232.
                      Trinitarian Thought                     231

same order of precedence from the Father to the Son to the

         The Church . . . believes in one God, the Father
    Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth . . . and in
    one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became
    incarnate for our salvation; and in one Holy Spirit,
    who proclaimed through the prophets . . . the
    Church, having received this preaching and this
    faith . . . carefully preserves it. She also believes
    these points just as if she had but one soul, and
    one and the same heart and she proclaims them,
    and teaches them, and hands them down, with
    perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one

     Here he clearly details that the ―Christian belief‖ of one
God includes the Father and the Son and the Spirit.26
Irenaeus adds an interesting element regarding a
preexistent theology when he notes this as the tradition of
faith passed down through the church concerning the
doctrine of God‘s nature. In light of the ―threeness‖ of
persons passed down through the church, he continues to
relate that it does not make sense that they ―should
conceive of some other God besides Him who is the Framer,
Maker, and Preserver of this universe.‖27

    25  Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.10.2.
    26  It is interesting to observe that many early church fathers
generally use the same ordering sequence when noting the
relationships between the persons of Godhead.
     27 Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.10.3. It should be noted that

Irenaeus is directly speaking against Gnostic philosophy and its
false understanding in relation to the personhood of God. And
while he denotes one God in a unified sense by detailing three
specific roles, it should not lead one to think that he was
necessarily proposing a Trinitarian concept as would be known
232         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

    Irenaeus is unique in the way in which he describes
God Himself, since ―God . . . is He who, by His Word and
Spirit, makes, and disposes, and governs all things, and
commands all things into existence.‖28 This statement
places both Christ and the Spirit directly in subordination
to God the Father. Undoubtedly, this is a high view of God
in contrast to a more pluralistic view of gods:

           For it must be that there is one Being who
      contains all things, and formed in His own territory
      all those things which have been created, according
      to His will; or again that there are numerous
      unlimited creators and gods . . . no one of them all
      therefore, is God. For there will be much wanting to
      every one of them, possessing only a very small part
      when compared with all the rest. The name of the
      Omnipotent will thus be brought to an end, and
      such opinion will of necessity fall into impiety.29

     Continuing on this theme of ―the Creator,‖ Irenaeus
states that God is the ultimate cause of creation by using
the illustration that when a tree is cut down, it is not the
axe which receives the credit, but the man. However, he
goes on to clarify that

      He Himself in Himself, after a fashion which we can
      neither describe nor conceive, predestinating all
      things, formed them as He pleased . . . while He
      formed all things that were made by His Word. . . .
      For this is a peculiarity of the pre-eminence of God,
      not to stand in need of other instruments for the
      creation of those things which are summoned into

today, but merely articulating what had been taught and passed
down as the Christian tradition from the apostles.
    28 Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.23.1.

    29 Irenaeus Against Heresies 2.1.5.
                        Trinitarian Thought                 233

    existence. His Word is both suitable and sufficient
    for the formation of all things.30

    Here he references the ―Word‖ which most likely refers
to Christ, whom he later describes as ―the Son of God, the
Only-begotten, who is also the Word of the Father.‖31 He
expounds on this idea by saying:

    This is Christ, the Son of the living God. For I have
    shown from the Scriptures, that no one of the sons
    of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called
    God, or named Lord. But that He is Himself in His
    own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and
    Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word.32

    Christ being called God here has significance when
Irenaeus states that ―unless the Word of God dwell with,
and the Spirit of the Father be in you . . . ye cannot inherit
the kingdom of God.‖33 Between these two statements he
views Christ as being in essence God, but also at the same
time the Word of God. This seems to indicate that he views
Christ in two different relational realms as He is on the
same plane as God the Father, and yet still proceeds from
the Father as does the Spirit.

                  TERTULLIAN [A.D. 145–220]

     Tertullian, in refuting Praxeas, follows close after
Irenaeus with a similarly condensed and succinctly written
articulation of the Godhead:34

    30   Irenaeus Against Heresies 2.2.4.
    31   Irenaeus Against Heresies 3.17.4.
    32   Irenaeus Against Heresies 3.19.2.
    33   Irenaeus Against Heresies 5.9.4.
    34   Compare with footnote 14.
234            Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

          We . . . believe that there is only one God . . .
      this one only God has also a Son, His Word, who
      proceeded from Himself . . . who sent also from
      heaven from the Father, according to His own
      promise, the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, the
      sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the
      Father, and in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit . . .
      This rule of faith has come down to us from the
      beginning of the gospel.35

     Tertullian follows Irenaeus in keeping these statements
very closely tied to the tradition of the church as it was the
one passed down to them from the beginning. Christianity,
only about a century old, was being attacked on all sides by
the Roman government, the Jewish religious establishment,
and by heretical teaching. As the heretical opposition arose,
it split the church from within, so much so that Tertullian
indicates there was some uneasiness in the view he put

      the majority of believers, are startled at the
      dispensation (of the Three in One), on the ground
      that their very rule of faith withdraws them from
      the world‘s plurality of gods to the one only true
      God; not understanding that, although He is the
      one only God, He must yet be believed in with His
      own οivκονομi,α (stewardship). The numerical order
      and distribution of the Trinity they assume to be a
      division of the Unity.‖36

    Tertullian holds this concept of a unity of the persons
within the Godhead in spite of opposition, apparently
viewing it as a key method of preserving the true faith. This
is evident as he comments on martyrs of the faith who
would ―testify that one and the same Holy Spirit is always

      35   Tertullian Against Praxeas 2.1.
      36   Tertullian Against Praxeas 3.1.
                     Trinitarian Thought                      235

operating even until now, and God the Father Omnipotent,
and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, whose is the glory and
infinite power for ever and ever.‖37
     In his treatise on baptism, referencing the tripartite
baptismal formula, Tertullian brings to light his
understanding of the combined work of the Father, Son,
and Spirit in relation to salvation:

    the washing away of sins, which faith, sealed in (the
    name of) the Father, and the Son, and the Holy
    Spirit, obtains. For if ―in the mouth of three
    witnesses every word shall stand:‖ . . . how much
    more does the number of the divine names suffice
    for the assurance of our hope . . . wherever there
    are three (that is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy
    Spirit,) there is the Church, which is a body of

     While not specifically delineating individual roles, this
commentary on one of the few Trinitarian-like formulations
found in Scripture gives insight as to how the early church
interpreted and applied the understanding within these
       Tertullian also delves into broader theological
elucidations when he articulates what may be one of the
first cogent written understandings of the unity of the
Godhead, while at the same time giving a proper
understanding of individuality in the relationships within
the persons of the Godhead:

          One cannot believe in the One Only God in any
    other way than by saying that the Father, the Son,
    and the Holy Ghost are the very selfsame person
    . . . by unity of substance . . . unity into a Trinity,

    37  Tertullian The Passion of the Holy Martyrs Perpetua and
Felicitas 6.4.
     38 Tertullian On Baptism 6.1.
236            Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

      placing in order the three persons—the Father, the
      Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in
      condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in
      form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one
      substance, and of one condition, and of one power,
      inasmuch as He is one God.39

     He even titled this chapter ―The Catholic Doctrine of
the Trinity and Unity.‖ It is fascinating to see such a
detailed articulation of a Trinitarian formula nearly a
century and a half prior to its formal recognition within the
broader church assembly at Nicaea.

      CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA [A.D. 153–193/217]

    Clement is the father closest to the time of Origen‘s
writing. Because of this close proximity, there is a greater
significance to the material in tracing the development of
Trinitarian theology so as to give a fuller understanding in
comparison to Origen. Looking at Clement‘s view of the
Spirit, it is clear that he sees the Spirit as God‘s active
presence in the world today. Clement continues the pattern
of referencing the Spirit mostly in his role as the prompter
of God‘s prophetic messages. But he does detail a few
unique functions by giving an illustration concerning the
Spirit‘s work through Christ as he defines ―the Spirit (as)
being the energetic principle of the Word, as blood is of
flesh.‖40 But the Spirit also works in the human realm as
well, since Christ‘s ―instruction leads to faith, and faith
with baptism is trained by the Holy Spirit.‖41
    In referencing Christ‘s role, Clement notes that ―the
energy of the Lord has a reference to the Almighty; and the

      39   Tertullian Against Praxeas 2.1.
      40   Clement of Alexandria The Instructor 2.2.
      41   Clement of Alexandria The Instructor 2.1.
                           Trinitarian Thought                            237

Son is, so to speak, the energy of the Father.‖42 This
terminology is most often used in reference to the work of
Christ proceeding from God as his spoken Word during the
process of creation. Elsewhere he details the divine nature
and role of Christ: ―For the image of God is His Word, the
genuine Son of Mind, the Divine Word.‖43 ―This Word, then,
the Christ, the cause of both our being at first (for He was
in God) and of our well-being, this very Word has now
appeared as man, He alone being both, both God and
man.‖44 ―Our instructor is like His Father God, whose son
He is, sinless, blameless, and with a soul devoid of passion;
God in the form of man, stainless, the minister of His
Father‘s will, the Word who is God, who is in the Father,
who is at the Father‘s right hand, and with the form of God
is God.‖45 ―The Saviour . . . the Divine Word, He that is truly
most manifest Deity, He that is made equal to the Lord of
the universe; because He was His Son, and the Word was in
God.‖46 ―Our Instructor is the holy God Jesus . . . the loving
God Himself is our Instructor.‖47
    With this summary he touches on Christ‘s perfection,
humanity, service to God, his role as God‘s ―Word,‖ his role
in creation, his likeness to God, his placement at God‘s
right hand, and his essence as ―God.‖
    Concerning God the Father, Clement notes that He is
―the great First Cause, the Maker of all things, and Creator
of those very first principles, the unbeginning God.‖48
Elsewhere he places the highest place of prominence to God
the Father by stating that ―God is one, and beyond the one

    42   Clement   of   Alexandria   The Stromata 7.2.
    43   Clement   of   Alexandria   Exhortation to the Heathen   10.1.
    44   Clement   of   Alexandria   Exhortation to the Heathen   1.1.
    45   Clement   of   Alexandria   The Instructor 1.2.
    46   Clement   of   Alexandria   Exhortation to the Heathen   10.1
    47   Clement   of   Alexandria   The Instructor 1.7.
    48   Clement   of   Alexandria   Exhortation to the Heathen   5.1.
238        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

and above the Monad itself.‖49 Here he seems to have
almost placed God outside of the concept of ―oneness,‖ as
he notes that God is even ―above the Monad,‖ almost as if to
say that whatever terms man might use to define God, God
is still much more than a finite description could ever
     As for the unity of the three members of the Godhead,
Clement adds some uniqueness when he affirms that
Christians are ―protected as it is by the power of God the
Father, and the blood of God the Son, and the dew of the
Holy Spirit.‖50 His use of the term ―dew‖ could possibly
allude to Christ‘s illustration of baptism by the Spirit in
Acts 1:5, or it may just be a similar metaphor to symbolize
the Spirit‘s complete covering. Clearly Clement sees the
work of the Spirit originating from God and being unified
into a whole along with Christ. His articulation of the
unified oneness of the Godhead appears in condensed
Triune statements in a few of his writings, incorporating the
Father, Son, and Spirit into some formulaic constructions.
     ―Nor is the Father without the Son; for the Son is with
the Father. And the son is the true teacher respecting the
Father; and that we may believe in the Son, we must know
the Father, with whom also is the Son.‖51 ―Son and Father,
both in One, O Lord . . . the Alone Father and Son, Son and

       Clement of Alexandria The Instructor 1.8. Clement appears

to be using ―Monad‖ in a philosophical sense which would be
some 1,500 years prior to the movement popularized by Gottfried
Willhelm Leibniz during the turn of the seventeenth century. See
Gottfried W. Leibniz and Andre Robinet, Discours de
metaphysique et Monadologie (Paris: Librairie Philosophique J.
Vrin, 1974).
    50 Clement of Alexandria Who is the Rich Man that Shall Be

Saved? 34.
    51 Clement of Alexandria The Stromata 5.1.
                      Trinitarian Thought                     239

Father, the Son, Instructor and Teacher, with the Holy
Spirit, all in One, in whom all is all, for whom all is One.‖52
    Clement affirms a connection between the three
persons of the Godhead when he discusses the act of
salvation: ―thou shalt be freed from destruction: the word of
God will be thy pilot, and the Holy Spirit will bring thee to
anchor in the haven of heaven. Then shalt thou see my
God.‖53 This in effect implies that without the work of this
dynamic relationship found within both Christ and the
Spirit, one cannot see God. Even though Clement often
tends to separate the Spirit from God and Christ, he does
bring them altogether as one when he states that ―the
universal Father is one, and one the universal Word; and
the Holy Spirit is one and the same everywhere.‖54 This
statement of the ―oneness‖ of the Godhead is evident in one
of his theological foundations as he continues connecting
the Godhead directly to the unity of the church:

        For from the very reason that God is one, and
    the Lord one, that which is in the highest degree
    honourable is lauded in consequence of its
    singleness, being an imitation of the one first
    principle. In the nature of the One, then, is
    associated in a joint heritage the one Church.55

        But nothing exists, the cause of whose
    existence is not supplied by God. Nothing, then, is

     52 Clement of Alexandria The Instructor 3.12. While the Spirit

seems like an addendum to the more emphasized combination of
Father and Son, the fact still remains that all three are mentioned
prior to the ―all in One‖ statement.
     53 Clement of Alexandria Exhortation to the Heathen 12.

     54 Clement of Alexandria The Instructor 1.6.

     55 Clement of Alexandria The Stromata 7.17.
240            Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

      hated by God, nor yet by the Word. For both are
      one—that is, God.56

    Here Clement takes a step outside of purely theological
philosophy and moves into the realm of practical
application, making the unity of the Godhead the basis for
the unity of the church. While he does not delve deeply into
the matter, he does clearly understand and raises this
―oneness‖ as a key element to the life of the church body as
a whole.

                    ORIGEN [A.D. 185–230/254]

    There is no doubt that of those surveyed here, Origen
by far had the most organized and voluminous insight into
the relationship amongst the Godhead. He clearly details
that the ―Christian belief‖ includes the Father, Son and
Spirit, and even places them in that very same order of
precedence. Origen's first three points in De Principiis move
in a progressive and systematic fashion nearly identical to
the modern articulation of Trinitarian doctrine:

           The particular points clearly delivered in the
      teaching of the apostles are as follow: — First, That
      there is one God, who created and arranged all
      things, and who, when nothing existed, called all
      things into being. . . . Secondly, That Jesus Christ
      Himself, who came . . . became a man, and was
      incarnate although God, and while made a man
      remained the God which He was. . . . Thirdly, the
      apostles related that the Holy Spirit was associated
      in honour and dignity with the Father and the Son
      (Italics mine).57

      56   Clement of Alexandria The Instructor 1.8.
      57   Origen De Principiis, Preface.4.
                         Trinitarian Thought                241

     In detailing the individual persons, he notes that ―God
Himself is the beginning of all things,‖58 and as ―the Father
of all things, fills and holds together the world with the
fullness of his power.‖59 This is the ―one God, who created
and arranged all things, and who, when nothing existed,
called all things into being.‖60 These statements establish
Origen‘s foundation for how he understands the work of
both Christ and the Holy Spirit. He always comes back to
how they are related to God Himself. Through that
relationship he describes each one‘s individual purpose.
God is displayed as the ultimate primary force behind
everything. Origen states:

    Certain that all things which exist in this world, or
    take place in it, are ordered by the providence of
    God . . . under the disposal of His providential
    government, yet others again unfold themselves so
    mysteriously and incomprehensibly, that the plan
    of Divine Providence with regard to them is
    completely concealed.61

     In regards to the mystery of Christ, Origen states that
―the existence of the Son is derived from the Father but not
in time, nor from any other beginning, except, as we have
said, from God Himself.‖62 Because "He is the beginning
and the end, but . . . He is not the beginning, [since] the
Word was in the beginning."63 His relationship with the
Father is inherently tied to understanding his point of
origin which either affirms or denies his deity. This is at the

    58   Origen   Commentary on the Gospel of John 1.17.
    59   Origen   De Principiis 2.1.3.
    60   Origen   De Principiis Preface.4.
    61   Origen   De Principiis 4.1.6.
    62   Origen   De Principiis 1.2.11.
    63   Origen   Commentary on the Gospel of John 1.34.
242            Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

heart of any Trinitarian discussion. Origen               further
expounds on this relationship in regard to the

      bodily advent and incarnation of the only-begotten
      Son of God, with respect to whom we are not to
      suppose that all the majesty of His divinity . . . was
      either rent asunder from the Father, or restrained
      and confined within . . . His bodily person. . . . [I]t
      ought neither to be believed that anything of
      divinity was wanting in Christ, nor that any
      separation at all was made from the essence of the
      Father, which is everywhere.64

    Origen understands that Christ ―is judged to be the
perfect essence of God the Father; for these things cannot
be severed from Him, or even be separated from His
essence.‖65 His affirmations of Christ‘s deity here are clear
and direct. While debates would later rage as to the
definition of ―essence,‖ it is evident from early on that the
church fathers understood Christ‘s ―oneness‖ with the
Father to be a perfect reflected image of God Himself.
Following the concept of the perfect image Origen also

      The true God, then, is ―The God,‖ and those who
      are formed after Him are gods, images, as it were, of
      Him the prototype. But the archetypal image, again,
      of all these images is the Word of God, who being
      with God is at all times God.66

Origen sees Christ as the physical canvas upon which the
divine can be seen, understood, and experienced.
    In attempting to grasp the work of the Spirit, Origen
starts his discourse on the Spirit in this manner: ―It is time,

      64   Origen De Principiis 4.1.30.
      65   Origen De Principiis 4.1.28.
      66   Origen Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.2.
                           Trinitarian Thought            243

then, that we say a few words to the best of our ability
regarding the Holy Spirit . . . if indeed any definition or
description of Holy Spirit can be discovered?‖67 Christ
appropriately receives primary billing as the main actor on
the biblical stage; hence inquiry into the Holy Spirit often
was a minor point of inquiry. Yet Origen does note the
Spirit‘s place in regard to the Godhead as ―the apostles
related that the Holy Spirit was associated in honour and
dignity with the Father and the Son.‖68 And within his
broader study of Scripture, he also observes that ―it is the
same God Himself, and the same Christ, so also is it the
same Holy Spirit who was in the prophets and apostles.‖69
In dealing with the being of the Holy Spirit, Origen‘s
understanding was that

   even although something else existed before the
   Holy Spirit, it was not by progressive advancement
   that He came to be the Holy Spirit; as if anyone
   should venture to say, that at the time when He
   was not yet the Holy Spirit He was ignorant of the
   Father, but that after He had received knowledge
   He was made the Holy Spirit. For if this were the
   case, the Holy Spirit would never be reckoned in the
   Unity of the Trinity, i.e., along with the unchange-
   able Father and His Son, unless He had always
   been the Holy Spirit.‖70

    This statement clearly evidences his presuppositions
regarding the concept of the Trinity, but also clearly shows
how that understanding intricately shapes his beliefs of
each individual person of the Godhead. Beyond articulating
the unique characteristics of the Father, Son, and Spirit,
Origen spends time expounding on their interconnecting

   67   Origen   De   Principiis   2.7.1.
   68   Origen   De   Principiis   Preface.4.
   69   Origen   De   Principiis   2.7.1.
   70   Origen   De   Principiis   1.3.4.
244            Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

relationships. Origen, writing more than a century prior to
the Council of Nicaea, explains at length his belief in the
oneness of the Father and the Son by stating that ―you may
understand that the omnipotence of Father and Son is one
and the same, as God and the Lord are one and the same
with the Father.‖71 He expounds further by stating, ―What
belongs to the nature of deity is common to the Father and
the Son.‖72 This then forms the basis for not just mere
doctrine but actual practice. Origen continues by noting:

      We worship one God, the Father and the Son . . .
      the Father of truth, and the Son, who is the truth;
      and these, while they are two, considered as
      persons or subsistences [sic], are one in unity of
      thought, in harmony and in identity of will. So
      entirely are they one, that he who has seen the Son,
      ―who is the brightness of God‘s glory, and the
      express image of His person,‖ has seen in Him who
      is the image, of God, God Himself.73

     He also wrestles with the relationship between the Son
and the Spirit, noting that at times the Spirit appears to
take priority, citing Isaiah 48:16 as an example. In contrast,
however, he notes that the "Holy Spirit is the most excellent
and the first in order of all that was made by the Father
through Christ. And this, perhaps, is the reason why the
Spirit is not said to be God's own Son."74 The context here
is difficult to discern whether he is implying the Spirit was
created by God through Christ, but, as was noted
previously, he states in relation to the creation of the Spirit,
―if this were the case, the Holy Spirit would never be
reckoned in the Unity of the Trinity, i.e., along with the

      71   Origen   De Principiis 1.2.10.
      72   Origen   De Principiis 1.1.8.
      73   Origen   Against Celsus 8.12.
      74   Origen   Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.6.
                          Trinitarian Thought                       245

unchangeable Father and his Son, unless He had always
been the Holy Spirit.‖75
      In regard to the relationship between all three persons
of the Godhead, Origen urges his audience to ―consider,
therefore, that there are three hypostases, the Father and
the Son and the Holy Spirit,‖76 and goes on to quote 1 Cor
12:4–6 as proof of this fact. In a general sense, he
summarizes the whole Godhead by citing David who in
―intimating that the mystery of the entire Trinity was in the
creation of all things, says: ‗By the Word of the LORD were
the heavens made; and all the host of them by the Spirit of
His mouth.‘‖77 In this creator/creature distinction, Origen
truly reflects a proper respect for the ―divine otherness‖ of
the Trinity by stating that the ―Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
are to be understood as transcending all time, all ages, and
all eternity. For it is the Trinity alone which exceeds the
comprehension not only of temporal but even of eternal
intelligence.‖78 In addition he declares that ―it is impossible
. . . that any other nature than the Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit can live without a body, the necessity of logical
reasoning compels us to understand that rational natures
were indeed created at the beginning . . . for an incorporeal
life will rightly be considered a prerogative of the Trinity
alone.79 For the

    nature of Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit . . . is
    incorruptible and eternal, it is altogether consistent
    and necessary that every substance which partakes
    of that eternal nature should last for ever, and be
    incorruptible and eternal . . . also a diversity is to
    be noted in the participation of Father, Son, and

    75   Origen   De Principiis, in Ante-Nicene Fathers 1.3.
    76   Origen   Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.6.
    77   Origen   De Principiis 4.30. Here he quotes Psalms 33:6.
    78   Origen   De Principiis 4.28.
    79   Origen   De Principiis 2.2.2.
246            Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

      Holy Spirit, varying with the degree of zeal or
      capacity of mind.80

It is then this degree of diversity that Origen will spend
some time explaining.
     Origen uses the inherent ―goodness‖ of God to explain
the interconnectedness of the Godhead since ―the primal
goodness is to be understood as residing in God the Father,
from whom both the Son is born and the Holy Spirit
proceeds, retaining within them, without any doubt, the
nature of that goodness which is in the source whence they
are derived.‖81 God‘s inherent goodness seems to be a key
element which Origen draws upon as being the motivation
behind the unique roles and ministries of each member of
the Godhead. He draws this in regards to the human race,
since ―firstly, they derive their existence from God the
Father; secondly, their rational nature from the Word;
thirdly, their holiness from the Holy Spirit.‖82 He may take
this understanding from Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:4–6.
     Understanding the Trinity appears to be one of Origen‘s
foundational principles as he notes that after ―having made
these declarations regarding the Unity of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, let us return to the order in
which we began the discussion.‖ This is directly related to
living as a Christian as he connects this understanding to
―the working of the Father, which confers existence . . . by
participation in Christ . . . and seeing it is by partaking of
the Holy Spirit that any one is made purer and holier.‖83
Through this unified working

      of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in us, in its various
      stages of progress, shall we be at some future time

      80   Origen   De   Principiis   4.36.
      81   Origen   De   Principiis   1.2.10.
      82   Origen   De   Principiis   1.3.8.
      83   Origen   De   Principiis   1.3.8.
                     Trinitarian Thought                    247

    perhaps, although with difficulty, to behold the holy
    and the blessed life . . . the more we perceive its
    blessedness, the more should be increased and
    intensified within us the longing for the same, while
    we ever more eagerly and freely receive and hold
    fast the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.84


    Of the church fathers surveyed here, Origen is by far
the most systematic when detailing the relationships within
the Godhead. It is evident, however, that the origin of the
Trinitarian concept was not primarily developed by a single
person, but was rather developed over centuries of
theological reflection which present a clear picture of three
uniquely individual yet inseparable persons. From this
survey it is evident that each of these church fathers had
five elements that they would cover as it related to an
understanding of the relationships within the Godhead by
including a definition: 1) of God; 2) of Christ; 3) of the
Spirit; 4) of the relationship between God and Christ; and 5)
which would unify the Godhead into a Trinitarian-like
    All of these men at some point within their writings
reveal their understanding of God the Father. Most often it
was connected in a simple way to the creative initiative
associated with Genesis 1:1.85 Christ is often brought to the
forefront once their initial discourse on God the Father had
been introduced. Jesus then is most readily connected to
God by means of his relationship as participant in the
creative acts of God seen in Colossians 1:16, as He is the
Word and Son of God.86 As for the Spirit,87 He resides in the

    84 Origen De Principiis 1.3.8.
    85 Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.10.1,       and   Clement   of
Alexandria Exhortation to the Heathen 4.
    86 Ignatius Epistle to the Magnesians 4.
248        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

peripheral and is rarely mentioned directly. He is normally
referenced in passing with regard to his role as the vehicle
through which God communicates prophetically.88 Most of
the explanation given by the church fathers regarding the
interconnectedness of these relationships primarily focus
on describing the nuances of how God and Christ relate to
one another. Rightfully so, this leads to a great emphasis of
reflection being placed on Christ‘s divinity. As evidenced
later at Nicea, this is the key issue at the heart of the
doctrine of the Trinity. Interestingly, it seems that
understanding the relationship between God and Christ
was of greater importance than understanding the unified
relationship which would also include the Spirit. Yet when
the Spirit was included, there was also a simple formula,89
or they went into a more detailed explanation of the unified
work of the Godhead as a whole.90


    It is apparent that the church fathers evidenced
theological growth and development as forerunners to the
eventual systemization of the doctrine of the Trinity. While
this progression does not necessarily follow a systematically
consistent pattern, it nevertheless shows that the subject of

      87Most of these early church fathers‘ works were primarily
focused on presenting and giving a defense of the Christian faith
to a skeptical world. Keeping this historical background in mind
helps one understand why God and Christ are emphasized, while
the Spirit is only occasionally mentioned.
     88 Justin Martyr The First Apology 33, and Irenaeus Against

Heresies 1.10.1.
     89 Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.10.1.

     90 Tertullian Against Praxeas 1.2, and Origen Commentary on

the Gospel of John 2.5. For a side-by-side visual comparison of
Trinitarian formulas between all six of the church fathers
mentioned here, see the ―Development of Trinitarian
Relationships‖ chart included in the Appendix.
                    Trinitarian Thought                   249

the internal relationships amongst the Godhead was
addressed with increasing intentionality. The fact that these
men, among others, laid a foundation from which the
council gathered at Nicaea could then be built upon is
clearly evident. The forbearers‘ rich tradition of theological
meditation in the Word is clearly evident, highlighting the
fact that theology should be continually moving us toward a
deeper understanding of the great mysteries of truths
revealed therein. Regardless of Origen or Nicaea‘s
prominence in this particular arena, it will always serve the
church well to be reminded of our historical heritage
through continual and consistent reflection.
250                                 Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal


                   Comparison Chart
  Theological Development of Trinitarian Relationships

                                        IGNATIUS                                 IRENAEUS
                                                                              ―One God, the
                                     ―The one Father     ―God, the Father     Father Almighty,

                                     was ‗the only       and Lord of the      Maker of
                                     true God‘‖1         universe‖6           heaven, and
                                     ―How could
                                                         ―The Son; who        ―One Christ
                                     such a one be a

                                                         also, being the      Jesus, the Son
                                     mere man . . .
                                                         first-begotten       of God, who
                                     God the Word,
                                                         Word of God, is      became
                                     and the only-
                                                         even God‖7           incarnate‖12
                                     begotten Son‖2
                                     ―The Holy Spirit,   ―The righteous
                                                                              ―The Holy Spirit,

                                     who is good,        and beloved by
                                                                              who proclaimed
                                     and sovereign,      God, who spoke
                                                                              through the
                                     and true, and       by the Divine
                                                                              prophets the
                                     the Author of       Spirit . . . They
                                                                              dispensations of
                                     [saving]            are called
                                     knowledge‖3         prophets‖8
                                     ―There is one       ―The Father of       ―God Almighty,
                                     God, the Father,    the universe has     who made all
                                     of whom are all     a Son; who also,     things by His
                                     things; and one     being the first-     Word . . . He is
                                     Lord Jesus          begotten Word        the Father of our
                                     Christ, by whom     of God, is even      Lord Jesus
                                     are all things‖4    God‖9                Christ‖14
                                     ―The building of    ―Worshipping as
                                                                              The Church
                                     God the Father,     we do the Maker
      FATHER, SON &

                                                                              believes . . . in
                                     drawn up by the     of this universe
                                                                              one God, the
                                     instrument of       . . . the Son of

                                                                              Father . . . and
                                     Jesus Christ,       the true God . . .
                                                                              in one Christ
                                     which is the        holding Him in
                                                                              Jesus, the Son
                                     cross, making       the second
                                                                              of God . . . and
                                     use of the Holy     place, and the
                                                                              in the Holy
                                     Spirit as a         prophetic Spirit
                                     rope‖5              in the third‖10
                                  Trinitarian Thought                                    251

                                               CLEMENT OF
                        TERTULLIAN                                     ORIGEN
                                              ―The great First     ―There is one
                                              Cause, the           God, who
                       ―One true Lord,
                                              Maker of all         created and . . .

                       the God
                                              things, and          when nothing
                       omnipotent and
                                              Creator . . . the    existed, called all
                                              unbeginning          things into
                                              God‖21               being‖26
                                                                   ―That Jesus
                       ―He is the Son of      ―This Word . . .     Christ . . . was
                       God, and is            Christ . . .         incarnate

                       called God from        appeared as          although God,
                       unity of               man, He alone        and while made
                       substance with         being both, both     a man remained
                       God‖17                 God and man‖22       the God which
                                                                   He was‖27
                                                                   ―The Holy Spirit

                       ―the Holy Ghost
                                              ―The Spirit being    was associated
                       . . . the sanctifier
                                              the energetic        in honour and
                       of the faith of
                                              principle of the     dignity with the
                       those who
                                              Word‖23              Father and the
                                                                   ―the Word of God
                       ―God has also a                             . . . who by being

                       Son, His Word          ―For the image of    with God is at all
                       . . . being both       God is His Word,     times God, not
                       Man and God,           the genuine Son      possessing that
                       the Son of Man         of Mind, the         of Himself, but
                       and the Son of         Divine Word‖24       by His being
                       God‖19                                      with the
                                                                   hypostases, the
                                                                   Father and the

                       ―The Unity into a      ―The Alone           Son and the
                       Trinity, placing       Father and Son,      Holy Spirit . . .
                       in their order the     Son and Father,      nothing to be
                       three Persons —        the Son . . . with   uncreated but
                       the Father, the        the Holy Spirit,     the Father . . .
                       Son, and the           all in One, in       all things were
                       Holy Ghost . . .       whom is all, for     made by the
                       inasmuch as He         whom all is          Logos, and that
                       is one God‖20          One‖25               the Holy Spirit is
                                                                   the most
                                                                   excellent and the
                                                                   first in order‖30
252          Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

  1   Ignatius Epistle to the Antiochians 4.
  2   Justin Martyr The First Apology 61.
  3   Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.10.1.
  4   Tertullian The Apology 34.
  5   Clement of Alexandria Exhortation to the Heathen 5.
  6   Origen De Principiis Preface.4.
  7   Ignatius Epistle to the Tarsians 4.
  8   Justin Martyr The First Apology 62.
  3   Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.10.1.
  10   Tertullian The Apology 21.
  11   Clement of Alexandria Exhortation to the Heathen 1.
  12   Origen De Principiis Preface.4.
  13   Ignatius Epistle to the Philadelphians 5.
  14   Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho 7.
  15   Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.10.1.
  16   Tertullian Against Praxeas 2.
  17   Clement of Alexandria The Instructor 2.2.
  18   Origen De Principiis Preface.4.
  19   Ignatius Epistle to the Tarsians 4.
  20   Justin Martyr The First Apology 63.
  21   Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.21.1.
  22   Tertullian Against Praxeas 2.
  23   Clement of Alexandria Exhortation to the Heathen 10.
  24   Origen Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.2.
  25   Ignatius Epistle to the Ephesians 10.
  26   Justin Martyr The First Apology 13.
  27   Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.10.1.
  28   Tertullian Against Praxeas 2.
  29   Clement of Alexandria The Instructor 3.7.
  30   Origen Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.6.
MBTJ 1:2    253-285

               Adoniram Judson
        Father of American Missions
                       Brian Trainer1

     Adoniram Judson is commonly called the ―Father of
American Missions.‖ This title is proper. Judson was the
first minister of the gospel to depart from American shores
in order to dedicate himself to the proclamation of Jesus
Christ to the heathen abroad. Several aspects of Judson‘s
ministry earn him the position of ―Father‖ or originator.
First, Judson was a vocational minister. In other words,
his financial support was raised entirely from his gospel
ministry. Second, he departed from the boundaries of
America. David Brainard and others were home
missionaries within the known territory of the United
States, but God directed Judson to leave the country.
Third, Judson‘s entire financial support was derived from
local churches in the United States. By faith, churches
chose to support a man who would represent them abroad.
Fourth, Judson was the first American to accept this task
of world evangelization. Though others went with him,
Judson was the acknowledged leader and the one whose
foreign ministry extended the longest time span. These four
elements combined earn Judson the title as ―Father of
American Missions.‖ As such, Judson‘s life and ministry is
a pattern upon which other missionaries, from his
contemporaries until the present, can look for instruction
and encouragement.

    1Brian Trainer is the Chairman of the Department of Bible
and Church Ministries at Maranatha Baptist Bible College and
Adjunct Faculty of Homiletics and Missions at Maranatha Baptist
254        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal


     Judson‘s life and ministry cannot be covered
adequately in this short article. When surveying Judson‘s
life and ministry, multiple joys, discouragements, and
turning points are easily noted. One of these turning points
occurred after Judson left America and prior to his arrival
in Burma, which would be his home for thirty-eight years.
He decided to reject pedobaptism and become a post-
conversion immersionist, a resolution that shook the
ecclesiastical world of his day. This decision proved to be
not only a personal turning point for Judson, but it
consequently compelled American Baptists as a whole to
join the efforts of world evangelization. Our purpose in this
article is to briefly survey Judson‘s life prior to his foreign
service, his decision to become an immersionist, and the
eventual response to his decision.

                   Judson’s Conversion

       Adoniram Judson was born on August 9, 1788, in
Malden, Massachusetts. He was the eldest son of Adoniram
Judson Sr, a Congregational minister. At an early age,
Adoniram‘s parents recognized his intellectual prowess. In
fact, by age three he could read an entire chapter of the
Bible.2 By age ten, Judson had a reputation for his
proficiency in both arithmetic and Greek.3 In 1804, at the
young age of sixteen, he entered Providence College,
subsequently called Brown University. Three years later,
Judson graduated as the valedictorian.4 This was followed
by a brief stint as a teacher in Plymouth, Massachusetts,
where he authored ―Elements of English Grammar‖ and

      2 Edward Judson, Adoniram Judson, D.D. His Life and
Labours (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1883), 2.
      3 Judson, Adoniram Judson, 5.

      4 Judson, Adoniram Judson, 7.
                      Adoniram Judson                       255

―The Young Lady‘s Arithmetic,‖ both secondary level
        Judson‘s excellence in the realm of academics was
not accompanied by a pursuit of his parents‘ God. To be
sure, Judson was acquainted with the piety of his parents
and had an intellectual knowledge of the Scriptures, but he
personally rejected God. Influenced by a college friend,
Jacob Eames, Adoniram espoused the theology of Deism
and proclaimed himself a ―free thinker.‖6 His newfound
belief led to open debate with his stern, Congregational
father. Unable to reason with his father and longing for the
world‘s pleasures, Judson traveled to New York City to seek
a life of independence from his parents‘ spiritual pressure.
The brief visit was discouraging as his company of friends
turned to petty theft and crime to make ends meet. Judson
had no place to go, but back home.
      On his journey home, he had occasion to stay at an
inn. The events of this evening changed the course of his
life, as his son Edward later recounts:

       The next night he stopped at a country inn. The
   landlord mentioned, as he lighted him to his room, that
   he had been obliged to place him next door to a young
   man who was exceedingly ill, probably in a dying state;
   but he hoped that it would occasion him no uneasiness.
   Judson assured him that, beyond pity for the poor sick
   man, he should have no feeling whatever, and that now,
   having heard of the circumstance, his pity would not of
   course be increased by the nearness of the object. But it
   was, nevertheless, a very restless night. Sounds came
   from the sick-chamber---sometimes the movements of

       5 Francis Wayland, A Memoir of the Life And Labours of the
Rev. Adoniram Judson (Boston: Phillips, Sampson and Company,
1853), 13.
       6 Wayland, 12.
256         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

  the watchers, sometimes the groans of the sufferer; but
  it was not these which disturbed him. He thought of
  what the landlord had said---the stranger was probably
  in a dying state; and was he prepared? Alone, and the
  dead of night, he felt a blush of shame steal over him at
  the question, for it proved the shallowness of his
  philosophy. What would his late companions say to his
  weakness? The clear-minded, intellectual, witty E---,
  what would he say to such consummate boyishness?
  But still his thoughts would revert to the sick man. Was
  he a Christian, calm and strong in the hope of a glorious
  immortality? Or was he shuddering upon the brink of a
  dark, unknown future? Perhaps he was a ‗freethinker,‘
  educated by Christian parents, and prayed over by a
  Christian mother. The landlord had described him as a
  young man; and in imagination he was forced to place
  himself upon the dying bed, though he strove with all
  his might against it. At last morning came, and the
  bright flood of light which it poured into his chamber
  dispelled all his ‗superstitious illusions.‘ As soon as he
  had risen, he went in search of the landlord, and
  inquired for his fellow-lodger. ‗He is dead,‘ was the reply.
  ‗Dead!‘ ‗Yes, he is gone, poor fellow! The doctor said he
  would probably not survive the night.‘ ‗Do you know
  who he was?‘ ‗O, yes; it was a young man from
  Providence College—a very fine fellow; his name was E—‘
  Judson was completely stunned. After hours had
  passed, he knew not how, he attempted to pursue his
  journey. But one single thought occupied his mind, and
  the words, Dead! lost! lost! were continually ringing in
  his ears. He knew the religion of the Bible to be true; he
  felt its truth; and he was in despair. In this state of
  mind he resolved to abandon his scheme of travelling,
  and at once turned his horse‘s head toward Plymouth.7

      7   Judson, Adoniram Judson, 12–13.
                      Adoniram Judson                       257

    Throughout the remainder of Adoniram Judson‘s life,
he credited the events of this evening for altering the
direction of his life.
       On October 12, 1808, Judson was accepted as a
―special student‖ at Andover Seminary—―special‖ in that he
had not made a profession of faith. On December 2, 1808,
that changed when Judson made a solemn dedication of
himself to God. In September 1809, just one year shy of his
conversion, Judson was giving serious contemplation to
world missions. In February 1810, he resolved to be a
missionary to the heathen abroad.

                     The Call to Service

    The events that followed are landmarks for the
American missions movement.8 Several men from Andover
College—Samuel Mills, James Richards, Luther Rice,
Samuel Nott, Gordon Hall, Samuel Newell, and Adoniram
Judson—formed a missionary fraternity with the goal to
represent Christ and the Congregational churches on the
foreign mission field. These men prompted the general
Association of Congregational Churches to form the
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions on
June 28, 1810.9 The first meeting of that board was held on
September 5, 1810. Dr. Samuel Worcester was appointed
corresponding secretary.
    The first action taken by the board was to determine
whether there would be a relationship between the
American mission board and that of the London Missionary
Society. The London Missionary Society had already sent
Mr. William Carey as its first missionary abroad, and it was

       8 These events are given in a detailed analysis by Francis

Wayland and Edward Judson in their respective biographies of
Adoniram Judson. Due to the purpose of this particular article,
the events will be mentioned only in the slightest detail.
       9 Wayland, 32.
258         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

enlisting others to join Carey in India or to extend the
mission endeavor to other nations. The American Board
hoped to elicit cooperation and financial support from their
brethren in England, and consequently selected Judson to
travel to London to accomplish this task of communication.
Judson‘s mission to London met with limited success.
While the London Society was not willing to offer assistance
to the American Board, it was willing to enlist four men—
Judson, Newell, Nott, and Gordon—into the work of the
London Society.
    This arrangement was not acceptable to the American
Board, and on September 18, 1811, the Board voted to
advise the four men in question ―not to place themselves at
present under the direction of the London Missionary
Society, but to wait the further intimations of Providence
relative to our means of furnishing them with the requisite
support in the proposed foreign mission.‖10 This appeal
subsequently charted the direction for the American
missions movement: American missionaries were to be
supported by American churches. As a result, the American
Board ordained Newell, Judson, Nott, Hall, and Rice for the
gospel ministry as missionaries to Asia on Thursday,
February 6, 1812. On February 19, 1812, Adoniram and
Ann Judson and Samuel and Harriet Newell embarked from
Plymouth in the brig Caravan bound for Calcutta. The
Notts, Halls, and Luther Rice embarked at a later date from
Philadelphia on the Harmony. The Caravan arrived in
Calcutta on June 17, 1812, and the Harmony arrived on
July 8, 1812. The American foreign missionary movement
had begun.

      10   Wayland, 57.
                     Adoniram Judson                     259


    Adoniram Judson left the shores of America as an
educated, ordained, and commissioned Congregationalist
missionary. At no time in his early writings is there a
question of doubt regarding his position on baptism. As a
Congregationalist, he practiced pedobaptism. Yet doubt‘s
shadow began to darken his mind as he studied the issue
in passage from Plymouth to Calcutta. Within a period of
four months, Judson‘s doubt rose to such heights that his
convictions on the issue shifted from the position of
pedobaptism to post-conversion immersion. In doing so,
Judson isolated himself from his co-workers, his mission
board, his home church, and his family. Judson records
this theological journey in two significant historical
documents. The first is a letter to his home church, in
which he communicates the personal and doctrinal
struggles he endured while making this decision. The
second document is a ―sermon,‖ perhaps better called a
treatise today, on the topic of baptism.

    The Occasion for Study of the Topic of Baptism

       Three events prompted Judson‘s study of the issue of
baptism while on board the Caravan. First, while he was in
Andover he had been working on a translation of the Greek
New Testament. This naturally led him to investigate the
proper translation for the word bapti,zw (baptizo).11 Second,
Judson carried with him letters from Dr. Worcester to Dr.
William Carey asking for assistance from the English
Baptist missionaries. Judson, knowing that the issue of
baptism would arise, wanted to be able to give a just

       11 Courtney Anderson, To the Golden Shore: The Life of

Adoniram Judson (Valley Forge: Judson, 1987), 127. See also
Judson, 38–39.
260         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

defense of his position of pedobaptism.12 Third and
foremost, although Judson was an educated and ordained
minister, he personally had no ministerial experience.
Thus, Judson for the first time needed to affirm what he
was going to practice in the ministry. In the opening lines of
his letter home he writes:

        You will readily believe me, when I say, that on
   leaving my country, I little imagined, that I should ever
   become a Baptist. I had not indeed candidly examined
   the subject of baptism; but I had strong prejudices
   against the sect, that is every where spoken against.
        It was on board the vessel, in prospect of my future
   life among the heathen, that I was led to investigate this
   important subject. I was going forth to proclaim the glad
   news of salvation through Jesus Christ. I hoped, that
   my ministrations would be blessed to the conversion of
   souls. In that case, I felt that I should have no hesitation
   concerning my duty to the converts, it being plainly
   commanded in scripture, that such are to be baptized,
   and received into church fellowship. But how, thought I,
   am I to treat the unconverted children and domestics of
   the converts? Are they to be considered members of the
   church of Christ, by virtue of the conversion of the head
   of their family, or not? If they are, ought I not to treat
   them as such? After they are baptized, can I consistently
   set them aside, as aliens from the commonwealth of
   Israel, until they are readmitted? If they are not to be
   considered members of the church, can I consistently
   administer to them the initiating ordinance of the

      These questions troubled Judson‘s mind. He knew
he had to arrive at biblical answers prior to beginning his
ministry abroad. Practice based upon tradition or

      12   Anderson, To the Golden Shore, 128.
      13   Judson, Adoniram Judson, 96.
                    Adoniram Judson                        261

upbringing was not sufficient. Biblical truth must be the
foundation on which Judson stood.

    Searching the Scriptures: The Mode of Baptism

       As Judson searched the Scriptures for answers to his
questions, his study proceeded upon two tracks: the
meaning of the word ―baptism‖ and the significance of the
ordinance in Scriptures. Regarding the first line of study,
Judson made the following conclusions:

        The primitive word ba,ptw bapto) from which the
   word denoting baptism, is derived, signifies
   immersion. This, with the general consent of the
   Pedobaptists themselves, is as much the
   appropriate meaning of the Greek word, as of the
   English word, dip or immerse.14
        The word denoting baptism (bapti,zw)(baptizo) is
   derived from the verbal of this primitive word
   (baptoz) (baptoz) by a change in the termination,
   which, according to an established principle in the
   Greek language, never affects the primary idea; but
   when made on words, expressing a quality or
   attribute, merely conveys the additional idea of
   causing or making.15
        The word which denotes the act of baptizing,
   according to the usage of Greek writers, uniformly
   signifies or implies immersion.16
        That immersion is the exclusive signification of
   the word, appears from the following testimonies of
   eminent Pedobaptist authors, whose concessions

      14  Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism: A Sermon
Preached in the Lal Bazar Chapel, Calcutta, on Lord’s Day,
September 27, 1812 (John A. Lazell, 1819), 6.
       15 Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism, 6.

       16 Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism, 7.
262          Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

      on this subject could not have been affected by
      Baptist partialities, but must have resulted from a
      conviction of truth alone.17
           There are no instances, in the New Testament
      which require us to depart from the etymological
      and established interpretation of the word.18
           The places chosen for the administration of the
      ordinance, and the circumstances attending those
      instances, in which the act of baptizing as
      particularly described, in the New Testament,
      plainly indicate immersion.19
           The idea of immersion is the only one, which
      will suit all the various connections, in which the
      word is used in the New Testament.20

    Under each point made, Judson argued extensively the
various New Testament passages that supported his
assertions. He was convinced that the word ―baptism‖ must
mean immersion. He notes:

           But throughout the whole New Testament, I
      could find nothing that looked like sprinkling, in
      connection with the ordinance of baptism. It
      appeared to me, that a plain person should,
      without any previous information on the subject,
      read through the New Testament, he would never
      get the idea, that baptism consisted in sprinkling.21

        17Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism, 9–10. This is
followed by a lengthy list of testimonies by pedobaptist scholars.
       18 Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism, 12.

       19 Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism, 18.

       20 Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism, 20.

       21 Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism, 105.
                    Adoniram Judson                       263

   Judson‘s mode of baptism was scripturally settled. He
would be an immersionist. One question still lingered,
however: who should be baptized?

                Searching the Scriptures:
                The Subjects of Baptism

    Judson received his theological education under the
interpretative hermeneutic of covenant theology, which
concludes that the relationship between Abraham, Israel,
and the church is without substantial distinction. As
Judson approached the practice of baptism, he was forced
to reinvestigate the relationship between these three
entities. Were they analogous? Were the covenantal rites of
circumcision and baptism identical? Judson‘s conclusions
to these arguments provided him with the answer to the
question that had been troubling him: who are the rightful
participants in Christian baptism? He wrote to his home
church regarding his discoveries:

       When I proceeded to consider certain passages,
   which are thought to favor the Pedobaptist system,
   (1 Cor. 7:14; Acts 2:39; Matt. 19:14, 18:3; Acts
   16:34; 1 Cor. 1:16) I found nothing satisfactory.
       In a word, I could not find a single intimation,
   in the New Testament, that the children and
   domestics of believers were members of the church,
   or entitled to any church ordinance, in consequence
   of the profession of the head of their family.
   Everything discountenanced this idea. When
   baptism was spoken of, it was always in connection
   with believing. None but believers were commanded
   to be baptized; and it did not appear to my mind
   that any others were baptized.22
264           Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

    Here, then, appeared a striking difference between the
Abrahamic and the Christian systems. The one recognized
the membership of children, domestics, and remote
descendants of professors, and also tended directly to the
establishment of a national religion. The other appeared to
be a selective system, acknowledging none as members of
the church, but such as gave credible evidence of believing
in Christ.

          This led me to suspect, that these two systems,
      so evidently different, could not be one and the
      same. And now the light began to dawn. The more I
      read, and the more I meditated on the subject, the
      more clearly it appeared to me, that all my errors
      and difficulties had originated, in confounding
      these two systems.23
          I cannot describe to you, dear brethren, the
      light and satisfaction, which I obtained, in taking
      this view of the matter, in considering the two
      churches distinct, and in classing my ideas of each
      in their proper place. I became possessed of a key,
      that unlocked many a difficulty, which had long
      perplexed me. And the more I read the Bible, the
      more clearly I saw, that this was the true system
      therein revealed.24
          But on the other hand, if you adopt and
      practice the Abrahamic system, you will inevitably
      confound the church and the world; you will receive
      into the church multitudes who are destitute of
      those qualifications, which are represented, in the
      New Testament, as requisite to constitute a member
      of the kingdom which Christ set up; you will
      ultimately establish a national religion; and this will

        22   Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism, 100.
        23   Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism, 101.
        24   Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism, 104.
                        Adoniram Judson                      265

    be as contrary to the system laid down in the New

    These excerpts from Judson‘s letter reflect the major
interpretative shift in his hermeneutic. It also indicates the
reason Judson became not only an immersionist, but a
post-conversion immersionist. Because post-conversion
immersion is the primary distinction of the Baptist church,
in a word Adoniram Judson became a Baptist.

                       The Personal Cost

    Judson‘s decision to become a Baptist was not made
without a great deal of personal thought and grief. Judson
described his position as ―being in the grip of a Gordian
knot.‖26 He reflected on the cost of his decision in his letter

         But while I obtained light and satisfaction on
    one side, I was plunged in difficulty and distress on
    the other. If, thought I, this system is the true one,
    if the Christian church is not a continuation of the
    Jewish, if the covenant of circumcision is not
    precisely the covenant in which Christians now
    stand, the whole foundation of Pedobaptism is
    gone; there is no remaining ground for the
    administration of any church ordinance, to the
    children and domestics of professors; and it follows
    inevitably, that I, who was christened in infancy, on
    the faith of my parents, have never yet received
    Christian baptism. Must I, then, forsake my
    parents, the church with which I stand connected,
    the society under whose patronage I have come out,
    the companions of my missionary undertaking?

       25   Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism, 108.
       26   Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism, 106–107.
266           Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

      Must I forfeit the good opinion of all my friends in
      my native land, occasioning grief to some, and
      provoking others to anger, and be regarded
      henceforth, by all my former dear acquaintance, as
      a weak, despicable Baptist, who has not sense
      enough to comprehend the connection between the
      Abrahamic and the Christian systems? All this was
      mortifying; it was hard to flesh and blood. But I
      thought again — It is better to be guided by the
      opinion of Christ, who is the truth, than by the
      opinion of men, however good, whom I know to be
      in an error.27

           I saw, that, in a double sense, I was
      unbaptized, and I felt the command of Christ
      pressing my conscience. Now if I quieted my
      conscience in regard to my own personal baptism,
      and concluded, that on account of my peculiar
      circumstances, it was best to consult my own
      convenience, rather than the command of Christ,
      still the question would return, with redoubled
      force, —How am I to treat the children and
      domestics of converted heathen? This was the
      beginning of all my difficulties, and this, on
      Pedobaptist principles, I could not resolve, by the
      Bible, or by any books that I consulted.28

          I have been sensible, that my change of
      sentiment would give much pain to many whom I
      loved and respected, to the members of the church I
      am now addressing, and to my honored father, your
      pastor. This reflection was the greatest trial
      attending my baptism. It was natural for me,
      therefore, to be desirous of showing you clearly the

        27   Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism, 104–105.
                       Adoniram Judson                    267

    extremity to which I was reduced, and the potency
    of those arguments which constrained me to
    become a Baptist; hoping that you would, by that
    means, be led to sympathize with me, in the
    exercises of mind that I have experienced, and be
    willing to admit, that my conduct has not been the
    result of momentary caprice, or the still more
    reprehensible effect of interested and sinister
    motives. I solemnly profess to have done this thing
    from a single regard to truth and duty. I have not
    altered my sentiments on any point of doctrine, or
    Christian experience. My heart tells me, dear
    brethren, that I am still on with you, though we
    differ on the subject of baptism.29

    To become a ―weak, despicable Baptist‖ was not simply
a personal issue. His wife, Ann, was intimately involved in
the theological journey, and in each debate she chose the
side of pedobaptism.30 She listened attentively to his
argumentation and studied the Scriptures personally, and
though she saw the reasoning, she was hesitant. She wrote
these words to her parents: ―I tried to have him give it up,
and rest satisfied in his old sentiments, and frequently told
him, if he became a Baptist, I would not.‖31 Upon arriving in
Calcutta, Ann studied the subject once again ―with all my
prejudices on the Pedobaptist side.‖32 Eventually she
capitulated, not based upon marital pressure, but because
she found ―that the truth appeared to lie on the Baptist‘s

      29   Adoniram Judson, Christian Baptism, 110–111.
      30   Edward Judson, Adoniram Judson, 37.
      31   Edward Judson, Adoniram Judson, 40.
      32   Edward Judson, Adoniram Judson, 40.
      33   Edward Judson, Adoniram Judson, 40.
268           Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

     The emotional cost to Ann was significant. Consider her
reflections on this subject in a letter to her parents, then in
a letter to a friend:

          It was extremely trying to reflect on the
      consequences of our becoming Baptists. We knew it
      would wound and grieve our dear Christian friends
      in America—that we should lose their approbation
      and esteem. We thought it probable the commis-
      sioners would refuse to support us; and, what was
      more distressing than anything, we knew we must
      be separated from our missionary associates, and
      go alone to some heathen land. These things were
      very trying to us, and caused our hearts to bleed for
      anguish. We felt we had no home in this world, and
      no friend but each other.34

          She wrote in a similar fashion to a dear friend:

          Can you, my dear Nancy, still love me, still
      desire to hear from me, when I tell you I have
      become a Baptist? If I judge from my own feelings, I
      answer you will, and that my differing from you in
      those things which do not affect our salvation will
      not diminish your affection for me, or make you
      unconcerned for my welfare. . . . Thus, my dear
      Nancy, we are confirmed Baptists, not because we
      wish to be, but because truth compelled us to be.
      We have endeavored to count the cost, and be
      prepared for the many severe trials resulting from
      this change of sentiment. We anticipate the loss of
      reputation, and of the affection and esteem of many
      of our American friends. But the most trying
      circumstance attending this change, and that
      which has caused most pain, is the separation
      which must take place between us and our dear

        34   Edward Judson, Adoniram Judson, 40–41.
                       Adoniram Judson                    269

   missionary associates. Although we are attached to
   each other, and should doubtless live very happily
   together, yet the brethren do not think it best we
   should unite in one mission. These things, my dear
   Nancy, have caused us to weep and pour out our
   hearts in prayer to Him whose directions we so
   much wish and need. We feel that we are alone in
   the world, with no real friend but each other, no
   one on whom we can depend but God.‖35

                      The Final Decision

    After Adoniram and Ann made the decision together to
become Baptists, they sent the following letter to the
leaders of the Baptist mission agency in Serampore.

       Calcutta, August 27, 1812
       As you have been ignorant of the late exercises
   of my mind on the subject of baptism, the
   communication which I am about to make may
   occasion you some surprise.
       It is now about four months since I took the
   subject into serious and prayerful consideration.
   My inquiries, commenced during my passage from
   America, and after much laborious research and
   painful trial, which I shall not now detail, have
   issued in entire conviction, that the immersion of a
   professing believer is the only Christian baptism.
       In these exercises I have not been alone. Mrs.
   Judson has been engaged in a similar examination,
   and has come to the same conclusion. Feeling,
   therefore, that we are in an unbaptised state, we

      35   Edward Judson, Adoniram Judson, 38–40.
270           Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

      wish to profess our faith in Christ by being baptised
      in obedience to his sacred commands.

                             Adoniram Judson, Jun.36

    Consequently, on September 6, 1812, in the Lal Bazar
Chapel in Calcutta, Dr. Ward of the London Missionary
Society baptized Adoniram and Ann. Both had studied the
Scriptures together and separately. Both were aware of the
great cost of their decision. Both recognized that to become
a Baptist would mean the loss of friends, support, family,
and perhaps even their missionary endeavor. Both knew
they were obligated to share their change in conviction with
the newly formed American Board of Commissioners for
Foreign Missions. This was done by way of letter on
September 1, 1812. Judson wrote his dear friend and
supporter, Dr. Worcester, and informed him of his change
in position.

          Rev. and Dear Sir, —
          My change of sentiments on the subject of
      baptism is considered by my missionary brethren
      as incompatible with my continuing their fellow-
      labourer in the mission which they contemplate on
      the Island of Madagascar; and it will, I presume, be
      considered by the board of Commissioners as
      equally incompatible with my continuing their
      missionary. The Board will, undoubtedly, feel as
      unwilling to support a Baptist missionary as I feel
      to   comply     with their instructions, which
      particularly direct us to baptise ‗credible believers
      with their households.’
          The dissolution of my connection with the
      Board of Commissioners, and a separation from my
      dear missionary brethren, I considered most

        36   Wayland, 83.
                          Adoniram Judson                  271

    distressing consequences of my late change of
    sentiments, and, indeed, the most distressing
    events which have ever befallen me. I have now the
    prospect before me of going alone to some distant
    island, unconnected with any society at present
    existing, from which I might be furnished with
    assistant labourers or pecuniary support. Whether
    the Baptist churches in America will compassionate
    my situation, I know not. I hope, therefore, that
    while my friends condemn what they deem a
    departure from the truth, they will at least pity me
    and pray for me.

                      With the same sentiments of
                      affection and respect as ever,
                      I am, sir, your friend and servant
                      Adoniram Judson, Jun.37

    Just as they had anticipated and feared, the Judsons
were left at that time without friends. Their American
missionary brethren, supporting churches, and home
mission board were of a different doctrinal persuasion and
thus could no longer work with them. Due to political and
commercial pressures, the East Indian Trading Company
controlled by the English was demanding that all
Americans leave India immediately. The only personal
bright spot for the Judsons was their friendship with
Luther Rice. He, too, had changed his position on baptism
and was willing to stay with the Judsons and work. The
only hope they had of staying on the mission field was the
prospect of a positive response to the following letter sent to
Dr. Bolles, a Baptist pastor in New England.

        Calcutta, September 1, 1812

      37   Wayland, 83.
272         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

           Rev. Sir, —I recollect that, during a short
      interview I had with you in Salem, I suggested the
      formation of a society among the Baptists in
      America for the support of foreign missions, in
      imitation of the exertions of your English brethren.
      Little did I then expect to be personally concerned
      in such an attempt.
           Within a few months I have experienced an
      entire change of sentiments on the subject of
      baptism. My doubts concerning the correctness of
      my former system of belief commenced during my
      passage from America to this country; and after
      many painful trials, which none can know but
      those who are taught to relinquish a system in
      which they had been educated, I settled down in
      the full persuasion that the immersion of a
      professing believer in Christ is the only Christian
           Mrs. Judson is united with me in this
      persuasion. We have signified our views and wishes
      to the Baptist missionaries at Serampore, and
      expect to be baptised in this city next Lord‘s day.
           A separation from my missionary brethren, and
      a dissolution of my connection with the board of
      commissioners, seem to be necessary conse-
      quences. The missionaries at Serampore are
      exerted to the utmost of their ability in managing
      and supporting their extensive and complicated
           Under these circumstances I look to you. Alone,
      in this foreign heathen land, I make my appeal to
      those whom, with their permission, I will call my
      Baptist brethren in the United States.
           With the advice of the brethren at Serampore, I
      am contemplating a mission on one of the eastern
      islands. They have lately sent their brother Chater
      to Ceylon, and their brother Robinson to Java. At
      present, Amblyna seems to present the most
                       Adoniram Judson                    273

   favourable opening. Fifty thousand souls are there
   perishing without the means of life; and the
   situation of the island is such that a mission there
   established might, with the blessing of God, be
   extended to the neighbouring islands in those seas.
        But should I go thither, it is a most painful
   reflection that I must go alone, and also uncertain
   of the means of support. But I will trust in God. He
   has frequently enabled me to praise his divine
   goodness, and will never forsake those who put
   their trust in him.

                             I am, dear sir,
                             Yours, in the Lord Jesus,
                             Adoniram Judson, Jun38

    The Judsons could only wait, hope, and pray that their
short missionary career would continue. Their decision to
change was marked by both a serious study of the Word of
God and great personal pain. It certainly was not the
prudent choice based upon the wisdom of men. It cost them
everything they had at that time. It was, however, the
necessary choice based upon the divine dictates of their
conscience. As Luther of old said, ―Here they stood, they
could do no other.‖


                   The Negative Response

    The results of Judson‘s decision in the broadest sense
are evidenced by the entirety of the American Baptist
missionary movement from 1812 to the present. In the
narrower historic sense, Judson‘s decision prompted both a
negative and positive response. The negative response was

      38   Wayland, 83–85.
274          Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

voiced by the Reverend Enoch Pond, a Congregational
pastor in Ward, Massachusetts. He published a book
entitled, A Treatise on the Mode and Subjects of Christian
Baptism — Designed as a reply to the Statements and
Reasonings of the Rev. Adoniram Judson, which was a
response to the sermon that Judson had preached in India.
This sermon was published in the United States and
subsequently received great attention. Pond begins the
book by stating his reason for writing.

          But is the present revival of this controversy
      properly chargeable to the writer? When Mr.
      Judson wrote and published his Sermon, with the
      avowed design of transmitting it to America, he well
      knew that he was treading on controversial ground;
      and he had every reason to expect, unless he
      supposed it would force universal conviction, that
      someone in his native country would attempt a

    Pond‘s reply, though, was not merely theological in
context. He questioned Judson‘s motivations for his change
in position.

          Pedobaptists would gladly indulge the hope,
      that these pretensions are sincere—that Mr.
      Judson was influenced in this matter by a sense of
      duty and the fear of God. They cannot, however,
      repress the opinion, after a deliberate investigation
      of concomitant circumstances, that his change is to
      say the least, a very mysterious event.40

   He then continued with directly calling Judson‘s
character into question.

        39 Enoch Pond, A Treatise on the Mode and Subjects of
Christian Baptism (Worcester: William Manning, 1819), 3.
        40 Pond, Mode and Subjects, 5.
                        Adoniram Judson                     275

       Mr. Judson is a person whom, for several years,
   I have been accustomed to respect. It is with pain I
   find myself under obligations to controvert what he
   has advanced. It is particularly painful, that I am to
   become the instrument of communicating facts
   which seriously implicate his moral character. His
   particular friends may rest assured that I have no
   pleasure in detraction, and that it would afford me
   the highest happiness, could the mysteries of his
   conduct be fully developed, and the charge which in
   the ensuing pages lies against him be fairly

    Pond‘s accusations are several. He began by suggesting
that Judson‘s change was not based upon lines of biblical
reasoning, but upon the possibility for financial gain.

        The reasonings he has employed have been
   employed before. And in the course of his
   theological education, it would seem he must have
   known this. The arguments he has now advanced
   and pronounced conclusive, he must have
   previously considered, and pronounced incorrect.42
        It is somewhat remarkable in the case of Mr.
   Judson, that he should be changed to precisely
   such a point. Having begun to waver, why did he
   waver just so far, and no farther? Without
   communicating his ―exercises to any of the Baptist
   denomination,‖ why did he at length fasten on
   those very topics, which constitute the peculiarities
   of the Baptist faith? At a period when his own
   circumstances were greatly perplexed, and when
   liable to imagine that some new expedient might
   improve them; how came he to coincide so exactly
   with those Missionaries among whom Providence

      41   Pond, Mode and Subjects, 4.
      42   Pond, Mode and Subjects, 6.
276           Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

      had thrown him, who were now prosperously
      established, and engaged in their benevolent

   Second, Pond suggests that Judson was not honest and
open with his co-workers and not loyal to his home church.

           Another remarkable circumstance respecting
      Mr. Judson‘s change, is the concealment of his
      views from his missionary brethren. He certainly
      could not have renounced Pedobaptist principles
      without a struggle. He could not have been honestly
      brought to decide, that those ministers with whom
      he had ever associated were not regular ministers of
      Christ; that those churches with which he was
      connected, on which he was dependent, and to
      which he was under solemn obligations, were not
      regularly constituted churches of Christ; that his
      reverend father and most intimate Christian friends
      had never been baptized in the name of the Trinity,
      or rightly professed the Christian faith; yea, that he
      himself had constantly fostered that, which
      (pursued to what he deems its direct consequences)
      is ―the most pernicious practice which ever infested
      and laid waste the vineyard of the Lord‖ — he could
      not possibly have been brought to such a decision,
      without a deep inward conflict. How strange, then,
      that the conflict never became visible! That it was
      neither observed by, nor revealed to, his missionary
      companions! Here is a band of brothers, going forth
      with the gospel to a land of idols, not only under
      peculiar obligations, but, it should seem, peculiarly
      disposed, to maintain an intercourse the most
      frank and open; and yet one of them passes
      through a scene of the utmost mental trouble;
      dissents from the church order of his ancestors,

        43   Pond, Mode and Subjects, 6.
                        Adoniram Judson                   277

   supporters, and associates; and is at length on the
   point of a complete separation from them, and has
   never made to them the slightest intimations of
   what had passed, and was passing in his mind!!44

    Third, Pond accused Judson of harboring resentment
regarding a past reprimand he received from the American
Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions regarding
Judson‘s interaction with the London Missionary Society.
The accusation was that Adoniram had overstepped his
bounds as he negotiated for a partnership between the two
parties. Initially, Judson had denied that a formal
admonition was given, (though later in life he notes that
mistakes were made for which he was sorry). Pond seized
on this discrepancy and accused Judson of both bitterness
and dishonesty.

        It will be recollected by many, that soon after
   the intelligence of Mr. Judson‘s change had reached
   America, it was hinted in certain circles, that this
   had been induced by resentment. He had received,
   previously to his leaving the country, a solemn
   reprimand or admonition from the Board of
   Commissioners for Foreign Missions; and the
   affront occasioned by it had induced him to desert
   them. Rumours like these at length found their way
   into the East, and reached the ears of Mr.

    To substantiate his accusation, Pond quoted Dr.
Samuel Worcester, the corresponding secretary of the
American Board. Worcester was responding to the question
concerning whether Judson actually received a formal
reprimand from the Board.

      44   Pond, Mode and Subjects, 6–7.
      45   Pond, Mode and Subjects, 8.
278           Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

          In the beginning of the year 1811, Mr. Judson
      was sent by the Prudential Committee to England,
      for purposes distinctly specified in his instructions.
      In that mission, what he was instructed not to do,
      he did; and what he was instructed to do, he
      neglected. On his return, in July of the same year,
      he kept himself aloof from the Prudential
      committee, made no regular report of his doings,
      and assumed the management of matters in his
      own way.
          Great dissatisfaction was expressed by every
      member present; and it became a very serious
      question whether Mr. Judson should not be
      dismissed. After deliberation, however, it was
      resolved, that he should be in a formal and solemn
      manner admonished. THE ADMONITION WAS
      THE BOARD.
          In the February following, his deportment was
      such, that it again became a serious and most
      trying question with the Prudential committee,
      whether he should be permitted to go. And it was
      not without great heaviness of heart, many fears,
      and particular but tender cautions, not to him only,
      but to the other Missionaries respecting him, that
      he was finally sent out.
          The ultimate issue is with Him, to whose
      sovereign wisdom, and power, and goodness it
      belongs, to overrule the wayward dispositions and
      actions of men for the advancement of his own glory
      and kingdom.46

   Pond then called for Judson to repent of his lying, to
admit his wrongdoing, and to humble himself.

        46   Pond, Mode and Subjects, 10–11.
                      Adoniram Judson                      279

        To deny the smallest particular, would be to
    contradict a body of men, which yields to none in
    America in point of respectability and worth. To
    quibble and equivocate on the meaning of certain
    words, would discover the opposite of an honest,
    humble spirit; and, instead of exonerating him,
    would in the estimation of the candid confirm his
    guilt. To pretend forgetfulness of the fact which he
    has denied would be perfectly unaccountable, and
    excite the suspicion of an attempt to impose upon
    the publik [sic]. In short, we see but one course
    which Mr. J. can dutifully pursue. He must retrace
    his steps. The credit of congregationalism does not
    require that he should return to his former
    sentiments; but the credit of religion does
    imperiously require, that he humble himself, and
    be willing to confess the truth.47

    Pond continues to question Judson‘s character by
suggesting that ―Mr. J. possesses naturally a proud,
unstable, aspiring temper; and none need be informed, that
mortified pride and cramped ambition are powerful
stimulants of revenge.‖48
    Fourth, Pond accused Judson of plagiarism regarding
his sermon on baptism. Judson had referenced the work of
a Mr. Booth throughout his treatise.

        In short, what part of the work is to be
    accredited to Mr. Judson, and what to Mr. Booth?
    There ought to be no foundation for questions like
    these. The very face of the Discourse should
    completely preclude them. There evidently is in this
    Sermon a great (not to say needless) parade of

       47Pond, Mode and Subjects, 11.
       48Pond, Mode and Subjects, 12–13. For a full summary of
this matter of the Board‘s reprimand of Judson, see Wayland, 81–
280           Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

      learning. We hope it was not Mr. Judson‘s design to
      be accredited with all this learning himself; but we
      are sure a great proportion of his readers are in
      danger of mistaking the truth. If he is a modest
      man, he will wish therefore it should be stated, that
      nearly all his quotations and references, unless it
      be those of a very modern date, are transcribed,
      verbatim et literatim, from Mr. Booth and others;
      and that a great proportion of the learning
      displayed in the work is not originally his own.
          We had the curiosity to spend an hour or two in
      comparing Mr. Judson‘s Sermon with ―Pedobaptism
      Examined.‖ We directly discovered between sixty
      and seventy quotations with their references, and
      nearly forty references where there were no
      quotations, which were manifestly transcribed from
      this learned work! These quotations and references
      must have cost Mr. Booth more labour than to write
      a folio. All the credit he has for them, is crowded
      into less than three indefinitely and equivocally
      constructed lines!!!49

    Finally, Pond stated that Judson was missing the entire
point concerning the baptism controversy.

          The question at issue in this part of the subject
      is not whether immersion is a valid mode of
      baptism: this we may admit. Nor is it whether this
      mode is preferable to all others; for we are willing
      that those who prefer immersion, even in our own
      churches, should be indulged. Nor is it whether
      immersion was frequently practised in the early
      ages of Christianity; this we have no necessity or
      disposition to deny. We do not say that neither of
      these points is questionable; but neither of them is
      the precise question in dispute. The point at issue is

        49   Pond, Mode and Subjects, 13–14.
                       Adoniram Judson                        281

    in few words this — Is immersion essential? Mr.
    Judson contends, that the idea of immersion enters
    into the very ―nature of baptism; that the terms
    baptism and immersion are equivalent and
    interchangeable.‖ He evidently supposes immersion
    essential to the ordinance. This, then, is the point to
    which his reasonings ought to tend. Let him prove,
    what we deny, that immersion is essential to
    baptism, and the controversy is at an end.50

     Pond‘s attack on Judson was to be expected on all
fronts. His book was distributed throughout Congregational
and Baptist churches. No doubt it impacted Judson‘s
friends and family members alike. Because of this, the
severity of the cost for the Judsons was extremely high. As
they anticipated, it cost them more than financial support;
it also called into question their personal integrity. No price
can be greater for a minister of the gospel.

                        Positive Results

    As stated earlier, the positive results of Judson‘s
decision have been evidenced throughout the history of
more than 175 years of American Baptist foreign missions
outreach. Within the historic context, there were three
positive results. First, Luther Rice, due to declining health,
returned to America and became a spokesman for Baptist
missions. His labor and love for the mission field stirred the
hearts of American Baptists throughout the growing
country of America. Second, Judson‘s letter to Dr. Bolles
met with a positive response. The American Baptist
churches, through no initiatory action of their own, already
had two missionaries on the field. They received this as the
hand of God and began a Baptist Association for Foreign

      50   Pond, Mode and Subjects, 15–16.
282         Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

Missions. The letter below communicates this decision to

           DEAR BROTHER—by the arrival of the Tartar,
      in January last, we received the intelligence of your
      change of views on the subject of Christian
      baptism, and also intimations of your readiness to
      embark in a mission under our patronage, should a
      society be formed among the Baptists in America
      for that purpose.
           Your letters excited peculiar emotions. We
      considered it as the voice of God calling us to the
      formation of a missionary society. That we might
      not, however, be charged with acting prematurely,
      or be considered as interfering with the Board of
      commissioners, we ascertained whether they
      intended to continue you in their service before we
      formally decided to engage you in ours.
           Satisfied on inquiry what was our path of duty,
      we formed ourselves into a society for propagating
      the gospel in India and other foreign parts. At a
      meeting of the trustees, we unanimously agreed to
      employ you as our missionary, and to stand
      prepared to support you with all the pecuniary aid
      we can command.
           By the arrival of another vessel, we have heard
      that the Rev. Mr. Rice entertains the same
      sentiments as yourself on the subject of baptism.
      This event gives us joy, because it must add much
      to your comfort in a foreign land to have a fellow-
      labourer in the gospel. The board have not met
      since Mr. Rice‘s letter was received, but I am
      confident that he will be taken under their care. We
      have not had time to mature our thoughts so as to
      say with decision whether it would be best for you
      to be connected with, or independent of, our
      brethren at Serampore.
                       Adoniram Judson                      283

       At present it appears to us that a connexion
   with them would most subserve the interests of the
   Redeemer‘s kingdom in India, and be most
   productive of happiness to yourselves. All the
   benefits which can be derived from union with men
   of integrity, disinterested benevolence, and a
   knowledge of the country, growing out of a twenty
   years‘ experience would accrue to you from a
   relation with them. These considerations induced
   us in March last to write to Mr. Fuller, of Kettering,
   on the subject, expressing our wishes that you
   might be considered as belonging to the mission
   family at Serampore. Should it appear, from future
   events, more desirable that you should act alone, or
   as American missionaries, separately from the
   English brethren, then, no doubt, we shall be
   pleased to have it so; but our present sentiments
   are, that you had better act with and by their

                             In behalf of the Society,
                             Yours affectionately,
                             Daniel Sharp51

     Finally, it should be noted that Judson‘s relationship
with the Congregationalist Board was not permanently
severed. In a tender exchange of letters dated twenty-seven
years after the separation, Judson wrote to Dr. Anderson,
the director of the American Board of Commissioners for
Foreign Missions. His occasion for writing was to ask for a
subscription of their newsletter, The Herald, but within the
letter he writes:

      51   Wayland, 94–95.
284           Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

           I am aware that it is not regular to trouble you
      with this business; but, to tell the truth, I have
      rather caught at it as giving me an occasion to drop
      you a line, and perhaps get one in return. Though I
      have been (as some may think) a wayward son of
      the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign
      Missions, I have always retained the warmest filial
      affection for that body, under whose auspices I first
      came out.
           I was also afraid that, attempting to change the
      mode of conveyance, I should, by some accident,
      lose my Herald altogether, unless I wrote you, and
      begged you to secure me from such a misfortune.
           There are not many, perhaps, now living, who
      can say, as I can, that they have read every number
      of the Herald, from the time it first commenced its
      existence, in the form of the Panoplist and
      Massachusetts Missionary Magazine, to the present
      time; and I hope to enjoy the privilege as long as I
      live. The Herald, in my view, contains more
      interesting    missionary     information,   and    a
      development of sounder missionary principles, than
      any other publication in the world.

                               I remain, reverend and dear sir,
                               Yours, most sincerely,
                               A. Judson52

      Dr. Anderson‘s tender reply reads as follows:

         REV. ADONIRAM JUDSON, Maulmain, India.
         REV. AND DEAR SIR,—A few days since I had
      the great pleasure of receiving your favour of
      January 21. If anything was wanted, in addition to
      your long, devoted, and successful missionary life,

        52   Wayland, 66–67.
                          Adoniram Judson                  285

    to perfect the impression made by your letter to Mr.
    Evarts, dated June 13, 1880 (and which I replied to
    February 25, 1831), it was such a letter as lies now
    before me. But I should not have said, nor am I
    aware, that anything was necessary to give you a
    stronger hold upon our hearts than any other one
    of the brethren of your society can possibly have.
    We rejoice in the good, the very great good, which
    has grown out of your change of relation. We see
    the good hand of our God in this. We would not,
    therefore, have it otherwise. The old asperities of
    feeling have perished in the grave, or have been
    softened down by time and the grace of God. We
    love to think of you as intimately related to us—
    having — a common missionary parentage. Hence
    we send you the Herald, and on this account we
    mean to send it to you as long as you continue a
    missionary of our Lord and Master.53


     Adoniram Judson is the Father of American Foreign
Missions. He earned this title not simply by years of service,
but by the quality of his life and service. A man of God is
forged by his response to turning points. The baptism
controversy of 1812 was a memorable turning point in the
life of Judson. His fidelity to the Word of God cost him
dearly. Yet, the price he paid has reaped rewards for 200

      53   Wayland, 67.
286   Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal
                  Book Reviews

    Paul R. Williamson, Sealed with an Oath—Covenant in
God’s Unfolding Purpose (Downers Grove: Apollos division of
Inter Varsity Press, 2007), 242 pages. Reviewed by Dr. Fred
    If the reader plans to study issues related to
dispensationalism and biblical covenants, he will want to
consult this book. It is a treasure store of exegetical work
on a broad range of biblical subjects and passages. It is a
heavy, but worthwhile, book. There are 527 footnotes in
208 pages of text. The Bibliography is twenty-five pages,
and the Index of Scripture references is thirteen pages, with
three columns per page. In short, Williamson has done his
    This is a book about biblical theology. Williamson
states, ―Biblical theology is arguably best thought of as a
holistic enterprise tracing unfolding theological trajectories
throughout Scripture and exploring no biblical concept,
theme or book in isolation from the whole. Rather, each
concept, theme or book is considered ultimately in terms of
how it contributes to and advances the Bible‘s meta-
narrative, typically understood in terms of a salvation
history that progresses towards and culminates in Jesus
Christ‖ (17).
    In this volume the author traces the trajectory of Old
Testament covenants from the covenant with Noah through
those with Abraham, Israel at Sinai, David, and the New
Covenant in Jeremiah 31 and other places. He traces them
relative to the preceding ones to their fulfillment in Christ
and ultimately to Christ in the eternal kingdom.
    Williamson does not directly state if he is reformed in
his theology or if he is a dispensationalist. Hints in a few
footnotes indicate that he may be reformed. He devotes four
288       Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

pages in two chapters (19, 30, 52–55), however, to deny the
existence of the reformed suppositions of a covenant of
works and a covenant of grace. He claims they have no
basis in Scripture, and he is correct in this assertion.
Williamson also anticipates a literal return of Christ and his
literal reign on David‘s throne. Whether or not he is a
dispensationalist, his theology, developed rigorously and
thoroughly from Scripture, is certainly compatible with
biblical dispensationalism.
     Chapter one is introductory and deals with ―Biblical
Theology and the Covenant Concept.‖ Chapter two,
―Covenant and God‘s Universal Purpose,‖ discusses the
nature of a covenant in Scripture. Chapters three through
eight deal with God‘s covenants with Noah, the patriarchs,
Israel, David, and the New Covenant as the prophets
described it, as inaugurated in Christ, and as
consummated in the eschatological kingdom. The author
shows the relationship between God‘s covenant with Noah
and the covenant with Abraham and the patriarchs. He
then explains the biblical development of the succeeding
covenants and how the preceding ones relate to the
succeeding ones.
     The first strength of the book is the clarity with which
Williamson puts the scriptural covenants in perspective. He
describes God‘s revelation as an arc, with each covenant
taking revelation closer to its culmination in Christ and his
     The second strength of the work is the detailed exegesis
of many passages. His treatment of each of the covenant
passages (Gen 6, 12, 15, 22, 26, 28; Exod 19, 20; 2 Sam 7;
Jer 31; Heb 8–10) is outstanding. There is great commen-
tary on many other passages like Isaiah 53, Romans 3, and
others too numerous to mention. One may not agree with
all of his conclusions, but one should respect, appreciate,
use, and profit from the exegetical work that produces
those conclusions. The dispensational reader will find
                      Book Reviews                     289

himself agreeing with most of his conclusions, because they
are grounded in Scripture!
     Not everyone will want this book, and not everyone
would profit from it. Anyone engaging in serious biblical
and theological study, preparation, and education, however,
will want this volume. The reader will be stimulated by it
and receive a blessing from it.
290        Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal

Andrew Himes. The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of
Fundamentalism in an American Family. Seattle:
Createspace, 2011. 368 pages. Reviewed by Jonathan

     Andrew Himes is the first grandson of the man who has
been dubbed ―the mightiest pen of the 20th century,‖ John
R. Rice. Born of Rice‘s eldest daughter Mary Lloys, Himes
was seventeen when he left fundamentalism for the
communistic ideals of Karl Marx and Mao Zedong. Himes
felt disillusioned with God, because he viewed God as ―an
elderly white male who lived in a golden city beyond the
sky, who apparently liked white people better than black
people, who ordered women to be subservient to men, who
supported the war aims of the United States in Vietnam,‖
and who sent most people to a literal lake of fire (276).
Forty-four years after this decision, Himes has seen the
emptiness of communism and has learned to appreciate his
fundamentalist heritage. This appreciation is what drives
this new 316-page book.
     The book is divided into five parts. The first is entitled
―Why We Care About Fundamentalism?‖ and relates the
author‘s experience of his grandfather‘s funeral and
suggests how fundamentalism may become relevant or
irrelevant in the days ahead. The second is called
―Revolution, Slavery, and War,‖ where the author describes
the socio-cultural and theological background of southern
fundamentalism. Here especially, the author takes pains to
show how southern racial tensions and their ―theological‖
justification were the sad result of America‘s abuse of
slavery. The third and fourth parts rehearse familiar
fundamentalist history (i.e., chapters about Billy Sunday,
―The Fundamentals,‖ and the struggle against Modernism)
and are basically a family ―insider‘s‖ take on the
development, growth, and later ―uneasy conscience‖ (to use
one of the chapter titles) of the movement in the twentieth
                       Book Reviews                       291

century. The author‘s last section is called ―Revisiting the
       This book should be considered valuable for a
number of reasons. First, the author takes an honest look
at the racism that sometimes characterized certain
expressions of fundamentalism. He argues that such
expressions still exist in some quarters of fundamentalism,
and he provides helpful reflection for those who would
distance themselves from it.
    Second, he describes the national disenchantment with
fundamentalism which followed a period of its development
and growth at the turn of the 20th century. Understanding
this phase of fundamentalist history is especially important
in understanding ―the uneasy conscience‖ that has
sometimes described the movement; the impulse of a
―Christian America,‖ if it ever existed, was starkly
challenged by the rise of modernism and evolution.
    Third, Himes provides a detailed account of the rise of
John R. Rice as a prominent pastor, evangelist, and writer.
The reader learns of key relationships being forged and lost,
mostly over the issue of separation, but sometimes over
unfortunate racial issues. Himes is knowledgeable (both by
experience and research—there is a wealth of resources and
notes listed in the back), articulate, passionate, and easy to
    Although readers may question some of Himes‘
theological propositions, particularly those made in the last
few chapters (i.e., Himes prefers to call the ―Kingdom‖ the
―Kindom,‖ p. 282), few will doubt the valuable contribution
this book makes to understanding what the subtitle
suggests: ―The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American

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