John Calvin on “Do This and Live” Part II

John Calvin on Romans 10:5

5. For Moses, etc. To render it evident how much at variance is the righteousness of faith and that of works, he now compares them; for by comparison the opposition between contrary things appears more clear. But he refers not now to the oracles of the Prophets, but to the testimony of Moses, and for this reason, — that the Jews might understand that the law was not given by Moses in order to detain them in a dependence on works, but, on the contrary, to lead them to Christ. He might have indeed referred to the Prophets as witnesses; but still this doubt must have remained, “How was it that the law prescribed another rule of righteousness?” He then removes this, and in the best manner, when by the teaching of the law itself he confirms the righteousness of faith.

But we ought to understand the reason why Paul harmonizes the law with faith, and yet sets the righteousness of one in opposition to that of the other: — The law has a twofold meaning; it sometimes includes the whole of what has been taught by Moses, and sometimes that part only which was peculiar to his ministration, which consisted of precepts, rewards, and punishments. But Moses had this common office — to teach the people the true rule of religion. Since it was so, it behooved him to preach repentance and faith; but faith is not taught, except by propounding promises of divine mercy, and those gratuitous: and thus it behooved him to be a preacher of the gospel; which office he faithfully performed, as it appears from many passages. In order to instruct the people in the doctrine of repentance, it was necessary for him to teach what manner of life was acceptable to God; and this he included in the precepts of the law. That he might also instill into the minds of the people the love of righteousness, and implant in them the hatred of iniquity, promises and threatening were added; which proposed rewards to the just, and denounced dreadful punishments on sinners. It was now the duty of the people to consider in how many ways they drew curses on themselves, and how far they were from deserving anything at God’s hands by their works, that being thus led to despair as to their own righteousness, they might flee to the haven of divine goodness, and so to Christ himself. This was the end or design of the Mosaic dispensation.

But as evangelic promises are only found scattered in the writings of Moses, and these also somewhat obscure, and as the precepts and rewards, allotted to the observers of the law, frequently occur, it rightly appertained to Moses as his own and peculiar office, to teach what is the real righteousness of works, and then to show what remuneration awaits the observance of it, and what punishment awaits those who come short of it. For this reason Moses is by John compared with Christ, when it is said,

“That the law was given by Moses, but that grace
and truth came by Christ.” (John 1:17.)

And whenever the word law is thus strictly taken, Moses is by implication opposed to Christ: and then we must consider what the law contains, as separate from the gospel. Hence what is said here of the righteousness of the law, must be applied, not to the whole office of Moses, but to that part which was in a manner peculiarly committed to him. I come now to the words.

For Moses describes, etc. Paul has γράφει writes; which is used for a verb which means to describe, by taking away a part of it [ἐπιγράφει.] The passage is taken from Leviticus 18:5, where the Lord promises eternal life to those who would keep his law; for in this sense, as you see, Paul has taken the passage, and not only of temporal life, as some think. Paul indeed thus reasons, — “Since no man can attain the righteousness prescribed in the law, except he fulfills strictly every part of it, and since of this perfection all men have always come far short, it is in vain for any one to strive in this way for salvation: Israel then were very foolish, who expected to attain the righteousness of the law, from which we are all excluded.” See how from the promise itself he proves, that it can avail us nothing, and for this reason, because the condition is impossible. What a futile device it is then to allege legal promises, in order to establish the righteousness of the law! For with these an unavoidable curse comes to us; so far is it, that salvation should thence proceed. The more detestable on this account is the stupidity of the Papists, who think it enough to prove merits by adducing bare promises. “It is not in vain,” they say, “that God has promised life to his servants.” But at the same time they see not that it has been promised, in order that a consciousness of their own transgressions may strike all with the fear of death, and that being thus constrained by their own deficiency, they may learn to flee to Christ.

Covenant of Grace and the Mosaic Law

You will here some say in the Reformed world that the Mosaic Administration is a republication of the Covenant of Works, citing most effectively Leviticus 18:5 (“So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.”) and other places where it seems that obedience to the Law as given by Moses is the requirement for the Lord’s blessing and therefore life. However I believe that one can cite the same verses and make the opposite notation, that the Law being an administration of the Second Covenant, the Covenant of Grace, is not a Covenant of Works because most strikingly that which a Covenant of Works is cannot be fulfilled by the Mosaic Covenant. So there is I think a definitional mistake by categorizing the Mosaic administration in any part of a Covenant of Works because in doing so it presupposes that one can follow the Law to receive salvation like Adam (even if such a thing were possible, which it is not), who was first under the Covenant of Works for salvation and failed. Since Adam failed the probationary test we cannot now fulfill the requirements of this covenant and since according to Romans 5 the curse of this failure continues in us since Adam was our covenantal head it would therefore not make sense that God would put is again under a covenant which had been broken by Adam’s disobedience (and our disobedience in Adam). Especially since we continue under its curse. The Covenant of Works had already been abrogated, why would/should it be instituted again by the Mosaic administration since we who are descendants of Adam were already condemned? It seems to be unnecessary to put us again under condemnation a second time.

The Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 7, sections III, IV, & V makes clear that the Law (or Mosaic covenant) is an administration of the Covenant of Grace.

Chapter 7 –

Of God’s Covenant with Man.

III. Man by [Adam’s] fall having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace: wherein he freely offered unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe.

IV. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in the Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ, the testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.

V. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all fore-signifying Christ to come, which were for that time sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation, and is called the Old Testament.

You see in section V that the Divines at least believed the Law (thereby meaning the Mosaic Covenant) is just a special administration of the Covenant of Grace. While administered differently than “in the time of the gospel” it still is part of the Second Covenant, or the Covenant of Grace.

The Covenant of Works vs. The Older Testament

Many have a false understanding of the Covenant of Works that tries to say that we can neatly divide up the Covenants with their “respective” Testaments. The Covenant of Works is analogous to the Older Testament and the Covenant of Grace with the New. This is a false way of looking at the Covenants in many ways including the fact that it sets the Older and New Testament against one another as if the are different expressions of God’s Will and have no real relation. This belies a Marcian understanding of the God of the Older Testament and the God of the New Testament, whether purposefully or by unclear language. We cannot place a gulf of responsibility between the people who lived during the times of the Testaments as if they have different ways of salvation. The Covenant of Works is just as much “alive” today as it was for Moses. Paul makes it clear that the people in the Old Testament were saved the same way that you and I have received the gift of eternal life, through the imputation of Christ’s Active Obedience, his righteousness, by his death on the Cross, resurrection, and ascension.  Look at Romans 4:14-16. Paul says:

For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation. For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.

As we see here Abraham and all his descendants were saved by Faith, just as we are today. For Abraham was saved by Faith in that which was to come and by this faith Christ’s Righteousness was imputed to him just like it was to you. Therefore the Covenant of Grace “existed” prior to Christ’s coming in time. As well as those who are not under the Covenant of Grace are still going to be judged by the Covenant of Works (as we all will be, this will be explained more fuller in a later post).

Another misunderstood way of looking at this is that the Law has been destroyed or abdicated in favor of a Gospel that has no law, for in this administration of the Covenants their is no Gospel in the Law and no Law in the Gospel. This is a false way of understanding the place of Scriptural commands in the two Covenants for one because God is the “CEO” in both Covenants. He is the chief administrator so his law does not change substantially but what does happen in the Covenant of Grace is that we have now been freed to follow God’s Law as a sign of Love not as a sign of Duty. This is a thing we will look more closely at when get into discussing the Covenant of Grace imparticular but it is something that it is good for us to recognize now in speaking of the Covenant of Works.

Next we will look at how the different Covenants are “administered” throughout Scripture.

Now That The Frivolities are Over… L.A., Part 3

We can get back to more serious matters (j/k honey, honestly ;))…

Going back to looking at Limited Atonement I want in this post to focus on the logical implications of accepting an unlimited atonement. In other words for the Reformed Christian what would be the problems associated with taking an understanding of the cross and its efficacious manner for all of humanity in light of how us Reformed folk hermeneutically read the Scripture’s structure and overall composition.

1) Unlimited Atonement denies Unconditional Election

This is a pretty big statement if I might say so myself so I better figure out a way to defend it. So here we go.

As election is understood as God’s unconditional selection (John 6:65) of certain human beings to be glorified through Christ’s righteousness and death it cannot be that Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection could be both efficient and sufficient for all people and then God only elect a few of the righteous to be saved. So if this last clause be true then there must be something we need more than Christ’s imputation and therefore another way we come to salvation outside of Christ’s own righteousness. This means for the Christian man or woman that we must add something to Christ’s work to be saved. This is an untenable position for anyone outside of Rome, Constantinople, and Arminius (and therefore Biblical Christians) to hold. Unconditional Election means what it says, that we bring nothing to the table insofar as our own righteousness is concerned. In other words we bring a peanut to a gun fight and can add nothing to the work Christ has accomplished and applied on or behalf to satisfy the justice that God the Father seeks for our rightful condemnation under the inheritance we receive as being sons and daughters of Adam. Unconditional Election, as John Calvin notes in the Institutes of Christian Religion, 3.21.7:

Although it is now sufficiently plain that God by his secret counsel chooses whom he will while he rejects others, his gratuitous election has only been partially explained until we come to the case of single individuals, to whom God not only offers salvation, but so assigns it, that the certainty of the result remains not dubious or suspended…We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without any respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by a just and blameless, but at the same time incomprehensible judgment. In regard to the elect, we regard calling as the evidence of election, and justification as another symbol of its manifestation, until it is fully accomplished by the attainment of glory. But as the Lord seals his elect by calling and justification, so by excluding the reprobate either from the knowledge of his name or the sanctification of his Spirit, he by these marks in a manner discloses the judgment which awaits them.

Here we see Calvin marking the distinction that for whom Christ died God has elected through no effort or previous worth of the individual but only through the free and unconditional grace of God.

2) Unlimited Atonement denies Justification by Faith Alone

We touched on this a little bit in the previous section but I want to draw it out a little bit more. First to define Justification by Faith Alone we’ll let the originator, God, speak for himself in Romans 10:9, “That if you shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” O.K., seems plain enough. But for clarification lets take a look at Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” One more for good measure, Galatians 2:21 “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” So we see that we are saved not by works or any addition upon Christ’s work that can possibly come from us. Therefore how can we say that that Christ’s work on the cross is not enough to separate the sheep from the goats? If we say that Christ died for all yet only some are saved that Christ’s righteousness is not enough for salvation.

3) Unlimited Atonement implies Universal Salvation

In other words unlimited atonement logically implies universal salvation. Again if one believes in Justification by Faith Alone then one must believe that nothing can be added to Christ’s imputed righteousness that can lead to our protection from God’s righteous wrath against those who hate his law and mock his Son therefore being condemned themselves by their works to Hell except for Christ’s atoning death. It cannot be stated and restated enough in my opinion. Unlimited Atonement implies and logically must mean Universal Salvation if one holds to an orthodox understanding of Justification and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the elect.

Chapter XI. Of Justification — Westminster Confession of Faith (1647)

I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

Series on Limited Atonement Part 2

Alan Wilkerson in his comment on the first posting in this series made a statement concerning Romans 5:18 and its bearing on this matter. Here is what Romans 5:18 says, “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.”. There are several other passages like this one that make it look as if atonement is universal, that Christ died for ALL men. In other words the oft used argument by those seeing limited atonement as the biblical reading take these passages to mean “all men” as all peoples or nations meaning that the atoning death of Christ is not limited to the Jews alone but to the Gentiles as well, hence “all men”. John Calvin’s notes from his commentary on Romans is very interesting here. It looks as if from his thoughts on 5:18 that Calvin is denying Limited Atonement. Look here:

18. Therefore, etc. This is a defective sentence; it will be complete if the words condemnation and justification be read in the nominative case; as doubtless you must do in order to complete the sense. We have here the general conclusion from the preceding comparison; for, omitting the mention of the intervening explanation, he now completes the comparison, “As by the offense of one we were made (constitute) sinners; so the righteousness of Christ is efficacious to justify us. He does not say the righteousness — δικαιοσύνην, but the justification — δικαίωμα, of Christ, in order to remind us that he was not as an individual just for himself, but that the righteousness with which he was endued reached farther, in order that, by conferring this gift, he might enrich the faithful. He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him. These two words, which he had before used, judgment and grace, may be also introduced here in this form, “As it was through God’s judgment that the sin of one issued in the condemnation of many, so grace will be efficacious to the justification of many.” Justification of life is to be taken, in my judgment, for remission, which restores life to us, as though he called it life-giving. For whence comes the hope of salvation, except that God is propitious to us; and we must be just, in order to be accepted. Then life proceeds from justification.

At first glance this seems to fit with a reading of Romans 5:18 that supports the universal atonement position. However if you read closely you will note this sentence in Calvin’s argument, “He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him.” Read at a cursory level and this does support universal atonement. However like one reads Scripture it itself cannot be read in separation from both its immediate context and Calvin’s overall position. While Calvin is not inerrant or infallible and should not be read as such Calvin cannot be said to support universal atonement (even though many have tried to read Calvin that way, cf. R.T. Kendall, J.B. Torrance, and others). One needs only to look back to Romans 5:15 and 16 to see this in Calvin’s thought (and Paul’s for that matter). Calvin in commenting on verse 15 says, “But observe, that a larger number (plures) are not here contrasted with many (multis,) for he speaks not of the number of men: but as the sin of Adam has destroyed many, he draws this conclusion, — that the righteousness of Christ will be no less efficacious to save many.” and on verse 16, “Observe also, that these many offenses, from which he affirms we are freed through Christ, are not to be understood only of those which every one must have committed before baptism, but also of those by which the saints contract daily new guilt; and on account of which they would be justly exposed to condemnation, were they not continually relieved by this grace.” Calvin explicitly here in his commentary on verse 16 says that Christ’s death and the grace that is received from it is not only “good” for the elect, but is also only for the “saints”. The “we” Calvin speaks of are those who have been saved, not of the damned who have no part in the work of Christ on the Cross. One can see Calvin’s thoughts on this also in the Institutes Book III, Ch. xxii, sect. 7,:

Whence it comes about that the whole world does not belong to its Creator except that grace rescues from God’s curse and wrath and eternal death a limited number who would otherwise perish. But the world itself is left to its own destruction, to which it has been destined. Meanwhile, although Christ interposes himself as mediator, he claims for himself, in common with the Father, the right to choose. ‘I am not speaking’, he says, ‘of all; I know whom I have chosen’ (John 13: 18). If anyone ask whence he has chosen them, he replies in another passage: ‘From the world’ (John 15:19), which he excludes from his prayers when he commends his disciples to the Father (John 17:9). This we must believe: when he declares that he knows whom he has chosen, he denotes in the human genus a particular species, distinguished not by the quality of its virtues but by heavenly decree.

Also in III.xxii.10 here:

But it is by Isaiah he more clearly demonstrates how he destines the promises of salvation specially to the elect (Isa. 8:16); for he declares that his disciples would consist of them only, and not indiscriminately of the whole human race. Whence it is evident that the doctrine of salvation, which is said to be set apart for the sons of the Church only, is abused when it is represented as effectually available to all. For the present let it suffice to observe, that though the word of the gospel is addressed generally to all, yet the gift of faith is rare. Isaiah assigns the cause when he says that the arm of the Lord is not revealed to all (Isa. 53:1). Had he said, that the gospel is malignantly and perversely condemned, because many obstinately refuse to hear, there might perhaps be some color for this universal call. It is not the purpose of the Prophet, however, to extenuate the guilt of men, when he states the source of their blindness to be, that God deigns not to reveal his arm to them; he only reminds us that since faith is a special gift, it is in vain that external doctrine sounds in the ear. But I would fain know from those doctors whether it is mere preaching or faith that makes men sons of God. Certainly when it is said, “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,” (John 1:12), a confused mass is not set before us, but a special order is assigned to believers, who are “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Now this is all to show that in Calvin’s commentary on Romans 5:18 that neither he nor Paul means that all the world was cleansed by Christ’s death on the Cross. Given the context of the whole of Romans 5 and Jesus own words in John chapter 10 and elsewhere it is hard to deny the Reformation mantra that Christ’s death though sufficient for all was only efficient for the elect.

We Understand That The Law is Good


As we move on in the 1st Letter of Paul to Timothy who was at Ephesus the second pericope I will take a look at is Chapter 1:8-11. This short passage follows the instruction given by Paul in what is wrong with the teachers of the law who are ignorant about what they are to be teaching and the assumptions that should be made from the law. We read in verse 6 and 7 for a refresher:

For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion. Wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

But what conclusions are they making from the law that Paul here is wanting Timothy to avoid himself and in teaching his students? Well to understand that we first need too understand what Paul has already written concerning this. We know that we can recall with certainty that Paul’s use of the phrase “Teachers of the Law” is not innocuous. He most assuredly means the Jews, his former brethren. We also can point back to any number of places in the rest of Paul’s letters to receive his full instruction on the Law, that Timothy must know already, but specifically I want to look back at Romans 3:19-20 because this other pericope I think encapsulates the use of the law Paul is highlighting here in 1 Timothy 1:8-11. Paul says:

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

The last clause is vitally important for what Paul is about to say in 1 Timothy 1: 8-11, that:

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals (here Arsenokoitais, cf. Robert A.J. Gagnon‘s The Bible and Homosexual Practice for further understanding of this word) and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

So in this short section of 1 Timothy 1 we see Paul laying out for Timothy and for us a proper understanding of the Law of God (as given to Moses) and how the Law is to be properly understood in the context of Justification by Faith Alone in Christ Alone through Grace Alone. That, as Paul says in Romans 3, through the Law comes the knowledge of Sin.

(By the way make sure and check out Spurgeon’s Morning lesson for today.)

Romans 16:7

We continue our look at verses that cause confusion and downright division in some cases. Up in the rotation next is Romans 16:7. This particular verse has caused some questioning lately upon the campus of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. I may refrain from making a definite statement in the end but for right now I am just going to place the verse and quotations from several commentaries. Then I’ll get into my exegesis of the text. I will also quote six separate translations of separate heritages for diversity’s sake, the reason will become quite evident. So without further ado here is Romans 16:7:

Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.(New American Standard Bible)

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my relatives, who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
(New Revised Standard Version)

Greet Androni’cus and Ju’nias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners; they are men of note among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.
(Revised Standard Version)

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.
(English Standard Version)

Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.
(New International Version)

Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
(King James Version)

If you read carefully there are two particular points where the translations have made decisions pertaining to the text. The first being the proper “gender” of Junia(s) and the second being Andronicus and Junia(s) relationship to Paul and the apostles (Futhermore the question must be asked what does Paul mean by “apostle” in this context? We’ll get into that briefly towards the end.) What is interesting here is that only two of the translations use the term “relatives” instead of kinsmen. Now with the history of the NRSV per gender-neutrality this should be of no surprise, whether rightly or wrongly, it always renders all-encompassing masculine terms in a neutral way, which is fine in my book. Now the NIV is a “dynamic-equivalence” translation and makes no bones about the fact it is not a literal translation. Now in mind of this both the commentaries on this passage by Matthew Henry and Martin Luther render it Junia and make mention that Junia is either Andronicus’ wife or sister. Here is Matthew Henry’s words on the passage:

4. Concerning Andronicus and Junia,v. 7. Some take them for a man and his wife, and the original will well enough bear it; and, considering the name of the latter, this is more probable than that they should be two men, as others think, and brethren. Observe, (1.) They were Paul’s cousins, akin to him; so was Herodion, v. 11. Religion does not take away, but rectifies, sanctifies, and improves, our respect to our kindred, engaging us to lay out ourselves most for their good, and to rejoice in them the more, when we find them related to Christ by faith. (2.) They were his fellow-prisoners. Partnership in suffering sometimes does much towards the union of souls and the knitting of affections. We do not find in the story of the Acts any imprisonment of Paul before the writing of this epistle, but that at Philippi, Acts xvi. 23. But Paul was in prisons more frequent (2 Cor. xi. 23), in some of which, it seems, he met with his friends Andronicus and Junia, yoke-fellows, as in other things, so in suffering for Christ and bearing his yoke. (3.) They were of note among the apostles,Who also were in Christ before me, that is, were converted to the Christian faith. In time they had the start of Paul, though he was converted the next year after Christ’s ascension. How ready was Paul to acknowledge in others any kind of precedency! not so much perhaps because they were persons of estate and quality in the world as because they were eminent for knowledge, and gifts, and graces, which made them famous among the apostles, who were competent judges of those things, and were endued with a spirit of discerning not only the sincerity, but the eminence, of Christians.

I have italicized Henry’s answer to our question on the “gender” of Junia(s). He evidently finds enough disagreement among his brethren concerning his rendering that he makes note of it. Not to get off-topic here but I do think one thing needs mentioned to prevent a side argument from occurring, I will quickly quote Henry’s commentary from his words on Phoebe in verse one and two, “1. He gives a very good character of her. (1.) As a sister to Paul: Phebe our sister; not in nature, but in grace; not in affinity or consanguinity, but in pure Christianity: his own sister in the faith of Christ, loving Paul, and beloved of him, with a pure and chaste and spiritual love, as a sister; for there is neither male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus, Gal. iii. 28. Both Christ and his apostles had some of their best friends among the devout (and upon that account honourable) women. (2.) As a servant to the church at Cenchrea: diakonon, a servant by office, a stated servant, not to preach the word (that was forbidden to women), but in acts of charity and hospitality.” I also Recommend Dr. J. Ligon Duncan’s Sermon on Romans 16:1-2.

Now I want to take a look at the apostle question quickly. We will look to John Calvin in his commentary on the passage to see his answer (Calvin also renders it Junia, btw).

7. Salute Andronicus Though Paul is not wont to make much of kindred, and of other things belonging to the flesh, yet as the relationship which Junia and Andronicus bore to him, might avail somewhat to make them more fully known, he neglected not this commendation. There is more weight in the second eulogy, when he calls them his fellow-prisoners; for among the honors belonging to the warfare of Christ, bonds are not to be counted the least. In the third place, he calls them Apostles: he uses not this word in its proper and common meaning, but extends it wider, even to all those who not only teach in one Church, but also spend their labor in promulgating the gospel everywhere. He then, in a general way, calls those in this place Apostles, who planted Churches by carrying here and there the doctrine of salvation; for elsewhere he confines this title to that first order which Christ at the beginning established, when he appointed the twelve disciples. It would have been otherwise strange, that this dignity should be only ascribed to them, and to a few others. But as they had embraced the gospel by faith before Paul, he hesitates not to set them on this account before himself.

Calvin, as is nearly unanimous in the commentaries I checked, makes a distinction between the use of “Apostles” as Paul and others use it to describe the original 12 Apostles in Acts and the Gospels and Paul’s use of it here and other places in his letters. We must take note that the word apostle in Greek can mean several different things. Danker’s Greek-English lexicon gives five different meanings for the New Testament and contemporary Greek use. 1) “Messengers without extraordinary status”, (Phil 2:25). 2) “Messengers with extraordinary status” (Epictetus 2, 22, 23 of Cynic wise men). 3) “Of prophets” (Luke 11:49, Rev. 18:20). 4) “Of Christ” (Hebrews 3:1). 5) “A group of highly honored believers with a special function as God’s envoys” (Romans 1:1, 11:13, Acts 14:14, Rom 16:7, Gal 1:19) and 5a) “Then especially of the 12 Apostles” (Matt 10:2, Mark 3:14, Luke 22:14)

This all being said it is not the purview of this post to go into anymore detail per the use of the word “apostle” in the New Testament and elsewhere other than to say it certainly is ambiguous in this context and nearly unanimous in the commentaries that Paul uses the word apostle in this place with the first meaning given by Danker in mind, that of a “messenger without extraordinary status”. Feel free to disagree but given the context and the way Paul uses the word to describe himself and those gathered at the Jerusalem Council it is very unlikely that he was using “apostle” to mean anything other than just a “messenger” of the Gospel.

Now I think this has given us plenty to discuss and ponder. I’d like to hear your thoughts.