John is not Paul is not Peter is not James

Today I was discussing γεννηθη ανωθεν with some folks on Facebook. Those Greek words mean either "born again" or "born from above" in John 3:3,5. In the midst of discussing this, I pointed out that Peter twice uses αναγεννησασ, which can only mean “born again,” not “born from above.”

This brings up a topic I think is very important to discuss.

Peter’s vocabulary is not Bible vocabulary. Peter’s vocabulary is Peter’s vocabulary. Just because Peter definitely said “born again” does not mean that John, who used a phrase that could mean “born again” or “born from above,” wanted to say the same thing. The Word is always mixed with flesh. God wanted the Word to be formed in the words of men, and those words are not always the same, even when discussing the same thing.

A couple of the worst heresies in churches today are based on the false idea of a Bible vocabulary.

The one I have in mind is eternal security. Part of its foundation is forcing John’s use of “eternal life” on Paul’s writings and Paul’s use of “eternal life” on John’s writings. They are not the same. “Eternal life” in the letters of Paul is always a future reward, never a present possession. “Eternal life” in John is always a present possession of the saints.

We can explain why both can be true later.

The fact is, it is true. Romans 2:5-8 can’t be read any other way. Galatians 6:7-9 can’t be read any other way. Titus 1:2 and 3:7 can’t be read any other way. Paul speaks of eternal life as a future reward consistently. So does Matthew (e.g., 25:46).

John, on the other hand, regularly speaks of eternal life as a present possession. John 6:47 is a great example: “He that believes has eternal life.”

So what does this effect?

How about John 3:16?

For God so loved (aorist tense) the world that he sent (aorist) his only-begotten Son so that whoever continues believing (present tense) in him will have eternal life as a present possession.

John 3:16 is not a promise that you will live forever. It is a promise that eternal life, which is in the Son of God, will be yours as long as the Son of God is living in you.

This is the testimony that God has given to us: eternal life; and this life in his Son. The one who has the Son has the life, and the one who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 Jn. 5:11-12)

This idea, like so many others, has ripple effects for how we approach the Scriptures. Those ripple effects are essential, though, if we are to gain the capacity to understand just how far we have departed from the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Oh, I better specify, since I have at least a few Catholic and Orthodox readers, that in this case I am referring only to evangelicals, the sort of Christian that I am usually in fellowship with. I like to hope that those with whom I experience family in Jesus and under our Father are above the separation of religious organizations. Many of my friends, however, know nothing but the evangelical denomination they have grown up in, and they have no idea the depths church life—as lived and taught by the apostles—could bring them to. They are so unaware of how far we evangelicals have departed from the apostles’ original teaching that many dare to call the apostles’ disciples teachers of error rather than question their own hundred to five-hundred-year-old traditions.

I would love to wake up as many as I can.

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5 Responses to John is not Paul is not Peter is not James

  1. Evan says:

    Do not despair Jim. Greek is helpful but not absolutely necessary. Young’s Literal Translation (which can be found in online versions) is a good translation with respect to verbs tenses such as believe vs. believing and obey vs. obeying. It gives the reader the sense that one must continue to believe and obey as opposed to the oft taught notion that salvation is solely gained by a one-time decision made in the past. Another YLT distinction is that it translates the noun aion and its adjectives aionion/aionios as age and age-during as opposed to eternity and eternal respectively which has interesting implications.

  2. Jim Riege says:

    Sigh…Unless I learn how to read ancient Greek, I won’t be correctly reading the Bible. I almost want to give up and quit reading. Can ANY English translation, paraphrase, or lectionary be relied on?

    • paulfpavao says:

      If I may add one more complaint about modern teachings, it might help you, Jim.

      The church is the pillar and support of the truth, not the Scriptures. If you can get together with other believers and walk in the Spirit together, you will find the Scriptures opening up to you because they talk about the life you will be living. The product of that truth will be love, unity, and holiness.

      The Scriptures are the means to “teaching, reproof, rebuke, and instruction in righteousness” and using the Scripture rightly will result in being “fully equipped for every good work.”

      I’m sorry that you have to rely on people like me to hunt down these things, but that’s how God works in the church. All should be learners, but only some are teachers, and some who teach don’t teach these kind of things. They are exhorters who encourage and plead with the saints for good works and holy living.

      I’m sorry that it’s so hard to find good teachers. It is hard.

      That work you do have to do. You should always be learning to discern truth in your inner man. You should always be learning the Scriptures, and getting used to the things of God so that you are trained both to learn and teach. You can do that without learning Greek.

      Let me give you one more tip. You can test every teaching by what it commands you to do at the end. Does the command at the end match up with the commands in Scripture? Everyone can do that test, and with it you can learn who the wolves are among the flock.

  3. Jim Collins says:

    Very good. Very helpful. Very applicable. A very good example of one way to rightly divide or ‘cut straight’ the word of truth in the Scripture; one I wish I had considered before a recent discussion I was involved in concerning this very topic. It can keep us from falsely representing, or not fully representing a truth.

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