“The Life That Now Is,” A Review (2)

By E. C. Koltenbah

“Arraying Passages Against Passages” Who is guilty?

Brother Holland cites a scholar; “In the Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by W. E. Vine, page 336, it is explained (emphasis mine, ECK) thusly: ‘Eternal life is the present actual possession of the believer because of his relationship with Christ, (John 5:24, 1 John 3:14), and that it will one day extend its domain to the sphere of the body is assured by the resurrection of Christ.”‘ But we cite Christ speaking of the judgment scene following the resurrection of the dead; “And these (the wicked) shall go away (future indicative) into (eis) eternal punishment: but the righteous into (eis) eternal life.” (Matt. 25:46.) Again, “Verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house, or wife, or brethren, or parents, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this time (kingdom’s), and in the world (age) to come eternal life.” (Lu. 18:29-30.) Identify the time of the kingdom and thus the time to come after it. And again, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward (wages; “payroll”) is with me, to render to each man according as his work is. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into (eis) the city.” (Rev. 22: 12-4.) And again, “Be thou faithful unto (until) death, and I will give thee the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10b.) We much prefer Jesus’ explanation.

Passage against passage, indeed! Until the brother has reconciled his position with these and parallel passages it falls, and he speaks with poor grace to charge the faithful men who have agonized their lives on earth to defend the faith and to keep the doctrine pure. They knew why they fought the good fight of the faith even if our brother does not.

Fallacy on Two Births

Our brother labors to try to show that Jn. 3:5 means a contrast between the body of man and the spirit of man, that the new birth means the spirit of man is saved from sin but the body is not. Herein he again flaunts a well known hermeneutical rule, namely; reading into a passage something the writer did not have in mind, nor which did not enter into the discussion. The discourse between Jesus and Nicodemus was not on the difference between the spirit and body of man. It was over the difference between the kingdom as Nicodemus conceived it and the one Christ came to establish. Nicodemus, nor any of the Jews, ever thought of the kingdom as open to any Gentile. So to impel him to consider the vast difference between the kingdom of the Jews with that about to be established Jesus stunned him with a figurative representation of entrance into it as contrasted with entrance into the Jewish kingdom. But Brother Holland makes Jesus to say that only the spirit of man is born again, not his body, something Jesus did not say nor intend to say. So, another hermeneutical rule is ignored; that governing interpretation of antithetical statements, the law of opposition and negation. What is affirmed on one side of the antithesis is set in opposition to the exact opposite on the other side; eliminate a functional and necessary part from one side and that on the other is eliminated. So we shall apply the rule to the passage as our brother construes it.

“That which is born of flesh is flesh,” vs. “that which is born of spirit is spirit.” If, therefore, the spiritual birth eliminates the body, then the fleshly birth eliminates the spirit of man, otherwise the rule is broken and the passage rendered meaningless, reduced to a farce. If the fleshly body can’t be involved in the one then the spirit of man can’t be involved in the other. Now will the brother tell us where the spirits of the Jews came from? Did the human spirit “stand by” and wait until the body came forth out of the womb then enter into it? Or did the Jews ever have human spirits? The brother’s theology gets him into a maze of theosophical difficulties with no way out except by renouncing the folly. If he denies the rule of interpretation he must find how to answer sectarians in another antithetical statement of Jesus, namely, Mk. 16:16. They say one is saved and can’t be lost. But the rule applied means the lost can’t be saved! If he admits the rule he surrenders his case. There is no dodge on this passage; he must repudiate the hermeneutics of his theory. Besides, Paul did not so understand for he says, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also is it now.” (Gal. 4:28-29.) Now, Brother, did Ishmael have a spirit; was he born with one? Did Isaac have a body? What constitutes a man that God was mindful of him, or how made a little lower than the angels? Jesus did not teach one thing on the matter, then give to Paul to present it contrariwise. It is unexegetical to build a doctrine on a figure.

But here also another rule is violated. Jn. 3:5 is a highly figurative passage. The literal act describing the same thing is found in apostolic revelation, viz, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free, and were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (I Cor. 12:13.) And again, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27.) The rule is that figurative or otherwise obscure and difficult passages must be explained in the light of plain passages treating of the same subject. But following the lead of sectarians bent on proving their creeds the brother reverses the rule and attempts explanation of the plain passages by what he thinks he sees in the obscurity of the figurative, then rests his case on an appeal to sectarian scholars. Operating by this fallacious principle guarantees that one would never see the truth nor understands why good men defend it!

Rom. 8 and Like Passages Misconstrued

Much of the remainder of the article is given over to a gross misinterpretation of Rom. 8:1-11 and parallel passages. The-term, “flesh,” in this passage cannot refer to the literal body for “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (v. 8.) Nothing stamps one of being more in the dark as to this epistle than to construe it as referring to the literal body. And the body that is “dead because of sin” (v. 10), is precisely the same as the “body of sin” (Rom. 6:6), which is done away when baptized into Christ. (6: 3ff.) It is identical to the “flesh” in the passage under consideration. Let him who differs explain what of a man is crucified with Christ! Let him explain how one can put to death what is already dead, i.e., dead in sin! Paul states clearly, “And if Christ is in you (necessary antecedent condition), the body is dead because of sin” (consequent inevitable result), (Rom. 8:10); not dead in sin here; hence if it means the literal body it necessarily follows that it is better to live in sin than have Christ in us, but Paul did not say this of the physical body. This necessary conclusion forever compels the rejection of the misinterpretation. The body of sin is what Paul affirms to be dead. The brother is utterly confused on this passage. The life given in Rom. 8:11 following does not refer to the general resurrection, but the life mentioned at the very outset of the paragraph; read it; “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life (spiritual law of life, i. e., the gospel, Rom. 1:16) made me free from the law of sin and of death.” (8:1-2.) Is this freedom something other than life? So Paul says in the concluding statement, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies (literal as qualified) through his Spirit that dwells in you” (consequent inevitable result.) (v. 11.) The resurrection of Jesus guarantees the resurrection of the righteous no more than it does that of the wicked. That is not Paul’s reference here, but instead to establish that the power that rose up Christ from literal death is identical to the power that dwells in the believer thus enables even his mortal body to live unto God, now that there is NO CONDEMNATION to him. This condition is absolutely absent in the unbeliever hence he is dead in sin; under condemnation. For the literal body of the believer belongs to Christ, (1 Cor. 6:15), and is the temple of the Holy Spirit, (1 Cor. 6:19), and the Spirit gives life. (Jn. 6:63.) This is the office of his word. It is the life that is freed from the condemnation of sin. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Cor. 3:17.)

The condemnation to physical death of the physical body is not because of guilt of sin, but because of the consequence of Adam’s sin. One is not pardoned of consequences, but of guilt. Therefore that which is involved in the guilt is pardoned and that is the whole of a man and that must be kept free of sin. (2 Cor. 7:1.) But the literal death of the body due to Adam’s sin comes to all men, whether in Christ or not. It was an unconditional decree in Eden. The law of pardon is the conditional means of removing the guilt; is absolutely effective when its terms are met; will remain effective as long as its terms are kept; and the life of Rev. 21 and 22 is the eternal reward entered upon following the judgment.

Paul deals with one step at a time in the development of his theme in Romans and this is true in chapter 8. He discusses the end of condemnation in 8:1-11 and does not deviate from it in any wise; not even in the resurrection from the dead. To speak of it there would have been a digression in subject material. At least give the apostle credit for not being confused when he wrote the passage. In vs. 12-17 he goes a step further in discussing the triumph of sonship in Christ. Then in vs. 18-25 he proceeds to the subject of our eventual glorification involving the resurrection of the dead; he had reserved that matter for this entry. Still two other triumphs of redemption are discussed in the remainder of the chapter, BUT IN NO CASE DOES THE APOSTLE CONFUSE HIS READERS BY DISCUSSING A NUMBER, OR ALL, OF THESE RELATED SUBJECTS AT ONE AND THE SAME INSTANCE, Revelation is clear as a bell, but uninspired theology is woefully confused in its frantic efforts of self justification, wresting the word of God to suit its purpose.

Pitfall of Using the Language of Ashdod

The adoption of the language of sectarianism with its sinister connotations instead of Bible language in disregard of 2 Tim. 1:13, contributes greatly to the darkness of confusion in scriptural matters. Where in the Bible do we read of “spiritual life and spiritual death” in flowing terms? To insist that it must be so even if not stated in so many words is to beg the question. The New Testament treats the matter as “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2: 1), and “made alive together with him” (Eph. 2:5), and sin is not an entity to be removed by some sort of mysterious surgery, but is transgression of law (1 Jn. 3: 4), and its guilt must be removed by pardon. Nor is eternal life an indefinite mysterious something of an entity separate and apart from the persons who obtain it, as some seem to suppose. To conceive of it as such is as childish as the parallel Jewish traditional concept of sin, the adoption of which Jesus condemned as being without understanding. (Matt. 15:16.) There is not one single text in the entire New Testament that remotely hints eternal life being some sort of separate entity that can be passed back and forth between recipient and God. Even the very thought is utterly preposterous. On the contrary God gives man the RIGHT to become his children (Jn. 1:12), the RIGHT to enter into the heavenly city (Rev. 22:14): the transformation is of the entity that is, namely, the man! One of the certain marks of incompetent scholarship in scriptural matters is the promulgation of theoretical positions based upon lavish and strained misinterpretations of highly figurative and obscure passages in utter disregard of plain simple texts treating of these very matters. We have not only the new birth as such a figure regularly misused by sectarian error, but also such parallel figures as the adoption of sons, (Rom. 8:15 ), espousal to one husband, ( 2 Cor. 11:2), translation, (Col. 1:13), the laver (Tit. 3:5), all placed by revelation for the same literal act. If it is legitimate to take that of the new birth and run unbridled into the illimitable reaches of uninspired fancy and livid imagination, why not of any or all of the others? Yet revelation itself poses the answer and caution to every seeker of the truth, that we must turn to the plain teaching in literal language of those men whom the Lord himself ordained to explain such matters, the apostles, (1 Cor. 2:6-16), matters which “in other generations (before the cross) was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed (gospel time) unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit.” (N. T. prophets.) (Eph. 3:5.) When they explained the figures they removed the drapery of beautiful imagery and reduced them to the simple concrete terms of gospel obedience. To ignore this simple truth and revert to some chosen figure to distort, elaborate, and perpetuate in nebulous and grandiose proportions a superstructure of doctrinal confusion in a desperate effort to prove the unprovable of human invention is to demonstrate disqualification to lead the people of God. He who makes a “discovery” (?) of Biblical truth involving obedience never before seen by any of the faithful among God’s chosen commits rational suicide.

Truth Magazine VI: 7, pp. 6-9
April 1962