Archive for May, 2021

Jesus is greater than Moses. Hebrews chapter 3 verses 1 -6

May 29, 2021

I wrote a basic commentary a few years ago and my basic tools at the time were Philip Hughes commentary and Donald Guthries commentary from the Tyndale series.   I usually did this at the Weekends prayerfully.  Since then, I have been in charge of religious studies, Humanities and lower Maths.  I left the teaching world and did a basic carpentry degree at a college.  It feels good to offer wholesome biblical teaching to anyone who wants it.  Whatever you background, religious or non-religious I feel there is something for you.  What does the book of Hebrews mean to me?   At university King’s College London, I studied 1 Corinthians; 1 Peter; Galatians; Johns Gospel (unofficially).   I wanted to tread some new ground in the New Testament.  The Book of Hebrews was so different.  This book is a very early book, and it was written before the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.  A history teacher at a school I taught at said that historians use it for that time period as a primary text.  Although the book of Hebrews entered the cannon of Scripture under the name of Paul, the evidence I feel points to Apollos.  This book is a fantastic book to read but we need to do the spadework to really understand it.    As I share my early writings, I am at the same time revising some of my earlier work.   I will keep referring to the writer as Apollos because for two reasons.  I think there is enough evidence to make Apollos a strong contender from internal evidence in the New Testament.  Paul certainly did not write it; an example of this is how the book of Hebrews quotes scriptures ‘never in the style of St Paul’.   I hope in the future there are new discoveries on papyri archaeology that might shed more light on this.

Jesus is greater than Moses.

We have seen that Jesus is seen as the Son of God.  The writer has proven through scripture that Jesus is greater than the angels.  Jesus came from heaven and returned to heaven and will come back again one day to take his Church (bride).  Moses a very important person along with Elijah one night came to visit Jesus and some of the Apostles saw this.  I will quote this story because I think it sheds light on how Chrsitians from the 1st and second centuries viewed Moses and Elijah

“The Transfiguration

17 Six days later, Jesus *took with Him Peter and [a]James, and his brother John, and *led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2 And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Peter responded and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If You want, I will make three [b]tabernacles here: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell [c]face down to the ground and were terrified. 7 And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” 8 And raising their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.” (From Bible gateway  )

As you can see: Here Jesus is referred to as the Son of God.  Note Moses and Elijah were witnesses but Jesus was seen in his divine glory.  Some of the Apostles witnessed this event.  When we think about this chapter, certainly Apollos would have known about this story.  In fact, I feel that Apollos is going to explain the real significance of Jesus glory and in relation to Moses.  Something that at the time, the Apostles themselves, didn’t wholly grasp (understand) themselves.

Jesus Our High Priest

1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; 2 He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. 3 For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. 5 Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. Hebrews 3:1-6

life and teachings of Christ, Chapter 3.

This chapter begins with a, therefore. This is important in light of everything that the writer has already said about Jesus in relation to the Father.  Jesus is referred to as ‘the Apostle’. The word literally means ‘sent forth’.  In other words, Jesus was sent directly from God.  God did not give Jesus a message ‘indirectly’ through an angel or other agency.  This point will become clearer as we work through the Moses material and Jesus’ position as greater than the angels.  So, then Jesus is not a high priest but he is The High Priest. Donald Guthrie made an important point here as well.  This is the only reference to Jesus as Apostle.   From that point of view Jesus was sent from the Father and then he appointed the twelve inferior weak apostles.  Although weak as ambassadors of Christ, the world would never be the same again.

Verse 1b ‘of our confession:  Obviously the Pharisees, Saducees, Scribes who did not accept Jesus as the Christ would disagree with the Apollos’ point of view.  Yet Apollos is using the first-person plural pronoun ‘our’… He is writing as one having the same point of view as the audience.  Yet in a sense the writer is not writing outside of the fold of Judaism otherwise his interpretation of Moses in relation to Jesus would not make sense.

In verses 2-6 we see a qualitative difference between Christ and Moses. Moses was a servant over the house of God, but Jesus is the Son of God as found in Psalm 2. 7.  A servant does not own a house and in that sense, he is always a guest… They were both faithful to God in their own way etc.  

Digging into the background of what Messiah really is: Let us just stop right here and consider what sonship is.  If we start at chapter 1 and work our way through, we will see how great Jesus our saviour is. The Messianic Psalm 2 that has already been quoted chapter 1 verse 5 straight from Psalm 2.  

The Reign of the LORD’S Anointed.

“1 Why are the nations in an uproar

And the peoples devising a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth take their stand

And the rulers take counsel together

Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,

3 “Let us tear their fetters apart

And cast away their cords from us!”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs,

The Lord scoffs at them.

5 Then He will speak to them in His anger

And terrify them in His fury, saying,

6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King

Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD:

He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,

And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.

9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,

You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”

10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;

Take warning, O judges of the earth.

11 Worship the LORD with reverence

And rejoice with trembling.

12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,

For His wrath may soon be kindled.

How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” Psalms 2 NASB

Sonship and Kingship are very powerful motifs from the Old Testament.  All Apollos is doing is showing to his readers what it means to be the Messiah.   Messiah, God’s anointed is above the mundane nations doing their things.  The Messiah is God’s chosen King. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, and the full force of the Trinity is with him. In his divinity he is the second person of the Trinity. 

Obviously for Apollos to write in this strong way and having to prove that Jesus is above Moses possibly means that some of the readers may have been close to idolatry (The worship of Moses, putting him on a pedestal figuratively speaking).  I am here trying to mirror read the text.

Verse 3

There are contrasts going on in verse 3: For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. NASB

In the Greek then in this sentence the ‘He’ referring to Jesus is in the nominative and Moses is in the accusative.   Jesus is given the glory and Moses is a special servant, but he is still only a servant.  As Christians we ought to respect Moses and his teachings as he was a prophet and, in that sense, pointed us to Christ.  This is obvious from the Transfiguration that we looked at earlier.

So, the writer up to verse 4 has said that Jesus is greater than Moses…  In this verse the writer says God is the builder of everything in the universe.

In verse 5 the writer makes the important point that Moses was looking forward to the promise.

If I was going to paraphrase verse 6 I would say that whilst Moses looked forward to the promise ‘Jesus is the promise’ that Moses was looking forward to.  What a blessing for us to see Moses at the transfiguration with our Lord. 

In light of verse 6b where a great promise was given to Moses, ‘we’ as the readers are also asked to keep faith to the end of time.  The writer having spoken about Moses in relation to Christ and shown from the scriptures that Moses spoke about the Christ…  He then turns to an event from the life of Moses and is about to challenge the readers faith so that they will stop doubting.


Apollos has proven that Jesus is greater than Moses.  As Christians we did not have a problem with this but before AD 70 believers did not have computers that they could go to check the facts.  Let us not be too judgmental of these early believers.  As Christians let us show respect to Moses and all the early Holy Ones that God spoke through.  We should also be thankful to the Jewish community who preserved these Scriptures as they are our Scriptures too.  I speak in this way because every human being has been created in the image of God.  We are all special in God’s sight.  Let us also love our Palestinian friends.  I hope and pray that in the future peace will come to everyone in the middle east.  Guns will be made into farming implements and the golden rule will reign amongst all human beings of whatever nationality or religion.

Bavincks understanding of conscience from the point of view of the Protestant and Reformed traditions part 1

May 29, 2021


taken from


Our question is: What do the Protestant and Reformed Traditions teach us about the conscience?

Herman Bavinck gives us an outline on pages 181 – 189 in his Reformed Ethics edited by Bolt.  So, what is the main idea?

As usual Bavinck gives us a summary on page 189:

““Van Mastricht provides us with a nice brief summary overview of the preceding: “Conscience is the judgment of humans about themselves, insofar as they are subject to God.” It belongs to practical reason and judges according to a syllogism: the major premise is the syntérésis; the minor premise, the syneidésis; the conclusion, the krisis. The first one is law, the second is witness, the third is judge.””

A Historical Digression

Before looking at Van Mastricht’s summary: Who was he and why does Bavinck quote from him?

Wikipedia says about him:

“Petrus (or Peter) van Mastricht (or Maastricht) (1630 – February 9, 1706) was a Reformed theologian.

He was born in Cologne to a refugee from Maastricht during the Dutch revolt. His father’s family name was originally “Schoning,” but he changed it to “van Mastricht” on moving to Cologne. Petrus occasionally used the Latinized pseudonym Scheuneneus.[1] Johannes Hoornbeeck was Masticht’s pastor from 1639 to 1643 and his teacher at the University of Utrecht starting in 1647, along with Gisbertus Voetius and others. From 1650 to 1652 he took a tour of study at Leiden University and possibly Oxford and the University of Heidelberg.” Taken from

Mastricht was a top theologian, and he was into practical theology.  He did not turn his back on tools of the past, a clean sweep.  For example, you will not find many references to Aristotle in the institutes of the Christian Religion in which Calvin returned to the Bible and did a clean sweep where he saw necessary. 

“Given his defence of the use of scholastic theology as a polemical tool for engaging Roman Catholic theologians, it might seem counterintuitive to assert that Voetius was a proponent of practical theology, especially in light of how heavily the older scholarship juxtaposes practical piety and scholastic theology.8 Yet, in response to the questions, “Is the study of and familiarity with scholastic theology in some way consistent with practical theology?” and, “Does

familiarity with and consideration of the former corrupt and overturn the latter?” Voetius responded: “‘Yes’ to the former, ‘No’ to the latter. No more than a meticulous exposition of practical theology overturns the other: ‘Test everything; hold fast to what is good’ (1 Thess. 5[:21]). William Perkins and William Ames are two outstanding examples of practical theologians.” Mastricht was also in agreement with Voetius that practical and scholastic theology are not inherently antithetical, the latter being a polemical tool and the former being the application of theological determinations.”” From (The Best Method of Preaching; The Use of Theoretical-Practical Theology; Petrus van Mastricht; Translated and Introduced by Todd M.Rester; Reformation Heritage Books; Grand Rapids, Michigan from a pdf found at the above wikipedia)

Anyhow the above outline, I think demonstrates Bavinck’s choice of intellectual material.   So, Herman Bavinck gives us the syllogism and the conscience works through law, witness and Judgement.  We now need to start to dig deeper to find these golden truths from the Protestant and Reformed branches of the Church.  Herman Bavinck does not mince his words when he says that the very historical Reformation itself was an act of conscience.   It is no surprise then that ‘Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin’ regularly discussed ‘conscience’.  Calvin’s definition then about conscience it,” a “sense of divine judgment,” as a witness joined to them [human beings], which does not allow them to hide their sins from being accused before the Judge’s tribunal.”” (From page 181 Reformed Ethics, Bavinck) He continues in explaining that there is no escape for man from God. That the conscience acts as a guardian and it spies out all the hidden secrets.  The conscience then ‘only has respect to God alone’ (page 182). Calvin’s conclusions on Bavinck are therefore, “Calvin teaches us the following: (a) conscience is a knowledge of our deeds in relation to God, his judgment; (b) only God can bind the conscience and not any human person; (c) conscience is a witness, a guardian of our deeds; and (d) conscience stands above all human judgments. Conscience provides us with some knowledge of the moral law, but it is an incomplete and imperfect knowledge.” (Page 182, Reformed Ethics.)

The conscience is very important for us and no government has a right to try to control this aspect of the human but alas, it goes on.  Nationalism in its extreme in whatever guise, Fascism, communism to eradicate certain people groups or mould them into the ‘master race’. As an example of this we hear of the Uighur people being ‘re-educated in special camps’, forced to ‘learn Chinese’, forcing them against their will to become more Chinese.

So yes ‘conscience’ is a very important topic for all of us!

It is well worth following Bavinck’s reference to Calvin and I am going to quote this whole section. This section is from the Institutes of the Christian Religion.

“ . Let us now return to human laws. If they are imposed for the purpose of forming a religious obligation, as if the observance of them was in itself necessary, we say that the restraint thus laid on the conscience is unlawful. Our consciences have not to do with men but with God only. Hence the

common distinction between the earthly forum and the forum of conscience.  When the whole world was enveloped in the thickest darkness of ignorance, it was still held dike a small ray of light which remained unextinguished) that conscience was superior to all human judgments. Although this, which was acknowledged in word, was afterwards violated in fact, yet God was pleased that there should even then exist an attestation to liberty, exempting the conscience from the

tyranny of man. But we have not yet explained the difficulty which arises from the words of Paul. For if we must obey princes not only from fear of punishment but for conscience’s sake, it seems to follow, that the laws of princes have dominion over the conscience. If this is true, the same thing must be affirmed of ecclesiastical laws. I answer that the first thing to be done here is to distinguish between the genus and the species. For though individual laws do not reach the conscience, yet we are bound by the general command of God, which enjoins us to submit to magistrates. And this is the point on which Paul’s discussion turns — viz. that magistrates are to be honoured, because they are ordained of God (Romans. 13:1). Meanwhile, he does not at all teach that the laws enacted by them reach to the internal government of the soul, since he everywhere proclaims that the worship of God, and the spiritual rule of living righteously, are superior to all the decrees of men. Another thing also worthy of observation and depending on what has been already said, is, that human laws, whether enacted by magistrates or by the Church, are necessary to be observed (I speak of such as are just and good), but do not therefore in themselves bind the conscience, because the whole necessity of observing them respects the general end and consists not in the things commanded. Very different, however, is the case of those which prescribe a new form of worshipping God, and introduce necessity into things that are free.” (From the Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4, 10, 5 Ages software)


What ever country or state we are from; How do we treat its citizens?

I am so glad that Herman Bavinck is looking at the use of conscience from the Reformed minds of this historical period.  The conscience is about making the right choices in life. 

Before God: How do I treat my neighbour?

As a Parliament of whatever Country: How do we treat our citizens?

As a Parliament of whatever Country: How do we treat our neighbouring countries?

As a Parliament of whatever Country: Is it USA first or China first, or the UK first at the expense of other people basic human rights? 

I think the Reformation as it was driven by conscience, Europe ended up with better laws. However, it seems to be the case that Europe is also on this bandwagon of Europe first, or Finland First with the Perus-Suomalaiset.  This is tantamount to racism!

There is too much racism in the world and Herman Bavinck is reminding us earlier in his book about the fact that every individual human being is precious in God’s sight.  We need our consciences renewed; for Christians through prayer and reading the Bible and living according to the golden rule ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.  In fact, this golden rule is found in all of the major religions of the world.  I thank God for Herman Bavincks writings.  We certainly need to get back to basics.  Too many bad things are happening in the world!

Bavinck says a lot more about Conscience from the Protestants and Reformers but unfortunately, I have run out of steam so we will continue next week with this topic.



Our Lord and High Priest Jesus Christ who cares for his flock. Hebrews 2. 14-18

May 21, 2021

Hebrews chapter 2 verses 14-18.

I will not be using a digital voice this week as the blog is longer than normal.

Let us read.

14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. 16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Hebrews 2:14-18 NASB

These verses are very interesting in that they discuss humanity in the grand scheme of God’s will.  Jesus became a man and shared in the same life as we are in.  Even as everyone will one day face death, Jesus also had to face and experience death.

Verse 14

This verse has two sections part a refers to us and Christ, and part b to the power of death. We will look at both parts in sequence.

Therefore since = Ἐπεὶ οὖν Hebrews 2:14  This takes us to the previous thought that comes straight from Isaiah 8 18. “BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.” Hebrews 2:13 NASB This is a very important and this chapter has a grain of Messianic kingship truth running straight through.  How terrible and great at the same time are these verses and Apollos understood this.   The first part of Isaiah 8 talks about the Northern Kingdom being taken captive and as we know this terrible event really did happen.  This judgement will also spill into Judah and only a remnant will be saved.  These events happened my friends.   Everything seems to be lost and if it wasn’t for the Lord there would be no hope. 

I want to look now at background information to Isaiah 8 verses 16 to 18”  16 Bind up the testimony, seal the [q]Law among my disciples. 17 And I will wait for the Lord who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will wait eagerly for Him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of armies, who dwells on Mount Zion.”  

The context is clear the children in verse 18 refer to the saved remnant.  The people Apollos was talking to were from their point of view the saved remnant.  Now we understand the background to verse 13 b we can return to verse 14.   The since and the children in verse 13 and 14 are those who are the remnant and being saved.  This is the context.  The children mentioned in verse 14 makes us children of the promise.  The children and the Lord go hand in hand, “behold I and the children whom God has given to me.” The I refers to the Lord Jesus Christ and we are his children, the church, the community of believers.  Jesus the Lord shared our humanity, he became a man, that is what flesh and blood means.  The lord Jesus went further than that and tasted the suffering of death.   We need to be careful to read the second part of verse 14 carefully.  God is always in control.  Satan is only a creature, a created being.   As Philip Edgecumbe Hughes says.  Satan having power of death can only be understood secondarily.  On page 113c of his Hebrews commentary he writes;

“ in considering these questions it should be recognized that the power of death is held by the devil only In a secondary and not in an ultimate sense. Death is indeed the dark reality of his tyranny. But God is still supreme in his sovereignty: unfailingly, it is for him and by him that all things exist, as we have already been reminded (v. 10)- Death Is not a sphere that has broken loose from God 3 command. On the contrary, Scripture, as Aquinas observes, clearly teaches that death, like all else, is under God’s control (cf. Gen. 2:17; Dt. 32:39; 1 KL 216; Mt. 10:28; Lk. 12:5; 1 Cor. 15:25f.; Rev. 1:18); and the clinching proof of this is the conquest of death and Satan by the incarnate Son. Besides, the devil is a creature—and, significantly within the present context, an angelic creature—finite and futile in his rebellion, and subject to judgment and destruction. There is no question or possibility of an insoluble dilemma involving a cosmic dualism of God and Satan, as though they were eternally opposed to each other as two equal and ultimate realities. The power of death wielded by the devil is not an absolute power, indeed, death is the sentence of God pronounced against man who sinfully has transferred his allegiance from his Creator to the creature (Gen. 3:1ff.; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 3:23) and who in doing so has turned His back on God’s realm of life in favour of Satan’s realm of death. It is in this sense that the devil is said to hold the power of death. But the power which he presently wields is also the power by which he is destroyed (1 In: 318] Rev. 20:10). Death is-the awful reality of divine judgment, not satanic Victory. Creation and destruction—and salvation from destruction—belong properly and absolutely to God alone. When we read that it was through death that the devil was overcome, we should carefully consider whose death it was that achieved this triumph and what kind of death it was that he died; otherwise, we shall never have a due appreciation of the logic and the necessity of that death by which we were redeemed. The spectacle of the cross is not that of any man enduring the pains of death, but of the incarnate Son of God in his pure innocence suffering a death which is not his due. It is the death, moreover, of one who, though guiltless, has been tried by and legal process condemned to die the death of a common criminal and in the place of the common criminal (Barabbas), so that it is plain to all that in this death the Innocent One is suffering for the guilty, the Holy One for the unholy. Any other kind of death, peaceful or violent, would have obscured this central truth of the cross. Death, therefore, and more specifically the death of Christ and death of this the overthrow of him who had persuaded death. “This of all others seemed the most kind, was necessary for mankind to abandon life for t unlikely way and means,” ”

From Philip Edgecumbe Hughes commentary, Eerdmans, page 113

So when reading this God holds all the power.  It is through the work of Christ, his work on the cross that defeated death.  The real number one enemy for mankind is death.  We do not need to read holy books to understand this.  All the graveyards which house our loved one’s remind us of this.  But we have an eternal hope.  Without the Lord Jesus Christ this would not have been possible.

Satan has been defeated (the adversary, see Job).  It was Jesus who overcame death…  He was the first to overcome death and according to Apollos in verse 15 we don’t need to face death anymore.  In verse 16 the writer emphasises that we are the inheritors of salvation not the angels.  Obviously, he is writing to an audience who were educated into the teachings of the OT. 

The name of Abraham would resonate with the promise (Genesis 22). However, let us remember that according to the Jewish scriptures the blessing to Abraham in the end was meant for everyone.  In Genesis Abraham is referred to as the ‘father of many nations’ and obviously this includes the gentile nations.  In this context however it is better to remember the Jewish context of the letter…  It is only in the context of Jesus as High Priest that gives sense to the text that we are reading. 

In verse 17 we come to the theological debates that surround ‘expiate’ and ‘propitiate’.  The high priests job was to mediate between God and the Jewish community at different levels.  It is in light of this that our two words need to be understood.  In Greek usage of the time propitiate meant to ‘appease the gods’ thus some commentators prefer expiate or ‘atone for’.  The most important point however is that both meanings take us towards ‘peace with God’. So as high priest Jesus made peace with God for the people of God in line with OT theologies.

However, in verse 18 we see the focus being on Jesus as a human being who was prone to suffering as we are yet without sin. James 1 verse 13 seems to on the surface to contradict this verse. However, I think there is a difference between ‘tempt’ and ‘test’.  The nuances in the Greek and the Hebrew are very important. One should read the ‘test’ of Abraham concerning his only son.  Perhaps one way forward is to say that God ‘tests’ but we ‘tempt’ ourselves by our dark motives.  The context is of the highest importance.  As I said this seems to be a contradiction only on the surface.  The grounds of motivation are different.


In chapters one and two the writer works through some themes which are found in the OT.  The conclusion the writer reached was that Jesus is the Messiah the king of Israel and greater than the angels.

The angels belonged firmly in the ‘creatures’ part of reality not on the divine side of the reality even though they were in God’s presence himself.

In summary then, Jesus is greater than the angels and only for a ‘brief period of time’ was he made ‘lower’.  ‘Son of God’ needs to be understood as a title which in its truest sense is explained in the life and teachings of Christ.

Understanding conscience in Bavinck, the Church Fathers, Jerome, and the Scholastics

May 21, 2021


Bavinck really understood the Church Fathers and the scholastics.  In that case, what did the Church Fathers and scholastics understand about the conscience?

(Bavincks summary on page 180. Reformed Ethics, edited by John Bolt)

“Those conclusions—that is, the functions of the conscience—are threefold: (1) to witness, whereby “we recognize that we have done or not done something,” thus, merely consciousness;(2) to bind, or to “judge that something should be done or not done”; (3) to incite, whereby “we judge that something done is well done or ill done, and in this sense conscience is said to excuse, accuse, or torment.”70 Conscience, therefore, is always a “concluding knowledge,” a derived, applied, subsequent knowing.”

So, for the church fathers and scholastics the conscience has three aspects.

1.       Recognizing we have done or not done something (consciousness)

2.       To judge or not to judge something done or not done.

3.       The part of us that judges what we have done (right or wrong) excusing us or accusing us.

So, how do we fit into this.  A couple of chapters ago I mentioned that the conscience is very important for Bruce Lee.  It is part of being human.  It is something that is universal to every human being.  The question is what type of person are you, my friend?  Are you the type that listens to that inner voice or mind accusing or defending you? Another universal fact is that as far as God is concerned, we have all sinned.  The conscience I believe shows us this to be the case to all human beings.  Some of us choose not to listen to the conscience at all but it is always there under normal conditions.  Whether one is a Christian or not, this topic is bigger than any one religion, this is a question that affects all of us. Let us now go back in time to page 176.


“testimony of the soul naturally Christian”  acknowledges an inclination to morality just as the soul, though enslaved to the body and to false gods, when it awakes and “comes to itself,” spontaneously speaks of God, using such expressions as “God is great and good,” “which God may give,” “God secs,” “I commend myself to God,” and “God will repay me.”36 At the same time, such ordinary human morality is not sufficient; it must be Christian.

(Bavincks summary on page 176. Reformed Ethics, edited by John Bolt)

Clement of Alexandria

“Thus, especially in Clement of Alexandria, a good conscience keeps the soul pure and preserves it from ignorance.”

Chrysostom on Genesis 27:41 and 42: NASB

“So, Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” Now when the words of her elder son Esau were reported to Rebekah, she sent and called her younger son Jacob, and said to him, “Behold your brother Esau is consoling himself concerning you by planning to kill you. “

In summary form for Chrysostom the conscience is an adequate instructor for us.  He says that ‘nothing is more pleasurable than a good conscience’.  On the other hand, a bad conscience can cut deep and presses hard on us.  We cannot escape the conscience.

Irenaeus, Augustine, Jerome, Aquinas, and the later scholastics

Bavinck then gives a discussion about Ezekiel 1. 4-14.  The main interpretation of these Church fathers was that these four creatures represented various aspects of the 4 Gospels.  In fact, Jerome’s commentary also touched on anthropology and Bavinck here is more concerned about this.  Bavinck gives the background information to this, but he is more interested on how Jerome uses syntérésis as conscience.   Actually, some think syntérésis is a mistake and that Jerome meant synderesis.  To cut a long story short Aquinas used both words.  He then says accurately “In any case, Scholastic theologians used the term synderesis/syntérésis for either a capacity(power) of the soul or as a natural habit of concrete activity.”



For a couple of paragraphs, I am moving away from Bavinck to understand ‘syllogisms’.  Once we understand the basic concepts, we will return to Herman Bavinck.  Syllogisms are used a lot in philosophy, so we need to understand them here.  I think the first three and a half minutes of this video is a good explanation. (It goes on into Venn diagram theory, but you don’t need that.)

A syllogism has two premises and a conclusion, and the conclusion comes from the premises Or  A syllogism has two statements and a conclusion and the conclusion comes from the statements.  The examples from Academic Kids breaks it down nicely;


Syllogisms consist of three things: major, minor (the premises) and conclusion, which follows logically from the major and the minor. A major is a general principle. A minor is a specific statement. Logically, the conclusion follows from applying the major to the minor.

For example, this is the classic “Barbara” syllogism, given by Aristotle:

If all humans (B’s) are mortal (A), (major)

and all Greeks (C’s) are humans (B’s), (minor)

then all Greeks (C’s) are mortal (A). (conclusion)

That is,

Men die. (general principle)

Socrates is a man. (specific statement)

Socrates will die. (application of major to minor)

   ”.  From:


For Thomas Aquinas synderesis is not a power but a habit. Bavinck quotes him:

“Now it is clear that, as the speculative reason argues about speculative things, so that practical reason argues about practical things. Therefore, we must have, bestowed on us by nature, not only speculative principles, but also practical principles. ” Now the first speculative principles bestowed on us by nature do not belong to a special power, but to a special habit, which is called “the understanding of principles,” as the Philosopher explains (Ethic. vi, 6). Wherefore the first practical principles, ‘bestowed on us by nature, do not belong to a special power, but to a special natural habit, which we call “synderesis.’ ”

So then with this argument, in the same way that we are born with the idea of true and false we are also born with the idea of good and evil.  For Aristotle I think habit is within the noetic realm. See the abstract on Aristotle’s understanding

I think this is important that we see synderesis as being first principles that we are endowed with the idea of good and evil.

Reason is also seen as natural endowment for idea of right and wrong which originally came from Aristotle; “Aristotle focuses on reason and mind as part of human natural endowment. Individuals are born with the natural ability to think which enables them to make rational decisions. Individuals through their minds and reason develop abilities which could become habits if they continue to be rational.” From Google

So for Aquinas he follows Aristotle on reason and the synderesis as being given to humans by God.  It is in the very nature of humans.  This is important to accept these two premises if we are to follow Bavincks understanding for conscience to be the conclusion of the ‘practical syllogism.’


We already know what a syllogism is but now we need to understand what a ‘practical syllogism is’.

The definition

“The practical syllogism is an instance of practical reasoning which takes the form of a syllogism, where the conclusion of the syllogism is an action.”

An example of a practical syllogism

“Major premise: Good students take notes;

Minor premise: I want to be a good student;

Conclusion: I should take notes.”


Let us return to Herman Bavinck.  Herman Bavinck says that the Conscience is not a habit but an act. 

A habit is something that has been endowed on humans by God that is in their nature. 

In page 180 Bavinck writes “Synderesis is sharply distinguished from conscientia, which applies the synderesis to the particular and the concrete. Conscience is not-a habit but an act. In terms of a syllogism, synderesis is the major premise, and reason the minor premise, of an argument for determining whether a particular act is a duty or is to be repudiated. The conscience is therefore the “practical syllogism in the intellect.”  So then we deduce that from synderesis and reason we get conscience as the practical syllogism of the intellect.  We now come full circle and as a reminder.

So, for the church fathers and scholastics the conscience has three aspects.

1.            Recognizing we have done or not done something (consciousness)

2.            To judge or not to judge something done or not done.

3.            The part of us that judges what we have done (right or wrong) excusing us or accusing us.

Now we can understand what Bavinck means by conscience; “Conscience, therefore, is always a “concluding knowledge,” a derived, applied, subsequent knowing.”  This is now evident to us as we grasp how important synderesis and reason are. 

Synderesis being the facet of humanity that deals with good and evil and reason being the human facet of right and wrong; the conclusion of these is conscience as action in the intellect somehow.

This is still not Bavinck’s conclusion.  Bavinck saw the problem however that we are going to look at.  By separating synderesis and reason synderesis became ‘inactive’ and thus conscience in the syllogism is broken. Let us now read on into page 181.

Page 181 starts with “However, the conscience can frequently draw false conclusions (also because

reason provides a false minor premise). In other words, the conscience can err, judging something to be evil when it is good or making wrong applications.  from premises or general principles that are good in themselves.”  Reason, then can come to false conclusions!  Why is this important.  This is very important because it breaks the perfect practical syllogism of synderesis, reason and conscience.  If one part of the syllogism is found to be false, then it crumbles like a pack of playing cards.   For Bavinck this led the Jesuits into error with their invention of ‘probabilism’.   The Roman Catholic church in its cannon law, when looking at the cases of conscience would look at the church fathers for advice.  As Bavinck says,” The confessors thus gained power of judgment over the consciences of their laity. They used painstakingly developed canon law to determine this. If the good that was required could not be determined, a person’s doubting conscience could be pacified by giving a probable opinion.” page 181.

Bavinck is correct in his estimation but according to a wiki the Dominicans were also influenced by this.  The Wikipedia says,” In Catholic moral theology, probabilism provides a way of answering the question about what to do when one does not know what to do. Probabilism proposes that one can follow an authoritative opinion regarding whether an act may be performed morally, even though the opposite opinion is more probable. (An opinion is probable when, by reason of intrinsic or extrinsic arguments, it is able to gain the assent of many prudent men.) It was first formulated in 1577 by Bartholomew Medina, OP, who taught at Salamanca.


Probabilism is one way of approaching difficult matters of conscience. In such cases, according to probabilism, one may safely follow a doctrine approved by a recognized Doctor of the Church, even if the opposite opinion is more probable as judged by other considerations, such as scientific considerations or many other recognized authoritative opinions.


A more radical view, “minus probabilissimus”, holds that an action is permissible if a single opinion allowing that action is available, even if the overwhelming weight of opinion proscribes it. This view was advanced by the Spanish theologian Bartolomé de Medina (1527–1581) and defended by many Jesuits such as Luis Molina (1528–1581). It was heavily criticised by Blaise Pascal in his Provincial Letters as leading to moral laxity.”

If you want to know more about this, I would seriously look at the Provincial Letters by Blaise Pascal the inventor of modern probability. I want to finish this section off by quoting Herman Bavinck; “This is the source of the terrible notion of probabilism that was developed later by the Jesuits. Here synderesis disappears completely, the conscience is regarded as a bias, and probabilism (with the authority of this bias) determines everything. It was Pascal’s personal mission to oppose this. The Scholastics, therefore, began by maintaining the moral human nature within the synderesis, but they separated and distinguished from it the conscience as something defective and erring. By means of that separation, the synderesis became inactive (a notion that contained a great truth). Meanwhile, the conscience, much too weak to stand on its own and be a guide, became subject to an alien authority.” From Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Ethics, page 181


I have to say that I found this section rather heavy, but the spade work was worth it!  This section raised interesting points.  You may believe as I do that God created us in his likeness and his image.  However, you might not have thought about what your natural attributes are.  Now I think there is more room for thought but we must remember that the Fall happened, and sin came into the world.  It is only through Jesus Christ by the holy Spirit and by regeneration, that we can hope to enter heaven and be in perfect union with God.  Next time we will look at Protestants and the Reformed Tradition.







Jesus is Briefly Humbled on the line of the infinite finite. Hebrews chapter 2 verses 9-13.

May 15, 2021

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,




And again,

And again,


Verse nine

When we think of eternity, it is a long time, and our understanding breaks down.  On this line where time is meaningless to the human mind because the human mind cannot grasp it; although mathematicians have a symbol of infinity and it is used in calculus, the real true infinity in which Jesus Christ is from makes these marks and thoughts of humanity on a piece of paper or technical device a grasping after thin air.  The human mind cannot and will never be able to grasp this true infinity from above because by nature we are from the earth and finite. Yet even though this is the case for a period of about 33 years, the second person of the trinity Jesus Christ, put on humanity and became a man.  As Apollos says.

“But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels” …

For the true follower of Christ, In Jesus Christ we have the fullness of God and the fullness of man in a man a man from Nazareth who lived among us.  It is a mystery that can only be grasped by faith and that by submissive faith.  This is not a renunciation of reason, on the contrary this reason is built upon the facts and on the eyewitnesses that actually met Jesus Christ our Lord. Some would argue that Jesus is ‘a’ god.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1

And in Greek

 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. John 1

In the Greek, God and Word are in the nominative.  Actually, the Word has the definite article.  One would have to do grammatical summersaults, reject the history of this sentence, change the word order and then to add an indefinite article to this that does not exist.  No, my friend, John and Apollos agree that the Word was God or God was the Word. 

So, we see that for a moment Jesus was lower than the angels.   The emphasis is on the ‘moment’.  He stayed there at that point for 33 years.  In terms of eternity 33 years as a moment is a very small amount of time.

We then move on in verse nine and the second part says:

“namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”

Here we have the Easter story and in all the meaningful creeds testify to the fact that Jesus died and rose again. This work Jesus did was at the scale of the whole of humanity.  Jesus’ grace is poured forth onto his Church.  We who believe in him are of that congregation.  His work is universal then in scope, but it is his elect that will reap the reward by grace.  If Jesus tastes death for everyone then why can’t everyone enter heaven?  God is holy, God is just, God is love.  Even in the natural order of the city streets when help is offered to the homeless, some refuse to take it.  The world is full of anomalies like this. The only way we can be saved is by God the Holy Spirit working on our spirit to make it a possibility and yet even in Ephesians it says that we were called and chosen before the foundation of the world.  What does that actually mean?  The truth is that for me election is a mystery, and I must bow down and worship a Holy God through the Son By the Holy Spirit.   I don’t even believe in free will because after the Fall (Adam and Eve disobeying God) we lost the ability to choose God because of our fallen nature.  Jesus really does understand what a universal death for all of humanity tastes like.  Even though this was the case, Jesus still obeyed the Father and went to the cross in place of you and me.

I am getting really excited with these verses. These verses are oozing the doctrine of election.  Election was only through the Sacrificial work of Jesus Christ.

Let us look at verses 10 and 11.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.  For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,

There is One God the Father and through the work of Jesus Christ and in Christ we are brought and can stand in the presence of God; holy and sanctified because of the work Jesus did.  My brothers and sisters; Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters!  I’m translating brothers generically to include male and female.  Let us remember that women were also disciples of Jesus and I would go as far saying that they helped the Apostles and Jesus materially with food and clothing so they could get on with their mission of the Gospel.

We finish off this section with Apollos quoting Old Testament proof texts:




And again,


And again,


The first quotation is from Psalm 22 verse 22.  This comes from a Messianic Psalm.  That Psalm begins in verse one with: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?

Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.” Psalms 22:1 This saying is what came from the lips of Jesus while on the cross.   The second quote seems to be from Isaiah 8 18 with echoes of psalm 18 2 That God is the refuge of the believer, the one who trusts in God.  These verses were not chosen haphazardly and if anyone says such a thing, you ought not to believe them.


God the Son is the second person of the economic Trinity.  God came down to earth and became a man.  The infinite clothed himself with limitedness. His death in scope is enough for the whole of the human race.  Man does not have free will because of the fall and is completely helpless.  The Holy Spirit works in the lives of people by faith and grace alone in Jesus Christ.  Our election is in Jesus Christ.  Election is a mystery and only God understands it but by faith we rely on God and his love to bring us home to heaven through the Son by the Holy Spirit.   The reason why we can never understand it (but are able to enjoy it through gratitude to a God of love); is because these decisions were done on the infinite line of the knowledge of God within the economy of God.  Even quantum computers or artificial intelligence cannot penetrate into this wisdom.

It may be that you are thinking about these spiritual things and you have not bowed the knee to a Holy God.  I would advise you to seek out your local mainline church and ask for guidance.  If you really do see yourself as a sinner someone who has turned their back on God.  You need to repent.  What that means is that you ask God to forgive you and accept that Jesus died personally for you and your sin.  And you need to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.  That this resurrection is also for you personally in Jesus Christ. That you make this your confession by faith.  Obviously, you might not know what a Christian is supposed to be like.   I would encourage you to join a church and be baptized and read your Bible, to begin with, the New Testament and then the Old Testament too. 

The image of God in fallen human beings part 4: Understanding The natural and Supernatural

May 15, 2021

                      Knowledge in the mind and Holiness in the will


Google Blog community complained about this blog and it was taken down and then reinstated it.  I haven’t been told why apart from some infringement.  I have changed the photos and will republish it.   Next time I hope they have the courtesy to explain to me before reacting.  If this becomes a regular thing then I may move my blog away from Google.

In this section we will here the words natural and supernatural.  Perhaps your understanding of supernatural has come from the comic books.  Science fiction has given us some great stories to read.  It is great when Superman, Spider man or the Flash are able to stop the super villains but remember this is only fiction.  Even if it is great to read and gives us a buzz it is only fiction.  When we look at Bavinck, we will have a better understanding of natural and supernatural and it is only God that can do this lovely stuff.


This section is interesting because his definition on natural and supernatural here is very important.  As he says on page 152 that good works must proceed from a true faith (page 152).  He then quotes the Heidelberg Catechism. 

Then, what is true faith?

By way of diversion…

I’m actually going through the book of Ruth.  The interesting thing is that I would say that Naomi and Ruth are true examples of faith.  So, if you’re interested in what true faith looks like then after you have finished this blog or even before go and have a read at;

Why Naomi and Ruth?

As King David’s and Christ’s ancestors we can learn some serious stuff from them.  Don’t look down on the short story because it is short.  God can teach us a lot about true faith here.

Going back on track with Bavinck…

“Spiritual good is what spiritual perform, worked in them and through them by the Holy Spirit”: This good according to Bavinck is supernatural because it is by the Holy Spirit.  The goods the natural man has are other goals but not this one.  We have looked at the natural man earlier and we discovered that his main goal is the ‘I’.

Bavinck goes on to say that the image of God is total conformity to the True. We have read enough to realize that the true is an impossibility for the natural man even without the 10 Commandments. Are there only 10? We cannot in the natural fallen state even fulfil these.  Remember that the Torah there are hundreds of laws, but the fact is, we cannot even keep ten perfectly. 


Then on page 153 of his ethics Bavinck starts to get serious and shows us lots of proof texts.  We can look at these now.

7 I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart. Jeremiah 24:7


33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Jeremiah 31:33


25  At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Matthew 11:25


11  Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. Matthew 13:11


3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3


14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. Acts 16:14


28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen.” Acts 28:27-28


Interesting verses that point to the fact that when God moves by the Holy Spirit in the natural man, he will get a brand-new heart (the focus moves from the self-back to God!).  We plainly see this working in Lydia as “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul”.  In the Christian tradition God is always active and working in the lives of his people.  In the story of Ruth as well in one verse Naomi doesn’t understand why but she says something like “God caused this situation to happen and”.  We do not need to be Superman, Spider man, the Hulk or the Flash to move from the natural to the supernatural.  With God it is completely normal to take us into His dimension and into the perfect relationship.

Then, the question has to be begged; Why is it impossible for the natural fallen nature of Man to make it into eternity and back into a relationship with God?

Bavinck continues with another set of proof texts that shows us the reason.



The Natural Man:



The natural man is hostile to God

7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, Romans 8:7


From the point of view of the natural man it is Seen as foolishness:

The Wisdom of God
18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,
20  Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach  Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25


The natural man lacks spiritual understanding

7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written,
10   For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 1 Corinthians 2:7-13


There are some more proof texts, but I think you get the idea.  Having completed his section on the proof texts he sums up on page 154.


“The ability to do the good, the supernatural, God-pleasing, eternal-life deserving good, is totally lost. Indeed, even the believer accomplishes not

a single perfectly good work. But the believer’s good work can be good in

principle, because it derives from the Holy Spirit, from faith, and it takes

God’s law as its standard, and it aims at God’s honour. Then whatever is still

lacking is atoned for by Christ and supplemented by him. The fact remains,

however, that the spiritual good remains lost.”


Having looked at “Knowledge in the mind and Holiness in the will” we have come to recognize that goodness only comes from God.  God’s saving power comes from God, God’s saving power comes from the Holy Spirit and not from fallen man.  This has caused theologians over the centuries to battle out the doctrine of election.  For some Calvin’s double predestination is a driving force of people going to heaven and hell.  I have to say I think Calvin is very sharp, but I don’t think he intended it to be this way.  Karl Barth saw this, and he emphasised ‘in Christ’ but for some this over emphasis can lead some to think that Karl Barth is on his way to universalism.  I think the truth is that it does not matter!  Pelagius was wrong because it gave God’s sovereignty to man.  I am looking forward to reading Bavinck’s ideas on election.   Here however in his ethics God is Sovereign and that is the way it should be. 


Perhaps as a Christian we may have gone astray like the prodigal son.

O Lord I pray that by your Holy Spirit you will put us on the same road as Jesus Christ.  I pray that you will work in our intellect and wills to bring us into the great salvation that you created.

Help us to show mercy as you showed mercy.

Help us to show love as you show love.

Help us to see with the eye of faith like Lydia.


The conscience, Herman Bavinck and the New Testament part 3

May 14, 2021

 At the end of his New testament selection Bavinck writes:

“However, even among believers, the conscience is not immediately perfected or healthy. For many, the conscience remains weak (1 Cor. 8:7; 10:12; cf. 1 Cor. 10; Rom. 14) and must therefore be spared. It can still be bound to idols, to pagan laws and customs, from which it must gradually be set free to be bound solely and most strictly to God and his law. In other words, the activity of the conscience must be determined by the Holy Spirit alone (Rom. 9:1).” Reformed Ethics page 176, Herman Bavinck, edited by John Bolt.

The Christian person is not perfect even after repenting and following Christ.  It is all by grace.  The believer can and is still bound to ‘to idols, to pagan laws and customs.’  How does this differ to God’s laws?  

 Paganism has outlying features for example:

“During the past thirty years, scholars have gradually become aware of the existence, across the western world, of a rapidly growing complex of modern religions organised under the label of Paganism. [1] Although they differ from each other in the nature of their deities, rites, and organisation, they have certain definitive features in common: most obviously, a veneration of the feminine principle of divinity as well as the masculine, a sense of an inherent sanctity in the natural world, an ethic of responsible individual self-expression that rejects concepts of sin and salvation, and an identification with the pre-Christian religions of Europe and the Near East. They are also more or less united by the observation of a common pattern of eight annual seasonal festivals.”


So, although the Christian has made a break with the old life and has made Christ Lord of his life there are things that hang on.  It may be that the Believer follows Jesus, but he came from another religious background and still holds on to some of his earlier deities.  It may be that he has problems with food that has been sacrificed to some god.  It may be that before he became a Christian, he had a selfish mentality and a materialist.  He is still holding on to these things.  ‘Paganism’ covers a very wide spectrum, no wonder the believer holds on to old ways because he/ she still does not know any better. As Paul says and Bavinck reminds us: “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,” Romans 9:1. As Bavinck has said and reminds us:

‘the activity of the conscience must be determined by the Holy Spirit alone’.

Let us look at some of the basics:

Who is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Spirit and it is he who sanctifies us and gets us ready to be in god’s presence.  He the Holy Spirit teaches us everything we ought to know including to love our neighbours and enemies.

Let us look at some of these verses:

Paul says:

However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 1 Corinthians 8:7

Paul again says:

Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.   No temptation has overtaken you, but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:12-13


Again, all of Romans 14 but I only quote a few verses here:

Therefore, let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.  I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclear.  For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.  Therefore, do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.  So, then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.  Romans 14:13-20


At the time of Paul Paganism was a major religion in that part of the world.  With the spread of Christianity, it has shrunk but not destroyed (almost destroyed).    This was a war of ideas and people hearts.  We can see these real issues being played out on a daily basis. Now in the 21st century the new paganism is secularism and through secularism Christianity is now being attacked in the name of democracy.  The idea of secularism I suppose it the political view that “it the principle of separation of the state from religious institutions.” From the oxford dictionary and google.

At the time of Saint Paul these temples we governed by the state.  Even though religious institutions have been separated from the state, religion has only prospered and has become multiple faceted like at the time of the first century AD.  As the new religious belief systems move in, there is more persecution of Christians even in Western countries.  Perhaps we need a revisit of the two kingdoms of light and darkness by St Augustine needs to be revisited.   Certainly, when we look at our consciences, we need the Holy Spirit to look into our souls and purify our consciences and make us Holy.  No one in their own strength can purify and make the conscience pure; it is only by the death, resurrection of Christ and the Holy Spirit working in our lives can we ever hope to obtain entrance into God’s presence. 


“Herman Bavinck finishes this section of the conscience and the New Testament by saying: “The testimony of the conscience must be the witness of the Holy Spirit. Here we also need to appeal to 1 John 3:18—20, where the activity of the conscience is ascribed to the heart: “Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart.” From Reformed Ethics page 176, Herman Bavinck, edited by John Bolt.

I find that last sentence: ‘Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart’ a real encouragement.  No matter how far we feel that we have failed, God will be there to help us and save us from our own destructive ways.

So, then my friends. Repent on a daily basis asking God for his grace in Christ to help us.  No one is perfect.  I’m not perfect but neither is anyone else but Christ.

Conscience and the New Testament part 2

May 9, 2021


09 05 2021

conscience on the new testament as a word file

Last time we considered the Old Testament on the conscience.  Now we are going to look at the New testament.  Part 2

Today in Finland and many parts of the world it is Mothers Day so I say Happy Mothers day.  Without motherhood the world would be a sadder place.  Let us now move on to Bavinck and his teachings on the conscience

Bavinck starts with Matthew 6 22; I need to quote him here,” “The eye is the lamp of the body”—Jesus is referring to the capacity for the human mind to know the eternal, to reason, to the human spirit, and to the light of nature (retained by humans after the fall).”  This is very interesting because there is a residue of conscience after the Fall.  Other religions have the capacity to reach heights unimaginable; Bruce Lee proved this in his art. This height however is not salvific according to the Christian religion.  The Fall was a universal disaster for all humankind, and it is only through Jesus Christ that we can come to the Father and reach our full potential.  This process then is a movement of the particular that many branches of humanity cannot accept.  However, I have accepted it as I believe that Jesus is the answer to all of humanity and humanities problems.

So excepting the story of the prodigal son in Luke (Luke 15:17)and the woman caught in adultery John (8:9). . then the word conscience (syneideisis) is found mainly in Paul’s writings in a lot of places.  This is the route Herman Bavinck follows.   He traverses pages 173 -176.  There is a lot of information to take in.  Obviously if Paul takes the conscience seriously so must we.   Before we come to any conclusions, we ought to follow this road too and see where we find ourselves at.

Bavinck also refers to the woman caught in adultery Joahn 8, 7[syneideisis] that some manuscripts have a different reading. John Chapter 7. 53 through to chapter 8 verse 11 are not found in the earliest manuscripts.   However there is strong evidence that this event took place.  I go along with Carson’s finding (

I also found out what Bavinck already knew that

From Novum Testamentum 26th edition

Και uπο της συνειδεισεως ελεγχομενοι ἐξήρχοντο. (U Γ 28. 700.  (892). 1010 πμ

And by their conscience being convicted they began to go away(one by one)

Below from

U = Nanianus 9th century Venice

Γ = tischendorf 10th century Russia


So, from the teachings of Jesus we see the idea of conscience is found even if there is disagreement on the literal use of conscience.  The majority text is frowned on by some because it accepted later texts as well.  I’m not interested in those reasons.  For the main point Bavinck is correct to state the idea of conscience is found in the teachings of Jesus.  We must also remember that the teachings of the Apostles are the teachings of Jesus and these were worked out in the day to day running of the church to the point that most Apostles died martyrs.


Paul has his theology on conscience and the mind and use of the mind and heart are very important to him.  Conscience / syneideisis are very important.  Bavinck is now going to prove to us why conscience is such an important word for him.  This is also very important for us because if we really believe and have a high view of Scripture that it contains the oracles of God. The question is What state is our own conscience in?

Are we the type of people that when we do something wrong in our hearts we say “it doesn’t matter” or are we like Bruce Lee people who take our conscience so seriously that we listen to every aspect of the conscience?  It does not matter if Bruce Lee was a Christian or not, he is a good example of a person who understood the conscience.  A lot of Christians and people of other belief systems have not I believe do not fully understand or grasp what a conscience is. 

As a general introduction then Paul is found using the word conscience the most

“And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” (Acts 23:1)

 So, I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. (Acts 24:16)

Therefore, one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Rom. 13:5)

But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. (1 Cor. 8:7; cf. 8:12—9:27; 10:23—33; Rom. 14)”

From Reformed ethics, Herman Bavinck, edited by John Bolt page 176.

So, Paul always watched his conscience and questioned it before God.  Paul submitted his conscience to God’s will.  For Bruce Lee, he was the measure who measured his conscience with very high standards.  For Christians, the conscience ought to be submitted to God.  This happens by grace and faith.  


So, then we have seen that for the Apostles and the teachings of Jesus the idea or the very word conscience is found.  We have seen that even non-Christian’s value conscience.  My question is: Do you value conscience?

As people of faith, we realize that we cannot do perfect things.  We are human and we fail.  This is why the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us hope.  In our own strength we will fail again and again but through the work of Christ by the Holy Spirit, he helps us to do the right thing.  Next time we will continue with Bavinck as he goes into more detail on the conscience. 

Jesus is the King whom God sent into the world, for a moment was made lower than angels but now glorified in Him we have eternal life.

May 8, 2021

Hebrews chapter 2 verses 5 upto 8b. Part 1

When I have the text I will be rmoving the verse numbers because a robot turns my text into speech to that you can listen to.  It may take a couple of days before it comes up on spotify and other platforms.

First let us read the text; 

Earth Subject to Man

For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying,







For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.

Jesus Briefly Humbled

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.   For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,



And again,


And again,


The writer places Psalm 8 in context of the Son. Although the subject of the Psalm (man) may seem to be in the context of the whole of the human race.  Using the methodology of his day for Biblical interpretation this was ok. 

I am going to give the writer a name from now on and I am going to call him Apollos.  There is no hard evidence, but some theologians think that he is the best fit.  I’m taking this line because it is easier to say ‘Apollos’ than to say ‘the writer to the Hebrews’.  

These verses that Apollos quotes are straight from Psalm 8.  Psalm is very important because it is a Messianic Psalm.  The kings of Israel in the old days were anointed with oil. (Mashiach). The Apostles inferred that Jesus was The King of Israel the anointed of God.  Apollos and Paul are in complete agreement here but first let us work through the text.  Apollos proved that all the angels were our servants.  That Jesus is greater than the angels and because of this the only legitimate claimant is the King of Israel; That everything was subjected to his Christ.  Having said that the Christ was to be made in subjection for a while under the angels but not for all time.  I wrote a while ago.

The phrase in the Greek ‘a little while’ can also in the Greek be ‘a little than’.  It has been understood both spatially and from a time perspective.  However, I have to say that a pure spatial understanding would make a mockery of Hebrews 1 where Jesus is made greater than the angels. The ‘time aspect is needed to understand that Christ has only been made less than the angels for a short period. This was in accordance with the scriptures that it was for the sake of the salvation of humanity that he was made a little lower.

So then, let us keep in mind when we read this section of Hebrews.  In verse 8b Apollos writes.

“For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him. Hebrews 2:8b”

Obviously even today we don’t see everything subjected to Christ, but we do know that at the end of times this will actually take place. Calvin says the same type of thing (Calvin’s new testament commentaries, Eerdmans, Hebrews 1, and 2 Peter, pages 23 – 24).  As evidence for this understanding Calvin Turns to 1 Corinthians 15. 28 I came to the same conclusion earlier and Apollos and Paul are in total agreement although they have a different way of saying it.

“ For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:27-28”

I touched on the above in “When time becomes unnecessary, we will be sharing in the Trinitarian Divine Life for eternity!”

“The Apostolic teaching is that Christ indeed did rise from the dead according to God’s plan and one day we will also rise from the dead.  The day will come when Jesus as the King will hand over everything to the Father including the greatest enemy ‘death’.  Then Christ will subject himself to the Father and the Church in Christ will be brought into the Trinitarian Divine Life and everything will be Perfect.” Taken from my Corinthian lessons in wordpress

This theology my friends has a name ‘recapitulation’ and here it is stated in a different style. 

I also think Irenaeus helps us understand these truths as he wrote;

“As it has been clearly demonstrated that the Word, who existed in the beginning with God, by whom all things were made, who was also always present with mankind, was in these last days, according to the time appointed by the Father, united to His own workmanship, inasmuch as He became a man liable to suffering, [it follows] that every objection is set aside of those who say, “If our Lord was born at that time, Christ had therefore no previous existence.” For I have shown that the Son of God did not then begin to exist, being with the Father from the beginning; but when He became incarnate, and was made man, He commenced afresh the long line of human beings, and furnished us, in a brief, comprehensive manner, with salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam—namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God—that we might recover in Christ Jesus.

And again Irenaeus writes;

He has therefore, in His work of recapitulation, summed up all things, both waging war against our enemy, and crushing him who had at the beginning led us away captives in Adam, and trampled upon his head, as thou canst perceive in Genesis that God said to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; He shall be on the watch for (observabit) thy head, and thou on the watch for His heel.” For from that time, He who should be born of a woman, [namely] from the Virgin, after the likeness of Adam, was preached as keeping watch for the head of the serpent. This is the seed of which the apostle says in the Epistle to the Galatians, “that the law of works was established until the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” This fact is exhibited in a still clearer light in the same Epistle, where he thus speaks: “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.” For indeed the enemy would not have been fairly vanquished, unless it had been a man [born] of a woman who conquered him. For it was by means of a woman that he got the advantage over man at first, setting himself up as man’s opponent. And therefore does the Lord profess Himself to be the Son of man, comprising in Himself that original man out of whom the woman was fashioned (ex quo ea quae secundum mulierem est plasmatio facta est), in order that, as our species went down to death through a vanquished man, so we may ascend to life again through a victorious one; and as through a man death received the palm [of victory] against us, so again by a man we may receive the palm against death.

I was planning to go to the end of verse 13 but I covered a lot of ground up to verse 8b.


Who is Jesus?

 Where did Jesus come from?

How does our salvation fit into this?

We have come to the conclusion that Jesus is God who became a human being.  For a little while he lived with us and he communed with us. He is the King of Israel.

For the last question I can say that our salvation is dependent on his being, person and actions from the economic eternal Trinity. 

Run, run away from evil and pay homage to the Son from whom by the Holy Spirit we receive grace in abundance… Hebrews 2. 1-5

May 2, 2021

The opening verses.

Listen Carefully!

“1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” Hebrews 2:1-4

A lot of angels were also locked up in judgement.  Let us take scripture more seriously and see what God is trying to teach us.   Let us come in humility and find out God’s message to us in the 21st century.  In Jesus Christ, God became a man.  The whole of the Trinity is involved in this salvific movement and by faith we can be the recipients of this gift of grace. (salvation)

When looking at verses 1-4 his attention focuses on the situation of the readers. The majority of the time the writer is expounding the teachings about the Christ but at crucial moments he is challenging the readers and asks them where their allegiance lies.  The writer at this point has proven that Jesus is greater than the angels and that Jesus has come from God as his representative here on earth. The readers are invited to consider the evidence. They can come to only one conclusion, Jesus is the Christ.

Preliminary remarks on Hebrews chapter 2 verses 5-8.

But discussion of the Son does not stay on the side of the divine.  The eternal son takes on flesh and becomes a human being. As it says ‘for a little while’, the Son was made a little lower than the angels.  The eternal Son is not only made a little lower than the angels, but he is a man.

As a man he faces all the problems that men and women do. The eternal Son as a man suffers even the greatest evil itself ‘death’.  In his death there is real forgiveness from our sin and for the Jewish Christians there is real comfort (verse 18).

The writer to the Hebrews uses proof texts which his readers would have understood.   Psalm 8 verses 4-6, Psalm 22 verse22, Isaiah 8 verses 17-18 et al.

Some theologians have argued that the early Christians used the sacred texts to fit there circumstances in a haphazard way (I am thinking of Heikki Häkkinen at this point).

Obviously, the book of Hebrews shows this not to be the case.  The writer chooses and selects proof texts very carefully for the purpose of his argument. There is nothing haphazard about the choices of the above scripture quotations. These were well known Messianic texts that were used in the Jewish community in the first century AD.

I also must disagree with the theory than Pannenberg puts forward concerning history. Old facts are modified by newer facts as history progresses to the eschaton (thesis/antithesis/synthesis).  Christianity and Judaism are both in a lot of ways remembering religions not progressive religions. The Jews every year celebrate the Passover as a significant point in their history. Christians remember the sacrifice of Jesus every Sunday at Holy communion. ‘Do this in remembrance of me’.  A fuller explanation is needed such as progressive revelation. God reveals a little more of his nature as time moves on.

Although the OT was interpreted in light of the Christ there is nothing arbitrary about the way the writer used the scriptures.  These were texts that pointed to the Christ and were believed to point to the Christ even before the time that the Christ was born (a road map to the king). Contrary to Häkkinen’s point of view.

On the other hand the writer is ‘reminding’ the readers of the importance of these scriptures. Contrary to what Pannenberg might emphasize.  These texts take on decisive meaning and there is nothing arbitrary about them.

In layman’s terms:

As I said Jesus is really the eternal son which I spoke to you centuries ago. Now that the Son has come you can see how all these scriptures fall into place.

In other words, the prophecies have bee fulfilled not modified.  In Hegelianism older facts can be modified by newer facts by contingent accident. Revelation is not accidental it has a purpose from the heart of God.


As Christians we really do need to understand what Jesus taught us. We have various tools to do this.

  1. We do this by genuine prayer asking God to help us understand and to walk in his love. 
  2. Reading the scriptures and prayerfully searching the scriptures.

For us we are blessed to have such teachers of the Old Testament who have opened up its meaning to us in the book of Hebrews.  John Owen wrote a tome on the book of Hebrews; under the surface it is a very rich book. Perhaps you have become a believer recently or have been a believer for decades; This book is speaking to you.  The letter is explaining who Jesus is.  We do well to do the same.