Justification by faith is central to the mission of God to bless all the peoples of the earth; part 2

This blog post is part 2 of this series: “Justification by faith is central to the mission of God to bless all the peoples of the earth”. It is also the fourth blog post in a general series concerning how honor-shame helps us understand justification by faith.


In Paul’s letter to the Romans, the doctrine of justification by faith is tethered to the global mission of God—the blessing of salvation for all peoples. We looked at Romans 3:28–30 in the first post. In this post we consider Romans 4:16–18 in conjunction with Galatians 3:7–8. All of these passages deal with justification by faith and how this doctrine overlaps with the all-peoples mission of God.

First, Romans 4:16–18 …

[16] That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, [17] as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. [18] In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”

What is “it”?

The opening phrase is: “That is why it depends on faith”. What does “it” refer to? It refers to the fulfillment of Abraham’s promise through faith, specifically justification by faith. Robert Jewett writes:

… Paul contends that the fulfillment of Abraham’s promise (which is the subject of this paragraph in 4:13) comes ἐκ πίστεως (“by faith”). This formula harks back to the thesis of Romans drawn from Hab 2:4, that the “righteous shall live ἐκ πίστεως (1:17), which was elaborated in 3:25–30 and 4:5–12.[1]

So although the words justification by faith are not specifically mentioned in Rom 4:16, let us observe that the words from the justification-word-family are mentioned five times (justified, just, justifier, justify, justified) in Rom 3:24–30, referencing faith. They are all elaborating on the fact that it is “by faith, not works”. So the concept of justification by faith may be considered implicit in “it depends on faith”. One could paraphrase this, “That is why the fulfillment of Abraham’s promise depends on justification by faith”.

What is “the promise”?

Next question: What is “the promise” referred to in the phrase “in order that the promise may rest on grace”? This refers to the promise made in God’s initial call to Abram in Genesis 12:3—“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” As stated in the prior post, the promise of God’s blessing-to-all-peoples-and-nations is repeated in 18:18, 22:18, 26:4, 28:14). The repetition of the promise indicates a forceful emphasis, a highly significant theme in the purpose, story, and gospel of God.

Why “guaranteed to all his offspring”?

First, let’s recognize that “all his offspring” refers to all the families/ethnicities/peoples of the earth—among whom innumerable believers will have placed their faith in Jesus Christ (Gal 3:29). The use of the word “all” (πᾶς) is significant throughout Romans. Jewett writes concerning Rom 4:16:

The word “all” (πᾶς) is crucial for Romans, having been employed nineteen times already in the letter, including the close parallel in Rom 4:11 referring to Abraham as the “father of all who believe.” The opening lines of the letter feature inclusive emphasis, addressed to “all those in Rome beloved of God” (1:7), praying for “all of you” (1:8), and serving a mission aimed at the obedience of faith among “all the Gentiles” (1:5), that offers salvation to “all who believe” (1:16). So in this chapter the “righteousness of faith” (4:13) in Abraham’s promise establishes an inclusivity of all faithful people, no matter what their ethnic or religious status may be. [2](Emphasis mine.)

Second, something about the nature of faith in Christ makes it possible, no, guaranteed—to go global! To further spell it out—we must see that the ancient promise of God to Abraham in Genesis naturally results in an honor challenge to the reputation of God. Here’s why: It results in an honor challenge because of the questions that the promise raises in the minds of all humans who would hear about this God and his utterly astounding promise to Abraham.

  • Will God make good on his promise? Is God actually able to deliver on what he promised to Abraham?
  • How exactly, is God going to fulfill his promise to bless all the families of the earth? What will be his means?
  • Could it be that the scope of God’s promise—to bless all the families of the earth, all peoples, all nations—is just hyperbole, mere exaggeration?
  • Was this promise a kind of boasting—God’s way of tricking Abraham, manipulating him into obedience?

Whatever the case, the honor and glory of God’s name is at stake, because the trustworthiness of his promise—across millennia and on behalf of all the peoples of the earth—is in question. Will the honor of God’s name be vindicated?

“Father, glorify your name!”

To further examine this, here’s an excerpt from my book The Global Gospel. I’m addressing the passionate declaration in John 12:28 of Jesus Christ to the Father—just before his being apprehended by the Roman authorities before his trial, flogging, and crucifixion.

When Jesus prays, “Father, glorify your name” [John 12:28], he is essentially saying, Father, vindicate your honor! Save your “face”!

Why would the death and resurrection of Christ vindicate God’s honor? Because it is the only way that God’s promise to Abraham to bless all the families of the earth could have come true. God’s credibility hinged on a means for all peoples to be blessed and redeemed. Yes, God gave the law to Moses and his people; yes, the law revealed God’s righteousness and holiness; but the law was lifeless in that it was totally unable to save (Rom 8:2–3).

There was only one way that God’s plan to bless all families—to reverse the curse among all peoples—could be guaranteed: through a heart-captivating faith that individuals and peoples everywhere would place in the name, honor, and finished work of Jesus Christ, a faith that transcends culture.

With regard to ethnicity this faith needed to be neutral, accessible to and affirming of all peoples. But with regard to ethics, this faith needed to be superior; that is, it needed to have the ability to truly transform people from the inside out, conforming them to the righteousness of the Son of God. Therefore, this faith would be a fulfillment of the covenant promise God gave to his people through Abraham (Gen 12:1–3), but the faith would be untethered from the works of the law specific to Jewish ethnicity and culture, such as circumcision.[3]

God is making sure (it is “guaranteed”, as in Rom 4:16) that all the families/peoples of the earth will be blessed, and that this family of families—which owes its existence to God—will be as universally broad and diverse as originally promised. This in turn gives God maximum honor and relational delight, the maximum praise he deserves.

One more passage to consider: Galatians 3:7–8

In Gal 3:7–8 (below), observe the links between a) justification by faith, b) “the Gentiles” and “all the nations”, and c) “the gospel”.

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”

Without a doubt the context of this passage is the justification by faith of believers from all the nations/people groups. In the book of Galatians, one of Paul’s strategies is to use the doctrine of justification to expose the ethnocentric values of the Jews.[4] According to Jackson Wu, “The doctrine of justification explains who can be justified by explaining how one is justified. ‘All nations’ is the specific locus of the Abrahamic covenant. Faith simply explains how God undermines ethnic exclusivism and so keeps his promise.”[5]

Therefore, justification by faith in Jesus Christ is the only means for the promised blessing to be guaranteed to all the offspring (i.e., all peoples, ethnicities, nations). Why?

  1. Justification by faith is ethnically neutral and culturally fluid (no circumcision or other Jewish cultural traditions required!); it therefore guarantees that God’s honorific blessing can go to all peoples. No ethnic group is excluded. Every people group in all the world is included in the blessing-and-honor-Story of Jesus the Christ. Every tribe will be represented in the royal family (Rom 8:14–15; Eph 2:19; 1 Pet 2:9), with regal access to God the Father (Rom 5:1–2).
  2. Justification by faith leads to the ultimate honor—global worship unto God. God will be seen to make good on his promise; God’s reputation is preserved, his honor vindicated, his name glorified. The Triune God is lovingly worshiped by people from among all peoples, both Jew and Gentile—all ethnicities, tribes and nations (Rom 15:8–11).

Undermining ethnic exclusivism

Most Western and Reformed theology holds the doctrine of justification by faith to be a legal transaction by which God “reckons” individual sinners “not guilty” (Rom 4:3; 4:6, 8:1). The explanation of justification by faith in Grudem’s Systematic Theology is a great example of this legal-framework view.[6] I do not dispute its truthfulness.

Indeed, our personal faith in Christ—faith in his death and his resurrection—is the way that we as individuals have our sins forgiven, become part of the family of God, and are saved from the penalty of sin.

But to speak of justification by faith as a legal transaction only—a legal transaction for individuals—is to marginalize some hugely significant issues concerning social status and group-honor (or dishonor), peoples and ethnicity—in Romans and Galatians.

  • As Jackson Wu writes, “Faith simply explains how God undermines ethnic exclusivism and so keeps his promise.”
  • Jewett writes: “In Paul’s interpretation the God in whom Abraham believed is the same as the father of Jesus Christ who accepts and honors those who have no basis for honor, either in their religious accomplishments, their wisdom, or their social status.” … “[F]aith was the response of converts to the message that Christ died for the impious, and it led to their joining small communities of faith in which righteousness became a social reality as the dishonored were restored to honor, that is, to ‘righteousness.’”[7]

A gospel that speaks to elitism, tribalism, exclusivism

Elitism. Tribalism. Exclusivism. ‘My group is better than or different from your group; my group is superior and your group is excluded.’

Isn’t the issue of exclusivism, whatever the source, a huge problem in our world today? Corporate sin—whether it is along cultural, ethnic/racial/tribal, political, or other lines of social demarcation—seems ever present. These corporate sins concern our individual core identity and group identity … honor and shame … inclusion and exclusion. The question is often over All peoples? Or just some peoples?

The doctrine of justification by faith guarantees that the promised blessing of God travels to all peoples, to the ends of the earth; it is for the salvation-and-honor-in-Christ of persons from among all peoples, not just some peoples. This is not just the goal of the gospel. According to Gal 3:8 this is the gospel (or at least one significant part of it). The glory of God is at stake.


FOOTNOTES

1. Robert Jewett: Romans: A Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 328–9.
2. Ibid., 330.
3. Werner Mischke: The Global Gospel: Achieving Missional Impact in Our Multicultural World (Scottsdale: Mission ONE, 2015), 244.
4. Ibid., 134.
5. Jackson Wu: Saving God’s Face: A Chinese Contextualization of Salvation through Honor and Shame (EMS Dissertation Series) (Pasadena: WCIU Press, 2012), 270.
6. In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem writes, “In this sense of ‘declare to be righteous’ or ‘declare to be not guilty’ Paul frequently uses the word to speak of God’s justification of us, his declaration that we, though guilty sinners, are nonetheless righteous in his sight. … In this sense of ‘justify,’ God issues a legal declaration about us. This is why theologians have also said that justification is forensic, where the word forensic means ‘having to do with legal proceedings.’” Wayne Grudem: Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (p. 724). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
7. Jewett, 314–315.

Justification by faith is central to the mission of God to bless all the peoples of the earth; part 1

I highly recommend, first of all, that you read the recent blog post at HonorShame.com: “The meaning of Romans 3:23”. The author‘s explanation of this often-quoted verse brings out the honor-shame dynamics in the context of Romans 1–3.

The author points to the fact that Romans 3:23 speaks to the sinfulness of peoples (Jews and Gentiles)—more than to the general sin of individual persons. The blog post provides helpful background information for my blog post below.

For the sake of convenience, a key paragraph from the HonorShame.com blog is provided below. (Remember, this is about the verse, Romans 3:23—“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”)

Simply put, all does not mean “every single, individual person.” Rather, all means “both Jews and Gentiles,” or “every ethnicity.” Or most succinctly, it means “all peoples,” instead of “all people.” The primary categories in Romans 1-3 are groups, not individuals. Romans addresses the relationship between two groups of people. Group A consists of ethnic Israelites, “the circumcised,” “the Jews,” “those under the nomos/Torah.” Group B is the Gentiles, “the uncircumcised, “the Greeks,” “those without nomos/Torah. So, when Paul says “all” he has in mind both of these groups—Jews and Gentiles. The use in Romans 3:23 means “all peoples” more than “every individual.”[1]


In Paul’s letter to the Romans, the doctrine of justification by faith is tethered to the global mission of God—the blessing of salvation for all peoples. We’ll look at two passages in Paul’s letter to the church at Rome—Romans 3:28–30 and Romans 4:16–18, plus Galatians 3:7–9. All of these passages deal with justification by faith and the all-peoples mission of God.

This blog post is part one. We examine Romans 3:28–30

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

Explicit and positive

We start with the obvious. The verses contain a truth that is both explicit and positive concerning the all-peoples emphasis. God will justify persons from among both Jews (the circumcised) and Gentiles (the uncircumcised). Together, this represents all the peoples of the earth. God will bless all peoples. No people group is excluded from God’s blessing. It connects with God’s original promise to Abraham to bless all the peoples of the earth through his family (Gen 12:3, 15:5, 18:18, 22:18, 26:4, 28:14).

To emphasize the radical nature of God’s gift-of-salvation-offered-to-all-peoples, Apostle Paul asks: “Or is God the God of the Jews only?” (Paul is identifying the default Jewish attitude that God belongs to the Jews only—the basis for Jewish “boasting.)

Then Paul answers, “Yes, of Gentiles also”. Concerning this answer, Robert Jewett writes:

Paul contends that the relationship of the “Gentiles” and the “Jews” to God is now exactly the same … God is the God of both ethnic groups. The revolutionary equality of all nations before God that flows from the Christ event is emphatically stated by Paul’s response to the interlocutor’s question: ναὶ καὶ ἐθνῶν (“Yes, [God] also [belongs to] Gentiles).[2]

Note well the explicit-positive principle: All nations are equal before God. It is a revolutionary idea. Paul was articulating a Christ-centered gospel which was utterly fresh—a brilliant, positive hope in his world of the Roman Empire. It challenged the status quo of empire-adoring Romans … of ethnically proud Jews … and of culturally elitist Greeks. Can you hear this gospel speaking to our world as well?

Implicit and negative

And now, the not-as-obvious. There is an all-peoples emphasis in Romans 3:28–30 that is more implicit and negative. It is implicit in the phrase, “one is justified by faith apart from works of the law”. Jewett, commenting on Rom 3:28, writes:

God’s granting of righteousness through faith in the crucified Christ counters the seemingly universal tendency to claim honor on the basis of performance or social status. It eliminates claims of cultural or ethnic superiority.[3]

In the book Saving God’s Face, Jackson Wu also addresses the ethnic issues of Jew and Gentile in the doctrine of justification by faith as taught in Romans and Galatians. After a lengthy nuanced discussion covering various perspectives, Wu concludes:

“[T]his gospel message (Gal 3:8) inherently necessitates forsaking the primacy of ethnic identity. The gospel directly challenges ethnocentrism; it is no mere corollary or application.[4]

Wow. “The gospel directly challenges ethnocentrism; it is no mere corollary or application.” Do you hear the force of these words? Ethnic, tribal or national identity is to be secondary to the believer’s primary identity as citizen in God’s kingdom, family member in the household of God (Eph 2:19). I believe it is this, our most-honorable identity in Christ, that subverts ethnocentrism and is part of the core of the gospel.

What is the implicit and negative all-peoples emphasis? It is that faith in the crucified Christ “directly challenges ethnocentrism” and “eliminates claims of cultural or ethnic superiority”. Faith in the crucified Christ necessitates forsaking ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism, cultural elitism, racism—this is what we are to negate through the gospel.

It includes and excludes

Of course, the gift of salvation in Christ includes the personal gain of eternal life and the hope of heaven. But what if we embraced a fuller meaning of justification-by-faith in Rom 3:28–30 as described above? If we did, the gift of salvation might profoundly impact the believer’s relational world when it excludes from the believer—attitudes of cultural, national, tribal, or ethnic superiority.

An audacious thought: Could this all-nations, global gospel have prevented the 1994 genocide in Rwanda when a majority of the nation was considered Christian? Could this all-nations, global gospel have a profound impact today in America—in our deeply polarized social and political climate?

Every expression of elitism, racism, and nationalism will one day fall in submission to the Lordship of Christ. This is part of a gospel expressly designed by God to bless all the peoples of the earth.

Conclusion: Could it be that the Western, individualistic legal-framework gospel emphasizes personal conscience and individual conversion—while at the same time, it unduly marginalizes the relational, social significance of the all-peoples, all-ethnicities gospel? Is this because in Western theology, the common understanding of justification by faith is missing the ethnic, relational, or social dimension of what Apostle Paul intended?

Next post: Part two—Romans 4:16–18 and Galatians 3:7–9


FOOTNOTES

1. Robert Jewett confirms this exegesis: “To fall short is an honor issue and it resonates with the competition for honor within and between groups in the Greco-Roman world. . . . Despite the claims of Jews and Greeks to surpass each other in honor and despite their typical claims that the other groups are shameful because of their lack of wisdom or moral conformity, Paul’s claim is that all fall short of the transcendent standard of honor.” In Jewett: Romans: A Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 280.
2. Ibid., 299.
3. Ibid., 298.
4. Jackson Wu: Saving God’s Face: A Chinese Contextualization of Salvation through Honor and Shame (EMS Dissertation Series), (Pasadena: William Carey International University Press, 2013), 276–7.

Justification by faith is God’s means of salvation—to “exclude boasting”

An important passage for the doctrine of justification by faith is Romans 3:21–27.

[21] But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—

[22] the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:

[23] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

[24] and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

[25] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

[26] It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

[27] Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.

[28] For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

There is a relationship here between 1) justification by faith, and 2) boasting. The necessity of the first makes for the exclusion of the second.

In order to better understand this relationship we must first grasp the meaning of the word “boasting” in the intensely competitive social context of the Roman Empire. Robert Jewett says that “it is ordinarily overlooked that Rome is the boasting champion of the ancient world, filled with honorific monuments and celebrations of imperial glory.”[1]

In the social context of the Roman world, honor competition and boasting were as common as breathing. Scholars have a name for this honor-shame dynamic: “challenge and riposte”.

U.K. theologian John M. G. Barclay, author of Paul and the Gift, explains the intense rivalry and  widespread practice of “boasting” in the social world of Apostle Paul:

Paul lived in a face-to-face society where self-advertisement [boasting], rivalry, and public competition were a perpetual cause of tension in every day life. …

As recent research has emphasized, almost all social relations and Paul’s cultural context were both ordered and threatened by the competition for honor. In the absence of “objective” measures of quality (such as educational qualifications), a person’s worth was heavily dependent on his public reputation, a “dignity” energetically claimed and fiercely defended. The pursuit or defense of honor was, many ancient commentators claimed, the chief motivating force for action: “by nature we yearn and hunger for honor, and once we have glimpsed, as it were, some part of its radiance, there is nothing we are not prepared to bear and suffer in order to secure it” (Cicero, Tusc. 2.24.58). …

And challenge was, indeed, the very essence of this culture. Honor was derived from comparison, from placing oneself (or being placed by others) higher on some hierarchical scale, in which one person’s superiority means that another is comparatively demeaned. This made honor ever the subject of contest: indeed, the ordeal or test was the very arena in which honor was proved. In this environment, every claim to honor [boast] was a real or potential provocation, and every challenge required an active riposte. Honor was a precious but unstable commodity, requiring active promotion [boasting] and persistent demonstration in a court of opinion that continually looked on with a critical eye.[2]

So what does Paul mean when he says, “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded” (Rom 3:27)? Two considerations:

  1. The commonplace social dynamic of boasting in the Roman world—normally considered honorable—is in reality, to be “excluded”. Curiously, this word “excluded” comes from the Greek word ἐκκλείω (ekkleiō), which means “to be shut out”. There is only one other place in the New Testament where this word is used—Gal 4:17. It is a shame term. Why? Because to be excluded is shameful. The irony is plain: The default social practice of making honor claims (boasting)—is actually shameful from God’s perspective!
  2. When Paul asks, “Then what becomes of our boasting?”, is he referring only to ‘we Jews’ who make honor claims (who are boasting) about the “works of the law” (Rom 3:28)? Or is Paul referring to the broader category of ‘we humans’? I believe the context demands that Paul cannot be only referring to Jews, because the preceding verses, Rom 3:21–26, clearly speak with universal intent. I like how Barclay puts it: “His point is to exclude from God’s reckoning not only one but any form of symbolic capital that might be taken to constitute a source of worth before God”.[3]

Ok, so justification by faith means no boasting. But what’s the point? Community!

Yes, justification by faith means that boasting is excluded—what not to do. But there is also an enormously positive intent in Paul’s overall message. Paul has in mind the social community of the church, the body of Christ. Keeping in mind Rome‘s default culture of honor competition, envy, and boasting, we turn again to Barclay, whose insights concerning Paul’s letter to the Romans harmonize with Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

The assembly of believers forms a new community of opinion, constituted by the gift to the unworthy. Within this community there arises, of course, an alternative system of worth, a new form of “symbolic capital”: here, some are to be honored as teachers of the word (6:6) and others given responsibility as “spiritual people” … insofar as they are attuned to the Spirit. But—and this is the second characteristic of Paul’s social strategy—the hallmark of this alternative system of value is that it is specifically directed against rivalry; the greatest honor is for those who work against the competitive spirit of honor itself. As we have seen nearly all of the characteristics catalogued as “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22–23) are directed toward the construction of community, from love downwards. … What counts among believers, according to Paul, is precisely the antithesis to arrogance and competition.[4]

The only kind of rivalry that is acceptable in the Christian community is to “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10). This “antithesis to arrogance”—this against-rivalry-ethic—is also plain in Romans 12:14–19.

Conclusion: By understanding the honor-shame dynamic of “challenge and riposte” and the prominence of “boasting” in the Roman Empire, we better grasp the doctrine of justification by faith. It is God’s means of salvation—to “exclude boasting”—which, in turn, leads to the creation of a loving community that abides in Christ, in unity, against rivalry.


1. Robert Jewett: Romans: A Commentary (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 295–6.
2. John M. G. Barclay: Paul and the Gift (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), 433-4.
3. Ibid., 484.
4. Ibid., 435.

Does honor-shame help us understand justification by faith?

Justification by faith — an honor-shame dynamic

The doctrine of justification by faith comes primarily from Apostle Paul’s letters—to the “Romans” and to the “Galatians”.

Over the past several months, I have been reading Romans in my devotional time. I have come to believe that an awareness of honor-shame dynamics may give added clarity to the Bible’s meaning about justification.

So I am finally returning to my blog with a series of posts on justification by faith.

For the purpose of establishing a baseline of understanding about justification by faith, let‘s begin with two quotes from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.

A right understanding of justification is absolutely crucial to the whole Christian faith. Once Martin Luther realized the truth of justification by faith alone, he became a Christian and overflowed with the new-found joy of the gospel. The primary issue in the Protestant Reformation was a dispute with the Roman Catholic Church over justification. If we are to safeguard the truth of the gospel for future generations, we must understand the truth of justification. Even today, a true view of justification is the dividing line between the biblical gospel of salvation by faith alone and all false gospels of salvation based on good works. [1]

Just what is justification? We may define it as follows: Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in his sight.[2]

Here is another quote; it’s from Kevin Vanhoozer’s Biblical Authority after Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity(I am about midway through reading this book.)

Lutheran theologians came to view justification as “the article by which the church stands or falls.” Philip Schaff calls justification by faith the “material principle” of the Reformation and the sum of the gospel. It is essentially the retrieval of Paul’s doctrine that God declares us righteous on the merits of Christ alone through faith alone. … What we can say is that Paul is addressing not a Jewish legalism narrowly conceived but the more radical and widespread tendency of sinners to justify themselves, either morally or intellectually.[3]

Justification by faith is “absolutely crucial to the whole Christian faith” … “the article by which the church stands or falls” … the “material principle” of the Protestant Reformation … “the sum of the gospel”.

What I want to explore it this: Will an awareness of honor-shame dynamics in various Scripture passages concerning justification help us gain even more respect for this great doctrine—and deepen our motivation for love and obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ?

Below is a list of topics I plan write about in the coming weeks. By God’s grace I’ll write one post for each of the twelve topics concerning justification by faith. In each post I will highlight a passage of Scripture that features the word “justification”, “justify”, or “justified”—and then apply the hermeneutical key of honor-shame to hopefully shed some added light on its meaning.

  1. Justification by faith is God’s means of salvation—in part to “exclude boasting” before God on the part of all humanity (Rom 3:23–27).
  2. Justification by faith is central to the honorific mission of God to bless all the peoples of the earth (Rom 3:29–30; Rom 4:16–18).
  3. Justification by faith relativizes the privileged status of “the circumcised”—the Jews (Rom 3:30).
  4. Justification by faith makes possible the elevated honor status of Gentiles by being included in the people of God (Rom 3:30; cf: Eph 2:19).
  5. Justification by faith makes possible the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham—to bless all the peoples of the earth, thus preserving God’s honor and glorious reputation (Gen 12:1–3; John 12:27–28; Rom 4:16).
  6. Justification by faith entitles the sinner to the royal honorific blessing—like King David himself—of having sins and iniquities forgiven (Rom 4:1–8).
  7. Justification by faith places the believer into the honorific family lineage of ancient Abraham, our “father” in the faith—with whom we are co-heirs (Rom 4:9-25, Gal 3:1–29).
  8. Justification by faith glorifies God (Rom 4:20), while exposing all human honor claims as false glory.
  9. Justification by faith places us into the honorific status of peace with God, thus honorific access to God—through the reconciling work of the regal Lord, the Messiah-King, our Savior Jesus (Rom 5:1–2).
  10. Justification by faith gives believers a new source of honor in Christ, and therefore a new present and future glory—for the honorific practice of “boasting” in God (Rom 5:1–11, esp. v. 2, 3, 11).
  11. Justification by faith is the way that grace reigns in eternal life over sin and death (Rom 5:12–21).
  12. Justification by faith is God’s way for believers to have their longing for honor and glory satisfied in Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 8:12–30)—–“provided we suffer with him” (Rom 8:17).

Justification by faith—indeed, it is a glorious and honorific doctrine.

I look forward to writing about justification by faith in the light of the Bible’s honor-shame dynamics. I anticipate learning much. May healthy conversations arise from our exploration.


1. Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (p. 722). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

2. Ibid., p. 723.

3. Vanhoozer, Kevin J.. Biblical Authority after Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity (Kindle Locations 2145–2153). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. For the phrase, “the article by which the church stands or falls”, Vanhoozer cites Johann Heinrich Alsted’s Theologia scholastica didacta (Hanover, 1618). Vanhoozer also cites Philip Schaaf’s Principle of Protestantism, 80.

Honor and shame in the book of Genesis––#3: The honor of woman

This is the third in a series about honor and shame in the book of Genesis. You’ll benefit from reading this in your browser. 

honor and shame in the book of genesis3


“One of the greatest causes of poverty in the world is based on a lie—the lie that men are superior to women.” [1] –Darrow Miller

Other than the serpent’s original deception (Gen 3:1–5) that led to the Fall of humanity, what lie has caused more oppression and trauma in the world?

What lie has caused more tears?

What lie has led to more pain than this? …

“Men are superior to women.”

This was not God’s intent when he created humanity. Observe Genesis 1:26–28:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

From this text we will examine three truths: 1) Humanity is made in God’s regal image. 2) The regal image of God is both male and female. 3) The Cultural Mandate (Gen 1:28) is a regal function fulfilled by man and woman together.

1) Humanity is made in God’s regal image

First, humanity was made in God’s image—the Latin phrase is imago Dei. This speaks of the inherent regal dignity—the supreme value and honor—of all humanity. Like animals, humans are created by God. But unlike animals, humans bear God’s “image” in ways that mere animals do not—possessing a combination of qualities such as as morality, glory, spirituality, personality, and creativity—in conjunction with an eternal soul.

Keep in mind, God is not merely an impersonal Creator—an abstract “force”. God is the Almighty King of Creation (Ps 93:1; Ps 95:3, 6; Ps 96:10–13; Ps 97:1).

Therefore, to be made in God’s image implies that all humanity is imbued with regal honor. According to the Bible, we all possess royal blood—regardless of our wealth or poverty, family name, social status, racial heritage, ethnic or national origin, level of education, or position in society. But due to the Fall and the effects of sin, we have lost and defiled our original regal identity.

This regal dimension of the image of God—imago Dei—is made even more clear when we consider the context of the Ancient Near East. John Walton writes:

The image of God as an Old Testament concept can be be understood in four categories. It pertains to the role and function that God has given humanity (found for example in “subdue” and “rule,” (Gen 1:28), to the identity that he has bequeathed on us (i.e., it is by definition, who we are as human beings), and to the way that we serve as his substitute. When Assyrian kings made images of themselves to be placed in conquered cities or at important borders, they were communicating that they were, in effect, continually present in that place. Finally, it is indicative of the relationship that God intends to have with us.[2] (bold emphasis mine)

The meaning of humans made in “the image of God”, in its social context, is powerful: Humans are vice-regents with God; we are God’s regal stewards and representatives. “As God’s stewards, we are tasked to do his work in the world; we are to be his assistants in the order-bringing process that has begun.”[3]

2) God’s regal image is male and female

Darrow Miller’s Figure 14 in Nurturing the Nations
Darrow Miller’s Figure 14 in Nurturing the Nations, page 130.

Second, humanity made in God’s image comprises both male and female. We find here the essential equality-in-being of male and female—man and woman. This means that humanity’s image of God is incomplete if it is only male or only female. The Godhead comprises both masculine and feminine qualities. Miller writes: “The masculine and feminine polarities are complementary in marriage and reflect something of the mystery of the eternal unity and diversity in the Trinity.”[4] This is borne out in the Scriptures:

  • Masculine attributes are conveyed in the common use “Father” and “Son” to describe God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. Moreover, God is “husband” to his people Israel in the Old Testament (Ez 16:32; Hosea 9:1), and Christ is the bridegroom of the church in the New Testament (Eph 5:31–32; Rev 19:7).
  • God’s feminine attributes are conveyed in the Bible’s use of feminine terminology describing God. Whereas the Bible says God is Father, we observe that the Bible says God is like a mother. Miller points out, “The Bible uses simile to state that God is like a mother, but never that God is a mother. God is like … a woman giving birth (Is 42: 14; 46:3) … a nursing mother (Is 49: 13– 15; 66:10–13) … a mother hen (Mat 23: 37; Luke 13:34) … a mother eagle (Ex 19: 4; Deut 32:10–12)”[5]

This takes us back to Genesis 1:27—the image of God is both male and female, masculine and feminine. The origin story of the Bible clearly reveals the essential equality of being—the same regal honor!—of man and woman, husband and wife.

3) The Cultural Mandate is a regal responsibility fulfilled by man and woman together

The message of Genesis 1:28 is often referred to as the Cultural Mandate. It is also known as the Creation Mandate or the Dominion Mandate.

Notice the first two phrases of verse 28: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply …’”. The blessing is given to them. And the command is given to them—male and female, man and woman. The implication is that God’s purpose and plan cannot be carried out by just men alone or by just women alone.

Again, Darrow Miller:

… it is worth reiterating that the Genesis 1: 26–28 creation mandate to procreate and exercise dominion … is given to the imago Dei: male and female. Note that a single human being, or a group of males, or a group of females cannot fulfill either part. It takes a team effort of male and female. The woman is not an object. She is not the property of man. She is equally the imago Dei. In God’s design, the responsibilities of pro-creation and dominion are shared. The mandate is for all.[6]

Equality of being for women across the entire biblical narrative

Much more can be said, of course, about the essential equality of being for women as revealed in the Bible. Scripture gives us the foundational belief in the God-created, regal honor of woman shared with the man. Here are some highlights:

  • God created woman as an egalitarian companion for man—“flesh of my flesh, bone of my bones” (Gen 2:18, 20–23)—someone equal in being and complimentarian in function or role.
  • Wisdom is portrayed as a queen—a woman of regal stature in Proverbs (Pr 3:13–18; cf. Pr 8:1; 9:1–4)
  • Proverbs 31:10–31 describes a godly wife fully engaged in family life (Pr 31:10–12, 15, 27–28), fitness (Pr 31:17), marketing and commerce (Pr 31:13–14, 24), helping the poor (Pr 31:20), teaching kindness and wisdom to others (Pr 31:26)—all rooted in healthy fear of God (Pr 31:30). This portrayal describes a woman who is neither hidden at home, nor cowering in weakness, nor stifled to be quiet. She is strong, dignified, confident (Pr 31:25–26).
  • The Song of Solomon speaks of the pleasures of the sexual relationship in the loving union between a husband and wife. It takes place in the social setting of Solomon’s Israel around 950 B.C. One of the primary meanings of this tantalizing book is stunning—in light of the traditional honor-shame standards and patriarchal values of the Ancient Near East. The stunning principle (Song 2:16) is this: The woman is equally entitled as the man to sexual pleasure and fulfillment.[7] 
  • In the Gospels, Jesus is famously egalitarian in his treatment of women. In all of his interactions with women, the woman is dignified and honored in the process. Perhaps the most famous is the account of his counter-cultural interactions with the Samaritan woman (John 4:4–42). Jesus treats women in such a radically honorific manner—while never minimizing their sin—that Miller says, “Jesus was the first feminist”.[8]
  • Apostle Paul writes to the Galatians that in Christ there is no distinction—that is, no inequality of being—between male and female. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
  • The fact that the narrative of Scripture begins and ends with “the nuptial”[9]—that is, ceremonial wedding language (Gen 2:23–24; Rev 19:7–9)—speaks of the incredibly high view of marriage, of woman, of male and female, husband and wife.

Men are not superior to women

The Bible teaches that in God’s design, men are not superior to women! The woman is straightforwardly equal—equal in being—to the man. The regal honor of man—and likewise, the regal honor of woman—is plain in numerous Scripture passages from Genesis to Revelation. How vital this is to counter the horrible lie: “Men are superior to women.”

Satan’s lies and humanity’s sin have corrupted God’s glorious design and intentions. Sin is universal. So the Bible’s high, honorific—indeed, regal—view of woman is in glaring contrast to the oppression and shame suffered by women and girls in varying degrees all around the world. This has mammoth implications for family life, for church life, for politics, for education, for believers everywhere.

What are some implications for mission? We will consider this in our next post.


FOOTNOTES

1. Darrow L. Miller: Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women in Building Healthy Cultures (p. 2). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

2. John H. Walton: The Lost World of Adam and Eve, (InterVarsity Press, 2015), p. 42.  

3. Ibid., p. 43.  

4. Miller., p. 130.

5. Ibid., p. 142.

6. Ibid., p. 174.

7. See Diane Bergant: “My Beloved is Mine and I am His” (Song 2:16): The Song of Songs and Honor and Shame” in Semeia 68: Honor and Shame in the World of the Bible (The Society of Biblical Literature, 1996), p. 23–35.

8. Miller., p. 3. Comparing the role of the man to that of the woman in family and society, Miller argues throughout his book for equality in being and hierarchy in roles. He bases this on trinitarian theology. The Bible speaks of the Godhead—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—having equality in being and hierarchy in roles. Just as there is loving leadership and submission in the Trinity, there ought also to be loving leadership and submission in the family.

9. Miller., p. 235.

Honor and shame in the book of Genesis––#1: The honor of God as Creator

honor and shame in the book of genesis1


With this blog post I begin a series on what I call the “top ten honor-shame dynamics in the book of Genesis”.

#1. The honor of God as Creator

We begin with the Bible’s first verse.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

What is the honor-shame dynamic contained in this verse? On the surface, there is nothing that seems honorific here.

So I will turn to one of the great evangelical scholars on Genesis—John Walton, Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. His book, The Lost World of Genesis One, offers a helpful beginning point. This beginning point is not about honor. This beginning point is about context, that is, the intent of the original author of Genesis to communicate in his context, with his audience.

Lost World of Genesis One John WaltonSome Christians approach the text of Genesis as if it has modern science embedded in it or it dictates what modern science should look like. This approach to the text of Genesis 1 is called “concordism,” as it seeks to give a modern scientific explanation for the details in the text. This represents one attempt to “translate” the culture and text for the modern reader. The problem is, we cannot translate their cosmology to our cosmology, nor should we. If we accept Genesis 1 as ancient cosmology, then we need to interpret it as ancient cosmology rather than translate it into modern cosmology. If we try to turn it into modern cosmology, we are making the text say something that it never said. It is not just a case of adding meaning (as more information has become available); it is a case of changing meaning. Since we view the text as authoritative, it is a dangerous thing to change the meaning of the text into something it never intended to say. …

We gain nothing by bringing God’s revelation into accordance with today’s science. In contrast, it makes perfect sense that God communicated his revelation to his immediate audience in terms they understood.[1]

Walton says much, much more about these context-based truths in his book. Walton argues for a literal interpretation of the Bible in such a way that it also frees us from having to retrofit modern ideas and beliefs—whether “Young Earth” or “Old Earth” science—into the ancient text of Genesis. Yes, we believe the book of Genesis was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; we equally affirm it was written to an ancient audience for whom science had not yet been invented. As Walton says, “We therefore recognize that although the Bible was written for us (indeed, for everyone), it is not written to us. In its context, it is not communicated in our language; it is not addressed to our culture; it does not anticipate the questions about the world and its operations that stem from our modern situations and issues.”[2]

The “cognitive environment” of the Ancient Near East

In Walton’s The Lost World of Adam and Eve, he comments on the “cognitive environment” of the Ancient Near East—and how radically different it was from that of our modern world.

Lost world of adam and eve john waltonAs an example of the foreign aspects of the cognitive environment, people in the ancient world had no category for what we call natural laws. When they thought of cause and effect … they were more inclined to see the world’s operations in terms of divine cause. Everything worked the way it worked because God set it up that way and God maintained the system. They would have viewed the cosmos not as a machine but as a kingdom, and God communicated to them about the world in those terms. His revelation to them was not focused on giving them a more sophisticated understanding of the mechanics of the world. (bold emphasis mine)[3]

Not a machine, but a kingdom and a temple

Here’s a key statement. “They would have viewed the cosmos not as a machine but as a kingdom.” Of course there is no kingdom without a king—the regal Person enthroned and ruling over that kingdom. And this is the beginning place for us to observe the regal honor of God as Creator.

Before we turn back to Scripture, here is one more quote from Walton; this builds on the idea of creation as a kingdom, and elaborates on the sacred, honorific purpose of creation.

It would not have been difficult for a reader from anywhere in the ancient Near East to take one quick look at the seven-day account and draw the conclusion that it was a temple story. … the temple was the center of God’s rule. In the ancient world, the temple was the command center of the cosmos—it was the control room from where the god maintained order, made decrees and exercised sovereignty. Temple building accounts often accompanied cosmologies because after the god had established order (the focus of cosmologies in the ancient world), he took control of that ordered system. This is the element that we are sadly missing when we read the Genesis account. God has ordered the cosmos with the purpose of taking up his residence in it and ruling over it. (bold emphasis mine)[4]

This idea of all creation as a temple for God was a jolt to my thinking. I’m not used to thinking that all nature is sacred space. But this is the assumption often made by the authors of Scripture—as you will see below. The heavens and the earth are sacred space—a royal temple for the Creator-King who is dwelling in and ruling over all he has made.

The Psalms give witness

In particular, the Psalms give witness to this honorific nature of the LORD as Creator-King. In the selection of verses from the Psalms below, take note of two things. First, observe the frequent occurrence of the words earth and heavens—clearly echoing Gen. 1:1. Secondly, observe the frequent use of honorific words: glory, name, majesty, worship, praise, exalted, King, reign, throne, etc.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. (Ps. 8:1)

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Ps. 19:1)

All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. (Ps. 22:27)

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. (Ps. 24:1–2)

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! (Ps. 46:10)

Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. (Ps. 47:6–8)

God has not merely created a material universe. No, God has created the heavens and the earth as sacred space—a temple for worship of the one true God, King of creation!

Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them. (Ps. 69:34)

Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen! (Ps. 72:19)

Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace, that they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth. (Ps. 83:17–18)

Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.” Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy. (Ps. 96:10–12)

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! (Ps. 123:1)

God is Creator-King, and creation is his temple

For a more extensive proof-text, consider Psalms 96–100. You’ll see for yourself a continuous revelation about the Creator-King.

  • God is King—enthroned, majestic, glorious, infinitely honorable (Ps. 95:3–6; Ps. 96:6–10; Ps. 97:1–2; Ps. 98:6; Ps. 99:1–5; Ps. 100:4).
  • God is Creator of the earth—and thus deserving of worship from all the earth: (Ps. 95:4–5; Ps. 96:1, 9, 11–13; Ps. 97:1, 4–5, 9; Ps. 98:3–4, 7–9; Ps. 99:1; Ps. 100:1).
  • The heavens and the earth are a templesacred space in which all peoples, nations—even all nature—rejoice together in worship of the Creator-King (Ps. 95:1–7; Ps. 96:1–13; Ps. 97:1–9; Ps. 98:1–9; Ps. 99:1–5; Ps. 100:1–5)

It is unmistakable—the heavens and the earth do not comprise a “machine” devoid of sacred honor; no, the heavens and the earth comprise an honorific temple of the Most High God, the Creator-King!

A prayer: Lord God Most High, we join the chorus of saints from across the earth and across the ages—“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” (Ps. 95:6) It is you who has made us and not we ourselves (Ps. 100:3). We submit ourselves to you in love and obedience—returning blessing, honor and praise to you—Creator-King of the heavens and the earth!


1. John H. Walton: The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2010), p. 16–17. Kindle Edition.

2. John H. Walton: The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2–3 and the Human Origins Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2015), p. 19.

3. Ibid., p. 18.

4. Ibid., p. 49.

Quick video: Body language


right hand and feet

Here is a quick description of the honor-shame dynamic that I call “body language”.

In the world of the Ancient Near East and Roman Empire the most honorable parts of the body were considered to 
be the head, face and hands. One of the most shameful body 
parts was considered to be 
the feet.

One of the most significant theological expressions of this honor-shame dynamic relates to a psalm of David in which he prophesies of the future reign of Israel’s Messiah-King. .

The LORD says to my Lord: 
“Sit at my right hand, until 
 I make your enemies your 
 footstool” (Psalm 110:1).

This verse speaks of the supreme honor of Jesus Christ—and is referenced in the synoptic Gospels, in Acts, in four of Paul’s letters, four times in the book of Hebrews, and 1 Peter. The sheer frequency of the reference signals to us its theological weightiness. Click here to watch the video on Vimeo.

Learn more—free chapter from The Global Gospel on the honor-shame dynamic of “body language”

Free resource1The free resource available with this post is an excerpt from The Global Gospel—Chapter 2.6: Honor/Shame Dynamic #6: Body Language. The chapter is four pages long. Explore how “right hand” and  “feet” speak of the supreme honor of King Jesus and his conquest over his enemies.

Enjoy the next quick video: “Body language.

Quick video: Challenge and riposte


Fencing

Here is a quick description of the honor-shame dynamic called the “challenge and riposte”.

“Riposte” is a term used in the sport of fencing, meaning “a quick return thrust following a parry.” Socially it means, “a quick clever reply to an insult or criticism.” There are four steps to this protocol or social code of challenge and riposte—or “push-and-shove.” These four steps are:

  1. Claim of worth or value
  2. Challenge to that claim or refusal to acknowledge the claim
  3. Riposte or defense of the claim
  4. Public verdict of success awarded to either claimant or challenger[1]

There are numerous examples of honor competition in the Bible. The honor competition between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders in the Gospels frequently follows the four-step sequence referred to above. Learn about this honor-shame dynamic—“challenge and riposte”—in the next in our series of quick videos about honor and shame. Click here to watch the video on Vimeo.

Learn more—free chapter from The Global Gospel on the honor-shame dynamic of “challenge and riposte”

Free resource1The free resource available with this post is an excerpt from The Global Gospel—Chapter 2.4: Honor/Shame Dynamic #4: Challenge and Riposte. The chapter is eight pages long. NOTE: This chapter helps you understand the seemingly unending cycle of conflict and violence in some honor/shame societies. The honor-shame dynamics of the love of honor, the image of limited good, and challenge and riposte—work together in a dark synergy to support a greater propensity for violence.

Enjoy the next quick video: “Challenge and Riposte.


1. Jerome Neyrey: Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 20.

Quick video: the “image of limited good”


Image of limited good vertical win-loseHere is a quick description of the honor-shame dynamic called the “image of limited good”. The image of limited good is “the belief that everything in the social, economic, natural universe … everything desired in life: land, wealth, respect and status, power and influence … exist in finite quantity and are in short supply”.[1] If you gain, I lose … it’s a “zero-sum game.”

The example given in the video is from 1 Samuel 18:6–9. After David’s victory over Goliath, Israel’s women celebrated and honored David above Saul. Did Saul celebrate with the people over their great victory? No!

Instead of Saul rejoicing over Israel’s dramatic victory, Saul lamented (1 Sam 18:8); he considered it a mortal threat that David was honored above himself. Here’s why: There was only so much honor to go around (honor is a “limited good”)—so as David’s honor status increased among the people, Saul’s own honor went down.

Saul’s extreme envy reflected the default values of his culture—a win-lose mindset—the “image of limited good”.

Learn more about the “image of limited good”, and discover how Christ overturns “limited good”—in the next in our series of quick videos about honor and shame. Click here to watch the video on Vimeo.

Learn more—free chapter from The Global Gospel on the “image of limited good”

Free resource1The free resource available with this post is an excerpt from The Global Gospel—Chapter 2.3: Honor/Shame Dynamic #3: The Image of Limited Good. The chapter is five pages long. Enjoy the next quick video: “The Image of Limited Good


1. Jerome Neyrey: Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 18.

Quick video: Two sources of honor—ascribed and achieved


Two sources of honor graphic copy verticalIf you want to gain an awareness of honor-shame in the Bible and what it implies for the gospel, there is nothing more important than understanding this:

There are but two sources of honor—ascribed and achieved.

Both the ascribed and achieved honor or Jesus Christ are elaborately described in Scripture. Why? In order to make the case for his supreme honor; Jesus is worth believing in, following, obeying, and worshiping—as God.

Ascribed honor of Jesus: Consider just a few of the titles given to Jesus in the Bible—Emmanuel, Savior, Son of Man, Son of David, Son of God, King of kings, Lord of lords, Alpha and Omega. These titles conveying his ascribed honor carried tremendous weight in ancient Palestine, both among the Jews and among the Gentile peoples of the Roman Empire.

Achieved honor of Jesus. We see Christ’s achieved honor beautifully declared in Philippians 2:8–11. And in Hebrews 1:1–14 we find an elaborate description of Jesus Christ, incorporating both his ascribed and achieved honor.

Learn about this honor-shame dynamic, “two sources of honor—ascribed and achieved”, in the next in our series of quick videos about honor and shame. Click here to watch the video on Vimeo.

Learn more—free chapter from The Global Gospel on the “two sources of honor”

Free resource1The free resource available with this post is an excerpt from The Global Gospel—Chapter 2.2: Honor/Shame Dynamic #2: Two Sources of Honor—Ascribed and Achieved.  The chapter examines how this dynamic is prominently represented in the Bible. The chapter is four pages long.

Enjoy the next video: Two Sources of Honor—Ascribed and Achieved