11 Apr 2023

The Same Spirit of Faith, Psalm 116.10 & 2 Cor 4.13

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Church, Exegesis, Faith, Paul, Psalms
Paul’s Quote of Psalm 116 in 2 Cor 4.13

I grew up with the idea the “Old Testament,” when it was even mentioned, was “inferior.” It was a system of “law,” a system of ritual, it was “Jewish” and as a system devoid of genuine “faith.” Jesus liberated us from such acrid stuff. This point of view is fresh to my memory almost daily when I visit various “Church of Christ” online discussion groups. The view is based on a highly selective reading of a very limited number of Pauline passages or Hebrews. I have long rejected the view a serious misunderstanding of Paul and Hebrews and contradicts hundreds of pages of the Hebrew Bible itself.

At Eastside, we recently did a series of sermons titled, “Singing with Jesus.” In that series we journeyed through the Hallel Psalms that Jesus knew by heart and sang with his disciples during the Last Supper. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of the The Hallel Psalms (113-118) in the faith and worship of Jesus and his fellow Jews. They were/are used during Passover, Pentecost, Booths, Hanukkah, New Moon festivals. It was used by Jesus the night he was betrayed. They are often seen as a whole.

But Paul also sang these songs as much as Jesus and any other Jew. In a wonderful context in 2 Corinthians 4, this Messianic Pharisee, cites Psalm 116.10 in verse 13. In this text, Paul asserts explicitly that his (and any believer in the Resurrection) faith is “the same” as that in the so called “Old Testament.” He says,

But just as we have the SAME SPIRIT OF FAITH that is in accordance with scripture – ‘I believed, and so I spoke’ – we also believe … because we know the One who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and bring us with you into His presence” (4.13-14).

In the context, Paul has been enumerating his “afflictions” for the sake of the Gospel (vv. 8-11). This is a remarkable parallel to the entire Psalm, for the psalmist also experiences tribulations that are akin to death. But Yahweh delivers the psalmist because God is the God of Mercy (Paul mentions God’s mercy as the basis of his ministry in v.1). The psalm ends with the very public, out in the open, proclamation of the faithfulness and HESED of Yahweh in the presence of all the people. How can he/she repay God’s grace? By committing to the Lord. This is the story of Paul too. Paul knows this psalm by heart. He mentions the “cup of salvation” previously to the Corinthians themselves (116.13,17, cf. 1 Cor 10.16).

Paul says that his/our “faith” is the “same” faith one finds in the Psalm or “Old Testament.” Or as Paul, who never heard of the “Old Testament” says instead “in accordance with scripture” (cf. 1 Cor 15.3-4). It is

τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα τῆς πίστεως

the same spirit of faith.”

The phrase “the same” (τὸ αὐτὸ) is (see Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the NT, pp. 348-350 for the use of the intensive pronoun in the attributive position) means “the same.” 😉 For example, this exact construction is used three times in 1 Corinthians 12.8, 9, 11. (The “same” construction is also in v.5 but it is the “same Lord”).

“τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα” (12.8 )

“τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα” (12.9)

“τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα” (12.11)

In each case there is a different gift (wisdom, healing, all gifts) but “the same spirit.” For Paul we have “the same spirit of FAITH” as believers in the Psalms and Israel. In fact our faith is “in accordance with scripture.

It is extremely significant that this statement is directed to Gentiles. Paul believes the Gentiles are Gentiles no more. They are in fact “citizens of Israel.” They are non-Israelite, non-Jewish, citizens of Israel. He identifies the Gentile Corinthians with the People of Israel several times in his correspondence with them. Thus in 1 Corinthians 10, he places Gentile Corinthians squarely in the Story of Israel, specifically the Exodus/wilderness generation. “I do not want you [Corinthians] to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that OUR [Paul’s/theirs] ancestors were all under the cloud …” (1 Cor 10.1). Then Paul uses the same kind of construction we have in 2 Corinthians 4.13,

“all ate the same spiritual food [τὸ αὐτὸ πνευματικὸν βρῶμα]
and all drank the same spiritual drink [τὸ αὐτὸ πνευματικὸν ἔπιον] …” (1 Cor 10.3-4).

Just as Paul saw the Corinthians through the lens of the Exodus story (1 Cor 10) and claims that the Corinthians when they sit at the Lord’s table, are eating the “same spiritual” meal as “our ancestors” (think on that one for a while!), so the Psalm shows that he and the Corinthians have the same faith as the Israelites. Pauline and Corinthian faith is the “same” and it is “in accordance with the scriptures.”

Paul applies his quotation directly to not only King Jesus’s resurrection but ours. The Psalm celebrates the psalmists deliverance from death and his/her resulting public proclamation. (Psalm 116.15 is grossly misleading in numerous translations from the KJV to NRSV to NIV. Make sure you read it in the TEV/GNB, CEB, NLT, NJPS, etc, God is not celebrating the death of the Psalmist rather such a death is GRIEVOUS, SORROWFUL, COSTLY or HORRIFYING to the Yahweh).

Most commentators do not really spend much time on 2 Corinthians 4.13-14. But the old Church Father, John Chrysostom, however, devotes five full pages to Psalm 116.10/2 Corinthians 4.13 (Commentary on the Psalms, vol. 2, pp. 99-104). He waxes eloquently on the nature of this “same faith.” Peter Balla probably has the longest discussion in G. K. Beale & D. A. Carson’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, pp. 764-765).

We have the “same faith” as Israel if we belong to the King of Israel. When we think about this it should not really surprise us but it should change how we talk and often how we think.

Clearly the Sermonator in Hebrews shared Paul’s opinion about the nature of “faith” in Israel. Does that preacher not wax eloquently on all those who had “faith” in that “Hall of Fame of FAITH” (Hebrews 11)? Abraham, Sarah, Moses, David, Rahab, the Maccabees, and on we can go. For Paul, the Scriptures (i.e. Hebrew Bible) preach salvation by grace through faith and he claims that in Romans 3-4. Now he claims in 2 Corinthians 4 that our faith, if it be genuine faith, is actually “the same spirit of faith” that is found in the Hebrew Bible.

Of Related Interest on Psalm 116:

Precious in the Sight of the Lord is the Death: A Misunderstood & Misused Text (Ps 116.15)

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