20 Sep 2023

The Same Spirit of Faith (Psalm 116.10 & 2 Corinthians 4.13)

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Christian hope, Faith, Patternism, Paul, Psalms, Restoration History, Salvation

INTRODUCTION: Caricatures of the Hebrew Bible

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, a system devoid of genuine “faith.” The Hebrew Scriptures were, as the saying goes, “fleshy.”

Thus Ashley S. Johnson (1857-1925) in his very influential book first published in 1899 but kept in publication throughout the Twentieth Century, The Two Covenants, wrote,

I call your attention to this one thought that this covenant was not built upon the heart, it was not built upon conscience, it was not built upon the mind … but it was built upon the flesh of Abraham” (p. 11).

The first covenant, the law of Moses, the daily administration of this institution worked chiefly on the outside, from without toward the heart instead of from the heart … I respectfully and reverently declare that the law of Moses with all of its promises … did not furnish a sufficient motive to these people to love God as He desired to be loved” (p. 61).

It is a fact beyond any cavil, beyond any doubt, beyond any contradiction, beyond any controversy or argument that – and I want to burn it down into the depths of all your hearts – that this institution was of a character that held a sword or a menace over the people from the day that they were born until the day that they died” (p. 63).

But 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” Facebook groups. The view is based on a highly selective reading of a very limited number of Pauline passages or Hebrews.

Despite Johnson’s impassioned declarations, I do not grant his claim. I have long rejected the view a gross caricature of Paul/Hebrews and most of all the Hebrew Scriptures themselves. And the view certainly is not based on Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Habakkuk, and hundreds of pages of the Hebrew Bible itself. Such views are certainly difficult to defend from Psalm 19 or Psalm 119 or any of the Psalms. In fact Paul and Hebrews both believe that Abraham is what “Christian” faith is all about. Hebrews considers Moses to be a towering figure of faith and loving devotion surpassed only by Jesus. But Moses is not alone, every example of “faith” in Hebrews comes from the Hebrew Bible or Second Temple period (the Maccabees).

A worthwhile resource to read, reread and ponder is Daniel I. Block’s stimulating essay “Hearing Galatians with Moses: An Examination of Paul as a Second and Seconding Moses” in The Triumph of Grace: Literary and Theological Studies in Deuteronomy and Deuteronomic Themes (Cascade Books, 2017), pp. 374-404.

Psalms 116 and Paul

The God of the Hebrew Bible was not a sadomasochist. And Yahweh did not repent and get baptized between Malachi and Matthew. The word “love” occurs more in Deuteronomy than in any Pauline letter including Romans and 1 Corinthians.

Last Summer, we were in a series of sermons titled, “Singing with Jesus” we focused on the Hallel Psalms (Pss 113-118) sung by Jesus during the Passover. Psalm 116 as part of the Hallel Psalms was used during Passover, Pentecost, Booths, Hanukkah, New Moon festivals. It was used by Jesus the night he was betrayed. These great texts were as ingrained in any Second Temple Jew as “Amazing Grace” is in present congregations.

The Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of Ashley S. Johnson’s classic, The Two Covenants. A series of sermons originally delivered in February 1899.

Paul sang these songs as much as Jesus or any other Jew. In a wonderful context in 2 Corinthians 4, the Messianic Pharisee, cites Psalm 116.10 in verse 13. In this text, Paul explicitly states that his (and any believer in the resurrection of Messiah) 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 of the Messiah of Israel (vv. 8-11). Indeed we are “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus” (v.10). This is a remarkable parallel to the entire Psalm, for the psalmist also experiences tribulations that are akin to death. “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish” (Ps 116.3).

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. The death of God’s precious ones is a source of great pain in the God of Israel, whether of King Jesus, Paul or you and me. It costs Yahweh!

How PAINFUL it is to the LORD
when one of his people dies!” (Good News Translation)

The death of the devout
costs Yahweh dear.” (Jerusalem Bible)

Costly in Yahweh’s sight
is the death of his faithful” (New Jerusalem Bible)

The death of His faithful ones
is grievous in the LORD’s sight” (TANAKH: New Jewish Translation of the Hebrew Bible)

The death of the LORD’s faithful
is a costly loss in his eyes
” (Common English Bible)

(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, horrifying to Yahweh. See my article: Precious in the Sight of the Lord is the Death: A Misunderstood & Misused Text (Ps 116.15)

The Psalmist has been delivered from the tentacles of death and bears witness to God’s Hesed. 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). The faith of Israel in the Psalm is our faith.

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.

Directed to Gentiles

It is extremely significant that this statement is directed to Gentiles. Paul believes the Gentiles are Gentiles no more. Because they have come to accept the Messiahship of Jesus they are now “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 previously to these same former Gentiles, in 1 Corinthians 10, he places the 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.

we also believe, and so speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus …” (2 Cor 4.14).

The Psalm celebrates the psalmists deliverance from death and his/her resulting public proclamation. 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.


Paul’s opinion about the nature of “faith” in Israel is slightly different than Ashley Johnson’s. The Psalmist is no miserable person and is effusive in praise for Yahweh’s grace, mercy, deliverance and filled with unspeakable joy and faith. For Paul the Corinthians, in 2 Corinthians 4, if it be genuine faith, is actually “the same spirit of faith” that is found in the Hebrew Bible.

Most commentators spend little 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 has a short discussion in G. K. Beale & D. A. Carson’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, pp. 764-765).

Related Articles

A Halloween Treat: Three Totally Freaky False Theses Some Teach Regarding the “Old Testament

Deuteronomy: Gospel of Love

Unbearable Burden? Did Jews (Paul) Believe the Torah was a Burden?

The Presupposition of the New Testament (The “Soul” of New Testament Christianity is Jewish)

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