In the last post I just finished, I stated that there were three passages Thomas Schreiner used to argue that the Greek word “epitrepo” (to permit) does not always have a temporal aspect. The word could also mean “to forbid” and most of evangelicalism could just be wrong on this one…
By now, however, after discussing the context of 1 Corinthians 14:34, it should be apparent that Schreiner has failed to prove the old guard wrong—instead, he’s been shown up once again to lack in his exegesis. But in case the first verse didn’t find him guilty as charged, maybe the next two will…
The next verse we will discuss is 1 Corinthians 16:7. Let’s read from verse 5:
5(F) I will visit you after passing through(G) Macedonia, for(H) I intend to pass through Macedonia, 6and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may(I) help me on my journey, wherever I go. 7For I do not want to see you now(J) just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you,(K) if the Lord permits.
Paul writes this to the Corinthians expressing his desire to visit with them.
But, once again, the word “permit” carries a temporal aspect and is based on a SPECIFIC AMOUNT of time—not ALL of time itself. First, there is the time limit Paul wants to spend with the Corinthians: “even spend THE WINTER.” Notice that the winter season is TIME-BASED: the winter does not last all year long! There are three other seasons of the year that are observed like the winter season. The winter season only consists of a few months, no more. Then, at the end of verse 7, Paul writes, “I hope to spend SOME TIME with you…” The word “some” tells us everything—the time being spent with them would be SOME, a small amount of time, not ALL of his time.
Then, Paul writes those famous words:
“If the Lord permits.”
Paul was stating his desire to visit with the Corinthians—but it would be based on the Lord’s will. The word “epitrepo” here, meaning “permit,” is time-based: Paul would only spend a small amount of time visiting with the Corinthians and passing through the area. It would not take him FOREVER to pass through the area. Next, he couldn’t spend FOREVER there—for the Lord had told him that he would die at Rome (Book of Acts). And, of course, once he died, he wouldn’t be able to do anything physical, including visiting the Corinthians.
The final passage to observe is Hebrews 6:3—
3And this we will do(H) if God permits.
To see the context, let’s examine verses 1 and 2:
1Therefore(A) let us leave(B) the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance(C) from dead works and of faith toward God, 2and of(D) instruction about washings,[a](E) the laying on of hands,(F) the resurrection of the dead, and(G) eternal judgment.
The context tells us that the writer of Hebrews desired to move on to more mature matters in the faith than the doctrine of Christ (which is basic to what every believer needs to know). Then the writer states that if God should allow it, both he and the scattered Jewish believers would press on to maturity in the faith.
Schreiner argues that this “permits” is not temporal, but once again, he is proven wrong. All believers only get a LIMITED TIME on earth in which to press on toward maturity. No believer gets FOREVER on earth to do that. Next, the writer starts to discuss Christ as high priest in Hebrews 7, so it seems that this idea of God permitting the writer to move forward was to say that for a short time within the letter, the writer would go on to talk more about the deeper matters of the faith, deeper theology and greater knowledge. The writer states “if God permits” to show that the Lord was in charge of every second, every minute, every moment of time—including the time in which the letter was being written. James says it best regarding time:
13Come now, you who say,(U) "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"— 14yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For(V) you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15Instead you ought to say,(W) "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. (James 4:13-15, ESV).
Confidence about the future should only be placed in the phrase “if the Lord wills.” Should God allow us another day, we will have it—but we won’t have days on earth forever. We are only given life here for a limited time only, and we have to make the most of however long or short of a life we have. As James says it in the above text, “For you are a mist that appears FOR A LITTLE TIME and then vanishes.”
These two texts, 1 Cor. 16:7 and Hebrews 6:3, in addition to 1 Corinthians 14:34, show us that “permit,” when used, refers to a SET AMOUNT OF TIME, and is not a permanent binding. Schreiner doesn’t go into details regarding his own thoughts on these passages—but he has a whole lot of explaining to do if he’s gonna “go against the grain,” the multitude of passages where “epitrepo” does have a temporal or time-based aspect…