Parallelism in the Scriptures

When Paul wrote, “giving thanks…unto God and the Father” (Ephesians 5:20), was he referring to more than one being receiving thanks, or describing the same being in two different ways? He was referring to the First Person of the Godhead in two different ways. He is both God and Father. A relatable example would be words like this said at a funeral: “I will miss my sister and my friend.” One person is under consideration, described as both a sister and a friend. The American Standard Version translates the phrase in Ephesians 5:20 as: “to God, even the Father,” and the New King James as: “to God the Father.”

Here are some examples in the New Testament like Ephesians 5:20:

“We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you” (Colossians 1:3).

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17).

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not” (2 Corinthians 11:31).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).

One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:6).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

See the phrase “God our Father” in these passages: Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1,2; 1 Timothy 1:2; Philemon 1:3.

In Revelation 20:2, Satan is described consecutively in four different ways: “And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.”

The following are Old Testament examples of saying the same thing in more than one way, called synonymous parallelism:

“Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue(Psalm 120:2).

“My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction(Proverbs 3:11).

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities…” (Isaiah 53:4, 5).

When Paul wrote to Christians, he would sometimes describe them as saints or the faithful in the same sentence. He was not referring to two categories of people, but one:

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:1-3).

“To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Colossians 1:2).

This is similar to passages like Psalm 31:23, which describe the faithful as saints: “O love the LORD, all ye his saints: for the LORD preserveth the faithful…”  If we separate saints from faithful brethren, we deviate from the Truth and move toward Catholicism. We need to be aware of these types of expressions to really understand the Text.

Paul also used a similar writing style when describing the qualifications of elders to Titus, simultaneously referring to them as bishops: “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee…For a bishop must be blameless…” (Titus 1:5-7). Some erroneously teach that elders are distinct from bishops, perhaps because they fail to understand this type of expression in the Scriptures.

Since this type of language is used quite often in God’s Word, readers should consider that the Text may be describing the same thing in more than one way, instead of assuming that totally separate things, ideas, or beings are under consideration.

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