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Judaism and Legalism in church-visible

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Question #1:

Hi Bob,

What is your opinion on the very influential Rabbi Hillel of just before Christ's birth?

Sincerely,

Response #1:

Well, he isn't even mentioned in scripture (of course that probably has to do with the timing of his life). Paul, who studied under his grandson, Gamaliel, doesn't have occasion to mention him. If I'm not mistaken, everything we "know" about Hillel comes from the Talmud and Mishnah (and a smattering of other Jewish religious literature). Since Hillel is the founder – or chosen as the founding figure – for traditional Talmudic Judaism, we have to take the stories and information about him in this literature with more than a grain of salt.

Whatever his personal spiritual status, we can say that the tradition he represents (and is taken to be an archetype of) resulted in the worst sort of legalism which did much to help blind the eyes of our Lord's contemporaries to the truth of the Messiah. It is not only appropriate but no doubt deliberately symbolic that Paul was physically blinded by the appearance of the true Messiah, and had to have the blinding scales drop from his eyes before he was able to see the truth, that is, once his irrational loyalty to a false, legalistic works salvation was shown to be a lie.

Hoping to hear good things about your health, activities and prospects very soon, my friend! You are in my prayers day by day.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hey Bob,

Can you give me a verse in the Bible that says that the Torah is the Door? Like Jesus Christ said: John 10:9 (KJV) 9 I AM THE DOOR: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. In the words of a song - The great I AM, the WAY, the TRUTH, the LIFE, the DOOR - Or a series of verses that lead to that conclusion, if any, that the Torah is the DOOR.

Response #2:

I've never heard of this before, and would, to be honest, find it strange to discover any such notion in scripture. A door is an entry way, and Jesus Christ is the entrance into salvation. But the Torah (which means "teaching") is the Law, and the Law's function is somewhat the opposite: it bars the door by proving/teaching that everyone is a sinner (Rom.3:20; 7:7), but that then leads those who want to find God to seek for the true solution, the true Door unto life eternal, Jesus Christ our dear Savior (Jn.10:9). So the only thing I've got for you is an "opposite" verse:

"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in."
Matthew 23:13 NKJV

Yours in the One in whom alone we have life eternal, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Bob,

In footnote #32 of SR 5: "Judgment, Restoration, and Replacement," you write the following, and I quote: "No one would argue that Israel was or will be perfect as long as the sin nature resides in human flesh. Her failures during the Jewish age are well documented (the entire Exodus generation, for example). But the case is much like Churchill's characterization of democracy as the worst form of government except for all the others. Israel's performance, concentrating on her failures, is dismal, but far superior to any other nation or group in human history, inclusive of our own Christian era."

How do you reconcile this thesis with the following verses of the Bible?

"Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel—not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart." (Ezekiel 3:4-7)

"Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: You have been more unruly than the nations around you and have not followed my decrees or kept my laws. You have not even conformed to the standards of the nations around you."(Ezekiel 5:7)

These verses seem to say the exact opposite: that many of the gentile nations would have been far more receptive and open to God than Israel. In fact, I don't recall a single verse in the entire Bible where God praises the people of Israel for their (relative) righteousness, but almost innumerable to the contrary.

And of course there's this shocking verse: "All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people" (Isaiah 65:2)

Sincerely,

Response #3:

Good to hear from you, my friend. I'm keeping you in prayer for a quick recovery and to get through this difficult time.

As to your question, I can't argue with your quotations. I'd put it this way. As teachers, we expect more from the exceptionally gifted "prize" student in the front row than we do from others who are a lot less gifted and a lot less interested in what we have to say. When said student disappoints, we feel it more acutely. Israel is special and enjoys a special place of responsibility; she is the "light to the nations". So when she disappoints, it comes in for special mention.

As to failures, however, what about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Joshua, Caleb, John baptist, Peter, Paul and John? "And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets . . . " (Heb.11:32 NIV). These are some of the greatest believers of all time and are all of Israel (I don't know any comparable list of non-Jews), and the gates of the New Jerusalem will bear the names of the twelve (Jewish) apostles of the Lamb – with the entire Church being organized into Israel in eternity which is the root that bears the entire tree (Rom.11:1ff.)..

In our era, "this generation" of which our Lord prophesied is still experiencing the "hardness" which resists accepting Christ (Rom.11:25); but once the Tribulation begins, so will the revival – and once the Millennium begins, Israel will be restored to glory (and the opposite trend to what we see today will be revealed).

So I take these true statements from scripture you quote as reproving a special nation which was not responding as she should, had, or will (in the future).

It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.
Romans 9:6 NIV

Hang in there, my friend! The Lord is good, and He will bring you through.

In Jesus Christ the Faithful One.

Bob L.

Question #4:

Why does the world teach that you are a Jew if you are a literal descendant of Abraham or if you converted to Judaism? Isn't that heresy? And is there such thing as a secular Jew?

Response #4:

Here is what I read in scripture:

But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
Romans 2:29 NASB

There were many great believers before the call of Abraham, but through Abraham God called a special people to be His very own possession, and that people, Israel, is the root-stock upon which the expanded Church is built, so much so that even the gentiles of the Church will be "reorganized" into Israel when eternity comes. In this temporary world, there is "much advantage" to being Jewish, as Paul assures us (Rom.3:2ff.). But without partaking in the faith of Abraham, the most sublime blessings of a relationship with God are impossible for anyone to achieve, even if physically of the seed of Abraham. So what the world thinks or says, or whether a person is a practicing Jew or not, or physically descended from Abraham or not, really is of little importance from the spiritual point of view: all who come to Christ are saved and, in this time, given the gift of the Holy Spirit. So that there is no hindrance, even to those who are not of Jewish stock, from growing, progressing and producing for Christ, and thus earning the highest eternal rewards – and no eternal benefit from being Jewish apart from faith in Christ.

Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.
Romans 11:30-31 NIV

Here are some pertinent links:

"All Israel"

"Israel's 'Hardness in Part' "

Israel and the Church

The Uniqueness of Israel

Israelology and Anti-Semitism

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Ephesians is a very confusing book for me. Chapter 2 talks about Christ breaking down a barrier of hostility.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Ephesians 2:14-18

But what hostility was there between the two? Was is because in the Old Testament foreigners kept attacking Israel? Was that why the Jews couldn't sow two fabrics together and plant two seeds in the same field?

And in chapter 3 it gets worse because of this beginning statement:

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.
Ephesians 3:1-3

What is he talking about? That he was made teacher of the Gentiles? And why did Christ have to be a Jew? Why did The Father pick the Jews to promise salvation in the future?

Response #5:

The important hostility here is not that which is between Jews and gentiles (although many of the versions have left the impression – through questionable translation – that this is the only hostility this passage is discussing) but between the division between God and mankind on account of sin. That is the "hostility" which Christ washed away with His blood. A better translation:

(14) For [Jesus] Himself is our peace, for He has made both [Jews and gentiles] one, and has broken down the middle wall of partition, that is, the enmity, (15) by discharging the Law of the commandments and its requirements with His [own] body, so that He might re-create the two into one new Man by making [this] peace, (16) and might reconcile both in one Body to God through His cross, having by means of it abolished the enmity [between God and mankind]. (17) For when He had come (i.e., the 1st advent), He proclaimed the gospel of peace to you who were far away [from God], and peace to those who were near. (18) For it is through Him that we both have our access to the Father by means of one Spirit.
Ephesians 2:14-18

Paul was Jewish and the apostles were all originally dealing only with Jews. But Paul received a special call to minister to the gentiles, to open up the Church not just to the occasional convert but to the masses of people who are not of Jewish birth who would flood into the Church over the next two millennia (which is why we call it "the Church Age").

As to the primacy and uniqueness of Israel, I will say a few things here but please see the links. The Church, contrary to what many evangelicals think, is composed of all believers from Adam and Eve until the return of Christ. Within the Church, God selected out a single family, a single people, to be His special representatives to mankind as a witness to His truth. Israel is the "light" unto the world, and Jesus is the Light of the world, the One who is the ultimate and supreme representative of the Father to the world – for He is the salvation of the world. So it was only right that the Messiah and Savior come from Israel. However, it is not necessary for those of us who are not Jews by birth to be upset by this. Abraham was chosen not arbitrarily but because of his exceptional dedication to and trust in the Lord, and the Jewish people has embodied the greatest believers of all time. But on the one hand "not all Israel is Israel", meaning that in the history of the world many Jews have not even been saved; and on the other hand, especially living as we do in the Church Age where all believers, Jew and gentile both, have the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and the entire Bible, there is nothing hindering any of us who believe from winning the top spiritual rewards – nothing, that is, but our own reluctance to grow, progress, and serve spiritually. Finally, the New Jerusalem will have twelve gates, each named for a tribe of Israel, and it is into Israel that even gentile believers will be subsumed, so that in the end, in eternity, even this distinction will pass away.

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
Colossians 3:11 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hi Robert,

Although I have not completed my reply to your most recent email, I wanted your input on something I just discovered today. Below is the link to the WND Superstore website which is selling this book and I am thinking of purchasing it. If you would watch the brief videos that accompany it, they describe the book. This deals with the present day Bible and what, in I believe the author says 1850's or later, I forgot the exact year, "plain old Publishers" did to the Books within the Bible, just for their own convenience. Extremely interesting. Thank you.

http://superstore.wnd.com/books/CEPHER-2nd-Edition-Hardcover

Response #6:

Good to hear from you. I saw the video and I would save my money, if I were you. Speaker says "the Book of Revelation was written in Hebrew". It was not. It was written in Greek . . . and there is not an iota of evidence that it was ever even translated into Hebrew before the 19th century. Speaker says "'eth (Aleph Tau) occurs hundreds of times in the New Testament". It does not. It does not occur once. Speaker says "eth occurs thousands of times in the Old Testament" (true) "without ever being interpreted/translated or given its true force" – untrue. "Aleph Tau" is the direct object marker. It is included to identify the "whom" in any given sentence. Hebrew does not have cases as Greek and Latin (and originally English) did. But this particle allows Hebrew to have flexible word order and to still be able to identify the direct object. In English today we have do to this by word order exclusively since we have no such case designator. The idea that this is some sort of "magic word" is a horrific lie. It is something that no doubt sounds good to those who are taken in by speakers such as this who demonstrate a modicum of familiarity with Hebrew (which is portrayed as "deep knowledge" – I have been reading Hebrew for thirty-five years and I can tell you that this person doesn't have a clue what he's talking about); but believe me when I say that it is all mumbo jumbo. I note speaker has a problem calling God "God" and Jesus "Jesus" – as if there were some magic in approximated Hebrew versions of these names given modern Hebrew pronunciation (there is not). No doubt we will next learn from speaker (as is often the case) that there is also some sort of numerical magic in these letters and/or elsewhere (there is not). Please note that this version of the Bible being hawked in the video, in addition to being gobbledygook as a result of trying to add to scripture in every other sentence something that doesn't belong there, adds also entire books to the Bible which are not the inspired Word of God (and other things too – an erroneous longer ending for Acts based upon a single document that was not "discovered" until the 18th century)!

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.
Revelation 22:18 NIV

Finally, I note that this book sells for nearly a $100.00! If the truth is that important, why don't they make it available for free, at least electronically? I note that this ministry, Ichthys, does not charge.

This person and book are part of a growing malignancy on the body of the church-visible, designed by the devil no doubt to distract that small portion of believers in our lukewarm era of Laodicea (see the link) who are interested in the Bible to some small degree. But leaving a lukewarm congregation/environment to jump into "intriguing" nonsense is most definitely a case of "out of the frying pan and into the fire".

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
2nd Timothy 4:3 NIV

Here are a few links that will be helpful in inoculating yourself against such contagions:

Changing the Name of God?

The Trinity and Messianic Legalism

The Law, Love, Faith-Rest and Messianism

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism IV: Unclean and Impure?

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism III

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism II

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hi again Robt.,

If I may have your opinion on what is said in this link, below? In doing some research for my own edification on this subject of Hebrew being the language of the New Testament, I landed on this link. Again, just trying to get all sides in a attempt to find out why so many discrepancies exist when it comes to God's Word; this has plagued me for years. Why did He allow it to even occur? Thanks so much for your continued assistance. Please take your time. 

http://www.blainerobison.com/endtimes/rev-hebrew.htm

Response #7:

Hello Friend,

This page is "more of the same". The claims made here are absolutely wrong from start to finish, and misunderstand how language works (not to mention evincing a total ignorance of the textual evidence). Revelation was written in Greek – and does not exist in Hebrew (before being translated into Modern Hebrew in the 19th century for evangelizing purposes).

When you speak of "so many discrepancies in the text", I have no idea what you are talking about. We are 99+% sure of the text of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles, 99.9% sure in places where there is any serious theological issue riding on the outcome, and the additional one tenth of one percent entails "problems" that are solvable with hard work (for those who have the linguistic, philological, and theological knowledge, gifts and experience to do so). We have the Bible. The problem is not that the truth is not available; the problem is that so few people are interested in the truth, and many want to make excuses for not believing it.

I'm happy to answer any specifics you might have – these are critically important issues (you will find many links and much detailed information about all these sorts of things at Ichthys).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Thank you again Robert. What I am referring to, and I am probably using the word discrepancies incorrectly by not using in the correct context I should have said in my haste, was there are "so many discrepancies within each of the many denominations." Simply that there are so many denominations, period, has always been puzzling to me; why is the question? Why wasn't the Bible, the Word of God, the Word from God, not given or delivered in such a way that there would be zero chance for any "misunderstanding"? This "misunderstanding" has been the impetus for so many wars etc., over millennia. Thank you and please, there is no rush, just when you have time. Thanks for being there; truly helpful for me.

Response #8:

Hello Friend,

It's important to understand that there is a big difference between the Word of God on the one hand and its interpretation on the other. The truth is available to all; however, few want the truth. That is why our Lord proclaimed the gospel in parables, so that those who didn't really want the truth would not be confronted by it – since allowing the negative to retain "plausible deniability" regarding matters of truth is important in order for free will to be maintained: if the truth were obvious beyond denial, then it would take no great exercise of faith to receive it:

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
James 2:19 NIV

Those who do want the truth will be provided with it, if they keep seeking, keep knocking, keep doing what it is necessary to do to find it. In the history of the Church those who have really wanted to know everything the Word has to say . . . with the intention of believing it and following it . . . have been in the distinct minority (and that is especially true in the lukewarm era of Laodicea in which we find ourselves), but the Lord has always provided for them fully. The Lord is willing to take any Christian as far as that Christian wants to go in terms of finding the truth, believing it, and putting it into practice. The issue therefore is really the reverse of the way you are seeing it. God is not limiting anyone; He does allow us to limit ourselves, however. That is what free will, having the image of God, is all about.

We are here after salvation as Christians to test the depth of our desire to learn the truth, to progress in applying it through testing once we believe it, and to help others do the same through the ministries to which He calls us thereafter. For those who are willing to go down that right road, they WILL be provided with the right Bible, the right teaching ministry, the right Christian fellowship, and the right circumstances and encouragement to carry through to the end, in order to be able to win the three crowns of reward, and to learn absolutely as much truth was they are willing to receive – but not without tribulations to test the mettle of their determination and to temper their faith (Mk.10:30; Acts 14:22).

For those who are not really interested in the truth, not really interested in what the Word says, not really interested in getting to the bottom of things, not really interested in loving Jesus Christ more than life, and who are really only in Christianity as a religion, for social advantage, for socializing, for tradition, or for whatever, well, they will get what they want too. To the lukewarm, the Lord gives lukewarm teachers, denominations, fellowships (Ps.18:25-26). Those who are willing to go outside the gate and suffer whatever is necessary to get to the truth are rewarded with the truth (Heb.13:12-13).

So from the point of view of the question you are asking, life, and the Christian life in particular, is not an accidental Smorgasbord. God has pre-planned everything for the sake of the elect, and He has provided a feast of the truth for all who want the truth. It's easy for people to make excuses and say that the truth is not available, but God knows what is everyone's heart – and He knows that He has provided for every legitimate desire to know the truth.

Behold, I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone will listen to my voice and open the door, I will go in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
Revelation 3:20

Therefore this is a "demand problem" more than anything else. What is the reason there is such confusion in Christendom and so few places where the truth is being taught in an orthodox and substantive way? Answer: most believers in Laodicea are lukewarm; they like to be entertained, or they like the comfort of ritual and tradition; but they don't really want to do the hard work, to do what the Lord really wants them to do His way (at least not to the extent of getting what you are asking about).

I would hope that this ministry is an exception to the rule. I do think you will find some very detailed material here that will help you grow and achieve all that you are willing to achieve for Jesus Christ.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Again, I thank you Robt. for you well written and informative reply.

I have heard some of what you bring forth here with regard to the 'degree of faith" etc. Jesus' statements to this effect: "Ye of little faith," etc. I guess my question concerning this would be: is this concept consistent throughout the Bible; both Old and New Testaments, or exclusively in the New? Again, I want to just deal with a small amount at a time in an attempt to not overload you with so much to reply to. Please know however, Robt., that it is because of your knowledge and your ability to present to me and others I'm sure, that helps me to cover more ground in less time and this is why I truly appreciate the dialog here. And, conversely, perhaps, my questions will in turn help you with future questions from others by giving you an advance awareness of some of what is swirling around out there. Maybe not, but I hope there is some good that comes from it for you as well. Thank you and all the best. (again, please take your time; no hurry)

Response #9:

Hello Friend,

These principles of truth have always been the case. The major difference between the Old and New Covenants is that the Old of necessity looked forward to the cross through shadows, whereas the New has revealed all the mysteries of truth, including illuminating the meaning of the shadows of the Old, now that the victory of the cross is a completed fact and now that our Lord, having taken on true humanity to save us there, has been resurrected and glorified. In the epistles we find quotes from the gospels and the Old Testament; in the gospels we find quotes from the Old Testament and much that looks forward to the detailed teaching of the epistles; and in the Old Testament everything in the gospels and epistles is foreshadowed in one way or another. There is a complete consistency of meaning and teaching on every page of scripture; only the modes of expression are different – this is easy enough to discover if a person takes the (considerable) time and effort to do so.

Please feel free to write any time.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Thank you Robt.

May I ask if there is a way to be more specific regarding this concept of the necessity of Faith? Are there any Scriptures in the Old Testament that refer precisely to this. Being that your mention of the Old Testament looking through "shadows," begs the question......why? I want to believe the Bible verifies itself forward and backward. Jesus said He came to fulfill the Old not do away with it; and I am aware of Old T. Scriptures that speak of His coming long before He did. However, it seems there is nothing that mentions this all important concept.....Faith in Jesus within the Old Testament. If Faith was not required under the Old Covenant, how is it those people were exempted? If it was required what Scriptures verify this? Again, let's just take it small increments at a time. Thanks Robt. Have a good evening.

Response #10:

Hello Friend,

There is no difference in doctrine between Old and New (and certainly no difference in what it takes to be saved: relying on the Lord for salvation since we all face sin and death without His intervention on our behalf). As to how scripture describes saving faith in the two testaments, the only differences are slight ones in modes of expression based on the facts that 1) Hebrew is different from Greek; 2) the "ancient" Hebrew world/culture was different from the "modern" ancient Greek world/culture; 3) Hebrew culture is more tangible/visceral, Greek more intellectual theoretical, and the languages and phraseology of each reflect this; 4) and also there is the point of shadows and symbols later revealed and illuminated in the one versus the other . . . but the truth was always the truth and still is the truth without alteration in the slightest way:

(1) It is faith [in the Living and written Word], moreover, that substantiates what we hope for. [Faith] provides proof of things unseen. (2) For it is by this [very faith] that believers of old received their divine approval.
Hebrews 11:1-2

Paul here makes it very clear that faith has always been the issue, and goes on throughout Hebrews chapter eleven to make that case with multifarious examples – of Old Testament believers, individuals who are singled out as exceptional because faith, the theme of Hebrews chapter eleven, for "it is by this [very faith] that believers of old received their divine approval". Because, "without faith, it is impossible to please [God]" (Heb.11:6).

The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
Genesis 3:21

Then men began to call upon the name of the LORD.
Genesis 4:26b NASB

Then [Abraham] believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.
Genesis 15:6 NASB

Adam and Eve accepted the skin garments which symbolized the cross through the slaughter of the animals that possessed them – faith, trusting the Lord that He would provide a solution to their problem of spiritual, physical and impending "second" death now that they had fallen. Calling on the Name of the Lord is an act of faith; it flows from a belief that God is the solution to the problems of sin and death. Abraham is specifically said to have "believed", put his faith in the Lord, and for that God justified him – even as justification has always been a matter of faith (Rom.4:1ff). It is not to much to say that in every account of every believer in the Old Testament we can see their faith through their words and actions, even if scripture does not express things the same way precisely in the Old as it does in the New Testament (for the reasons cited). The only really significant difference was that before the cross believers looked through a mirror darkly toward the cross "seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow" (1Pet.1:11 NASB), whereas today we understand what the Lord did for us – or should (though of fundamental importance, His spiritual death is still one of the most misunderstood doctrines; see the link). In the past, they trusted that God would provide a Substitute (as symbolized in their blood sacrifices); today we see that precious sacrifice already an eternal reality completed at the cross.

[But we believers are all] justified without cost by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God foreordained as a means of atonement [appropriated] through faith [and validated] by means of His blood (i.e., His sacrifice on the cross) to demonstrate His righteousness in overlooking the previously committed sins [of the world] (including those OT believers of whom we have been speaking).
Romans 3:24-25

Salvation has always been the same; we merely have more information about the One who provided it now that the victory has actually been won and salvation definitively provided – and this is a most blessed thing (if we take full advantage of it).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi again Robt.

Below, I list the link I gave you in my prior email for you to comment, which you did. Below the link, I've enclosed a portion of your reply. Although I understand what you are saying here regarding "the Truth," and that the "problem" is that "to few people" want to believe it. I'm not sure you understood my question, or possibly, I didn't make it clear enough. My concern here is that The gentleman who wrote the comments at the link website regarding Revelation being a Hebrew Book, is a very well credentialed Biblical scholar. He most certainly would not be one of the "few" you mention that want to believe it. This is exactly the point I was trying to get across. Yes, when it comes to people in general who either refuse the Bible entirely or something like that, I will agree with you. However, when you have numerous Biblical scholars who disagree with what the "truth" actually is, "we have a problem Houston." This is why I said how is it that God allowed it to become interrupted so many ways? As always, thank you.

http://www.blainerobison.com/endtimes/rev-hebrew.htm

Response #11:

Hello Friend,

If a contrary opinion voiced by a "scholar" immediately removes certainty for all time, then there is nothing certain and never will be. If we are waiting for universal agreement in this world on any point of interpretation of scripture, we will be waiting until kingdom come. And you don't have to go to modern scholars. In the twelfth century Abelard in Sic et Non provided a compendious comparison of church fathers saying contradictory things. There is truth, but it will never be universally accepted or understood.

Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!
Matthew 18:7

Such stumbling blocks must come, our Lord assures us. Why? Because this life is all about faith. If there were such clear signs regarding all points of truth that no possible doubt was reasonable for any sane person, how would this life be about choice any more? We have the image of God. We are here to choose. He makes the issues of choice obvious and clear to all who are genuinely searching. Complaining about lack of certainty in matters of faith overlooks the basic fact that this life is all about faith.

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
1st Corinthians 1:22

Some desire tangible, physical proof before they will accept the truth – and that is not faith. Others desire rational argumentation that removes all doubt – and that is also not faith. But we Christians have accepted Jesus Christ, His perfect person, the God-man, and what He did for us in being judged for all of our sins . . . on faith alone (Jn.20:29). That is the power of God. That is the wisdom of God. And it can be accessed and appropriated only by faith. That is true of the gospel, and that is true of each and every truth scripture teaches.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
Hebrews 11:3 NIV

So much for the scientific cosmologies – for those who have faith. And for those who truly are interested in finding out all the scripture has to say about all matters of faith, the Lord provides genuine teachers in the Church – but these can do no good if their testimony is not received, if each and every Christian wishes to be his/her own teacher or assemble an entire stable of teachers so as to play referee (which amounts to the same thing: 2Tim.4:3).

(11) Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (12) in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, (13) until we all reach that unifying [goal] of belief in and full-knowledge of the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; (14) that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, (15) but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects with Christ, who is the head of the Church, as our model. (16) In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16

There is no problem. There is only a decision to be made: whether to accept what the Spirit tells us to be true in our heart, or to refuse to do so. The former is the way to glory; the latter the way to perdition. Life is specifically designed by God as a winnowing out process not only to actual separate the wheat from the chaff but also to demonstrate by our own actions which we are, and, if we are wheat, those who trust the Lord rather than what we think, feel, see or hear, just what the quality of that wheat is. It all starts with faith; and it all ends with faith.

But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, "Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame."
Romans 10:8-11 NIV

The fact that there are many false teachers and many misguided denominations does not negate the few good ministries (1Jn.2:18-23) or make God unfaithful (Matt.7:7; Lk.11:19) – if only we are willing. I am confident that if you are willing to learn the truth, the fact that there are "many teacher" and "many denominations" out there will not deter you nor prove to be a fatal stumbling block in the end. The Lord will lead you to a spring of living water where you can be refreshed and grow – if you are willing to keep knocking until you find the right one. Ichthys is not everyone's "cup of tea", as I say, but you are certainly welcome here any time.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hello my friend!

A question on "Black Israelites". Well Dr. Luginbill, I've had my first encounter with someone who falls into this camp. He is a coworker. By the time he finished his diatribe about his exclusivity as a "real" Israelite, I felt totally alienated and discriminated against. I was labeled an inferior heathen who was not officially chosen of Christ. Rather than start an argument in spite of all of Jesus' teachings and Paul's to the contrary, I opted to ignore the nonsense and pray for him. Have you written about this stuff?

As always, praying for you and wishing you well!

Yours in Christ!

https://carm.org/black-hebrew-israelites

Black Hebrew Israelites by Ryan Turner

Response #12:

I've never dealt with this before. I know it is a big issue in Ethiopia (where they claim they have the actual ark of the covenant, for example). Theologically, I don't see how it is any different from "British Israelism", merely identifying a different group as the "lost tribes". Since we Christians are one in Christ and there is no longer "any Greek or Jew", the idea that God is favoring the biological seed absent spirituality while disadvantaging those who spiritually belong to Christ is, as you say, not worth much effort in refuting. Here on some links on the subject generally:

The Seal and the Mark and the true 144K

Who is True Israel?

Who are the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel?

How Many Tribes do the Jews of Today Represent?

Are the Celts the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel?

Keeping you in my prayers, my friend!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Thank you very much for the links. After the big toxic dump of all of his gleanings and leanings, I became very quiet and instead just began to love him in a very kind, accepting, and generous way. When he realized I was no longer interested in discussing or debating his "version" of the Bible, but instead would rather exemplify Christ's words and commandments through my every word and action, he became very respectful. All the talk really means nothing to me. The Penitent Thief became royalty after a brief exchange with Jesus on the Cross. God decides. Let us demonstrate that we are truly men and women of God's Word.

Bless you, Dr. Luginbill. You are a great mentor.

Response #13:

You're very welcome. Excellent application of the truth on your part. And thank you for your encouraging words!

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hello sir. God bless you for this eye-opening ministry.

This website has helped me tremendously in the understanding of theology and eschatology. But I wonder how the Talmudic Jews or the "Synagogue of Satan" fits into all this? The modern state of Israel is very satanic (as can be seen from the hexagram on the flag, its policies and actions). Jews control the U.S. and Europe, they control the entertainment industry, economy and foreign policies of many nations. They are seen as parasites by many. I wouldn't call this anti-semitism because these Jews are not the Jews of the Old Testament.

They are usurpers, deceivers and liars. These Jews are awaiting their false messiah (the antichrist). These corrupt Jews, along with the Illuminati, Freemasons and Jesuits seem to be Satan's agents on earth and carry out his plan. I find it odd that these occult pagan/new age societies and organizations are barely mentioned on Ichthys, these are the very people that control the world's governments directly in the name of their father Lucifer/Satan.

And what do you think of the Khazar Ashkenazi theory?

Response #14:

Good to make your acquaintance, and thank you for your positive comments about Ichthys.

As to your question, while it is true that "all Israel is not Israel" (Rom.9:6), nevertheless all who are truly descended from the seed of Abraham are "beloved for the sake of the fathers" (Rom.11:28), so that the Lord's promise to "bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you" (Gen.12:3) applies even to those who have yet to accept Christ as their Savior. They are not part of the Body of Christ unless and until they believe, but they are under the special superintendence of God. Therefore I always counsel all my fellow believers to "stay away from anything that even gives the appearance of being evil" (1Thes.5:22), and that, in my opinion, includes anything that might in any way be considered antisemitic – as many of these theories mentioned surely may be (please see the links):

Israel and Antichrist in Eschatology

Israelology, Anti-Semitism, the Remnant, Gentiles, Lost Tribes, and Jewish Myths

Anti-Semitism

Some Jewish Issues

Zionism

The nation state of Israel today is a secular state, and the gathering of many Jews to this state is not in any way the fulfillment of the promises of the prophets. The true regathering will only occur when the Messiah returns at the second advent. However, it is fair to say that this political development has "set the table", so to speak, for the end times events very soon to take place; and it also should be observed that many of those alive in Israel today will in fact become believers, either under the ministry of Moses and Elijah and the 144,000 during the first half of the Tribulation, or when they see Jesus return at the end of the Tribulation. God wants "all to be saved and to come to accept the truth" (1Tim.2:4) – how much more is that not the case with those who are beloved for Abraham's sake and who will indeed in the very near future join us as members of the Body of Christ?

Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!
Romans 11:11-12 NIV

I also wouldn't put too much stock in these popular conspiracy theories. Antichrist will be the biggest deceiver in world history, and it is entirely possible when he is revealed not many years hence that he will style himself as being on the other side of these very theories. In other words, I can't imagine anything worse than falling in with the beast because he claims to be opposing some of the things you mention here. After all, he will claim to be Christ and will deceive "even the elect, if that were possible". Please see the links:

The False Prophet's Administration of Antichrist's False Religion

The Rise of False Teaching in the Tribulation

The Persuasiveness of antichrist's religion

Characteristics of the false religion

The Anti-Christian Religion and its Worldwide Expansion

Dangers of cooperating with antichrist's religion

Add to this the Great Apostasy (link) wherein one third of believers worldwide are prophesied to fall away and follow the beast, and I hope you can see my concern for all who are overly fixated on things about which the Bible has nothing to say. Happily, the Bible has a great deal to say about the end times and how Israel fits into them.  These matters are mostly to found at Ichthys in the Satanic Rebellion series and the Coming Tribulation series (please see the links).  Do also feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Thank you for the response!

It does make sense that Satan would employ psy-ops to trick as many people as possible.

With all the geopolitical chaos and problems, the antichrist could emerge as the 'saviour' the world craves for. The ecumenical push for religious equality and globalization has become so transparent and obvious, they're not even hiding it anymore. Bible-believing Christians are slowly being painted as 'extremists' in the United States. The rise of atheism, darwinism and the belief in "millions of years" is a disturbing trend. Angels and demons are now being called aliens and extraterrestrials, despite the UFO phenomenon and orbs of light showing interdimensional properties, seemingly popping out of nowhere and defying the laws of physics. Evolution is the religion of unbelievers. It replaces God with man and gave birth to communism. At the same time Roman Catholicism, Islam and the 'New Age' movement suppress the truth of Christianity and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank God for modern-day apostles such as you, Trey Smith, Bill Cooper and Kent Hovind that expose evil. I'd like to thank you from the bottom of my heart, you have strengthened the faith of Christians all over the world as well as saved people (such as me) from false religions.

As for the Jewish issue, I find it dangerous to connect Israelis to the Israelites of the Old Testament. American Zionist/Judeo-Christians are being deceived and played. Do you know what the Talmud says about Jesus? It is filled with hatred and insults. Christians in Israel have been attacked and physically assaulted. I find it important to distinguish between ancient Torah-believing Jews from the false satanic Jews of today (Pharisees if you will). The "true Jews" knew Jesus was the messiah and became Christians (Jewish only as in lineage/ethnicity).

It is true that the Mosaic and Rabbinical Jews will recognize and accept Jesus at His glorious return (as everyone will at one point, every knee will bow, etc) but I find it hard to love or bless these Jews when they are behind such disgusting behaviour and control of western governments. I'd like to reiterate that I'm not being anti-semitic (I'm semitic myself) but I'm simply distinguishing between Torah Jews and Talmudic Jews.

"Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." - Revelation 3:9

Response #15:

You're very welcome. I certainly agree in the main with your first paragraph about the sorry state of spiritual affairs, but that is not limited to the scary developments in the world at large; it also applies to the church-visible of our day (see the link: Laodicea).

As to connecting "Israelis to the Israelites of the Old Testament", the connection is physical, not spiritual; but the physical link is honored by God, even though the spiritual condition of each individual will be what matters in the end (as it does for every human being). The danger here is twofold. As with many spiritual and doctrinal issues, the truth lies in the middle between two extremes, both of which must be avoided to approach the truth. On the one hand I would certainly agree that evangelicalism groups which make Israel into a godly nation because it is composed of Jews – who are (almost universally) unbelieving – are making a big mistake; however, opposing Jews because they are Jews (or claiming that they are not-really-Jewish-Jews – which is in fact a distinction without a true difference) is a very dangerous thing to do for anyone, especially for Christians (please see previous links on antisemitism).

Most of us don't get too riled up about the politics of central Africa, e.g., even though it would be easy to pick sides and develop a crusader mentality for one group or another. That disinterest would serve us well when it comes to the Middle East as well – in fact when it comes to anything having to do with politics of any kind. Politics is the devil's game and it can't be won, especially by Christians (see the link). What is going to happen at the end history which is fast approaching is already written in the Word, and I have spent a good deal of time and effort trying to outline for my fellow believers what scripture has to say about these things. Our job is not to root for one "side" or another (all sides are going to be bad and all true believers who stand fast with the truth will find themselves on the "out"-side in the eyes of both sides); our job is to continue to grow spiritually so as to be ready to face the severe testing which is destined to come to all who refuse to choose for antichrist or the Mahdi when the world divides along that fault-line in the soon to come Tribulation.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

I sometimes get too carried away by worldly events that I have to remind myself that God is in charge and He will exact wrath, not me. What gets me most is to see unbelievers scoff at the Bible, following their own lusts and sinful lifestyle. I get this emotional urge to prove them wrong and correct them, to save their souls and bring them to Christ. The apathy of people nowadays is astounding. Satan has indoctrinated an entire generation in the west. You're right, we can't win this battle by playing the devil's game of politics. I wish I knew how I could reach people, to understand my gifts, God's plan and ministry for me. Not only to rack up rewards in heaven, but because it's Right and the Truth. I hate evil and satanic ideologies/doctrines.

Your 7 Church eras are remarkable, it has give me a much better understanding of history. It makes so much sense, and it's amazing how Christ was referring to the local churches of Asia minor as well as the characteristics of future Churches (Body of Christ). I envy the Philadelphia era, as this was such a revival of Biblical Christianity based on the study of scripture rather than Catholic traditions and mindless repetitions. It is sad to see how the 'enlightenment' period, Darwinism, evolution, atheist nihilism and pseudo-science has crept up. It has undermined Christianity and brainwashed so many people into the secular, humanist cult. Satan has lead people to believe that we came from monkeys, from a rock, from a soup billions of years ago. It is so frustrating to see people think this is scientific fact while scoffing at the Bible as "just an old book written by primitive shepherds". It is no coincidence that the drop of Christianity and falling away of faith in the west goes hand-in-hand with the rise of degeneracy, decadence, immorality and the destruction of family values. Gay marriage, abortion, feminism, it goes on and on. Satan is laughing, but he won't laugh for long.

"Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator" Romans 1:25

"The fool has said in his heart, there is no God." Psalm 14:1

This Laodicean era is marked with such apathy, indifference and lukewarmness. No matter how sad the state of affairs is, I have to remind myself not to get caught up and remain steadfast in the Word. The unholy trinity of the devil, antichrist and false prophet will burn in the Lake of Fire, and this gives me comfort. I can't wait until that glorious day when justice is done, when all secrets have been exposed at the Great White Throne judgment.

God bless.

Response #16:

Amen! And thanks!

Question #17:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Peace be to you sir. If you have some, may I ask your thoughts on a biblical matter that is quite bothersome to me? I and a fellow brother in the Lord have had a rather heated discussion over the correct interpretation of the Bible's discussion concerning the "New Heavens and the New Earth." I will just say at the get go, I do not claim to have the correct understanding, however, I don't believe that the issues I raised were simply the ignorant "blind spots" my afore mentioned brother thinks. Suffice it to say, here's my question:

On numerous occasions, and is various places, the Bible speaks about the New Heavens and the New Earth, yet in many other places it speaks about the earth remaining forever. On top of that there is the issue that when God made His covenant with Abraham, He told Abraham that wherever Abraham's foot stepped, that would be his land, forever! Yet, we can both admit that Abraham's foot has not touched, and will not touch, some "New" dust, or plot of land, can we? Another strange issue has been that in the book of Isaiah, God mentions that He is going to "create" again? How can this be when the Bible says, so many times, that the earth will remain forever, in fact, does not even the book of Hebrews tell us that God's works were finished from the foundation of the world? This is just one area of the Scriptures that has somewhat confused me, one of the other big one's is the issue of the "Law." Our Lord Jesus says He has not come to destroy the Law, and that if anyone breaks even the least of the commands, and teaches others to do so, he will be least in the Kingdom of God. While I, of course, agree with my Lord, I don't understand how that can be the case, when Jesus teaches us, through His servant Paul, that certain things in the Law are no longer requirements for Christians? Needless to say, this issue has also been a rather intense matter to discuss with my Christian brother..... I just try to read Scripture, and then, do what is seems to clearly say unless it becomes clear that there is a deeper meaning meant to be understood. Again, I want to emphasize that I do not at all claim to be an authority on the vast quantity of biblical subjects, however, I have personally felt that my Christian brother basically shrugs off the issues I bring up, as though my questions. and/or answers, are just a result of ignorance, and lack of "knowledge." Anyway, I just wanted to ask you, to see if you had any thoughts you would like to share?

By the way, I would like to apologize to you, if my inquiries are lengthy, I don't want to be a bother to you my friend. Thank you very much for you kindness, and patience with me.

In Christ Jesus, our only Hope,

Response #17:

It is often the case that things may look contradictory in scripture . . . at first (or second, or third, etc.) glance, and may only come to be clear after many years of study. That is why there are teachers in the Church, namely, to make these things clear to those who are genuinely interested in learning the truth. At least that is how the process is supposed to work. You are to be commended both for your persistence in seeking the truth and also in your correct approach. For beyond all question unless a person has faith that by knocking an answer will eventually come – and keeps knocking until it does – well, such a person of little faith should not be surprised when the answer does not come.

The Bible clearly teaches the coming of a new heavens and a new earth. For example:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
2nd Peter 3:10-11

The question is whether or not there really is any contradiction. Abraham and his seed will in fact possess the entire land until the end of this world. And in the next world, they will inhabit the New Jerusalem along with all believers. Does that not fulfill the spirit and the letter of all of the promises? It seems to me that it does. "Forever" is an English word. In Hebrew and Greek we usually have such phrases as "until the ages of the ages", which means "to the end of the ages", which means "kingdom come". So even here it seems to me that there is no true contradiction, merely the forming of incorrect conclusions based upon misconceptions resulting from the English Bible. I'm happy to address specific verses you may have in mind.

As to the Law, that is a big subject, as you know, but it really does go hand in hand with the discussion above. Jesus has fulfilled the Law (Rom.10:4), and it is important to remember what the Law is/was: a "schoolmaster" (Gal.3:24) designed to lead the Jewish nation (and proselytes) to faith in Christ (as He was foreshadowed in the Law); additionally, it had the function of demarcating God's people from the rest of the world. But as to the first function, Christ has now come in the flesh – indeed, He has come and been crucified, resurrected, and glorified. That part of the Law, its main purpose, is now defunct (so that Paul can write in Hebrews that the continuation of sacrifices is "crucifying Christ anew"). As to the code, in fact not all in Israel were saved – just as there were gentiles not of Israel and not following the Law who were saved. Therefore the code was a system of shadows whose power resided in the truth behind them (genuine believers living their lives for God) – and where there is no truth, there is no power. Today, the law of the Spirit – God's true supernatural marking out of His people and His empowering of us – has "set us free from the Law of sin and death" (Rom.8:2).

None of this contradicts our Lord's words. For indeed, if the Law could save, then salvation would come through the Law (Gal.2:21). But the purpose of the Law was to demonstrate the sinfulness of everyone (Rom.3:20). So all are bound up under sin (Rom.3:9; 7:14; Gal.3:22). Yes, not keeping every single word and commandment of the Law would result in condemnation – for those who are keeping the Law for salvation. However:

[We] know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
Galatians 2:16 NKJV

Here are a couple of links that may prove helpful (do feel free to write me back about any of this).

Should Christians observe the Torah?

No Longer Under the Law

Paul's quoting of the Law

Under Grace not Law

Legalism, Past and Present

Legalism, Past and Present II

Not one jot or tittle

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Regarding Romans 2:14-16 you wrote:

Here is the way I translate these verses:

(14) For whenever the gentiles who do not have the Law do by nature the things [written in] the Law, these who have no Law are a Law for themselves. (15) For they demonstrate that the essence of the Law has been written in their hearts when their conscience testifies against them, and their [mental] deliberations [based on conscience] alternatively either condemn them or acquit them. (16) This [examination will take place] on the day when God will judge the secret things of men through Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
Romans 2:14-16

This "examination" will take place at the last judgment (for unbelievers; see the link: in CT 6 "The Last Judgment"). Paul's point here is that attaining to a point of obedience to the Law on certain particular is of absolutely no value in terms of gaining eternal life; for even gentiles without the Law have often managed the same thing -- neither group is saved, even if their conduct is exemplary. All this will be revealed when God holds everyone who has not accepted Christ to account.

What is your take on the following interpretation - Paul here makes the point of universal sinfulness which a Jew should understand by the inability to fulfill the Law, and a Gentile through his conscience bearing witness against him?

Response #18:

I think this is a perfect application of the scripture; in my view the interpretation is that Paul is demonstrating to his Jewish readers that conscience and moral behavior exist even where there is no knowledge of the Law, so that it would be incorrect and dangerous in the extreme to assume superiority merely by having and knowing the divine standard (especially if a person is not keeping it perfectly – which of course no one except our Lord ever has).

Question #19:

Romans 7:4 (NASB):
4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.

You clarified that the comparison that Paul draws here isn't exact - first he refers to husband dying, but then applies this parallel to us dying to law, even though we are the wife rather than the husband. This is still puzzles me, however. Why make this point in such a way? The central point of this comparison is death and this is exactly the point which cannot be applied, so I cannot understand the whole purpose here. It would be clear if Paul here said that the law is now dead, but instead, he says that we are dead to the law, so I'm still unsure about this verse.

Response #19:

Peter writing in the Spirit said, "his letters contain some things that are hard to understand" but also "Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him" (2Pet.3:15-16). So we can be forgiven for not immediately "getting" everything Paul writes, but we do have to understand that in the Spirit it is God's perfect message, even if some things are "hard to understand". The main point here is that we are no longer under the authority of the Law – since we are in Christ and Christ's death to sin has redeemed us from the curse on all sin explained in the Law – and that we now have a new life in Christ instead as a result with the purpose of producing genuine fruit for the Lord (as opposed to the dead works of the Law). Paul is always reluctant to condemn the Law – and rightly so. The Law is perfect, but it is the shadow-filled complement of the mystery-revealing New Testament. No one should dismiss the Law and no one should try to keep the Law. The Law has to be handled correctly to be appreciated (1Tim.1:8): the Old Covenant looked forward to the cross and so it was concerned primarily with the condemnation that had to be removed by the cross, whereas the New Covenant looks back to the reality of the Law fulfilled by the blood of Christ, and explains all the shadows in the revelation of the mysteries of Christ. It is the bondage of the shadows which has been put to death by the cross followed by the unveiling of the truth. Paul puts all this in legal terms, but it is certainly clear from this passage that the old's authority has been supplanted by that of the new in a very decisive way: our submission to the authority of Christ supplants any authority of the Law.

Question #20:

You wrote (http://ichthys.com/mail-changing the name of God.html):

Our God certainly takes such things into account (just as in the case of the message to Joseph He gave our Savior's Name in a Greek version since that was the lingua franca of the time and region).

That's an interesting point - I thought that our Lord's name was given in Hebrew and it was the gospel writer who transliterated it into Greek, but here you write that the name was actually given in Greek.=?

Response #20:

It's possible; scripture does not say – as it sometimes does – that Hebrew was used. However, my point was that the Name as written in the New Testament is in Greek, not Hebrew or Hebrew transliteration. After all, the Name "Jesus" as it occurs at this critical reference in the NT and throughout the NT and in external usage thereafter is always the Greek version of His name. See the links: "What Language did Jesus Speak?"  and "Why was the New Testament written in Greek?"

Question #21:

Regarding Paul you wrote:

He realized that he did have lustful and covetous thoughts, and that there was no way for him to stop them permanently. I believe he had that experience before the road to Damascus when the Lord appeared to him, that his zeal in persecuting the Church was in large part a result of trying to compensate and atone for his failure to be perfect (perfect, that is, in his own honest standard and not the "righteousness in the Law" as others taught it), and that he was thus primed and ready for our Lord's appearance to Him.

What do you mean by Paul's "own honest standard" and how was it different from the law as defined by Rabbis of his day?

Response #21:

Paul was actually trying to "keep the Law" in letter and in spirit, rather than merely appearing to be righteous by outward appearance (as the "whitewashed tombstones" AKA the Pharisees were notorious for doing). But even a man of Paul's determination, intellect, and incredible self-discipline was not, of course, able to do so (he had a sin nature as do we all), and this led him into the next and worse phase of "salvation by works", namely "works of supererogation".

Question #22:

Bob,

Just thought to write you concerning some recent events in my life concerning the church and to ask for advice. I withdrew from the church that I had been attending for the past 3 years, as a result of many gross differences in doctrine.

As I matured in Christ Jesus and studied the word for myself, I have found that I have drifted away from the vast majority of the churches. Some of the drifting factors have been sovereign grace and election, water baptism, and cessationalism.

I've managed to find some churches that believe very closely to what I understand the pages of scripture to be plainly stating. However, these particular types of churches are severely fixed on water baptism to an extraordinary degree.

To me, I know that people will believe different things outside the core doctrines, and there's nothing that can really resolve that, except the Lord Jesus and when He so desires. However, these particular churches absolutely insist upon water baptism into membership of the local body and without it, you can't participate in the Lord's Supper.

I have attempted to explain what I believe to a few of the congregation, which I owe to your writings for the revelation, but I don't seem to be getting anywhere. This has been done by way of pleasant email exchanges.

The fact that they claim that the Lord commanded water baptism into the local assembly is absolutely absurd to me. I can understand how others confuse water baptism as a necessity in general but not to this extent. Seems very legalistic to me and not only non-biblical, but anti-biblical.

Am I wrong in the sense that I feel that they are indeed baptizing factions unto themselves like Paul referenced in 1 Corinthians 1? For this reason and the fact that I don't see it in scripture, I am convicted by the thought of complying with them. Essentially, it becomes a deal breaker and I have to move on because I don't want to remain a "visitor" of a church forever and not be able to partake in the Lord Supper.

Other than this major issue, they seem to teach and share some great truth and I enjoy their fellowship.

Is this belief that baptism is absolutely necessary to be a member of the local church and partake in communion completely heretical and am I wrong in feeling that by submitting to this for their reasons, I would be sinning and endorsing a ritual / work?

I don't condemn water baptism in general or the people that have been baptized, but I am with you in the sense that I don't see that as a commandment of the Lord in scripture. The mere nature of this as an alleged commandment of the Lord seems contradictory to everything Christ preached concerning the Pharisees.

I'd appreciate any insight you could give me. I have gone back and forth with one of the elders their with my beliefs and the basis for my beliefs concerning baptism. As I said, most of it came from what I have learned from the scriptures as a result of your incredible skills of articulating and your amazing insight into God's word. For the most part, I have kept this revelation concerning water baptism to myself until it is forced upon me and I am have to deal with it.

To Him be the dominion forever and ever,

Response #22:

It's very good to hear from you again, my friend. No, I don't think you are wrong at all. The truth is the most important thing in the world, and if we don't stand by our deeply held convictions to it I'm not sure that we would stand at all (Is.7:9).

I appreciate your dilemma. It's important to keep in mind that it stems from a loyalty to the Lord and what He really wants us to do. The truth tends to be divisive (Matt.10:34ff.), so that those of us who are really willing to pick up our crosses day by day and follow the Lord wherever He leads us will often find ourselves isolated from less dedicated believers just because of that level of commitment which they do not share – that's the reason this ministry is on the internet rather than in some traditional venue.

The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.
Hebrews 11:11-13

What to do is an individual decision, but in my experience two principles come through as being of primary importance: 1) it is usually impossible to change any organization from the inside out . . . without destroying it in the process (Lk.5:36-39); 2) compromising one's beliefs to accommodate to the group is something that will generally be regretted down the road.

On churches, I will give you some links below. Suffice it to say here that in my opinion there is no biblical basis for denominations, and no precedent in scripture for "church membership". As you find in these files, I don't denigrate the process entirely (in our society there are legal reasons and issues of a fiduciary nature which make that approach inevitable if property is to be purchased and held, for example), but I do observe that membership – especially if it is emphasized and pushed – mainly has had negative consequences in the history of the church-visible.

I always counsel all Christians who have any contact with this ministry to put their spiritual growth in first place when it comes to decisions of this sort. Ichthys is certainly not the only teaching ministry out there, but it is true that local churches which have it "mostly right" are rare, and those that are progressing towards "having it more right tomorrow than today" are virtually non-existent. That is because by their very nature institutions (and all membership societies are institutions of a sort) tend to be static rather than dynamic. They almost have to take a position and dig in. That is good – to the extent that their positions are good – for those who come to them and need to learn the good things they are teaching. For those who are already versed in the truth to the point of not being much helped by their positive qualities, and so much so that said individuals can easily pick out their doctrinal problems and inconsistencies, officially joining fellowship will seldom result in forward spiritual progress and can have detrimental consequences instead: association with any group tends to bring the individual in question up (or down) to the level of the group with which he/she is associating.

The need and desire to join in with other Christians to worship the Lord and celebrate our love for Him is a universal one, and that is at the heart of the dilemma with which you and most all positive Christians are struggling these days. I do know that the Lord provides for all who patiently wait for Him. Here are some of those links:

The Meaning and Purpose of True Christian Assembly

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.

Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing.

Spiritual Growth, Church-Searching and "Discipling"

Contemporary Churches

Salvation and Church Affiliation

Communion and the Spiritual Death of Christ

The Communion Ceremony outside of the Local Church

The Meaning of the Communion Ceremony: To Remember Christ

Communal Worship in Acts

Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above or any related issue, my friend. Best wishes on negotiating this "crux".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, He who is the truth incarnate.

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hello Dr Luginbill,

I hope you are well. As you may recall, I have learned much from your studies as an adjunct to my Bible studies. You have a wonderful gift of explaining things to the non scholars amongst us.

My father is doing well and please thank everyone for their prayers.

Now, you may scold me for watching a TV show called A History Of Christian Worship, but I watch them with skepticism...especially when they veer from what I KNOW to be the TRUTH.

In this show, a mere 10 mins in I heard this word and knew I needed to consult with you. I've never heard it and knew you could help. It's not in the Bible so that's enough for me to stay away. The word/book is Didache. It seemed to be all about baptism which we know is not necessary bc of Grace.

Tithing. Makes no sense to me. I have read your thoughts extensively. I agree with you 110%. I wonder where they think their money is going? I never tithed & never felt bad about it. I always wanted to know where it went. I always saw 2 Elders counting it every Sunday & I was pretty sure God didn't need $ seeing how Jesus said pick one but u can't have both.

One last thing as I close, I know you aren't a big news reader so I don't know if you saw it. I would love to hear your thoughts. Did you see or hear about Joel Osteen had hecklers thrown out of his, his church for heckling him. They was just telling the truth. Calling him a liar and such. Can't tell me when the 4 archangels got demoted and God decided to promote this man to CFO and was given his own church. The arrogance. Why would anybody give their $ to him so his pockets get bigger!?

Keep teaching us the right way so we can continue to grow in the knowledge and truth that is Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

Response #23:

Good to hear from you. I'm delighted to learn that your dad is doing better! I'm keeping him and you and your family in my prayers day by day (and have added a "praise" on the website).

On the Didache, this is part of a genre of post-canonical literature known collectively as the Apostolic Fathers. About all most of this literature accomplishes (and the Didache in particular), is to demonstrate just how quickly after the passing of the Apostles the church-visible slid into ritual instead of teaching and therefore into doctrinal confusion. Much was clearly lost almost immediately. But this was prophesied by our Lord in His message to Ephesus (see the link for discussion):

"(4) But I have against you [the fact] that you have abandoned [that] love you had at first (i.e., for the truth of the Word). (5) So remember where you have fallen from, and repent, and do the works you did at first. And if you do not, I am going to come to you and move your lampstand out of its place, if you do not repent."
Revelation 2:4-5

Ephesus did not repent and the era lasted only a few short years. No, water-baptism is not only not necessary but generally harmful. Individual believers can certainly slough off any negative effects (by accepting the truth, instead of any of the false teaching about it), but all of the denominations and groups who adopt it, whatever they teach about it, suffer from a degree of legalism as a result (and a resultant confusion about all manner of true doctrines as a result as well). The most recent link:  Baptism: Water and Spirit VI

On tithing, your comments indicate strong "spiritual common sense". I think even many non-mature Christians could figure this out as well, except that they are usually bombarded by guilt in the groups they have chosen to ally themselves with. After all, organizations which own property and pay salaries, et al., need a reliable flow of funding, and "tithing" has been a great way to produce that. The fact that there is not a smidgen of biblical support for engaging in the practice today – as anyone with an English Bible can see with very little effort – doesn't seem to bother those who are financial supported by it.

I certainly couldn't recommend Mr. Osteen's ministry (it seems to me that anyone with a desire to grow in the truth of the Word would be able to figure out very quickly without any outside help that that is not the best place to do it). However, I also don't agree with the practice you report. If a person realizes that church 'A' is the wrong place, the correct practice is to move on to something else (hopefully better) without making a fuss. Trying to change a place from the inside almost never works (new wine in old skins), but attacking a group/church/denomination with which we don't agree is not only not recommended in scripture but seems to me to be pretty clearly antithetical to what scripture teaches. There are plenty of false teachers out there, and many more to come. Believers who want to grow should spend their time and effort pursing the good and leave what is otherwise to those who are not willing to do so.

Thanks for all your good words, and also for your prayers!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Dear Dr Luginbill,

I felt the need the need to clarify my shock at the way the protesters were treated. First and foremost I do not agree with any of the false teaching Joel Osteen & his prosperity gospel. That said, I believe they could've been escorted outside told to leave & not come back. After they were escorted out by the ushers, they were placed under arrest. Seems the ushers are actually law enforcement personnel. I agree that to heckle is not the Christian way. I'm not sure arresting dissenters is the Christian way to handle those who disagree with some one.

With the world moving as fast as it is do you still think it'll be 2026 (I understand you used the Bible to come to that but you have said the Lord will start the end as He wishes)?

Please know that I value and respect your opinion highly & didn't want you to think I believed any of Joel Osteen garbage or his comrades. I study my Bible and use your website as study guide. You can never know how much deeper my relationship with Our Lord is because of the work you do & the personal responses to all our questions. Thank you.

I look forward to meeting you on that Glorious Day when Our Lord Jesus Christ takes us Home!

Response #24:

I certainly agree with you about that ministry, and also about the way they treated these protesters – and also about the inadvisability of protesting in the first place.

On dates and the end times, I only know what I can read in the Bible. I do know that judging things from what we can see happening in the world is probably a mistake. As I often have remarked, WWII was certainly a likely looking apocalyptic scenario (revived Rome, evil dictator, world at war, horrible weapons and massive loss of life, massacre of the Jews, etc.), but of course it turned out not to be the Tribulation. And on the other hand, there are some indications that things may be very peaceful just before they go dark (and we wouldn't want to let down our guard for that reason either). The 2026 date, to put it as simply as possible, comes from adding the 2000 years of the Church Age to 33, the year of the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord. That gives us the likely date of the 2nd Advent (2033) based upon the seven millennial day interpretation which the seven days of re-creation foreshadow. The Tribulation lasts seven years so would in that interpretation, if correct, begin seven years earlier: 2026. Things are bad, alright, but as a student of history I can tell you that they are capable of getting much, much worse. Blessedly, believers in Jesus Christ have nothing to worry about – if we keep trusting our Lord and growing in our knowledge and application of His truth. Whatever He has for us will result in His glory and our blessing for all eternity.

Thanks you so much for your encouraging words, my friend! They are greatly appreciated. And, yes, one of the blessings we will all appreciate for all eternity will be the oneness we will not only share but experience on that great day with each other and with the Lord who bought us, our dear Savior Jesus Christ.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #25:

Could you help me understand how the old testament tithing system would be fair regardless of how productive ones crops were? This does show me that people today have the wrong idea about tithing because the dynamics change completely when applied strictly to a financial system. I'm I right to say tithing was not meant to be applied to money or ones earnings?

Thanks again

Response #25:

Hello Friend,

I would agree that any correct interpretation or application of scripture always has to begin with a correct appreciation of the goodness, grace, mercy, love, wisdom, and righteousness of God. The more we grow, the more we come to know just "who" He is – and that solves and answers most "problems" right there, if we just take a moment to apply those wonderful truths.

Tithing was a system designed for God's special people under God's personal administration. In such a situation, there would be no poverty or lack of any kind (e.g., Deut.15:4). Only hardness of heart and rebellion against the Lord led His special people to temporal difficulties which might occasion a situation such as imagined. Tithing is not meant for any other people under any other situation or circumstance. It could well be unworkable or unfair, depending on the situation, the people, the time, the circumstances, etc. It is certainly not legitimate for churches to place that burden on their members. Also, tithing is often misunderstood by applying the US system of yearly income tax anachronistically to ancient Israel. Tithes were to support the established religion – not the government (God was the government). And in fact, it is not the case that all produce was tithed at all times every year – not at least under the true application of the Law (which by the way was apparently never applied in this way . . . ever – compare the fact that Israel never instituted the Jubilee year, although it is required under the Law). After the Babylonian captivity and the rise of hyper-legalism in Israel, the Pharisees famously tithed even the output of their spice gardens. But as our Lord demonstrates very clearly they did this only for show, and since they became very rich we may be duly suspicious that they didn't bother about tithing in many other matters wherein they profited (that is the essence of the hypocrisy for which they were also famous). The Herodians and the Romans had their own systems and methods of taxation. So no one really ever has tithed consistently, even the people for whom the system was designed and administered by God. For more on this please see the following links:

Tithing issues (Q/A #4)

Tithing and church polity

Tithing

Tithing and the Book of Life

Is Tithing Net or just 'Gross'?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #26:

Hey Dr Bob...

Hope you're well since we last spoke.

I am hoping you can help me with this passage. I think Paul must be referencing the Nephilim here but as you may recall, I'm not a student of Greek or Hebrew.

I have read the section on the Nephilim and that conclusion seems rational. I have learned from your teaching that the whole Bible is a lesson, a workbook if you will, for our lives here. Separating the Old Testament from the New doesn't let us see how all the answers truly are there for those who seek.

Thank you again for all of your time and energy. Our Lord has blessed you with the gift of teaching. You are a blessing in my life.

In Jesus Christ, Our Savior and King,

Response #26:

Good to hear from you, my friend. I hope things are going well for you and your family, and for your home (I've been keeping you in my prayers).

As to your question about 1st Corinthians 11:10, the "angels" in question are all angels, elect and fallen, all of whom "desire to look into these things" (1Pet.1:12). Angelic observation of human behavior has always been a large part of the conflict in which the world is embroiled (though hidden to human eyes); after all, mankind is the divine solution to the satanic rebellion (see the links: "The Battlefield" in SR4 and "Spiritual Warfare IV"). By bringing in angels here, Paul wants to remind his readers that our actions, even those which may seem trivial to us or may seem largely hidden from the world in general, are not merely about us but about the bigger struggle in which we are participants (whether we are always thinking about that or not). It's not something we should obsess over (and we can have no effect on it other than by living godly lives; pace many charismatic types today), but we do need to realize that we are witness to men and angels both. Please see the links: "Angelic Observation" and "Angelic Interest".

Thanks for your good words and especially for your prayers!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #27:

Thanks for your prompt reply.

Perhaps I should have shared the passage instead of one verse. "Even the Devil can quote Scripture for his purpose." - The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare.

The whole passage refers to women wearing head coverings. I do not believe Paul teaches that I, as a daughter of our Father, am in any way marginalized or subject to a lesser degree of relationship or fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus loved His followers of each gender equally. I also admit that as a married woman, I do struggle with true Christian submission to my husband. He is a good, God fearing man and I have no reason to doubt his ultimate decisions for our family. This does not mean I am not included in the decision making. In submitting to my husband, I learn to submit to our Master. Perhaps this is our lesson carried over from the Garden?

Matthew 11 teaches us to wear His easy yoke and carry our substantially lighter burdens thanks to His lasting love for us, His imperfect creations.

28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Am I sinning by not wearing a head covering in my home or when I enter our Lord's house?

This subject is complex to me and I struggle to find the right words to express myself and the little I do understand. I eagerly await your response and insightful, revelatory comments.

Matthew 11 25 At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

27 "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

In His Perfect Grace, the only thing we need to know as we await His return.

Response #27:

You're very welcome. I think your comments on our mutual responsibilities as children of God are right on the mark. On the one hand, we are all equal in Christ; on the other hand, we each have our own roles and responsibilities. We are evaluated on the roles and responsibilities we actually have and take on, and how we handle them, not on hypotheticals or propositions which don't align with scripture. On that point, Paul's comments here in 1st Corinthians chapter eleven have nothing whatsoever to do with hats. They have to do with hair length, and, specifically, the practice in vogue at that time in Corinth for new converts to cut off their hair in fulfillment of vows according to some interpretations of Jewish practices (as well also, apparently, of tearing out the hair in mourning in connection with pagan practices regarding grief over the death of a love one). Paul brings the congregation up short on this abuse (as he does in this epistle many times on many abuses); in this context he tells women that "short" hair is contrary to the natural order of things and also improper for a Christian woman because it is a sign of lack of respect for authority. What is "short" hair? That is to some degree a cultural practice/standard (what was "short" during the Civil War era for men and women both was probably longer than "short" today in this country); but beyond all argument the complete cutting off of their hair by the Corinthian woman (as well as tearing it out / disfiguring it in mourning) was improper and a bad witness – because of what it symbolized. This passage has been greatly misunderstood over the ages, but it has nothing to do with hats. Here are a few links on this where you will find more details:

More on: Spiritual Gifts; Hats & Hair; the Age of Accountability (see Q/A #2).

Are women required to wear veils or hats in church?

1st Corinthians 11:  Hats or Hair?

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #28:

Good Evening, Dr. Luginbill,

I hope your fall semester is going well!

I have another question for you. I was raised in the ultra-conservative wing of the Church of Christ, but I have been without a church family for the past few years. This past week, my older brother tried to reason with me that I am on a dangerous spiritual path by not belonging to a local church. His two main arguments were Heb. 10:25 (don't forsake the assembly) and Acts 20:7 (they came together on the first day of the week to break bread). Therefore, he concludes we should all assemble every first day of the week to break bread (take the Lord's Supper).

Since I have been out of a local church and studying and thinking for myself, I am convinced that this one example of disciples gathering together on a Sunday (Acts 20:7) isn't enough to be considered a command that all Christians should meet every Sunday. There seem to be more examples of the early Christians meeting on all different days, and even in the synagogues on Saturdays. Also, does the Greek indicate that the Acts 20:7 'breaking of bread' is the Lord's Supper/communion, and is it different from the Greek in Acts 2:46 where they 'broke bread from house to house'? My brother indicated he thought the Greek in Acts 20:7 was different and clearly indicated the Lord's Supper.

I appreciate your help with this. I also truly appreciate your website. It has been such a blessing and a great help to me and to my friends.

Thank you very much,

Response #28:

Good to hear from you!

I certainly agree with you that conventional, contemporary Christian practice has little to do with scripture, and that the traditional way of organizing churches and directing their activities is not to be found in the Bible. Apostolic churches had elders and met in private homes – for the purpose of spiritual growth accomplished through attention to the teaching of the truth. In the earliest days of the book of Acts, there were special spiritual gifts which aided the process, but very early on, even before the book of Acts concludes (which it does before the apostolic period concludes), the reading and teaching of the scripture and its truths was being done by the church elders – that was the purpose for assembly. Everything else we have and are familiar with as "church" is a later development.

The Bible deliberately leaves the structure of "church" undefined – in stark and vivid contrast to Israel and the Law where everything is spelled out in detail. It does so in order to keep the truth of the Bible as the main issue in any Christian assembly rather than unimportant details. However, the church-visible has developed in such a way that today the unimportant details have been elevated to first place and the teaching of the Bible (even incorrectly or insufficiently) is given only lip service.

I think that anyone who has grown up under traditional Christianity is going to feel guilty about not "going to church" – precisely because the whole system is set up to make you feel guilty for not going to church. So much is this the case that people like your brother sometimes feel constrained to help that guilt along as much as possible. And it makes sense too. When all traditional Christians have left is "going to church", of course they are going to be defensive about it. And if they see a Christian doing well spiritually without going to church, doing better than they are – if they are honest – that undermines their whole approach to Christianity. That is a good thing too, since their approach, given the pointlessness of going to almost all contemporary and traditional Christian churches these days, is inadequate to cause them to grow up to spiritual maturity, pass the tests of life that bring further growth, and eventually come into the ministries Jesus has waiting for them.

"Going to church" today is usually nothing more than giving a perfunctory "nod to God" without really doing what the Lord wants. So at best, going to church today (with some very rare exceptions of a few places where the teaching of the Word is the first, second and third order of business) is a poor use of one's time. If that were the only problem, perhaps we ought to do it, just so as not to throw a stumbling block into the way of our fellow believers. But things are so bad now that by going we risk validating the improper approach. And it really is a very pernicious form of legalism to assume that "going to church" all by itself is "doing something for the Lord" – which it is not. So as to those verses thrown at you, there is also this verse:

. . . your meetings do more harm than good.
1st Corinthians 11:17b

The point is that meeting should do spiritual good; but if it doesn't, it is pointless; and if it "does more harm than good", better not to meet. In any case, those verses do not say what they are being used to seem to say.

"Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies."
Isaiah 1:13 NIV

You are absolutely right that the "we" in Acts 20:7 indicates Paul and his company as described by Luke who was there too; it is a communion service, and we do know that Paul taught the Word whenever opportunity offered. It's a far cry from this, as you note, to being justified in laying a "guilt trip" on believers who are unwilling to engage in the meaningless rituals which have come to define the contemporary church visible, and which may actually harm a believer's spirituality (with no benefit since the Word is not being correctly taught). Communion is not meaningless of course, but 1) it has to be understood and appreciated to be of value (and that is normally not the case at all; see the link), and 2) is in no way restricted by the Bible only to "church services" at particular times (see the link).

Hebrews 10:25 is castigating Jewish believers in Jerusalem for falling back into Jewish rituals and acting like they weren't even Christians anymore, to the point of no longer associating with fellow believers – something entirely different from what is claimed by those who take this verse out of context (please see the link: "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves" for discussion and other links).

As I often say now, "Ichthys is my church", and I am grateful for all the wonderful believers the Lord has led to it to be fed in the Word, whether a little or a lot. We all need that, wherever we get it from. Sadly, it's almost impossible to get fed in local churches these days; they want our money, they want our allegiance, but they don't do the job for which they are putatively organized and supported – and in far too many cases, through legalistic and other incorrect practices, can actually damage the spirituality of those who do attend regularly. That's the very definition of "more harm than good".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #29:

Greetings in the Lord Dr. Luginbill, I hope this email finds you well. First I would like to thank you for your excellent research of the scripture. Your ministry has been a tremendous blessing to me in my personal understanding of God's Word leading me in a closer relationship with our great God and Savior the Lord Christ Jesus. May He continue to lead you and bless you in your faithful work.

I would like to get you opinion on the sale of merchandise in the church. It has become a common occurrence in our day to see the sale of a variety of products in many churches. The church I once attended moved to a larger building, when I attended the first Sunday service in the new building I felt like I stepped into a Walmart. Walking through the lobby to the sanctuary offered the opportunity to purchase books, t-shirts, newspapers, pastries and coffee. Shouldn't Mark 11:15-17 be used as a point of spiritual discernment that this is wrong or am I being overly critical. I look forward to your response and thank you for your insight on this matter.

Your brother in Christ,

Response #29:

It's good to make your acquaintance. Thanks much for your kind words.

As to your question, I certainly know what you mean. I think when it comes to the lobbies of contemporary mega-churches which nowadays can often be mistaken for a shopping mall there must be very many Christians who see these things for the first time and are disturbed, no doubt recalling as you do our Lord clearing the money-changers out of the temple with a whip.

There are differences, however. No church building today is anything more than a building. There is nothing holy about a building. What is holy is the "church", the assembly of believers, whether they meet in a marvelous cathedral, or a modern day architectural wonder, complete with atrium . . . or in an open field or somebody's garage. And the purpose of such meetings, according to scripture, is to be mutually encouraged through the Word of God (Heb.10:23-25).

The Bible has very little to say about local church organization (save for the appointment of teachers/elders to teach the Word and deacons/administrators to handle all other necessary functions; cf. Acts 6:1ff.), and nothing at all to say about buildings (or denominations). When the canon was closed, I don't believe there was a single building in the world dedicated to the worship of Christ as its sole purpose (save for the temple in Jerusalem, and its symbolism had by then been completely fulfilled so that continuing in its rites was by that time not authorized). Christians in those days met in the homes of one or more of the local believers who composed the group. So I am sure that the Lord is willing to allow some leeway in what goes on in buildings used by Christians. A couple of obvious things to avoid would be, it seems to me however, are 1) making it "all about the building" (building worship is very common), or 2) loading such building up with things that have nothing to do with the true mission. So I suppose what really concerns me about the phenomenon you mention is not so much the commercialism itself as it is the fact that such activities are symptomatic of the root problem: church today is mostly about big and impressive structures, about PR, about socializing, about very many non-essential things, but very seldom is it really about the Word of God, learning it, believing it, and living it so as to grow, progress, and produce for Jesus Christ.

Stereotypical behavior is not proof and no Christian should allow it to govern his/her judgment entirely, but we are also not wise to ignore it. The fact that a person has a goat-pentagram tattooed on his forehead may not tell the whole story, but I would be foolish to assume that it doesn't make any difference in evaluating said individual's spiritual state. The fact that a mega-church has a Starbucks in the lobby isn't proof that there is no substantive, orthodox Bible teaching going on in the sanctuary, but it would be foolish not to realize that in practical terms the two things usually are mutually exclusive.

Regardless of what the world does, and despite the fact that what many of our misguided brothers and sisters value is not what Christ values, we can still run a good race for Jesus and can still fight a good fight. We who understand the value of the truth above all else, can still be witnesses to its power through a life lived by the Spirit who makes use of the truth which bubbles up from within us, having learned it diligently and believed it wholeheartedly and clung to it assiduously.

Keep running that good race and fighting that good fight, my friend. Therein lies great reward, "eternal blessings at Thy right hand" (Ps.16:11).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #30:

Dr. Luginbill, thank you for your prompt response to my question, your advice is well received. It has been some time since my first visit to the church in question and the merchandising seems to be just the tip of the iceberg.

They have no cross in the sanctuary, the pulpit has been removed, large video screens have been installed, they have the equivalent of a rock band playing contemporary Christian music and the pastor has adopted a preaching style that has him moving around quite a bit in a very "purpose driven" fashion.

There seems to be plenty of scripture used in the message, but in the end it sounds like a bunch of fluff to me. The teaching is more like motivational speaking designed to help me to become the best me l can be. While it is my desire to be sanctified and conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, this modern teaching seems more like a gross mixture of pop psychology and false doctrine. Here are some examples of what I believe to be false doctrine, please correct me if you see any error in this.

Absolute eternal security "once saved always saved".

Tithing 10 percent of your income guarantees no financial problems.

The pre-tribulation rapture.

America isn't in bible prophecy (we are end time Babylon and most likely Magog).

Nephilim were the descendants of Seth (not the mutant genetic offspring of angels and humans).

Life begins at conception (scripture states that it begins at birth)

Add to this kind of doctrine the self fulfilling type of modern pop psychology that is twisted in with scripture and it becomes nauseating.

I have discussed these issues with fellow Christians only to get wild eyed looks, shaking heads, laughter and emotional outburst at my "error". I understand none of us are perfect and confess to my multiple faults as a sinful human being saved only by the grace of God through faith in the death, burial and resurrection of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. However, I'm sure you would agree, I believe we must accept the teaching of scripture over the traditions of man, no matter where that leads us. I believe the smallest error in doctrine can eventually lead to spiritual ruin.

I have disassociated myself from the organized church for reason of the doctrine stated above (and much worse in some cases) as well as the country club type atmosphere. What I've found is that I get more from personal bible study, prayer, one on one conversation or fellowship with a couple of believers who "get it" than I do from a large organization that does not. I have received criticism from family members and fellow Christians for my decision, becoming an outcast for my views. So good Doctor, l am seeking your informed opinion. Please understand that in no way did I make this decision based on any feeling of superiority towards those who attend these types of churches. There was a time that I was a victim of these false teaching as well, I thank God He had mercy on me and woke me up. Also I am not looking for sympathy or any kind of verification of my views. If I am wrong in any way please correct me according to scripture and I will accept that correction. It is my heartfelt desire that all brothers and sisters in Christ would wake up and seek the truth of scripture and follow Jesus wherever He may lead them. Jesus said "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am with them", this is where I feel at home.

Thank you for your time and your teaching. May God continue to bless your ministry.

Response #30:

Thank you for this, my friend! I have to say that your experience precisely parallels my own and that of many other believers who love the Word of God more than the trends of the times. I have heard many testimonies similar to this over the years, and it is becoming more and more frequent the closer we draw to the end (no coincidence, I am sure).

So as to your description of the problems with such churches, to my mind you are right on the money. I especially appreciate your observation that substantive teaching takes more than inserting a large number of scripture quotations into the sermon and putting them up on the big screen for a fleeting second or two; also, the point about pop psychology and feel-good motivational themes is another well-known problem about which I have equally serious misgivings. All these things ought to be warning signs for any Christian who truly does want to walk faithfully with Jesus Christ, learning the truth, believing and applying it to their lives as He would have them do, and then come into the ministry our Lord has for us one and all to help others do the same – and so earn a rich eternal reward.

As to the list of incorrect doctrinal positions, I would happy to disagree if there were anything here I found disagreeable. But again, you are spot on. These are inevitably the only sort of "truths" such churches are interested in talking about – and of course they are wrong on every point. Each one contains the seeds not only of compounding doctrinal error (because just as truth is built on truth, so each untruth undermines the entire spiritual edifice); and each one has some hidden satanic agenda which is capable of doing much spiritual damage to those who buy in. For example:

Absolute eternal security: leads to a sloppy approach to the Christian life, poor sanctification, and even to the sin unto death is sin is embraced to the full as a result.

Tithing 10 percent of your income guarantees no financial problems: tithing coupled with the prosperity gospel puts a person into a transactional mindset in terms of their relationship with God – just as in pagan religions and Roman Catholicism (deadly to true spirituality).

The pre-tribulation rapture: engenders a false sense of security about the biggest test of faith ever, and soon to come upon these unsuspecting adherents.

Life begins at conception: lends itself to political involvement and political crusading as a substitute for true spiritual growth – when in fact such activity promotes a "God can't do it so I'll do it for Him" point of view. It also makes life all about materialism (procreation as the source of life) when in fact God gives life at birth.

There is much about all these and the other issues you mention here at Ichthys. Happy to direct you to the appropriate links if you haven't come across them yet.

For what it is worth, you are more than welcome at this "church" any time.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #31:

It's funny in a sad way. I tried to contact the pastor of this church once about another issue and never received a response and once contacted an associate pastor about a different issue and the response was basically "uh... I don't know what to tell you". But I contact you, a man I don't know, twice, out of the blue, about issues that wouldn't even concern most people and receive two very prompt and thoughtful responses. I want you to know that you have helped bring a sense of peace to my soul about all this. You sir, most definitely show me your "faith by your works". I may never meet you in this life, but one day in our eternal future I'm going to find you and hug your neck, so look out! I greatly appreciate that you have taken your valuable time to communicate with me. God bless you! Also, I thank you for the invitation to your "church", I will be visiting often. I see that you do not accept donations so I will be praying that the Lords will be done in your life, confident that He will equip you for whatever He may have in store for you.

I'm intrigued by your statement that there is a satanic agenda behind these and other doctrines that the mainstream church and people like us "disagree" on. I've thought for some time they should be taken seriously and not shrugged off. The more gracious of my fellow Christians shake their heads and at least agree to disagree, others, well I'm sure you know. The scripture tells us that there will be those "who are deceived and will go on deceiving ", ain't that the truth. I will be doing a great deal of research at Ichthys and will keep in touch. Again, I thank you Dr.

Response #31:

Good words. Thank you for them!

And you are certainly most welcome – and most welcome to write me any time.

I've taken the liberty of adding your email address to my notification list. I only use this once in a great while, but I am pretty good about praying through it.

Your friend and fellow Christian warrior for Jesus Christ our dear Lord,

Bob L.

 

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