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The Law, Legalism, and Rome

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Question #1:

I have just read your reply re Water Baptism and it adds a few points to that which I am developing. I would add that Baptism held up as a NEW ritual / tradition by the Church was in fact a Levitical Law of purification from sin by the washing of water, well known and understood to the Jews. If it was mandated by the Law for the jews, to come again under the Law is not good, are we not washed by Jesus Blood and the word ?.

I did find an item on Wordpress by Quakergirl which seems at first read to bring some common sense to the topic but need to go through with Bible in hand.

I would say that where ever I find error and wrong doctrines / traditions I can trace them back to the Catholic Church and I have no faith in the Church Fathers (of Romanish persusion) because that is to whom they swore their allegiance.

I am with Paul ONE BAPTISM and Quakergirl . . . Jesus Baptised with the Holy Spirit and it is HIM we are meant to be following!

(from London)

Response #1:

Good to make your acquaintance. I certainly agree with your "bottom" line of there being only "one baptism" for the Church, that of the Holy Spirit.

Water baptism certainly has its antecedents in the Law; John's baptism was unique, however, in that it was a ritual of purification for everyone in Israel anticipating the coming of the Messiah and meant to "prepare a people" ready for Him through the repentance it represented (Lk.1:7). As Peter told the assembled crowd at Pentecost:

"And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers."
Acts 3:25a NIV

Compare:

Paul said, "John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus."
Acts 19:4 NIV

In the verse above, "the people" (Greek: laos) are Israel, and "the One coming after him" is the Messiah who was about to be revealed – so this ritual only applied until Jesus actually was revealed during the 1st advent to "the people" of Israel to whom He came as Messiah (i.e., not after our Lord had died for the sins of us all and been resurrected).

I'm not sure just what file at Ichthys you are referencing here (as many of these issues are addressed from a variety of points of view in different postings), so I'll give you a short list of the most recent ones (which will point to others):

Baptism: Water and Spirit VI

Baptism: Water and Spirit I

Baptism: Water and Spirit II

Baptism: Water and Spirit III

Baptism: Water and Spirit IV

Baptism: Water and Spirit V

One Baptism: the True Meaning of Peter's Words at Acts 2:38.

John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi Bob,

Greetings from Arizona again. Hope you are doing well; I read your weekly emails often; they are most informative and I learn a lot therefrom.

I have always liked to have my hair long; down to my shoulders, only because I just simply like it that way. I used to hide from my mom as a kid when I heard her getting the haircut stuff out of the drawer. As I found; resistance was futile.

I noticed a lot of churches really get on a soapbox about Christians having military short hair (the church I go to is not like that; Calvary Chapel. My pastor said I could grow it down to my belt if I wanted to; there are a number of guys in our fellowship with ponytails). I have read the scripture in 1 Cor 11, but reading that in context, along with other scriptures in the WHOLE word of God, I believe that is talking about men wearing hair in an effeminate manner. What I see in the rest of scripture is that men had hair a lot longer than what is common in our country today. Some churches almost make it into a Heaven or hell issue. So I feel intimidated by that.

If God so dislikes long hair on men, why the Nazirite vow? Why did Samson and Samuel and John the Baptist and others have their hair long? Even Paul himself had his hair cut because of a vow. If it was military short to begin with, that would be meaningless. I have never liked having that short of hair, though it was imposed on me by my dad and when I was in the Air Force, and by fellow believers years ago. Common horse sense tells me that if God so disliked shoulder length hair, why do men have the capacity to grow it that long (and much longer) in the first place? I know I am rambling, but I really like having my hair longer but feel like I am under the gun sometimes.

I am part Cherokee and Native people traditionally had their hair MUCH longer than anything I have grown. What is your take on this issue? Would the Lord send someone to hell because they have a pony tail? I feel that God has no problem with it, but so many believers in the body rant over it; makes me nervous. Thanks for your time; this has been a struggle for a while.

God bless

Response #2:

Good to hear from you again, my friend. I keep you in my prayers day by day.

On your question, we have spoken about this issue before, you and I (and I will give you some links below). To summarize, I believe I allowed as to how this is a relative standard of male vs. female and one which is culturally dependent as well. I think I have probably also stated that legalism in contemporary churches (that are too lazy to study and teach the Bible) is a big problem in this last and fast waning Church era of Laodicea. Getting on someone about hair length when the world is going to hell in a hand-basket seems almost too ridiculous to speak about – except that such teaching can upset people and put a stumbling block in the way of their spiritual advance. Even if long hair on a male and short hair on a female were absolutely wrong biblically speaking (assuming we could agree on precisely what that meant), it seems to me that any pastor ought to allow someone spiritually positive and really digging into the Word of God to draw his/her own conclusions, not making a major issue out of what in any case is not very important in the scheme of things. Paul only mentions this point in the context of criticizing the Corinthian believers for adopting Jewish practices on the one hand (in terms of making vows according to the Law as they had been taught by Judaizing teachers) and failing to reject pagan customs on the other (in terms of mourning rituals wherein women of no faith in the resurrection tore and otherwise disheveled when grieving for dead loved ones); that is what Paul is "on about" in the passage in 1st Corinthians chapter eleven, not hair length – except to use the natural principle of woman having (relatively longer) hair than men as a proof that women cutting their hair (for a vow as Jewish men did under vows) or tearing out their hair (as pagan women of the time did when mourning the dead) is wrong for Christian women of faith to do. That is to say, this passage is all about women and not about men, and all about the avoidance of pagan and legalistic practices, not about hair length directly – which makes the fact that this passage is often used to enforce false legalistic standards all the more ironic and sad.

A mature believer always has to be careful about motivations. If I am doing something and am comfortable with what I am doing, confident that there is nothing wrong with it biblically, and solid in my faith about it, then it would be a spiritual failure to cave into bullying from immature believers and legalists who are trying to "spy out my freedom in Christ" (Gal.2:4). If it is not a question of my behavior influencing the immature into doing things that will wreck their lives or spirituality, then allowing myself to be pressured to stop doing something which in my heart I know to be not in any way wrong would be a grave mistake.

Sometimes it can be difficult, even for mature believers, to distinguish such misplaced feelings of guilt induced by others from the genuine prompting of the Holy Spirit. At such times, it is always worthwhile to do as you are doing and "just make sure" that it is not the Spirit we are hearing but merely the nagging of the sin nature which loves to use inappropriate guilt-feelings against us (in concert with the evil one). A little introspection, informed by scripture, guided by prayer, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, will generally make the issue clear at such times.

Here are those links:

1st Corinthians 11: Hats or Hair?

Are women required to wear hats or veils in church?

More on veils and hats in church.

What length of hair is considered long?

More on hats and hair length

Keep running a good race, my friend!

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi bro. Bob,

Thank you so much for your quick and encouraging reply. It pretty much confirms what I already felt about the issue. Trying to navigate through this world by reading the Word for yourself and coming to your own conclusions without being told "what flavor ice cream to like" by others is hard. To discern between the Holy Spirit and what others say can be a test. It is so easy to just make a book of rules, rather than to "test all things - hold fast to that which is good and avoid any kind of evil". To do the latter takes guts.

It can be a real "bear" to try and be who God really made me to be, to really be myself and not be influenced or shaped into someone else's image (I do tend to be a bit eccentric). For instance, I used to have a close friend in the Lord who was rather controlling and somewhat legalistic. After the Lord removed him far away I had realized that many times when faced with making these difficult choices I had been thinking "what would _____ think about this", rather than what would Jesus think. I believe the Lord moved this brother farrrrr away so that I would learn to look to HIM for guidance and direction, not this brother and stand on my own two spiritual feet. I know that God does speak through people; and there is the challenge - to know when it is Him speaking through them, and when it is just someone's personal preference or opinion; or like me it is sometimes just a nasty case of morning depression that makes EVERYTHING seem to be a sin.

I really appreciate your ministry; each Monday I go to the emails you post about a given subject for the week. There are some items that are over my head, at which time I just kick over to YouTube and watch tornado chase videos :). To be honest, I am quite intimidated about the idea of maybe having to go through the tribulation. Not sure at this point WHEN we will be taken up by Jesus, but just wanna be ready... whenever it happens.

I pray for you- that the Lord will guide and keep you and continue to use you mightily. Your answers to my emails have helped me TREMENDOUSLY as I went through that hellish depression or oppression or whatever label you would stick on it. It is only a shadow of what it was, but still feel touches of it now and then. Usually when it is on my back is when I get the "you better cut your hair or you will go to hell" rigmarole. The absurdity of it by itself tells me where it comes from.

I cut my hair shorter last summer in prep for making a trip to the Philippines; the believers there are really hot and heavy on the "military short hair for guys" thing. Don't want there to be trouble. However, when I get back (Lord willing) I plan to do what they say on that Duck Dynasty show: "Let it grow, Let it grow, Let it grow" (to the tune of the Christmas song).

God bless, bro... keep up the journey with Him...

And Wa-Do (thank you in Cherokee)

Response #3:

You're very welcome. It sounds to me as if you have all these things well in hand. The bullying of legalism is a terrible thing – and even more terrible if one is tempted to respond to it in how we live our lives of freedom in Christ (as long as we really are living them for His glory). You are a wonderful witness in this and also in how you have handled the other pressures and challenges you've had to face. I commend you as a brother for your good example.

Apologies for anything I've written that wasn't clear! That's one reason I never worry about repeating things or saying things again from a different angle. It does usually take all of us who are not super-geniuses more than one time and one way to "get" whatever is being taught. I think that when I give quizzes and exams at the university to my Greek and Latin classes it is more for me than for them – to let me know just how I misread their smiling faces to mean they were getting what I was telling them (Rom.15:15; 2Pet.1:13).

Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.
Philippians 3:1 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hi, me again.

What about the Lords feast days? Keeping them.

Shalom

Response #4:

It has become trendy in modern day evangelical-dom to "celebrate Passover", etc. But that is inappropriate for those who have been granted freedom from the Law. In fact, since Passover looks forward to the sacrifice of Christ, participating in it now is like saying that Christ didn't die for us yet or that His death was insufficient – this is exactly what Paul condemns the Hebrew congregation in Jerusalem for doing (Heb.6:6).

But at that time [when you were unbelievers], not knowing God, you were slaves to those things which are by nature not [truly] gods. But now, having recognized God, or, as it really is, having been recognized by God, how is it that you are turning back to these weak and impoverished false [pagan] principles which you wish to serve as slaves all over again (i.e., by adopting the festivals of the Law)? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that I may perhaps have spent my labor on you in vain.
Galatians 4:8-11

So don't let anyone judge you in regard to food or drink, or in the category of festival observances, be it of new moons or Sabbaths. All these things are shadows of what was to come, but the reality has to do with Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17

The shadows of the Law have been obliterated now by the glorious light of Christ.

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV

It's a symptom of the tragic lack of substantive teaching of the truth of the Word of God that many churches today are going back to the Law, or going back the rituals of Roman Catholicism, or finding other "fun" things to do which substitute for studying and learning the truths of scripture. When the truth is rejected, something always takes it place (something not true). It's part and parcel of this last Church era in which we find ourselves on the doorstep of the Tribulation, the lukewarm era of Laodicea (see the link).

Here are a few links on this if interested in pursuing the topic further:

Should Christians celebrate Jewish Festivals?

Passover for Christians?

Judaism, Legalism, and the Church-Visible

Keep running the good race, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi,

Thank you so much. It is God send that you have crossed my path. I am still baby at these things, I came in right standing only a little while ago.

So I will need a lot of guidance.

You guys service to me as elders.

Take care.

Shalom.

Response #5:

You're most welcome!

Write any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hello professor ,

Grace of God be with you, your ministry and family at large so that you can continue running the race.

I don't know if can read other sites on the net apart from yours with such edifying profound teaching, only if you can recommend me one or two. I have some issues though.

Can one make a Nazarite vow now that there is no temple and /or priests for the sacrifices required?

I have been battling with my yahoo email so I have used this one.

Yours in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Response #6:

Good to hear from you, my friend. I have been keeping you in my prayers day by day. Thanks for your kind words, as well. I have taken the liberty of updating your email address in my notification list to the new gmail account.

As to your question, we are not to make vows at all (Jas.5:12; cf. Matt.5:34-36). The Law has now been fulfilled, and it is a mistake to go back to the shadows now that the Light has been revealed. The book of Hebrews is mostly concerned with explaining this principle to Jews in Jerusalem just before the time of its destruction. As you correctly imply, without a temple and priests, etc., many of the things included in the Law are now impossible to fulfill in any case. Here are some pertinent links for all this:

Are vows valid for Christians today?

Vows

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.

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

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – who is "the end of the Law for all who believe" (Rom.10:4).

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hi Bob,

I am seriously considering whether I should return to the Catholic church.

The reason why is this: almost all martyrs were Catholic, and very few martyrs were evangelicals. If Catholicism is wrong, then I have to accept that all of those martyrs died for a lie.

Sincerely,

Response #7:

A few things.

1) Although the problems with it have early antecedents (Augustine, for example), the Roman Catholic church did not become what it is, namely, spiritually dead, until the era of Sardis (ca. 1162 to 1522 A.D.). So viewing that church historically and diachronically from Paul to the present pope is unhelpful when it comes to what it is today.

2) I think if you'd read, e.g., Foxe's Book of Martyrs you'd find that the claim of martyrdom being a special province of the Roman Catholic church is incorrect.

3) If it's not in the Bible, it can't be verified historically. If it's not in the Bible, the true spiritual state of the individual in question and the true spiritual significance of what happened to such individuals (i.e., martyrs claimed by the present day R.C. church) can only be speculated about. We believe the scriptures; if the testimony of men agrees with scripture, it may be true; it if does not, then it is not true. But in any case, it is only the testimony of scripture which we hold close to our hearts.

4) A true martyr is a witness (literally). I read in Revelation:

(9) "If anyone has an ear, let him hear. (10) If anyone is [destined] for captivity [to captivity he will go]. If it is necessary for anyone to be put to death by the sword, by the sword he must be put to death. Herein lies the perseverance and the faithfulness of the holy ones."
Revelation 13:9-10

There will be many genuine believers who genuinely lose their lives for Christ in the Tribulation soon to come. We may find ourselves among that number if so wills the Will of God, but we will win the victory of faith even so IF we are strong in that faith. Strength of faith depends upon believing the truth. You can't find the truth in sufficient depth in the Roman Catholic church – if you can find it at all (regardless of what you think of Ichthys or any other genuine Bible-teaching ministry) – not to mention what taught in addition to scripture which is not true and therefore confuses and opposes the actual truth.

5) Emotional attachment is religion's trump card. I think that such traditionalism and the desire to be of or remain within some cherished tradition is the main reason why people choose to be and or stay a part of that church – and the same is true of many putatively "Christian" churches and other religions as well in cases where those attracted by sentimentalism's pull ought to know in their heart of hearts that there is actually little or no truth involved.

6) We will all face the judgment. We will all be judged because of what we did or didn't do as individuals – regardless of what group or tradition we may belong to. The people of the past you are concerned about will do so as well. If they did well, they will receive a reward. If they weren't believers (and/or if the historical record is misleading), they will get what they deserve. Your attitude towards them today and your conduct as a result won't help them; it can only hurt you if this leads you to do the wrong thing (or to fail to do the right thing). You are responsible for the free will image of God you have been given – as are we all. What you do with your free will is what determines your eternal status (salvation comes by grace alone through faith in the Person and work of Christ alone), and also thereafter your eternal reward.

7) I would be unhappy to see you return to that legalistic and spiritual dead milieu because of the negative effects it would certainly have on you. As I have written more than once, nearly every time someone who grew up in that religion shares their testimony with me they always say that it was impossible even to be saved therein. I remain agnostic on that particular point, but I do know that a person can't work their way into heaven, even if they are doing everything "right" the way that church tells them to do it. And I do know that spiritual growth, true production and ministry are based upon truth accepted and believed. Since I find very little of that in the R.C. church (and what little there is hopelessly confused by misleading tradition and lack of spiritual fire), I can't see how such a move would be helpful to you beyond sentimental attachment – and it does seem to me that it would be spiritually devastating to you.

I'm no fan of the current state of evangelicalism either – as you know – but that doesn't make the R.C. church right. I will keep praying for you no matter what. I know that the Lord is not going to give up on you, and, God helping me, neither am I.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

I decided against it. The problems are too deep. I think very highly of Ichthys, largely because it takes textual criticism seriously.

Most RCC doctrine seems to be based on the truth, but later twisted and simplified to the point where it bears little resemblance to the source. Take mortal sin for instance. There are certain actions whose commission can immediately tell us that the committer is an unbeliever, and that anybody who commits these actions has effectively denied Jesus Christ as their savior. (I Timothy 5:8) The doctrine of "once saved, always saved, no matter what" seems to rely on the logic that once somebody says "the magic words" of the sinner's prayer that therefore they can do whatever they want without fear of respite.

Response #8:

I'm very relieved to hear it!

Thanks also for your kind words.

In Jesus Christ by whom through faith alone we are saved.

Bob L.

Question #9:

My favorite Catholic argument is the classic "Protestants can't be right because they have different interpretations!" So therefore the answer is that we all conform to one interpretation regardless of how badly it contorts the underlying text and how uninterested the people who decide the one interpretation are in understanding the text. If the Catholic church showed any interest in, for instance, publishing new additions of the Vulgate based on newer textual understanding, then there might be a basis to the one true church argument.

Catholics started the Protestant reformation, not Protestants, because they were unwilling to read and understand the Bible. If anything, the Protestants actually kept the church from devolving into having shirtless priests with body art sacrifice animals to a statue of Mary on a Ziggurat because they provided competition.

Response #9:

Yes, that "too many different interpretations" argument is a real "old chestnut" which I've hear many times, and an argument that anyone truly conversant with the R.C. religion ought to refrain from making. Abelard exploded the myth of R.C.'s having "one interpretation" on any subject with his book Sic et Non which documents R.C. fathers on either side of most important doctrinal issues. And of course this church has historically shown that its "one interpretation" is only as good as the prevailing political winds until it's considered time to change the view (as in Vatican II). Of course Protestant denominations are no better on this score – which is why creeds of any sort or formalized doctrinal statements are a problem if anyone ever takes them seriously. We have the Bible. Understanding it and living by it is what we are here to do.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Dear Bob....I want you to know I understand you are a very busy man and will not continue disturbing you or take advantage of your kindness with my questions but I needed to ask you about the prayer question because I am not able to leave my home and seek out a church or pastor at this time due to my illness and I need to pray more than ever at this time so I want to make sure I am praying in a way that is pleasing to God. Do you mind if I ask what church you feel would be best for my spiritual growth when I am well enough to go back? I love the Catholic Church but disagree with many of their teachings and never felt a sense of spiritual growth.

I get confused about praying to God The Father, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit. Do we mostly pray to Jesus or to God being all three or pray to all three at different times depending on what the prayer is about? I should know this because I was brought up Catholic but I still am confused to the point when I am ready to pray and become almost anxious that I am doing it incorrectly. I haven't gone to church in a couple of years and want to find one which is close to your beliefs and teaching. Do you have any recommendations? Ty Bob, hope You and Your had a lovely Christmas.

God Bless,

Response #10:

I'm happy to hear from you, and continue to pray for your healing.

Prayer to the Father and to the Son are authorized by scripture (Jn.14:14; see the link: "Prayer to the Son"), done in the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph.6:18) and in the Name of Christ. For our prayers not to be hindered, confession of sin prior to prayer is good habit to get into as well (e.g., 1Pet.3:7). There is no "magic" to prayer. Prayer merely requires discipline to be consistent and persistent in it, and the right attitude of heart in offering it. So beyond "the Lord's prayer" there is no formula or special procedure. Every believer should want to talk to the Lord – as the Person we love more than anyone or anything else – and will develop, over time, their own manner of doing so through the Spirit's guidance. I have written a good deal on this subject and ask you to have a look and these links (do feel free to write back about any of this):

Prayer Questions

Prayer and our walk with Jesus

Prayer: the Persistence, Purpose and Power of

The Lord's Prayer

Essentials of the Lord's Prayer (in CT 7)

The Will of God and Prayer

Praying for Wisdom

Eyes open in prayer?

Holding up Holy Hands

Imprecatory Prayer and Blessing by Association

Cumulative Prayer

Corporate Prayer: "When Two Agree"

On the question of churches, the biblical reason for them is to promote the spiritual growth of those who attend through the teaching of the Word of God. As such, very few individual churches – and no denominations – are fulfilling their God-given responsibility these days. So I generally don't recommend churches. As I have taken to saying, "Ichthys is my church", and you are certainly welcome any time. One other ministry I do recommend is Pastor-teacher Curtis Omo's "Bible Academy" (at the link). What Christians need is depth of teaching, sound and consistent teaching, genuinely orthodox and substantive teaching in order to grow up spiritually, begin to move forward in their walk with the Lord, and then help others do the same through ministry. Only the truth can accomplish that.

I do well understand the pull of the past, of tradition, and of sentimentalism. I dare say that without this all-too-human longing to be part of something familiar there would be no denominations and no established religions. The problem is that social relationships and comfortable traditions are not the truth; in fact, because of the nature of such things they tend to combat the truth. I have had many "refugees" from the Roman Catholic church come to this ministry and they mostly tell me that they could not be saved or grow in that environment – even if in some (definitely not all) cases they too still hold a soft spot in their hearts for it. I am an agnostic on whether one can "be R.C." and be saved; in my view, the only way it's possible for any good spiritual outcome while engaged with that group is by refusing to believe what they teach or do what they do. Which begs the question, what, then, is the point? On account of the spiritual negatives of wedding oneself to any spiritually dead organization (of which there are many), I never recommend trying to continue on in such a group, much less "fix" them from the inside. Paul had this same issue with traditional Judaism. His sentimentalism cost him, but he did come around to the right point of view, recognizing that in the end separation from things that are negative to one's spirituality is a good thing, even if it means fighting a strong sentimental tug to go back to the old (cf. 2Pet.2:22). As he says in Hebrews:

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 13:11-13 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi Bob,

Recently, I was viewing an online thread where one correspondent said something along the lines that atheists corroborate Psalm 14:1 and the other correspondent said "there but for the grace of God go I."

I'm not saying that we should treat lightly the grace of God, but it seems that this catchphrase goes counter to the spirit of Jesus' teaching. In fact, it sounds very similar to the Pharisee's prayer: "God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get."

Notice that the Pharisee was thanking God for giving him the grace to not be like those people. In other words, he was saying the first-century Judaean version of "there but for the grace of God go I." Yet Jesus said that it was the tax collector who went home justified, not the Pharisee.

I do not believe that God thinks highly of this kind of sentiment.

Sincerely,

Response #11:

You have a point. It should be noted, however, that unlike the Pharisee and the publican, where the former was a hypocrite and probably unsaved and the latter a humble person who likely was saved, in our contemporary example the situation is often reversed, indelicate phrasing notwithstanding.

When it comes to questionable remarks of the sort which you find chaffing – and other chestnuts such as "God bless you!" (when it is God's alone to bless) or "Forgive them for they know not what the do!" (which is not in scripture in fact, with ignorance being no basis for forgiveness) – I have noted four stages of development in Christians who begin to get positive about the Word of God:

1) Intolerance (initially) when one comes to recognize the folly of such statements; this comes when a person begins to grow spiritually and then to question all such contemporary "religious" and otherwise faulty or pseudo-application of scripture.

2) Patience (after a time) wherein correcting the inelegant behavior itself is the medicine.

3) Tolerance once an understanding of where one stands oneself in the plan of God and what is really important in this life leads to passing on such opportunities to correct others.

4) Teaching (finally) these principles to others without getting personal about it – which I believe was just what our Lord was doing in the scripture you cite, referencing "those who trust in themselves and despise others".

We can pray for unbelievers and all those under God's judgment or those who have suffered some disaster whatever the reason without at the same time indulging in spiritual "oneupsmanship" or false humility.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Dear Professor,

I know your time is very valuable and I don't want to be taking more of it than I ought to (and I have taken plenty). But I thought that as I'm writing these first pieces, I will do wisely to ask you to just take a look. I've received some helpful replies from my friends and this is my reply to one of them. She is a Roman Catholic, but a very kind hearted person. I hope open-hearted too. Let me know if there is anything you'd change here, maybe there are some points that I ought to include, but haven't.

TEXT of letter to friend:

I'm happy to hear that these answers were of at least some help to you. To help others grow in the truth is the purpose of my study. I understand very well what you said about each scriptural answer generating two further questions. It has been the case with me too, ever since I committed to an in-depth study of the Bible. However, as you wrote – the one who seeks, finds (Matthew 7:7). Sometimes answers come quickly, sometimes they require time and effort, but eventually, if we keep searching for them, they do come. I agree with you - God's ways are not fully comprehensible to us (Isaiah 55:8-9) and His greatness is unsearchable (Psalm 145:3). But He also loves us (1 John 4:8), wants us to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4) and He rewards our commitment.

And commitment is required, because we will be encountering difficulties. Even Peter himself wrote of Paul's letters that in them there "are some things hard to understand" (2 Peter 3:16). These difficulties serve a purpose though – they separate those who genuinely desire the truth from those who don't. This is also why our Lord taught in parables. Those who wanted to understand His teaching needed to put the effort to achieve that, while the rest were allowed to dismiss it because they found it incomprehensible. But really – because their hearts were hardened against the truth and they didn't care enough about the truth to put the effort to comprehend it.

Matthew 13:10-15 (NASB)
10 And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"11 Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;
You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;
15 For the heart of this people has become dull,
With their ears they scarcely hear,
And they have closed their eyes,
Otherwise they would see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart and return,
And I would heal them.’

Searching for answers is thus often a test of our commitment to the truth and we are commended for performing it, as the example of Bereans shows:

Acts 17:10-12 (NASB)
10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.

Studying the scriptures and looking for answers is not only commendable – it is necessary if we want to base our faith on the truth, because the truth is only contained in the scriptures. It's God's word (2 Timothy 3:16), written by men as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). There is no substitute for it. No tradition, no ritual, no other book can replace it.

This links to what you wrote about there being "a million ways to God". I agree (Acts 17:26-27), as long as these ways lead us to our Lord, Jesus Christ:

John 14:6 (NASB)
6 Jesus *said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

Jesus Christ is the only way to God and all paths that help us come to him are legitimate. Others are not, because there is no other name by which we are saved (Acts 4:11-12). And so we need to study the written word of God to come to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God incarnate (John 1:1-5), in whom and through faith in whom is our eternal life (John 3:16).

What I remember having in my heart in the past, before I was saved through faith in Jesus Christ, and what I sometimes recognise in those who are not saved is the fear of the truth. We are afraid to let the truth in, because the truth exposes us. It exposes the path we chose and on which we tread as not the one God would have us choose, so we'd rather stay in the dark (John 3:19-21). What is at the root of this fear? Unbelief. Our lack of faith that God knows what is best for us better than we know ourselves. And so it is with the scriptures. We'd rather not study, in case we may find something that shakes or even destroys our foundations. But if what we are not building is not built on the truth, what is it worth and how will it stand?

I encourage you to study the scriptures. To pray, search for the truth with an open heart, to make effort to understand it and seek good teaching to help you with that. And finally – to believe it. There will be difficulties. There will seem to be contradictions, which are never really that, but rather only our own lack of understanding, because the scripture is God-breathed, and consequently inerrant and perfectly consistent. But I agree with you – as we grow spiritually, all this will be becoming more understandable and the truth will shine through more and more clearly. And in this life there is nothing more important than the truth, because only by believing the truth are we saved.

In our Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, and the only Way to Him,

In constant prayer for you and your ministry,

Response #12:

This is really first-rate, my friend! Your friend is very fortunate to have a good friend like yourself. I think this is a very well-balanced, judicious and powerful letter. I wouldn't change a thing, except that I would add – just to make the issue crystal clear – a verse like Acts 16:31: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved . . . "

It's also nice here that you have been thorough and have yet set just the right tone of not being too insistent. I have to believe that if there is any spark of positiveness here, this will surely help to fan it into flame.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hi Bob,

Read carefully: "and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2Cor.3:3).

The introduction of the "tables of stone" is incongruous with the previous metaphor of "letters of recommendation." Was there a reason for Paul to use a mixed metaphor in this passage?

Sincerely,

Response #13:

The sense is clear, and powerful. Paul is not constrained by modern English stylistic sensibilities. After all, Greek also loves double negatives which are still negative (just for example).

Bringing in "tablets of stone" allows Paul to kill two birds with one stone (no pun intended); he thus knocks down not only the idea of needing formal recommendation of the sort that was tremendously important in that culture (especially in the Roman upper classes), but also the Judaizers' focus on the Old Covenant, written on stone, whereas the New Covenant is spiritual and written on the heart.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

On page 169-170 Thiessen makes the following point:

The scriptures that promise life for keeping the law (Lev.18:5; Neh. 9:29; Ezek. 18:5-9; Matt. 19:17; Rom 7:10; 10:5; Gal 3:12) speak ideally and hypothetically, as if man had no carnal nature and so were able to do God's whole will.

I take it that by "life" in these passages you take God allowing the believer to live rather than inflicting punishment in the form of an early death? There is one verse which I find more difficult to interpret in this way:

Matthew 19:17 (NASB)
17 And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments."

Why does our Lord say "if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments"?

Response #14:

I understand this precisely along the lines of the quote you include. No one can be righteous by keeping the Law. The man questioning our Lord, if he were honest and really wanted to be saved, would have realized that what our Lord was saying, while right and righteous, was impossible for him to fulfill. This in turn would lead him to seeking out God's grace and mercy for salvation. Remember, he had just asked ""Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"" (Matt.19:16 NIV). No one can "do" anything to be saved – and that was precisely the wrong mind-set which this legalistic generation to whom our Lord came possessed. Our Lord's simple and correct statement puts the ball "back in their court", so to speak, showing that it's not a matter of "doing one thing" but "doing everything precisely and completely without error"; since that is clearly impossible, the road to salvation is opened in the person's heart once they are reduced to seeking out God's mercy rather than, as in this man's case, trying to establish their own righteousness through works.

Question #15:

Ok, understood. But that makes the meaning of Leviticus 18:5,Nehemiah 9:29 or Ezekiel 18:5-9 different than Matthew 19:17, with the former passages referring to God granting earthly life to those who are obedient to His commandments rather than inflicting a death penalty as a result of disobedience and the Matthew verse actually referring to eternal life, which cannot be attained by our own means. Let me know if my understanding is correct here. Thiessen puts all these passages together because he seems to take the Old Testament verses in the same way as Matthew 19:17 - that eternal life is meant in Leviticus 18:5, etc.

Response #15:

I can't speak for Thiessen's understanding of the matter (or lack thereof), but I think you are on the right track here. On the one hand, "keeping the [true heart of] the Law" as best one can, especially the truly important spiritual aspects which underlie it (as in loving the Lord and one's neighbor), is the best way to live in this life, will yield benefits in this life . . . and will lead to salvation through faith (as it has always been). On the other hand, for those who are born again, paying close attention to and following the spiritual tenets of the Law is a wonderful thing which will bless one's life in this world and benefit one's Christian witness – because all truth is the same "under the skin" (it's merely expressed differently). For example, the holiness which the Law teaches through shadows and ritual is a holiness which believers have automatically through position in Christ (positional sanctification) – just as members of the community of Israel were (in principle) "holy" (qadosh) by virtue of their position within it. But just as true holiness is never achieved until the resurrection (ultimate sanctification) either for Old Testament Jewish believers or present day Christians of all derivation, so also living in a holy way, "experiential sanctification", is something which has always come only through responding to the truth, not by manifesting outward forms of its shadows – as the Pharisees did in the past and many legalistic Christians do today.

Question #16:

Shalom Dr. Luginbill,

If you have some time to spare may I ask your thoughts on a biblical matter? I have been thinking on the issues of: "The righteousness of faith, the righteousness of the Law, and the righteous requirement of the Law."  The Apostle Paul states in Galatians 3:21, "For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the scripture imprisoned everything and everyone under sin so that the promise could be given – because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ – to those who believe. NET" Now, at first glance this appears to say that there was never such thing as a "righteousness of the Law", however, Paul mentions the "righteousness of the Law" several times in his letters, e.g. - Galatians 3:10-14, Romans 2:13-16, 10:5-11, and Philippians 3:8-9. When speaking of the existence of a "righteousness of the Law" Paul quotes Leviticus 18:5 to support his belief that there is such a thing. The text reads, "So you must keep My statutes and My regulations; anyone who does so will live by keeping them. I am the LORD. NET"  Again, at first glance this appears to be in total contradiction to what Paul taught concerning the "righteousness of faith", however, I think if we look closer at what constitutes the "righteousness of the Law" or the "righteousness of faith", then will can make sense of this.  According to the Leviticus text, if one was able to obey the Law perfectly from start to finish, then; theoretically they could gain righteousness. Yet we know that because of Adam, every human being born in to the world is tainted by "Sin", for even David says in Psalm 51:4, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me. ASV" Therefore the "curse of the Law" recorded in Deuteronomy 27:26 and quoted by Paul in Galatians 3:10 would go into effect, because, any plain human who attempted to gain righteousness by the Law, would have already been defeated from birth, having already been tainted by sin. This explains why Paul states in Romans 3 (using this very Psalm), that nobody will be declared righteous before God by the works of the Law.  Therefore, would it not be more accurate to understand Leviticus 18:5 to mean something along the lines of, "So you must keep My statutes and My regulations; anyone who does so (having been sinless coming into the world, and remaining sinless their entire life) will live by keeping them. I am the LORD".  This seems to be the implication, because later on in Romans 8:3-4 Paul says, "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. ASV" Notice, Paul does not say that obedience to the Law, in and of itself, was incapable of yielding righteousness, but rather, that it could not do so because it was hindered by the flesh, i.e. our "preexisting sin" and "sinful nature" which David spoke of in the Psalm quoted above.  This explains Paul's next statement when he says that the "the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us", that is, by virtue of the fact that King Jesus was the only man who ever entered the world sinless, and maintained a completely sinless life, thereby truly attaining the "righteousness of the Law" or the "righteous requirement of the law." We in turn gain access to that righteousness by our faith in Him, hence our righteousness being termed the "righteousness of faith."  Also, I'm aware that when English translations of Scripture speak of "righteousness through Christ", that the Greek can also be translated as the "righteousness of Christ", i.e. His Righteousness by whose "nourishing sap" we derive our life. Finally, the letter to the Hebrews states that Jesus secured eternal redemption for us by His sacrifice, which seems to imply that it is Jesus’ righteousness which makes us righteous, not simply that we gain a righteousness as a result of His sacrifice. Suffice it to say, I wonder if you wouldn't mind sharing your thoughts on my conclusions? Of course these only represent a "concise" description simply because I didn't want you to feel like you were reading a book, ha-ha. Also, I do not claim infallibility in my conclusions, so, if I am in need of correction, by all means please feel free to help me my brother, as it is written, "My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring them back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins."

Shalom in King Jesus, our Mighty Savior !!!

Response #16:

I'm happy to converse with you about this. We do need to take it one step at a time, however. First, as you rightly conclude, there is no possibility of anyone being righteous – except through being forgiven by the blood of Christ. The purpose of the Law is to demonstrate that fact (Rom.3:20). When the Law talks about doing what is righteous, it means just that. That does not presuppose that the person in question actually is righteous or that personal righteousness can be achieved by action – it cannot. But for anyone living under the Law in Israel, the Law was the perfect standard to which everyone should have striven to adhere, even though of course we all fail and fall short – which is why the day of atonement (not to mention the other sacrifices) was necessary . . . "because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins" (Lev.16:30 NIV). So I guess I would ask you to confine questions on this score to one passage you want to know more about, and I'd be happy to discuss it. It's usually a mistake to argue or discuss "concepts" in scripture, especially when these are not commonly accepted as general truths. Everything always comes down to what actual Bible verses actually say. Everything else is "theology", and theology is often wrong-headed.

Hope your efforts in Greek are going well!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Thanks for the response, I appreciate it. As far as my inquiry, I guess what I'm mostly trying to understand is: If in fact there is no such thing as gaining righteousness through the Law then, (1) what is the "righteous requirement of the Law", mentioned in Romans 8, which our Lord Jesus achieved and which we, through our faith in His sacrifice, also gain? And (2), if it was never possible [even technically] to gain righteousness through the Law, then why does Paul, in Romans 9, discuss the fact that Israel has sought to achieve righteousness as though it were by works [a position which even Paul himself once held, pre-conversion to Christ]. If righteousness by the Law was never possible to begin with [again, even technically] then why would Israel have ever concluded this was a possibility? I can see Paul referring to a "righteousness of the Law" [if such a thing did in actuality exist] even if he knows that only Jesus could actually have gained it. However, I just find it odd that he would refer to something calling it "righteousness of the Law", if in fact he knew there never existed such a thing. Hopefully my response, offered in humility, makes sense? If you have any questions please feel free to ask.

Thank you my brother, and God bless you for your patience!

Response #17:

Thank you, my friend. Now we're getting to it. Just as I suspected. It's a question of what specific passages mean. That's where we have to keep the focus whenever anything comes up that questions our understanding of the truth. If we learn something in passages that trouble/interest us, we adjust that understanding; but we may also find out that while these troublesome/interesting passages illuminate the truths we already know, they do not actually clash with it. Such it is in this case.

(1) So now, there [awaits] no judgment of condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the Law of sin and death. (3) For what the Law could not accomplish (i.e., solving the sin problem) because it was weak on account of [its dependence on sinful human] flesh, God [did accomplish]: having sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for the purpose of [expiating] sin, [God] rendered summary judgment on [all] sin in [Christ's] flesh, (4) so that the [perfect] righteousness which the Law demands might be fulfilled in us – we who walk not according to the [sinful] flesh, but according to the Spirit (i.e., believers).
Romans 8:1-4

The Law demands "perfect righteousness", but no human being – with the exception of Christ – could ever hope to be perfectly righteous. But as believers we have been "considered righteous" through the blood of Christ. Because all of our sins have been atoned for through His spiritual death on the cross, God is free to credit perfect righteousness to our account, the very righteousness which the Law demanded but which no human being could ever attain to by his/her own efforts. And more than that: now that we are considered righteous, it is our duty to behave righteously – something not possible with the Law but definitely possible with the Spirit, whenever we walk in His power rather than our own.

As to "If righteousness by the Law was never possible to begin with [again, even technically] then why would Israel have ever concluded this was a possibility?", I would answer that true Israel never did make such a conclusion or engage in such an effort. Paul certainly did – as an unbeliever; and immediately after he was saved he abandoned that false approach and "considered it excrement" (Phil.3:8). Israel-not-Israel before the Babylonian captivity engaged in idolatry – but the true believers of that time abstained from idolatry and cleaved to the Lord. Israel-not-Israel after the Babylonian captivity engaged in legalism – but the true believers trusted the Lord for salvation not their own works. Believers today are the true "children of Abraham", because like him we have a relationship with the Lord by grace based on faith in what He has done, not in what we might try to do (Gal.3:7; cf. Rom.4:16).

Hope this helps. Do feel free to write back.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Dear Professor,

Yesterday I found out that my close friend about whom I wrote to you a few times (she is the person who has been helping me format and correct Polish versions of my texts) - has been diagnosed with cancer.

I spoke with her yesterday and was very impressed with her calmness and peace. Although we don't know what someone else has in their heart, I hope and pray that her faith is genuine and based on the truth. With people brought up in Roman Catholicism and still involved to some degree in it it's often very hard to know whether they know that salvation is by grace through faith, or whether the works mentality and all the other non-biblical traditions and teachings still stand in the way. What I can say is that she has displayed quite unique openness of heart and has always accepted all my Bible-related messages, so I hope she is saved. Our conversation was certainly very heartening, she acknowledges all is in God's hands and takes it as a clear signal to slow down her current rhythm of life, something with which I definitely agree.

Your prayer, Professor, will be greatly appreciated. To hear this about a close friend is a signal to keep, or regain a sense of perspective. That's how I take it - as a strong impulse to prepare for production and to produce, as the time is very short and our brothers and sisters often have got such limited access to true biblical teaching. I know that perhaps the only reason for some involvement on her part with the Catholic Church is that there are many places where there is almost no alternative.

In our Lord,

Response #18:

I have been praying for her. I will add this to the list of specific concerns. God has a purpose in all such things, but it's always hard for those of us who care for someone to completely see or understand it – how much more for the person in question. Anything that brings a person closer to the Lord (or to the Lord in the first place) is always, in the end, a "good thing" (even if often also a painful thing). He is the one who forgives us all our sins, delivers us from death, and heals our diseases (Ps.103:3; 147:3). So we will not give up hope on account of setbacks. Rather, we will be confident that His purporuth.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

The biggest problem with Catholicism has to be the superstition and the paranoia. Purgatory, the apocrypha, et al. are mistaken but can be overlooked in extreme circumstances. However, their bizarre understanding of demonic possession, paranoia concerning the Freemasons (joining a lodge is considered to be a "moral sin," even though it's basically a frat house), and whatnot seriously disturbs me.

I admire the Reformed tradition for not being completely and totally bonkers with regard to the occult and superstition.

Response #19:

You're not even scratching the surface here. Whenever I've entered an R.C. church it's always had the feel of a pagan temple with idolatrous statuary. Between the pagan connection in most things related to ritual and the grafting in of modified Mosaic Law rituals and accouterments, there is "something for everyone" – everyone, that is, who is into making their own gods. When we add the pope, bishops, cardinals, and church hierarchy, the canon law, the confessional, the holy water, the magical mass, etc., we really do have a toxic mix of witch's brew that takes most ex-Catholics years of recovery to suppress and forget in favor of the truth. All of which makes your accomplishments in the faith that much more impressive.

The Reformers made some good strides in the right direction, but their followers codified their limited progress and retained much that is wrong and dangerous in its own right. Now that most Protestant denominations are no longer interested in the Word of God, their churches are not much more than "R.C. lite".

Keep fighting the good fight of faith, my friend!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Mr. Luginbill I hope that all is well since I spoke with you. Since that time I have reread the Tribulation Series and I often use it for reference purposes.

I have a question that I want to ask you concerning the sacrificial system, I do not know if this is an area of your expertise but you seem to be very credible concerning Scripture. I understand that after the institution of the Levitical Priesthood the Children of Israel were instructed to bring the prescribed sacrifices. The sacrifices were to be offered on the Brazen Altar by the Priest. My question is, how could all these sacrifices be offered on a daily basis by a fraction of at least one million people using just one altar?

Thank you

Response #20:

Good to hear from you. I hope all is going well with you and yours too.

As to your question, it is an excellent observation. As I often say, the true purpose of the Law is to show those who give attention to it their need for a Savior – because, obviously (as you note) it is impossible for anyone to come anywhere close to fulfilling it in matters large or small. Anyone who considers the Law with an honest heart will need to confess very soon that he/she is not only a sinner but also incapable of carrying out everything the Law demands, even on a daily basis. Considered objectively, we would all soon be guilty of death under the demands of the Law, for there is no sacrifice for willful sin – and all of us sin willfully in some ways and at some times (even if not obviously or publicly or as horrendously as we might). We may add to this that it is quite obvious from any reading of the Bible that from it's first giving at Sinai to the time of the destruction of the second temple (when all such sacrifices and temple rites ceased permanently) there was never a time when Israel as a whole or even a significant percentage of the population came anywhere close to carrying out even some of the more obvious and doable portions of the Law. In fact, it was only after the building of the second temple that any sizable part of the nation even apparently really tried to do so – and this quickly devolved into Pharisaical hypocrisy.

This is all very important to consider. After all, the Law is not a smorgasbord where a person may choose which parts he/she wishes to "keep".

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
James 2:10 NKJV

So now that today, when there is no temple, when there are no priests, when no festivals are held, no sacrifices made, no tithes collected, when nothing of the temple rite upon which so much of the Law depends is currently even in existence, it is amazing to me that so many of our fellow Christians (or at least putative Christians) are determined to search for spirituality and spiritual growth in merely mimicking some parts of the Law which may be individually engaged in – not all, mind you, even excepting things now impossible without a temple – merely whatever they wish.

What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.
Galatians 3:19 NKJV

Now Christ has come and He has fulfilled the Law (Rom.10:4). The Law spoke and still speaks of the need for a Savior and the manner in which the Father would provide Him, the sacrifice of the Lamb without spot or blemish. But now that the shadows have been lifted and the Son of God appeared in the flesh, now that all sin has been washed away by His blood, reverting to the Law as a means of godly behavior is a terrible mistake. It is part of the Word of God and the spiritual lessons it teaches are wonderful and useful, rightly perceived and applied (1Tim.1:8). Adopting a sort of neo-legalism as a means of growing closer to the Lord, however, always has the opposite effect. That is a large part of Paul's message in the book of Hebrews.

For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
Hebrews 10:1 NKJV

So, no, there was never anything like a complete fulfilling of the Law in ancient Israel – not even close. A good thing for anyone who wants to revert to it as an assumed means of spirituality to remember.

Here are a few links you may find helpful:

Non-observance of the Law

The Purpose of the Law

Paul and the Law

The Law of Moses (and forgiveness)

No longer under the Law

Should Christians observe the Torah?

Christ's fulfillment of the Law

What is a biblical Covenant?

The Old Covenant and the New:  Shadow versus Reality

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi Bob,

The Roman Catholic Church is the wealthiest non-profit organization in the world. Do you think that this is God giving "residual blessing" as a result of Augustine's presence?

Sincerely,

Response #21:

People often make the mistake of confusing worldly prosperity as a sign of God's approval (and poverty as a sign of disapproval), but the opposite is more often the case.

Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases; for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them. Though while they live they count themselves blessed— and people praise you when you prosper—they will join those who have gone before them, who will never again see the light of life. People who have wealth but lack understanding are like the beasts that perish.
Psalm 49:16-20 NIV

This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
Psalm 73:12 NIV

I don't see anything about that organization which is a blessing to anyone (they're leading many to perdition). Augustine was wrong about so many things (was he right about anything important?), and his influence (all negative in my view) is still so terribly pernicious, not only in the R.C. church but also throughout Protestantism, that I'm also inclined to see the opposite of blessing here as well. Antichrist will enrich his followers too, but in the end "he will spit out the riches he swallowed; God will make his stomach vomit them up" (Job 20:15 NIV).

Better is a little with the fear of the LORD,
Than great treasure with trouble.
Proverbs 15:16 NKJV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior who made Himself poor for us (2Cor.8:9),

Bob L.

Question #22:

Augustine, in many ways, founded all of Western Christianity. His influence on the Catholics is obvious, but because Luther was an Augustinian friar, we also have all of the Protestant branches more or less base their theology on his writings. He is second in influence only to the Apostle Paul.

I also have a higher view of the RCC than I'm supposed to because they provided a funeral for our destitute uncle and because so much of my extended family is a part of the priesthood.

Response #22:

Lutherans have a lot doctrinal problems as a result of their inability to completely escape the gravity of the R.C. church to the extent that they might have done had they not essentially stopped with what Luther accomplished (which was of course considerable, especially given where he started). I certainly concur on the point of Augustine's influence; my point is that it has been perniciously negative, consisting of and engendering mostly theoretical theology (misleading and incorrect) as opposed to biblical theology – which is the problem most theologians have. It's fine if your theological theory happens to actually be biblical; it's not fine to replace what the Bible actually teaches with your theology (which is what usually happens – and has happened in the case of all of Augustine's major teachings in large part or in small).

My old Church History professor at seminary used to tell a joke about a student who persisted in mispronouncing Augustine's name by harmonizing it with the city in Florida: "My dear young man", he said", "St. AWG-ustine is in Florida; St. Augϊstine is in heaven". Funny, but I wonder about the truth of the second half of the proposition. That is my problem with Roman Catholicism in general. It's clear that it exercises a tremendous residual influence even over lapsed Catholics who are not saved and even over believers who used to be R.C. Traditionalism also does this, of course. But what if the tradition is on the road to hell?

I have known many Roman Catholics in my life who were/are fine and upstanding people. If fact, I would bet that in terms being good citizens and good people they are better than most of the Protestants I have known – excepting those who have anything to do with this ministry or any other ministry where the truth is taught as opposed to what is happening in most Protestant denominations and churches. But "good" in our eyes is not "good" in God's. There are many atheists who are kind and considerate, loving and generous; many of those of the Jewish faith who are very generous in their charitable activities, good citizens, good patriots, good neighbors; and I believe I am correct in stating that Islam puts a great emphasis upon charitable giving as well. I'm sure that the R.C church and many connected to it are generous too, and that they have done many good works . . . as the world sees things. But in all such cases no one can actually do anything God considers good without the Spirit of God – and no unbeliever has any such empowerment. Mormons are very zealous in good works and in their determination to give a good witness by their lives. But they are not believers – at least no one who believes everything their religion teaches could possible be since, like the R.C. church, it is essentially a transactional religion of works (along with having many other issues that stand in the way of genuine faith, of course).

The problem with all such substitutes for the truth is that the more they look like they might be the real thing and might have some relationship to God, the more dangerous they are, because the more likely they are to ensnare those who are searching for the actual truth. I'm happy to live and let live with all false religions. This is still a semi-free country, after all, so until the Tribulation I have the expectation that I'll be allowed to continue this ministry, and that all my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who really want to grow in the truth (and prepare for what's coming) will be able to do so to the degree they are willing to do so. That's what's important to me. I have no problem with people who have a soft spot in their hearts for any religion or tradition or country or individual who/which are not of God – but I fully expect sentimentalism towards all these categories and more to be the cause of the fall of many in the Great Apostasy. Problems begin when this soft spot becomes a breach in the wall of faith in times of pressure. If that ever happens, then it's best to separate, emotionally if not also physically, because our eternal future, and our Lord Jesus Christ's opinion, and the rewards we have worked so hard for and are determined not to lose come what may are far more important than any maudlin sentimentalism, especially if it is grossly misplaced. Getting these sorts of issues sorted out before the pressure of the Tribulation is on will be a great benefit in getting through with faith intact.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

There's a difference between the RCC on one hand and Judaism, Islam, and even Mormonism on the other in that the latter are literally antichrist ("I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist." II John 22) religions while the former is not. Even though Mormons give lip-service to Jesus Christ, their christology is so defective that it too is an antichrist religion (not unlike JWs).

There's also an enormous difference between RCC formal theology and what Catholics actually believe and practice. Because of Augustine's influence, RCC soteriology is actually Calvinist. You can notice this if you read Aquinas' writings on soteriology, which follow so closely to the five points of Calvinism outlined in the Synod of Dort so as to make it completely obvious why Calvin's soteriology is called "reformed": it's just RCC soteriology with sacramental theology and mortal sin removed. In fact, because of Augustine's distinction between the invisible church and the visible church (another theological doctrine from him that all of Western Christianity believes), many Roman Catholics speak of how some people have the "spiritual gift of divine perseverance" (in direct analogy to Calvin's perseverance of the saints).

I am not a Catholic. I find that there are too many "problems" to justify continuing adherence. But with the exception of Methodism, which follows the Eastern Orthodox's church view on soteriology, all of Western Christianity has an Augustinian soteriology.

PS: The incorrect pronunciation of Augustine's name ([' :g stin]) actually follows the Anglo tradition of Latin pronunciation more closely than the correct one, so I don't criticize people who use that particular pronunciation.

Also Hell exists only as a potential danger for humans. Jesus Christ warns us about Hell for the same reason a father warns his toddler about not sticking his saliva-covered fingers into the electrical outlet: the warning remains true even if nobody is electrocuted. Only Antichrist, the False Prophet, Satan, and his angels are predestined for Hell.

Response #23:

I appreciate your position. I know I don't have to rehearse for you the seemingly endless list of wrong things the R.C. church holds to (or Augustine held to). Even if they have some good positions, it doesn't change the fact that their wrong positions equate into a de facto works religion.

As to "all of Western Christianity has an Augustinian soteriology", I base my own beliefs and teachings on what's in the Bible. To the extent that "Augustinian soteriology" is biblical, I'm all for it; but it's own incidental if it is (n.b., for someone who invented original sin and seems to believe in prevenient and supervening grace, it's not clear to me that he even understood the real issue of faith in Christ exercised in free will – hence my doubt about his current residence; happy to discuss what you feel he believed and what passages you have from A. himself rather than later interpreters of A.).

We didn't need Augustine to figure out John 3:16 (e.g.), and it's not as if the simple fact of salvation through faith in Christ was a mystery before he arrived on the scene. I see A's influence as a setback, not a positive (he's more responsible than anyone else for amillenialism ruling the roost in the West). His works did "set" R.C. theology (and therefore the basis of much Protestant theology); but to the extent that it's wrong (and most of it is wrong), and to the extent that such approaches deify a set theology and discourage seeing for oneself what's actually in scripture, to that extent "set-back" is a better description. As to the invisible church, the effect of A's teaching the way he meant it and the way it has been used has actually supported the notion of the authority and importance of the visible church (the R.C. church), not the other way around (i.e., the established, institutional church as Christ's representative and administer of the "sacraments") = "set-back".

Finally, I notice you are very clear on the point that you are "not a Catholic". I did not grow up in that tradition, but as I frequently have occasion to notice, nearly all my correspondents and acquaintances over the years who have escaped that tradition have universally expressed their opinion that it is impossible to be saved in that church. If that is the case – or perhaps even if it is only close to being the case – I don't think there is much point in defending it or its theological tradition . . . which led it to where it is today.

Your friend in Jesus Christ, our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:

The reason I'm reluctant to express the opinion that it is impossible to be saved in the RCC is because there were a few very good Christians (G. K. Chesterton immediately comes to mind) who were Catholic, even in the modern era. And in Japan Christianity is for all intents and purposes Catholic, and they don't seem to be "faking" it either.

While we're on the subject of A. here's a good quote from him: "We love truth when it enlightens us, but we hate truth when it accuses us."

Response #24:

As I believe I've already affirmed, I'm sure they're not faking being good people. But a Christian, in biblical terms, is someone who has put his/her trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, His perfect person and His perfect work. All manner of people live what appear to us by human standards to be "good" lives, and many of them consider themselves "Christians" (the Mormons certainly do). But it doesn't matter how kind or respectable or generous or, as we should say, "good" a person is when it comes to the fact of being born again or not. It's not our opinion that counts: "The Lord knows those who [truly] belong to Him" (2Tim.2:19). I don't accuse anyone and I don't claim that if a person belongs to group ABC they can't be saved or that if they do belong to group XYZ they are saved. Salvation is a fact as is the lack of it; it is an individual thing, and there are plenty of people (some quite wonderful) who are members of Christian churches who are not saved. But if a person does belong to a group where the issue of salvation is clouded and/or compromised, then they certainly have to realize that everything else said group teaches is contaminated (that is clearly the case in the R.C. church). So it does beg the question: if person X really is "good" and really "a Christian" (in the biblical sense as opposed to the traditional or organizational sense), then what is person X doing continuing in an organization where they "shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces" (Matt.23:13 NIV)?

As to the A' quote, anyone who rejects the truth because it is inconvenient is at the very least a spiritual infant. We should love the truth even more when it corrects us. Also, this is in English; A' wrote in Latin exclusively. I'd need the Latin quote to see if this English translation bears any resemblance to what he actually wrote.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25:

The Priestly Blessing: What is the significance of Numbers 6:22-27?

Response #25:

For me this is the equivalent in many ways of the Lord's Prayer in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, under the Law, the blessing of God was asked for through the intermediate agency of the Levitical priests – but today we have direct access to the Father through the One who is our eternal High Priest, the One who gave us the words we pray every day, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (see the link). We personally acknowledge the Father as our Father, and personally ask for the blessings of provision, forgiveness, and deliverance – without the need of any priest or go-between – in the Name of Jesus Christ who broke down all the barriers between Him and us through the cross.

Hope you are doing well, my friend – I pray for you and your family every day.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ whose face will shine upon us forever.

Bob L.

Question #26:

Have to disagree with your conclusions on Law Observance for followers of Messiah.

Exodus ch 12: 49 clearly states "The same Law shall apply to the Native as to the stranger who sojourns among you."

This is reiterated in every place Moses is given ordinances by God in the O.T., so it was not just Israel the Law was given to.

In Acts ch 15 the gentile converts are given some preliminary instruction because it is understood in v. 21 that they would learn the Law of Moses "since he is read in the synagogue every Sabbath."

1 John ch 2: 4-8 solidify this v. 4 "The one who says he has come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments is liar and the truth is not in him."

V. 7 "Beloved, I am not writting a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning..."

I think your misdirecting folks from the scripture by spreading old Roman twisting of the scripture that has been going on since the cannonization of the same by that Roman Church.

It is the Law that He puts into a circumcised heart, and it's the same unchanging standard He gave at Sinai!

I can't twist anyones arm to keep Torah, but by the reverse, I'm not the one with a website teaching anti-nomian doctrine and saying it is of Messiah.

There's actually a warning for this too in the N.T.

Please Consider!

Response #26:

Dear Friend,

Do you wish to keep the Law? Good for you. It cannot save you. We have new High Priest in Jesus Christ, and the change of priesthood from the Levitical to that of our Lord necessitated and brought about "a change of law" (Heb.7:12). Still, if you wish to keep the Law, that is between you and the Lord. But do you wish to compel others to do so – as your letter clearly indicates? That is where I must vigorously disagree.

In writing to the Galatians, gentiles who were being pressured by certain teachers of the Law to keep the Law contrary to the message of grace Paul had taught them, the greatest apostle says the following:

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
Galatians 2:1-5 NKJV

In that same spirit of grace, so that likewise the truth of the gospel may be apparent and continue, I am likewise unwilling to yield to your protestations, no, not even for a moment. And I am happy to give a defense of this position.

First, let us examine the passages you provide here which ostensibly (in your view apparently) require believers of this age to keep the Law:

1) Exodus 12:49: This passage says that the Law shall apply to the non-Jew "who sojourns among you". I do not live in Israel, and even if I did, the nation state of Israel today has not been constituted by the Lord, nor is it composed of believers. There is no way for a gentile believer today to "sojourn among you", namely, the Jewish people to whom the Law was given – because that community of faith no longer exists (Jewish believers today are part of the Church of Jesus Christ and live all over the world – very few of them in the secular state of Israel).

2) Acts 15:21: When James says "For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath", this is his explanation (English "for" = Greek gar, explaining the justification / reason for what has just been said) for why the gentiles do not need to be circumcised or keep the Law. All the gentiles who receive this letter needed to do was to abstain from the things James and company listed. And the assembled Jewish believers are told that they don't have to worry that the Law is going to disappear because there are synagogues throughout the world where the Law is read every Sabbath – but we know that most of those attending such places then as now were and are not believers in Jesus Christ.

This passage (Acts 15, especially when taken with its precursor, Acts 10) is in fact, as any objective reader of even the English Bible can see, a clear proof that even in the days of the apostles gentile believers were not required to keep the Law. Indeed, James tells Paul many year latter "As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality" (Acts 21:25 NIV), demonstrating that what was done in Acts 15 was not preliminary but conclusive and constituted the complete requirements for gentiles as given by the Jerusalem church – otherwise, why cull out these same practices for mention again, if the gentiles were supposed to be keeping the entire Law? And these few things mentioned are not given as any kind of "law-keeping lite" but rather so as to avoid offense in the most offensive things to Jewish believers of that day.

3) 1st John 2:4-8: John also says "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1Jn.5:3 NKJV). That is quite a statement, especially in light of what Peter says at Acts 15:10 to those Jewish believers in Jerusalem who wanted the gentile believers in Antioch to follow the Law: "Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" (NKJV). No one – except the Messiah – has ever been able to keep the Law. The yoke of the Law is burdensome – and it is meant to be so to convict of sin all who consider it. But Christ says "My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matt.11:30 NKJV). Therefore the "commandments" (note the plural please) to which John refers in this passage you adduce are not the Mosaic Law but the new commandments – which are already known to his listeners since they come from Christ – namely, the Law of Love in two parts, to love the Lord with all that is in us and to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. For as John has just said in the two verses directly preceding your passage:

(1) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born [again] from God. And everyone who loves the One who has begotten him (i.e., God) loves also the one who has been begotten by Him (i.e., we should love God; we should also love all who are born again as our brothers and sisters in Christ). (2) In doing this (i.e., loving God and also loving the one whom He has reborn), we know that we love the children of God when we love God, and [thus] we keep His commandments (to love Him and our brethren – which is the essence of the Law: Matt.22:40).
1st John 5:1-2

These are the commandments referred to here, because "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matt.22:40).

Let me ask you this, you who wish to keep the Law. Do you appear before the Lord in Jerusalem three times a year to fulfill your festival obligations under the Law as the Law absolutely requires (e.g., Ex.23:14-17)? Do you make sacrifice for your sins, blood sacrifice, animal sacrifice, for all your transgressions (and there is no one who is without sin: 1Ki.8:46; Ps.130:3-4; Prov.20:9; Eccl.7:20; Rom.3:23; 1Jn.1:8)? Do you affirm the principle of levirate marriage? Do you intend to marry your sister-in-law, should your brother die without offspring, and if this does not apply to you, is this what you tell others they must do? Do you tithe a tenth of your produce to the Levitical priesthood at the temple in Jerusalem? Do you wear phylacteries? Do you let your land lie fallow every seventh year? Do you cast stones at anyone you see working on the Sabbath? And if not, why not? No doubt you will tell me that you have some justification for your incomplete following of the Law – and many more examples can be adduced of the things that you do not do which the Law requires . . . if you wish to keep the Law. But here is what I find in scripture:

And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.
Galatians 5:3 NKJV

For whoever wants to keep the Law completely but stumbles in one point is guilty of [violating] it completely.
James 2:10

If you are a Law-keeper, you are required to keep it all; and if you do not keep it all, you are liable for the penalty of being a Law-breaker. The Law was never intended to be a Smorgasbord where you can pick and choose what you wish to follow and what you wish to refrain from. Of course I understand that many of the things I asked you about are impossible – or seem impossible (nothing is impossible for God) – but that is exactly the greater point of the Law, namely, to convict us of sin:

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
Romans 3:19-20 NIV

But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith (i.e., rather than by "doing" the Law).
Galatians 3:22-24 NKJV

Working one's way into heaven never works, regardless of how someone approaches it. If we trust the Lord for salvation, we are saved. If we trust in our ability to do anything, Law-keeping included, we are by definition rejecting grace and throwing Christ's sacrifice right back into the Father's face. The Law spoke of Christ, but it has now been fulfilled by His first advent (Rom.10:4; cf. Matt.5:17-20). By turning back to the shadows, you are blinding yourself to the brilliant light of the heavenly reality in the face of Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.

So don't let anyone judge you in regard to food or drink, or in the category of festival observances, be it of new moons or Sabbaths. All these things are shadows of what was to come, but the reality has to do with Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17

The entire book of Hebrews was written by Paul to demonstrate the folly of those who have been saved through faith in the Messiah who has now come and fulfilled the shadows of the Law turning back to those same shadows . . . as if Christ never came . . . as if He did not atone for our sins on the cross.

(4) For, in the case of those who have been enlightened (i.e., have become believers, "light in the Lord": Eph.5:8), and who have experienced the heavenly gift and become partakers of the Holy Spirit (i.e., have been baptized with the Spirit so that He indwells them, and by the Spirit into union with Christ), (5) and who have experienced that the Word of God is good, and [who have experienced] miracles [foreshadowing] the age to come, (6) it is impossible to restore them to [true] repentance after having fallen [into sin] as long as they keep crucifying the Son of God afresh and exposing Him to open shame (i.e., while they continue in their sin, the particular sin in question here being continued participation in the sacrificial rites of Law which foreshadowed Christ's work on the cross and suggesting by that participation that His work was ineffective).
Hebrews 6:4-6

From your very odd comment, "misdirecting folks from the scripture by spreading old Roman twisting of the scripture that has been going on since the cannonization [sic] of the same by that Roman Church", I am wondering if you are actually going to tell me that the Bible is not really the Bible so that you don't have to pay the New Testament any heed – or at least not all of it, not the epistles of Paul, for example. In this you are consistent: just as you pick and choose what parts of the Law you will or won't trouble yourself with, so you arrogate to yourself the authority to pick and choose what parts of God's Word you will deign to accept. That is not the path to a closer walk with Him; that is the path to the lake of fire.

Let me ask you this – and please do answer if you wish to continue this discussion. Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you understand that He is both God, coequal, co-eternal, and con-substantial with the Father and the Spirit, and also now a true human being? Do you believe that He atoned for your sins by dying for them on the cross, rising in the darkness and the flames until He had paid for each and every one of your numerous sins and violations . . . of the Law (and mine . . . and those of us all)?

If you don't believe the Bible. If you don't believe in Christ (and rejecting either the reality of His divine or human person or His work on the cross in paying the price for every sin), then you are not saved, and this entire conversation is pointless . . . unless and until you humble yourself before God and accept the only Substitute for sin, the only Way of salvation, Jesus Christ the righteous, "My Lord and My God!" (Jn.20:28).

In Him,

Bob Luginbill

Question #27:

It is man and his earthly administrations which try and make the Law burdensome or impossible.

Who is it that you want to become grafted into, or a part of--Israel?

I realize that the non-believing Jews have established a current secular state, and this is not His Kingdom (but they purchased that land twice with money, and finally with their blood in 47) but most of the Book of Ezekiel details what the Kingdom His Shepherd establishes will be like, and the Law, Circumcision, and Feasts are all there.

That Shepherd also said in Matthew ch 5: 18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished."

You say Messiah fulfilled this, but Heaven and Earth have not passed away, and He knows what was in our fallen hearts then, as now.

In Matthew 23: 2-3, Messiah states, "The Scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to there deads; for they say things, and do not do them."

Here Messiah contrasts Mosiac Law vs. Rabbinic Tradition which is what you see Paul struggling with through the rest of his books.

The Law never brought about salvation, but it does show us the need for a redeemer, and it will always be the standard of God's household.

In the very next chapter of Acts after the preliminary instructions, we find Paul circumcising Timothy. If Paul goes to all the effort to discourage circumcision as you say, he's a major hypocrit at this point. I say he realized circumcision in itself did not save which was the arguement of the Judaizers (Orthodox) who were trying to steal converts, but he still kept Mosiac Law.

Romans 3: 31 "Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law."

If we back up a little bit in the same chapter we have Paul asking what benefit is circumcision?

"Great in every respect."

In your response, you seemed angered at 1John ch 2, but if you look at what was also said in Deuteronomy ch 30: 11 "For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach."

The real burden is sin, and if He has circumcised your heart you will delight in His Law.

The Eastern Churches, outside the sphere of Roman influence continued to circumcise, and the Coptics kept Kosher, and observed Torah, while a Roman Church decided what the Western World would believe for the next 1800 years.

It is only by His Spirit in us that we can do anything, and its the lack of His Spirit in our Western Churches and Culture that is the reason for our current failure.

I'd urge you to prayfully reconsider your position!

Shalom

Response #27:

Dear Friend,

I love the Old Testament. Every bit of it. And there is nothing in the Old which conflicts with the New in any way, rightly understood.

We know that the law is good if one uses it properly.
1st Timothy 1:8 NIV

"Rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (2Tim.2:15) requires, among other things, to know how to interpret different parts of scripture. Poetry, for example, has different modes of diction than prose, so, when we hear of "trees clapping their hands" (Is.55:12), we need not think of these "hands" or this action as literal . . . in fact that would be a mistake in interpretation. Likewise, just because we read in the book of Acts that believers were speaking in tongues, that does not mean that the Spirit is giving that gift today – He is not, but to understand why requires correct interpretation of the Word. The rites, rituals and regulations of the Mosaic Law had two essential purposes. First, to demonstrate that Israel was a holy people, set apart to the Lord. Second, to foreshadow the work of Christ on the cross, and all issues related thereto.

In terms of the second (to take these in reverse order), Christ has now come, has been judged for our sins, and has been resurrected, has ascended, and has been glorified in the Father's presence whence as our King and our new High Priest He awaits the day when all enemies shall be made the footstool for His feet (i.e., the second advent; cf. Ps.110:1ff.). Since the shadows dealing with the death of Christ for sin have now been replaced with the reality of that effective Sacrifice, not only would it be confusing to continue all these rituals (such as Passover, which looked forward to the cross but has now been replaced with the Lord's supper which memorializes it), but it would actually be wrong to do so (as Paul told the church in Jerusalem in no uncertain terms in the book of Hebrews; Heb.6:5-6; see discussion in previous email).

In terms of the first, the Church, which of course includes all believers from Adam and Eve until the return of our Lord, has now ceased to be the predominantly Jewish congregation as it was from Abraham to Christ. It is now (during this period – things will change during the soon to come Tribulation and also during the Millennium which follows) primarily a gentile concern. There have always been Jewish believers and always will be, but Israel is not, either as a people or a state, the place where the Church presently has its spiritual center of gravity. The nation, which, apart from a vital and important remnant (Rom.11:5), rejected Christ (Jn.1:11), and was removed from His Presence (even the temple being destroyed in 70 AD). Since there is no now geographic "Israel" – from God's point of view, the only one which counts (as you agree) – there is no way for there to be an outwardly "holy people" who by means of the way in which their country is run demonstrate God's holiness by adhering to His Law – so that now our "holiness" (sanctification) is spiritual, given to all who are "in Christ" and expected of all who belong to Christ in how we live our lives – abstention from sin and evil, not adherence to outward displays of regulations now fulfilled.

For these reasons, you demonstrate by your silence that your inability to answer my questions about following the entire Law is in fact decisive proof that your title for this second email, "Law still in full effect!", is completely wrong and misguided. You cannot carry out the first purpose of the Law because there is no godly "Israel" wherein the stipulations of the Law may be applied; and you cannot carry out the second purpose because there is no temple or priesthood at present . . . and it would be wrong to do so in any case because that would be declaring, in effect, that the Messiah had not yet come or that Christ's work was somehow ineffectual so that we need to still be looking forward to our redemption (that is of course what the temple rite and so many other aspects of the Law represent).

So what are you doing? Are you keeping the Law? But that would be impossible in truth (the purpose of the Law is demonstrate our sinfulness) even if the temple were still standing, the priests still ministering, and godly Israel still in her land:

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
Romans 7:21-23 NIV

Given that no one has every completely carried out the Law – even Saul-later-Paul, that Rabinnical student par excellence, was unable to do so in Israel with the temple still in its place. And given that it is now completely impossible even to contemplate in the absence of a true Israel or a third temple to carry out the vast majority of the precepts of the Law or in any way to fulfill its two main purposes, what are you doing?

What you are doing, whatever it is, is less than the Law requires – to a great degree. So what you are doing is a self-willed and partial playing at keeping the Law based upon what you find pleasing. Is that pleasing to God too? You must decide, not me.

We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 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 2:15-16 NIV

To the extent that you are relying on your personally defined version of Law-keeping for salvation (as your emails imply you are), to that extent you are not saved at all, because "by the works of the law no one will be justified". And if you are a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, "My Lord and my God" (Jn.20:28), to the extent that you are relying on keeping the Law for spirituality and spiritual growth, to that extent you are wandering in the wilderness instead of marching directly up the high road to Zion. If you persist in this course, the best that can happen is a eternal future with no reward; the worst is to lose your weak faith and thus your salvation in the pressures of the Tribulation to come (where one third of the Church is prophesied to apostatize in "the Great Apostasy"; see the link).

"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Matthew 18:6 NKJV

The quote above is offered to you so that you may consider your ways. Legalism, the imposing of any rules and regulations which are not biblically authorized upon believers, is perhaps the most pernicious bane upon the Church today; and a false standard of "Law-keeping" is one of the most insidious forms of said legalism. That is because it does have a biblical base, so that without reading the New Testament carefully and in the absence of sound, orthodox Bible teaching, a young believer who doesn't know any better and who bumps into you or one of your group is likely to led into the same horrible morass.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are."
Matthew 23:15 NIV

The greatest commandment is to love God and loving one's neighbor is its counterpart, and "all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matt.22:40 NIV). So when James and the Jerusalem church allowed the gentiles – which includes me and most of those you are "evangelizing" for your point of view – not to try to keep the Law in their walk with Christ, who are you to try and place this burden upon us, a burden Peter and Paul both explicitly rejected for those who are not of the physical seed of Israel? What a Christian of Jewish descent wishes to do on this subject is between him/her and the Lord, but I see no authorization – let alone mandate – for gentile Christians to do so.

When the Messiah returns, we will have a temple, we will have a priesthood, we will have rites and rituals and regulations . . . in the Millennium. Let me tell you, this is not the Millennium. Different strictures apply for different periods of time, as explained above. The way the Lord is administering His kingdom now is different from the way He did when the second temple still stood and will be different still once He reigns in person (n.b., the millennial regulations are not precisely the same as the Mosaic Law). Link: "Dispensations, Covenants, Israel and the Church I" and "Dispensations, Covenants, Israel and the Church II" .

No, the Law has not passed away, but it has to be made use of properly. Partial compliance (15%?) by non-Jews in our present time is not what the Lord desires – at least it's not in the Word. And in fact, there is plenty in the epistles which inveighs against just the sort of thing you are doing (of which I shared some last time; happy to give many more passages and links - just read the books of Romans, Galatians, or Hebrews, for example).

The entire Old Testament is the Word of God and always will be. The question is, what are we to do about it? You quote our Lord as saying, "all that they tell you, do and observe", but you cannot even tell me who has that earthly authority now to "tell us", let alone how to carry out even this command. That is because the Israel of our Lord's day, where these scribes and Pharisees had political, legal and administrative power as well as being the representatives of an established state religion, no longer exists.

I am happy for every person who reads the Old Testament and becomes convinced of the need for a Savior. You don't need to observe the few dietary laws you pick out or be circumcised for that – in fact if you do those things with the idea that they are necessary for salvation you are pursuing salvation by works, and that is impossible:

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
Galatians 5:2 NIV

(8) For you have been saved by [God's] grace through faith [in Christ]; and this did not come from you – it is God's gift. (9) Nor did it come from what you have done, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

As to Matthew 5:18 and the endurance of the Law, our Lord actually says that it will endure until all things take place – that is, until the Law should be fulfilled . . . and the Law has been fulfilled by Him, that is, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross once and for all.

"For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law . . . until all is accomplished."
Matthew 5:18 NASB

As to Paul and the book of Acts, you don't have to read the whole book to find out that Paul was in fact not keeping the Law. He did keep parts of it, for a time, but eventually realized that this was only important so as not to be offensive to Jews whom he was trying to convert (that is why he circumcised Timothy; for more on this complex subject see the link: "Interpreting the book of Acts"):

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
1st Corinthians 9:20-21 NIV

The "law of Christ" is what should concern us as believers today, not the details, rites, regulations and rituals of the Mosaic law which were never ever completely complied with, cannot be complied with in any more than a small and tangential way today, and which were never meant for gentiles in our day and age.

On Romans 3:31 "Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law", you have it exactly backwards. Paul's point, obvious from even a brief perusal of an English translation, is that by emphasizing and following grace instead of the Law he is actually accomplishing the true purpose and spirit of the Law and fulfilling its mission, even though he is no longer living by it's letter: "for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2Cor.2:36 NIV).

As to Romans 3:1, "what value is there in circumcision", you have this backwards too. Paul affirms that there is "great value" in being Jewish (read the context; that is what this means), but only if it (and its sign, circumcision) is accompanied by faith as he just said in the preceding chapter:

A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and [true] circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
Romans 2:28-29 NIV

Circumcision without faith is nothing. Faith without circumcision is everything. If we add circumcision (and all that it represents, namely, partial, selective law-keeping) to faith, we cannot improve faith, but we do run the risk of damaging it . . . by adding man-made works to grace. This is what our Lord's "this generation" had done (read the gospels, please), so that attempting to follow in their footsteps is worse than the blind following the blind . . . because we have them as a negative example and thus have no excuse whatsoever if we do so.

I'm not angry at you. I feel sorry for you . . . and terribly afraid for you to the extent that you are determined to lead "little ones" astray with your dangerous false teaching. Deuteronomy 30:11 is clear enough on the face of it but is also explained by Paul at Romans 10:5ff. Immediately after assuring us that Christ has completed the Law (in the previous verse, Rom.10:4), Paul explains that it is faith which is near to us: salvation (not Law-keeping) is what is easy . . . for us (since Christ died for all of our sins). Making it difficult by loading it up with legalism is precisely what the great apostle of grace is combating with these words (rather than supporting your position):

But the righteousness that is by faith (i.e., not by law or works) says: "Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven . . .
Romans 10:6 NIV

I'm not sure why you keep going back to church history as if there were some lesson there for this discussion. If you really knew anything at all about this ministry you would know at least that it is adamantly opposed to tradition where there is a smidgen of legalism or compromise of the truth: the teachings at Ichthys are based on scripture, not tradition.

Finally, let me note that in this somewhat disjointed reply of yours you did not respond to my many points of the previous email nor did you answer my questions. I'm giving you a pass on that in this response only. If you wish to continue this dialogue, please respond to the previous questions. In particular, I need to know if you are merely a misguided brother in Christ (and worthy of my time) or a hardened unbeliever who does not accept that Christ is God as well as human (e.g.) . . . in which case you have gotten more than enough of your share of truth to turn from the wrath of God unto His grace in Jesus Christ so as to be saved.

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
Acts 16:31

Yours in the Lord who took on true humanity in order to pay the penalty for all of our sins on Calvary's cross, Jesus Christ the Messiah.

Bob L.

Question #28:

As to your question, I do keep as much Law as is physically possible, and concur with the Law of God given to Moses at Sinai 100%.

I realize that Messiah fulfilled the sacrificial aspects to the Law completely, and hence we no longer have a Temple.

I was not always Torah observant, if you care to spend a minute. My family is Jewish, but had not been observant for a long time (basically assimilated). I was not particularly religious. I was injured in a combat related vehicle accident in Biadoa Somalia in 1993, and over the years I became an alcoholic, a disabled vet that was also addicted to opiate pain killers and a variety of other illicit things--I'd pretty much destroyed my Marriage, Family, and Life! Some year ago I was about ready for a change, or Death, and I got on my knees and surrendered to Him for the first time and I felt a weight lifted when I went to bed that night. At 4:00 am I awoke with a feeling of warmth and Love that had entered the room that is beyond my ability to explain with words. I realized two immediate thoughts that entered my mind: He had only intended good for me, and He actually sent His Son to die for me! He was what I'd been missing all my life, and I'd been trying to fill the vacancy with garbage all my life. When I got up the next morning, I stood up easily without pain for the first time in 17 years. I literally felt like I could play professional football! I shared this with everyone who knew me; my wife promptly left me, and I was dis-fellowshiped by about every group I'd socialized with, but doors opened that you would simply have to have seen to believe.

I had to give my wife our house, and I lived at an apartment for our local fire and EMS volunteers. I'd been an EMT for many years but had lost my cert because of my drug problem. While at the apartment, I received a letter from our regional EMS that I could recert if I could test out. I was way past the window to do this, but they were offering a local class that I could sit in on. I passed this and got my recert, and went to work for State Forestry as a medic, and was offered the opportunity to get my Firefighter basic cert; I did it at 44 years old, and was the oldest guy in the class.

The Holy Spirit literally told me, "you need to go to sea," the same day that our EMS service chief got a call from a friend asking for medics for Shell's offshore oil project. His jaw dropped when I came back to the apartment and told him I'd decided to find a job on a ship, and he told me about the call he'd received earlier.

Fast forward a little, and I ended up with an additional dive cert, and working winters in Arctic Exploration camps. The Torah had long been in my heart from my youth, and like I said my family wasn't religious, but I knew every stitch of it I'd broken. I started praying about one part of it at a time like a child learning to walk, and He opened the doors. In oil field camps, just like the Marine Corps, you are exposed to some pretty crud individuals and thought, and speech, but I started praying about these occasions, and I'd get a call, or requested somewhere else every time. Someone would start a joke, and I would pray, and it would get interrupted – every time!

I prayed for more strength to stand firm among others, and started rebuking my coworkers in Hebrew for using the Lord's name in vain, then I'd translate it for them.

Passover is very special for all who have experienced His Passover sacrifice and redemption.

My wife eventually returned and we decided to keep all the feasts, but I was in camp for Passover two years ago. I decided to keep it and the days of unleavened bread in camp. I had no idea how to accommodate this in the Arctic, so I prayed. Two things happened: I got a call for a patient at another camp, and I would have to stay up with him all night.

If you are familiar with Passover you must stay up all night ready to move out, and you have special food requirements for the meal. While at the other camp, I decided to take a look in there kitchen to see what they had for food. I found flat bread and humus from Israel! I'd never seen this before in a camp. One of our equipment operators came by, and asked what it was that I had on the table in front of me, and I said "humus and flatbread for Passover," and asked him if he'd ever seen this in camp before? His jaw dropped and he said "Nope!"

Upon returning to my camp with my Pt., our cook came to my room, and told me he knew what I was doing, and that he'd worked in a Kosher Kitchen, and he could make food for me for the following week!

As I sat there at my Passover Seder, I thought about the Lord providing manna in the wilderness for the children of Israel, and that He's just done the same with me by providing Humus and Flatbread in the Arctic, and that Passover is for everyone who has ever come out of sin (Egypt), and experienced his Passover (Redemption on the Cross).

We could go round and round on scripture, and I could show you that Colossians 2: 16-17 is actually about Gentiles believers, who are not to let non-believing Gentiles judge them for doing Jewish customs (Law), and how the Creatures Lowered lowered from Heaven represented Gentiles who were not to be treated as unclean (more Rabbinic Tradition), but this is for each man to carefully search out for himself.

One scripture that particularly stands out to me, is "Seek you first the Kingdom of God, and all things will be added unto you."

This is my sincere wish for everyone!

Thank You for your Dialogue,

And may His Ruach be upon You.

Sincerely!

Response #28:

Thank you for the email, for the picture, and for your wonderful testimony!

I've already said that I don't presume to judge or instruct Jewish believers on how or to what degree they wish to celebrate their heritage. My sole concern is, as it was for Paul and Peter, protecting gentile believers from being led down false paths in this regard. You must be aware that there are a whole lot of "looney-tunes" out there who are not Jewish but who wish to play at being Jewish and in doing so confuse all manner of truth (I think if you'll reread what you may have seen on the website you'll see that combating this sort of thing is the thrust of everything I've written and posted on this subject); most disturbingly, many of these groups teach 1) that Christ is not God; and 2) that it is impossible for a gentile to be saved without keeping the Law (their version of it, that is; cf. Acts 15:1).

You certainly have a powerful testimony, and I think that any believer who has walked closely with the Lord will be able to relate to the sort unmistakable signs He gives to those who love Him and want to serve Him. Walking with Him in the Jewish way for a person of Jewish descent is certainly honorable, and in my view it is going to be more important going forward: the Tribulation is close at hand, and we know that there will be a major revival among the Jewish people beginning from its earliest days – in stark contrast to the Great Apostasy within the predominantly gentile Church; and that the 144,000 will be Jewish men who minister to this revival in a way which conforms to Jewish traditions (see the links).

I certainly agree about Peter's vision teaching him (and everyone else) that gentiles were "not to be berated as unclean"; however, I cannot agree with you on Colossians 2:16-17. I think it's pretty clear even from any English translation what is meant, if one reads the whole chapter. Paul is speaking to a gentile church about not being deceived "through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men" (Col.2:8 NIV). The purveyors of this "philosophy" (Jewish-based Gnosticism) were not that much different in terms of the trouble they caused from those who were teaching falsehood "according to the tradition of men" (i.e., teachers who claimed circumcision and following the Law was necessary for salvation). Both "flavors" of false teaching impugned the Person of Christ, the former claiming He was not really human (but rather an aeon or divine manifestation which appeared human), and the later claiming He was not really God, merely an exceptional human being, the Messiah, yes, but not divine in the same way as the Father is. Either false teaching is enough to destroy faith and cause the loss of salvation, so it is no wonder that Paul opposed these teachings vigorously. And if there were any doubt that the passage you adduce is talking about the problems with gentiles attempting to follow Jewish customs to the detriment of a pure faith in Christ, we find in Col.2:11, three verses later: "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ" (NIV) – by which statement Paul makes it abundantly clear that He is preferring the spiritual circumcision over the physical type (against which he is warning). It is in that context that he says in Col.2:16 "let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths". Note that there is no indication that the Colossians were actually observing these things (this is perhaps more clear in the Greek where some participle of action would be needed if that were what was meant) . . . and that is why he concludes in Col.2:17, "which [observances] are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ" (NIV). There is much more in this passage (and the book) to reinforce the point, but some things are obvious enough not to have to engage in "over-kill".

Thank you for your service to our country! And happy 4th of July!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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