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The Trinity and Messianic Legalism II


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Question #1: 

You wrote: Infinity: God is infinite in His nature, unlimited and unbounded in every positive way: When firmly grasped, God's infinity - infinity in every way and according to any conceivable true standard - is a clarifying concept, illuminating His abilities. God's infinite nature will always be more than the highest, the best and the purest that the human mind can comprehend.

Why did you decide to support this point with this particular passage?

Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.
Deuteronomy 6:4

Response #1: 

God's oneness, rightly perceived (to the extent it can be perceived) is only really explainable by the fact that He is "the only One", the Only, One – without Him there is nothing to a degree we cannot really comprehend.

Question #2:

It is an interesting observation by Chuck Missler that there is nothing infinite in the world in which we live, so the concept cannot be compared to anything we can see (Missler's point on God's infinity (Lesson 3 - day 2, page 9).

Response #2:   

I agree with the second part; but God is in this world as is His truth – and both are infinite.

Question #3: 

You wrote: to administer justice to His sinful creatures out of His holiness - not abandoning them to their sins, as evil suggests He must, but forgiving them Himself on the basis of the death on the cross of His Son, Jesus Christ, in their place (justification). We call the result of this act of His sovereignty mercy (Hebrew: chesed; Greek; eleos).

I'm not clear about this point - you describe God's justice as being reflected in God not abandoning us to our sins and forgiving them, but I would have thought that God's justice is expressed in the fact that sins need to be punished for it not to be compromised? And so rather than emphasizing forgiveness, as I understand things at the moment, I think that the requirement for payment could be taken to be as a result of this trait. Of course, God's justice has been in this respect also fulfilled by our Lord's payment for all sin on the cross, but the emphasis would be slightly different.

Response #3:   

His initiation of creations, which God was of course not obligated to do, carried with it certain responsibilities predicated upon who He is – He is just but also holy, possessing a character which is beyond reproach. To be faithful in His holiness and also to be just required the cross; as a result, we who have put our faith in the blood of Christ and the Person of Christ have the righteousness of God, are considered righteous by Him, all of the requirements of His justice having been met at the cross.

Question #4: 

I've got a few questions about God's characteristics as presented in this graph:

Overall Summary of the Essence of God

With regard to the infinite nature of God, I understand how immeasurability translates into omnipresence when applied, but why does spirituality into omnipotence and eternity translate into omniscience? With regard to God's character, I'm not sure how does truth translate into life?

Response #4: 

Being "above" space (or controlling it, if it helps to think of it that way), means that there is nothing beyond God's physical capabilities; in regard to the world it has the effect of Him being able to do anything.

Being "above" time (before it, if it helps to think of it that way) means that – for God – nothing happens in sequence but has always been; in terms of the world, it has the effect of Him knowing everything

Question #5:

You wrote: Despite the fact that no one has ever seen the Father while on this earth (see above), we are told that the elders saw the God of Israel (in company with Moses and Aaron: Ex.24:9-11), and we know that Moses entered the cloud of glory and spoke with the Lord on Sinai (Ex.24:16-18) and petitioned the Lord to "show me Your glory" (a request He granted: Ex.33:18ff.). We also find in Numbers 12:8 that Moses saw "the form of the Lord" and from Deuteronomy we know that unlike any other servant of the Lord, Moses spoke with Him "face to face" (Deut.34:10). This then surely is once again the Angel of the Lord, not the actual presence of the Father, but the appearance of the One who is sent by Him, speaks for Him, and who has undertaken to fulfill His plan of salvation in this world, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, appearing in pre-incarnate Christophany.

I'm not clear about Exodus 33:18 here. On the one hand, we know that no one has seen the Father and when we are told that Moses spoke with God "face to face", we know that Jesus Christ is meant. On the other hand, in Exodus 33:18 God says "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live" - wouldn't that mean that God the Father says that rather than the Son, of whom we know it was said that Moses spoke with Him "face to face"?

Response #5:   

I think "in its full glory unveiled" is what is meant – or at least what is behind this only seeming discrepancy. We can't yet see Him as He actually is – but some special believers at some times in the past have been given to see Him as He represented Himself to them, taking into consideration their human/physical limitations (cf. Ezek.1:26-28).

Question #6: 

It is possible that Keil and Delitzsch's take on it has some value:

Moses was emboldened by this, and now prayed to the Lord, "Let me see Thy glory." What Moses desired to see, as the answer of God clearly shows, must have been something surpassing all former revelations of the glory of Jehovah (Exodus 16:7, Exodus 16:10; Exodus 24:16-17), and even going beyond Jehovah's talking with him face to face (Exodus 33:11). When God talked with him face to face, or mouth to mouth, he merely saw a "similitude of Jehovah" (Numbers 12:8), a form which rendered the invisible being of God visible to the human eye, i.e., a manifestation of the divine glory in a certain form, and not the direct or essential glory of Jehovah, whilst the people saw this glory under the veil of a dark cloud, rendered luminous by fire, that is to say, they only saw its splendour as it shone through the cloud; and even the elders, at the time when the covenant was made, only saw the God of Israel in a certain form which hid from their eyes the essential being of God (Exodus 24:10-11). What Moses desired, therefore, was a sight of the glory or essential being of God, without any figure, and without a veil.

So since Moses desired to see a revelation surpassing more than he has seen before, maybe He wanted to see the Father's full glory, having seen our Lord previously and knowing that he has been seeing a mediator? Of course this is not to justify his request, as whoever has seen our Lord has seen the Father (John 14:9), but rather to somehow explain what appears as a verse somewhat difficult to reconcile with what has been previously said. I'm not sure, maybe Moses had some sort of understanding that God was appearing to him in a form that he could at the time bear with and wanted full access to God's glory, something not to be granted at that time and in his sinful condition.

Response #6:   

I think this is right. This shows how much Moses loved God and how much He desired God beyond all else. Clearly, Moses understood that he was not seeing all the glory of God – but that is what he wanted to see. That was impossible this side of heaven, but God did more for him than for anyone else in this regard out of respect, no doubt, for Moses' exceptional humility and love of Him. To what degree Moses understood the distinction between the persons of the Trinity is not perhaps possible to say; I think he had a good idea of it. The point is veiled to a large degree in the Old Testament for no small reason because of the problems with pagan idolatry and the need to emphasize the oneness of God. But I don't think Moses was underestimating the Angel of the Lord – rather, he wanted to see His full glory.

Question #7: 

Hi Dr.

"The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace." ’
Numbers 6:24-26 NKJV

Quick question, is the above passage an example of the Trinity in the OT? Verse 24 is God the Father, Verse 25 is Christ and Verse 26 is The Holy Spirit?

I hope you are doing well and If you don't hear from me. Have a Merry Christmas.

In Christ whose birth ushered in our redemption and salvation.

Response #7: 

The passage is certainly consistent with that doctrine and yours is a valid interpretation. I would be reluctant to call it an "example" inasmuch as distinguishing between the three members of the Trinity in the three verses is not something specifically indicated by the verses themselves, and for various reasons (as a palliative against paganism), the Trinity is mostly veiled in the Old Testament, even when it is present – to the degree that religious Jews are still well able to resist it. But we who believe can appreciate it, as you do, when we come across these indications that the Trinity was always "there".

Have a wonderful Christmas yourself, and please do keep me informed of events.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hello Bob,

I told you I would be back. I just wanted clarity from you about when Jesus is with the apostles after He is risen and He breathes on them saying receive the Holy Spirit, and He gives them the power to heal sins and cures the sick, isn't this evidence for the Trinity? The Spirit here once again is invisible (breath/wind)

Many thanks once again

Response #8:   

I would certainly agree. There is plenty of evidence for the Trinity throughout the scriptures, Old and New Testaments both, when rightly considered, all the way back to the first chapter of the Bible where God says "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness" (Gen.1:26). Who is "us" if not the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

Here are some links on that:

The Trinity and Messianic Legalism

Trinity Questions II

Christophany and the Trinity

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ II

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ.

The Trinity in Scripture.

Questioning the Trinity

The Trinity in Isaiah 63:10-15.

The One True God and the Trinity in the Old Testament.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I am currently reviewing your study on "The Theology of God" looking at "The essence of God". There is a very interesting verse, at least it is to me for it jumped off the page at me.

It is in 1 Corinthians 8:6:

"yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him."

I have read this verse many times, but never noticed the differences until today, it is truly amazing how God works. We are disciples and are still ever learning. The words that I have bolded are the ones that fascinate me, maybe not anyone else, but they did me. Just a comment and a question:

1. I was wondering why the words from whom and by whom are changed between God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ?

2. I understand we exist for Him; The Father, to do His work on earth as believers, but maybe there is a further explanation of the from whom and by whom.

I find that all of the studies I have reviewed are really wonderful. Again, it is because of the gift that God has given you, along with your extensive studying.

May He receive all the praise, honor and glory for all things we accomplish for Him.

Your friend and brother,

Response #9:   

Good to hear from you, my friend! Thanks ever so much for your encouraging words. I'm always happy to hear about the continuing growth of my brothers and sisters in Christ – it's the reason why we are still here after salvation.

As to your question, here is what I write in a footnote where this passage is quoted in BB 4A:

The roles of planning and effecting creation, often indistinguishable in the Old Testament, have been made distinct in the New. Compare Hebrews 1:10-12, a quotation from Psalm 102:25-27 applied to our Lord Jesus by the writer of Hebrews (cf. Heb.1:8). For more see Bible Basics: Part 1: Theology, section II.B.3, "The Roles of the Trinity in the Plan of God".

What I mean by this is that the from whom / for whom referring to the Father represents His chosen role in relation to creation as the Planner and Authority; whereas our Lord Jesus Christ's chosen role is as the Implementer and Mediator (the Spirit being the Empowerer and Guide – although Paul does not bring that in here, and it is usually the case that the Spirit's role is, again by choice, one of working in the background). This is discussed (in a slightly different way) in BB 1 at the link also in the footnote above: "Roles of the Trinity in the Plan of God".

It is fascinating and encouraging to consider just how perfectly God has worked everything out and how things are going precisely according to His all-inclusive and totally comprehensive plan. Nothing is an accident, nothing happens by chance, everything has been completely provided for by Him with whom we have to do, our dear heavenly Father through Jesus Christ His Son our Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus who is our Lord and our God, our perfect Savior, and the One we love more than life itself.

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Dear Dr. and friend,

Yes, I totally agree. I realized this just after I formulated the question. The roles of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit were very clearly explained in your excellent teaching. I was always of the opinion since I was born-again, that God the Father never came on earth because He cannot look upon sin. That is not to say that Jesus can either, but He was the One that God the Father chose to bear our sins, and save us from our sins. He came into this sinful world.

I was especially pleased that I was not wrong in my thoughts about God the Father never appearing on earth, but from your study I received clarification about Theophany and Christophany. I am now studying Christophany, which I am looking forward too. It is a rather extensive study and they all are; I can tell by the number of pages when I convert the document in to RTF format.

Again, I am so blessed by the LORD to have your Website.

May the ever living God be ever glorified by your work.

Your friend,

Response #10: 

You're very welcome.

Always a pleasure to hear from you, and thanks again for your encouragement.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Hi Bob,

Are we casting our burdens on Jesus or the Father?

Your friend,

Response #11: 

1st Peter 5:7 merely says "on Him", but in English and Greek both, pronouns have antecedents which are usually present in the near context. That would be "God" here, and in the NT that usually means "the Father" if there is no specifier to show that we are talking about the Son or the Spirit. However, as Jesus Himself tells us, "I and the Father are one" (Jn.10:30), and that "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (Jn.14:9). The Trinity are always of the same will and purpose in all things to a degree that human beings cannot understand this side of heaven. So in theological terms, there's no casting of a burden on one without casting it on all three; and in practical terms if we imagine ourselves casting our burden on the Father or on the Son there is no difference – they are not in competition:

"The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand."
John 3:35 NKJV

"For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him."
John 5:22-23 NKJV

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
John 14:6 NKJV

"And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son."
John 14:13 NKJV

Cast your burden on the LORD,
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.
Psalm 55:22 NKJV

Your friend in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Also, having read this reply and others on this subject I understand how the roles of the three members of the Trinity can overlap, but I'm not entirely clear why our Lord in John 2:19 still says that it is Him Himself and not the Father who will raise Him up?

Response #12:   

I think because we are His Church and belong to Him as His Bride in a special way. Whenever One member of the Trinity is mentioned as doing something it is usually a question of emphasis; the Trinity are "One" in purpose in an absolute way, so this sort of distinction has more to do with explaining things to finite human beings than it does with "task differentiation". That said, it is also true that there are some things which are importantly differentiated: only Jesus is a human being as well as God, and only He bore our sins (in His human body) that we might have life eternal. But our salvation certainly "cost" the Father too who had to judge His Son for us – and also the Spirit "through whom" Christ made His sacrifice (Heb.9:14).

Question #13: 

Hello Robert, you are always remembered in my prayers. I desperately need your help in understanding 1st John, 5:20. Is this a statement of Christ (HIS being) and our position in Christ? Or is this Christ's position and us in him as He (This One) is the true God and eternal life? Or is this saying that Christ is (This One) the true God and eternal life? Cause me to understand.

Your sister in Christ

Response #13:   

Here is how I translate the verse:

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us a heart for coming to know the truth. And we are in [the One who is] the Truth, even in [God's] Son Jesus Christ. This One is the true God and eternal life.
1st John 5:20

In this verse, John, speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, assures us that Christ actually did come into the world (and thus did provide for our salvation), that Christ is God, and that we are "in Him" forever (our position in Christ as part of Him now forever through the Spirit's baptizing of us into Him).

I hope this answers your question(s), but do feel free to write back.

Thanks for all your prayers, my friend! I'm keeping you and your family in mine as well day by day.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14: 

So does this statement mean, (that Christ is God), and that we are "in Him" forever (position in Christ through the Spirit's baptizing of us into Him). Christ is God- Christ’s being or position as the Son? I believe that according to the gospel of St John, that the Word was with God and the Word was God and came and dwelt amongst us in the flesh as the only begotten of the Father.

Is my understanding correct? Christ is God Our Father, manifested as the only begotten, to one day, a question for another day, acquiesce and hand everything back to the Father? Thank you helping me to understand, I truly want to grasp this.

In Christ,

Response #14: 

I think it's very clear from the opening verses of John that the Word (Christ) and God (the Father) are two different persons although they are both God. That, for example, is the only way that the Word can be "face to face with God" and at the same time also be "God" in His own right. Two separate persons

According to the traditional (and in this case true) formulation, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God. But the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Father, and the Father is not the Son. The Trinity are three distinct persons sharing one unique divine essence. Collectively they are God – but they are also three in person.

I would very much suggest that you read the portion of BB 1: Theology which deals with this issue: "The Persons of God: the Trinity" (there are lots of other links I could give you at Ichthys as well, but this is the best place to start). I am certainly also happy to correspond with you further about this issue.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Does God have a name? If so who is speaking at Gen 1:26 and to whom?

Response #15:   

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;
Genesis 1:26a NKJV

The Trinity (God: 'elohiym) is making a proclamation for our benefit at Genesis 1:26. The angels clearly heard it as well, and it is recorded here for us to read and understand. On the image of God, see the link: http://ichthys.com/Image-and-likeness-of-God.htm

On the Name "Lord", see the link: The meaning of the divine name .

This link may also be helpful to you: Can you give me some information on divine names in the Bible?

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #16: 

Is Father, Son, Holy Spirit all is one Jesus? And if so when being baptized should it be said in the name of Jesus instead of the Father, The Son, and the Holy Ghost?

Response #16:   

Good to hear from you.

God is three in person, one in essence. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are all God, and God is one, but the Father is unique, as is the Son and as is the Spirit (please see the link: "The Trinity"). Just as there is "one" mankind, so there is "one" God; but just as within mankind there are many persons, so in the Trinity there are three. The analogy only gives us a dim idea of the unity of the Trinity, however, because their "oneness" is perfect in every way with a unity of purpose and concord that defies human understanding – whereas people often have very little in common with one another.

As to water-baptism, that was a ritual of repentance for (believers in) Israel to prepare their hearts for the coming of the Messiah.

"I baptize you with water (i.e., physically) for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
Matthew 3:11 NIV

The one baptism of the Church is the baptism of the Holy Spirit which all receive when they first put their faith in Jesus Christ.

There is one body and One Spirit – just as when you were called it was in one hope that you were called. There is One Lord (i.e., Jesus Christ), one faith, one baptism. There is One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:4-6

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

https://www.reddit.com/r/TrueChristian/comments/51cdqs/is_belief_in_the_trinity_required_for_salvation/

Notice that only the Roman Catholics and Orthodox are giving the correct answer in regard to the question of whether belief in the Trinity is essential to be saved: "Yes." This is largely because mindless obedience to tradition, even if it doesn't guarantee accuracy or logical consistency, actually does guarantee that much of the truth will be transmitted. If Christians can manage to be wishy-washy on something as basic as the Trinity, then how will we ever resist the Antichrist? Christianity truly is doomed.

Joel Osteen googles "What is a Trinity?"

Response #17: 

It's an interesting question, but merely hypothetical. If it becomes a doctrinal question, it can lead people astray. Here is what I read in scripture:

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

One could translate equally well "trust in the Lord Jesus Christ". Now "Lord" indicates divinity, but it is entirely possible that many who "first believe" don't understand all the ins and outs of the hypostatic union and kenosis before the fact (at four years old I sure didn't), who Christ is, how He came to be human too, how He had to be man as well as God to redeem us from our sins. You see, the Spirit is the Evangelist in chief, and He makes enough truth clear to the spirit of the one hearing the good news for the person in question to be able to accept the truth so as to be saved. It's all about the person responding in faith to God, trusting in His deliverance from sin and death through a Substitute, unnamed before the first advent but now revealed as Jesus Christ. As a Christian grows, certainly, the Trinity is a key doctrine and, perhaps even more to the point, failure to understand it correctly can be a wedge used by the evil one to sow doubt and attack faith – and only believers are saved.

And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."
Acts 19:1-2 NKJV

These people were believers alright, but since they hadn't heard yet of the Holy Spirit at that point their grasp of the Trinity was incomplete, obviously. And it's fair to say that before our Lord was revealed, most of the Old Testament saints didn't have this doctrine clear . . . because, even though it is ubiquitous in the Old Testament, it had not yet been clarified through progressive revelation (cf. Col.1:26; 1Pet.1:10-12).

Once a person is saved today and begins to be educated in the faith, resisting the truth, any truth, is very problematic, and the Trinity is a key foundation of all other truths of scripture. However, we are saved "by grace through faith" and that salvation is "not of works" nor "of ourselves" but from God. We merely respond to Him, and just as it takes only the smallest mustard seed of faith to be saved in the first place so also it doesn't take an encyclopedic understanding of Christian doctrine before the fact.

So I would quarrel with any group which wants to take the power and the simplicity out of the gospel for those who have never heard about Jesus Christ. It is good news and part of that good news is the absolute simplicity of it. All we have to do to be saved is "not say no" to God when salvation through faith in Christ is presented to us. Later on we learn more about who He "is" – indeed we are learning more every day (or should be). But the idea that we sinful human beings can tell the Holy Spirit what He can and cannot use to save a person who wants to be saved is rather silly – especially since it's not delineated as such in scripture beyond the issue of accepting Christ.

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

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Dr. Luginbill,

I have some questions that I hope you can help answer. I have read some of your writing and I believe that you know the LORD and have a good understanding of scripture and life walking with Messiah.

My first question is in regard to Yeshua's deity. I have such a hard time understanding how God is and I have come to accept that but I just don't want to be believing something wrong. The way I see it is, Yeshua is the Word of God, the very Arm of God (Isaiah 53), the Spirit of Hashem who is Hashem, made flesh. There is a distinction between the Word and the Father but they are one God. I believe that Hashem has revealed Himself to us in three distinct ways but I am just confused about the three persons. I believe that Hashem is one but there is a type of plurality in His nature. I am stuck between a Modalist definition and Trinity definition because, while I believe that God has a plurality in His, the three separate persons confuses me. Unlike the Modalist, I believe that Hashem was and is, at the same time, The Father, The Word, and The Spirit. Also, when Yeshua says things like, "if you have seen me you have seen the Father" makes it seem like Hashem is not three DISTINCT persons. Im just not sure. What do you think of my understanding? I just want to believe in Him, the true Elohim and not created a God based on my limited understanding.

My second question is in regards to Torah observance. I believe that Yeshua and Rav Shaul were Torah observant Jews, not according to the Pharisees' interpretation, but of the true meaning of Torah. I also believe that Gentiles coming into the faith did not have to become Jews or follow Jewish law but I believe that Jewish believers should be Jews and follow Torah, not for salvation but simply because that is what Hashem has commanded the Jews to do. Both Jew and Gentile are only saved by faith in Yeshua and not by works of the law. So now my question, me being a Gentile, would it be wrong for me to follow the law? I do not feel compelled to be circumcised or to become a Jew, but I do feel a pull to following the law (specifically doing things like wearing Tzitzits). I know it won't save me but I feel like following these Laws will help keep my mind focused on Hashem and help me from falling into the way of "the world". I know as a Gentile I am not commanded to follow these but would it be wrong for me to follow the law as best as I can?

Thank you for your ministry. Im sorry if my writing is confusing.

Todah raba v'shalom,

Response #18:   

Good to make your acquaintance, and thank you for your email.

When it comes to something as crucial as the person and work of Jesus Christ, it is very important to stand on scripture – as opposed to logic.

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us." "
Matthew 1:23 NASB

Jesus is God. The Father is God. The Spirit is God. Jesus is not the Father. The Father is not the Spirit. The Spirit is not Jesus. All three persons of God are God. They are one – in essence; but they are three – in person. That is the traditional formulation of what is called today "the Trinity" (although that word does not occur in the Bible – we give names to many concepts that are true for convenience and clarity's sake). We have tested these truths and they are true. We also note that any variation from the truth that God is one in essence and three in person so completely misunderstands the basic tenets of scripture that grave spiritual consequences always result whenever anyone departs from it.

"I and the Father are one"
John 10:30 NASB

One of the reasons why the deity and the humanity of Christ are so important to understand and distinguish, though it may be little appreciated, is that in order to die for the sins of the entire world, without which sacrifice no one could be saved, Jesus had to be a human being (only a human being could bear sin), and He also had to be God (only by being God could He endure bearing the sins of every single human being who has ever or will ever live).

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:1 NASB

This is the truth. I am reluctant to engage in this discussion using the terminology "the NAME". First, because although of course "the name of the Lord" and other such phrases do occur everywhere in scripture, the Lord is never referred to in this simple way, "the Name", in the Bible. Second, because this is a term which has picked up all manner of connotations from its use in Jewish culture. I think it is clear just from your paragraph here that the term itself can be confusing to the issue.

For by Him (Jesus Christ) all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.
Colossians 1:16 NASB

From your reasoning here, it seems clear to me that you do accept the deity of Christ, and also His true humanity (during the early centuries of Christianity, the heretical notion that Christ was not precisely human was a big stumbling block particularly to Jewish Christians; as opposed to today when the truth of His deity is a stumbling block to many more). What I would like you to consider very carefully is that the gospels present the Lord Jesus Christ as absolutely distinct from the Father (as a person). He was with the Father before He created the world at the Father's behest. He came into the world, sent by the Father. In His time on this earth, He prayed to the Father, worshiped the Father, spoke with the Father, accomplished the Father's will, and revealed the Father. When He had died for the sins of the world according to the Father's will, He was resurrected and returned to the Father where He was glorified by the Father.

The Lord said to My Lord, "Sit down at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."
Psalm 110:1

Beyond all argument, therefore, the Messiah cannot also be the Father – in any personal sense.

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Daniel 7:13-14 NIV

As this passage makes clear, the Messiah is not the Father – and if the Messiah is divine as the Father is, then God has at least two persons (the Spirit is the third).

When everything scripture says about the issue is considered, the only conclusion faithful to scripture is that God is one, and that Jesus is God even as the Father and the Spirit are God. That can only mean that they share the same divine essence, even as they are three distinct persons.

Admittedly, you are not the only one in the history of Church, the assembly of believers from Eden until the second advent, to have trouble with this very critical truth. But while I understand your reluctance to "believe something false", please do consider that resisting believing in something true will lead you to something false just as certainly as night follows day. The Bible indisputably calls Jesus God (please see the links: "Where does the Bible teach that Jesus is God?" and "Jesus is God"); the Bible indisputably distinguishes between Jesus and the Father; the Bible indisputably stresses the oneness and uniqueness of God (i.e., the Trinity are not "gods", that are "God"). These things may seem incompatible or inconsistent to human logic, but God is not material nor subject to the smallness of human comprehension. God is one. And God is three. God is one in essence. God is three in person. God is not like human beings where three human beings are three persons but do not share one essence the same way Father, Son and Spirit do. There is much about the nature of God we cannot understand at present because we cannot truly appreciate it this side of eternity until we "know even as we are known". But we can and, for spiritual safety's sake, must believe in the truth of what scripture tells us about this critical truth. Here are some other links which may prove helpful to you:

Bible Basics 1: Theology (includes a detailed discussion of the Trinity)

Trinity Questions II

The Trinity in Scripture.

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ.

Explaining and Defending the Trinity and the Person of Christ II

Christophany and the Trinity

The Trinity and Messianic Legalism

The Trinity in Isaiah 63:10-15.

Questioning the Trinity

As to your second question, you certainly have it right when you recognize that for all Christians, Jewish or gentile, God's righteousness is given based on faith and cannot be earned by any sort of human effort. Whatever cultural traditions we choose to observe are our business. Many people in traditionalist denominations engage in all manner of rituals, rites and behaviors which have nothing to do with the Bible or true spirituality. Perhaps for some these may contribute to growth and sanctification. Personally, I'm skeptical. However, it is not my place to criticize another believer's walk. If there is no sin involved, and if the person in question is not relying on said behavior for spirituality, it may do no great harm. It is important to stress, however, that all spiritual growth comes from hearing and believing the truth of the Word of God, that all spiritual progress comes from applying that truth to one's life and walk with the Lord, and that all spiritual production comes from helping other believers do the same through the proper functioning of the gifts the believer in question has received from the Spirit (once, that is, he/she has grown up and progressed spiritually and has become prepared to use those gifts to best effect).

Jewish culture, Jewish ritual, and Judaism in general are extremely attractive. For that very reason, wherever they diverge from the truth they can be very dangerous to believers who are looking for answers in the wrong places. Paul is one the greatest believers who ever lived, and he wrote a very long epistle to Jewish believers warning them about their continued involvement in the temple rites (the book of Hebrews). And while it is true that there is no temple at present so that participating in the sacrifices which spoke of a Messiah not yet come is no longer a potential stumbling block, it is also true that the lack of a temple makes any serious carrying out of the Law impossible at present. Since failing in one part of the Law is failing in all, that is something anyone who wants to follow the Law even a little should always keep in mind. As Paul also said:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1 NIV

Here are some other links on this subject:

The Law, Love, Faith-Rest and Messianism

Paul and the Law

Grace versus Law.

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.

Do feel free to write me back about any of this, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Savior, "my Lord and my God!" (Jn.20:28).

Bob Luginbill

Question #19: 

Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you so much for your reply. It means so much that you would talk the time to answer. I will read the links that you send me and study more.

What do you think about circumcision and a gentile becoming a jew? If he knows that if won't save him, is it still wrong? I have no idea where my family is from and we don't have any traditions or anything like that. I go to a messianic congregation and I love the Jewish culture and how the Torah gives the Jews ways to worship YHWH. I just feel convicted about following the law for the fact that I am not a Jew and don't want to offend any Jews who think that only Jews should follow these laws.

When you talk about the Three sharing one essence, but different persons, isn't that the same as saying like three humans sharing one humanity but are three different humans? Wouldn't that mean it is three gods. Or is it that YHWH is a greater Being than we can understand and can still be one god but three? Regardless of my limited understanding, all I know is that YHWH is one God and that the Father, the Word and the Spirit are all YHWH and the Word was fully manifested in Yeshua.

I think that my search to understand God's nature is a cover of my doubting the genuineness of my faith. I don't ever feel the LORD's presence. Ive only been following Yeshua for about three years now. I just don't know how to know that I am truly his. I don't understand who he is and I am constantly plagued with doubts. I feel really far from him. I don't know what to do though. I don't know if I truly want to follow him enough. I mean, I feel like I believe He is truly all that I want but I continue to sin and know that I don't love him and seek after him like he deserves. But even though I have all these doubts and don't feel anything, I will never give up seeking him because, regardless of my doubts, I know Yeshua is the messiah, the Word of God in the flesh and the only one who can give me life. I just don't know how to truly examine my heart to see if these beliefs are genuine. Ive asked Him to save me and help me to trust in him but nothing has changed. I will never give up because he is all that I have but I am just so tired. What do you think I should do?

Thank you for your ministry. Please let me know if I can pray for you in any way. Todah Raba.

Response #19:   

You're very welcome, my friend. I hope and pray that you will be led to all confidence in the truth on these important matters. On "gods" vs. God, it's important to note as your language indicates you may suspect God is so much more than anything we can imagine that comparisons of exactitude are impossible. That, by the way, is why scripture tells us that while we are made "in" the image of God, we are created only "according to" His likeness – meaning that we all as individual persons have free will which is a counterpart, very small but exact in terms of absolute self-determination, to the WILL of God; but when it comes to our collective human essence we are not as exactly comparable (Hebrew ce- "according to His likeness" being much less exact that Hebrew be- "in His image" to time and space, while God's absolute spirituality existed before creation). And while the Trinity are so close as to make the idea of any difference of will between them ludicrous (compare that to pagan pantheons), human beings rarely agree on anything. On top of that, while some of us are believers and have/will use our free will to choose to say "yes!" to God's WILL with our will so as to be saved, the vast majority of human beings in human history have arrogantly said "no!". These are profound differences. And they demonstrate clearly that while we understand human nature, being human, there is much about the divine nature that escapes us. But we cannot let our ignorance on points which scripture does not illuminate lead us astray as to points of truth which it clearly does teach. God is one; Jesus is God; the Father is God; the Spirit is God. They are all referred to as "Lord" (YHVH). So they are one God, 'elohiym – which is a plural word, one should note – even as they are three in person.

"Let us make man in our image (i.e., give him the power to choose individually), according to our likeness (i.e., there will be many of him, but not sharing the same essence as we do)."
Genesis 1:26 NASB

These matters are discussed in more detail at the link in BB 3A: "The Creation of Man"

As to circumcision, that is a sign of the old covenant and a pledge to "keep the Law" – not just part of the Law but all of the Law, something which is undeniably impossible today – especially for those who are not even believers (faith being one of the Law's "weightier matters", since the Law's underlying symbolism and truth is much more important than the outward ritualized "keeping" of it: Matt.23:23). Here is what Paul says in the verses immediately following the passage I quoted last time:

Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
Galatians 5:2-4

I understand that it would not be your intent to seek justification from the Law, but mixing grace with works in this way is a very dubious thing and a very slippery slope. After all, if it was "not really so bad" and even "a good thing" to adopt what one may of the Law, why was Paul so adamant about the matter above? Only because by going back to the shadows of the past once the reality of Christ has been revealed is never going to be spiritually helpful and can only be spiritually hurtful.

I think your testimony about your spiritual state is an indication that "more of the same" will only result in "more of the same" if intensified and further pursued. The only way to feel closer to Christ is to actually get closer to Christ, and the only way to get closer to Christ is through the truth of the Word of God, hearing it, believing it, and living it. That is true spiritual growth, growth that transforms us on the inside so that we may manifest the love of God on the outside in service to the Lord who bought us by dying in the darkness on the cross for all of our sins. There is much to say on that subject too – probably the most critical one for believers even if very imperfectly understood by most groups which profess to follow our Lord. Here a few links to get you started:

Spiritual Growth II

Spiritual Growth I

Spiritual Growth, Church-Searching and "Discipling"

Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth.

Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Growth

Forward progress necessary spiritual growth.

Believing the Bible for Spiritual Growth.

No Growth without Faith (in Peter #14)

Bible Teaching and Spiritual Growth (in Peter #13)

The Judgment and Reward of the Church (in CT 6)

Virtue Thinking: Applying the Truth for Spiritual Growth and Progress (in Peter #16)

Progression of Virtues (in Peter #17)

Spiritual Growth requires Bible Teaching

Spiritual Growth vocabulary

Spiritual Growth: the solution to "ups and downs" 

Be pleased to stand fast in the freedom for which Christ set us free (Gal.1:).

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

What do you mean by "I think your testimony about your spiritual state is an indication that "more of the same" will only result in "more of the same" if intensified and further pursued."

Response #20: 

When you write:

I think that my search to understand God's nature is a cover of my doubting the genuineness of my faith. I don't ever feel the LORD's presence. Ive only been following Yeshua for about three years now. I just don't know how to know that I am truly his. I don't understand who he is and I am constantly plagued with doubts. I feel really far from him. I don't know what to do though. I don't know if I truly want to follow him enough. I mean, I feel like I believe He is truly all that I want but I continue to sin and know that I don't love him and seek after him like he deserves. But even though I have all these doubts and don't feel anything, I will never give up seeking him because, regardless of my doubts, I know Yeshua is the messiah, the Word of God in the flesh and the only one who can give me life. I just don't know how to truly examine my heart to see if these beliefs are genuine. Ive asked Him to save me and help me to trust in him but nothing has changed. I will never give up because he is all that I have but I am just so tired. What do you think I should do?

This seems to me to be a clear indication of spiritual malnutrition. The only "R/x" for this is spiritual growth through disciplined and consistent Bible study, taking in the truth of the Word of God from a tested, reliable source where you can receive the spiritual nutrition every Christian needs in order to grow up beyond doubts and uncertainties and into the fully functioning and resolute faith of spiritual maturity. It certainly doesn't have to be Ichthys – but ritual and emotion are not a substitute for solid spiritual food.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Thank you so much for your replies. It means so much to me that you would care enough to take time to do it. It is a blessing and the content on your website is amazing.

If you don't mind, I have a few more questions:

How does a person truly receive Jesus? I believe that he is who he says he is, I want to stop sinning, Ive asked him to forgive me, and I have committed my life to following him. I am doing my best to trust him more everyday. But what does it mean to "receive him"? I want him, and him only but I don't know what that exactly looks like.

Secondly, whenever I ask the Lord for forgiveness or pray to the Lord, I get this feeling in my stomach that something is wrong or that I don't belong to Him. My mind can't comprehend that He is truly there and it makes me doubt even though I know He is. I hate these feelings and the doubts that pop into my mind. I know I have called on Jesus to save me and I have come to Him and asked him for forgiveness. Do you think it is okay to push away these doubts and feelings and hold on to promises like "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." and "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out"? I would like to but I also don't want to ignore them if it is a sign that I do not have a relationship with the Lord.

Thirdly, what does God's discipline look like in a believers life? Is it just physical, or can it be more of an internal thing? Even though punishment is not something that you should want, it would be assuring to know that the struggle I am going through is punishment because it would assure me that I am His child.

Thank you so much sir.

Response #21: 

As Paul and Silas told the Philippian jailer and his family, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!" (Acts 16:31). Salvation comes to all who put their faith in Jesus for salvation, all who believe in Him – who He is, God and man, and what He has done in dying for all of our sins. In regard to salvation, sin is an issue only in demonstrating to us that we are not good enough to be with God forever absent some gracious intervention. That gracious intervention is of course the cross, and since Jesus has died for all sin, we are not held accountable for any sin except the sin of refusing to receive God's Gift. We receive it by faith, by believing in Jesus Christ who is our Lord and Savior, but trusting in Him for life eternal. Do you believe in Jesus? Then you are saved. Only those who do not believe in Him remain under judgment (please see the link: "Salvation: God's Free Gift").

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:18 NKJV

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.
John 5:24 NKJV

It's not uncommon for believers, especially new believers who have not yet reached a peak of spiritual maturity, to have doubts about all manner of things. Doubt is an indication of weak faith – not of NO faith, but of weak faith. Faith is like a mustard seed. I starts off very small – only the tiniest amount is necessary to be saved. But if it is properly nurtured it will grow and grow and become a huge tree. Faith is like a muscle. It starts out weak, but if it is given proper nutrition and exercise it can grow large and strong. Faith has to be fed – with the truth of the Word of God. Then faith has to believe that truth in order for the growth process to happen. Please understand. Faith doesn't grow from wrestling with a few points of truth over and over again. It grows from believing the truth and from feeding the spirit with ever more truth which is likewise believed and then applied to one's life and Christian walk – until at last a fully formed tree emerges with roots reaching deep down to the Rock which supports it and branches stretching high to the Light which sustains it. This doesn't happen over night. But like good seeds sown in good soil, before one knows it the seeds are sprouting, and growing, and producing a full crop of grain.

By all means believe the promises you have learned! And feed your heart with more and more day by day. That is the way to put doubt to death and to become are a real faith-warrior for our dear Lord Jesus. For our Lord to draw closer to you, you have to draw closer to Him.

I have set the LORD always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
Psalm 16:8 NKJV

Come near to God and he will come near to you.
James 4:8 NIV

The Lord will become more real, more personal, more meaningful to you with every positive step forward; so do be pleased not to stand still or slip backward. This progress is not achieved by accident or by hand-wringing or by emotional gymnastics. It is achieved by prayer, by reading your Bible, by accessing good, sound, in-depth Bible teaching daily, and by believing the truth you learn and applying it consistently to your life. Here are a few links on this:

Walking with Jesus.

Peter #17: Imitating Christ

Spiritual Growth II

Spiritual Growth I

On the issue of divine discipline, being a perfect Father, God knows the perfect way to get the attention of any one of us, and also how to treat us in just the right way for best effect – as any good father would. We are dealing with someone who loves us more than we know, not with an authoritarian and Procrustean legalistic system where things proceed according to some actuarial and transactional basis – rather, we are dealt with on the basis of grace. Please see the links for the details on this: The Fact and Purpose of Divine Discipline and Principles of Divine Discipline (BB 3B).

Keep fighting the good fight of faith, my friend, and do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you so much for your patience and answers,

Also, Ive been really struggling when I am praying. I know that God is there and real and that Jesus is truly in heaven right now, but whenever I pray and try to picture Him being there, I feel like something is blocking me from understanding it. I know that he is there but I don't feel His presence at all. I don't know what to do. Ive asked Him to help me with it but He hasn't answered.

How does one believe the truth though? And how can one really know that they believe? Im not sure that I have. I believe that Yeshua was who he says he is and that he is the only way to salvation but I don't know if I have personally given him my trust. I want to, so badly. I know its only him who can save me. I have cried out to him asking him to save me, but I find myself doubting whether or not if I have trusted in him. I want to. I know he is trustworthy but I can't tell if I have really trusted in him. I don't know what to do. I feel hopeless because no matter what I do or how much I plead with him to save me, I can't change. I hate it. How can I know that I have? I want him, I know that he is all that there is. I just feel so far. Only he can save me and change me. I don't know what to do.

Response #22:   

You're very welcome. Belief is an act of will. It is so much an act of will that I sometimes call it "free-will faith". We choose to believe something or someone and we choose not to believe something or someone all the time. We can believe what/who is not true, if we will to do so; and we can disbelieve what/who is true, if we will to do so. Jesus is God (the second person of the Trinity); He came into the world, taking on true humanity, in order to be able to bear our sins on the cross; this He did, dying and paying the price for every single sin of every human being who has ever lived or will; when He had done so, He was resurrected (ascended and was seated at the right hand of the Father), which is both the proof of the acceptability of His sacrifice and the promise of our future resurrection (Rom.4:25). If you believe this, you are a believer; if you do not believe this, then you are not a believer. Believers choose to believe the truth of the gospel and hold it in their hearts by faith, trusting in God's veracity and faithfulness; unbelievers refuse to believe the truth of the gospel and resist letting it into their hearts by a corresponding act of will. There are only these two categories, and everyone belongs to one or the other, either believers who are saved, and unbelievers who are not. If you are resisting the gospel (see also "Salvation: God's Free Gift"), then take my advice and stop saying "No!" to God and say "Yes!" to His gracious offer of salvation through faith in Christ instead. But if, as seem much more likely to me after all our correspondence, you are in fact a believer, merely one who is in need of building up his faith through spiritual growth, then what is needed is precisely that, namely, not some "second salvation" but rather beginning to believe all of the truth of the entire Word of God.

How do you know what the truth is? The Spirit it makes it clear to your spirit when you put yourself in a position to hear the truth. How do you believe the truth? You merely accept it by putting your faith in it – that is an act of trust, believing, faith . . . of your free-will exercised in faith. People who do no believe, whether the gospel or points of truth after salvation, are rejecting it of their own free will. We believe what other people have written all the time in secular fields; the process is the same in terms of biblical truth, with the important exception that it is the Holy Spirit who makes the actual truth real, meaningful and understandable to us (see the link: "Epistemology and Epignosis").

If you are a believer (as I assume you are), you started out this relationship with the Lord by being born again through putting your faith in Christ. The only way to preserve that relationship and to grow it is to build that same faith likewise by means of believing the further truths of scripture in exactly the same way.

But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on advancing in the same way!
Philippians 3:16

(6) So then, exactly as you [originally] received Christ Jesus as [your] Lord, be walking in Him [in the very same way], (7) rooted and built up in him, established in the faith just as you were taught, overflowing with thanksgiving.
Colossians 2:6-7

Just as you put yourself into a place where you heard the gospel message and then believed in it to be saved, so now after salvation you need to put yourself into a place where you can here basic, then intermediate, then advanced truths of the Word of God . . . and when and if you believe them you will grow. As you grow, your faith will strengthen and all of this doubts will melt away. But they only melt away through strongly believing actual Bible-truth – and that is not available everywhere (with apologies, it doesn't seem to be present to any large degree in the place where have put yourself at present). This is a process, like the growth of a mustard seed, wherein faith starts out small and weak, but grows strong and tall when nourished with the water of the Word of God – truth believed and made real in the heart through the Holy Spirit.

Please understand. You can't analyze your way forward or out of doubt. You have to grow your way out. Just as you became a Christian through believing truth (the gospel), so the only way to grow in the Christian life thereafter is by believing more truth (basic, then intermediate, then more advanced biblical truths). Truth is the essential nutrient of the faith-seed within you, that is, the water of the Word which makes your faith plant grow. But you actually have to hear the Word (fill your bucket) and believe truth when it is taught to you (water you faith-plant). When and if you do so on a regular basis, you will find your confidence in the Lord, in prayer, and indeed in all things spiritual growing apace. But if you don't nourish your faith plant with the Water of the Word, then it will not grow – and in some cases has been known to shrivel and die (Matt.13:5-6; 13:20-21). The Christian way of life is all about getting to the other side with faith intact – and optimally doing more than that – growing to maturity, progressing in the tests of maturity, and helping others do likewise through ministry – since that is the way the crowns of eternal reward are won.

There is plenty in the links previously sent to sink your teeth into for starters – and more than enough on Ichthys to keep you fed and growing for a good many years. You cannot neurose your way out of these spiritual doubts and anxieties, but you can (and should) grow your way out. I think that is why the Lord led you to this ministry. You are searching for answers. Be pleased to accept them when you see they are correct, and act upon them with all spiritual vigor. That is the only path of spiritual safety; that is the path of eternal reward; and that is the only way to please our Savior Jesus Christ, "my Lord and my God!" (Jn.20:28).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23: 

I thought you would find this interesting? Tell me where he is wrong?

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQgWahURtYU

Response #23:   

Yes, there is all manner of this fine sounding nonsense out there in cyberspace these days, and the Messianics who fail to accept the Trinity are a real problem (see the link). Because if a person sees Jesus as the Messiah and as "very special", that is all well and good. But failing to appreciate that He is God means that one does not accept Him for who He really is, God and man, one unique person with two natures, human and divine, since the point of the incarnation. That is comparable to what the Pharisees did when confronted by Him with the truth.

Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
John 5:18 NKJV

This is so important. Because without being God no one could possibly stand judgment for all of the sins of the entire world – and of course only a human body could receive those sins. The cross is the basis of all things. And all heresies which attack the person of Christ, whether from the divine side or the human side or from misunderstanding / misrepresenting the truth of one person, two natures, all of them invalidate the cross by making the sacrifice either impossible or meaningless. And the cross is everything.

A couple of points on the specifics (feel free to write back about any of the details). First, the fact that Jesus is the Angel of the Lord does not mean that He is not God (see the link). The fact that He has taken on the role of Agent in the plan of God does not mean that He is not God. The fact that Jewish tradition understands these things differently is hardly surprising inasmuch as it has virtually everything else of spiritual importance wrong as well. And the Talmud (and associated writings) only go back to the period after the destruction of the second temple (the Talmud dating to ca. 500-600 A.D.; the Misnah is earlier, ca. 200-300 A.D. but says little about such matters). So the only witnesses we have to what Moses thought or what David thought about these matters is the Bible itself. And the Bible says what it says, namely, the Angel of the Lord represents Himself as the Lord on numerous occasions (e.g., Ex.3:6). There is only one God, but in three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all of whom are Lord. The Son though God subordinated Himself to the plan of the Father and to the authority of the Father in order to carry out this one perfect plan, the plan that required such subordination and self-humbling . . . to the point of death . . . to the point of the cross (Phil.2:5-8). Otherwise, no one could be saved. It all comes back to the cross, and these gentlemen clearly do not understand what all "this" is about: Jesus died for and atoned for every single one of our sins, and that is something which is unfathomable in its magnitude except to say that in its smallest part it is bigger than anything which ever could even be imagined in an eternity of imagining by all humans and angels together. Failing to understand who Christ really is of necessity diminishes what He has done, namely, accomplish the plan of God as only the God-man could do by dying as our Substitute. Probe any of these heretical teachings beyond the surface and you will see: they do not understand or appreciate the cross.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the true Messiah who is both God and Man.

Bob L.

Question #24: 

The Bible is full of expressions about the father, son and the Holy spirit, others even state more emphatically that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of his father, my question is, if one were to go to heaven today, would one find three thrones there?

Response #24: 

There is one throne in heaven today. The Father is seated on that throne and the Son is seated with Him "at His right hand" (Ps.110:1; Rev. 5:6; please see the link for further details). The Spirit is represented as well (Rev.1:4).

Question #25:

You wrote: All the above examples of Christ's role of representing the Father in God's plan of salvation support the position that all Old Testament Theophany is truly Christophany, the Son appearing, representing, and speaking for the Father before His incarnation.

Could you clarify on what basis we are able to say that Christ representing the Father in God's plan of salvation support the position that Old Testament Theophany is Christophany? I understand both points, but I'm not sure about the exact link between them - it could seem that the fact that our Lord represents the Father, as taught in the New Testament passages you provide:

a) the Son's ascension into heaven (Ps.110:1 with Matt.22:44);

b) the Son's ascension to the throne on earth (Ps.45:6-7 with Heb.1:8-9);

c) the Son's primacy from creation to eternity (Ps.97:7b with Heb.1:6).

May not necessarily imply that every Theophany is a Christophany? Hopefully I'm making my question clear here - I understand and agree with both points you make, but it's the direct relationship that I would like to be able to comprehend. Please correct me if I'm wrong, at the moment the logic may be that if it is Christ who is shown in the New Testament to represent the Father (as evident through Matthew 22:44, Hebrews 1:8-9 and Hebrews 1:6), then it is also Christ who appears on Father's behalf in the Old Testament.

Response #25:   

Yes, that (i.e., to demonstrate that the NT passages may be applied/extrapolated to OT ones) is exactly the point I'm trying to get across, if inartfully so: Jesus is the One who is the Mediator between the Father and humanity; as such, it was appropriate for Him to be the One who represented the Father throughout the Old Testament before the incarnation, but now we see Jesus Himself distinctly separate – as a true human being as well as God.

(14) Therefore since these children (i.e., believers) have a common heritage of flesh and blood, [Christ] too partook of these same [common elements] in a very similar fashion (i.e., not identical only in that He was virgin born and so without sin), in order that through His death He might put an end to the one possessing the power of death, that is, the devil, (15) and might reconcile those who were subject to being slaves their whole lives long by their fear of death.
Hebrews 2:14-15

Question #26: 

You wrote: The Angel first appears to Moses in the burning bush (Ex.3:2ff.). It is the Angel of the Lord who appeared to Moses in the fiery flames (v.2), but shortly thereafter the Angel represents Himself as God the Father, saying "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob (v.6), and "I shall be who I am" (v.14), and is further identified as "the Lord" (in v.7).

Why should we take the Angel representing Himself as God the Father here? I would have thought that it is simply our Lord speaking on His own behalf as God, so that we've got a clear testimony of His own deity and a separation between these two Persons of the Godhead.

Response #26:   

Jesus is God and He is also the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – as is the Father whom the Son serves in the plan of God. However, in scripture wherever "God" is used by itself it is almost always referring to the Father. The Spirit is God and the Son is God, but when the Bible uses the word "God" without qualifying it, it should usually be taken to be the Father who is meant (or occasionally the entire Trinity as in Genesis chapter one). So what we have here is Christ appearing in Christophany as "The Angel of the Lord", representing Himself variously as such but also representing the Father, that is, speaking the Father's words for the Father as the Father's representative to mankind through whom the Father saved all who were willing to be saved.

Question #27: 

You wrote: At Exodus 23:20-23 as part of the giving of the Law to Moses on Sinai, the Angel of the Lord (identified as such as we saw above from New Testament passages such as Gal.3:19-20; Heb.2:2; Acts 7:38 & 53) proclaims that He is going to "send" the Angel before the Israelites to lead and guard them (as Christ is sent by the Father). Moses is also told that they are to obey the Angel "because My Name is in Him" (v.21), a similar description to that of the returning Son of Man in Revelation 19:11-16.

I'm not clear about this part - how can the Angel of the Lord send another Angel before the Israelites? Is it our Lord sending another Angel, or is it the Father speaking of sending Jesus Christ?

Response #27: 

As in all such situations, the Son is acting as and speaking for the Father, so He speaks of Himself as the Father has directed: as the Father would send the Son, so here the Father sends "the Angel", all this in our passage being described by the Angel Himself who is Christ in Christophany.

Question #28:

As I am now reading Exodus in Hebrew, I thought that maybe Exodus 23:21 could be taken as a reference to our Lord's divinity. The Angel of the Lord is in this verse described as having the power the forgive transgression:

Exodus 23:21 (NASB)
1 Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him.

Next verse is also interesting:

Exodus 23:22 (NASB)
22 But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.

When God says "But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say" I'm wondering whether by "all that I say" He means these words whereby He exhorts Moses to listen to His Angel, or whether He means the words that the Angel Himself will speak - "But if you truly obey His voice and do all that I say through Him - as He is God with me and what He says, I say".

Similar situation seems to occur in the next verse, where the role of the Angel and God Himself seem to be conflated:

Exodus 23:23 (NASB)
23 For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.

Response #28:   

Yes indeed. Since the Lord Jesus Christ is the revealed Person of the Trinity and the Father's specific representative sent to save the human race, in these situations He often speaks for the Father ("He") and also for Himself ("I"), and is also described in this way as at the burning bush:

There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight-why the bush does not burn up." When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am."
Exodus 3:2-4 NIV

Question #29: 

Ok, understood. Just to make sure - I have interpreted that it's the Father speaking in Exodus 23:21 of His Angel - our Lord. Is that correct?

Response #29:   

The Father never appears for reasons of sanctity; so all theophanies in the Bible are for that reason actually Christophanies (unless the venue is not on earth as in Revelation chapter five or Daniel chapter seven). We see this even in cases like this one you ask about through John's interpretation for us of Isaiah chapter six where he says "These things Isaiah said when he saw His [i.e., Christ's] glory and spoke of Him" (Jn.12:41) – though without understanding the principle at issue we probably would have assumed that it was actually the Father in Isaiah chapter six – whereas we know from John's gospel that it was Jesus appearing as/for the Father (in accord with this principle).

Question #30: 

So does it mean that it's our Lord speaking in Exodus 23:20ff.? I assumed it was the Father and considered it possible since He doesn't actually appear in His full glory. But if it is our Lord, then why does He speak of the Angel in third person ("I'm going to send an angel" in verse 20) if it was going to be Himself?

Response #30: 

Yes, because in all such instances Christ is appearing for and acting in the Father's stead (cf. Mal.4:1, e.g.).

Question #31: 

Genesis 48:15-16 (NASB)
15 He blessed Joseph, and said,
"The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day
16 The angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads;
And may my name live on in them,
And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth."

I may be wrong , but it seems that Jacob in Genesis 48:15-16 equates God with the Angel - could it be a piece of evidence for the deity of our Lord, whom Jacob here considers one with God the Father?

Response #31: 

Yes. It's not a Christophany per se, but a reference to Christophany. The word "angel" or malakh, in Hebrew means, literally, "messenger", and it is often used to refer to an "appearance" from God in some form – that is, as in this case, God sending a message via a messenger. This is sometimes an angel (as we think of the word), and sometimes God Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ (represented as the Angel of the Lord) in Christophany.

Question #32:

As I'm now going through Walker's "History of the Christian Church", quite a comprehensive view of our Lord's nature seems to have been expressed by Athanasius (page 140):

With Arius, Athanasius accepted the view that there can be no halfway house between Creator and creature. Unlike Arius, however, he was convinced that creation and redemption alike imply and entail a direct presence of the Uncreated God in and for creatures - an immanence of the Transcendent. It would not do, therefore, to attribute creation and redemption to a glorified creature like the Arian Logos and thus to isolate God from God's world. No more was it possible for humanity to come to share in the divine way of being - to be "divinized" - except through the presence of the one who is truly God. Thus, the Logos, in and through whom God creates and redeems, must be all that God is.

I know that this is a theological summary rather than scriptural argument, but it does sound quite correct. What do you think?

Response #32:   

I'm no authority on Athanasius, so I cannot speak to the accuracy of Walker's characterization of his teachings. I will note that Walker presents these teachings as essentially "making stuff up" and then gives a "theological" rationale for why he made stuff up differently from the stuff Arian "made up". This is a good quote to keep handy to remember that the mindset of those who do not actually accept the truth of God and His Word have when they feel inclined to comment on these issues. We know that Christ is God and man (since the incarnation), and that He is truly both. Any theory or system or teaching which would seek to diminish or confuse the truth of either His completely divine or truly human nature is heretical.

Question #33: 

Dear Bob,

This week's email started a train of thought about sin and rejection of Christ. Thinking of my friend involved in a cult, the question stimulated by this weeks email is: If they (my friend and her cult) try to return to Mosaic law (in part) are they not rejecting the New Covenant? Isn't that a rejection of Jesus Christ and His salvation? (Hebrews 6:6)

She isn't a charismatic, as far as I'm aware, but aren't the charismatics also in the same, or nearly the same boat? Asked another way, isn't that the apostasy mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 or is that something even worse? If I have misunderstood, please clarify.

If I haven't thanked you recently for your ministry, let me do so now. Your comments and emails have been such a great help to me as I'm sure they have been for others as well. And, yes, you've offended me, overturned some long held beliefs and pointed out my weaknesses and shortcomings. I thank you.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #33:   

Thanks for the encouraging email!

As to the question of your friend, it's always hard to know what is going on in another person's heart. The group or church they align themselves with may give clues, but people very notoriously do not necessarily believe the teachings of the groups to which they belong – to the extent that they even fully understand them in many cases. There are many reasons for joining a group, and in the case of groups which are not biblical in their doctrines and teachings (or not interested really in doctrines and teachings) getting "the truth" is therefore seldom the prime motivation for joining. In this case, that is good news. Even if believing what this group teaches would amount to be being an unbeliever, that doesn't mean your friend has actually drunk the Kool-Aid to that degree. But of course it's still not a good thing to be involved with any group which is not actually devoted to the actual truth.

When it comes to Messianic type groups, just as in traditional main-stream Protestantism there are many different types and many different approaches when it comes to specifics. Some I would only sigh over but not be overly worried about the salvation of anyone I cared about getting involved; others would set me in a panic for the sake of anyone near and dear. The biggest potential danger I have found in these groups is related to what you ask about, namely, the (somewhat) subtle rejection of the New Testament by exalting the Old, but really far worse: in their zeal to see things from a traditional Jewish point of view, many of these groups reject the deity of Christ either subtly or outright. And it makes no difference if a person "loves Jesus" and "accepts Jesus" as "great", if at the same time His true Person is denied. For it is hard for me to see how a person could think Jesus was only a (great) human being, and still have any idea what the cross means. I'm always agnostic about individual cases, but it's clearly not a good thing to follow down that road, and I certainly know of instances of such groups/teaching undermining faith and salvation in the case of believers, and of inhibiting salvation in the case of those who have not yet believed.

For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
2nd Corinthians 7:8-10

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #34: 

Dear Bob,

You've raised an interesting point and one I hadn't really considered. I'm a loner by nature and never considered someone would join a group (any group) for other than the common goals of that group. I don't join groups even when I agree with their stated goal.

Thinking about it, though, I have a friend who was raised Catholic and still attends, though I believe she does it more because of familiar habit, family, etc. But I believe she is a believer.

Sometimes it's difficult for me to separate the ritual from the substance. My alarm with my other friend was that she was actually behaving a way that seemingly, as you said, subtly rejects Christ's sacrifice.

Perhaps it's a phase – much like one I went through. I should heed Paul's warning and not judge on days or meat. Still, it feels like this kind of behavior will be a major part of the great apostasy to come. (That falling away appears to be happening now.)

Thanks for your patience.

Yours in Jesus Christ who saves all who believe in Him,

Response #34: 

Yes, its like when we have teenagers who get involved in dangerous stuff. We hope and pray and trust "it's just a phase", but that doesn't make it any less dangerous nor does it make us any less grateful when they finally do move on to "less dangerous stuff". The difference here is that while it is probably inevitable in our society that teenagers, even good ones, will experiment with dangerous stuff (if only because they are often insulated to some degree from doing much more than rubbing elbows with the real world even if they do see it all on their smart phone), adults who get involved in cult-like churches or who are determined to remain involved in tradition-bound dead churches or religions are making real and often lasting choices. The longer they stick with it, the harder it is to extricate themselves. And if they have no desire to do so, that says a lot. I'm agnostic about Roman Catholics. I know many wonderful people who are R.C. and with whom I have so much more in common that with crazy Protestants whether from traditional or evangelical or charismatic or other flavors of that subset. But as I often say, of all the refugees from the R.C. church – all of whom if memory serves I would put into the "very good person" category even before escaping – have all claimed they weren't saved in that religion and that it is impossible to be saved in that religion. I think it is true that anyone who is serious about living for Jesus Christ and seeking the truth His Word contains would soon eject – so at least we have to be talking about dangerously lukewarm marginal believers (but that of course is true of the vast majority of those in Protestant churches today as well).

Best wishes in standing up for the truth, my friend!

In Jesus Christ the only way of salvation.

Bob L.

Question #35:

Hello, Bob,

Interesting analogy. We had one child – a daughter. All was peaches and cream until about 14-15 and then it was white knuckle because of the example you mention. Today, 25 years later, she has done well and right. I'm happy.

I need to have more faith and accept that some people I care about will not make the cut and some I've worried about will. (Maybe, I won't.) I have had zero luck evangelizing others. Most consider me a (and I quote) a raving moonbat. Perhaps it's my style but maybe that's not my calling.

Perhaps one day... Thanks.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #35:   

It's true we can't "know" ahead of time about other people's decisions, but we do "know" that God is good and has planned everything to a "t", including where we would be and where those we are thinking about in this regard would be – and also how they would react to one sort of presentation of the gospel as opposed to another one. Perhaps your particular personality and way of speaking and explaining things is precisely what person X or your friend needs in order to be most receptive. And even in cases of those who don't accept the truth, perhaps it was important from the standpoint of justice for them to hear the gospel in just the right way for them in order to be without any shred of a reasonable excuse (that is the best we can do, after all). Also, it is very important to remember that it is not about us at all. The Holy Spirit is the Evangelist, and it is He who uses whatever truth we provide and makes it understandable to the spirit of the person listening. So even if we are "bad" at this, the Holy Spirit is better than the best, so that if we really do present the truth, that is far better than the most persuasive speaker in history who misrepresents it. Finally, if a person rejects the truth, they are not rejecting us: they are rejecting God who sacrificed His Son for them, rejecting Christ who died for them, and rejecting the Spirit who is personally witnessing to them – that is the "unpardonable" sin for which our Lord could not die, the rejection of salvation for whatever selfish reasons.

p.s., for what it is worth, in my youth I put my dear, since-departed parents through some "very interesting times" as well.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #36: 

Dear Bob,

You are absolutely right, of course. Christ didn't go seeking people to evangelize, he taught people who came to him. Clearly, I was injecting too much of myself. I do know that there have been times when the Holy Spirit held my tongue – don't know why, but I suddenly could not rebut. (Very unusual for me.) Perhaps I should get used to so many wanting to reject the truth. Not only in this but many other things as well.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #36:   

We can't see into the hearts of others, much less reach in and "throw the switch". But we can give a good witness of life, and of word too when the opportunity arises.

Your analogy is good on many levels. Most rejected our Lord and His message. If He could not convince people to reject the lie and accept the truth, it goes to show how strong free will is, and also how that image of God and its use is the most important thing in the world – indeed, it is the reason for this world. We are all here to decide.

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first."
John 15:18 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #37: 

Dear Bob,

I have a friend who seems to be caught up in a cult. She is trying to adhere to Mosaic law, vis-a-vis the Saturday Sabbath, dietary laws and many of the more common laws. She calls herself "covenanted" and says she's a member of the "Church of God" via the internet. A passing mention of lost tribes suggested she was talking about the Armstrong organization in Pasadena, CA. Before you pointed me down the right path, I agreed with some of those things.

My dilemma is: do I try to interfere at all and, if I do, to what specific passages in the Bible should I point her. A number of passages in Paul's letters I think would apply but I can't find a specific one that seems right. Galatians 5 seems to be the most relevant but I suspect she'll get caught up in the circumcision references and miss the point.

What should I do? Drop it or try. If try, what would you suggest as appropriate?

Thanks

Yours in Jesus Christ,

PS Note the email address change.

Response #37: 

Email address updated (thanks for letting me know!).

This is a question I can't really answer for you, beyond saying that it's always good to help others who are in danger of falling:

...save others, snatching them out of the fire;
Jude 1:23a NIV

Just when and how and what are situational questions. We have to act in such circumstances from our own spiritual common sense, responding as closely as possible to the guidance we are receiving from the Holy Spirit.

On a practical note, it is the case, in general, that when someone gets involved in any sort of cult situation it is either a passing fad (in which case there is no real need to worry), or it is the result of some deeper spiritual problems the person may have. In the first instance, doing everything possible to keep the lines of communication open – even as we make it clear in a loving way that we do not agree – is usually the best course. Try not to make such an issue of the disagreement that the person will feel they have "lost face" if and when they realize you were right, and for that reason alone may feel more reluctant to abandon the cult. After all, cults count on that very sort of thing to keep their members in line, encouraging all sorts of bizarre behavior specifically designed to alienate their victims from their former lives and "life support".

If there are deeper problems, these will no doubt not be solved by arguing over doctrinal points. The truth is the truth, and the truth is the source of all our Christian strength. But when a person gets involved in a cult, the truth is not the issue any more, at least for them. They have pledged their allegiance to the cult over any reasonable interpretation of the Word of God. So arguing with them about what passage X may mean is not going to be effective. They are putting their faith in the cult, not in the Bible in any case. If the person you are trying to reach really does still have respect for scripture, I would make it clear that you personally are convinced that the cult in question is not operating according to scripture, and I would also try to encourage the person to keep reading the Bible for him/herself. If there are any noted "doctrines" or positions of the cult which clearly denigrate the authority of scripture or place something or someone over the authority of scripture (and there always are), I would save my ammunition for shooting at that fatal flaw. If the victim is still responsive to the truth that the Bible is God's Word, then eventually the disconnect between the cult and scripture will likely be the lever God uses to free them – if and when they truly want to be freed. So demonstrate Christ's love, stand up for the Bible, let it be known in a low key and loving way that you see this cult as inconsistent with the Bible, keep the lines of communication open, and then take it to the Lord in prayer.

Here are a few links to postings which deal with cults and cult behavior which will be good to know before you engage in this struggle:

Ignorance of the Bible = Recipe for a Cult

Cults and Christianity V

Cults and Christianity IV

Cults and Christianity III

Cults and Christianity II

Cults and Christianity.

Witnessing: Cults and Christianity II

Witnessing: Cults and Christianity I

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

I've placed a prayer request for your friend on the Ichthys list also.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #38:

Dear Bob,

Once again, you gave me the answer I most needed. Your answers in the series on the "Dangers of Messianic Legalism" most particularly were helpful; not only in my approach to my friend but for me as well.

She was raised in the Roman Catholic church and, having been married to one, I know how hard it is for them to release dogma and the guilt that goes with it. Maybe she's made the first step in her new beliefs and just needs a new orientation. I think I'll have only one shot at persuading her to read her Bible and accepting the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I pray that's sufficient.

I've pointed her to the scripture I believe would be most helpful and pray she'll read the whole context as I suggested and be motivated to read more. I doubt there's much more I can do but maintain a dialog if she wishes.

Thank you for including her in your prayer requests and thanks for your generous help.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #38:   

You're most welcome.

I hope and pray you'll be able to steer her in the right direction – assuming she's willing to be steered.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #39: 

Dear Bob,

I was not able to steer her at all. She is most adamant. She's involved in the "Biblical Church of God" established by Fred Coulter. Apparently, he has invented his own bible with many things left out and arranged in the original order. (A mystery to me since I believe the originals were scrolls.)

She believes that adherence to the Mosaic laws (or at least those acceptable) is vital to salvation and believes that anyone not baptized in their church can't possibly understand because they haven't received their holy spirit; essential to understanding their scripture.

I can't force my opinion.

The links were most helpful I should add. (Although not, sadly, in this case.)

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #39:   

This all sounds very familiar. It seems as if the more outrageous the claims and the more demanding the obedience, the more successful the cult. People find this sort of absolutism appealing – apparently believing that it MUST be true precisely because it can't be. There is an arrogance deep-set in the human heart which is persuaded that if truth can be put to death, anything is possible (see the link; cf. Ps.73:7-9; Job 20:6). This is the sort of thinking that warped the devil's mind.

In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face.
2nd Corinthians 11:20 NIV

One thing I can say by way of possible encouragement is that very often these new recruits sour on the program when it gets to be too much even for them. Cults anticipate this, however, and devise all manner of ways to try and retain even the reluctant. One thing they all seem to do is to do their best to alienate former family and friends – so that the initiate will have no place to turn if and when he/she has second thoughts. So in addition to keeping her in prayer, my advice is to do your best to keep an open, loving, non-judgmental line of communication so as to be a life-line when and if she tires of this. I'm not saying to soften the truth (never!); but she needs to know that she can have someone to talk to who will be sympathetic and not make her feel worse than she already does (or will).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #40: 

Dear Bob,

While familiar, it's still heartbreaking. I suppose what bothers me the most is that she's not even willing to consider enough to refute me. (Or, perhaps, my approach was completely wrong.) Whether relevant or not, she was raised Roman Catholic so I understand that submissive dogmatism. Maybe that's a part of it. Her life is very difficult at this point and I think she's looking for an answer. Maybe she will sour in time. I won't abandon her; she seems to need someone to whom she can talk freely and I will continue to pray for her, but, beyond that, she will have to open the dialog.

In a way, I can sympathize. As you know from our correspondence, one can read all the words and still not connect the dots. I'm sure you've helped others in the same boat and I want you to know how much I appreciate you being there for me. Thank you.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #40: 

You're very welcome.

It sounds as if you are doing all the right things. Ultimately, this is always up to the person in question. That's what free will is all about. The R.C. background always seems to mess people up in a serious way. Even for those who eventually escape entirely, there always seems to have been "damage done" which takes some time to recover from.

Being available with a listening ear is no small thing. I pray she'll come to appreciate it.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #41: 

Hello Bob,

Please pray for my whole family, we have been through a lot, especially me. Also, the people we work for insist on the seventh day sabbath and feasts and torah. Is this correct? They were friendly in the first year but then things changed. Please also pray our daughter gets out of the cult she is in, and if her relationship is not from God that He breaks it off.

Thank you

Blessings

Response #41: 

Good to make your acquaintance, although I'm sorry to hear of your troubles. I will say a prayer for you, your family and your daughter. I have also added a request for you to the Ichthys prayer list.

As to your question, Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law, so that the rituals, observances, festivals and sacrifices which taught about Him in shadows have now been replaced by the reality of our Lord come in the flesh, having been crucified for us, died for our sins, and now resurrected and ascended to the third heaven – whom we await (1Cor.1:7). We have the New Covenant in His blood – His death for our sins (Lk.20:20; 1Cor.11:25) – which has replaced the symbolic animal blood of the Law. He is our new High Priest – so that the Law has now been replaced.

For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also.
Hebrews 7:12 NIV

There are plenty of groups out there who have things wrong regarding the Bible (I would say most groups); but things slide over into "cult" territory when there is a denial of the truth the Jesus Christ is God as well as a genuine human being (cf. 2Pet.2:1; 1Jn.2:22). I don't know the details, but there are many hyper-Messianic groups that fall into that category – and even many which don't are so deep into legalism that they are likewise to be avoided.

Here are a few links on all this which I hope will be of help to you:

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism IV: Unclean and Impure? 

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism III 

The Trinity and Messianic Legalism 

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism II 

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #42:

Thank you for your reply.

It is very difficult for us working here as we now have the Saturday off, well, not even the whole day as animals have to be cared for, pivots have to be moved, etc. I find everything in the teachings I went to of theirs legalistic. I feel much confusion and huge condemnation. Where my daughter goes, they teach if your family don't agree, to leave them, etc. We don't see our daughter anymore and it is causing huge problems between all of us in the family. They are also huge on informing tithing. Maybe you can check it out, Christ in me International. I also had witchcraft done to me over 4 years ago that I still not free from. Something elevated my spirit last year. We lost all our farms in Zimbabwe. Please pray for total breakthrough.

I also do not understand, is inheriting The Kingdom of heaven the same as entering heaven? Also, I am not sure of judgement, what defines that? If we see something as wrong and talk about it are we then wrong to judge?

Have a blessed day

Response #42:   

What you report in regard to your daughter is classic cult behavior (see the link please). Cults always want to isolate their victims from their families because it makes them more dependent on the cult and gives them no place else to turn even when/if they eventually sour on it. So by all means do everything you can to keep the lines of love and communication open to her, even if for a time she foolishly complies with this outrageous dictate.

On witchcraft, the fact is that no human being has special or supernatural powers of any kind – except that we believers do have the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts given by Him. Unbelievers do sometimes try to contact demons no doubt, but there is no "system" by which they can control what the demons do; and believers are protected by the Spirit who indwells us from any sort possession the likes of which unbelievers who dabble in the occult may experience. We can be attacked, but we are not alone: the Lord is always with us, and He will never allow us to be attacked except for good (to build our faith and witness to others through how we pass such tests: cf. the book of Job). There is a lot about all these matters posted at Ichthys (here is one recent link that will lead to others: "Spiritual Warfare IV").

As to judgment, you raise several issues here. First, believers will be evaluated for our service in this life at the resurrection which happens at Christ's return to earth (see the link). Our inheritance in the Kingdom will be in the New Jerusalem, and all believers of our time will have a place there. These things are both in the future, but, even for those who die before our Lord returns (as all believers of the past since Adam and Eve have done), there is a wonderful interim time in heaven in the presence of the Lord. So for a believer, things are "good" now – even if we suffer – because of all the good things the Lord does for us even when we are under severe pressure (2Cor.2:9-10); things will be "better" when we depart this life since we will then be with Christ (Phil.1:21-23); and things will be "best" when we find ourselves in the New Jerusalem without any further trouble of any kind, enjoying all the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him (Rev.21:1-5).

As to judging others (Matt.7:1; Lk.6:37), this refers to attributing sinful conduct to others and condemning them in our hearts or with or tongues as a result. This does not mean that we cannot or should not be aware and on the alert for evil behavior in others. Christians are supposed to be innocent as doves but also wise as serpents in this regard (Matt.10:16; cf. Prov.14:15-16; 14:18; Rom.12:1-2; 1Cor.14:20; Phil.1:9-11; Heb.5:14). It means that we are not supposed to put ourselves into God's place as other people's judge, jury and executioner.

I'm praying for you and your daughter's deliverance.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #43: 

Dear Bob,

Thank you for your reply.

I shed many tears over this as we don't see our daughter anymore to give love or anything. It is so heavy on our hearts and yes, some of my thoughts have not been pure. I know this is not right but I don't know how to make it better. My husband and I are very alone as my son is in America working. They even rob him of time with his sister. I pray that The Lord will go to work on all of this.

Blessings

Response #43:   

I will be praying with you.

Nothing is impossible for God.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #44: 

Dear Sir,

I have read most of the questions and answers about the true Hebrew names of our creator Yahweh & Yahshua his Messiah in your section titled 'Changing Gods Name'. I agree with the person writing to you about the true names, but there are a couple of key points that I did not see from either of you in your correspondence.

First, when Yahweh first revealed His name to Moshe [Moses] in Exodus 3:15, He said in Hebrew, that Yahweh is His name forever & this is how He should be remembered from generation to generation.

There is no question about His name or how we are to remember Him when He clearly states it. Throughout Scripture He constantly speaks about the sin of profaning His holy & set apart name. In Jer. 23:27, it says, 'They plot to cause My people to forget My name by their dreams which they tell each one to his neighbor, even as their fathers have forgotten My name for Baal (Lord).' Most people don't know that the name 'Lord' comes from the name 'Baal' which is short for the name 'Beelzebub'. This is a great evil perpetrated on the whole of mankind by the great deceiver himself.

Second point, you wrote about the new testament being written in Greek & how that is important to which names we are to use - the name of 'jesus', or 'iesous' being Greek. Or should we use the holy & set apart name of Yahshua which is Hebrew in origin? There is a growing mound of physical evidence along with many scholars & rabbis coming to the conclusion that the new testament was originally written in Hebrew beginning with the gospel of Matthew. Fragments of 'Hebrew Matthew' have been found all over the world with many of them in Russia, far from the hands of the vatican. The name Matthew used in these fragments was 'Yahshua'.

These discoveries change everything. Our adversary the devil cannot twist the truth forever. We all must work to discover Yahweh's deep truths for ourselves.

In truth and wisdom, Shalom,

Response #44: 

Dear Friend,

As a fellow Christian who believes in the deity of Christ, I would earnestly urge you to reconsider these positions.

First, the vocalization of the tetragrammaton (YHVH) is not known; it is only speculated about, and it is not obvious from its spelling in the Hebrew Bible (where the vowels are not included for this word) that "Yahweh" is either original or correct. Also, if you will read the passage, Exodus 3:15, carefully, I trust that you will find that it is the meaning of the Name which is important, not some "magical" intonation (that is appropriate in Voodoo but not Christianity); here is my explanation (footnote #1 in BB 1 Theology):

Jehovah and Jahweh are the two most well-known English vocalizations of what is often called the "tetragrammaton", i.e. the four consonant name for the Lord explained in these verses. In Hebrew, yhvh, (יהוה) is traditionally vocalized as 'adonai, though it occurs in the Old Testament without vowels. The divine name "Lord", explained in these verses as based on "I am/shall be", can potentially be derived from either the Hebrew verb "to be" or the verb "to become" (the two verbs being very close in the Hebrew). Likewise, the form יהוה is a unique form which appears to be a cross between an imperfect (indicating repeated action irrespective of time as in "I shall be/I am") and an infinitive absolute (summing up the meaning of a verb at one throw: i.e., the very essence of "being/becoming"). Thus it is clear enough from the Hebrew context and verbal forms that "the Name" is a declaration that the Lord is the very definition of being and existence without regard to time or phenomena. Q.E.D.

Second, you are tragically underestimating the point about the New Testament always having a Greek word for what in the Old Testament would be . The Greek word always used for "Lord" throughout the New Testament is kyrios (κύριος). This word occurs hundreds of times in the NT but doesn't occur even once, neither in Hebrew (and the writers all knew Hebrew) nor in Greek transliteration of the Hebrew (and this option was certainly open to them if the matter had been important – after all, "Yahweh" is a transliteration too). The fact that Peter, Paul, and John felt no compunction about using the Greek word (which bears no relation to other than in meaning) shows absolutely that meaning not vocalization is what the Lord is concerned about.

Finally, the appeal to the incorrect notion that somehow the books of the New Testament were originally written in Hebrew is a fantasy designed by those who wish to ignore the clear testimony of scripture referred to above. Not a single scrap of any book of the New Testament written in Hebrew has ever been found which might be an antecedent to any of its books. The reference you mention is actually a third century remark made third hand by Eusebius quoting a certain Papias who said something (the meaning is not clear from the limited quote) about the gospel of Matthew only. Even if Eusebius is quoting correctly (not at all clear), even if this is what Papias meant to say (not at all clear), and even if Papias actually had some evidence of some "Hebrew oracles" of Matthew rather than just repeating a rumor or theory he had heard (definitely not clear), that would not come close to stacking up with hundreds of thousands of actual witnesses to the Greek text – when we lack even a single witness to a supposed Hebrew text.

I am concerned for you on this point because the logic of what you are stating argues for a complete (or near complete) denial of the validity of the New Testament – and I can think of no surer way to shipwreck one's own faith.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #45:

Dear friend,

I know that you are as sincerely convicted about His name as I am. My faith is not shipwrecked as you suppose, rather it has been strengthened in recent years.

I also read the New Testament with the same awe as reading the Old Testament, so it's not a matter of denying one part of Scripture in favor of another.

Faith does not come from logic, it comes by means of the Holy Spirit. I have learned to take the Words of Scripture literally & apply them as best I can in everyday life. Since I have learned of His holy name & begun using it, Scripture has opened up in ways I never dreamed of, and life has become much easier. Life will always have its challenges, & that will never change.

Just a side note, I only stumbled on your website as I was looking up something about Yahweh's name. I don't think that it was a coincidence or an accident, Yahweh directs the path of His children.

I was glad to have had this short but meaningful conversation with you and will keep you in prayer.

One in Messiah,

Response #45:   

Thank you for your reasonable reply. I'm glad to hear that you are not inclined to allow these things to trip you up. However, do you accept the Trinity, and, specifically, the co-deity of Christ? I only ask because so many who have these objections are not, in fact, believers.

Still, I think you are missing two critical points. First, any "blessing" that might come from saying the Name is not coming from saying the Name because neither you nor anyone else alive today has any idea how the Name is supposed to be pronounced. If you look into this issue, even superficially, you will see that I am correct. It's all well and good to have faith, but that faith is only valuable if it is placed in the truth. If I make up something and believe it, or if I accept some false statement from someone else and believe it, I am not better off spiritually in fact, even if I somehow "feel better" (such feelings are deceptive; emotion is never a sound guide to spiritual truth – just observe the charismatics).

Second, don't you think that if there were some significance to this issue of pronunciation, that Paul would have said something about it? Wouldn't Peter have mentioned it? Wouldn't it be somewhere in the writings of John – or at least somewhere in the New Testament? In fact, our Lord Himself never mentions this as an issue. Don't you think that's just a bit odd, if it were important?

By all means have faith . . . in the truth.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #46: 

You're welcome for the reasonable response - hitting someone over the head with an argument or point of view never works. And I appreciate yours as well.

I will answer your questions if you promise to answer my questions for you. There are only 2 questions so it won't be hard.

1. I do believe in the co-diety of Yahshua the Messiah but the Father always is over all of us.

John 1, Col 1, Heb 1, 1John 1

2. I don't believe in a Trinity as you do. There is no Scriptural proof of the Spirit being a person & I've heard & seen all the arguments for the Holy Spirit being a person. We should just agree to disagree on that one.

But I want you to know why I have that belief. In both the Hebrew and Greek definitions of the word 'spirit' , the word is defined literally as 'breath' or 'wind'. In no way does that mean a separate person. We should not twist the Scriptures to make them define our own personal theology.

With that being said, & with all due respect, you are putting forth rabbinical arguments against speaking His name. How do you know we don't know how to pronounce His name?

The pronunciation would have been handed down from Moses to the Israelites, to their children's children down through the ages. In fact more than 1 Messianic rabbi confirms the pronunciation as 'Yahweh' & I've personally heard one of them say that he was taught to say it as 'Yahweh' when he was studying for his bar mitzvah.

Even if we are pronouncing it incorrectly, at least we need to be seen trying to call on His name. There are Scriptures that declare a blessing for calling on His name. Zech 13:9. This is an end of days prophecy where Yahweh hears the people calling to Him which in turn causes Him to answer them. This is most definitely a blessing & if you think about what is going on, somebody in this group of people knows His name.

I don't know how Peter and Paul addressed the issue of the names of Yahweh and Yahshua. They were largely silent but that doesn't excuse us from not seeking His name in other parts of Scripture. Look at what the apostle John said in his gospel, chap. 17, vs 6: 'I have revealed Your name to the men You gave to Me out of the world. ..' John evidently thought it was important & that is why he recorded it in the account.

And in verse 26 of the same chapter John says again, 'and I made known Your name to them & will make it known, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, & I in them.' Again, another blessing that comes with knowing His name.

Are we to use flawed human logic or see what The Most High has to say? It is to Him we will give an account.

May His Shalom be your shalom. One in Messiah,

Response #46:   

Thanks for your response. A couple of further questions/observations:

1) It is true that the words for spirit mean may mean wind and vice-versa, but that does not mean they can't also means something else – as they often do. It would instead, I think, be "twisting scripture" to consider an "evil spirit" merely an uncomfortable breeze and not an angelic entity just because the word spirit is used; likewise, it is to misunderstand scripture when "Holy Spirit" is written if one doesn't understand we are talking about God the Spirit. There's plenty of evidence in scripture for this for anyone making an objective study (see the link); however, it's not possible to convince someone who is determined not to accept the truth. For that matter, you can't "prove" to an atheist that God exists, even though the point is obvious even to little children. So "lack of proof" is a red-herring. The scripture does teach that the Spirit is a Person (see the link), and God. It's also a very important doctrine. When building a spiritual edifice – as in building any edifice – leaving out important building blocks (or putting in substandard materials) will always result in compromising the integrity of the whole. Simply put, it's important for any believer who actually wants to grow and serve the Lord properly to know and believe everything that's true (and not to accept anything that's not).

2) No offense, but a couple of verbal comments from estranged teachers of the present day don't weigh very heavily in the balance with a) the entire weight of scholarly opinion; 2) the entire weight of the Jewish tradition, and; 3) the Hebrew Bible – where you can see with your own eyes that the vowel points are provided for the plural of the word "Lord" so that the Name itself cannot be pronounced (or because it can't be – at this point in history it's one and the same thing).

3) As to not making any difference if it is wrong, I think you make my point. The point is to call on the Lord. Whether we use the English word "Lord" or the Greek word kyrios, or some variation of the tetragrammaton (Jehovah, Jaweh, Yaveh, Yaweh, Yeshua, etc.), is not important as long as we are calling upon Him in Spirit and in truth – unless we make a spiritual issue of the pronunciation which is legalism or denigrate others who don't follow our path which is the antithesis of love.

4) The New Testament is not silent. The New Testament adopts the precise opposite approach that your group embraces. As I say, I don't think the Lord holds this against you – unless you make an outsized point of it or it leads you into magical or mystical legalism.

5) As to John 17:6, the Greek word onoma, like the word shem in Hebrew, refers to the person. We can see clearly from context that this "revelation of the name" was not a revealing of a secret pronunciation but rather making the Father Himself known to the disciples, who He actually is – which is SO much more than the pronunciation of a two-syllable name (obvious from the second occurrence of this phrase in verse twenty-six where knowing the person of the Father results in understanding His love for us). That name encapsulates who He is, namely, "the One who IS" (see prior snippet from BB 1), but the details which our Lord communicated to the twelve over a three and a half year ministry are at least equally important inasmuch as they make this principle fully known.

In any case, it seems that we are likely going to have to agree to disagree. If you do indeed accept that our Lord is God and that He subordinated Himself in becoming also a true human being, taking on true humanity to die for the sins of the world, then my concerns about your salvation appear to have been unjustified. I will close by saying, however, that these sorts of considerations about which you are clearly very concerned have a tendency to monopolize one's entire Christian walk, and never for the good. Given that the Tribulation is now so close, and given that the beast will style himself the reborn Jewish Messiah, groups such as the one to which you belong would seem to have a built in vulnerability to his deceptions. Here's hoping (and saying a prayer) that this does not happen to you and yours.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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