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Gospel Questions V:

Help my Unbelief!, the Risen Dead of Matt.27, the Olivet Discourse,

Joseph's Death, Caiaphas and the Holy of Holies, the High Priest's Question,

Pearls before Swine, and Respecting our Enemies.

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Question #1: 

Thanks for your article on Mark 9:24 "Help my Unbelief!". I’m researching that passage, and your thoughts completely concur with what I have interpreted for years. I also read your suggested article on Faith Dynamics: 1st Peter #24. It was excellent, and very insightful. Thanks!

I wanted to bring to your attention the interpretations from two commentaries. Matthew Henry’s comments on what prompted Jesus’ response: "He adds a prayer for grace to enable him more firmly to rely on Christ to save…Those who complain of unbelief, must look up to Christ for Christ for grace to help them against it, and his grace shall be sufficient for them". Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s comments suggest two things: the man felt his unbelief, which proved he had the faith to feel it; and his ask for help rather than objection, which again seems to be the direction of grace that Matthew Henry was taking.

What are your thoughts on those interpretations? They both seem to ignore verse 25, which declares that the spirit was rebuked only "when" the crowd was coming. There doesn’t seem to be any other reason to include that information, except to suggest an interpretation closer to yours.

Response #1:  

Good to make your acquaintance, and thank you so much for your encouraging words. As to the commentaries, this is a good example of why I personally almost never find commentaries of any use (there are rare exceptions). I have noticed a tendency in all manner of biblical interpretation to want to excuse all behaviors which occur in the Bible regardless of the perpetrator. This tends to ignore that the Bible deliberately records behavior which is not necessarily wholly evil, but from whose deficiency we are meant to learn. Both quotations you include seem to me to want to "rehabilitate" the conduct and words of the boy's father. Now it is certainly well and good to acknowledge that none of us is perfect and that any of us might potentially falter in such a way, but we ought to hope not, and we ought to strive not to do so.

Keep in mind that this man was actually speaking with the Lord Himself face to face! So it should have been easier for him to have faith than it is for those who "have not yet seen Him, yet love Him" (1Pet.1:8; cf. Jn.20:29 NKJV: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.").

This man, therefore, is an example of bare minimum faith, reminiscent in the parable of the Sower of the "faith plant" which cannot stand the scorching heat of testing. Even if such weak and compromised minimal faith does not die off into apostasy, it certainly will not sustain any serious level of spiritual growth, progress or production – the very things we are placed here to achieve in life. The key point of this passage in my view is to provide a negative example to avoid in a similar way that the passage on the centurion who asks for his servant to be healed of whom Jesus says "I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith" is to provide a positive example to emulate (Matt.8:10). To excuse the father or to place the emphasis on God's mercy (and I quite agree we all need and indeed cannot get enough of the Lord's mercy!) is to miss the main lesson. This passage should, ideally, remind us all of instances where our faith in what the Lord can do for us has not been up to par, and to spur us on to giving up any such double-minded resistance, yielding ourselves over instead to the proper attitude of unreserved and total faith in all that Jesus Christ can do for us – and will, if we but believe.

That said, I will admit that our Lord's great grace in healing the boy anyway – for the sake of the faith of those who did believe as well as for the father and the son – is a very great encouragement. Jesus is our Savior, even when we do not measure up.

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory.
Matthew 12:20 NIV

We may be bruised, and at times our faith may smolder, yet if we but hang on to the little faith we have our Lord will bring us safely through whatever trials await us into His kingdom and glory.

In the Name of the One who gave up everything that we might be saved by His grace – through faith.

Bob Luginbill

Question #2: 

Hi! I was at my Bible Study Thurs. and someone had a question. In Matthew 27:14 it talks about the grave opening and the dead rising. Most churches never talk about this part of the Bible. Can you share your thought on what this scripture means . Is there any cross references to add to this scripture. We would enjoy getting a clarity on what is referring to and what it is saying in Matthew 27:14. Blessings

Response #2: 

Good to hear from you! I'm sure you mean Matthew 27:50-53. This is not a case of eternal resurrection. It is a miracle of the highest order, but these individuals later died and are still awaiting their "permanent homes" as all other deceased believers in Jesus are (in the third heaven in interim bodies with Him since the ascension; see the link: Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State).

Resurrection is permanent (Rom.6:9), but there are occasions like this in scripture when believers have been brought temporarily back to life (something I call "resuscitation"). These believers were brought back to life in their original bodies as a witness to the effectiveness of the life-giving sacrifice of our Lord on the cross. These believers have long since passed away and will be resurrected with us when the Lord returns.

While this is the only "mass" resuscitation of which the scripture speaks, there are a number of other such resuscitations (i.e., temporary restorations to life in this same earthly body rather than the permanent resurrection which at present only our Lord has experienced), e.g., the widow of Nain's son, the little girl to whom Jesus said "talitha, qum!", the boy who fell out of the window in Troas whom Paul brought back to life, Tabitha brought back by Peter, the widow of Zarephath's son brought back to life by Elijah, the Shunamite woman's son restored to life by Elijah, the man who came back to life after being thrown into Elisha's tomb – and of course with Lazarus being perhaps the most famous and instructive case, since John describes in detail our Lord's resuscitation of him.

All of the above cases are incredibly encouraging and demonstrate God's complete power over death, something great believers of the past have always understood deeply and appreciated (cf. Heb.11:19: "Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death" NIV). But how much more blessed will our permanent and glorious resurrection be, when the last enemy is finally defeated forever and we are raised incorruptible to be with our Lord Jesus forevermore!

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
1st Corinthians 15:54 NIV

I have written on this in the past in more detail (please see the links):

Transmutation, Resuscitation, and Resurrection.

Aspects of the Resurrection II (see questions 2 and 3)

Please feel free to write me back about any of this.

In anticipation of that great to come in Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hello Brother Bob,

I Pray that all is well with you. I am hoping you have some commentary on Luke 21:5-37 to be used for group discussion. As I like to remind you, God Blesses us here with the wisdom He has you reveal to us. Looking forward to what he has to say through you.

Your Brother in Christ in Ohio,

Response #3:  

Good to hear from you as always. This chapter, commonly known as the Olivet discourse (since Matt.24:3 establishes that the group was back on the Mt. of Olives when our Lord told them these things), is our Lord's most comprehensive lesson about the end times. It occurs (with small differences of emphasis) in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 as well. The details of precisely how each part of this prophecy is to be fit into the overall chronology of the end times is the key difficulty of interpretation (though not the only one).

Verses 7: shows that the disciples were, like their contemporaries, still expecting the crown without the cross, and additionally had not figured out from the Old Testament prophets that a seven year period of tribulation would precede the Messiah's return. See Gospel Questions III, Q.#1: John the baptist's doubts.

(7) "Teacher," they asked, "when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?"

Verse 8: establishes the tribulational trend of antichrist and his deceptive religion which will result in the Great Apostasy. See in CT 3A, "The Causes of the Great Apostasy"

(8) He replied: "Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.

Verse 9: shows that the end of the Tribulation must not be assumed prematurely; there will be ample trouble, but the Second Advent will be unmistakable. See in CT 5, "Signs of the Second Advent"

(9) When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away."

Verse 10: the conflict between the beast's kingdom and the king of the south in the first half of the Tribulation. See in CT 3B, "The First Campaign against the South"

(10) Then he said to them: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom."

Verse 11: a general statement of the troubles throughout the Tribulation most notable in the trumpet and bowl judgments. See in CT 1, "The General Character of the Tribulation"

(11) "There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven."

Verses 12-19: an overview of the Great Persecution which will consume the better part of the Great Tribulation, the second half of the seven years; believers are assured that this is all part of God's plan and that He will superintend our lives more dramatically and palpably than ever before; we have nothing to fear and will not be harmed or killed unless it is His will for us to be martyred for Jesus. See in CT 4, "The Great Persecution"

(12) "But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me. 14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life."

Verses 20-24: an overview of the beast's attack on Israel and Jerusalem at the mid-point of the Tribulation (and not a description of Armageddon, as is often supposed). See in CT 3B, "The Apparent Assassination and Resuscitation of Antichrist"

(20) "When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."

Verses 25-28: an overview of the period of just before the Second Advent (encompassing the bowl judgments and Armageddon); encouragement to believers that the end is near. See in CT 5, "The Bowl Judgments"

(25) "There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Verses 29-31: an analogy of encouragement, reminding us to see the terrible final events as good things ("green shoots") since they are harbingers of the coming of the Messiah – God has everything planned out to the last detail. See in SR 5, "The Specific Chronology of the Seven Days of Human History"

(29) He told them this parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near."

Verses 32-33: an important caveat to the effect that the hardness of Israel will persevere until the Second Advent when they shall "look upon Him whom they have pierced", and only thus shall "all Israel be saved". See in CT 5, "The Repentance of Israel"

(32) "Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away."

Verses 34-36: a code of conduct for believers in the Tribulation holding out hope that with faith and perseverance (and providing a parallel for our behavior in the meantime) it will be possible to survive and actually see Messiah return.

(34) "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."

This last part is scheduled to be covered in CT part 7, but see in CT 4 "A Brief Christian Code of Conduct" and also by way of encouragement, "The Judgment and Reward of the Church" in CT 6.

The most important thing to emphasize about this passage taken as a whole is that our Lord was painting a very vivid panorama of end-times events, topically arranged, and that for this reason all attempts to take the verses as representing a strictly chronological sequence are gravely misguided (we have since been given the Book of Revelation which does cover the end times in very much a chronological way – also often misunderstood).

Do feel free to write me back about any of the above. As the series of links makes clear, I have been attempting to treat all of these subjects in a chronological fashion in my exegetical coverage of the book of Revelation (i.e., the Coming Tribulation series; see the link).

Yours in Jesus our Lord, for whose return we all breathlessly wait.

Bob L.

Question #4: 

My pastor stated twice that it is rumored that Joseph died in a construction accident. Any input? Is there anything I can read to research this?

Response #4: 

The gospels give very little information about the life of Joseph, and the gospels are, of course, our only valid source. That said, we can conclude a number of things about our Lord's early life, and I have written about this at the following links:

The Early Life of Jesus Christ.

What About Joseph?

Mary, Joseph and Nazareth

The Events Surrounding the Birth of Christ

Aspects of the Life of Christ: Jesus' siblings

Why did Jesus choose John over James to take care of His mother Mary?

There is a natural desire to want to learn more about these matters, and so in antiquity there was a veritable "cottage industry" of false gospels (like the gospel of Thomas; see the link) which exploited that desire; clearly, none of the information in these non-divinely inspired works can be trusted. Moreover, everything that comes from church tradition is late and suspect. So all we can do is draw godly conclusions from what the Bible actually tells us. We can fairly conclude that Joseph had passed on and that Jesus was the head of his family by the time He began His earthly ministry at "about age thirty"; the description of the dynamic between Him and Mary as recorded by John's gospel at the wedding at Cana as well as other factors (please see the links) surely indicates as much. As to how Joseph met his end, scripture is silent, but if I had to guess, I would be inclined to assume that a man of his great godliness was rewarded with a very peaceful departure from this life (and so I would be inclined to put no stock in this reported "rumor").

Please have a look at the links provided, and do feel free to write me back about any of this

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #5: 

My dear brother,

I was meditating on the High Priest who went into the Holy of Holies and as I meditated on it I felt the awesome Holiness of God so strong that I felt weak in my knees. This was on Easter morning and it dawned on me that as the veil was now rent in half we all can enjoy the awesome holiness that only the high priest could previously enjoy. It also occured to me how useless the high priest must have felt when he realized he had lost his exclusivity to the Holy of Holies. Could it be because of the confusion of his known ritual being changed that he became an enemy of Christ's followers (i.e., the murder of Stephen; Cain murdering Abel) out of jealousy? What is your opinion on the continuing yearly ritual of the high priest from the renting of the veil onward?

I want to express my gratitude to you for sharing the truth of GOD that he has taught you! As you already are aware your reward is going to be GREAT!


Response #5:  

Good to make your acquaintance. Thanks so much for your emails and for your encouraging words. As to your question, the tabernacle is meant to represent fellowship in the presence of the Lord in its every aspect (please see the link: The Jewish Tabernacle). Moreover, the holy of holies (along with the holy place) is also a representation of paradise (and all seven iterations of paradise share certain important features, the most important of which is this wonderful blessing of being in the Lord's presence; see the link: "The Seven Edens"). Additionally, the mercy seat in front of the cherubim was the place where the Lord told Moses "there I will meet with you" (Ex.25:22). And while the fellowship in that case was not face to face or even verbal in the case of the high priests (as it was with Moses: Ex.33:11), still the representation of that fellowship in the ritual of the tabernacle/temple is sublime.

However, as to the high priest Caiaphas, it is very clear from the descriptions of him and his behavior in the gospels that he was not a believer at all. And if he did not / would not believe in Jesus, then he certainly did not believe in the Father either. For all who truly believe in the Father accept His solution to sin: Jesus Christ (Lk.10:16; Jn.5:24); just as all who have seen Jesus have seen the Father (Jn.14:9). Therefore I am sure that Caiaphas never had such an experience of true fellowship or even the feeling of it in the first place. He never worried about what he had lost for he never cared about having a relationship with God at all, even though he was closer to the symbolic epicenter of such a relationship than other living human being; and he never actually enjoyed such a relationship (of his own choice). This disdain for the Lord has always been a very common thing, often even among the so-called clergy (even though they have developed elaborate systems of behavior specifically to hide their true attitudes), and this sort of thing will be even more pronounced in the leadership of the church-visible during the Tribulation:

So be aware of this, that in the last days there will be difficult times. For [in those times] there will be men (i.e., false teachers; cf. chap.2) concerned only for themselves, devoted to money, egotistic, arrogant, blasphemous, not concerned for their parents, ungrateful, irreverent, implacable, slanderers, uninhibited, savage, despising the good, betrayers, impetuous, megalomaniacal, devotees of pleasure rather than lovers of God, possessing an [outward] appearance of godliness, but [in reality] having rejected its [true] power. From such men turn away.
2nd Timothy 3:1-5

In my reading of the Bible, unbelievers tend to be confirmed in their unbelief very early in life, since the issues of mortality, sinfulness, and the existence of a perfect God to whom we shall all have to render account are revealed at a relatively early age through God's natural revelation (working with the conscience in the human heart which is pre-programmed, so to speak, to face and understand these issues). Please see the link: BB 4A Soteriology

For us who believe, the idea that someone could understand that God exists, understand that they fall far short of His perfect standards, and understand that they will have to meet Him in short order since they are mortal, and yet, in spite of understanding these fundamentally important truths still not be motivated to accept the free gift of salvation seems insane. In a way it is. For all who are determined not to respond to God, the lies of the devil's system soon replace these truths and thus take away the uncomfortable feeling that having to deal with them ever brings.

And when this corruptible [body] puts on incorruption and this mortal [body] puts on immortality, then will be fulfilled this prophecy which has been written: Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where is your victory, O death? Where is your stinger, O death? Now the stinger of death (i.e., our mortality) is the sin [nature] (i.e., it produces our sin), and the power of sin is the Law (i.e., it reveals our sin and shows that we fall short of righteousness). But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
1st Corinthians 15:54-57

Praise God that we were given the chance to understand these things and respond to them through faith in Jesus Christ!

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob Luginbill

Question #6: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I have a question regarding a statement Jesus made before the high priest. When Jesus was brought to the high priest, He told the high priest that he would see Jesus coming on the clouds of heaven in the hereafter.

Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Matthew 26:64).

I don't understand how the high priest would see Jesus return on the clouds of heaven if this event takes place in the future, most likely after the Great Tribulation. The high priest would be in the grave at that time. I can only think of this being possible if the dead are judged at the return of Christ, but according to Revelation, the lost dead are judged at the end of the age before the eternal state. What did Jesus mean by this? Thanks!

God Bless,

Response #6: 

Good to hear from you. I hope all goes well.

In the Greek text, "you will see" is in the plural (in Kentucky we might say "Y'all will see"), so that in Greek it is clear that Jesus is speaking not just to this one individual but to the entire Jewish nation. Since that nation (and more particularly "this generation": Matt.24:34; see the links: "This Generation" and "Matthew 24:34") will abide and be present to see the Lord "whom they have pierced" (Zech.12:10; Rev.1:7; see the link: "Whom they have pierced" in CT 1).

So this is to be taken as a prophetic statement about the mis-impression of Israel generally about the Messiah: for He is Jesus Christ, and that realization will sink in fully for most of the Jewish people only when they do see Him "coming in the clouds of heaven" (see the link: "Coming with Clouds" in CT 1). There is also the point that the two things Jesus says that they "will see" are actually different. His second advent return will not be accompanied by the Father whose own advent only occurs when New Jerusalem descends from heaven (Rev.21:3-4; 21:22-23; see the link: in CT 6, "The Advent of the Father"). So seeing Jesus on the throne here refers to the Last Judgment when "every knee shall bow" before Him (Is.45:23; Rom.14:11; Phil.2:10; see the link: in CT 6, "The Last Judgment").

This arrogant man and his fellows will indeed see Christ in all His glory – but only to be judged for their rejection of Him when they will suffer the consequences for their sin of unbelief.

In great joy that we shall be spared that judgment and have only happiness in store when we finally lay eyes on our dear Lord Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill!

I want to begin by saying Thank you for your prayers! I'm back at work and now I'm given another chance to set an example to others and to be a light regardless of their behavior.

I also wanted to get your take on the passage of Matthew 7:6. I had found on the web and wanted to know if this is the correct interpretation?

Do you agree with his interpretation of that verse? Thanks! God Bless,

Response #7:  

Thank you for the positive report and for your positive attitude! I am happy to pray for you; we are here to minister to one another, and prayer is something all believers should do one for another, participating in the fight each of us faces in service to our Lord Jesus Christ.

As to the interpretation you include here, it sounds pretty reasonable to me. It's not precisely how I would put it, but I don't see anything to criticize here. As is often the case in the application of biblical principles, the Bible gives us the two extremes. On the one hand, many verses in scripture encourage us to proclaim the Word of God with boldness, stretching us beyond what we would normally be willing to do or even think we are able to do; on the other hand, here we have the contrary principle: there are limits, and those limits are defined by the reception we are likely to receive. If we know ahead of time that our audience is negative, then instead of "proclaiming" it is a much better strategy to show by example the truth and power of the gospel, waiting for an opening, a sign of receptiveness on the part of the previously hardened person or persons, before launching into an overt appeal. As it says in Ecclesiastes, "there is a time for (A) and a time for (B)", and in this instance we see the "B" side of an otherwise well documented "A" command. It is the pith of spiritual wisdom to be able to discern the two (Rom.12:2; Heb.5:14), not holding back when we should be proclaiming, not sharing when we should be waiting on the Lord, and definitely not subordinating the guidance of the Spirit as to which is which to our own fears or desires.

On the interpretation of this passage, please see "Pearls before Swine".

On determining "which is which", please see "Poles of Application".

You might also find these of interest:

Applying Faith I.

Applying Faith II.

Keep up the good work for Jesus Christ!

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill!

A job counselor at my work told us that his enemies love him more than his friends and it's because he respects them. I know the Bible commands us to love our enemies, but is it biblically correct that we should respect our enemies? What does the scripture say about this? I wanted to compare the advice the counselor gave with the wisdom of God from scripture. Thanks!

God Bless,

Response #8: 

I hope you got some good news on the job front today. I am keeping you in my prayers.

As to respecting one's enemies, it depends upon what is meant by respect. For example, we are told to love our enemies (Matt.5:44; Lk.6:27; 6:35), and that is a high standard indeed, one which few of us meet to the degree we should. The primary object of the love in question in Jesus' words is His desire for them to be saved – for this is how God looks at all unbelievers (1Tim.2:4; 2Pet.3:9). After all, Jesus died for all of their sins too. However, even though God wants all to be saved, that doesn't mean that He approves of the conduct of the wicked or that He is fine with their behavior:

Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar.
Psalm 138:6 NIV

Our love for enemies/unbelievers is to be along the lines of God's love: we are not required to develop intimate personal relationships with them (and in the case of certain criminal individuals this would terribly foolish).

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
2nd Corinthians 6:14 NIV

I see respect as essentially an adjunct to or synonym of love in this regard, but it does have a further dimension. For example, we are required to render respect (not love) to everyone in a position of legitimate authority because all authority symbolizes and acts for God, and that would be the case to a certain degree at least even if such persons were our enemies and attempting to persecute us.

Let every person be subject to [all] superior authorities. For no authority exists which has not [been established] by God. And those that exist are [in turn] subject to God. Therefore whoever opposes [established] authority has taken a stand against God's [ordered] arrangement, and those who have done so will receive judgment upon themselves. For rulers do not exist to discourage good deeds through the fear they inspire, but rather evil ones. So do you wish to have no fear of the authorities? Then do what is good, and you will have praise from them. For they are ministering to God on your behalf for your [own] good. But if you do evil, beware, for they have not been invested with the power of punishment (lit., "the sword") for nothing. For they are ministering to God in the severe vengeance [they bring down] upon those who do evil. Therefore it is necessary to be subject [to authority] not only because of this severity, but also for conscience' sake.
Romans 13:1-5

Paul, for example, treated the representatives of the Jewish and Roman governments with respect, even when he was being reviled and unjustly treated according to their own standards. He treated them with respect, but that does not mean that he prized them in his heart for their abuse of him. God makes the rain fall on the unrighteous as well as the righteous, but He certainly has a different opinion of each category. Our job is to exhibit exemplary Christian conduct towards all, and leave it to God to winnow out the wicked (especially when it comes to persons in authority).

Submit yourselves to every established human [authority] for the Lord's sake, whether to a king, as being sovereign, or to [other] executives, as being sent through Him for the purpose of reproving evil doers but for praising those who do good. For this is the will of God, namely, for you to muzzle the ignorance of foolish men by doing good, as free men, yet not using your freedom as a cloak for evil but as servants of God. Give respect to everyone, love the brotherhood [of believers], fear God, honor the king.
1st Peter 2:13-15

I would put it this way. The verses above say to give respect to all. As Christians we are required to behave in a civil, loving way towards all human beings, whether we like them or not. That includes treating them in a respectful way, giving them the respect they are due as creatures of God whom God wants saved and for whom Jesus died. That does not mean we need to approve or value their behavior, or enjoy and somehow "appreciate" their hostility towards us.

It certainly is wonderful when we are on good terms with everyone, and that can be a blessing from God:

When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Proverbs 16:7 KJV

But if we do experience this blessing, it is because God gave it to us, not because of our behavior. So it is true that we need to look at the world through the eyes of God and behave towards all with the innocence of doves; but when it comes to interacting with persons of questionable morals or hostile motivations, we also need to be wise as serpents, treating them with basic human dignity and respect as well as Christian love, but not involving ourselves in their affairs unnecessarily and thus opening ourselves up to their attacks; and we are certainly not required to be approving or countenancing or enjoying their anti-God behavior (cf. Prov.14:18).

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
Matthew 10:16 NIV

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
Romans 16:17-19 NIV

Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.
1st Corinthians 14:20 NIV

The key to your question is thus the further question "what is meant by respect?" A wife owes respect to her husband (Eph.5:33), which means obeying and responding to him. The word used in Ephesians 5:33 is, literally, "fear" (for which "reverence" and "respect" are fine translations in the context). Husbands are commanded to treat their wives with respect (1Pet.3:7), but the Greek word used in that context is tíme, honor, with the same root as in 1st Peter 2:13 quoted above: "Give respect (timao) to all". Fear-reverence-respect commands an attitude of heart; honor-respect is concerned primarily with outward behavior. Husbands therefore do not subordinate themselves to their wives in paying them due honor/respect, but they do treat them with the dignity and consideration their status as wives ought to command. We render all appropriate honor to all legitimate authority, but we do not need to consider those in such authority as intrinsically honorable and we certainly should not reverence them; our reverence and honor is focused upon the office they hold as ordained by God, not on their individual persons. All human beings are created by God. For that reason we must not curse anyone (James 3:9). That is one mark of the dignity which commands our respect – the image of God given to all that all might choose for Jesus and be saved. We have respect for God's creation, and for His desire for their salvation, and for Christ's sacrifice on their behalf. But we do not need to honor or respect or affirm their bad choices, godless behavior, or personal hostility. Love requires us to put aside hate and pray for their salvation; it does not require us to be pleased with their conduct or associate with them.

Please feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In Jesus our dear Lord who died for all so that all might be saved.

Bob L.

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