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New Testament Interpretation:

Melchizedek, 'Forsake not Assembly', 'Women Remain Silent', Water-Baptism, Tongues,
Prophecy, Intervention of Departed Believers.

Word RTF

Question #1:  

Greetings, read your explanation on Melchizedek not being a Christophany. As I see it you are wrong. The obvious, self evidence of the references in Hebrews confirms this and you should not insert "in scripture" when referring to not having a genealogy. That is just adding your opinion. Don't you think Jesus was around back in Genesis. It seems rather silly to insert opinion when scripture inductively speaks for itself.

Thank you for your ministry,

Response #1: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Thank you for your support and for your question. A reply follows here, but I want to say at the outset that I always appreciate it when readers can disagree with a particular point without either taking it personally or "throwing the baby out with the bathwater". As this ministry is attempting to cover the whole realm of doctrine in its scope, it would be a very unusual reader who would not disagree strongly with at least something at some point.

On Melchizedek, I will allow that this passage, Hebrews 7:1-3, is a notoriously difficult passage to interpret. That is easily discernible by seeing what a wide range of opinion exists among Christian exegetes on its true meaning. It is fair to say that any interpretation is going to have some rough edges, and that it will also be easier to find fault with a particular solution than to offer up another which is without its own questionable aspects.

For example, if Melchizedek is a Christophany, then by definition Hebrews 7:1-3 can make no sense whatsoever. That is because Paul is implicitly comparing Christ to Melchizedek (which does not work if they are one and the same person). In the preceding verse, Hebrews 6:20, Paul quotes Psalm 110:4 and applies the verse to Jesus, saying that Christ is a High Priest "in the order of Melchizedek", who would then seem to be someone different than Christ Himself, a person "in whose order" Christ's unique priesthood is also included. Without question, these verses on their face assume a difference between Christ and Melchizedek (i.e., if I am a priest in the order of Levi by definition I am not Levi). Melchizedek is the point of comparison, but if he is the same as Jesus, there is no comparison (in either Psalm 110 or Heb.6-7).

Secondly, none of the other instances of Christophany in the Old Testament identify that Christophany as an earthly person, and in this case Melchizedek is not a temporary appearance but an actual person who rules an earthly city and who has an earthly office: Melchizedek is 1) king of Salem; and 2) a priest (on earth) of God Most High.

Thirdly, our Lord most certainly does have a genealogy. Melchizedek has "no father", but the Father is Christ's Father. Melchizedek has "no mother", but in His humanity Jesus' mother was Mary of Nazareth. Melchizedek has "no genealogy", but Jesus' human genealogies are recorded by Matthew and Luke (Matt.1:1-17; Lk.3:23-38).

Fourthly, tithes are never paid to angels or to Christophanies elsewhere in scripture. Tithes are only paid to human beings who are acting in God's stead (as in the Levitical tithes), in order to support their state-sponsored ministries. To whom, after all, did the tenth part of the treasures recovered by Abraham go, if this Melchizedek was not a human being?

Fifthly, the KJV has for Hebrews 7:3 about Melchizedek "but made like unto the Son of God". Someone who is "made like" to anything or anyone else is by definition not that thing or that person to whom/which he is "made like".

One could go on. Simply put, there are many reasons why Melchizedek cannot be a Christophany, each of which is sufficient individually to refute that position, so that collectively they are impossible to ignore. That does not mean, of course, that explaining the passage is easy. I have placed the addition to which you object in the study and translation to which you refer in brackets: "lacking a genealogy [in scripture]". This is my editorial short-hand for phrases added for explanation. Because Greek and Hebrew often leave out words and phrases which we would never leave out in English (especially when the author feels they are obvious), all English versions of which I am aware use some sort of system whereby they add words like this but let the reader know they are adding them (e.g., the KJV uses italics for this purpose, but I employ italics for emphasis).

I do think that this is precisely what Paul means to say here, namely, that Melchizedek only lacks a genealogy in that we do not know what it is it; in the same way, he has no known end or beginning of life because that is not recorded in scripture (although, clearly, he must have had both). Paul is using this comparison to show that, like the Son of God, Melchizedek's priesthood is superior to that of the Law, and doing so by using a historical precedent that supporters of the Law could not ignore. So a priesthood superior to the Levitical one is thus both precedented and explained by the priesthood of Melchizedek.

If Melchizedek could be construed as a Christophany (which as seems to me impossible, theologically speaking), it would actually weaken the argument. That is because as I interpret it Paul is saying very clearly, "see, even Melchizedek's priesthood was superior to the priesthood of the Mosaic Law – and Christ is High Priest in that order, not the Levitical order". But if the two are one and the same, to the extent that the introduction of a Christophany is irrelevant to the discussion, to that extent this point of comparison is largely lost (the focus of the argument surely is), and one would be left to wonder why Paul had introduced this strange argument in the first place.

Do feel free to write me back about this. In case you missed one or the other, here are the links to the previous discussions of this passage:

Gentile Patriarchy

Jesus fulfills the promise of the High Priest to come

Melchizedek and the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ

In Jesus our dear Lord and High Priest,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Simply stated who else could this personage be. If no credible answer exists then this personage is Christ indeed.

Response #2: 

This personage is Melchizedek, king of Salem – just as the Genesis account and the other references in Psalms and Hebrews say he is. If we were not meant to think that Melchizedek, king of Salem, is Melchizedek, king of Salem, then we would have some indication from the Bible that such were the case.

The burden is on those who do not think Melchizedek is who scripture says he is to say why they think he is someone else. Clearly, it is not at all logical to say "because we do not know more about person X, person X must be Christ". The assumption that Melchizedek is a Christophany is an interpretation – it is not stated in scripture. Defending this interpretation is no easy matter (see the previous email); in fact, it is in my view impossible. But beyond all argument the "default setting" for this issue cannot be "Melchizedek is a Christophany" because scripture makes absolutely no such direct statement.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

How do you explain the following?

Hebrews 10:25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh.

Thanks for your time on my behalf,

Response #3: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Paul writes this verse to Jewish believers who are "assembling" – but in the wrong way and with the wrong people for the wrong purpose. So any starting point of a discussion of this verse has to take into account that just because a Christian is "going to church" does not mean that he/she is fulfilling this verse any better than the Jewish Christians who originally received it were. And, after all, they were doing "church" in the way it had been done for over a thousand years. The only problem was that what they were doing was now wrong (participating in rituals that Christ had already fulfilled and so "crucifying Him afresh"). They should have been getting together with other, genuine believers who were actually interested in doing what should be done in a group: learning the truth of scripture.

Since, arguably, there is some serious question about the status of most "Christian" churches in this country at present as to whether or not they are even comprised of a majority of believers, and very little question about the fact that very few of them do anything along the lines of what the apostle Paul had in mind (i.e., he never heard of an "order of service" or announcements or sermons or any of the other myriad things which pass for "church" in most traditional and even "modern" services today), it would be good for those who wish to use this verse to encourage traditional church attendance to "look to their own house" first. This verse says we should get together for "mutual encouragement" (verse 25 is the fulfillment of verse 24), and we certainly know from the rest of Paul's teachings (not to mention from the gospels, the rest of the New Testament and the entire Bible) that the truth of scripture taught and heard and believed and applied is the only source of genuine encouragement, however that truth may be administered.

I have written a good deal on this verse and related topics and I ask you to have a look at the following links (these will get you started and lead to others). After that, please do feel free to write me back about any of this.

Hebrews 10:25

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality

Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.

Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing.

Dysfunctional Churches

The Assembly of the Local Church

Church Attendance and Spiritual Growth

Salvation and Church Affiliation

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #4:  

Dear Brother,

Thanks for all the biblical truths that are revealed through this site. I really praise God for you all.

I wanted to know if it is right for women to speak in fellowships because here one of my friends said that they go strictly by God's word and it is a commandment from God that women remain silent in the church as Paul wrote. He told me outside the church they can preach evangelize or do whatever the Lord permits them but not when they gather in church for Sunday fellowship.

Also, I was reading your article on water baptism. I am a believer just a year back and I have taken water-baptism. And even in our church and among all believers it is a compulsion that once you know Jesus and are born again you have to take water-baptism as an act of obedience. Also I am taught here at my place there that are many graces when you take water-baptism and it is a direct command of Jesus. Just a month back there was a non believer who accepted Jesus and also desired to take water baptism and told at the meeting that he will take it in few months because he had some personal promises made. And he was having problems financially and family problems. so the leaders told him that because he didn't take water baptism Satan was attacking him. But I wanted to know if this is biblical? Another elder told me that Jesus commanded to baptize in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit is water baptism. He told me when we receive Holy spirit baptism nobody says " in the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit". So also I was confused.

I also have a close friend who is a believer for 4yrs and very strong in the word who also does counseling and Bible classes. My family and I always get upset with him because he has not taken water-baptism till now and he told me its not necessary. I was also very upset and pleaded with him to take water baptism. But he never agrees and says its not necessary. So some of my elders said he is breaking God's commands and God will punish those who don't take water baptism. My mother says that not even a single pastor will tell you not to take water-baptism. The previous church I went allowed believers to be members only if they have taken water-baptism.

dear brother I will wait for your reply as I am also asking God to reveal His truths for me.


Response #4: 

First, let me apologize for the long delay in responding to your emails. For whatever reason, both of your messages were held up by my spam-filter and I only saw them when doing my monthly check.

As to your first question, let me say first that every local church certainly has the right to conduct its services in whatever way those who govern it feel is right. Were I a member of a fellowship where I felt that things were not being done according to the Word of God, I would prefer to separate rather than to remonstrate. Paul does say at 1st Corinthians 14:34 "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak" (KJV), and again at 1st Timothy 2:12 "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent" (NIV). What is usually missed in discussions about these passages, however, is that in both instances Paul is referring to the teaching content of the church meeting as it was being conducted during apostolic days. The purpose of assembly is the teaching of the Word of God (rather than the 90+% non-teaching that comprises most contemporary "worships services"), and in apostolic days much of this burden was being shouldered by the function of apostolic-era spiritual gifts (whereas today genuine teaching is carried out exclusively by prepared, gifted men – where it is taking place at all, that is). Women of that day and age received spiritual gifts of communication just as men did – prophesy and tongues, for example. Under the principle of authority, however, Paul makes it clear that when it comes to the meeting together of believers in a mixed group, teaching should be done by men even though there may be women in the congregation who were likewise gifted. Otherwise, there would be a situation where a woman or women would have been in authority (as teachers) over men (as those being taught), and that is what is 'contrary to the law' (1Cor.14:34b; see the link). In its essence, this is really not too different from the position taken by almost all conservative, Bible-believing groups that do not allow women pastors, and in my opinion a policy which did not allow women to teach the Bible to the congregation at large from the pulpit during the main meeting of the church would mostly fulfill the passages above.

I find the idea, as some would have it, that men can talk in church but women cannot to be a gross misapplication of these scriptures. No one other than the teacher should be talking when the Word of God is being taught – including men; but if the Word is not being taught, then men and women can equally do whatever it is acceptable to do including having a conversation. So the standard today (since prophecy and tongues are no longer being given to anyone) is really the same for both genders, the only exception being that women are not permitted to teach the congregation as a whole. And before even this is thought to be at all unfair, it should be considered that the vast majority of Christian men nowadays do not have the gift of pastoring or teaching and, even if they do, are not properly prepared to exercise it. All these men too are "required to be silent" when the Word is taught, and they too are not allowed to teach, since they have not been empowered by the Spirit to do so and/or have not taken the trouble or time yet to become prepared to do so. Using these verses as a sort of club to bash or disenfranchise sisters in Christ is an unfortunate and unacceptable misuse of scripture. Outside of the church's main meeting, there are certainly places for women to make use of their spiritual gifts (nothing, for example, precludes women from teaching other women or from teaching children). However that would not include tongues or prophesying since these gifts are no longer being given.

As to your second question, there is quite a bit about water baptism posted to the site (see the links: "Baptism: Water and Spirit I", "Baptism: Water and Spirit II", and "John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit" not only addresses the issue at length but will lead you to many others as well), and it takes a different point of view from the one being expressed to you. John the baptist said that while he baptized with water, Jesus would baptize "with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Lk.3:16), and while our Lord never baptized with water (Jn.4:2), He did tell the disciples just before His ascension "For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:5). Therefore Jesus is concerned with Spirit baptism, while John's baptism was water-baptism, a symbol of the coming Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah, and has now already come. Jesus' baptism, the Messiah's baptism, is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, something all believers receive, for all who do not have the Spirit do not even belong to Jesus (Rom.8:9). Water-baptism is no longer required or really even appropriate because the Messiah has already come and John's ministry and the generation to which he came is long passed. No passage in scripture commands gentiles to be baptized with water; that is because it was a Jewish ritual of restoration anticipating the coming of the Messiah. However, because there is water-baptism of Jews (and mixed Jewish/gentile groups) during the transitional period of the apostles recorded in the book of Acts (and it was only natural for the apostles to connect up John's prophecy of the Messiah as a witness to Jesus for Jews of that generation who knew all about John's ministry), many Christian traditions have incorrectly continued water-baptism, and some have horrifyingly even suggested it has something to do with spirituality or even salvation.

It is true that the Roman Catholic religion, a religion which has little to do with true Christianity, claims that water-baptism is a conveyer of grace, but there is nothing in the Bible to indicate anything of the kind (the claims reported about punishment or cursing for not being water-baptized are superstition – can anyone provide a scripture in defense?). Indeed, later on in his ministry Paul repented of water-baptizing those he had baptized (1Cor.1:14). I think the fact that the "story" you are getting from your church about this issue is so completely confused and so completely bereft of actual biblical support, and so caught up in things which are legalistic and superstitious but not at all biblical is thus a clear indication of what I have been saying: water-baptism is not required of Christians and its continuation usually does more harm than good because it confuses many genuine biblical and doctrinal issues and can even lead to bringing in things that are not true at all.

Then Jesus came over and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, so go and make all nations my followers by baptizing them [with the Spirit] into the Person (i.e., "name") of the Father and [into the Person] of the Son and [into the Person] of the Holy Spirit, and by teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you".
Matthew 28:18-20a

The only way someone can be baptized into the Trinity as this passage commands is through the power of God, specifically, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This passage refers to the Spirit baptism which the disciples/apostles are commanded to mediate – just as they did do during the opening years of the apostolic period, and just as we do now by giving the gospel: all who hear and believe are baptized by the Spirit into Christ, thus fulfilling Jesus' mandate above. Note that water is not mentioned in this passage. Note also that it is not actually said here that we are to verbally pronounce a formula ("I baptize you in the Name of . . ."). And note as well that it is in fact impossible to baptize someone into God by splashing them with water.

Water-baptism exists because of tradition, but it is indefensible if the Bible be the sole criterion for our faith and practice.

Good to make your acquaintance. Keep fighting the good fight of faith in Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #5: 


Thanks for your answers Brother. I was really waiting for your reply. Do people still receive the spiritual gifts of tongues or prophecies? And please write to me more about tongues brother.

Thanks again

Response #5: 

Hello again,

As to your question, many people claim that the gift of tongues is still being given, but I am dubious based in part upon 1st Corinthians 13:8-10:

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
1st Corinthians 13:8-10 NIV

The "knowing in part" Paul talks about has to do with knowledge of the truth (cf. vv.11-12), and when he wrote these verses the Bible had not yet been completed so that all we are meant to know could not yet be known from the Bible alone. Today, "the perfect" canon of scripture is available to all, so it does stand to reason that temporary gifts designed to supplement the lack of a complete Bible are no longer necessary. And while it is true that "perfection" can be taken here to mean our eternal status with Jesus as well, that does not preclude it having the application described above.

In spite of some fairly thorough personal investigations, I have never actually witnessed what I would call a legitimate and genuine occurrence of the gift of tongues. Tongues are "for a sign" to unbelievers in order to give them the gospel in their own native languages (compare 1Cor.14:22 with Acts 2:4-11), and the gift of tongues never ever produced unknown or unknowable sounds that were not a meaningful and presently existing human language (1Cor.14:10-11). It seems to me that if the gift were presently being given in truth, there would plenty of examples that each of us would be able to relate (as opposed to no verifiable instances whatsoever). So while there is no evidence of what the Bible calls the gift of tongues being presently operable, there is good biblical evidence both to state and to explain why this is so.

What passes for the gift of tongues in groups which claim that it still exists is more a sort of chanting of meaningless syllables. That is not the gift of tongues nor is it legitimate – for God is not the author of confusion (1Cor.14:33). You can find out much more about these matters at the following links:

Tongues: does 'no man' understand?

The Gift of Tongues: Part 1

The Gift of Tongues: Part 2

Is speaking in tongues biblical?

Is speaking in tongues a sin?

An Extended Conversation about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

"The baptism which now saves you": 1st Peter 3:21.

The gift of prophecy falls into the same category. It was a gift whereby the possessor could, under the influence of the Spirit, pronounce biblical truths in the same language he or she understood. This pronouncement was of all manner of biblical truths, not just what we would call today "prophesy of future events". That is, the one so gifted might be given to pronounce on the divinity or the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Today, we can know all that God wants us to know about those doctrines and every other biblical subject, but it requires careful study and teaching of the pertinent scriptures (or listening to a teaching ministry where that hard work has been done in an orthodox manner). In the apostolic period, however, believers with this gift were able to "teach" without having studied. Indeed, they "learned" at the same time that the people listening to them learned. In a time when almost all but a small handful of believers were new to the faith, when the Church was expanding more rapidly than ever before or since, when there were no seminaries, when the Hebrew Bible was still largely unavailable to Christians, and, most importantly, when the Greek New Testament did not exist at all (or, later in the period, in only a few of its eventual 27 books), one can certainly see how a gift that would circumvent the present practice of studying and teaching and instead receive the truth directly from God would not only be helpful but essential – e.g., Paul and his circle could not be everywhere at once. However, since just from the book of Acts and the information which can be gleaned from the epistles we most definitely see that the teaching ministries of the apostles and their delegates were even then supreme, it should come as no great surprise that today, when the 1st century disadvantages no longer apply, the gift of prophecy is no longer being given. Not only is it presently unnecessary, but its continued existence would undermine the process of preparation, studying and teaching upon which all orthodox teaching ministries depend. One does find groups which claim to be led by "prophets", but we can easily determine by sampling their "fruit" that no such genuine ministry still exists (because no one is currently being given that gift). On the one hand, no "new" information is being given out which cannot be found in scripture, and on the other hand such would-be prophets invariably put out information which conflicts with scripture (proving that they are false prophets). Please see the link: "Are there prophets in the Church today?"

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
1st Corinthians 13:11 NIV

The Church "grew up" in the 1st century. Going back to the "cribs and training wheels" of these transitional gifts would be detrimental enough for the maturity of the Church and individual Christians if these gifts were in fact being given. How much more so when what passes for these things today is mere fakery!

I hope you find this helpful. If you write me back and do not hear from me in a couple of days, it is probably another case of your email being sequestered.

Yours in Jesus Christ who is the truth,

Bob L.

Question #6:  


Thanks bro for your mail i am learning really through these mails. but wanted to ask one question regarding your last line here about tongues and prophecy. some say they have finished with the apostolic age and no more but some of the churches say nothing has ceased. if it was started from the day of pentecost so it is for the church. as i was reading the word i came to the line where it says that when the perfect come then that which is in part shall be done away. so i am praying to God to help me understand what it means. bro if you can write to me it will really help me


Response #6: 

As to your question, yes, I am aware of the argument, but it makes no sense. There are many things that happened at Pentecost and afterwards during the apostolic period which have either never been repeated or were only happening during the days of the apostles. To take but one example, there are only twelve apostles, and when these died they were never replaced in the Church. Since John passed away ca. 67 A.D., there have been no new apostles – and there will only be the names of the twelve on the gates of New Jerusalem (Rev.21:14).

Speaking of Pentecost, "tongues of fire" were seen to fall on the believers gathered together on that day, but this has never been repeated. The apostles brought the dead back to life on certain occasions; no news of that happening again. Books of the Bible were being written; no news of that happening since John penned Revelation. Believers were dramatically and visibly rescued by the intervention of angels; not seeing that happen now. And as I have stated I have seen no proof whatsoever of any genuine, biblical gift of healing, tongues, or prophesy, nor do I know of any documented instances since the first century – a very odd state of affairs if these gifts had not ceased to be given. After all, with so many Christians alive today, and so many others having lived since the first century, people who claim the gifts have not ceased to be given owe us an explanation of why this is. It is not enough merely to say "they are being given". The most logical explanation for why they cannot give such proof is that things are in fact as the Bible states them to be: these visibly miraculous gifts have ceased to be given because 1) they are no longer necessary and 2) would prove to be a distraction for the Church from what we should all be doing: learning all of the truth of the Word of God through diligent study, and growing through its belief and systematic application to our lives. Point (2) is obviously true, moreover: look how distracted from actual Bible study our fellow believers are who claim to be enjoying such gifts! If they can be so distracted from the truth by imaginary gifts, just think how distracted they would be if such gifts were truly being given! They might never crack their Bibles again!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hello Dr Luginbill

I enjoy reading on the website. It is constantly pulling me higher and higher in the knowledge of GOD and I thank him for enlightening you. My question is about Rev 6: 9 – 11. These souls under the alter are they indicating that all the righteous dead can talk to GOD concerning people on earth? And as they are talking to him in this scripture concerning the judgement which must befall those that killed them, can the righteous dead also plead with GOD for the well being of the righteous still on earth praying for them? If so is it right for believers on earth to ask the righteous departed to pass their prayers on to GOD, since they are closer to him and judging by this scripture he responds to them directly


Response #7:

Good to make your acquaintance. As to your question, as I read the passage you mention, Revelation 6:9-11, these departed believers are not praying for the good of fellow believers left behind but are praying for a divine answer of judgment upon the beast and his minions who were responsible for putting them to death. This is the only place I know of in scripture where departed believers make any petition of the Father, and here the entire complement of tribulational martyrs make the same petition with one accord, calling for the judgment which is most certainly part of God's plan – indeed, divine judgment is the theme of the Tribulation a major reason for it. Similar to this occurrence is the use of incense in Revelation chapter 8:3-5 which is said to be offered "for the prayers of the saints" whose offering results in the commencement of the warning cycle of judgment, the seven trumpets (please see the link: The Saints and their Prayers). Thus the petition in chapter six is unique, but it ties directly into two of the main themes of the Tribulation, martyrdom and judgment (and the purpose of the seals is to give us a preview of how the Tribulation will unfold in its most important aspects; see the link).

Since even in this unique case the departed are not asking for any benefit on behalf of those still alive, I would be reluctant to see this as a parallel for suggesting the same generally. So as to your final question, while I suppose someone might argue theoretically for this to be the case – after all, we are ignorant about almost everything that is currently going on in the third heaven, knowing only what scripture explicitly tells us – there are good reasons to think that the departed do not intervene. First, there is no way for us to communicate with the dead, and there is very clear scriptural guidance stating that attempting to do so is forbidden for believers and very spiritually dangerous too (e.g., Deut.18:11; 1Sam.28:7-25). Second, it would seem to be a violation of the "ground rules" for God's plan for human history for the departed to intervene on our behalf. We are all here to make choices, our own choices. Being alive, we can certainly intervene in prayer for all those we wish to help – but that is part of our Christian application, that is part of our process of choice here on earth. We are in the midst of the battle now, and how we fight it, including how we help others, is fundamental to our evaluation before the judgment seat of Christ. Those who have passed on, it would seem, do not participate in the fight any longer on any level even as they are in fact no longer direct participants, having passed out of the crucible wherein free will determines our eternal status. They will be involved again – after the resurrection (see the link: "The Second Advent Judgments"). But until that time they are enjoying a period of repose where they worship and appreciate the Lord (rather than fighting the spiritual fight of this life wherein eternal rewards are earned and determined; see the link: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church").

Finally, while it is true that the departed are "closer" to God than we are in one way – they see Him and our Lord Jesus face to face – God is everywhere, so the "geographical" distance makes no difference whatsoever. Indeed, we are all indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and Jesus has promised us that for those of us who follow Him closely, He and the Father will likewise take up residence within us (Jn.14:23; and see the link: "The Indwelling of Christ"). Further, we are given many promises of answered prayer in scripture, empowered as it is now by the Holy Spirit (e.g., Rom.8:26), and we are also assured that we now have access for our prayers directly to the throne room of God Himself (Eph.2:18; 3:12; Heb.4:16). Since we are "heard" in our hearts and "heard" before the throne of God on our behalf, it seems clear to me from scripture that we need no such intervention, but are responsible for making our own petitions for ourselves and on behalf of others.

I do appreciate your eagerness to make prayer more effective, and there is much in scripture on that subject. Essentially, effectiveness in prayer is a function of two related things: 1) growing up spiritually, since the more mature a believer is the more effective his/her prayers will be (cf. Jas.5:16-18); 2) learning more and more about the true will of God in all things, for the more our prayers conform with God's will the more effective they will be (cf. 1Jn.5:14). If we wish to lead a more effective prayer life, therefore, there is nothing else for it than committing ourselves to learning and believing and applying and living God's truth more completely and more diligently day by day.

Thank you so much for your email and for all your kind and encouraging words about this ministry. Please feel free to write any time.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #8: 

Dear Dr Luginbill

Thank you for that speedy response, and thank you for saying I can feel free to write anytime, you are already making a positive difference in my spiritual journey. I should tell you I am a South African Zulu man. I was raised under African Culture. According to African culture the deceased are our link to GOD. It is believed that no one alive in the flesh can speak directly to GOD. Usually there are ceremonies performed which include slaughtering of goats or sheep and burning of incense to communicate with the righteous dead, in an endeavour to get them to pass the message onwards until it reaches GOD. Usually the message would be of asking for breakthroughs in life and luck and the likes, not necessarily for the forgiveness of sins. It is believed that there is a network of righteous ancestors in the spiritual world that carry the message to GOD, just like in cell phone technology, you may speak to someone on the other side of the world instantaneously but the signal goes through a whole lot of sophisticated equipment before it reaches its intended destination. After I got born again and started learning and studying the bible diligently, I saw that it is against GOD'S will to do this. But sometimes it is hard because my father still believes that there is a connection according to African culture. At times he will insist that the culture should not be forsaken, as it is our heritage and defines who we are as Africans. He would say forgetting where you come from is like a plant that is removed from the soil, it will wither and eventually die being disconnected from its nourishment. I spend a lot of my time searching the scriptures trying to find the connection, hence my previous question. My challenge is how do I get my people to see the truth of the Bible?

Many people who follow this culture become very successful. They have material wealth. And things seem to go well for them. This is the very thing that convinces many that this is the right way of getting our prayers answered, but according to scripture this is the lie. Unfortunately many ridicule the teachings of scripture. And many have one foot in the Kingdom of GOD and one foot in the African Culture even in the church. This is very frustrating for me, and it is a constant nag in my spiritual growth. The biggest challenges come when there seems to be a delay in my personal achievements, people would come and say it is because one has forsaken their culture, and embraced foreign culture and the drought is because the ancestors are angry. Please give some advice if you have any.

Best regards

Response #8: 

Dear Friend,

Good to hear from you again. We may live an ocean and a half distant, but your experiences are not at all dissimilar to what true Christians here – and Christians everywhere – often encounter. In my country, the idea that Christianity should equal prosperity is wildly popular (see the link: "The Prosperity Gospel"). The cultural manifestations of the idea that God is some kind of a magic force capable of being manipulated for material advantage may differ, but in the end it is motivated by the same sort of worldly thinking.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.
1st John 2:15-16 NIV

A person does not need to read very far or very much in the Bible to find out that material blessings are insignificant in comparison to spiritual blessings (Jn.6:63), that true Christians are more likely to be persecuted for their faith than to become rich (2Tim.3:12), and that the true Christian focus should be pleasing Jesus Christ in this world so as to be rewarded in the next (Matt.6:19-21) – rather than seeking temporary advantage in this world to the detriment of our eternal blessings (Mk.8:36).

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1st Corinthians 9:24-25 NIV

Life will always be thus. God has constructed human history as a smelter of testing. Every human being's true motivations and true heart come to the fore as each of us is given a lifetime of opportunities . . . to make choices for or against the Lord (1Cor.3:13). The more we choose for Him, the closer we grow to Him and the more riches we store up in heaven. The more we choose for ourselves, opting for the ephemeral delights of this transitory world instead of for what pleases Jesus Christ, the more we are only wasting our time here on earth at best or even endangering our status as believers at worst.

God knows everything. God ordained everything in His plan before He created the universe through Jesus Christ. No human being ever lost out on a single blessing because "God didn't get the message". Indeed, God has designed the specifics of our lives and circumstances down to the second, down the last hair on our heads. True, He has taken into account all of our choices, good and bad, and these certainly shape the texture of our lives. But even when it comes to our mistakes, failings and sins, God has arranged our lives for us so that we may have every opportunity to show by our actions that His Son our Lord Jesus means more to us than anything our eyes can see our ears can hear or our other senses can enjoy. We are here to make choices, and the fact that the evil one and those who either choose for him or choose to be influenced by him seem to prosper is part of the testing that brings out the true worth in those who prefer to follow Jesus Christ (Ps.73; cf. Job 21:7; Jer.12:11; Hab.1:13).

(16) Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (17) For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (18) So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2nd Corinthians 4:16-18

If evil never prospered and if those who follow Jesus diligently only experienced blessing and peace, I am sure that many false friends would join with us if only to taste of the sweet results. And in such a case, how much faith would be necessary to live like a true believer? As it is, the fact that we are constantly being challenged to see with the eyes of faith, to believe what the Bible tells us is true and what we know from the testimony of the Spirit within us is true requires the continuous refining of our faith. Opposition, trouble, hardship, disdain, persecution, these things are unpleasant, but they sharpen the believer the same way iron sharpens iron – that is if we are but willing to trust Jesus that He is in fact working all things out together for good for us who love Him just as He has promised us (Rom.8:28).

In every culture where there is a Christian presence, there will also be found a quasi-Christian presence which in many cases is not really Christian at all (cf. Rev.2:14-16; 2:20-23). These groups always have rationalizations for why their clearly un-biblical or even anti-biblical practices and teachings are "good". And in any generation, country or culture, the number even among true Christians of those who are willing to dedicate themselves to seeking Jesus through His Word, following Him by His Word, and serving Him with His Word has always been very small. In our present-day era of Laodicea (please see the link), it is really not surprising that you are experiencing in your own way what virtually all Christians in this country and worldwide are presently going through, namely, being treated like a pariah only for doing precisely what Jesus has called you to do: to grow and progress spiritually through the Word of truth, and then help others do likewise in the employment of your particular spiritual gifts.

And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Hebrews 13:12-14 NIV

The question of how to convince others is one of Christian apologetics, and as I often have recourse to say, I am no expert in that arena. That is in part because in my view the critical thing is not the method or the "tricks" an evangelist may use with unbelievers or an advancing believer may use with stagnant or regressing believers. What is important is the truth – the Word of God – the critical thing is what is in the heart of those being ministered to. For those willing to accept the truth, God never allows any good impulse of heart to go unheard or unsatisfied. In all things, God's provision is perfect. Indeed, He provided it before the world was made, and it has been waiting in store for us since the beginning of time for the just the right time when we would need it.

And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Luke 12:29-30 NIV

The most magnificent provision – wonderful beyond expression – is the gift of salvation through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus who died for every one of our sins. It is indeed very sad that so many people so eagerly trade down for the pottage of worldly riches instead of opting for the inestimable eternal inheritance our Lord offers to those who serve Him faithfully in this life. But after all, the vast majority of human kind throughout the ages has preferred going its own way to accepting the free offer of eternal life in Jesus Christ. To me and to many who have embraced the truth, this makes no sense whatsoever. But as I say, life is all about choices. Perhaps we may occasionally be able to influence those making bad ones to come to their senses and turn to, follow and serve Jesus instead of their own appetites. But one really important thing of which it is critical we never lose sight is that we who are attempting to know, follow and serve our Lord in the correct way never let the wrong choices of the wicked or their apparent, temporary successes in this despicable world throw us off our stride for a single step. For the sufferings we are currently experiencing are temporary, but the crop we are about to reap will be eternal.

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.
Psalm 126:5-6 NIV

Keep on tilling in faith for Jesus our Lord the plot of ground God has assigned to you – in this there is a great harvest of reward which lasts forever.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hello--I hope you don't mind answering another manuscript question for me. It's about 1Tim.3:16. Some Bibles have "God, who was revealed in the flesh," others have "He who" and others "which was." My RSV reads "He who" but a footnote says "other ancient manuscripts read 'God, others, 'which.'"

This JW claims that "God who" was a later addition, and a scribal change from the original "He Who." I don't know anything about that and never even thought about it. But do you know what the oldest manuscripts say? Or do they all have something different?

Thanks. God bless!

Response #9: 

Most of the versions have "He" or "He who" or even "[Christ]" (the latter supplied as the subject), and that is not surprising given the textual evidence. The KJV has "God" based upon the Textus Receptus, that is, the Greek edition used by all of its translators for uniformity's sake. However, the best ancient manuscripts do not have "God" (apparently) but "who" (which in translating Greek it is necessary to render as "He" or "He who"). Verse sixteen is sometimes taken to be a popular, contemporary hymn which Paul is quoting, and I find that idea very persuasive: the language and mode of expression is not particularly Pauline, these lines seem like a stanza, and they give the impression of a quoted text. The "who" or "He who" very clearly does refer to Christ, so that while the translation "God who" would not be theologically wrong in my view, "He" (meaning Christ) is superior. The KJV renders it the way it does only because the word "God" actually occurs in their (inferior) text.

As to how "God" got there, however, it may not be entirely accurate to explain it only as a later addition. In the Greek manuscript hands common in the days when the New Testament was being written and the early manuscripts produced, there is very little difference between the letter theta and the letter omicron; a theta is an omicron with a bar bisecting it, and this bar was often thin compared to the circle it cut. It is very common in ancient Greek paleography, therefore, for these two letters to be confused one with the other (sigma and epsilon have a parallel and similar joint confusion). Since the word for God, theos, is usually abbreviated in the nominative case to theta sigma, the only difference between the word for "who" (omicron sigma) and the word for "God" (theta sigma) in this passage is the absence of the thin bar across the omicron. From what I can make out from the facsimile of Sinaiticus, the oldest and best manuscript, there is no sign of such a bar across the omicron. The word theos is written in above, but the correction is apparently very late (that is the situation with most of the ancient mss.). So if the word "God" were ever present here, it would have had to have dropped out very early and there is not much evidence for that (see Metzger's Textual Commentary on the New Testament in loc. for the details on that). However, it would be possible to argue that the original consisted of both words, "God who", and that one of them dropped in the process of copying due to the similarity of the repeated letters (a not unparalleled development by any means).

Personally, I think "He who" is right, and in my opinion were we to be privy to the text of the entire hymn Paul is quoting here, it would have had "Jesus" in the previous, unquoted stanza. After all, beyond all argument it is Jesus we are talking about here who "appeared in the flesh". Clearly also from the biblical testimony He is most certainly God, but it is His humanity which is being stressed in the hymn Paul quotes to sum up the "mystery of godliness". So correctly understood this text does nothing whatsoever to call into question Christ's deity, it just does not expressly call Him God (there are plenty of other Bible verses that do so after all).

Hope this helps,

In Jesus our Lord and our God,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Dear Professor,

Another set of questions:

Is Mark 16:9-20 a part of the Scripture?

Response #10: 

No, Mark 16:9-20 is not part of scripture. The gospel of Mark ends with verse eight of chapter sixteen (see the link: "Interpolations in the Bible").

Question #11:  

Could you please explain Matt 11:13? Does it meant that John is the last prophet?

Response #11: 

Matthew 11:13: John, great believer that he was, nevertheless had difficulty understanding why Jesus' advent was not working out the way he had anticipated. Like so many of his contemporaries, John likewise expected the Messiah to take physical control of the world and "cleanse His threshing floor" at that time. This was harder for John than most others because he had been in prison since nearly the beginning of Jesus' ministry (for several years by the time this comment is made). Why was he, John, continuing to suffer in jail if Jesus were truly the Messiah? So this is not John's finest hour, but he is one of the greatest believers who ever lived and died a genuine martyr for the Lord. His imprisonment and continued existence was an important part of Jesus' ministry by keeping the intensive scrutiny that would befall our Lord after John's death somewhat reduced until that final most difficult year before the cross. John is in fact the "last prophet" before the Prophet, since he is the Messiah's herald.

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

For more on this see the link: "John the baptist's doubts".

Question #12: 

Is Matthew 17:21 a part of the Scripture?

Response #12: 

Matthew 17:21: No, it was added to some of the manuscript tradition later in order to harmonize the pericope with Mark 9:29. It was often the case in antiquity that scholarly readers who came across a passage would "gloss it" (as today when we add notes and parallel passages in our study Bibles). This passage, for example, is very close the Mark verse, but does not have the additional information. It is quite understandable that a reader with a good memory would write into the margin what else Mark had to say. But what about when the entire gospel is later recopied by someone else? Since there was no standardized system of annotation to make it possible to distinguish whether a marginal note was an original copiest or editor's insertion of something accidentally left out (a frequent occurrence as anyone who has ever tried to manually copy a long text knows), or was instead one of these "helpful" glosses, most who recopied such mss. would write everything down as if it were original: better to err on the side of including something erroneous than excluding part of the Word (so the reasoning goes). Blessedly, we have very good text-critical resources for the NT so that it is really rare when there is serious doubt about these sorts of situations.

Question #13: 

Could you please clarify John 12:47 : "If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world".

Since not keeping what Jesus said eventually results in judgment, why does Jesus say that he does not judges that person?

Response #13: 

In John 12:47, our Lord uses the present tense: "I am not judging him". In the next verse, the person who rejects the truth of the gospel is said to be subject to judgment – not here on earth but in the future "on the last day". At that time, the very words the unbeliever has uttered will be the basis of confirming the condemnation against him – for failing/refusing to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation.

Question #14:  

What is the 'stake in the flesh' mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7?

Response #14: 

This is a (deliberately) unidentified physical ailment, apparently a chronic one, from which Paul suffered grievously. There has been much speculation about what it might it have been. If I had to guess, I would speculate, based upon Galatians 4:15, that it had something do with his eyes – but we are not told specifically. Given his "record" of terrible sufferings (he was repeatedly flogged and caned, and was even stoned once), this chronic problem must have no small inconvenience for him. But it turned out to be a blessing to us in that it not only gives us great insight into the faith and faith application of that greatest of the apostles, but also a stirring example to follow in our own trials:

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV

Question #15: 

Could you please explain the meaning of Matt.5:33-37? Is this passage a general recommendation for a simplicity (and/or humility) in the way we speak, or does it only relate to oaths?

Response #15: 

I think you make an excellent point here. Matt.5.37 compared with Matt.5.36 shows that our Lord is explaining the problem with oaths as being employed by His contemporaries: an arrogant desire to influence events for selfish purposes and a corresponding and concomitant lack of humility about the greatness of God and our own complete insignificance apart from Him.

Question #16: 

 You wrote: 'd) Subconscious Suggestion: Subtle suggestion below the conscious level is also a weapon in the devil's arsenal (1Chron.21:1; cf. Matt.16:23)'.

Is my understanding correct that you gave these two particular passages as examples, since neither David nor Peter were aware of the sinful character of what they were doing/saying, as these ideas were born at a subconscious level?

Response #16: 

In both cases, we have clear scriptural indications that the devil was behind the action, inciting David to act and Peter to speak. It is probable that they were unaware that Satan was the source of the "idea" in each case, but I would not say that they would have been (or certainly that they should have been) unaware that the "idea" was evil. The only thing at issue is the degree to which they were deceived. Whenever we are likewise prompted by our sin nature (often being incited by the evil one's minions) to do something wrong, as growing believers we certainly ought to be getting to the point of 1) realizing that such "ideas" are wrong; 2) recognizing that the "idea" comes not from God but from a sinful source (i.e., our sin nature and perhaps also demon influence); and 3) suppressing everything that is not of God.

Question #17: 

You wrote : 'It is important to note that we no more have to take any heed of sinful and evil "ideas" that occur to us than we do the overt verbal suggestions of others enticing us to leave the path of truth'.

Could you explain what you mean here? Are you suggesting that the sinful 'ideas' are more or less of a threat compared to verbal suggestions?

Response #17:

No. Both are threats. But while people clearly see verbal enticements coming from others as external, when thoughts occur to a person which may be inspired by demonic interference there is a tendency to 1) fail to properly evaluate the threat on the one hand or 2) be devastated that "I could think something like this!" on the other. My point here is to assure readers that as those endowed with free will we do have the right and, ultimately, the ability to gain mastery of what is inside of us. This is in many ways the "high ground" of Christian spiritual growth, namely, gaining a high degree of control over our inner thought processes and emotions. Although it is a largely overlooked and greatly undervalued area of truth, in my view it is impossible to attain the highest plains of spiritual perspective and from there consistent application of truth to one's life without it (please see the link: "Who controls our thoughts and emotions?").

Therefore I entreat you by God's mercy, brothers, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God – [this is] your "priestly-service" spiritually performed. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
Romans 12:1-2

(9) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in full-knowledge (epignosis: truth believed) and in all discernment, (10) so that you may be able to evaluate the things that are good and appropriate [for you to do] to be sincere and without offense in regard to the day of Christ (i.e., to gain a maximum reward at Christ's judgment seat), (11) full of the righteous production Jesus Christ [commends] to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

Question #18: 

Who is Theophilus from Luke's introduction?

Response #18: 

No one knows. It has been argued that Luke's term of address for him at Lk.1:3, "most excellent" (Greek kratistos) is one appropriate for a Roman noble of some high standing (I note that he does not repeat that usage in his introduction to the same person in Acts). There is also a tradition in later Christian literature that Theophilus came from Antioch. Luke addresses him in the manner of writers addressing their literary patrons. But none of this is definitive. We can say that Luke is writing under Paul's authority (since he was a companion of Paul first and foremost and thus it would be Paul's apostolic authority under which he wrote). If Theophilus was a Roman, therefore, he could easily have been an official or upper-class person from Philippi (or Corinth, etc.). This would mesh with my own supposition of when the gospel was written (i.e., sometime between ca. 45-50 A.D.) when Paul and his circle would most likely have been in Ephesus, so that Luke would have been sending Paul's version of the gospel back to Greece to the places visited on the "second missionary journey" while Paul was detained in Asia Minor.

Question #19: 

In the Polish translation there is an addition at the end of Luke 1:28 'blessed are you among the women'. Is that a part of the scripture?

Response #19: 

No. It is present in Luke 1:42 and may have been added here to harmonize the verses or, more probably as a gloss later incorporated into the text. It occurs in many translations because it is present in a large number of late mss., but there is no good explanation for why, if it were original to the text, it would be missing from the earliest and best mss.

Question #20: 

Could you please explain Luke 1:34? English translation says 'since I am a virgin', Polish says 'since I don't know the husband'. Wasn't Mary already engaged to Joseph at the time?

Response #20: 

A good example of translation issues. The Greek says "since I have no [carnal] knowledge of a man/husband". No doubt partially for communication reasons, partially for euphemism, the versions render it the way that they do. Mary was engaged, but not married, so she had never had relations with a man. That is her point, clear in the Greek, though less so in the way it is often rendered.

Question #21:  

How was 'Mary's song' created (Luke 1:46) and should it be a part of the scripture?

Response #21: 

Yes it most certainly is a part of scripture. This is a case of divinely inspired prophesy of which scripture is replete. For example:

Then the Spirit came upon Amasai, chief of the Thirty, and he said: "We are yours, O David! We are with you, O son of Jesse! Success, success to you, and success to those who help you, for your God will help you." So David received them and made them leaders of his raiding bands.
1st Chronicles 12:18 NIV

Question #22: 

You wrote: 'That this demonstration will have been one of over seven thousand years' duration (when human history shall have finally run its course) is merely further proof of the graciousness and long-suffering of God'. I'm obviously familiar with God suffering through what our Lord Jesus endured towards the end of his life, but I assume you must mean a different type of suffering here, could you explain it?

Response #22: 

God's self-restraint in not carrying out judgment immediately but allowing time for the guilty party or parties to repent is often described in scripture by (e.g., Ex.34:6; Num.14:18; Ps.86:15; Jer.15:15):

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
Romans 2:4 KJV (and cf. Peter's comment on this passage: 2Pet.3:15)

The NIV's rendering as "tolerance" of the Greek word makrothumia (a close translation of the Hebrew 'erech 'aphaiym meaning "restraint of anger") will perhaps help. What we have here is an anthropopathism, that is, the attribution of a human characteristic to God in order to help us understand His actions and motivations, limited human beings that we are (see the link).

Question #23: 

Could you please explain the meaning of the 'woes' from Luke 6:24-26?

24 "But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Many of us live in societies whereby being relatively well fed is something normal. In a similar vein, some people can acknowledge something good that we've done and speak well of us (unless the meaning of it is 'worldly praise' - praise of people, who love the devil's world).

Response #23: 

The first thing to understand about the beatitudes is that they are given to a corporate group of believers, namely, Israel, where the entire nation was assumed by God to be believers and treated as such (even though that was never completely the case).  This corporate treatment at this point explains also our Lord's contrasting instructions to the disciples just before His crucifixion (Lk.22:36).  In applying these truths to those within this corporate group then the beatitudes are applicable to those who genuinely belong to the spiritual sub-group assumed in each case. "Blessed/happy are ye" applies to believers who are in this category; likewise "woe to ye" applies to unbelievers who are in that category. If someone is "meek" but not a believer, that person is most definitely not going to "inherit the earth". Similarly, if a person is a Christian but also happens to be materially blessed (as Abraham was, e.g.), that person is not going to be condemned on account of their riches. All of these pronouncements are concessive. That is to say, they express spiritual truths which are true even in the face of a physical reality which may seem to contradict them. A poor person seems to the world to be cursed, but if that person is a believer they are blessed beyond our capacity to understand it now, and in eternity will know only blessing upon blessing. A rich person may seem to the world to be blessed, but if that person is an unbeliever they are destined for the lake of fire and no amount of the very temporary material prosperity in this corrupt world can possibly compensate for the horrors to come. That is why I like to translate these verses in the following way: "You are happy/blessed even though (you have some physical disadvantage)", "You are destined for woe even though (you have some physical advantage):

Be happy, even though you are poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven.

Be happy, even though you are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

Be happy, even though you are crying now, for you shall laugh.

Be happy when people revile you and exclude you and reproach you and disparage your reputation on account of the Son of Man.

Rejoice and leap for joy in [anticipation of] that [future] day, for behold, your reward in heaven is great; after all, your ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.

Luke 6:20b-23

Question #24:  

Could you please clarify the meaning of Matthew 16:19? Why does Jesus say these words about the key and about binding only to Peter?

Response #24: 

No doubt because Peter was the one He was commending for realizing the truth about His Messiahship – just as a few moments and four verses later when Peter is the one He is reprimanding for failing to understand the necessity of the cross (Matt.16:23). The issue is "what are keys"? They are the gospel through which the entrance to the kingdom is opened, and we know for certain that this is not Peter's province alone (far less that of the RC church!). Please see the links: "Binding and Keys"; "The Keys to Death and Hades"; and "More on Binding".

Question #25: 

What is the 'ratio' in the sins that we commit between our sin nature and Satan's tempting us? Are both of these always in equation and interact for us to oppose God?

Response #25: 

Whenever we sin, we sin. We are responsible for everything we think, say or do, and we are guilty without excuse if any of the above is sinful. The source of the temptation (assuming there is an active source, internal or external), does not excuse the sin. I am "tempted" to say that the sin nature is involved in all sin, and it certainly plays a major role in our all our straying, but, after all, Eve sinned without a sin nature (out of ignorance), and Adam sinned without a sin nature – and he knew full well what he was doing. I am of the firm opinion that in the hypothetical case that all human beings were born without a sin nature we would all sin eventually anyway. This certainly makes it a bit more clear how spectacular our Lord's life of sinlessness was (i.e., He didn't "have it easy" on this score just because He was born without a sin nature; cf. Heb.2:17-18; 4:15-16).

This is a long way of saying I don't think it is possible to know such a ratio. We are not aware of satanic influence when it does come to us directly. The system the devil has set up is designed to provide unlimited and unending indirect temptation by skewing culture, society, politics etc. in the direction of exciting, irritating and arousing our sin natures without the need for any direct demonic input. All we can do on this issue is accept complete responsibility for our actions, and try to develop a personal stance of absolute intolerance of anything sinful in our own behavior (and the worse the sin, the more implacable we should be). We will never attain perfection, but we must attain essential sanctification in order to make progress in the Christian life and avoid catastrophic spiritual meltdown.

Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.
Romans 13:13-14 NASB

Question #26: 

You wrote that the spirit is a place of:

intellect: For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, how I continually make mention of you . . . Romans 1:9

Intellect does appear like one of possible explanations here, but why did you specifically opt for it based on this passage?

In a similar vein, could you explain:

personality: [For I have already decided, i]n the name of our Lord Jesus, when all of you are gathered together with my spirit by the power of our Lord Jesus, to hand such a one over to Satan for the destruction of his body so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1st Corinthians 5:4-5

mentality: For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my [fleshly] mind is unproductive. What should I do then? I shall pray with my spirit, but also with my mind. I shall sing [praises to God] with my spirit, but also with my mind. 1st Corinthians 14:14-15

Why did you opt for these particular characteristics based on these particular passages?

Response #26: 

Romans 1:9 and 1st Corinthians 5:4-5: Shows Paul acting as Paul but with reference to his spirit. The verse essentially equates the person Paul with his spirit, showing that "we" are our spirit and our spirit is "us".

1st Corinthians 14:14-15: Shows the spirit doing the same things the mind does. At present, the interface between spirit and body in the "fleshly mind" is imperfect which may as in this case result in some "disconnect". My purpose in quoting the verse here is not to explain the verse or that particular problem but to show that the spirit thinks so that it is the true "us" inside (despite the fact that at present it usually filters through the corrupt brain – except in the direct Spirit to spirit contact shown here; for more on this see: "Faith Epistemology" and "Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth").

Question #27: 

Could you please explain Romans 12:1:

Therefore I entreat you by God's mercy, brothers, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God – [this is] your "priestly-service" spiritually performed.

What does Paul mean when he says 'dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice'? What specifically does he ask us to do?

Response #27:

Romans 12:1: Paul is drawing an analogy between Levitical sacrifice and what we as Christians are called upon to do for Jesus after salvation. The priests sacrificed animals; we are to sacrifice ourselves – that is our comparable priestly-sacrifice.

You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1st Peter 2:5 NIV

As believers, we are priests of God (as the book of Hebrews and Petrine epistles delineate). That means we are called to special service for Him. We are all given particular spiritual gifts at salvation, so that the complete fulfilling of this verse would be the proper functioning of those gifts in the service of Jesus' Church. Paul often talks of this (presently sinful) body as a sort of tool we are to use to the glory of God (leading it in God's service rather than following its lusts):

Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
Romans 6:13 NIV

The first step in this process of employing the body to the glory of God (instead of to our own dishonor) is the transformation of thinking which first has to take place. Before we are going to be of any use to Jesus Christ, we have to become believers through repentance and acceptance of the essential truth of the gospel, and then set ourselves to the entire transformation of our inner thought-processes through "reprogramming" ourselves with the truth of the Word – as Paul says in the next verse following the one you ask about (see in BB 4B: "Our New Orientation as Reborn Believers"):

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
Romans 12:2

Question #28: 

Could you clarify the usage of the word 'choose' in Galatians 5:16-17:

'But I tell you, walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out what the flesh lusts for. For what the flesh lusts for is contrary to the Spirit's will, and the Spirit is opposed to what the flesh desires. Since these are diametrically opposed to each other in this way, what you are doing is not what you yourself choose.'

It would seem logical with the rest of the passage to say at the end 'what your body chooses' - is that the meaning of 'you yourself choose'?

Response #28: 

The KJV has for this part of the verse "so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (and all of the other versions are similar). The pronoun "you" is the subject here, not the body. I do see what you are getting at but it seems to me that the phraseology of the verse underlines what I mentioned in my answer to you question above, namely, that we incur guilt for our actual sins, not for the temptations emanating from our bodies to which we do not succumb. Regardless of the level of temptation from our flesh or the amount of external temptation we are receiving from whatever source, when we sin, we are still the ones who "do it"; we are the ones making the choice – and we are the ones held responsible for all of our choices, good or bad, whether we yield our will to sin or, as we should, to the Spirit.

Question #29: 

I wanted to ask about Hebrews 10:5 - why are these words of Jesus not in any of the gospels?

'Therefore as [Jesus Christ] was coming into the world (i.e., at His birth) He said, "You [Father] did not desire sacrifice or offering, but you have prepared a body for Me".
Hebrews 10:5

Response #29: 

If I were to guess, I would imagine that Hebrews 10:5 is not in the gospels because the first three focus His coming on the inception of His humanity (whereas this a statement made by His deity), while the fourth gospel has a different theme in its introductory chapter, namely, the eternity of the Word become flesh. There are, of course, many things which are given to us only in one place in scripture, and unquestionably many more things that we are not yet give to know at all.

Question #30: 

Could you please explain Luke 7:30? Is my understanding correct that God's purpose for them was to be saved, but they rejected it by not accepting John's baptism? Also, on a more general note, could you say how baptism should be carried out today? Who, how and when should perform it (assuming the ritual has still got its place)?

Response #30: 

At Luke 7:30 refusing baptism is a symptom of these unbelievers refusal to accept God and His purpose. John's water-baptism is uniquely and inseparably bound up in the Jewish experience prior to the cross. It represented the promise of the coming Messiah, and accepting the baptism was an indication and/or symbol of willingness to repent of prior sin, come back to God, and accept His solution for salvation in anticipation of the Messiah. That is to say, it was a tangible sort of demonstration of the pre-cross gospel – analogous to the way that the Law is a shadow-gospel. Continuation of water-baptism is thus analogous to continuing with the rituals of the Law which spoke of a Messiah yet to come (and most definitely now not only not authorized but condemned by scripture: e.g., Heb.10:29). In my considered view, water-baptism is not appropriate today, but that is a monstrously large topic. Please consult the following links which will lead you to many other and feel free to write back about any of the specifics: "Baptism: Water and Spirit I", "Baptism: Water and Spirit II", and "John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit".

Question #31:  

Could you please explain the parable Luke 7:31-35?

Response #31: 

On Luke 7:31-35, our Lord is saying that nothing will satisfy the legalistic generation of unbelievers with whom He had to do. They were merely looking for some excuse to pronounce all true messengers of God as incorrect and illegitimate. Our Lord uses a very clear example to do so in the behavior manifest by John versus Himself. Both are clearly of God – the Messiah and His herald. But the unbelieving rulers of the day used John's asceticism as a "sign" that he was demon possessed, and contrariwise proclaimed Jesus' regular communion with all, adopted to spread the truth most effectively, as a "sign" that He was sinful. Both charges are damnable lies, of course; they prove that nothing and no one could satisfy these unbelievers who were hardened in their views and only looking for the best possible excuse to reject God's will for their lives.

Question #32: 

Could you please explain the meaning of Romans 2:14-16? In particular, the last sentence is a little unclear.

14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

What does Paul mean when he says 'This will take place on the day when God judges people's secrets through Jesus Christ' - what is he referring to there? Is that the reference to 'their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times defending them'. Since it's not 'their thoughts' that will be judging them on the last day?

Response #32: 

Here is the way I translate these verses:

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

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

Question #33: 

You wrote: 'For Christ's selection of scripture proves more than that He had memorized much (if not all) of the Bible as it existed in His day (the Old Testament).' Since Our Lord Jesus is the 'Word', I thought that he replied to Satan because he knew all of the Scripture from the start rather than because he memorized it?

Response #33: 

According the principle (and doctrine) of kenosis, our Lord was not "helped out" by being given any "unfair advantages" in His earthly life. Being "born in the form of a slave" (Phil.2:7), He had to play the role of the "suffering Servant" (cf. Is.53) in order to carry out the Father's will on this point – the more emphatically to refute the devil's lies. This is covered in much more detail in BB 4A under "Kenosis".

Question #34:  

Just one more question that I failed to add to my last set. A highly hypothetical, although related to the work I'm doing (football coaching) and one that can be applied to other areas in life. Should a high profile football manager, who is a Christian, consider buying a Muslim player for his team? Should religious background not be considered at all in such circumstances? A thought crossed my mind - what would I do in such a situation and what I should do. I wouldn't want to, even indirectly, promote Islam, on one hand, on the other hand it would be virtually impossible, or very difficult to build a team made of true believers, particularly at a high level, where the pressure to get the results is a very important factor. Also, even if this is not likely, maybe an opportunity would arise to give some guidance to that person. What is your view on the situation?

In Christ,

Response #34: 

Christians are not "of this world". We are striving for a heavenly reward and a heavenly kingdom. Therefore all extraneous involvement in the world is a distraction from our true purpose and our true mission. However, though not of the world, were are most definitely "in the world". That means that we do have dealings with the world, primarily in the area of earning our living materially so that we can continue to serve God spiritually. How we earn our living is between God and us. While there are clearly some things we should not be involved in to feed ourselves (crime, for example), there are in my opinion no secular fields of endeavor which are completely without the sort of compromise about which you ask. So in all such matters a Christian should do the honorable thing, and, in terms of earning a living, the honorable thing is to do the best possible job in an honest and decent and upright way as a witness to Jesus and for the glory of God. As I read scripture, Christians in a secular position of authority are to treat everyone equally. Christians responsible to authority are to do a better job because they are Christians and an even better job if their masters/bosses are Christians.

Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
Colossians 4:1 NIV

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God's name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.
1st Timothy 6:1-2 NIV

I am very happy not to be an athletic coach, but if I were, I would get the best players I could get and coach the best game I could coach.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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