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Paul's Jerusalem Error, Worshiping Truly,

the Priesthood of the Believer, and Peter's Vision of the Impure Food

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Question #1: 

We were discussing a very works oriented group's discussion on a grace oriented board that I'm part of and came to this that was posted on the works board, and this bothers me very much. My question when in Acts 21:17-26, Paul participates in the temple worship is this an example of Paul giving into his own weakness and showing lack of faith in trusting that God? Or is Paul trying to win converts to himself? Isn't this contrary to what he teaches (in Romans and Corinthians in particular)? This is what John Gill says:

Act 21:26 - Then Paul took the men,.... The four men that had the vow on them; he joined himself to them, and put himself in the same condition, and under a like vow: this he did, not as what he thought himself bound to do in obedience to the law, and much less as necessary to salvation; but to satisfy weak minds, and remove their prejudices, that he might gain them, and be useful to them; and in such a case he would very easily and readily condescend; but when such like things were insisted upon as points of duty, and especially when urged as necessary to salvation, no one more stiffly opposed them.

This makes sense to me, but he seems to do things like make a sacrifice, which I guess at the time were still going on at the temple, so God had not yet made a final end to the temple sacrifice, and Paul complied with that, but that just seems outright wrong to me. Is it part of a Nazarite vow? But doesn't that also puts it back on self instead of resting in what Jesus did. And how does that help others to give in to their weakness if they are clearly relying on self over the finished work of Christ? I wonder if this passage is to show Paul's weakness at that time? I mean, he was/is human after all, and to do this is blatantly against trusting in God for all things, but is trying to win these guys over to his way through his works, instead of trusting that God could reach them Himself, and enlighten them at some point to His finished works?

Response #1:  

Very good to hear from you as always. I am very impressed by your spiritual discernment in the analysis of this passage. I agree with your concern entirely. In my opinion, Paul was dead wrong on this occasion. Please don't misunderstand; the apostle Paul is one of the greatest believers ever to have lived – possibly the greatest – and the rest of us would not be worthy of shining his shoes, even after a life-time of diligent Bible study, spiritual growth, and production. Nevertheless, he was completely out of order here.

The Book of Acts, as I often have occasion to remark, is a historical book. That is to say, it is divinely inspired like every other book of the Bible, but it is not, in every passage, giving examples and commands of faith and practice. When we read of how Simon Magus tried to buy the ability to give the Holy Spirit, we know he was wrong even before Peter condemns him. But when we read of the actions of the apostles and other believers, we may (falsely) assume that they were completely in the right and worthy of our emulation in every instance (as in the misguided attempt to appoint a twelfth apostle through human action just before Pentecost, when the Lord had chosen Paul; see the link: Matthais). In fact, that is not always the case. Often we are given direct scriptural guidance so as to be able to figure that out easily, as, for example, when Peter at first refuses to eat the non-Kosher food presented to him in the vision on Simon the Tanner's roof: God tells him to "rise and slay", emphatically teaching him that continuation of the dietary laws of the Old Covenant is no longer necessary or in order (Peter, of course, does "get it" later; 1st Peter chapter two, for example is all about demonstrating that ritual and temple worship have been replaced: now we Christians are all the new priesthood and we are the new temple). Where people get into trouble in interpreting the book of Acts (and also the Old Testament historical books) is in instances where there is no obvious divine commentary to suggest that something was either 1) just a voluntary action on the part of a great believer and not something it is necessary for the rest of us to duplicate; 2) a minor peccadillo; or 3) a definite misapplication of truth or sin.

There would be instances of #1 in any treatment which was truly historical in the sense of actually recording what really happened – since we all make choices that may have no clear cut moral connotations. When Paul decides to "go on foot" from Troas to Assos in Acts 20:13-14, even though everyone else was going by boat, in my opinion we do not have enough information even to say why he did so, let alone whether he was right and those who went by boat wrong, or they were right and he was wrong, or that it was (as I suspect) a question of personal choice without any significant moral connotations whatsoever (undertaken for unknown reasons). But for someone to take this passage and say, "A really great believer would walk to Nashville where we are having our Bible conference, even though the rest of us are taking the bus", would be a case of reading doctrinal direction into a historical description, and that is a mistake.

That sort of thing happens more commonly with Acts in the case of #2. When Peter recommends ritual water-baptism for the gentile believers who are already saved and have just been approved by God through a vivid demonstration of the real baptism of the Spirit given even without the laying on of hands (cf. John's "I baptize you with water, but He [i.e., the Messiah] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit), that is a minor mistake, and an understandable one at that since Peter and his fellows were creatures of their background, and John's baptism had been the entry-point into discipleship before the cross, resurrection and Pentecost (so that there was a real "learning curve" of sorts they had to climb which had clearly not yet been fully conquered; cf. also Gal.2:11 for Peter on this sort of issue; see the link: "John's Water-Baptism versus the Baptism of the Holy Spirit"). Not to pick on Paul, but his circumcision of Timothy also falls into the same category (Acts 16:3). This would be like me water-baptizing someone in spite of my beliefs about its obsoleteness just because I felt it would make it "easier" for the person concerned and possibly also for me. We have plenty on the subject of circumcision from Paul not that much later to – at the very least – put it beyond all question that his circumcision of Timothy at Acts 16:3 must be a case of #2, and something not to be emulated (cf. also his occasional "vows": Acts 18:18):

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

The third category of instances wherein we are not to take the conduct and words of (otherwise) admirable believers to heart as patterns of faith and practice is rarer, but this passage about which inquire is in my opinion a premier example of this sort of thing. In truth, there is little to choose, I suppose, between category #2 and #3, for one person's minor tick is another person's ticket to apostasy. Water-baptism, circumcision, and legalism of all sorts have ever been at the heart of undermining faith wherever they are found, but the immediate consequences of what happened in Jerusalem seem to mark it out as worse. For one thing, it was a question of sinning in cognizance rather than ignorance. Paul knew very well that "Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us" already (for he had already written these words himself through the Spirit before his ill-fated trip to Jerusalem). For him to engage in rituals requiring animal sacrifice which proclaimed, in effect, that Christ's sacrifice must have been ineffective was intensely hypocritical (cf. Heb.6:6). How could the great teacher of grace have made such a terrible error?

The answer, I believe, has everything to do with love and emotion. We are often not at our best when we love someone or something else more than Jesus Christ and His truth. Paul loved his fellow Jews, believers and unbelievers alike. He had grown up seeking approval from the established Jewish religious order, and at the time of his trip to Jerusalem had clearly not completely grown out of that earlier posture. In the same way that, e.g., even accomplished doctors, lawyers, and business people can revert to their previous childish behavior patterns around the Thanksgiving table back home, so Paul was not above the emotional pressure of the circumstances which would meet him in Jerusalem. Our Lord was clearly not unaware of that, and had done more than anyone could have expected to help Paul avoid having to face this pressure on his vulnerable, emotional "weak spot":

And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit (i.e., his own spirit) unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
Acts 20:22-23 KJV

After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.
Acts 21:3-4 NIV

After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, "The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.' " When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, "The Lord's will be done."
Acts 21:10-14 NIV

"When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking. 'Quick!' he said to me. 'Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.'
Act 22:17-18 NIV

Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there,
Romans 15:31 NIV

The last three passages show that the trouble awaiting Paul in Jerusalem was not "news" to him before the fact. The Lord had revealed to him that it was coming. Yet Paul was "eager" to bring an offering of material support to the counsel in Jerusalem, as if to validate his ministry on the one hand, and tangibly aid his fellow Jews on the other. The former was unnecessary and, as it turned out, entirely counterproductive, inasmuch as Paul's understanding of the implications of the dispensation of grace, of the gift of the Spirit, and of the mystery of the expansion of the family of God to the gentiles in significant numbers was light-years ahead of those whose approval he sought to win (cf. Eph.3:2-9). The latter was certainly legitimate and wonderful – but it did not have to be accomplished by Paul in person. Paul's job was to bring the gospel to the gentiles, and to teach them the truth of the Word after salvation. This he had been doing for years and in a manner probably destined never to be equaled before Christ's return. But he left off this ministry in order to travel to Jerusalem and deliver this offering (for which he is greatly concerned: cf. 1Cor. chapter 16; 2Cor. chapters 8-9). If Paul had decided to stick to the work he had been assigned (the correct course, in my view), and had sent someone else in his place with the offering to Jerusalem, none of the troubles there would have transpired, including his attempt to offer temple sacrifices.

Paul certainly knew that the rituals of the Mosaic Law had now been superseded on account of the reality of Christ's death for our sins. The book of Hebrews, which I am convinced is by him, makes this point in every possible way (please see the links: "Who wrote Hebrews?", and "Does Hebrews 10:26 teach loss of salvation?"). If ever there were a man of grace who opposed legalism heart and soul, it was the apostle Paul, evident from an earlier trip to Jerusalem:

Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.
Galatians 5:2

Paul's "mistake" is an excellent lesson for us all on the dangers of being in the wrong place at the wrong time (instead of being where you know you ought to be), and also of the dangers of questionable association through emotional attachment. Had he stayed away from Jerusalem, everything would have been fine. By the time he appeared before the counsel, however, he had already put himself in a no-win situation. Like David at Gath (where only God's intervention kept him from having to take up arms against Saul and his fellow Israelites in the cause of the Philistines), Paul found himself in circumstances from which extrication would be incredibly painful – but instead of rebuffing the counsel's suggestions to sponsor the young men in their vows and presentation of sacrifices he chose what must have seemed then the "easy" road (though it led to years of imprisonment).

To be fair, it would have been difficult for anyone to stand up to the counsel in Jerusalem and tell them to their faces that they were all involved in gross legalism, that their continuation in the temple rite was an abomination, and that they were undermining the entire principle of grace by so doing. Had he done so, the Jews whom James and co. were trying to assuage would have felt that he had made their case for them (cf. Acts 21:21 NIV: "They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs."). The sponsoring of the young men was designed to put off these suspicions. Had Paul refused, nay, had he spoke all that was doubtless in his heart, he would have started a war between the Jewish and gentile believers not just at Jerusalem, but throughout the Mediterranean world, and it is an open question as whether or not the counsel might not have sought his death just as vehemently (and probably more effectively) than the unbelievers soon did.

I can well see that in that instance when the "surprise" proposal from James hit him, there was already by then no reasonable chance that Paul would decide that this was the time and place to have the argument. That he did not, however, refuse the suggestion, and that, worse, he went ahead with it, demonstrates the power of emotional nostalgia can have once a string of bad decisions begins to gather momentum.

None of us are perfect, and we all have regrets, but as Paul tells us "forgetting what lies behind" and driving instead to the goal ahead is the proper application for all believers in the aftermath of failures, both minor and spectacular (Phil.3:13-14). We will never come close to Paul's understanding of the truth, to his dramatically effective ministry, or to his breathtakingly wonderful relationship with the Lord. The fact, being human, that he could still make such a big mistake should fill us all with humble awe and circumspection.

If there is anything positive to take away from this example, it is that God truly does work everything out together for the good in every way for those who truly love Him (Rom.8:28). We would not have the "prison epistles" or probably even the "pastoral epistles" but for the fact that Paul had to concentrate on writing to teach instead of engaging in face to face instruction for the very simple reason that he was in jail. And we would doubtless not have the incredibly important epistle to the Hebrews which lays to rest all these matters of grace versus legalism in the context of the Mosaic Law and Jewish teaching, if Paul had not been forced to confront the issue so directly and with such painful results.

May God grant all of our mistakes to have just a share of such unexpectedly wonderful results!

In Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Hello Brother Bob-

Have another question: What does "Worship" look like? I have belonged to 2 churches in my life. One denominational, and one non-denominational. Worship was songs of praise and of biblical passages, tithes and offerings, a pastoral message encouraging to walk in God's ways. My question is, is this what it is?

I know Jesus told the Samaritan woman that they would worship in Spirit and in Truth. What does that look like? There are also several references to situations with Jesus where it says "they worshiped Him" (spontaneous). In John 9:38, the healed blind man worshiped Jesus as the Pharisees looked on, after Jesus identified himself as the Son of Man.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts on this!

God Bless

Response #2: 

A great question as always! "Worship" is an English word that doesn't necessarily "track" the Greek and Hebrew vocabulary used in the Bible; the Greek and Hebrew terms, for example, are very descriptive, while the English word is rather conceptual. Add to this the fact that the English word has become a "loaded" term, so that as you rightly discern most people have images that come to mind when the word "worship" is used which may or may not have anything to do with scripture.

The Modern English word is from OE woerth ("worth", i.e., the quality of worthiness) and the suffix -SHIP (meaning "act" or "function of"); so etymologically the English word "worship" should mean something like "responding to God's worthiness", or "rendering due reverence". That is a very good equivalent for what the Hebrew and Greek terms generally describe. However, this is not necessarily what people mean today when they say "worship", since the practice of a variety of denominations over the centuries has generated preconceived notions on this score. The Hebrew verb most often used for "to worship" (and in Greek and Hebrew we are talking about verbs, "to worship", not a verbal noun such as "worship") is shachah, meaning, literally, to prostrate oneself before someone else; the Greek word invariably used to translate this idea is proskuneo, etymologically meaning to "render kisses towards", but used in a technical sense of the physical prostration and obeisance that the Great King of Persia required of all who came before him. In Psalm 97:7b, "worship Him, all you gods (i.e., angels)!", for example, we have the Hebrew shachah, and this is translated into Greek in the Septuagint with proskyneo. That actual prostration and emotional demonstration of one's acceptance and appreciation of God's glorious Person is indicated can be seen from the following:

Then I heard them saying, "To the One who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb [be] the blessing and the honor and the glory and the power for ever and ever!" And the four living creatures were saying, "Amen!". And the [twenty-four] elders fell [down] and worshiped.
Revelation 5:13a-14

And all the angels had taken their stand around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures. And they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might belong to our God forever and ever! Amen!"
Revelation 7:11-12

Nor is this expressive display of appreciation and reverence reserved for angels:

(9) Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name (10) that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11

We also find, as you yourself report, instances where individuals who were healed or delivered from demons threw themselves at Jesus' feet and expressed their gratitude. This is certainly one way to "give God His due", but in the references to "worship" at the temple, while there are cases and instances of verbal (and possibly physical) demonstrations of thanksgiving, "giving God His due", that which He is worthy of, at the very least consists of other things as well, namely, the respectful and faithful carrying out of the temple rites.

Today, of course, there is no temple, so that it is not only impossible to sacrifice literally, it is also a terrible sin (since now that Christ has died for sin, continuing in animal sacrifice is like saying what Jesus did in atoning for our transgressions was ineffective: Heb.6:4-6). So it seems very clear that to properly "give God His due" in the biblical sense of "worship" requires us 1) to do what He wants us to do; 2) do all He wants us to do (i.e., not omitting what it is right to do); and 3) to do only what He wants us to do (i.e., adding things to true worship things which are not appropriate is not only not true worship but is unacceptable to Him). Since God is not present in His visible Person at this time, and since there is no temple and no biblically delineated system of what worship should now entail, a certain amount of care in pontificating about what "true worship" might or might not be is appropriate.

The book of Acts, for example, gives us some descriptions of some activities but generally without being dogmatic about what is essential to do. Further, the problem with projecting forward what we can glean from these examples (even when adding information from the epistles) is that much of what occurred in the time of the apostles was unique. In 1st Corinthians 12-14, much of the regulation Paul imposes on the gathering of believers is meant to rein in previous practices described in Acts, and has largely to do with the function of spiritual gifts no longer operational today. Further, there was no such thing as a "professional pastorate" in those days, no seminaries, no denominations, no dedicated buildings, no hymnals, and no completed New Testament – all developments which have to be taken into consideration in this question.

We can all express our gratitude to God in multifarious ways, and in our private times with Him we are certainly free to become as emotional and as expressive as we wish. In public gatherings, however, Paul's words at 1st Corinthians 14:40 that everything should take place "in an appropriate and orderly way" constitute a clear enough stricture that sets a level of restraint on whatever expressions of thanksgiving take place publicly. This is the nub of the issue for me. For there is individual worship, giving God His due when we meet with Him privately (in private prayer, praise and thanksgiving); and when we meet Jesus face to face in resurrection you can be sure that we will vehemently express our praise and gratitude! This first type of worship is sometimes expressive and emotional as is reflected in the prostration of believers before Jesus in Person when they are healed by Him etc., and in the corporate thanksgiving of the angels before the throne of God (which activity we will duplicate in the blessed future). In distinction to this first type of worship, however, there is also the corporate functioning of the Body, represented by the "worship at the temple in Jerusalem".

In regard to this second type of worship, on the one hand as far as I am aware whatever graphic expressions of thanksgiving took place there did so in an orderly and organized way. For the most part (in addition to individual sacrifices of various kinds), corporate meetings involved the rituals of the festivals wherein important truths about the coming Messiah were taught. Today, we have the reality instead of the ritual, so that in my estimation of things the number one reason for corporate "worship" and in fact the main meaning of "giving God His due" or "doing what God desires" in this second context of assembly is to learn His truth – not through ritual now, but through the teaching of the Word of God. Just as in the temple worship or in the synagogues of our Lord's day this would certainly not exclude singing God's praises and reading His Word directly (and of course the ritual of communion is the one ceremony that we are commanded to perform "in remembrance of Me"), the main thrust of "worship" when God is present in Spirit rather than in glorious presence is to "do what He requires", and that means learning about Him through the Bible. For it does little good to be like the son who responded enthusiastically to his father about going to work in the vineyard but didn't actually get around to going (analogous to wildly emotional displays of "worship" but without any attention to learning, believing, and practicing the Word of God), whereas even if some find our outward display lacking, if, like the son who demonstrated annoyance but actually did get around to doing what his father really wanted, we tackle the task that God has set for us by growing closer to Him and His Son through the Word of truth, then we have accomplished the genuine substance of "giving God His due", rather than the mere appearance of it. I think all of this is evident in what Jesus actually tells the Samaritan woman in the passage from John:

"Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. "You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
John: 4:20-24 NIV

I think this is also clear from the one passage in scripture which addresses this issue directly:

And let us give careful attention to [the function of] one another['s ministries] as motivation for [our own] love and good works, not abandoning your mutual assembling (as some have made it their practice to do [and which makes this impossible]), but rather encouraging each other [to persevere in this work of the Lord and attention to it], and doing so to an ever greater degree to the extent that you see the day [of the Lord] drawing [ever] closer.
Hebrews 10:24-25

To me, this passage clearly identifies the purpose of assembly as mutual encouragement through the ministry of the Word of God. This can only happen through the correct teaching, hearing, believing, and application of the truth. It doesn't exclude singing, or expressions of praise, or Bible reading, or communion, but in the time of writing the exercise of ministry would be mainly through the teaching function of the gifts of prophecy and interpreted-tongues . . . and also teaching. Today, we have teaching.

It's too late to make a long story short, but my answer in summary is that my major concern with present day worship is that it tends to be entirely lacking in the one thing that is most essential: to truly honor God, we need to devote ourselves to be close to Him (Jer.30:21; Heb.10:22; Jas.4:8; cf. 1Cor.8:8; Heb.7:19), and that can only happen through the process of spiritual growth, namely, by hearing the Word, believing the Word, applying the Word. So whether the "worship service" is dry and consists of high ritual, or emotional and consists of dramatic expression, if it is lacking in the pure milk of God's truth, how can it be truly worshiping Him, giving Him what He genuinely wants from us in our response to Him and growth in Him for Jesus Christ (which things are essential in turn in order for us to be productive for Him)?

I have written up some similar things previously:

Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing.

Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.

Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly

Assembly of the local church

Church Polity

Some Questions on Church Polity.

Church Attendance.

The Local Church and Personal Ministry IV

The Local Church and Personal Ministry III

The Local Church and Personal Ministry II

The Local Church and Personal Ministry I

Hope you find this helpful – please feel free to write me back about any of this.

In the One whom we will worship for all eternity, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Brother Bob.

As always I wait with anticipation for your reply, and receive much more than expect. God really blesses me through your wisdom!! I haven't read your references yet, but will.

I was wondering since Jesus said that we world worship in "Spirit and in Truth", that confessing or declaring what the Truth (His word) says about him, is worship. He asked "who do you say that I am" and I think he said, you have spoken wisely: you did not receive this wisdom from man, but God. When we are inspired by the Spirit of Truth to declare what the Word of Truth has etched on our hearts during our spiritual growth, we reveal who he really is to us. This would probably be our private worship. I know God looks at the heart, but many times in a church service it feels empty, and I suppose that's my problem.

Thanks for listening-

God's Love to You

Response #3: 

You are very welcome. But I would be very surprised if empty feelings from church services is "your fault". It has been years since I have gotten anything out of one. Matter of fact, it's been at least a decade since I've attended church without getting at least a little mad. What comes out of the pulpit these days is mostly pop psychology and second class after-dinner speaking. The fact that a pastor throws in a few quotes from scripture (unexplained and usually only obliquely applicable) is only going to make matters worse. If you didn't already check this link out, please see "Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing" for my views on that point in particular.

Keep fighting that good fight of faith!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Please correct me if I err, but in scanning through some of your correspondence, I believe you hold to the following Biblical stances:

1. The Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God.

2. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (one in essence, 3 in personality/roles).

3. Jesus is/was fully man and fully God.

4. God is eternal and has always existed (Holy Trinity).

5. Prior to God creating all that exists (time, matter, etc), nothing existed but Him.

6. Creation and evolution are incompatible.

7. Eternal life is available through Jesus alone. There is no other way.


Response #4: 

Good to hear from you. As to your list, I would agree completely. In fact, I would say that this is a very nice synopsis of some essential, basic tenets of the truth of scripture, without which anyone's theology is likely to go fast and far astray.

I would certainly be happy to comment or discuss further on any or all of the points, but they look very good to me.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Dear Dr Luginbill,

At last I have found someone who delves deep into the pre-creation of Adam, and the fall of the angels. Do you have any video postings? Also, do you know if there was any other sites regarding the same topics as you write about that you could pass on to me.

Thank you

Response #5:  

I have never made any videos or posted anything but written content to Ichthys (maybe audio content someday). There is much (of a written nature) on the site regarding the origin and nature of angels and the creation of Man: the five-part Satanic Rebellion series deals exclusively with such issues as a prolegomenon to the Coming Tribulation series (see the links), and there are many other places where individual, related subjects are covered (e.g., there are many email response to questions on the Genesis Gap, for example).

As to other sources, I do maintain a Bible Links sub-site (see the link), though I make no representation of the quality or accuracy of these other sites, especially where doctrinal issues are concerned.

Your interest is much appreciated.

In Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob Luginbill

Question #6: 

Dear Robert

I just wanted to drop you a note of thanks for your clarity of thought. I have just now finished reading once again your teaching, ‘Peter's Epistles #27, Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith’. Robert, it seems I live amongst mostly those who hold to Positional Security & Tribulational Security and so a occasional visit to your URL is truly a breath of fresh air for me! When I ponder the word of God in personal study and prayer I do not see the evidence of these two positions. These views are so popular even amongst good Christian friends that I find I am refreshed by your teaching that falls so naturally from the tree. I have often felt the pressure to understand the scriptures like the many around me but these two ring like a cracked bell for me!

I hope you are in good health and encouraged.

Kind regards from Australia

Response #6: 

Always so good to hear from you, my friend! Thanks so much for your encouraging words. These are tough times for Bible believing Christians (that is, those who actually read and consider and believe). On the Tribulational security issue, there is a good deal more at the following link; a Q and A format, true, but done many years after the study you reference and containing some additional info with other links as well: The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory.

We are hanging in, hanging on, and have yet to be hanged – and I hope and pray that the same is true of you and yours.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Dear Bob,

Thank you for including me on your email notification list. I will certainly read the material you propose. What are the "weekly postings" you refer to, and where can I find them?

As a born-again Christian I do not celebrate the pagan Christmas on 25th December, so I wish you a Happy New Year 2010. May Father Yahweh, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit move in your life and your family in a fresh, new way, their wonders to perform, as we British say!

With kindest regards,

Response #7: 

Thank you for your email. The "weekly posting" is the set of email responses I put up on the site every Saturday (mostly). You can find these at the following link: "Your Emails". I try to post a new set of questions and answers each week. They are then changed out, but the older postings are available lower down on the same page under "Previous Postings" (see the link).

I certainly appreciate your position on Christmas (personally, I try not to "rain on the parade" where any genuine appreciation of our Savior is concerned). Here's wishing you and your family a wonderful 2010.

I continue to keep you in my prayers.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Dear Dr Luginbill,

I hope you are fine Sir? Sir, I am pasting something that you have written in BB series Theology, under section Trinity roles

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

Comment: In this precνs of the "unity of the faith" (Eph.4:3), Paul reminds us of some of the most important common factors of our Christian faith. In doing so, certain aspects of individual Trinity roles are emphasized: the Holy Spirit's role in bringing us into the body of Christ and our concomitant hope of resurrection in Christ; the Lord Jesus Christ's role as our object of faith and the Spirit baptism by which we enter into union with Him before and after we believe; the Father's role as the unifying God of love, who knits His family of believers together in every way.

Sir please explain this particular line "Spirit baptism by which we enter into union with Him before and after we believe". Sir are we baptised even before we believe? I do understand that it is the Holy Spirit which gives the testimony. Thank you

Sir you are always in my prayers

Response #8: 

Good to hear from you as always. I do hope all is well.

On your question, I'm going to have to find a way to rephrase this. What I mean by this statement about which you ask (and what I meant to express more clearly) is that the three elements (Jesus Christ / the faith / Spirit baptism) represent collectively the before (the during) and the after: Jesus is the object of faith before we actually come to believe in Him; our faith / the faith is the point of becoming one with Him; and the Spirit who enters us into Him continues with us to empower our Christian walk even after we have believed. So it's a case of a poorly placed prepositional phrase (at the very least).

Thanks you for catching this. I will fix it. And thank you so much too for your prayers – you are daily in mine as well.

In the love of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hi Doc!

Paul says in Romans 5:12 that by one "man" sin entered the world. I understood that Eve was the first to sin be disobeying God's direct command not to eat of the tree. Why did Paul write that sin entered the world through one "man" instead of a woman (Eve)? Someone had stated that we inherit our sin nature through our father and not our mother. So he speculated that if we could be born without a human father, we would not inherit a sin nature. What are your thoughts on this? thanks in advance!

Response #9:  

Yes, this is what is meant. The "man" is Adam, and the sin nature is passed down through the man, not the woman (Eve was deceived, and thus, while guilty, did not set the principle of spiritual death by choice: 1Tim.2:13-15). This explains how Jesus was conceived without a sin nature, whereas the rest of us conceived by natural procreation all do have a sin nature. That is also why it says later in the verse that "thus death spread to all men as a result of which [spiritual death] all [men/people] sin". Romans 5:12 is a very important verse, but also one which is generally misunderstood (in part because it is universally mistranslated). Here is brief explanation of the verse copied here from Bible Basics part 3B: Hamartiology, the Biblical Study of Sin:

So just as through one man (i.e., Adam whose antitype is Christ) sin came into the world and, through sin, death, and thus (i.e., Adam physically passing on his sin nature resulting in universal spiritual death) death spread to all mankind – for [obviously] everyone sins (i.e., universal sinning proves universal spiritual death), . . .
Romans 5:12

Comment: Romans 5:12 initially refers to Adam and his original violation of the Lord's commandment not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (i.e., he is the "one man" through whom sin and death entered the world). Adam's act was a willful violation of an express prohibition given to him personally by God Himself. One of the first consequences of this action was an immediate transformation of his body which now became corrupt (i.e., now the subject and object of temptation by its very nature) and mortal (i.e., subject to inevitable physical death). Adam's transgression was the beginning of sin and sinfulness for mankind in that his new nature, his "sin nature", would now be passed down from him to the entire human race through the process of procreation (the only exception being Jesus Christ; see below). The fact that every true human being is born with a corrupt body (again, our Lord excepted) has two main theological consequences addressed by Paul in Romans 5:12: 1) physical death "spread" thereby to all mankind (i.e., if you are born with a corrupt body, you will in fact die physically at some point); 2) possessing a body thus "indwelt by sin" (cf. Rom.7:17-20) guarantees that we will commit personal sins (see below section II.3 on the universality of sin). What is generally misunderstood about this passage (at least partly on the basis of the near universal mistranslation of the last clause of Romans 5:12 above) is that personal sins are a result of having a sinful nature, not the other way around, and that death is likewise a result of birth in corrupt bodily form, not of personal sins committed after birth. From the true, scriptural point of view, we are separated from God at birth because of our corrupt nature, and the personal sins which we later commit demonstrate this innate corruption. It matters little when or how or to what degree we commit or possibly even refrain from committing personal sins (though, as we shall see below, because of the insidious and all pervasive nature of sin we are far more guilty than even the most objective of us may be aware). The fact is that because of our corruption at birth we will die physically, and since we must at the very least acknowledge that we are not completely pure, holy and righteous, we can have no reasonable expectation of anything good beyond physical death (absent salvation by means of divine grace). And it is not just that God is under no moral obligation to provide after death for creatures who are intrinsically corrupt, unholy, and impure – without the propitiation of all sin through the sacrifice of His Son, His intrinsic incorruptibility, holiness and purity would forbid Him by nature from anything like eternal fellowship with creatures so disposed (let alone the issue of the divine judgment on our personal sins which His divine justice must in that case demand). From the biblical perspective, it is not the point at which we may theoretically become guilty as individuals through the commission of personal sins which is really at issue. That is an unnecessary hypothetical, since all of us can plainly see that we are mortal, and all of us should understand that we are sinful. Therefore the connection between spiritual death (our separation from God because of this corrupt and sinful state we all find ourselves in from physical birth) and physical death is so close as to make them inextricable for all practical purposes. It is no doubt for this very reason that the divine command to Adam stressed "death" as the penalty for eating from the tree, even though physical death would linger many years in the future. Adam's new state of corruption guaranteed physical death precisely because he was now physically corrupt and therefore dead in the sense of his newfound separation from God – "spiritual death". From the perspective of scripture, the issue, therefore, is not the point of or the means of our future condemnation – these are clear and palpable realities easily gleaned from observation of the world (Rom.1:18-32) – but rather the point of and the means of justification, the deliverance from death that came through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in our place (1Cor.15:21-22).

Hope this helps.

In the One who was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, our dear Lord Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Hello Brother Bob,

It's been a while, but I always seek your spiritual comments. Our group will be looking at "The Sovereignty", and was wondering if you have some information on the subject. I am sure you have been asked the 'Why" questions. I would be interested in your spiritual comments.

As always I am looking forward to your response!

What a great God we serve.

God's Blessings on your Christmas,

Response #10: 

Always good to hear from you. I have recently written quite a bit about God's sovereignty in His decision to create the world with creatures possessing free-will and how this necessitated Jesus' sacrifice. Rather than giving you an insufficient answer to this important question, please have a look at the presently available portions of BB 4A: Soteriology for my answer (please see the link). You might also have a look at the following links (and, as always, if you have some specific questions about these issues, I would be delighted to do my best to answer them):

God is Sovereign (in BB 1)

Divine Sovereignty and Divine Judgment.

The Image and Likeness of God (in SR 3)

Our will and God's WILL

What is God's Will?

Against Universalism I: Free Will and the Image of God.

Against Universalism II: Only Believers are Saved.

Does God's Choice of us Eliminate our Free Will?

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Hi Doc!

I asked a pastor to get his opinion. I also forwarded what you wrote about wine and clothing in the past. He responded by writing:

"You are wrong. It is the pastor's business to lead the flock, and to feed the flock. We are to defend the truths of the Bible. After all the Bible is given to us for: The Bible says it better than I can.

2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

2Ti 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

And if you will take careful notice certain people, anytime certain issues arise, especially when it's about the length of hair, wine, clothing, they jump turning it into a debate and defend that which is wrong in the sight of God. "

It seems like he's accusing me of trying to wrongly divide the word by getting help on these issues. What do you think of this? Thanks in advance!

Response #11: 

I'm not sure precisely how to respond because I'm not sure what your correspondent thinks I'm "wrong" about (not clear from the email). No one should disagree with the principle that a pastor has to feed his flock or that he should lead it by example. It is also the case that in extreme instances of outrageously sinful activity pastor's occasionally are forced to intervene in individual cases for the good of the flock as a whole (e.g., 1Cor.5). However, if this person is saying that it is the pastor's job to approve of how everyone dresses, to weigh in on all the ladies' makeup and attire, to ask them what they eat and drink, to sign off on where they work and how much they give, to get them to run all important decisions by him (or any decision, really), that is not leadership. That is manipulation, and it is not countenanced by scripture.

Please understand. I am not accusing this person or anyone else of anything because I don't know him/them or who they are or what they are doing etc. I was answering your questions about wine, clothing, hair-length, and the like. Most of these behavioral issues are matters of individual conscience in my view, and not matters to be judged or prejudged or "run by" the pastor. In my reading of scripture, pastors lead by feeding the flock the truth; they also need to set a high standard for themselves in all they think, say and do so as to lead by example. But each believer is responsible as a priest of Jesus Christ's new high-priesthood to live their life for Him and to Him and through Him, not for, to and through the pastor (1Pet.2:5; 2:9; Rev.1:6; 5:10; 20:6; and see the link: "Access and Intercession"). There is now no intermediary between Christ and the believer-priest. The Roman church's apostasy is fundamentally that it divorces its members from God by just this sort of detailed "substitution" for Christ in the person of the pope and his emissaries, the Roman priesthood. Catholics need the "grace" given by mass, they need the forgiveness of the confessional run by priests, they need the magic baptism when they are born and the last rites when they die. In short, they have absolutely no way of approaching God themselves – that is solely the province of the artificial Roman "priesthood". When any pastor begins to establish an approach or a regime that tends to duplicate this heresy, it is time to leave. We pray to God; we confess to God; we are led by God; we read God's Word; we serve God . . . as individuals. The Church is here to help us in our mission of spiritual growth, progression and ministry. It is not here to control our lives. That is what Jesus does, personally, through His Holy Spirit guiding our consciences, and through His Word of truth. Pastor's work for Jesus. They are not Jesus. And if they begin to act as if they were, it is time to leave.

Because of the importance of this point I will say it again. I am not accusing anyone (especially someone I don't know) of anything (especially since I have no idea how the church in question is really being run). My objective is and has always been to stand up for the truth, to teach the truth, to encourage all and sundry to love and follow the truth wherever it leads. It is in that spirit that I wrote you everything I have written you, and I stand by all I have written.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I certainly believe that you have a right, indeed, I know you have a responsibility to seek out God's truth from a reliable source. I would be suspect of anyone who wants take that right away from you.

In Him who is the truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Hi! how are you doing? My spouse was in Bible Study one of the participants referred to Acts11:6. How does this verse and it's meaning pertain to today?. What was the meaning behind the verse? I am not referring to just food but to the idea of it being impure. Thanks

Response #12: 

This of course is part of the vision given to Peter to see in Acts 10 and reported here by him before the Jerusalem council. The significance of the particular creatures Peter saw in the vision is that they were all impure according to the Mosaic Law, and thus to partake of them would be a violation of the Law's dietary code (the particular description in the vision is specifically meant to recall the Law's dietary restrictions). Through the Spirit, Peter is given to understand that the wall of separation between Jews and gentiles has now been removed. In the past, the dietary code (and the rest of the Law in general) was meant to show that Israel was a sanctified people, separated from the rest of the world as God's unique, holy people. That is to say, by refraining from certain foods and by following certain practices, Israel would be shown to be different, set apart by God and for God. By the time of Acts 10-11, however, the Spirit had been given to all believers without distinction (the principle being first made manifest at the "gentile Pentecost" which took place at Cornelius' home in Acts 10). The important separation which now obtains is between believers (whether Jew or gentile) and unbelievers (whether Jew or gentile). And, rather than being material (food, clothing, physical behavior), it is now entirely spiritual: we are set apart by the baptism of the Spirit which all believers now enjoy from the point of faith (Rom.8:9). The spiritual reality of being a Christian will indeed manifest itself in physical realities (or certainly should) as we grow closer to Christ and deeper into His Word, but the legal distinctions of the Mosaic code are no longer needed nor indeed are they presently authorized. Today, God sets us apart with power, the power of the truth energized by the Spirit, not mere ritual or dietary observances, and that truth influences everything we think, say or do.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

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