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Christology Questions VIII:

The Deity, Humanity and Life of Christ

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Question #1: 

Isaiah 53:12 (NASB):
Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.

I) I find the first two clauses of this verse difficult. I don't know what exactly is meant by "I will allot Him a portion with the great" and "He will divide the booty with the strong". Keil and Delitzsch end the not on the first clause saying that " according to which the great ones of the earth will be brought to do homage to Him, or at all events to submit to Him", but I cannot see where this is present in the text:

Luther follows the lxx and Vulgate, and adopts the rendering, "Therefore will I give Him a great multitude for booty;" and Hävernick, Stier, and others adopt essentially the same rendering, "Therefore will I apportion to Him the many." But, as Job 39:17 clearly shows, this clause can only mean, "Therefore will I give Him a portion in the many." If, however, chille q b' means to have a portion in anything, and not to give the thing itself as a portion, it is evident that ha rabb m here are not the many, but the great; and this is favoured by the parallel clause. The ideas of greatness and force, both in multitude and might, are bound up together in rabh and a tsu m (see Isa 8:7), and the context only can decide which rendering is to be adopted when these ideas are separated from one another. What is meant by "giving a portion ba rabb m," is clearly seen from such passages as Isa 52:15; Isa 49:7, according to which the great ones of the earth will be brought to do homage to Him, or at all events to submit to Him.

The difficulty for me lies in the fact that our Lord's redemptive work on the cross is something totally unparalleled and unmatched by any earthly achievement, but it could be understood here as the reward for it was "a portion with the great" as if any great people of this earth could earn any similar merit - which clearly isn't true.

II) As for the second clause, Keil and Delitzsch take it as the division of booty following the battle of Armageddon:

The second clause is rendered by Luther, "and He shall have the strong for a prey." This is at any rate better than the rendering of the lxx and Vulgate, "et fortium dividet spolia." But Proverbs 16:19 shows that is a preposition. Strong ones surround Him, and fight along with Him. The reference here is to the people of which it is said in Psalm 110:3, "They people are thorough devotion in the day of Thy power;" and this people, which goes with Him to battle, and joins with Him in the conquest of the hostile powers of the world (Revelation 19:14), also participates in the enjoyment of the spoils of His victory.

And here similarly - whoever makes any contribution in this battle, it is our Lord who will bring the victory and the verse could be taken to mean that he is one out of several "strong ones" rather than being the one reason for the ultimate victory.

Response #1: 

Both parts are speaking about believers (we are the "mighty ones", a term synonymous with "hero" in English), sharing in the "loot" won at the cross – our rewards come to us as a result of our participation of Christ's plundering of the evil one and his hordes, which victory is won at the cross (see the link: "The Spoils of Victory").

Here is how I render the verse:

(12) Therefore I will allot the great [of heart] to Him [as His portion of the plunder], and He will apportion plunder to the[se same] mighty [of heart]. Because He bared His life to death and was numbered with the transgressors, thereby He took away the sin of the great [of heart] and substituted [Himself] for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53:12

Question #2: 

Could you tell me which bible you study and what to you does going through Jesus to get to our Lord mean?

Response #2: 

Good to make your acquaintance. I make a point of trying to read my Greek New Testament and also my Hebrew Old Testament every day. I also do readings in the English Bible daily (or nearly so). The version I read the most is the NIV (the 1985 NIV, not the newer 2011 NIV), though I use many versions in the course of my studies. I enjoy reading and recommend the NIV Study Bible, ed. Kenneth Barker (again, this is the 1985 version – could be difficult to come by, but I notice it's available at ABE books for under $10.00; be careful to get the right one as there are single book only versions and also a smaller "personal" version out there, none of which you will want).

As to your question, "what to you does going through Jesus to get to our Lord mean?", I have never heard this phrasing before. It's certainly not in the Bible. Jesus Christ is "my Lord and my God" (Jn.20:28). About the only thing I could guess without further information is that this is some sort of a reference to this verse:

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:6 NIV

As the revealed member of the Godhead, Jesus Christ has always been the One through whom we must approach the Father. He is . . .

". . . the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
Acts 4:11-12 NASB

There is much more about all of this in the two major Bible Basics studies, BB 1: Theology and BB 4A Christology (see the links).

I'm happy to correspond with you about this further, especially if I have missed the gist of your question.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3: 

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

I may be wrong , but it seems that Jacob here equals God with the Angel - could it be a piece of evidence for the deity of our Lord, whom Jacob here considers one with God the Father?

Response #3: 

Yes indeed. However, this is not a Christophany per se, but a reference to a Christophany, with "Angel" or malakh, being an "appearance" from God in some person, sometimes a true angel, sometimes God Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ (as is meant here). Please see the link: Christophany

Question #4: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

In your study on Christology, yes I am still on this study, it is so full of excellent teaching, I have a question. From reading the reference you make of the anointing oil in Exodus 30, could we possibly say that the "alabaster jar of perfume" was from the very same oil that the priests used in anointing the Tabernacle? I would appreciate your thoughts as to why this could be very well true. Of course I can agree that we have no way of truly knowing, but seeing it was used to anoint our Messiah The Lord Jesus Christ, it had to be most holy for He is most holy. Also, I can see that the ingredients that went into the oil the priests used were most likely very, very expensive.

I would greatly appreciate your thoughts as always.

For His honor and glory,

Be blessed,

Response #4: 

Good to hear from you. Mark 14:3 tells us what the perfume was: "pure nard" – very costly because it had to be imported from south Asia (used as perfume and medicinally). The anointing oil for the priests was made of myrrh, cinnamon, calamus, cassia and olive oil (as described in Ex.30:22-24); also, making perfume even "like it" was breaking the Law in a serious way (Ex.30:33) – that recipe could only be used for the Levitical priests. I use the designation "cf." (a Latin abbreviation meaning "compare") when I want to call attention to a passage or group of passages which are loosely applicable but not necessarily close or exact equivalents. In other words, there is a loose comparison to be made here (anointing of the holy as a sign of holiness) but not an exact parallel (different perfume).

Yours in dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi Dr,

Quick question. I am reading 1Chr.21:15ff. and it speaks of the angel of the Lord. Am I correct in assuming this angel of the Lord is our pre-incarnate Christ? The reason is because in verse 17, they bowed down before the angel and the angel did not rebuke them as in other passages in scripture. But what has me confused to think this is not Christ is verse 27 because I can't recall an instance in the scripture where the Father specifically told Christ not to do something. Christ already knows what to do because He and the Father are one.

Can you help me reconcile?

In Christ our Lord

Response #5: 

Yes, I believe you are correct that this is a Christophany. As to the "problem", consider also this:

And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.
1st Chronicles 21:15 KJV

And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite.
2nd Samuel 24:16 KJV

We know that God never actually "repents" or changes His mind (e.g., Jas.1:7). This is what is called in theology an "anthropopathism", that is, assigning to God (or rather, since this is scripture, God assigning to Himself) human emotional attributes for the purpose of helping us to understand what is going on. Clearly, as God Christ always knew this was going to happen as did the Father, so that such commands are not necessary . . . except for us to hear and so understand the situation. Here we see God's mercy in judgment, something that would not be as clear with the incident as related without this explanation in human terms.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hi Bob,

Do you think that Jesus" brothers and sisters knew He was from a virgin birth?

Thank you

Your friend

Response #6: 

Whatever they supposedly "knew", we know that they didn't believe it (didn't believe Him or in Him), until after the resurrection:

For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
John 7:6 NIV

Also, it's very typical of human beings, even great believers, to fall into the worldly mind-set even when "knowing" on some level that supernatural things are true. For example, even though Mary – who after all knew better than anyone else the truth of the virgin birth – had "treasured all these things up in her heart" (Lk.2:19), here is what she said to our Lord twelve years later:

When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you (emphasis added). Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
Luke 2:48-50 NIV

It's a good lesson for all Christians who "know" wonderful things about the Lord, about the greatness, power, love, protection, guidance, provision, grace and sacrifice of our dear Savior, yet often do not put these truths into practice when the pressure of life is "on". That requires faith, and not "just" believing the truth but also applying the truth. Both actions require choice and application of our free will. So the Christian life is not about knowledge (although that is prerequisite) but about believing the truth to be the truth and then of thinking, speaking and acting as if the truth is actually true . . . which it absolutely is.

Your friend in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

In reference to 1 Timothy 6:16, would a deduction that Father was and still is unseen by any human? That the 'God' of the OT and the 'Christ' in the NT is the Son who represented Father in all that was created and deals with mankind for the purpose of their salvation (by faith). Thus, both pre-incarnate Christ and incarnate Christ reveals the Father! (Another term as 'angel of the Lord' suffice as Christ?). John 1:18 and many other Scripture verses supports this view.

Response #7: 

With regard to the perspective of us human beings on this earth, I think you are correct. Even when "God" appears to human beings in the Bible, it is really Christ, even when He is representing Himself as the Father – for after all He is the One who reveals the Father (compare Is.6:1-13 with Jn.12:41). Here are some links for more background on this:

Definition of Theophany and Christophany (in BB 1)

Old Testament Appearances of Jesus Christ (in BB 4A)

Christophany in the Exodus.

Jesus Christ in the Old Testament (Christophany: Gen.3:8).

Christophany and the Trinity

Hermeneutics, Typology, Christophany, Theophany and Anthropopathism.

Angelic Issues V: Michael, the Angel of the Lord, Christophany, demons, cherubs, and Satan's revolt

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

From Reddit:

"Leviticus 14 sets the Law for cleansing a house. The priest is supposed to inspect it and clean it thoroughly out the first time. After some time, he comes back. If the "disease" has returned, the house is to be destroyed, with all its stones and timbers disassembled. Jesus cleanses the Temple, His "Father's house", twice. The 1st time early in His ministry in John 2. The 2nd time in the Passion Week in Matthew 21, Mark 11, and Luke 19. After this second cleansing, Jesus pronounces judgment on that Temple saying that there will remain "not one stone upon another." "

Is the connection spurious or not?

Response #8: 

First, I also teach that two incidents are being related; one at the beginning of our Lord's three and a half year ministry (in John chapter two), and one during passion week (related by the three other gospels). However, while these incidents are traditionally referred to as "cleansing the temple", the Bible does not use that word or any such related phrase. Our Lord didn't "cleanse" the temple in the Levitical sense (which would have required such actions as we find in 2Chron.29:15ff.); what He did was evict those who were engaging in unlawful activities within it. So it seems to me that this person, rather than responding to scripture, is instead exegeting a traditional English title of that gospel event which in fact is a misnomer.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hi Bob,

I was somewhat distraught when I saw that in your timeline of human history that you list the birth of Christ as occurring in the month of December. Based on the information in the Gospel of Luke, this is highly improbable, given the fact that the shepherds were watching over their flock in the night (Luke 2:8), which would be unlikely if it were winter, but very fitting if it were spring.


Response #9: 

Luke 2:8 says only "Now there were shepherds in that area who were camping out and keeping watches through the night to tend their flock". Flocks were/are kept "out" all year round in this area. Where they are kept (upland / lowland) may vary with the season. Something written before on this objection:

Secondly, we don't know what the weather was on that particular December. Snow in Jerusalem is an incredibly rare occurrence (though it does occasionally happen). Consuming valuable stores of supplies was something that in a tight agricultural situation was to be avoided whenever possible. So, quite to the contrary of what is suggested here, if the weather had been good at that time, there is every reason to suppose that what these shepherds were doing was reasonable [even in December].

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Hello Robert,

Can I ask you a question that's been on my mind for a long time now? They tried to arrest Jesus a few times; at one time he was able to dodge them but in others the scriptures say that they couldn't arrest Him because it was not his time yet. What do you read into this? Does it mean it was a supernatural incident or did Jesus just outstep them between the crowds? Also when the soldiers came to arrest him and Our Lord said I AM He they all fell backwards. Now is it because of the power of God in Him (supernatural) or did the soldiers fall because they realised who He really was?

Also, in Judges 6:22 when Gideon saw that he was the angel of the LORD, he said, "Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face." 23The LORD said to him, "Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die."

Some other pastor I know of said in one of his sermons that the people in the old testament days did not want to use the name of God in case they blasphemed Him since it was punishable by death, so they referred to Him as the angel of the Lord instead. So reading this verse above would make sense since the people of the day knew no one could stand in the presence of God and live. I also re-call the parents of Sampson had a visitor who also went up in the smoke of a sacrifice they had made for him and He also vanished and his mother said I have seen the face of God. Of course in both cases it would have been our Saviour Jesus since no one has seen God yet. Am I right in thinking this?

Thanks once again.

Response #10: 

Always good to hear from you! As to your questions:

Our Lord's evading of those who wanted to destroy Him before the time was most definitely a supernatural event. It's a good illustration of what His humbling of Himself to become human aka the doctrine of kenosis means and doesn't mean (see the link). He was not helped by His divinity so as to avoid the normal trials of human life, but He was also protected when normal human being generally are not – at least in the same way – so as to be able to fulfill the entire plan of God, dying on the cross in our place.

The Angel of the Lord is always a Christophany, that is, a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus Christ who is the revealed member of the Trinity (so that it was always appropriate for Him to be the visible face of God). Yes, He is the one who rises in the flames of the offering made by Samson's parents – a very tangible foreshadowing of our Lord rising in the flames in the darkness on Calvary to suffer death for all of our sins. Please see the link: "Christophany"

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

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Hi Dr,

Quick question on Phil.2:8-9 "And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name" ESV

Why did God have to exalt Christ even though Christ is God and was always in existence? Is this exaltation not related to his deity but to Christ's obedience as God-Man during his 1st advent and therefore the exaltation has to do with being exalted over men rather than creation? And how does this relate to Col 1:15-20 about being preeminence to creation.

I searched your google links but couldn't find this topic addressed. Rereading of your Christology series is on my to do list if it is addresses there.

Your exegesis is greatly appreciated.

In Christ our Lord

Response #11: 

First, what our Lord had to go through to be our substitute on the cross is not generally sufficiently understood. He had to become a human being – and that God should take on a human nature is a mind-boggling thing! And Jesus had to walk through this world as a man, not being benefitted on account of His deity to help and aid Him in ways that would make His experience different from ours – although certainly because of the opposition He faced and the need to be perfect from beginning to end guaranteed that His path was exponentially more difficult (just consider the forty days and night of fasting in the desert, and that was merely the last part of the preparation for the ministry to come). After a ministry opposed by the devil in every way allowed, our Lord endured also a gauntlet in order to get to the cross that would have defeated and destroyed both physically and emotionally any other human being . . . and then in the darkness He died for the sins of the world, rising in the flames until each was atoned for, the least of which sacrifice could not be bought if the entire universe could be laid at the Father's feet. All this He did as a human being; His deity supported Him only to the extent that this was necessary to carry out His mission (just as we receive divine support to do what God wants us to do . . . and what we are willing to do), most importantly on the cross: no human being could be judged for a single sin and not be obliterated and God cannot be judged for sin; but as God as well as man Jesus was able to be so judged and yet not be destroyed in spite of the suffering; and I would imagine that if all human suffering could be rolled into a ball its sum wouldn't equal what it took to propitiate a single sin – which is why this experience is called "death", the spiritual death of Christ on the cross which alone could take away the sin of the world (see the link). Since our Lord did all this as a man – one who was in His lowly human state "had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him" (Is.53:2 NIV), that is, "not yet [being] glorified" (Jn.7:39) – it was absolutely appropriate for Him to be glorified in the presence of the Father and be given "the name that is above every name" (Phil.2:9) on account of the great victory He won at the cross in redeeming us (Col.2:14-15). This glory, this name, was Christ's by virtue of His birth, but it also had to be won on the field of battle; so while He had all these things positionally when He came into the world (as in the other passage you ask about, Col.1:15-20), in order to save us (which required Him to fight the entire fight the right way all the way to the end), His glorification in fact had to wait until the cross was a reality (cf. Rom.3:25-26, where we see that sins were not actually forgiven until Christ paid for them, and that explains why the Old Testament saints went to paradise and not to heaven until after the ascension).

I hope this gets to your question. Do feel free to write me back about it.

Yours in the dear Savior who gave up everything that we might not die but have life eternal, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Philippians 2:5-7 (NASB):
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

Regarding harpagmon - could it be interpreted that our Lord didn't consider the divinity "stolen" from him or "illegitimately seized", but rather he abandoned his status voluntarily, as verse 7 says?

Response #12: 

That's correct; but I would be careful with the language (e.g., "abandoned his status"), since some might get the wrong idea. He gave up, in His humanity, the privileges of deity during His humiliation, but was never not God as well as man.

Question #13: 

Dear Professor,

As I've been preparing a message to Jacob (the Danish Jehovah Witness I met on the plane), I came back to a passage which bothered me for a long and about which I have asked you several times - Philippians 2:5-7. Looking back now at my questions, I can see that I didn't understand it. I'm not sure I understand it now, but having spent a few hours on it, I feel I have definitely got closer. Your input, as always, will be greatly appreciated.

There are several difficulties present, but the main one for me has been the meaning of ἁρπαγμὸν (harpagmon). Some take it as something stolen or illegitimately seized, others say it's a prize, a thing to be grasped. The former interpretation seems to consider ἁρπαγμὸν as something already done, the latter - as something one is still to attempt to get. With the first meaning verse six makes sense, but its link with verse seven doesn't seem direct enough:

"Who existing in the form of God did not consider equality with God something stolen, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men."

So theologically, such an interpretation seems sound enough - Christ existed in the form of God, so He didn't consider equality with God as something stolen, because He had it from eternity past. But that doesn't really lead to verse seven and isn't quite as directly linked with the rest of the passage, main emphasis of which is humility. This is not to say it definitely cannot be accepted, but the relationship between verses six and seven is not as clear.

On the other hand, if we take the second option - "something to be grasped", the verse works much better in the context and the relationship with verse 6 also becomes clearer:

"Who existing in the form of God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men."

The problem, from the reading I've been doing, is that in most of its uses, the verb ἁρπαζω often seems to carry with it the meaning of doing something illegitimate, taking something forcibly. So I'm not sure if ἁρπαγμὸν should be taken as "a prize to be grasped". Some commentators argue this is a linguistically legitimate interpretation, but I haven't got the knowledge to assess that. On the other hand, if we take ἁρπαγμὸν as "something to be illegitimately seized or plundered", the verse doesn't seem to make sense, as it then goes against Christ's deity:

"Who existing in the form of God did not consider equality with God something to be illegitimately seized (and the seizure can only be illegitimate if I'm not God in the first place), but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men."

An explanation of ἁρπαγμὸν that could make all of it work is the one I came across in Meyer:

In order to the right explanation, it is to be observed: (1) that the emphasis is placed on ἁρπαγμόν, and therefore (2) that τὸ εἶναι ἴσα Θεῷ cannot be something essentially different from ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχειν, but must in substance denote the same thing, namely, the divine habitus of Christ, which is expressed, as to its form of appearance, by ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ ὑπάρχ., and, as to its internal nature, by τὸ εἶναι ἴσα Θεῷ;[96] (3) lastly, that ἁρπαγμός does not mean praeda, or that which is seized on (which would be ἁρπάγιμον, Callim. Cer. 9; Pallad, ep. 87; Philop. 79; or ἅρπαγμα or ἅρπασμα, and might also be ἁρπαγή), or that which one forcibly snatches to himself (Hofmann and older expositors); but actively: robbing, making booty. In this sense, which is priori probable from the termination of the word which usually serves to indicate an action, it is used, beyond doubt, in the only profane passage in which it is extant, Plut. de pueror. educ. 15 (Mor. p. 12 A): καὶ τοὺς μὲν Θήβῃσι καὶ τοὺς Ἠλίδι φευκτέον ἔρωτας καὶ τὸν ἐκ Κρήτης καλούμενον ἁρπαγμόν, where it denotes the Cretan kidnapping of children. It is accordingly to be explained: Not as a robbing did He consider[97] the being equal with God, i.e. He did not place it under the point of view of making booty, as if it was, with respect to its exertion of activity, to consist in His seizing what did not belong to Him.

The key here is the active sense of the word - "robbing, making booty". If we interpret it this way, the passage seems to make sense and the link between verses six and seven can also be established:

"Who existing in the form of God did not consider equality with God as an act of robbing, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men."

So Christ wasn't doing anything illegitimate by existing in the form of God and being equal to Him - yet despite this, and despite Him being able to continue, He took a form of a slave.

What do you think?

In our Lord,

Response #13: 

This is "one of those passage" to be sure. To be honest, I think all of these explanations are more or less the same, and I also think that the difficulty in the word harpagmos has tended to disrupt the understanding of the passage; that is because while the meaning of the word is certainly key to the understanding of the passage, it is also not the only factor present, so that over-focus on harpagmos alone can lead to misunderstanding of the whole. Meyer's explanation seems to me to be fine, until one gets to the very end. Your observation about needing to tie everything in to the context of humility is also critical: we have to understand why Paul used this word in the first place. The main point for theological purposes is made by all the explanations which all demonstrate that Christ was God before the incarnation; this is a key part of what verse six says – indeed it is the key part in terms of theological controversy. But why does Paul use harpagmos? Verse seven explains by way of comparison in the best Greek binary reasoning that in spite of the truth of verse six (His deity), nevertheless He "emptied Himself" – that is, He took on true humanity but with the self-imposed limitations of the first advent that we call "kenosis" after the very verb for "emptying" used in this passage. In other words, from our human point of view there was no reason for Christ to do what He did for us; it's a matter of the grace of God. Therefore I have translated the verse as follows:

Since He already existed in the very form of God, equality with God was [certainly] not something He thought He had to grasp for. (7) Yet in spite of this [co-equal divinity He already possessed], He deprived Himself of His status and took on the form of a slave, [and was] born in the likeness of men. (8) He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even [His] death on [the] cross [for us all].
Philippians 2:6-8

Given this discussion, it should be pointed out that it is also be possible to translate "not something He felt could be taken from Him" (understanding the verbal idea present in harpagmos as passive). That would explain Paul's reasoning, or, better put, Paul's adopting of the reasoning of someone here wondering about the incarnation and trying to see things from Christ's point of view: our Lord was not in any danger of losing His deity through taking on true humanity any more than He needed to win it by doing so. According to the first translation ("not something He thought He had to grasp for"), Christ rightly did not see deity as something He needed to "earn" through the incarnation; according to the newly proposed second translation (""not something He felt could be taken from Him"") Christ rightly did not see deity as something that could be "lost" through the incarnation. And yet, according to either translation, He nevertheless humbled Himself so as to die for all mankind.

I would not be willing to disregard either aspect of harpagmos, that is, neither the active meaning (something to be grasped by the subject) nor the passive one (something to grasped from the subject), inasmuch as the distinction is not a question of vocabulary as much as it is of point of view (i.e., who is hypothetically doing the grasping). It is common enough in Greek in particular for authors to deliberately leave constructions with a dual application (the figure is called apo koinou), and that may be the intent here as well and the reason behind Paul's choice of this particular word, ratified by the Spirit: Christ had nothing to gain by becoming human as well divine (except for "us" whom He did gain), and had nothing that could be taken from Him in terms of His deity thereby – but He did become a human being (as well as God) anyway for our benefit and at the greatest cost in terms of what He suffered in His humanity. Such is the love of God.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14: 

Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you so much for your ministry, it as helped me so much. I have a questions about the nature of the Messiah. Was Jesus a man who had the fullness of the Word of God dwelling inside of Him from conception or was He the Word of God who just took on humanity? Or is there really no difference between the two ideas?

Response #14: 

Jesus has always been God – just like the Father and the Spirit have always been God. God exists in three persons with one essence.

At the incarnation, something beyond amazing happened. God, in the person of Christ, took on true humanity. God became a man – without ceasing to be God – and thus wed Himself to humanity irrevocably for all eternity. While it is true that our Lord in His humanity did not utilize the great benefits of His deity to smooth His path in this life (the doctrine of kenosis at the link), He has been God and man from that point onward and will be forever. In fact, that is the bedrock of the Plan of God because only thus could He die for our sins: only man can suffer for them; only a man who was also God could be pure and capable of bearing them. Without this union, there could be no salvation, no plan of God, no creation – which is predicated on our Lord doing what He has done.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hi Bob,

How can the Lord and God Jesus Christ have a human spirit, when the human spirit is necessarily so weak and feeble, and God infinite?

I do not let my faith waver, but I am genuinely curious.


Response #15: 

Equally mystifying is the question "how can God become a man?" And yet we know that our Lord did "come into the world". Jesus was God before the creation of the world (and remains so of course), but He took on humanity to save humanity from our sins. Human beings are not fragmented parts such as "body and soul" or "body and spirit" or "body, soul and spirit". Every human being has always been a unique creation and an absolute unity. There will never be a time when the spirit is disembodied, and it is eternal from the point of its creation. When Jesus came into the world, He became a man in addition to being God, and that meant taking on a human nature in addition to His divine nature. The spirit is the essence of who we are, so in no sense could our Lord be human and not have a human spirit. The body that was uniquely prepared for Him took on life – and He took on a human nature – only at the point of birth when His human spirit was created within the just born body. This is the same process as with all human beings – except of course that Christ' humanity / human nature was an addition to His divine one. Since we cannot really understand the divine nature this side of heaven (except in the abstract), how God could become man as well as God is something we also do not appreciate to the full no doubt. But we do know from scripture that this is precisely what happened, and that this was the only way that we could possibly have been saved from our sins, so that we also know that the incarnation was the foundational part of the plan of God since before He began it with the creation of the world. All this shows how that even though we are aware of our insignificance, on the other hand we are of the greatest significance to God, who committed to sending His Son to die for us as a necessary part of the perfect creation of which we all are forever.

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
Romans 11:33 NIV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

"Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples)"
(John 4:1)

What should we make of this?

Response #16: 

These comments (and one has to read further to verse three where as a result our Lord leaves for Galilee), make it clear that our Lord's ministry, in order to be able to last the full three and a half years, really did need the "cover" provided by John. When John was killed, the focus of opposition rested entirely on our Lord, and that limited the amount of time He had before said opposition reached a critical mass. Things worked out perfectly for the "accomplishment of all righteousness" and the perfect completion of the plan of God for salvation – but John's role as a lightning rod, so to speak, was critical in the early years. See the link: "The Teaching Ministry of Jesus Christ".

In our dear Lord and Savior.

Bob L.

Question #17: 

No, I mean, did Jesus approve of the disciple's water baptism?

Response #17: 

Water-baptism was meant to prepare the nation for the coming Messiah. So by continuing to water-baptize Jesus' disciples were implying/demonstrating that He was the Messiah and that those responding were coming back to the Lord by accepting Him and John's testimony about Him (as implied in this water ritual).

Question #18:  

I am starting to believe that this verse is the reason why the disciples continued to water baptize in Acts. Because Jesus authorized baptism during his three year ministry, they assumed it must have continued after Pentecost.

Response #18: 

You have the "assumed" part right. They made a lot of "assumptions" which turned out to be wrong (cf. Gal.2:11-14), and that is why there needed to be a significant transitional period between Israel and the Church Age (see the link).

Question #19: 

Hi Robert....Ty for your kind and uplifting words. Do you think Jesus was aware of the fact that he created everyone and every thing while he was here on the earth or was that recalled when He was resurrected? I know the passage where the people said Abraham is our father and Jesus said "Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I Am!" So this implies that He in fact was aware of this but I wanted to be sure. I understand He knew He was The Son of God and Messiah but I wasn't sure if He knew That He created everything through the Father through His word.

Yours In Christ,

Response #19: 

Hello my friend,

On your question, in His humanity, our Lord knew more about the truth than any other human being who has ever lived. So, yes, you are correct that He was aware of who He was and entirely so, even though He was self-limited in what His deity could do for His humanity; i.e., He had to learn all the truth He knew just as we do (see the link); it's called the doctrine of kenosis (see the link).

Praying for you in the Lord.

Bob L.

Question #20: 

Hi Dr.

Another question I had was on Mk 3:21 from this week's posting: I understand our Lord did not use His divinity to help with his trials, but did He use the power of the Holy Spirit? I know He was indwelt during His baptism but I just wanted clarification on what you mean by He did not use His divinity?

I understand some of this could be answered in the Christology series but i have to go back and reread again. On my list after CT.

In Christ Our Lord

Response #20:

I think the best way to understand this is that our Lord fought His earthly fight "as a man". That is to say, He took advantage of everything we can take advantage of, only to a perfect degree, showing us the way: no one has ever made better use of the ministry of the Spirit. But He did not take advantage of His own deity in a way that no other human being could do, not being divine. So indeed He made us of the power of the Holy Spirit, as we also may do. It is true that some of the manifestations of that use may be different today (we think of the impressive miracles that He did which we are not permitted to do), but we also have to keep in mind His words to us on this score:

Jesus replied, "Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done.
Matthew 21:21 NIV


Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
John 14:12 NIV

So we should not underestimate the power of the Spirit and the "great things" that the Lord is doing through us, His Church, even if to human eyes they do not seem as "great".

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Hi Bro-

Was just on google trying again, alas, to find a full set of the Anglican Speaker's Commentary, but to no avail. While doing so, I saw your blurb re: Romans' commentaries. Sweet stuff! I love John Murray's. Makes me weep. I do have Meyer's, Gifford's, etc. Re: Gifford, his The Incarnation of Christ dumbfounded me. So insightful. Great tool to debunk Kenosis theorists!

Anyway, just thought I'd send you a short note.

Jesus bless

Yours for Him

Response #21: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Glad to hear something at the site was useful to you. I don't understand what you mean about "kenosis theorists", however. Best place at Ichthys for this discussion is in BB 4A: Christology: "The Hypostatic Union and Kenosis".

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #22: 

Hi Bro

Great to hear back from you. Sorry-what I meant by Kenosis theorists are those who believe Jesus became less than divine at the incarnation.

Response #22: 

The true doctrine of kenosis explains how Jesus who is God took on true humanity as well (so that ever since He has had two natures, one divine and one human), but that during the first advent He "humbled Himself", that is, He did not aid His human nature through His divine nature so as to be saved from enduring what human beings go through in this world – so that He might present Himself as an acceptable offering on the cross for the sins of us all. If anyone believes that Jesus in any way "gave up" any of His deity (impossible!), that theory should not be described by the word kenosis. Here is my amplified translation of the key passage in Philippians:

(5) You too should have this attitude which Christ Jesus had. (6) Since He already existed in the very form of God, equality with God was [certainly] not something He thought He had to grasp for (or something He thought could be taken from Him). (7) Yet in spite of this [co-equal divinity He already possessed], He deprived Himself of His status and took on the form of a slave, [and was] born in the likeness of men. (8) He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even [His] death on [the] cross [for us all].
Philippians 2:5-8

Here is another link where the details are explained: "Kenosis: Our Lord's Self-Limitation during the 1st Advent".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23: 

Isaiah 42:6 (NASB)
6 "I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness,
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You,
And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations,

A very good point is made by Keil and Delitzsch which shows quite clearly that it is our Lord who is meant here, based on the fact that Israel as a nation cannot really be the mediator of the covenant with themselves:

An unprejudiced commentator must admit that the "servant of Jehovah" is pointed out here, as He in whom and through whom Jehovah concludes a new covenant with His people, in the place of the old covenant that was broken - namely, the covenant promised in Isaiah 54:10; Isaiah 61:8; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 16:60. The mediator of this covenant with Israel cannot be Israel itself, not even the true Israel, as distinguished from the mass (where do we read anything of this kind?); on the contrary, the remnant left after the sweeping away of the mass is the object of this covenant. (Note: This is equally applicable to V. F. Oehler (Der Knecht Jehova's im Deuterojesaia, 2 Theile, 1865), who takes the "servant of Jehovah" as far as Isaiah 52:14 in a national sense, and supposes "the transition from the 'servant' as a collective noun, to the 'servant' as an individual," to be effected there; whereas two younger theologians, E. Schmutz (Le Serviteur de Jéhova, 1858) and Ferd. Philippi (Die bibl. Lehre vom Knechte Gottes, 1864), admit that the individualizing commences as early as Isaiah 42:1.) Nor can the expression refer to the prophets as a body, or, in fact, have any collective meaning at all: the form of the word, which is so strongly personal, is in itself opposed to this. It cannot, in fact, denote any other than that Prophet who is more than a prophet, namely, Malachi's "Messenger of the covenant" (Isaiah 3:1). Amongst those who suppose that the "servant of Jehovah" is either Israel, regarded in the light of its prophetic calling, or the prophets as a body, Umbreit at any rate is obliged to admit that this collective body is looked at here in the ideal unity of one single Messianic personality; and he adds, that "in the holy countenance of this prophet, which shines forth as the idea of future realization, we discern exactly the loved features of Him to whom all prophecy points, and who saw Himself therein." This is very beautiful; but why this roundabout course? Let us bear in mind, that the servant of Jehovah appears here not only as one who is the medium of a covenant to the nation, and of light to the Gentiles, but as being himself the people's covenant and heathen's light, inasmuch as in his own person he is the band of a new fellowship between Israel and Jehovah, and becomes in his own person the light which illumines the dark heathen world. This is surely more than could be affirmed of any prophet, even of Isaiah or Jeremiah. Hence the "servant of Jehovah" must be that one Person who was the goal and culminating point to which, from the very first, the history of Israel was ever pressing on; that One who throws into the shade not only all that prophets did before, but all that had been ever done by Israel's priests of kings; that One who arose out of Israel, for Israel and the whole human race, and who stood in the same relation not only to the wider circle of the whole nation, but also to the inner circle of the best and noblest within it, as the heart to the body which it animates, or the head to the body over which it rules. All that Cyrus did, was simply to throw the idolatrous nations into a state of alarm, and set the exiles free. But the Servant of Jehovah opens blind eyes; and therefore the deliverance which He brings is not only redemption from bodily captivity, but from spiritual bondage also. He leads His people (cf., Isaiah 49:8-9), and the Gentiles also, out of night into light; He is the Redeemer of all that need redemption and desire salvation.

This note provides several valid arguments and the reason I'm bringing it up here is that although any believing reader of these verses can see that the person of the Messiah is being described here, I'm also aware that particularly Jewish interpreters seem reluctant not to interpret verses such as these in a collective manner. Inasmuch as I know you don't consider yourself an apologist and neither do I, it is a useful point made here that Israel cannot be a mediator of their own covenant with God and the words spoken by God about this figure quite clearly exceed what a human prophet could ever live up to.

Response #23: 

Jesus is the Light (Jn.1:4-9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46; Acts 26:23; 2Cor.4:6; 1Jn.2:8; cf. Rev.21:23).

You are correct that I lack the patience for apologetics. Perhaps this is a good point for evangelizing Jewish unbelievers. Very soon they will have 144,000 evangelists of their own blood and culture imbued with the truth and directed by two of the greatest prophets in history to tell them the truth . . . and still the majority will not believe until they see Christ return with their own eyes (and some will still not accept Him even then).

Question #24: 

Hi Bob,

Was Jesus' alluding to Psalm 32:2 when he was speaking to Nathaniel?

"Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit." (Psalm 32:2)

I am amazed by the consistency of the character portrayed as Jesus by all four gospel writers. In every gospel the character Jesus has a prodigious knowledge of the Tanakh. There are only two possible explanations: each of the gospel writers got their information from a reliable source about him or conspired to create a fictitious Jesus character.

But the problem for skeptics with the conspiracy theory is that it means that all four gospels were written within a similar time from each other, which means that Markan priority and the other explanations to reinterpret the gospels as fiction fall down like a house of cards.

PS: when I use the phrase "the character Jesus," I am not committing myself to saying that Jesus was a fictional character, but, as per the scientific-deductive approach, beginning by distinguishing the "reference" of Jesus from the "object of reference" (i.e. Jesus) and seeing whether or not the "reference" and "object of reference" ultimately end up at the same place.

Response #24: 

A very helpful set of observations! I also think you may have something in regard to Psalm 32:2 (the word in the NT and the LXX is the same in each case: dolos).

I'm keeping you in prayer.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

Hi Bob,

If Jesus was sent for the lost sheep of Israel, why did he go out of his way to leave Judaea and visit Tyre?

Response #25: 

Our Lord is God, but He is also human; which means that during the first advent He got tired, for example (Jn.4:6), and even though He pushed Himself to the extremes in everything He did for the glory of God the Father, because He was truly a human being there were limits (cf. e.g., Lk.8:23; Mk.4:38). Here is what I read on this event in the gospels:

And having gone out from there, Jesus withdrew to the regions of Tyre and Sidon.
Matthew 15:21

And From there He rose and departed to the coasts of Tyre. And having entered into a house, He did not wish to have converse with anyone, for He was unable to speak.
Mark 7:24

Matthew 15:21 uses anachoreo, "retreat" or "withdraw", to make it clear that this is a voluntary (temporary) respite from the intensive ministry our Lord was conducting. And Sinaiticus preserves the correct reading in Mark 7:24: lalein ("to speak") and not lathein ("to escape notice"), substituted by some well-intended copiest no doubt to remove any notion of human weakness in our Lord. But this false motive, apart from taking liberties with the Word of God, misunderstands that this detail is given to us by Mark in the Spirit precisely so that we may see that our Lord was indeed pushing Himself to His physical limits at all times – and even so was merciful and gracious to His own hurt. To get to the nub our your question, the fact that our Lord did not even want to respond to this Tyro-Phoenician woman at all demonstrates that the purpose of His visit was not evangelical but restorative – and even so He helped her once her faith had been demonstrated so clearly. Incidentally, our Lord was even more aware of the needs of those under Him, even though He encouraged their full and enthusiastic service (cf. Matt.15:32):

And He said to them, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.
Mark 6:31-32 NKJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #26: 

Hi Bob,

How do you reconcile the ascension not being a part of Luke with Luke's own words in the beginning of Acts?

"In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day when he was taken up."


Response #26: 

This statement marks and delineates the end of the time period. It doesn't say (or mean) that Luke has covered every episode within that period, including the ascension. In fact, in the next few verses he himself gives more details which had not given before in order to "set the table" for the story of the acts. I do think you have a point that the mistaken impression wrongly received from this verse may have something to do with the concocting of an ascension at the end of Luke (in some early copies of scripture the two books are placed directly together which might make this verse in Acts seem even more jarring if not properly understood).  Please see in loc. in Luke Questions under Luke 24:51 at the link.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27: 

I was wondering about the engagement of Mary and Joseph. The bible says Joseph was espoused to marry her. In the OT times, what was the engagement customs? Why didn't Mary and Joseph just get married? And if they were not married, how come they were already traveling together and possibly living together? Was there a waiting period between engagement and marriage, or a predatory period?

Response #27: 

In the ancient world generally, it was not uncommon for one's parents to espouse a person even as an infant to another infant. There were always many variations in these procedures, however, so we really can't know anything more about their situation than what the scriptures tell us. We do know for certain that Mary never had sexual relations with Joseph until after our Lord's birth (Matt.1:25). What I have been able to glean from scripture about the details on this issue can be found at the following links:

The events surrounding Christ's birth (the travels of Joseph and Mary); in BB 4A

Follow up questions

Whatever happened to Joseph?

More about Joseph

Question #28:  

Hi Bob,

Lot's two daughters respectively founded the nation of Moab and the Ammonites. However, what's interesting is that both of these nations play a significant role in the lineage of the Messiah.

We all know that Ruth was a Moabite, and that King David was her descendant. However, God also tells Moses not to make war on the Ammonites (Deuteronomy 2:19), and Jewish interpretation says that this is because King Solomon's wife was Naamah. So we see that both of these descendants of Lot were ultimately incorporated into the lineage of the Messiah.

I really did memorize just about every minute detail of the Bible. It was pleasant to do so, however.


Response #28: 

On Ruth, yes. On Jewish tradition, doubtful. On grace being evident in the line of the Messiah, absolutely: we should add (for different reasons) Rahab and Bathsheba. God is concerned with the individual heart, not the race or genealogy. These are only important when the individuals within them do not "buck the trend" of their ungodly genealogy. But everyone in Christ is a "new creation".

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #29: 

One quick question, what's the difference between the "Sons of God" and the "Morning Star?"

Response #29: 

Jesus Christ it the coming "Morning Star" (please see the link). Satan had originally held the title as the representative between God and the angels . . . until he rebelled (see the link). The phrase also is used in Revelation to refer to our eternal, close relationship with our Lord Jesus, and the rewards He will give us for good service in this conflict in which we are engaged. The phrase "sons of God" usually refers to the angels generally (see the link), and sometimes (as in Genesis chapter six) to those who followed Satan (see the link).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #30: 

Shalom Dr. Luginbill,

Blessings to you my friend. If you have some time to spare may I ask your thoughts on a matter? I heard that during the "Triumphal entry of Jesus on the donkey" the masses of people who gathered were not necessarily there because they believed Jesus was the messiah, whether spiritual or political, but rather, because it was a Jewish tradition to gather at that time and do what they did each year as a symbolic practice pointing to the coming One, and that they did this before the priest brought in the Lamb for the Passover. Those who hold this view say that Jesus circumvented, so to speak, their parade thus fulfilling the Scriptures. Those who hold that view say this is the reason why, just a few days later, these same people were now willing to crucify Jesus. However, I have not been able to find anything to support this view other than the man I heard who told about it.

Now, one other view I heard was this: That the procession was on the 6th day of Sukkot. And all of those lining the streets were anticipating the soon arrival of the Messiah, much as we are anticipating His soon arrival today. Those who hold this view point to the fact that while the synoptic Gospels place the Triumphal Entry near Passover, without the Gospels giving us the actual dates we do not know if the entry was really a week before Passover or if this was from Sukkot. And the people who cried for the crucifixion of Jesus were the Hellenists, not disgruntled faithful Jews. The faithful Jews lined the streets hailing Messiah, Whom they thought was taking over the government. Those who hold this view say that the rest of the first view is from someone's imagination, not biblical fact.

May I please ask your thoughts on these two views? I am trying to understand these subjects for a teaching lesson.

Love & blessings,

Response #30:

It's always wonderful to hear from you, my friend. I hope you are having a blessed Easter – although we celebrate Him every day. As to your question, here is what I read in scripture:

The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.
John 12:14 NIV

Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, "See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!"
John 12:18-19 NIV

And as a result of the triumphal entry, we find this:

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?" The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."
Matthew 21:10-11 NIV

From a simple reading of scripture it appears obvious that the huge response to our Lord's entry into the city was unusual. Yes of course there was a large crowd present in the city for Passover as was always the case, but for the crowd to throng to the city's eastern approaches and mob one individual entering therein, putting down palm branches and singing "Hosanna!", was not usual – it had never happened before and has never happened since. The festival of Tabernacles was in the fall, not the spring, though the palm branches are indeed more appropriate to that festival, as are the cries of hosanna – both of which speak to the coming of the Messiah as King to liberate Israel. So it is clear that the people did not understand the need for the Messiah first to suffer (though that is evident from the prophets as well), and had confused the cross and the crown, wanting the latter immediately and stumbling over the former in their hardness of hearts.

Hope this answers your question. Please do feel free to write back as always. Two links which also may help:

The Triumphal Entry (in BB 4A)

Chronology of passion week

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #31: 

Hi Bob,

"A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return…But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We do not want this man to reign over us.'… 'But as for these enemies of mine,' [said the nobleman] 'who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.'" (Luke 19:12, 19:14, 19:27)

How likely was it that Jesus alluding to Archelaus in this parable?


Response #31: 

This is the kind of non-existent connection commentators who are over-focused on secular documentation like to find all the time (so I don't doubt that you've found this written up somewhere) – but there's no actual spiritual connection. The "king" in this parallel is our Lord (He is speaking about Himself), and there is no comparison or connection meant by Him between Himself and the pseudo-royal family of the Herodians.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #32: 

I think I'm clear about the questions I asked you regarding the Passover meal that our Lord celebrated with His disciples and Meyer's comments. Or at least clear enough for now, it is a complicated issue which I might revisit in the future, perhaps mainly for apologetical purposes. So just to be sure - John wrote "before the feat of the Passover" in John 13:1 since he used the southern dating of the feast, according to which it was to be celebrated on Friday, whereas the synoptics refer to this last meal as the Passover (Matthew 26:18, Mark 14:14, Luke 22:8) using the northern calendar. Let me know if I got your point on this correctly. If so, do we know why would John use the southern or Jerusalem dating?

Response #32: 

On the Passover, yes, I think this is a fair synopsis of my position. John used both systems because the Lord celebrated the Passover according to the northern calendar and the events which followed the next day (same Jewish day) occurred according to the southern one. Also very importantly, Christ is our Passover, so that He rightly needed to suffer and die for us on Passover – the day of the cross is the Passover – not on the "day of preparation" as they were considering it in the south. And that is just another thing they got wrong in missing everything regarding who our Lord was was and what He had come to accomplish for us all. I think also this is why we find at John 11:55 this terminology: "the Passover of the Jews" meaning the elite of Judah (see the link) . . . as opposed to the Passover.

Question #33: 

What do you think about this exchange?

A: I only point out a tendency among evangelicals to go the opposite extreme on the RCC on almost every theological issue. Yes, the veneration of "Mary" is just silly, but that doesn't mean that she was an unremarkable believer. She was probably the greatest believer since Abraham, which is why she predicted that "every generation will call me 'blessed'"

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
James 2:19 NIV

B: It would be a mistake to suppose that Mary was some ultra-spiritual super-saint. Later, she learned to worship Jesus, and like any Christian, to trust him to save her wretched soul from hellfire (Acts 1:14). But at this point, she was not even a believer.

A: I don't think an unbeliever would've composed a psalm as beautiful and awe-inspiring as the Magnificat. Mary knew that Jesus was unique ever since Gabriel announced his birth to her, even if the precise details of the Hypostatic Union eluded her.

The RCC isn't wrong about everything all the time. After all, they affirm that God exists.

Response #33: 

I can't get too excited about Protestant vs. Catholic controversies. I oppose untruth wherever it is found and in both camps there is plenty of that; the practical problem for a believer is to find a place where there is enough truth to grow and that is generally not in either camp, especially when whatever truth is present is vitiated by so much untruth. Clearly, both veneration and dismissal of Mary are wrong. Thinking of Mary as a demigod is wrong; thinking of her as of no particular account is wrong. She was/is a human being whose devotion to the Lord will be the basis for her future reward. Here's something I wrote about this (at the link):

Mary was special indeed, a true believer in a time of wide-spread apostasy, and obviously an exceptionally good one too, with whom the Lord was well-pleased indeed. But there is no indication that she was perfect, nor was there any need for her to be, for the only way to avoid the reception of a sin nature is to be virgin born as the sin nature is passed down through the male side (see Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology, section I.2, "The Sin Nature"). It was the fact that Jesus was born without human male participation that produces a body free from sin, not any supposed sinlessness on Mary's part.

Obviously, being given the role of the mother of the Messiah, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is no small thing! Mary is no doubt one of a small group of the most exceptional believers and will also no doubt be among the set-apart "Levite" group in the New Jerusalem. No one can say who will rank the highest, however; our Lord would not even tell the disciples who would be at His left and right hand. Being saved is wonderful enough; having an assurance of great reward, even better. But we will have to wait for "the day" itself to find out where each one of us ranks for all eternity. All the more motivation to make our devotion to the Lord and to His truth and to His Church the absolute top priority in our lives.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #34: 

Dear Dr Luginbill,

I have read with some horror the sermon on the mount and wonder how we can have salvation by grace through the cross of Christ if we also have to do all that it says in the Sermon. For example, if I cannot forgive people as much as I am forgiven then it seems i am not to have salvation, or similarly, if I do any of those things wrong that are mentioned [or indeed anything else at all] then i don't have salvation. Please can you explain where I have gone wrong, or indeed if I really do have to jump through all those hoops.

I am really hopelessly confused.

Thank you in anticipation.

Response #34: 

Good to make your acquaintance. I'm reminded of our Lord's conversation with His disciples:

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Matthew 19:24-26 NIV

Anyone with a tender heart will always find things in scripture which are hard to hear because they point out our flaws and insufficiencies. But salvation is not a matter of works; rather it is a matter of faith.

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son."
John 3:18 NIV

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it (i.e., salvation) is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV

Being as how salvation is a gift given by grace through faith when we believe, we can do nothing to earn it; rather, true "good works" (i.e., those truly good in God's eyes) are the result of salvation and spiritual growth, not the cause.

Part of the issue in being nonplused by reading the Sermon on the Mount and other such passages is, therefore, how we are understanding them in the context of the entire truth of the Word of God; the other part of the "problem" is that until we start growing spiritually to a good degree we will find ourselves insufficient to such challenges from the Word. But as we grow, not only do we understand all such things better and with better perspective but we also find that as we have grown we have started to adopt many such things automatically, just as the grain-bearing plant once sown grows gradually but inexorably until it achieves its full potential (Mk.4:26-29). So viewed from either perspective, the answer to this "problem" is always spiritual growth: hearing, learning and believing the truth of the Word of God from a good, solid reliable and tested source, reading scripture and walking in it, praying at all times in the Spirit, and applying consistently to our lives the truth we have learned and made our own by believing it. Here are a few links:

Spiritual Growth I

Spiritual Growth II

Introduction to Spiritual Growth (Peter #10)

On the Sermon on the Mount in particular, I'm happy to address any specific questions or concerns you might have (there is a good deal available already at Ichthys on individual teachings found therein). See in particular:

The "woes" of Luke 6

Gospel Questions VIII

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #35: 

Dear Dr Luginbill,

I have now read a fair number of your pages of answers to the questions put to you and can honestly say I have never yet found any website so full of clear, focused helps to understanding set in such a way that I can understand and somehow know that your comments are thoroughly well biblically sourced - obviously through a very extensive knowledge of it and a strong faith.

Also have read as many links as I can manage and am at absorption point for now, but intend to read the Peter series.

From that, I can see that my main problem is an immature faith without enough biblically based ideas to see me through the questions that seem to get thrown at my head when I least expect it: I have known all along that I am saved by grace alone and that I can do nothing at all to earn or deserve it. I am happy with that, but was mystified by the whole of the sermon on the mount because it seemed to be negating grace. If we are saved by grace, WHO is Jesus talking to? If we are saved by grace why do so many people in so many churches I have attended [high, low and free] set so many rules determining whether I am a Christian or not, whether I have to jump through this hoop or that [e.g. giving up smoking was at one time reckoned to be necessary to retain salvation because it was a terrible sin. Beside the point that I gave it up for other reasons, this shouldn't be necessary for grace to be given, after all smoking was no more a sin that getting angry or stealing etc. that people do at times].

My over-riding problem is a mental block - I read that Jesus was doing the will of his father, and that led me to evaluate His actions as entirely God-ward and that we were a sort of nuisance, and that although he loved his disciples who he lived with, that really we were no part of it, only to be saved by this grace arrangement Jesus and God had together, and that it would be accessible via their Holy Spirit. So I sorted it all out in my head sort of mechanically, accepted it and took it on board for myself, so that I can stand and say Jesus is my Saviour, that but for Him, I would be eternally lost. HOWEVER, I don't have the joy or love in my heart that it seems I ought to have and dearly wish for. I am determined and committed, but don't have love. So according to St Paul, I am not any good - didn't he say that without love we are nothing.? I can care, have compassion, spend much of my time [now retired] doing all those things that I feel are put in my way to do - helping a struggling alcoholic to sort their life out, comforting a weeping Christian friend, you know the sort of thing I mean. Also where I used to want to get nasty with someone who had been nasty to me or about me, I now find it more possible to stand aloof from it and maybe even to pray for them a little. This is not me, this is the Holy Spirit and I know it, yet I don't have that relationship with Jesus that I would like to have. Could it be because of an episode in my childhood - I had an 'illuminated moment' where I discovered Jesus loves us [though I can't feel it now] and ran home to tell my mother who I thought was a believer, only to be told not to say that name in the house ever again. I felt confused and deflated and felt I must be wrong. At about the same time I read some of my mothers books including one beyond my reading age by a man [D Wheatly] who wrote about the devil as well as being an historian. That stayed in my mind for a very long time and I sometimes wonder if that laid an entrance for Satan into my life. Certainly it would answer for the occasional outbursts I had - I would be going along nicely with faith issues, learning and understanding more and then suddenly see the Bible and want to tear it up. Savage thoughts and a constant voice denying everything I thought I believed. The more progress I make, the more these strange episodes would occur. A friend said it was Satanic and I must pray about it. I now find reading the Bible difficult and fortunately remember a lot of what I had read, though am beginning to get back to at least looking up references, and can now say the word Jesus and write it without feeling so awfully uncomfortable. I suppose that means there will be another attack of doubts and voices telling me how stupid I am to believe any of it and that I am brainwashing myself.

I must read another link I saw for someone else about who is n charge of my thoughts, and one on the Battle Within - maybe they will help.

I can thank you for listening to my question about the Sermon , and wonder in fact if this was another subtle suggestion by the detractor, because I had been making some progress. My memory for Truth sometimes evaporates and leaves me with nothing but doubts and questions. It has helped just writing to you because I have no-one to talk to about these things. One church I attend doesn't do that sort of thing and another seems to have what I call 'the Gospel of Cushions and Comforts' while forgetting obedience and diligently minding our behaviour etc. and largely ignores or countermands my doubts.

I truly yearn to live a good Christian life, though balk at real persecution, [and yes, I know that God won't give me more than I can swallow]. Maybe God doesn't expect me to understand more than I can cope with at any one time, and wont consign me to the outer regions because I can't yet feel love, but oh that does worry me. I need to be prayed for! How do I find someone to pray for me [biblically] when I know so few Christian people?

Thank you for so many straightforward, biblical, helpful and insightful pages, and for your time and dedication to serving us through your serving the Lord.

May God shower you with blessings and may the Holy Spirit direct your writing in order to bless all those folk you help so ably.

With thanks and gratitude

Dear Dr Luginbill,

Following my long email to you, although it is 5am, I read part of the Battle page, and this that you said:

"We are saved. Believers in Jesus Christ. So why are we still here? Why didn't the Lord take us to be with Himself long before now? Of course, we are here to serve Him. It is all about Him. It is not at all about us. Unbelievers are left to live tranquil lives. Believers who are only marginal and who are not trying to make any sort of difference for our Lord are rarely bothered by the evil one. But just let a Christian start to try truly living for Jesus, just let a believer begin to grow, and the evil one takes notice. How much more is that not the case for those who are honestly trying to minister to the flock of Jesus Christ? Anyone who attempts to serve the Lord in an honorable way will most definitely be tempted, tested, persecuted and opposed to a far more serious degree than the rank and file, especially the lukewarm rank and file. It is easy to forget this."

It is possibly at least part of the answer, so I thank you again for providing so much useful encouragements to floundering Christians such as myself.

However, I do look forward to an answer when you have time to the long email I sent a few minutes before this one.

Thank you and God bless you.

Response #35: 

Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words.

You have a true grace perspective, and that is an excellent start as well as a sine qua non for further growth. Those who have abandoned grace for legalism are never going to get anywhere spiritually until they renounce that vitiating perspective. When I quoted the Ephesians passage I took care to include verse ten: genuine "good works" – which in biblical terms is everything good we think, say or do – have been prepared for us by God to do after we are saved. So on the one hand there is no merit in us in doing them except for the response of faith, hope and love in the doing (and for that there is great eternal reward). Once we have accepted our Lord Jesus by faith, we are to proceed in the Christian life in a walk with Him that parallels our initial salvation. We were saved "by grace through faith" and that is also how we learn the truth and how we apply the truth. The Sermon on the Mount describes the perfect behavior of perfectly transformed believers walking with the Lord in a perfect way. What most Christians fail to understand (apparently) is that we will never actually be perfect until the resurrection. We still live in sin-infested bodies tempted on all sides by the world and its evil ruler. We are indeed called to perfection, but getting there is a fight (and there probably will never be a day when we don't have to confess some sin or other – once we truly understand the breadth of what is sinful).

This tension, between what we want to be and can come close to being and what we are immediately after salvation is where the Christian life on earth is fought out. God understands that faith has to grow – like a mustard seed. We start off small in faith, and it is easy to see requirements in scripture, or the difficult tests famous believers of the Bible faced and passed, and then say, "Lord, I can't do that; Lord I'll never be able to do that!". But we need to understand that while the first part is true (we start off with a smidgen of faith), if we do grow in our faith through learning, believing and applying the truth of the Word of God, there are in fact no limits to what we may achieve for Jesus Christ – except those we impose upon ourselves. Reading scriptures such as the ones bothering you at present are meant to challenge us, are meant to help us see that we have a long way to go, are meant to help us stay humble – but they are not meant to discourage us. Have faith that you can do whatever the Lord wants you to do, and if there is anything you can't do now, He will help you get ready to do it in time. What is needed is response to Him in faith – and such faith is always met bountifully by the grace of God. Just as we can't see plants growing from seeds to trees – because the passage of time is to long for us to take in with the naked eye – so it is not possible to observe the growth of an individual Christian's faith except over time. But for all those who make the Lord Jesus Christ their number one priority, learning daily the truth of His Word, and putting it into greater and more consistent practice day by day, in time the difference between "what we were" and "what we now are" will be obvious to all – even to ourselves. This can't come from the outside in, i.e., by following "rules", especially as you mention if these are mostly made up and have nothing to do with Bible, as is often the case (Is.29:13). Certainly, there are genuine "rules", but in order to become good at following not only the external strictures but the spirit behind them requires this same spiritual growth.

In our day and age, the last era of the Church, the lukewarm time of "Laodicea" (see the link), few are actually interested in the deep truths of scripture. And when truth is ignored, something always takes its place. Whether that is ritual, or emotion, or legalism, or some combination of these three, there is no substitute for the power of the truth. That is what transforms us – when we learn it, when we believe it, when we walk in it. But imposing an appearance of holiness and sanctification from the outside will not produce true growth. No matter how "holy sounding" our conversation, or how much "church music" we play, or how many pins or crosses or fish bumper stickers we deploy, outward appearance does not constitute inward change. Indeed, if it is being manipulated for the purpose of appearing holy and spiritual when that is actually lacking within, it will only retard spiritual growth. That, after all, was the approach of the Pharisees.

As to how one feels about things, trust me when I say that feelings are usually a poor guide to most things. Emotions must be lead by what we know to be true through faith; if we let them lead us they will inevitably lead us down one false trail or another (please see the link: "Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions According to the Bible?"). There is great joy in being a child of God, a believer in Jesus Christ. But that joy is not something that can be artificially worked up. The better we come to know Him, precisely who He is and what He has done for us, the better we come to understand what He has in store for us, and how we can please Him then and now, the more our emotions will naturally come along whatever the circumstances, and the better we will be able to lead them and guide them back to the place of peace and joy whenever the circumstances of life rile them up or cast them down. This is part of the battle I spoke about above, and, again, the solution is always the same: growing closer to our Lord through faith in His truth. It's not magic, even though it happens in an invisible way. And it's hard to explain to those who haven't experienced it, because the proof is in the pudding. But it is absolutely logical: we came to Christ by trusting Him, believing the truth about Him. How would drawing closer to Him not work the same way? It also happens to be biblical.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him.
Colossians 2:6 NIV

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

There is much to say about all of this, but I want to leave you encouraged by the fact that you are indeed loved by Jesus Christ, and that He is most definitely with you in this noble effort to find the right path forward that glorifies Him. Be pleased to persevere in this. You will find that not only is He pleased with you but you will be joyful in yourself, even though we are indeed under constant fire from the evil one. Persevere: down this path lies great eternal rewards, and a "well done!" from our dear Savior on that great day of days.

I will be praying for you.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #36: 

Thank you Dr Luginbill for your encouragements! What you say and explain I ought to know already, and perhaps do up to a point but get bogged down with doubts when I ought to be concentrating on the Truth. I thank you for the steadying influence you have by giving me good solid advice based squarely on the Bible.

It looks like I have to learn to ignore the 'detractors' - such as those close to me who base beliefs on the Jehova's Witnesses and on Buddhism and also get distracted by a modern Christian fellowship group's ideas based as I mentioned before, on 'Cushions and Comforts' rather than obedience and diligence in the Word. I have been closely allied to at least 3 different people who did little other than question or ridicule my faith over a number of years. SO I suppose I must be more diligent in reading the Bible in a worthwhile translation (I use the RSV, New English and New King James) and I don't know whether there are any to avoid.

I have read the link you gave (Laodiceans, for which thank you) and it reminds me of how many of the old hymns have been left out of the new hymnals - because they speak of the hard way, the struggles we face, the obedience required of us.

I agree that too much of the music is meaningless and pointless, and worse, being not even biblically sound - but who am I to speak as I know so little and so often gt confused.

I can only speak from my determination, that even though I don't have the joy I would have, nonetheless I remain dedicated to progressing along the route that the Bible shows is the way to go, because I am already in my 6th decade and need to know Jesus more before my time is up. I needed a boost of encouragement and you have given it freely and quickly, which is so very much appreciated.

However no sooner do I feel a resurgence of strength to pursue and join the race that St. Paul speaks of, than already I am being tempted to stray, by feelings of petty jealousy over a minor incident. I see the link straight away and have stayed up an extra couple of hours to bring myself round to the stage that I can now pray for forgiveness for what clearly is a sinful reaction to worldly events. How can I ever get to be like Jesus if I spend my energies on worldly dissipations! Many would say I am over-reacting and just being human, but then that is the Laodiceans again. I will strive against it and reach out further.

I can only thank you for strewing my (digital) path with so much worthy reading to help me understand and cope with all the learning I would do.

Please keep praying for me - I want to begin to become the person God would have me be and not to get frightened off by all these negative people in my world.

May God abundantly bless you and give you strength to continue with your writing for us all.

Response #36: 

You are very welcome, and I will be remembering you in my prayers.

Your experience is in essence the same as all other Christians who have decided to truly walk with the Lord through learning and believing His Word. It is a fight to do so, a truly "good work" that is opposed by our own flesh warring against the better angels of our heart, and by the world and everything in it, including of course the evil one and his henchmen. Every victory will be opposed, and many is the day when we will be knocked one step back for every two steps forward. But if we are moving forward that is a blessing, to us and to the Church of Christ, and it is well pleasing to our Lord. If we persevere in this noble quest, we will be more and more grounded in the faith as we keep going, more confident, more courageous, more useful to Christ and to those we love in all things spiritual. But it does take time, effort, and persistence. Not many enter onto this road, and fewer still follow through. But it is the only true road to glory, with unimaginable eternal blessings at its end. I rejoice that you have set upon this journey, and I want to encourage you to stick with it, come what may. This is a life-long trek, but one with many blessings along the way which more than compensate for the resistance we shall face. Please do feel free to write me any time.

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

Bob L.

Question #37: 

Another question: is the "sign of the prophet Jonah" the resurrection, or is it the call to repentance? I've always read that particular passage as "sign of Jonah" = "message to the Ninevites to repent"

Response #37: 

The call to repentance was a message; the "sign" was his miraculous delivery from death by being swallowed by an exceptionally large fish (and spit out alive three days later). That is the point of comparison our Lord uses too: the "three days and nights" in the grave . . . before the resurrection.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #38:  


How did Mary know that Jesus would perform a miracle at this feast since He never did any miracles before?

Response #38: 

John 2:11 says that turning the water into wine was "the beginning of the signs Jesus did" and thus "revealed His glory". This was thus the beginning of the public signs in Galilee which signified the commencement of His three and a half year public ministry and which gave proof of who He was to all who were privy to them. That does not mean that our Lord was not allowed prior to this to know things and to do things that no one else could know or do. It's a good question because I think it demonstrates that His human mother had seen plenty over the years so as to know for certain that He could do what she asked Him to do – otherwise her asking would be beyond bizarre. By the way, the word here is semeion, sign, whereas often the most common word for what we would call a "miracle" is dynamis. These are clearly synonyms and have a semantic overlap, but as I say in Mark Questions and Answers (in loc. at Mk.8:11), "if there is any difference at all, it would seem to be, as this passage suggests, that "sign" seems to be more frequently used for something seen far and wide (as in celestial phenomenon, e.g., Rev.12:1; 12:3; 15:1)". That does seem to be the distinction John is drawing here.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #39: 

Is This Verse Messianic?

"Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; / your walls are continually before me."
(Isaiah 49:16)

Response #39: 

It's certainly referring to the restoration of Israel by the Messiah.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #40: 

You don't think the "engraving on the palm of my hands" refers to the piercing of the cross?

Response #40:

It's an interesting point. Engraving is different from piercing, however. At Luke 24:39 our Lord tells the disciples to "see my hands and feet". This is taken by most, in conjunction with Gal.6:17 and Thomas' statement that he would persevere in unbelief "unless I see the scar of the nails in his hands" (Jn.20:25), to mean that our Lord showed them the marks where His hands and feet were pierced. But the word in Galatians is stigmata (scars on the back from the many times Paul was scourged), and in the John passage too our Lord says only "see my hands". What is being proved to the disciples by our Lord is the fact that He has a real body – not that He is who He says He is about which there was no doubt. They were distressed through the superstition of their culture so as to think He was some sort of phantom, but these passages (and our Lord's gracious behavior towards the disciples) demonstrate that His body is physically real and complete in every way – only much better in every way than the one we possess at present (cf. 1Cor.15:35-49)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #41: 

Hi Bob,

We know who the stone whom the builders rejected (Christ, the Rock), but who are the builders?


Response #41: 

The builders, like the husbandmen in that parable (Lk.20:9ff. – which is followed by our Lord quoting Ps.118:22 in v.17: "The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone"), are our Lord's contemporaries, particularly the leaders and rulers of Judea (cf. Lk.20:19), but by extension everyone comes to the issue of Christ (cf. 1Pet.2:4-8). Those particular builders rejected the stone even though He was and is the Cornerstone of everything. And He continues to be a "stone of stumbling" and a "rock of offense" for all humanity who rejects Him and thus forfeits salvation. But for believers, He is the Rock upon whom our salvation is founded so that our spiritual edifice is not washed away by the floods that come but endures unto life eternal (Lk.6:48); and if we build something valuable on this one and only true Rock, we will have an eternal reward:

(10) According to the grace of God given to me like a wise architect I have laid down a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each one take care how he builds upon it. (11) For no one can lay another foundation except the One that has been laid down: Jesus Christ. (12) And if someone builds upon his foundation with gold, silver, and precious stones, [or] with wood, hay, and stubble, (13) [in either case] his work will be made manifest [as to its true quality], for the Day [of judgment] will make it clear [for what it truly is], because it will be revealed (lit., uncovered) with fire. And the fire will evaluate (lit., "assay") the work of each person as to what its [true] quality is. (14) If anyone's work which he has built [on his foundation of faith in Christ] remains (i.e., is not burnt away by the fiery evaluation), he will receive a reward [for it]. (15) If anyone's work is burnt up, he will suffer the loss [of any potential reward for it], but he himself will be saved – but in this way [just described] as through fire [which evaluated his false works as worthless and burnt them up].
1st Corinthians 3:10-15

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Rock of our Salvation.

Bob L.

Question #42: 

Hi Dr,

I was reading Luke chapter 4 and i was perplexed by the change of sentiment from when Jesus read the Isaiah prophecy and they praised him but immediately rebuked him when he talked about Elijah. Is it because the Elijah sayings were really a subtle shot at them for their lack of faith and or obedience? Or is it something else?

Your insight is appreciated.

My prayers are continually with you and your family.

In Christ Jesus our Lord

Response #42: 

I think what we have to do with in Luke chapter four is not so much a change of sentiment as a revelation of true thinking. You say "they praised Him", but here what the verse in context actually says:

So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, "Is this not Joseph’s son?"
Luke 4:28 NKJV

The word translated above "bore witness to" is martyreo – from which root the word martyr/witness is derived. I recognize that many versions want this to mean "spoke well of", but that is not at all what it actually says. I take this to mean that they were reporting (witnessing to) the miracles He had performed (which explains our Lord saying in representation of them "do also here in your country!" in the next verse), and that they were amazed also by His words which were clear evidence of the Spirit working in Him. And yet for all that their conclusion is "is this not Joseph's son?" – in other words, "this person is just an ordinary human being like the rest of us so how is all this happening?" It is fine to want the answer to a difficult question (as Mary asked Gabriel how she might become pregnant being a virgin) but not when God has already provided the answer – such "questions" merely evidence disbelief (as when Zachariah questions the angel after he has just been told already what would happen). The very words of grace Jesus was speaking and the miracles He had performed were the witnesses of the Spirit that what He said was true . . . and that He was the Messiah. But for His townsmen He was "just Joseph's son", and they wanted to see much more evidence from Him before rendering a decision – no doubt a negative one (as the sequel shows). So what our Lord does here is what He often did, namely, cut through appearances right down to the essential truth of the point at issue or situation at hand. For this, instead of responding in humility, these people arrogantly thought to kill Him for rightly upbraiding them – which only served to show what was really in their hearts.

Thanks for your prayers, my friend!

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #43: 

 Thank you sir. I had to reread the passage because the ESV version did say " spoke well". Is this just an issue of Greek mis-translation or lazy exegesis or both?

Thank you and Happy New Year. I pray your family is currently having some comfort with the Lord's help.

In Christ Jesus our Lord

Response #43: 

Thanks so much for your prayers. As to your question, in terms of motivation, I think it is merely a misguided attempt to make the "strange" use of the verb harmonize with the context as perceived. In other words, faulty interpretation and misunderstanding of the meaning has led to an incorrect rendering. The KJV, I will note, has "and all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth", which is a correct rendering even if it leaves things unexplained. So if there is "laziness" present in the mistake, it lies in not doing the work to figure the passage out before translating – and of course anything not understood correctly in any language will result necessarily in an incorrect translation when rendered into any other language. That is at the heart of the issue when it comes to the Bible generally, and it is a big problem because it takes more even than a near-native ability in ancient Greek and biblical Hebrew to "get it right": it takes understanding the history, the culture, and, most importantly of all, the theology to be likely to get it right most of the time, even when things ought to be fairly obvious as they are here. Failing to understand that the whole point of this passage is to demonstrate the hardness of heart of the people with whom Jesus had grown up, even though they had heard His words of truth dripping with grace and had heard of His miracles, is at the root of the error.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our Savior,

Bob L.


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