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New Testament Interpretation IV

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Question #1: 

Hi Bob,

"Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so."
(Hebrews 6:1-3)

How do I know that God is permitting to have me reach maturity? The straight and narrow seems impossibly narrow at times.

Sincerely,

Response #1:  

Paul says this, "God permitting", because "we", meaning him and the wayward Jerusalem believers he is addressing in Hebrews, can only "do so" if "they" decide to follow along. It is true that it is all factored into the plan of God – so Paul can only defer to the Will of God; but the outcome is based upon what "they" decided. This is Paul's humble way of saying that he deeply hopes that God will grant them a heart to repent. God wants everyone to repent, but people have to decide to do so themselves.

You are here on earth to make decisions. I've seen you make some very good ones. Keep on moving forward with your growth in the truth through believing it and putting into action in your life, and you will most assuredly accomplish what the Lord has for you – "God permitting" – which means if you decide to persevere, He will help you in every way.

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

(12) I know how to handle humiliation; I also know how to handle prosperity. I have learned by experience in each and every way how to handle being abundantly provided for and being impoverished, being in prosperity and being in a state of deprivation. (13) I have the strength to endure all [extremes] in the One who empowers me to do so.
Philippians 4:12-13

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Hi Bob,

I can't seem to find this in your email correspondence, but I recall that the command in Hebrews 10:24-25 is not "do not forsake assembly" but "do encourage one another." Can you, for my sake, give a comprehensive grammatical-semantic breakdown of this passage?

Sincerely,

Response #2: 

The proof of all "comprehensive grammatical-semantic breakdowns" is in the pudding of a translation – because all theory about what a passage might grammatically mean only make any practical sense when that is reflected in an actual translation. So let's start with that and then you are free to ask any questions you wish about the "why?" of any particular part. Here is how I have translated the passage (expanded translation in brackets):

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

Also, here are a couple of links where I talk about the passage in some detail:

Hebrews 10:24-25

Hebrews 10:25

Hebrews 10:24-25 in the context of the early church

The Meaning and Purpose of True Christian Assembly

Forsake not assembling

The main point is that assembly for the sake of assembly is pointless; it's what happens in the assembly that matters; so without the substantive teaching of the Word of God, assembly is actually a negative thing:

(12) When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? (13) Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
Isaiah 1:11-12 NIV

I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.
Amos 5:21 NIV

"Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you," says the Lord Almighty, "and I will accept no offering from your hands."
Malachi 1:10

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.
1st Corinthians 11:17 NKJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Hi Bob,

When Paul says "to the Jew first, then the Greek" (Rom.1:16; 2:10), does Paul mean that both the judgment for rewards and the judgment for punishment will be sorted so that the Jews go first in line, and the non-Jews in the back?

Response #3:  

If you have a look at "The Judgment and Reward of the Church" (at the link), I think you will see a good case presented for the fact that the more highly rewarded receive their crowns first, as in fact "in Christ" there are no longer "Jew nor Greek", etc. (Gal.3:28). Jews have "first priority" as descendants of Abraham in this life – which is no particular advantage at all for those who refuse the gift of life in Jesus Christ.

In our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Professor, can you please explain Jude 1:13?

Response #4: 

Always good to hear from you, my friend.

. . . raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
Jude 1:13 NKJV

Jude 1:13 continues the description of the false teachers he has been warning against since the beginning of the epistle. They are in this verse described as "raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame" (NKJV), a description which highlights their instability, dangerous ferocity, and inherent foulness. The fact that they are described as "wandering stars" is significant. The Greek actually says "planets", and as anyone who knows even a little bit about astronomy knows, the other stars are very regular and orderly in their movements, but the planets are much less predictable (to the naked eye). That is why they are called "planets" (planetai – "wandering ones"); and significantly, the root of that word also means "to deceive" – so it's a very apt metaphor for the false teachers of Gnosticism Jude warns against here (see the link; Eph.1:21-23; Col.2:18-23; cf. Eph.1:10; 1:23; *3:19; 4:10; 4:13; 5:18; ; Col.1:9; 1:19; 1:25; 1:28; 2:2; 2:9-10; 4:12; 4:17). Finally, we are told the good news (for us), that along with the fallen angels the Gnostic false teachers are worshiping (and "condemning"), their fate will be what they deserve: the darkness of the lake of fire (which is to what "for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever" refers; see the link).

I think that covers everything, but please do write me back in case there was something else you wanted to ask about here.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hi Bob,

What does Paul mean when he writes this?

"So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world."
Galatians 4:3 NIV

Sincerely,

Response #5:  

Paul (and Peter too) uses this term, ta stoicheia ("elemental spiritual forces" in NIV), more than once (sometimes with slightly different emphases: Gal.4:3; 4:9; Col.2:20; 2Pet.3:10; 3:12; cf. Deut.4:19). What is being referring to with the term ta stoicheia are the celestial bodies and the natural physical principles of the world they represent and help to track of (i.e., times and seasons were tracked by these natural means before the invention of mechanical clocks). So the NIV's use of the word "spiritual" here is entirely backwards. Whether Paul uses the term ta stoicheia for the Law or for Gnosticism (he uses it for both; in your context it is the Law which relied on "festivals, new moons and Sabbaths", cf. Col.2:16) ta stoicheia are always linked to these physical, celestial sign-posts. In a good sense, these heavenly phenomena are things that God placed in the world for our benefit (Gen.1:14), and while paganism and later Gnosticism wrongly impute demigod status to them, the Law makes use of these things for a sacred calendar which foreshadows much later-to-be-revealed truth; apart from that, the celestial bodies et al. also serve as a powerful witnesses of natural revelation (e.g., Ps.19:1ff.). They do not, however, give us anything more than elemental truths (astrology is a pernicious evil, e.g.), and will never bring anyone to spiritual maturity, even when used correctly to glean the existence, power and righteousness of God from what He has made. Here are a few links on this:

"pagan principles"

"elementary principles"

"material principles"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

"The children of your sister, who is chosen by God, send their greetings."
2nd John 1:13

Who is the sister mentioned?

Response #6: 

This is referring to the local church in the town from which John was writing (Ephesus, most likely, or possibly somewhere else in Asia Minor); cf. Peter's reference to the local church at Rome:

She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son.
1st Peter 5:13 NKJV

It was natural to refer to the local assembly as a woman because the Church is Christ's Bride and because the word ekklesia is feminine.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hi Bob,

What does "without hypocrisy" mean here?

"Having now sanctified your hearts by means of obeying the truth, love one another resolutely so that your brotherly love may be without hypocrisy."
(1 Pet. 1:22)

Response #7:  

A hypocrite in Greek is, literally, an actor in a play, and thus hypocrisy is "play acting", pretending you are one thing while really you are another – just as the Pharisees pretended to be righteous but in reality were anything but:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone."
Matthew 23:23 NKJV

On the verse you ask about in in particular (1Pet.1:22), here is what I write about it in Peter #33:

This love for one another, our fellow believers in Christ, should not be and really cannot be just an act, just for show, performed only in hypocrisy. To make it clear that a large part of what he means by this is that genuine love for our brothers and sisters in Jesus cannot be mere passive lip-service, Peter adds in his command for us to love one another that we do so "resolutely" (Greek: ektenos, or "stretched to the limit"). It may appear loving to say to someone in need, "depart in peace, be warmed and filled!" (Jas.2:16), but as James tells us there is "no profit" in such empty words. So what Peter is telling us here is not so much how to handle our attitudes towards our fellow Christians (although that is certainly a part of it); his real emphasis in giving us this exhortation is focused on having us "put our money where our mouth is", so to speak. In the example from James, this would mean actually helping a brother or sister in material need.

Question #8: 

Hi Bob,

Here is something I read:

In Matthew's telling of the parable of the talents, the man who buried his talent is bound up and punished with the hypocrites. However, in Luke's telling of the parable of the minas, the man who buried his mina is not punished. He is chastized, but the master then abruptly changes subjects: "AS FOR THESE MEN WHO WOULDN'T HAVE ME AS KING, go and punish them."

Do you think that the man who buried his mina is analogous to the gentleman who as "saved, as though one escaping the fire"?

Sincerely,

Response #8: 

The two tellings of this parable have the same interpretation. When you say "in Luke's telling of the parable of the minas, the man who buried his mina is not punished. He is chastized", I don't find the fact that Luke leaves out the part about the servant being cast into outer darkness a necessarily encouraging sign for this individual. Our Lord does also say in Luke "everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him" (Lk.19:26 NKJV). Having everything you have taken away is very bad, because that includes your life. The talent and the mina have in common the fact that they represent the free will we have to choose and act in this life; refusing to use it to respond at all to the Lord represents rejecting Him and His plan for one's life. Having it taken away indicates no more choice in the lake of fire. The person who got "interest" lived a marginal Christian life but at least had faith with some results (interest) to show for time in this world; even if he didn't win an eternal crown, he is in eternity (not so the one who buried his free will = rejecting / not accepting Christ). All this is written up at the link: "The Parable of the Talents and the Minas".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

The pastor also mentioned something else: the man who squandered the talent had no idea of the master's character or what he was like or what he even expected from him. He just made all sorts of assumptions about the master (you are a hard man, you reap what you did not sow, etc...) that were completely unjustified.

Response #9:  

I have a harder time with this one. First, we ought to understand the correct interpretation of this parable even without some scholar to do the exegesis. All unbelievers always find all sorts of excuses as to why he/she doesn't wish to obey God by believing (Rom.1:5; 16:26; cf. Jn.6:29), but we also know that God makes the truth about Himself very clear to all in fact despite the delusions unbelievers engage in and share with others while in this life (Rom.1:18-32). So the bottom line in the parable here is very clearly, namely, that there is "no excuse" for burying your talent/mina = refusing to accept God's gracious gift of salvation (Eph.2:8). To suggest that the person in the parable really "didn't know" is to suggest that either 1) there is an "out" for ignorance (whereas in truth there is neither ignorance nor an "out"); or 2) God is unfair – when in fact it is impossible for Him to be unfair in the least.

And even if one wishes to engage this parable on the level of the situation the parable describes, in the parable the man says "I knew" and the king affirms this saying "so, you knew, did you?" The severity of the king in the parable is paralleling the immutable justice of God; but the point in the parable (or any parable) is not to teach everything there is to know about everything true in one story, but to illustrate an important point. Still, this parable "works" on every important level. Just as the man received a bag of gold not from any merit and not by earning it, and all he had to do to avoid condemnation and instead receive some reward was to hand it over to a bank, so unbelievers are given an incredible gift, the opportunity for salvation, and all they have to do is to accept it. The Judge is severe in that He must in perfect justice demand redress from anyone who doesn't have payment – but we have to remember that He has already made payment in the highest coin (the blood of Christ) at the highest cost (the spiritual death of Christ), and that only by refusing to accept that payment has this person run afoul of divine justice. All people realize that they are mortal, that there is a judgment coming, and that they have nothing to offer in eternity in defense for their sins – so all do in fact recognize this "severity" of coming judgment. All the more reason why unbelievers are completely without any excuse – as this parable teaches – in addition to teaching the great blessings of responding not only to the gospel but to the mission our Lord has for us as believers in this life: great eternal reward based on good service in this temporary world.

As I say, it's a positive that the Bible is being interacted with; but it's always better if it is correctly interpreted and truth taught in an understandable way so that spiritual growth may come.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Professor, are women supposed to cover their heads while they pray as it says in 1st Cor.? V/r

Response #10: 

Hello my friend,

In 1st Corinthians 11:3-16, Paul is speaking about hair, not hats, as he finally gets around to saying in verse fifteen at the end of the discussion, "for her hair is given to her for a covering". The abuse Paul was correcting in this passage was apparently twofold: 1) Corinthian women in the church following the pagan practice of tearing their hair out in morning for the dead (inappropriate for those who espouse a belief in life eternal), and 2) Corinthian woman shaving their heads in undertaking Jewish vows (not something women should have been doing – and of course with the Old Covenant having been replaced by the New Covenant, not something men should have been continuing to do either). You can find more about this at the following links:

Hats or Hair?

Are women required to wear hats or veils in church?

More on Hats and Hair (response #2)

What is long and what is short?

Hair Length and culture

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Hi Bob,

What does the word "perplexed" really mean in these two verses?

"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
(2 Cor. 4:8)

"How I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!"
(Gal. 4:20)

Response #11:  

In both cases we have the Greek verb aporeo. A poros is an opening or a way, as in a ford across a river (the English word "pore" comes from this). To have no way or opening out of a difficult situation is to be in aporia. "Perplexity" is thus not a bad translation. In the first verse, Paul describes being in situations with no visible human solution – and yet not giving up hope about it, since he knew God would deliver him which He always did; in the second instance Paul wants to help the Galatians but they are so far "off" in their behavior that he is "at a loss" about what to say or do. This is a fairly common Greek word-group and used all the way from Classical times to the end of ancient Greek.

In Jesus Christ in whom we have no aporia whatsoever.

Bob L.

Question #12: 

Hi Robert –

I hope you're doing well. Your friend from Los Angeles here. Our past emails have fallen off my iPad (I still have the archives on my main computer), but hopefully you can put the name to our past conversations.

This is really just a quick question. I am really having trouble making any sense of the last phrase in 1 Peter 3:6 -

5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.

That is NKJV; others have different takes but none are any more illuminating. I have also looked at the Greek in Strong's, and that has been no help to me either. Whenever you get a chance, could you tell me - do you have any idea what this means?

Thanks,

Response #12: 

Hope things are going well for you out there in beautiful CA. I certainly do remember you – I pray for you regularly.

As to your question, most of the translations of this verse, including this one, are indeed about the same and are mostly acceptable renderings of the Greek. The interpretation, however, is not necessarily made clear thereby. One has to keep in mind the first verse of the chapter: "be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives" (1Pet.3:1 NKJV), in order to see clearly what Peter is talking about. The context is all about the role of a Christian woman in marriage, and for many of his recipients it would have been the case (as it is often the case today), that such a believer would find herself married to an unbeliever. However, unlike today where women in the west, at least, generally have a say in whom they will marry – and no believer should willfully marry an unbeliever – this was not the case in the ancient world where arranged marriages were the rule and not the exception. Further, individuals were often espoused as infants and married very young, especially in the case of women. Under such circumstances, in the midst of a largely pagan world, it was far from unusual for a woman to be saved after marriage rather than before. This put her in a difficult situation when her husband did not respond to the gospel at the same time as she did. What was she to do? Paul says flat out what Peter intimates here, namely, that this uncomfortable circumstance was not a reason to seek a divorce, provided the unbelieving partner was content to remain in the marriage (1Cor.7:13-16). So how was/is a Christian woman to handle this situation? We are told here she is to do her job as wife as unto the Lord in the hope that her stellar conduct will impress her husband and lead to his salvation as well; she is to be like Sarah in the hopes that he will become like Abraham. But even if he does not respond as hoped, her job is to continue on the one hand to "do a good job [as a wife]" (v.6), since that is the earthly ministry to which she finds herself called by the Lord; but on the other hand she is not to refrain from making it clear in all of her conversation that this is just what she is doing, not failing also to do all the other things that a good Christian woman ought to do or failing to avoid things a good Christian woman ought not to do – regardless of her pagan husband's attitude.

Men in the ancient world (as in much of the third world today) had a tremendous amount of power over their households, so that if this hypothetical Christian woman found herself married to a real problem, it might easily be the path of least resistance to hide her faith, hide her Bible (whatever she had in the way of scripture in that pre-canon time), and avoid other Christians along with any other sort of Christian behavior or activity. That would not be "Sarah-like", and Peter adds this rider to the discussion to encourage his female readers not to shirk their Christian responsibilities out of fear of their husbands' reaction, even at the same time as he tells them to obey their husbands in all matters where principles of faith are not at issue.

In a sense then, the dilemma of Christian women married to unbelievers is a direct parallel to the dilemma of Christians at that time and ever since who find themselves living in polities which are hostile to Christianity. If we find ourselves in such a situation, on the one hand we should be the best possible citizens so as to reflect well on our Lord and, if possible, convince those skeptical of our faith of its power and value; but on the other hand we must be willing to suffer the consequences if we are told not to do things that all Christians' must do, such as sharing the Word, reading the Bible, and praying to the Lord (Dan.6:10-27; Acts 4:19-20), or told to do things Christians should not do, such as worshiping pagan gods (Dan.3:1-30). In time to come, very soon if calculations are correct, this will be no mere theoretical matter for those who have faith in Christ. So the passage you ask about is good for all to consider, men and women both and regardless of marital situation.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Hi Bob,

"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another."
(Titus 3:3)

Is it "being hated" or "being worthy of hatred"?

Merry Christmas,

Response #13:  

The later rather than the former: stygetos is a verbal adjective in form (the -tos ending), and functions in Greek in a way akin to the Latin gerundive (cf. reverend, dividend, propaganda, which are "a person worthy or respect", "something which ought to be divided", and "thing whose purpose is propagation" respectively).  Interestingly, it is from the same root as the river in mythological Hades, the Styx (lit., "the abominable" river).

Hope you and your family had a merry Christmas as well, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hello Professor,

I wanted to ask you a question on Romans 3:9-18 and verse 11 in particular. I understand these verses as applying to both a Jewish and Gentile unbeliever and the purpose is to show the universal depravity and impossibility for us to be saved through our own works. What I struggle with is why Paul here quotes scriptures that you pointed refer specifically to a fool from Psalm 14:

Romans 3:11 (NASB)
11 There is none who understands,There is none who seeks for God;

Psalm 14:1-2New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good. 2 The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there are any who understand, Who seek after God.

We could argue that there are at least some who do seek God and their unrighteousness is exactly what motivates the search. Otherwise it could seem that those who have no faith can have no faith, because they don't seek God, so there is no way out of this condition.

Could you clarify why Paul phrases things the way he does in verse 11? Why does he say that there is no one who seeks God? There is no question that most of humanity does voluntarily put itself under the label of the fool of Psalm 14 who doesn't want anything to do with God, but since this does not refer to everyone, I'm not sure how to understand it.

In our Lord,

Response #14: 

The first part of Romans 3:10 is, while related to Ecclesiastes 7:20, not a direct quote: "not even one" being unique to Paul as far as I can tell. Nevertheless, this combination of expansions, paraphrases and quotes is definitely in the same spirit as that of the Psalms and other books from which they come, expressing the exasperation of the righteous man in viewing the world and its generally hardened and sinful heart. The reason for the allusion to scripture is to show that, even during times when Israel was not so completely out of phase with the will of God so as to merit or be on the point of meriting terminal discipline (the reigns of David and Solomon being among the most spiritual positive, it seems), Jewish writers of the past could make these statements which clearly included Jews as well as gentiles. So Paul's point is to buttress his statements in verse one that everyone is sinful: if Jews were "special" in this regard, then David and Solomon couldn't have written what they wrote without some sort of caveat. So I believe Paul's objective here is merely to remind his readers of the principle of "total depravity" (as the Calvinists say): "all sin and fall short of God's glory" (Rom.3:23, just a few verses later). When I write, especially academically, I make liberal use of footnotes to explain and qualify, to avoid confusion and to add support. That approach clearly couldn't work with the Bible. Clearly, "no one seeks God" is not literally true in the sense of there being no believers, obviously, otherwise even David who wrote this could not have said it without excepting himself. In the Psalms (and in Eccl.), these statements are (sanctified) hyperbola, and any reader of the Psalms, which are poetry, is well aware of the use of such poetic techniques used therein. And in terms of the way everyone starts out life, before salvation this is of course also literally true before salvation (as in Rom.3:23).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I have a question on Romans 4:15 where it says:

"14For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15because the law brings wrath. "And where there is no law there is no transgression".

My question is this: Adam and Eve the biggest transgression by eating of the forbidden fruit. Cain killed his brother Abel; Both of these groups committed transgression without the law and they suffered the consequences of their sin. There was no written as yet, but there was a law that was written on their conscience/heart, is that not true. So, could you please clarify this rather puzzling verse 15 for me?

Thanks so much, Your friend

Response #15:  

Indeed – as Paul says in the next chapter: "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam" (Rom.5:15 NASB). The "offense" there is the same as in Romans 4:15. So what Romans 4:15 is saying is that there can be no violation of the Law where there is no law to violate – but that does not mean there can be no sin or violation of God's will (which is sin) – for there has been sin committed since the fall by every human being, even before the Law was given. Paul's greater point here is to demonstrate that salvation has nothing to do with the Law (and corollary to that, that sin is a much wider and deeper subject that erstwhile "law-keepers-for-salvation" have any true idea). But the promise of salvation is something the predates the Law . . . and antedates it to. Q.E.D. You can also find this discussed at the links:

Paul and the Law (Q/A #31)

Bible Interpretation VII (Q/A #11)

p.s., it is frequent in Greek to leave out the direct object or qualifier (or almost anything else) where that is "obvious" – however it is often not so obvious to English readers because we don't do that sort of thing in English. I have to address this issue with my students all the time. Point being, Paul means "there is no transgression [of the Law]", even though that is not included because it is "obvious" (to Greek readers).

Feel free to write me back about any of this.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Dear Professor,

I hope this email finds you well. How was your Easter period? I hope you were able to have some time off from lecturing duties which would have freed up more time for your ministry.

Thank you again for your helpful advice regarding the study of the languages. You made some very good points, particularly about the pronunciation aspect. This is something I will need to keep in prayer as to whether it is something that the Lord wants me to pursue for ministry. If teaching is to be my course, I am aware that a lack of understanding of the original languages will limit the level of teaching I am able to offer, hence the consideration I put forward to you. I was also looking into universities/seminaries that offer these language courses. Are you by any chance aware of any ‘suitable’ institutions that offer such courses in the UK?

On a separate note, I have some questions I would like to put forward to you from Bible reading. I am currently going through all the questions and answers you posted on Ichthys regarding the gospel of Matthew. It has truly been a joyful experience delving deeper into each verse, and linking them to previous doctrines I have studied on Ichthys (e.g. Lord’s testing in the wilderness in Matthew 4 linked to the 3 satanic lies in SR rebellion series; Lord’s prayer to combat these specific temptations; applications to our daily Christian walk). I couldn’t find much else on Ichthys about my question so apologies if I have missed anything.

Matthew 8:8-10 (NASB)
8 But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it." 10 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.

Could you please explain these verses to me? Specifically, why did the centurion go on to say that he is also a man under authority with soldier under him? What point was he trying to make? Also, what was the reason that caused our Lord to marvel at his faith? And how are to reconcile this passage with Luke 7:1-10, where Luke writes that the centurion first sent Jewish elders to Jesus, and as Jesus drew closer, the centurion then sent his friends to deliver the message?

Thank you again for all your time and patience. No rush at all for the reply.

Your student in Christ,

Response #16: 

Always good to hear from you, my friend!

As to study, I'm not really familiar with the opportunities in the UK. I will say that of course the major universities have an excellent reputation in this regard. Some of the best work in Classics still comes out of Oxford and Cambridge; I'm not sure about Semitics, but I would imagine that these (and other UK universities) would also be excellent places to learn Hebrew. Since as far as I can tell the UK system is still one which takes the study of Classical languages seriously, pretty much any place in that system teaching Greek and Hebrew would get the job done. Then again, it always comes down to the individual teachers, wherever one matriculates. I don't know anything at all about UK seminaries. I do know that in the US seminaries are certainly not the best places to learn Greek and Hebrew; these institutions have other objectives which are always tied to their particular denominational focus and sadly these are usually not putting the Bible first.

As to your questions on Matthew, first, in the military, especially in a highly professional organization such as the Roman army, an officer has the expectation that an order given will be carried out. Indeed, there are severe penalties for failure to obey. If that is true of a human institution in the world, how much more so is it not true when it comes to the Son of God and the angelic armies who are responsible for carrying out His orders? So the centurion is reasoning from an analogy of a fortiori: if I can be sure that A will happen if I order it, then without any question whatsoever B will happen if He orders it.

Why is this a matter of great faith? Because for this reasoning to be meaningful, the centurion had to actually believe it: he had to know and believe who Jesus was, the Messiah, the Son of God. And he had to believe that truth completely, along with all of the ramifications of that truth. Today when Christians pray, how many are truly factoring into their prayers just exactly WHO God is and what He can do? The faith of the centurion, in really believing that Jesus is who He claimed to be and could do anything because He is God is, in this regard, much greater than that of many Christians today – so our Lord's being impressed makes perfect sense (especially when compared to so many of His contemporaries who has seen plenty of proof but were not letting it sink deeply into their hearts).

As to the differences between Matthew and Luke, this is not an uncommon variation as the different writers have different methods in relating events – just as today no two people tell the same story the same way; but just as today in that no two people tell the same story the same way, that does not mean that both renditions may not be truthful. In the case of the gospels we know that they are 100% truthful as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Matthew simplifies the story by cutting out mention of those who brought the message; but the message in Matthew is precisely the message the centurion sent via the elders. I wasn't there, but I would imagine that when Luke writes: "When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, 'This man deserves to have you do this . . . ' " (Lk.7:4), that probably one elder actually took the lead and spoke rather than all of them speaking simultaneously (but since they were all entrusted with the message this is a legitimate way to put it).

I think that no one considering the reporting of an event outside of scripture would be wary of the substance or critical of the method of relating the event because of such differences – nor should they be. The important substance is accurately preserved, and that is the point.

I keep you and your brother in my prayers daily, my friend.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

I read lots of articles from many organizations and every org. Have different views.. and every org says about other org that they are false teachers. I'm looking for the truth but I'm tired.

Can you please explain me better what means lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life?

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
1st John 2:15-17 NIV

Response #17:  

It's because in my humble opinion you are doing too much looking and not enough recognizing good things when you do find them. I certainly hope you are not looking for the answers you want rather than the answers the Lord has for you. If you seek in truth, in truth you shall find (Matt.7:; Lk.11:9).

As to 1st John 2:15-17, this is John's way of summing up (in the Spirit) the things the world values but the Lord disdains: 1) lust of the flesh = sinful motivation coming from the various desires emanating from our bodies (all the things the body longs for); 2) lust of the eyes = sinful motivation based upon coveting things we see in the world and sinfully want for sinful purposes (things of every sort even if not sinful in and of themselves, i.e., possessions, pleasures and things related thereto, fame, power, money, whatever); 3) boastful pride of life = sinful motivation based upon wanting to be successful, victorious, better than others, appreciated, envied – anything that human beings want so as to be able to sate their pride and vaunt their "achievements" so as to "be somebody" instead of being nobody. In other words, all three areas have to do with gratifying oneself, whereas the proper Christian walk is all about considering others as better and more important than oneself (Rom.12:10b; Phil.2:3-4; Eph.5:21; cf. Gal.5:13; 1Pet.5:5), loving the Lord, His truth, and our brothers and sisters in Christ, so as to walk humbly before the Lord in spiritual growth and progress (Mic.6:8), and help others do the same. That is the way to eternal reward, whereas the things mentioned in the passage are as temporary as this life and this world, and will soon turn to dust.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

What does John mean when he says "out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham"?

Matthew 3:9 (NIV)
9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.

(NIV SB Notes) 3:9 We have Abraham as our father. See Jn 8:39. Salvation does not come as a birthright (even for the Jews) but through faith in Christ (Ro 2:28-29; Gal 3:7, 9, 29). these stones. John may have pointed to the stones in the Jordan River. children for Abraham. The true people of God are not limited to the physical descendants of Abraham (cf. Ro 9:6-8 and notes).

Response #18: 

I believe that John's point was that none of us should think that we are anything special before God. These individuals were confident that because they were descended from Abraham they were not only saved but most beloved in God's eyes. But God, while He does indeed honor Abraham's descendants for Abraham's sake, looks on the heart first and foremost, and these unbelievers were withholding their hearts from Him and so were not even saved.

Question #19: 

Why does Jesus reply in verse 20 saying that the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head? Is this to indicate the commitment required to follow Him (cf. verse. 22)? Do you agree with the NIV SB notes in verse 22?

Matthew 8:19-22 (NASB)
19 Then a scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." 20 Jesus *said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." 21 Another of the disciples said to Him, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." 22 But Jesus *said to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead."

NIV SB: 8:22 let the dead bury their own dead. Let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead. The time of Jesus' ministry was short and demanded full attention and commitment. This statement stresses the radical demands of Jesus' discipleship, since Jews placed great importance on the duty of children to bury their parents.

Response #19:  

In terms of the first individual, I believe that our Lord had discerned that this individual wanted to be part of the coming King's "posse" for the supposed advantages that this would bring when He was installed as king at that time, but our Lord was telling him not to look for worldly success and material blessing by following Him – indeed, He Himself didn't even have a fixed abode. Our Lord wants us to follow Him, but for the right reasons and from the right motivation.

In terms of the second individual, the note is incorrect. I don't believe that the man's father was dead yet (he wouldn't have even been there to have the conversation if funeral arrangements were underway – these things generally happened almost immediately after death in the ancient world). This person was saying in effect that he had to wait until he was the head of the house before he bothered to do what the Lord wanted Him to do. But while we do have responsibilities to our families, there is no real excuse for not doing what the Lord wants us to do and in a timely fashion.

Question #20: 

Please may you explain the meaning of this verse, specifically who our Lord is referring to regarding the harvest and the workers? In light of verse 36 where Jesus felt compassion on the people (flock), is the harvest symbolic of the body of Christ, the church of believers? And are the workers those who are ministering to the body of Christ?

Matthew 9:36-38 (NASB)
36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He *said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."

Response #20: 

This verse "works" for all believers at all times. There is always work to do for the Lord, there is always a harvest to be brought in. It certainly does apply to the Church Age, and those who minister the Word of God whether by evangelism or teaching are certainly important "workers" in this respect. But every believer in every age is meant to grow, progress and come into the ministry the Lord has designed for each – especially now that we all have spiritual gifts and the endowment of the Holy Spirit (1Cor.12:4-6).

Question #21: 

Please could you explain these verses? Why does Jesus say it is enough for the disciple to become like his teacher and slave like his master? Why does He then go on to talk about Beelzebul as head of the house? Is Jesus referring to the fact that they called Him Beelzebul, and that His disciples should also be expected to be maligned and mistreated?

Matthew 10:24-25 (NASB)
24 "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!

Response #21:  

Yes, that's it. The point is that if they were persecuting our Lord – who is the Lord – we who are so much weaker and lesser can certainly expect the same treatment; and we should strive in every way to be like Him and not expect better treatment than He received. This is not an insignificant point when one considers the airs that certain clergy have put on throughout the Church Age and certainly even today and in all groups and denominations (cf. by way of contrast: Mk.9:33-37).

Question #22: 

Why did Jesus withdraw to a solitary place? Do you agree with the following interpretation:

NIV SB: withdrew … to a solitary place. To avoid the threat of Herod and the pressing of the crowds. Jesus' time had not yet come (see Jn 2:4 and note; cf. Jn 6:15).

Matthew 14:13 (NASB)
13 Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities.

Response #22: 

The note is entirely wrong. Our Lord was never afraid of anything (cf. Jn.11:16), and as the sequel of feeding the masses shows, was soon engaging with the crowd again without a second thought. As the focal point for the revival and the herald of the coming of the Messiah, John supplied "cover" for the Lord and His ministry even while in prison, and was only executed one year before the crucifixion. The death of John marks the beginning of the final "year of opposition" where the entire focus of the anti-God religious state now fell exclusively on our Lord and ended in the cross. This event marked the beginning therefore of the hardest part of our Lord's earthly ministry culminating in His death for the sins of the world. For that reason, He took some precious time out to pray (cf. Matt.14:23) – a good lesson to us all of the importance of prayer, especially before doing anything of critical importance.

Question #23: 

Why did the disciples ask Jesus about the scribes saying that Elijah must come first? Is it because they had just seen Elijah alongside the Lord's transfiguration and thought the he had already come? Does this also fit in line with a lack of recognition from the disciples between our Lord's first and second advents, despite our Lord repeatedly stating that he must die for the sins of the world and rise again after three days?

Matthew 17:10-13 (NASB)
10 And His disciples asked Him, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" 11 And He answered and said, "Elijah is coming and will restore all things; 12 but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." 13 Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.

Response #23:  

Yes, that is it exactly.

Question #24:

Why does our Lord use the example of a little child after being asked the question by the disciples of who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (v.1)? It seems to me that whilst the disciples had a concept of an elevated status of grandeur, the Lord counteracted this view with an example of a child's humility and accepting obedience. Does this also link in with Matthew 23:12? Is it also the fact that humility leads us to recognise our imperfection and consequently points us towards our need for a Saviour? Moreover, could it be added that post-salvation, it is daily humility that leads us to picking up our cross daily and losing our life for the sake of Christ and feeding the flock? This would in turn lead to eternal rewards, making a distinction even between believers in eternity.

Matthew 18:3-4 (NASB)
3 and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Response #24: 

Again, you are right on the point. Humility is not only an important virtue but a critical one. Some people have physical courage, but no one can have the necessary moral courage to persevere in all of the things that may happen in life – and especially the things that are going to happen in the Tribulation – without humility. That is because humility recognizes our utter dependence on the Lord and accepts His complete trustworthiness, looking to Him instead of to ourselves and relying on Him and not our own talents, abilities or resources. Humility is seeing things as they actually are and our completely tentative position in this world, dependent as we are on Him for absolutely everything, more than we know. That is why Paul says, "when I am weak, then I am strong" (2Cor.12:10).

Question #25: 

Could you explain from what you wrote about this verse that there will be differentiation of greater or less divine judgment in this life and the next?

Matthew 18:6 (NASB)
6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Response #25:  

The more evil in this life, the more judgment from the Lord. The more evil in this life, the more severe the rebuke at the Great White Throne (even believers "fear the Lord" when it comes to our divine eternal evaluation, though we are confident of salvation and reward: 2Cor.5:11). But this does not mean, however, that there is any difference in the lake of fire for one unbeliever versus the next – even though they will be recognizable as "great or small" (Rev.20:12).

Question #26: 

What are the stumbling blocks that our Lord is referring to here? Is it the deceptive nature of Satan's cosmos and world system? And in regards to the latter verse, would this comprise false teachers and the like?

Matthew 18:7 (NASB)
7 "Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

Response #26: 

Yes, and I believe it comprises anything done not out of love which might lead a fellow believer astray. That is why Paul, for example, tells us not to do things that offend someone else' conscience and thus might trip them up (Rom.14:1ff.). This does not mean we allow ourselves to be bullied into our out of something otherwise not wrong by self-righteous types. It does mean that we go out of our way not to deliver an unnecessary offense to someone who is immature.

Question #27: 

How do we reconcile this verse with someone who is saved, yet is unwilling to forgive his brother/s (e.g. holds a grudge)? The previous verse (v.34) states that he would be handed over to the torturers until he should repay all that he owed. Why does Jesus say that our Father would also do the same to those who do not forgive their brother or sisters' debts? Would this be intensive divine discipline?

Matthew 18:35 (NASB)
35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

Response #27:  

This is the conclusion to a parable and as such may be interpreted according to the circumstances to which it is applied. Are you an unbeliever? Christ died for your sins – but if you throw that sacrifice back into the Father's face instead of responding, what kind of response do you think you'll receive from the Judge Himself? Are you a believer? Christ died for your sins and you have been forgiven them; further, you have been forgiven for fellowship everything you've done when you've confessed as a one already saved. Now are you going to be unwilling to forgive a fellow believer some debt he/she owes to you? That is the opposite of walking in love, and a believer who persists in such a hateful course can expect divine discipline indeed.

Question #28: 

How far can we take the verse in 1 Corinthians 13 about love keeping no record of wrongs and Romans 14:22 about keeping our faith and actions between ourselves and GOD?

Response #28: 

As to 1st Corinthians 13:5, I translate this part as "[love] does not bear grudges". In other words, while it is impossible to literally forget some egregious wrong done to us, it is possible, in the power of the Spirit, to pay it no mind and to act as if it did not happen – at least as far as not being angry or vindictive or anything of the sort towards those who did the terrible things to us. This also doesn't mean that we have to associate with such persons, etc. It means that unlike the world which would try to get even or at least fret to distraction over such past events, we learn as Christians to hand the person and the situation over to the Lord so as to have peace and project true agape "love" – which is not the same as the personal love we have for friends and family but rather an all-inclusive generalized love that wishes and wishes to foster for everyone what God wishes for them, namely, salvation and spiritual growth; after all, Christ died for them too.

As to Romans 14:22, here is how I translate the verse:

Happy is the man who does not condemn himself in whatever he approves [as good to do].
Romans 14:22

The point here, from the context, is that we should always be acting in faith (as Paul explains in the very next verse) and, ideally, that faith ought to be based on the truth rather than some false principle. Immature believers (or a believer who otherwise has a "gap in his/her spiritual education" on some point so as to be wrong about it) may believe things that aren't the case, e.g. To fulfill this verse, a believer needs to be 1) mature (so as to know and accept what the Bible really does teach on the subject at hand), and 2) consistent in acting according to what has been understood through the ministry of the Spirit and consequently believed – which includes walking in love at all times. Immature believers may fall short here by believing things that aren't true through not having grown up into the truth sufficiently as of yet; that is primarily the category of person Paul is concerned with here, for his goal in this section is largely to dissuade believers who know better from using their knowledge to beat down (and possibly thus destroy) the faith of weaker believers who have not yet come to the truth on some important doctrine of scripture (as in eating or not eating meat). Mature believers would fall short here if they fail to act according to the knowledge of the truth they have received and believed. One way of doing that is to use such knowledge in a wrong way, such as in undermining the faith of weak believers.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

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