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Gospel Questions II:

Jesus' Turning of Water to Wine, Sweating Blood,

Walking on Water, and Foot-Washing

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Question #1:   Did Jesus drink his "own" wine which He made at the wedding? Someone had told me that He had because it was the custom. And that in oriental countries it is considered very bad etiquette not to participate with food and drink when invited to dinner. But I can't find in scripture that states specifically that Jesus actually drank that wine. It seems as if he is simply assuming that He did drink it because of the custom. Then he said that since Jesus was a guest at the wedding, why wouldn't He drink it? I believe where the Scripture is silent, we should be silent. In Scripture, the only person who tasted the wine was the ruler/governor of the feast:

John 2:9: When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,

Then he said:

"Have you spent much time in the Orient (let's say at least a year or more)? Have you studied the customs and mores of the culture as pertains to the early first millennium when Jesus walked here on earth? There is nothing to insist that Jesus ate of the food He provided at the feeding of the 5,000 or the 4,000, but wouldn't it be common sense that He did. I see a similar circumstance here at the marriage at Cana. Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us that the silent things belong to God but the things He has revealed to us belong to us and to our children. However, what amazes me no end is when people just hang that concept on everything they don't know."

Who is correct here?

Response #1: 

It is certainly correct that the scriptures don't say whether or not our Lord did or didn't drink that wine, but the silence in my view is most likely due to the fact that such information was felt to be superfluous. That is to say, we would/should know from the rest of scriptures whether or not Jesus was in the habit of drinking wine, and we should/would assume that He followed His customary pattern here. As is pointed out in this e-mail, only the ruler of the feast is reported to have sampled it, but it would be a very odd position to take that only he drank, given that Jesus had gone out of His way to have six thirty gallon jars filled with this remarkable wine. As to our Lord's partaking or not, that is an oft debated point. As I have said before, I think the biblical evidence is persuasive that Jesus did follow the custom of the day and partake of wine with meals: 1) the communion ceremony He institutes uses wine (Matt.26; Mk.14; Lk.22; 1Cor.11:23ff. – wine, not water, represents the "blood" of the covenant); 2) He says of Himself that the Son of Man came "eating and drinking" (Matt.11:19) in contrast to John the baptist who was notably and contrastingly ascetic in this regard is difficult to read any other way but that our Lord partook of food and drink in the customary manner; 3) His proclamation on the night before His crucifixion to the effect that He would no longer drink wine until the coming of His kingdom certainly indicates that His practice was to drink it previous to this proclamation (i.e., Matt.26:29; Mk.14:25; Lk.22:18). Arguments from silence are tricky things. Generally speaking, they only have weight when the silence is deafening both because of its totality and its oddity. Here we have neither, for there are other passages which are not silent but clearly do seem to speak of our Lord's responsible use of wine; on the other hand, leaving out the fact that Jesus drank at the wedding is not striking since the passage leaves out any description of anyone else drinking after the initial demonstration that the water had indeed become wine (that is the point of the pericope after all), even though we can be assured that our Lord had not produced such a volume of this miraculous beverage to no purpose.

In contrast to our country where alcohol use and abuse go hand in hand more often than not, in the ancient Mediterranean world wine was a staple upon which most people were reared from birth. Because of this, and significantly because wine was generally mixed with water and thus diluted, it was not unheard of for a person to drink wine throughout his/her life and never know drunkenness (that was certainly the case with our Lord).

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Doc!

A friend of mine was doing a study on a passage and happened to link these verses together by accident and now it has got him thinking. What is the possibility of Hebrews 12:2-4 being a reference to Luke 22:44?

Luke 22:44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Hebrews 12:2-4 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

If this is a reference would this not infer that the writer of Hebrews was present on the eve of Christ's death?

Your thoughts

Response #2: 

In the case of Hebrews 12:2, I rather think that "fighting against sin to the point of blood" is an athletic metaphor of the type that Paul is wont to use so often (cf. verse 1 which sets the tone and begins the metaphor: "let us run the race before us with endurance"). For example, in 1st Corinthians 9:25 the same base verb agonizo (from which we get "agony") is used for athletic competitions, and in the very next verse we have another boxing metaphor where Paul talks about "beating his body into submission", also as in the context here of the fight against sin. Later on in the context of Hebrews 12 in verse twelve we have the athletic metaphor resumed. Here we are told to "put our dukes back up" and "straighten up our knees" out of exhaustion in order to get back into the fight and back into the race (cf. Gal.5:7), and to heal the joint that has become dislocated by "running a straight path" to the finish line (cf. Phil.3:14) rather than making it worse by continuing in sin. All of the parallels cited above have in common with Hebrews 12:2 the use of athletic metaphors to describe our fight against sin as a struggle, and all suggest that the way to tackle it is just like a professional athlete would, by keeping the greater purpose in mind (victory), and by giving neither one's body (out of weakness) nor one's heart (out of moral fatigue) any quarter in the struggle, so that the prize may be gained in the end. Taken together, this perspective speaks volumes on the topic we have been discussing of late on taking personal responsibility for our own behavior and not "wimping out" by considering it "too hard" to confront sin. It is a battle. It may give us a bloody nose. But that is the only way to win the fight (cf. 1Tim.6:12; 2Tim.4:7).

As to Luke 22:43-44, these verses are without question not a part of scripture. They are not included in the two best manuscripts we possess (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, expunged by the contemporaneous corrector in the former), they are lacking from the best Alexandrian witness, "A", and they are absent from the Bodmer papyrus, possibly the oldest witness we possess on the passage, dated to the third century. There are other reasons too that suggest this passage is an interpolation (although an ancient one). The content, the way it appears inserted as I read it in Greek, and the way the Greek itself is written all suggest to me that the impressive evidence of the early witnesses to the text are indeed correct.

In the One who did our Father's will with the human resources we all possess, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Hi again Doc!

Let's say if perhaps Luke 22:43-44 really did occur. I was thinking if it can refer to both from the context. I know that in many places in the bible we sometimes find double meanings. I know that when Jesus was being attacked by Satan and resisting him to the point where he was so stressed that he sweated "as it were" great drops of blood". And we later find that he actually did bleed of course (for those who may not believe his sweat was actual blood in the garden). And I think that throughout history that many saints have literally resisted unto blood literally.

Hebrews 11:35 -Women received their dead raised to life again : and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: vs.36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: vs.37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword : they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;

Jesus in the garden was resisting sin which was represented in part by the cup which he had to consent to partake of in Matthew 26, Mark 14, Lk 22 and Jn 18. Jesus' main dilemma in being obedient to His Father was, what I think, the fact that he had to come into personal contact with sin. (2 Cor. 5:21). Hence the phrase which is in Hebrews "Ye have not yet resisted sin unto blood" might have been a possible reference back to the garden experience.

Most people (including me) attribute the writing of Hebrews to Paul. I thought this might open the door for one of the other disciples or apostles to have written the book. Someone such as Nicodemas or John Mark who would have been very knowledgeable of the Hebrew sacrificial system could be the author. Your thoughts?

Response #3: 

Luke 22:43-44 isn't in the Bible. Nor, might I add, are any of the other "sweated drops of blood" passages (whose provenance in every other case is even more "iffy" than this one). I try not to speculate about non-scriptural insertions, because whatever motive people had in trying to include them in scripture in the past or have in trying to put them in now is inevitably to no good purpose (whether they see that or not). Case in point is this passage. Were it really part of the Bible, I think you would be right to draw the conclusion from this "passage" that "Christ was struggling with sin" – but in fact, He wasn't (which means that you are being led to a non-biblical understanding of something very important based upon a false insertion into scripture).

The problem with this "passage" is that it would have the effect of reducing our Lord, who He really was and is, and what He really did, by representing Him in an incorrect way, and describing Him as doing something He never did. This "passage" and the other interpolations you mention portray Jesus as "just barely" making it through temptation (and needing "angelic help" to do so), whereas in reality our Lord was a rock, and is the Rock. That doesn't mean He wasn't tested. He was. That doesn't mean He wasn't tempted. He was. That doesn't mean He didn't experience pain and trouble and trial and tribulation and hurt. He did – beyond what we can imagine. But in all these trials, His will was absolutely and unshakeably obedient to His Father's will. He never came close to doubting or to failing (and the prayers in Gethsemane are more for our benefit than they were for His, giving us some small inkling of the magnitude of what He was about to do for us in bearing the sins of the world; see the link: in BB 4A, "Gethsemane").

Jesus is our model and our exemplar in all things. That is true also in this connection with our the command we have received to "make no plans for carrying out the lusts of the flesh". And just how do we do that? We do it by "putting on the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom.13:14): Jesus didn't vacillate in fact (pace this false passage), and so neither should we (whereas this false passage suggest, "well, even Jesus had His doubts" which He did not). Jesus was and is a genuine human being following the incarnation, but He lived His life and carried out His mission in absolutely perfect dedication. Failure to understand this, attempts by secularists to "humanize Jesus" (and this false passage is clearly an early attempt at such) only serve to diminish the glory of who He actually was and what He actually did while at the same time confusing the issue about who He actually was and what He actually did. Just as it is not always apparent at first glance how the most seemingly insignificant smidgen of biblical truth could be that important, but in the big picture of things it may turn out to be incredibly important as indeed every piece is essential to the whole, so it is not always apparent at first how false interpolations into scripture may damage someone's faith, and do so in a fundamental way.

To walk with Jesus perfectly, we have to have a perfect picture of who He was and what He did for us. Bringing Him down to our level on the issue of making up one's mind about the struggle against sin as this false passage does skews our entire sense of Him in a number of dangerous and erroneous ways (and there is the whole issue of "blood" too, an area of abuse of our understanding of what Jesus did for us on the cross which has a long and unfortunate pedigree; please see the link: in BB 4A, "The Spiritual Death of Christ"). When we confront sin, we should NOT "think about it" wring our hands, worry, wonder, consider – all that is very close to surrender. Instead, we should have an absolutely pre-decided and prejudiced view that brooks absolutely no discussion and gives the enemy no quarter. That is what our Lord always did, and this "passage" does Him a disservice in that regard. The Hebrews passage, as I attempted to point out in the previous e-mail, is of exactly the same timbre: grow up, wake up, be willing to take whatever punches you have to take, but do what is right without regard for the consequences.

As to Hebrews, Paul wrote Hebrews, that is pretty obvious from the language and the content, and there were good reasons for him not signing the letter (see the link: The Author of Hebrews).

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

When I examine the Wescott Hort (and Alexandrine) Greek version of John 6:21, the words eutheos egeneto (immediately came the ship) are juxtaposed. Not so in the Received Text. The Westcott Hort is below.

(Greek NT - W-H ) John 6:21 ἤθελον οὖν λαβεῖν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ πλοῖον καὶ εὐθέως τὸ πλοῖον ἐγένετο ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς εἰς ἣν ὑπῆγον.

What would be a proper interpretation of the Wescott Hort? Is the interpretation, "immediately it came to pass the ship to the place it was coming", OK? I would like to interpret egeneto as "it came to pass", more in line with the Matthew interpretation.

Response #4: 

Technically speaking, there would be no discernible difference in the translation. The best MS tradition (cf. Sinaiticus' reading) has the subject to ploion occurring directly before the verb egeneto, while a later, alternative reading reverses them. This is no doubt due to the exemplar MS's scribe forgetting to ploion then adding it later or else mentally reversing the verb/subject (easier to do in Greek of course since the word order allows the subject to go before of after the verb). But in any case, the ship has to be the subject here. If we make "it" an impersonal subject, that would leave us no reasonable grammatical way to fit in "the ship". I think that any Greek reader would take this as "the ship arrived immediately", regardless of the word order. On the other hand, even a Greek reader who was familiar with the NT's Semitic idioms on seeing egeneto would not construe it as a vayehiy Hebrew equivalent without the presence of another verbal clause to pick up the predicate ("and it came to pass that or when ... [verb #2]"). We are always told in such instances "what" it was that came to pass, and usually in a following object class (introduced by e.g., kai, hos or hote; cf. Matt.9:10).

I don't see any contradiction between the three accounts. It's just that they include different details. Matthew is the only one to tell us about Peter's exiting the boat, and John is the only one to tell us that after the entire encounter is over (i.e., seeing Jesus and Peter almost sinking), immediately after Jesus (and Peter) reenter the boat (and Jesus calms the storm), they miraculously arrived at their destination on the other side of the lake. As we know, for example from Paul's various accounts of his conversion and the different details given and emphasized in each (in Acts 9; 22; and 26), it is completely in line with the Spirit's method of inspiring the writing of scripture to leave out some details sometimes, summarize them sometimes, and give them a fuller treatment sometimes, as appropriate. For it would be impossible to accomplish, and not particularly useful to try, to attempt to represent nearly all of the details of a given situation, as John himself tells us:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
John 21:25 NIV

Hope this is of help.

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Thank you for your reply. I will be preaching a sermon on the "B" part of John 6:21. My method is textual criticism and spirit. In John 6:21, the mood of egeneto is indicative, the voice is middle deponent (close to active). Does the mood and voice of the verb, taken in conjunction with the fact that the verb hypegon (which ends verse 21and is in the imperfect tense) work against interpreting the phrase in Jn.6:21 as an punctilliar/instantaneous arrival at the shore, from the midst of the sea of Galilee?

Question # 1: Would you not expect the verb to be in the passive voice, if the ship and its cargo (the church) were somehow miraculously "beamed"/"teleported" to shore to by Jesus? My book "New Testament Greek" by Gavin Betts states on page 69, "With normal verbs the middle generally indicates that the subject has an even greater involvement in the action than would be the case if the verb were active." To rephrase, the question becomes, who is doing most of the "involvement" as the ship gets to the shore, the subject of the sentence, arguably the ship, or Jesus, who is not the syntactical subject of v.21:b?

On page 72 of the same book, the author speaks of kai egeneto in the sense of "it happened that", and "it came to pass". This sense fits the Alexandrine Codex and Hort and Wescott texts placement of the verb egeneto in the clause in verse 21. I have attached a Word document from Burton's book on the Greek language which explains "historical aorist" which I believe applies to the indicative mood of the aorist tense.

Question # 2: I was wondering whether egeneto as used in John 6:21 may be thought of as being "historical aorist" as explained in section 39 (b) of the second Word document attached. "A single act or state, however prolonged in time". And because we can't ascertain the "prolonged in time" aspect, not necessarily a punctilliar/instaneous arrival of the ship, from the middle of the sea of Galilee, to the shore. Or perhaps egeneto in John 6:21 is resultative aorist, which again would not necessarily mean that the ship instantaneously arrived at the shore. What is John's exegetical point of view as he narrates the whole narrative, because he uses egeneto (came) or a different tense of the verb at least twice in the same narrative.

Question # 3 – Is John's exegetical point of view narrating a "past" set of events in a sequential fashion (ie, this occurred next and then that), and his emphasis in verse 21 is not necessarily on how long they occurred? This is emphasized when a few verses later, someone asks Jesus "When" (not how) came thou hither.

When you juxtapose euthos and egeneto as in the Alexandrine text and Hort and Westcott, the exegetical point of view seems to be different than that of the Received Text from Erasmus. John seems just to be sequencing events as to what happened next, and not how fast or how long they took. I note that in Matthew 6:34 and Mark 6:53 the account of the ship and Jesus "coming" to the shore are similar.

Question 4 – Do either of these words individually or taken together, leave the reader of the Greek text with the idea that the ship "instantaneously" "traveled" from the middle of the sea of Galliee to the shore (Gennesaret in the case of Mark and Matthew, and Capernum in the case of John)? The English translation of both phrases is "when they were gone over", which seemingly means that there was some passage of time, and not an instantaneous trip.

My thinking is that John had either Mark or Matthew's (or both) epistle in front on him when he wrote his gospel, because it point by point takes them to task in an "inverted" manner.

I have a copy of the Codex Vaticanus, but the words run together so that I can't interpret verse 21.

Response #5: 

I'll try to answer your questions seriatim here:

1) As to the voice of the verb egeneto (gignomai), as with all deponent verbs, since the middle endings are the only endings deponent verbs possess, one cannot make anything out of the fact that the verb is in the middle – because that is the only option the writer had if he were going to use such a verb at all. As to the voice not being passive, it is not uncommon in Greek or English to describe the action of objects like ships in an other than passive way (e.g., "a ship about to pass over to Phoenicia", Acts 21:2: the ship is the subject of this active verb in both the Greek and in the English translations). On the other hand, the construction suggested which does occur elsewhere in scripture (i.e., a Greek translation of the Hebrew vayehiy idiom; see the previous e-mail for details) cannot be what we have here since then, having an intransitive verb with an impersonal subject, there would be no way to fit "the ship"/to ploion into the clause, and there is no trailing subordinate clause, nor any additional verb to complete the idiom's meaning (the verb hypegon at the end of the verse is in a different clause altogether, so that it can't have anything to do with this particular issue).

2) Yes, "historical" is as good a way to describe the verb as any, but remember that grammatical descriptions of this sort are just that, "descriptive" and not causative. That is to say, one cannot decide that a verb is in "such and such a use" and then draw conclusions from one's own categorization – rather the process works the other way around: we understand what the Greek means, then we are free to characterize it for others in such grammatical terminology (when and if that is helpful). In realistic terms, Greek writers have two common choices in constructing a narrative, and a third "extreme" option. To take the last first, the pluperfect, while more heavily used in the NT on account of Hebrew influence, is even here a very rarely used form. Generally speaking, Greek writers make the exact same choice of aspect that English writers are make, namely, choosing between a simple and a progressive past: either something "happened" or it "was happening" (aorist and imperfect tense respectively in Greek). It is true that there are some idiomatic uses of both the aorist and the imperfect (e.g., the ingressive aorist where ebasileusa means "I became king" rather than "I was king"; or in the imperfect where we have occasional cases, rare in the NT, of the connotative imperfect, and need to insert "was trying to do x/y/z" rather than simply "was doing"). But these are both rare on the one hand and vocabulary/context driven on the other (i.e., they are not equally possible in all instances just because they sometimes do occur, and that is true of the "possibilities" in this instance as well). I don't see any way to read anything into egeneto here other than a simple past tense. And since the boat has to be the subject, "the boat arrived" or variations on the theme, would seem to be the only reasonable way to construe these words.

3) The adverb eutheos is indeed the key, but not because of its position. Word order in Greek is extremely flexible within clauses, and under either manuscript reading this adverb occurs in the same clause with "boat" and "arrived", and therefore in either case describes the manner in which the boat arrived: "immediately". Therefore the idea of instantaneous arrival comes not from the verb or its tense or mood or voice, but entirely from the adverb. Without eutheos, no one would or should assume that the ship miraculously arrived at its destination as soon as Jesus got in. But with the addition of eutheos, that is the unmistakable impression, and, coupled with the previous description in verse 19 of them being only a few miles away from their starting point just prior to their arrival on the far shore, a miraculously instantaneous arrival is indeed the correct interpretation in my view.

4) Whether John had even read Mark or Matthew's gospels, I can't say for certain, although in my opinion it is likely since his gospel was written well after both. But of course John participated in these events personally, and although much time had passed, he did have the explicit help of the Spirit not only to get it right but also to remember (Jn.14:26). Not to speculate further on his method, I can tell you that while some phraseology in Greek and in the New Testament in particular can give a person pause, and while some textual problems can be puzzling, this passage does not fit into that category: it couldn't be more straight-forward. I don't think any Greek speaker of the day would come to any other conclusion than the one I have shared with you (and the one that is reflected in every English translation of which I am aware), to wit, that when Jesus entered the boat, it "immediately" found itself at its destination, something that in the context of verse 19 can only be described as miraculous – and this is equally true wherever in the clause one wishes to place the adverb eutheos.

As I say, I personally do find any inconsistency between this and the accounts of Matthew and Mark, but it is true that this particular detail is unique to John – not by accident, I would argue, but through the specific inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Is footwashing and greeting others with a holy kiss a "command" and are these required for the church today?

Romans 16:16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.

Thanks in advance!

Response #6: 

The command mood here, "greet", is given by Paul to specific believers at Rome and is not a general command to the Church for all time. As I said in one of my prior e-mails, the "holy kiss" was a custom of the times with which we are not familiar in the modern west (see the link: response #5 in "Church: the Biblical Idea versus the Contemporary Reality"). Given that touching of any sort in our culture has more intimate connotations (and dangers) than it did in the ancient world, it is not a custom I should care to revive (and certainly scripture is not commanding us to do so). I think it would do more harm than good.

Footwashing was something Jesus did for the twelve one time only. It had a special significance that can never be reduplicated. It represented the fact that confession of sin would continue to be necessary in the future even after Christ had died for all sin the next day (a common meaning behind the "washings" of the Law: cf. Ex.40:30-31 with Ex.20:17 and Heb.6; see the link: "Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness" in BB 3B).

We are nowhere told to adopt this as a ritual. The only ceremony still valid in the Church today is communion, the remembrance of what Jesus did for us on the cross. To my mind, adding other non-biblical rituals diminishes this one uniquely important one wherein we are led to be thinking about Christ and His death for us, and to that degree that this is diminished in any way, unnecessary additions are spiritually damaging. The Protestant churches in many denominations are in a phase of re-adopting many Roman Catholic practices and even inventing new ones. That is highly symptomatic of a true lack of interest in the Word of God. Scripture is so deep and wide and broad that hearing, learning, believing, and obeying it all would be hard to do in a lifetime if a person did nothing else. The fact that churches are substituting anything and everything for learning the truth of scripture is just more external verification that this is the age of Laodicea (see the link: "The Era of Degeneration").

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

I received this from a friend:

1Cor 16:20 All the brethren greet you. Greet ye one another with an holy kiss.

2Cor 13:12 Greet one another with an holy kiss.

1Th 5:26 Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.

1Pe 5:14 Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity. Peace [be] with you all that are in Christ Jesus. Amen.

"The context of several of the above verses imply other churches and believers. However, I am not saying you specifically need to practice this OUTSIDE of your local assembly, there is clarity and the "command mood" is here for the local assembly. Were the churches at Rome, Corinth, Thessolinica, and Babylon only to do this?"

Response #7: 

I never meant to suggest this was merely a Roman custom. Of course other churches did it – in the 1st century A.D. But, obviously, no one is suggesting that this "holy kiss" is a mandatory thing for us today. That certainly can't be derived from any of these passages. Given all of the sexual impropriety with which our society is awash, and given, as I said, the fact that touching and kissing has more profoundly sexual connotations in our society than it did in the much more tactile ancient Mediterranean world, I think an effort to revive this custom would be a very big mistake (with no positive upside whatsoever). This is the last thing we need to be doing. I am ready to do whatever the Lord wants or commands me to do. I don't see the representation of this custom in these verses as in any way applicable to us today in respect to the "kiss". Greeting one another is fine. That can be done without physical contact, and certainly without kissing. I'm not condemning the practice outright. But I would balk at it myself, would discourage it in my own congregation, and I would resist mightily an attempt to try and make it mandatory by suggesting it's some sort of biblical mandate (which it most certainly is not since all the believers mentioned here went to be with the Lord thousands of years ago).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

I forwarded your response to my friend and his response confuses me. He said:

"I am going to go through the Gospels and see what Jesus said or did ONLY ONCE, and dismiss it from my Christian life. Furthermore, since Paul commanded giving the holy kiss 5 times, I am going to judge the "professing" church in sin and unbelief because they have not obeyed that which was set forth so evidently. Now, of course I am not going to do that, but this logic is faulty and invalid. Let's obey the bible, not explain it away, OR rely on what Dr. Leadbottom's Commentary told us to believe. And, to again clarify, I, nor does scripture, imply this is, "...some kind of ordinance." We are basing this on the error of "some," but the verity of scripture. Where this really strikes a blow is that it hits us right where many of us live, in the traditions we have accepted as dogmatic truth. Baptists are just as guilty as Catholics or any other group when it comes to tradition. The very thought of these things move us dangerously out of our comfort zone and we begin to see all the "supposed" problems with obeying rather than trusting, by faith, the blessings of complying WITH scripture. What will they think if I believe this or try to practice it. The fear of man bringeth a snare. There was a time when I disobeyed many things the Bible teaches because I was afraid what the preacher brothers would think, how it would affect "my" ministry, etc. I had to let that die so Christ could live more freely in me. I am still working on that.

Mar 7:9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

Mar 7:13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

Col 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ."

What do you think?

Response #8: 

I admit to great puzzlement. I cannot understand what there is in any of these "kissing" passages that would bring a reasonable person reading them in any language to assume from them that there is a "mandate" that we greet each other with a kiss. It's just not there. Paul tells the Romans to "greet Rufus". By the logic we are being asked to accept, we all need to greet Rufus. When scripture provides a mandate, it usually does so in general terms, not the specific terms we find in these passages. Secondly, this is a greeting we are talking about. When I say to you "have a good day", that is quite different from my old Platoon Sergeant yelling in my ear "drop and give me 50!". The latter is a command; the former is a cultural nicety – and we all know the difference (or should). The "holy kiss" is not something we are being commanded to do as a Church. These greetings were requests, and they were made in regard to particular people who are no longer alive.

I will share with you that there is a common phenomenon in the church visible today of which this seems to be a part, namely, the "one-issue sledge-hammer person". That is to say, I cannot tell you how many of these folks I have run into who have gotten some unbiblical idea or other into their head and cannot and will not let it go. Just by way of the latest example I recently had a long correspondence with a person who was convinced – despite all evidence to the contrary – that the Israelites crossed the Red sea to the east of Sinai instead of the west. I cannot tell you how much ink was spilled, and the person never would actually listen to or respond to the logical points and evidence I kept offering up. These individuals seem to be gadflies put here to test our faith and to hone our spiritual judgment. They are good for us in the sense that they help us to gain a proper spiritual perspective about the Bible so that by such training we are able to come to realize more quickly what on the one hand may be true and what on the other hand is so ridiculous on the face of it that it just does not pass the spiritual "sniff test" (i.e., our consciences with the Spirit's help and our residual understanding of scripture generally tells us early on that this does not fit in spite of protestations to the contrary). What these people and their teachings have in common are:

1) a morbid fixation on a single usually largely irrelevant issue (at least one which their emphasis is clearly blowing out of all proportion).

2) an unwillingness to engage in a serious conversation wherein they actually listen to and consider what someone else says.

3) a clear tendency to anger, sarcasm, and ad hominem attacks (e.g., "Dr. Leadbottom") which is indicative of pride and carnality rather than a desire for the truth.

4) a clear tendency to using their "revelation" as a means of hammering down other people and their opinions.

5) a clear desire for recognition and attention.

Taken together, it is always wise to give such persons a very wide berth in my experience.

In our Lord Jesus, the only truth.

Bob L.

Question #9:  

His reply to your email was:

"Obviously there were specific greetings in the letters of Paul, i.e., "greet Rufus," and general instructions regarding Christian greetings, i.e., "Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss." Who is "all the brethren," all the brethren or just those in a local church? Again I appeal to the testimony of, not the early church only, but gospel preaching churches that exist today that obey in this area. What do are you going to with the churches that practice it today? That is judging scripture by contemporary society at large which is corrupt and defiled by sin. I do not and will not allow this or I am no better, nor you, than any liberal modernist theologian justifying situational ethics. That cultural view may be skewed by sexuality and immorality, not mine especially in regard to complying with scripture. Many if not most, have filters on their spiritual eyes and interpret scripture in light on contemporary culture to extremes that sometimes nullify valid instruction in the Bible. I guess the reason many Christians cannot be involved with a "holy" kiss is, quite frankly, because they are not holy. We live in a day when the church is awash in carnality and holiness has be relegated to a strictly internal quality and fashion and flesh have ruled the day...in the church."

I'm not sure what to think of this.

Response #9: 

As I say, the key point here is that these are not commands in the traditional sense of military or scriptural or compulsory commands. These are polite requests (something very common in the imperative mood in Greek and English both). These are personal greetings from Paul to his acquaintances; they are not commandments from God. While, as I say, I don't condemn the practice in principle, I think it is silly (and potentially dangerous) to practice "the holy kiss" today. For one thing, we don't know what it was (it's not spelled out in scripture). Did they kiss lips? Did they kiss on the side of the head or face (ala the French today)? Did they "blow kisses" to one another? Did they hug when they "holy kissed"? Did they close their eyes or hold their hands up in the air? These may sound like ridiculous questions, but they are no more ridiculous than reviving the practice itself. And I might add that if these requests were taken as literal commands from God then they would not have been completely carried out until everyone who heard the letter had tracked down every single believer in the area and kissed them.

What I object to here the most is the misunderstanding of something which should be patently obvious to anyone with normal life experience who has ever read a book before, namely that these are specific personal greetings, not compulsory general commands. The next time some one tells you to "Have a good day!", you should know that you are not obligated to do so, even if they have some authority over you (boss, husband, parent, government authority). No doubt the requests (and these are requests) made by Paul to these congregations were indeed fulfilled happily in every case. But I guarantee you, based on over three decades of language study, that the people who got these letters didn't say to themselves "Goodness, we are being given a general command to greet all the brethren with a 'holy kiss' from here on in in perpetuity!" Rather, they said something like, "O Rufus, Paul says 'hello!' in his letter".

In our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #10:  

I have a question regarding the context of this passage:

John 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

From the writings of John we can see that Jesus is the truth spoken of. What are we freed from? punishment? bondage of sin? Also, the Pharisees had numerous added laws too, didn't they? Would that have had anything to do with it? Thanks in advance!

Response #10: 

The new freedom we have as believers in Christ is a very important part of the gospel. Specifically in regard to John 8:31 we can see what our Lord has in mind when He says "the truth will make you free" by what He says later in the chapter:

Truly I am telling you the truth: Everyone who is committing sin is sin's slave.
John 8:34

Through the blood of Christ which has cleansed us from all sin, we believers in "the truth", that is, the gospel of Jesus Christ, are no longer slaves to the sin nature. Indeed, even though the sin nature will continue to be our adversary until we are out of this body of corruption, believers in this age of the Church universally possess the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit which acts as a powerful hedge against sin (to the extent that we respond with our free will to the Spirit instead of to the flesh; cf. Rom.8:9-10).

Therefore since "these children" (i.e., believers given to Christ by God: v.13) have a common heritage of flesh and blood, [Christ] too partook of these same [common elements] in a very similar fashion (i.e., not identical only in that He was virgin born and so without sin), in order that through His death He might put an end to the one possessing the power of death, that is, the devil, and might reconcile those who were subject to being slaves their whole lives long by their fear of death.
Hebrews 2:14-15

From these verses it is plain to see that a powerful part of bondage to which the human race is enslaved is the "fear of death", because that fear is the most powerful motivator in human life. It is in fact, as the verses above also make clear, the devil's "ace trump", stemming from our sinfulness and in turn leading mankind into all sorts of sinful and evil activity in reaction too and in hopes of avoiding the "ultimate concern" of our own mortality. Enslavement to the fear of death is at the root of all false religion and is also to found just beneath the surface in most human lust (if only by compensation: "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!"). So sin is closely connected and in fact inseparable from the slavery from which we have been liberated by Jesus Christ, for sin is inextricable from the threefold death that is mankind's bane: physical death (the inescapable destiny of us all); spiritual death (the separation and alienation from God at birth that tells our conscience we are doomed); and eternal death (the damnation that is our lot if we are left to face the last judgment on the basis of what we have done on this earth). But praise be to our heavenly Father and His Son our Lord that we have been liberated from our slavery to this fear of death through our faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross in dying for us in our place!

The Mosaic Law does indeed figure into this equation as well because, before the coming of the Messiah, God provided a very strict model of behavior which served to show the need for believers to separate from the sinful world (at the same time that it also demonstrated the impossibility of doing so apart from divine power and God's grace). No one ever kept the Law perfectly, and indeed as Paul tells us the Law is the vehicle which leads us to Christ (Gal.3:24) since it is through the Law that we gain the correct understanding of the pervasive nature of sin and our need for a Savior to solve the sin problem (to which we are enslaved and which leads to death: Rom.7:7-13).

But scripture has locked everything up (i.e., "enslaved" it) under [the power of] sin, so that the promise which is fulfilled through faith in Christ might be given to those who believe.
Galatians 3:22

So the Law acts as a guardian to us [who leads us] to Christ so that we might be justified by faith.
Galatians 3:24

This new freedom we have through knowing and accepting the truth of Jesus having died for all our sins is a two-sided coin. For while we have indeed been freed from sin and concomitantly freed from keeping the Law, this freedom is given as an opportunity to serve Jesus better and certainly not as an opportunity to serve sin, to "sin as we please".

It is for this freedom that Christ has set us free. So stand fast [in it], and do not again encumber yourselves with the yolk of slavery (i.e., the Law).
Galatians 5:1

For you were called unto freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but be slaves to one another through love.
Galatians 5:13

For thus it is the will of God for you by doing good to silence the ignorance of the ignorant. [Do so] as free people, and not as those using your freedom as a cloak for evil, but as servants of God.
1st Peter 2:15-16

As believers in Jesus Christ, we have been freed from the Law of Moses and its various and its sundry regulations (Rom.6:14-15; 7:4-6; 10:4). But we have not been freed from the law of love (Jas.2:8; cf. Matt.22:37-40; 1Cor.9:19-23; Gal.5:22-23; 6:2), for love is the fulfillment of the Law (Rom.13:8-10; cf. the "perfect law of freedom" in Jas.1:25 and 2:12). We Christians have freedom and liberty that those under the Law did not have, but we are responsible to use our freedom for good in every way (Gal.5:13; 1Pet.2:16). Therefore if we are truly walking in the Spirit, and responding to the love of God, we will not be wanting in opportunities to do good for the Body of Christ, and, God helping us, we will not prove wanting in seizing them. Let us therefore resolve to use these lives, these bodies, these opportunities, and these resources given us by God in the service of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – for it is to this freedom and opportunity that we have been called (Eph.2:10).

Please also see:

Gospel Questions I

Gospel Questions III

In the One who has set us free to serve Him in anticipation of all the wonders of that eternal life to come, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

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