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The Law, Love, Faith-Rest and Messianism

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Question #1:  

Could you list the order of books in the Tanach, O.T. Then list the order of O.T Books in our English Version. In the Tanach the Hebrew Tanach 2 Chronicles is the last book. In the English Bibles Malachi is the last book of the O.T. Is this because the English versions used the LXX Septuagint? Also if you could show the Septuagint list of Books. Also your comment on the Messianic Movement. I am a Messianic Jew. Not all of us want to go back under all the Oral and Ceremonial Laws. We are saved through faith by the blood of the Lamb. Rabbi Messiah Yeshua. Son of God and King of Israel.(John 1:49) I have been reading your view on Water Baptism, Interesting comment you made about Acts 2:38 that this was respective just for the new (Jewish Messianic Believers - (Nazerenes). I never thought of it that way before. Could you expand on your homepage a Messianic Jewish Roots Button to click then dedicate a teaching page about the Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith. Faith in Yeshua a Page only using true Biblical Hebrew names for the people Like Yeshua and his mother Miriam (not the English word Mary). I believe that Jews could be brought to faith as well as teaching Gentiles to have a deeper knowledge of the Jewishness and Jewish culture of Messiah Yeshua. Put in a Hebraic context. Back to the O.T. Order of books. Yes the Septuagint was around before the time of Yeshua. However Yeshua used the order of the Tanach. Yeshua put His stamp on the Hebrew order in the Tanach.

Response #1: 

You are correct that the order of the Old Testament books in English versions is based upon the Septuagint and also on the Vulgate which follows the Septuagint. The Hebrew order is: the Law (the Torah – same order as in English), the Prophets (similar to English except that Ruth, 1/2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, Lamentations, and Daniel are not included here), and the Writings in this order: Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra/Nehemiah, 1/2 Chronicles. The Septuagint list is the same as our English list (except that it often includes various apocryphal, non-canonical books as sometimes Roman Catholic Bibles do as well).

On the Messianic movement, the criticisms to which you refer (I have a number of long postings about the issue) are to unauthorized legalism and are certainly not meant to refer to Jewish believers who feel more at home in their own cultural applications. After all, this matter was resolved in the early Church (the Jerusalem counsel recorded at Acts 15). While the leadership was still completely in Jewish hands during the age of the apostles, gentiles were allowed by the Jerusalem council to live as gentiles – provided they refrained from a short list of pagan activities which were particular offensive to Jews (and damaging to anyone's faith, I might add). Now that gentiles dominate in the Church (at least in terms of numbers), it is certainly not incumbent upon Jews to live as gentiles. I realize that this is not the common view, but it is absolutely the correct view. All Jewish believers have a perfect right to maintain their cultural approach to Christianity and are definitely not required to adopt modern Christian forms – almost of all of which are arbitrary and many of which are entirely wrong-headed in any case (please see the link: "Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality"). My "beef" is mostly with Messianic gentiles who are trying to be saved by keeping the Law (their version and interpretation of it, anyway) and are trying to convince me and fellow gentile believers who are saved by grace to damage our spirituality and risk losing our salvation by being sucked into the same morass.

One of the things I have repeatedly tried to emphasize in this ministry is that the Church is not primarily a gentile concern (except perhaps in numbers). The true Church began with Adam and Eve and will be completed with the salvation of the last person to be saved before our dear Lord Jesus returns. Jesus is, of course, Jewish in His humanity, as are all of the patriarchs, as are all of the prophets, as are all of the apostles, as are all of the writers of scripture – the foundation of the Church is Jewish and its most prominent and highly honored and (soon to be) rewarded members are Jewish. And our Lord is Jewish. Gentiles are included in the Church, but as a wild olive branch grafted into the rich root of the true olive tree (Rom.11). Theologies which try to split up Israel and the Church are entirely misinformed and are ofter the result of hyper-dispensationalism. In true biblical terms, dispensations are just that, God's various means of dispensing truth in different ways at different times, as it says in the beginning of Hebrews, but none these true dispensations make any difference in the composition or the essential nature of the Church (see the link: "Dispensationalism"). Please also see "The Uniqueness of Israel and the Church" in SR 5.

This is a very important issue standing as we do on the cusp of the Tribulation. In short order, Jews will again take over the leadership of the Church under the direction of the two witnesses, Moses and Elijah, who will see to the rebuilding of the temple and will direct the 144,000 Jewish witnesses during the Tribulation's first half. It may very well be that legitimate Jewish Messianism (especially in groups which scrupulously avoid legalism) will be the place of origin for many of the 144,000. After all, the worldwide Jewish revival to which the 144,000 will minister must obviously be a case of traditional Jews ministering to other Jews (of whatever background) in order to best communicate the truth and avoid all offense.

What also concerns me in this regard, however, is not only that gentiles who embrace Messianism out a desire for "something new" (as opposed to the legitimate yearning of Jewish believers to express their true cultural selves) are currently being exploited by a number of wolves in sheeps' clothing (many of whom, as I say, are gentiles), but also that when the Tribulation does begin they are likely to be some of the first to embrace antichrist. Having been divorced from true Christianity and the power of the truth, no doubt they will easily be persuaded that a Jewish Rabbi who dresses the part, is incredibly charismatic, and performs all manner of miracles is really "Jesus" – when in fact he will not be Christ but the anti-Christ. Obviously, when our Lord returns, His glory will light up the world, but weak believers who are unsure about their doctrines in all categories will likely believe their eyes rather than the truth of scripture – just as they previously went off in search of something "new and fun" and found it in false, legalistic, gentile orchestrated Messianism.

As to amending the order of the books of the Bible, one would have to take that up with those who publish the major versions. Personally, as long as I can find it in the Bible, it's not a great issue for me. It is possibly true that the current order of the Tanakh is as Jesus found it, but He and the apostles also knew the Septuagint, and there are some indications that the order was originally a bit more fluid. That is because there were no "books" the way we think of books today until at least the 2-3 century A.D. Prior to this, "books" were scrolls, and the scrolls of our Lord's day were not generally capable of holding the entire Old Testament (I realize that today we can do this and do, but to my knowledge that was not the case until the middle ages). So, for example, it says at Luke 4:17 that "the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him" – Isaiah would take up about a scroll's worth of papyrus sheets (as would the 12 'minor' prophets, which may account for why they were collected together). The order became important only when everything was put into a single volume (after the codex was invented ca. 250 A.D.), and the Jewish tradition is that this happened with the Tanakh in ca. 450 A.D. Many Christians would also probably be interested to know that the order of the New Testament is also not so cut and dried. Just for example, in codex Aleph (Sinaiticus), the oldest and best of the Greek manuscripts, the book of Hebrews follows 2nd Thessalonians and Acts follows the Letter to Philemon.

As to buttons, well, I address some of these things issues at Ichthys, but probably not what you are specifically referring to. I do have a set of links pages, and I would be happy to consider adding a link or links to appropriate sites which do treat these matters (no doubt much better than I could ever do: for example I do link to Ariel, Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum's ministry).

I hope this helps with your questions. Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In Jesus the Messiah, our dear Lord and Master – and the only Savior.

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I was hard-pressed by the commandment in Ezekiel 3:17-18. "If I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give them no warning, or speak to warn the wicked from their wicked way, in order to save their life, those wicked persons shall die for their iniquity; but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and they do not turn from their wickedness, or from their wicked way, they shall die for their iniquity; but you will have saved your life." Because of this, all of us have a duty to warn our brother and sister, or suffer eternal consequences.

So I began doing this. I started out at a blog that was mocking and scoffing at a preacher who was warning others to stop sodomy. I point out that sodomy is a sin, and they point out that Jesus demands his followers to cut off their hands and to give anything away to anyone who asks them. He then says that I am a "pharisee" who picks and chooses what I want to follow, and that the real teaching of Jesus' supports sodomy.

Needless to say, I'm at a loss. I remember two verse from Proverbs: "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes." (Proverbs 26:4-5). What would be the best way to show that, no, I am not just picking and choosing what I want to follow, and there's a reason as to why certain verses are taken figuratively and others aren't?

Lastly, a hideous religion keeps popping up, and it's a form of false Christianity that is more destructive than any other manmade religion: Rebelanity. In Rebelanity, the Gospel of Mark is the only source of scripture, Jesus was a "cool, down to earth" guy, Jesus didn't take the Law seriously (usually an adherent points out how he broke the Sabbath, and that the divorce section was just man-made, with the implication that wink-wink nudge-nudge we too should ignore the Bible) the pharisees were evil and mean, Paul is a giant bigot who should be ignored, and Jesus totally stuck it to the man. Needless to say, while this religion might fit today's culture perfectly, it completely ignores the point that the gospels were intended to be read with the assumption that the pharisees were the /good guys/. That is, Jesus was pointing out that the best man has to offer was still woefully inadequate. "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach." (Matthew 23:2-3). How do we address the challenge that Jesus selectively chose scripture, contrary to reality?


Response #2: 

Good to hear from you. To start with Ezekiel, it's not easy being a prophet. Blessedly, that is not a gift and most especially also not an office we can assume to ourselves. Ezekiel was appointed by the Lord. So while the principle is certainly valid, prophesying the principle to others is not a general mandate. In my estimation of these things, the Church is responsible to teach the truth. It is not responsible to track down and confront and argue with any and all who are not telling the truth (i.e., "pearls before swine"). That is not to say on the one hand that we are not responsible, individually and collectively, to give "a good answer" to all who ask us (e.g., 1Pet.3:15). It does mean that we should probably think twice about unnecessarily confronting those with whom we disagree. There may be times when it will be fruitful or even necessary to do so, of course, and it is also true that we all have our own gifts given by the Spirit and our own ministries assigned to us by the Lord Jesus. It is certainly not my intention to suggest that if you personally feel called by gift and assignment to conduct a particular apologetic ministry that you should not do what the Lord wants you to do. And it certainly is the case that a tender heart confronted and rebuked will often respond in a positive way.

The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.
Proverbs 12:15 NIV

Rebuke is more effective for a wise [man] than a hundred blows on a fool.
Proverbs 17:10 NKJV

But in the case you report, for example, it seems to me a debatable point if one were to characterize a pastor who would teach the acceptability of gross sin as "wise". In any event, we all have learn what our gifts are and how precisely the Lord wants us to employ them.

On this odd twist of religion you report, I have never heard of it before (does it go by any other name?). Clearly, the foundational principle of all cults is selectivity in what parts of the Bible to accept and which to ignore. Failing to take all scripture into careful consideration is also the beginning of all mis-interpretation.

I don't find the Pharisees to be "good guys". There are all kinds of ways to pervert the truth. Extreme self-righteous legalism is just one of many. The Law "made nothing perfect" (Heb.7:19), but our Lord Jesus has fulfilled the Law in every respect through His death on the cross (Heb.10:4; cf. Heb.8:5; 10:1). The Law is meant to demonstrate our complete inability to live sinlessly, our need for a Savior, and the incredible sacrifice that would be made on our behalf to wash away our sins in blood. Christ did that for us and for the entire world.

"It has now been accomplished!" (tetelestai, Greek: τετέλεσται).
John 19:30

Correctly understood, the behavioral regulations of the Law point to perfect and perfectly loving behavior (Rom.13:8-10), which is why our Lord summarized it as loving God and loving our neighbor (Matt.22:36-40). Against such things there is no law (Gal.5:23). This is also what John means when he speaks of "an old commandment" and a "new commandment": they are one and the same correctly understood. If a person lives in perfect love, there will be no violation of any of the operative parts of the Law, while the Law, correctly understood, will point to the perfect and loving way to live our lives.

The problems come in when the Law is turned into a system of works and self-righteousness (as the Pharisees had done). This divorces the godly spirituality of the Law from the letter of the law, resulting in such things as refusing mercy to others because it happens to be the Sabbath. One other thing to consider here is that because the Law and its requirements have been fulfilled by Christ's work on the cross, it is no longer a code of behavior but rather a treasury of truth. If we try to use it as the former, it will only result in sin. For example, offering sacrifices or doing other things which spoke of the death of Christ is a terrible blasphemy now, because doing so says in effect that Christ's work on the cross is still to come or was not good enough somehow (and how can a person claim to keep the Law but leave the foundational part of it out?). Adhering to the dietary and other codes is also very dangerous because, since we do not live in a community universally called to do so, it is almost impossible to do so today as an individual without becoming self-righteous and looking down on others who do not (and beyond all argument it is no longer necessary to do so: e.g., Acts 15). Keeping the Sabbath is the one commandment not repeated in the New Testament because the symbolic day of physical rest has now been replaced by the moment-by-moment continual Sabbath of rest in the Lord which believers should strive to enter into at all times (Heb.4:6-11).

In short, the Law is good "if it is used lawfully" (1Tim.1:8), namely, seeing it for what it is and not for what it is not. In terms of contradiction, understood correctly there are absolutely no contradictions between the intrinsic teaching of the Law and anything our Lord said or did (Matt.5:18-19). The Law was given for a purpose and that purpose has been fulfilled – and that purpose was all about teaching us about the coming Savior, His work on our behalf, and our need to accept Him and walk with Him in this life. Using it for any other purpose, especially today, is a mistake.

The reality of Christ and His love is the new commandment, and it has replaced the written law of shadows.

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.
1st John 3:23 NIV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:   


I have enjoyed your site for many months now. Is there any way to prove that Saturday as we know it today is the "seventh day" in the bible? What verses in the bible show this? I assume that it has been biblically proven somehow, as Satuday-keepers insist that it is the only day to worship. I, however, have been unable to find any reference to the word "Saturday" or "week" where God gives the commandment.

It appears to me that the emphasis is on working no more than 6 days before setting aside a day to rest and worship. I find that the Saturday-sabbath keepers seem to greatly focus on the name of the day itself.

Thank you.

Response #3: 

Good to make your acquaintance – I'm always happy to hear from readers who are enjoying the site.

As to your question, I certainly agree with your insight. It is without a doubt very true that many people make a great deal out of this issue to no particular purpose.

The whole idea of the week is biblical and not secular. The idea of a seven day week does not occur in antiquity outside of Jewish influence and then through the influence of Christianity following it. The Romans and Greeks had "market days" which broke up months into various divisions, but they varied in their length, and were not nearly as regular or significant as our Judeo-Christian week. These also differed greatly from town to town and from place to place.

The first reference to the week is of course in Genesis chapters one and two where God refurbishes the earth in seven days and "rests" on the seventh day.

(2) By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. (3) And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Genesis 2:2-3 NIV

In these verses the word "rested" is from the Hebrew root shabath, the same root from which the name "Sabbath" is taken, while the word "seven" in both Hebrew and the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, is also the basis for the word for "week" (literally, "the seven thing[s]"). This is a rather long way of saying that "Sabbath" means "rest day" and is derived from and patterned after the seventh day of rest in the reconstruction of the earth in Genesis 1-2.

So the Sabbath is the same as the seventh day, and we find that throughout the Bible:

"Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any (i.e., manna)."
Exodus 16:26 NIV

The question of how that relates to us today after the coming of the Messiah and after Jesus has removed the shadows of the Law through His victory on the cross and His resurrection, ascension and session is another matter, however. The fourth commandment is the only one of the ten which is not repeated in the New Testament, and we know that Jesus frequently healed on the Sabbath. The reason for the change is that now we are to walk with Him at all times. Under the power of the Spirit, Christians are to practice a moment by moment rest in the peace of Jesus Christ, not limiting ourselves to one day a week. Our rest is a spiritual rest and transcends the previous physical rest (whose purpose was for spiritual refreshment).

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
Hebrews 4:9-11 NIV

Even a cursory reading of this passage shows that Paul is not talking about one day a week but a moment by moment "Sabbath-rest" (sabbatismos) which is fundamentally different from the one day a week Sabbath of the Law.

As to days of worship, nothing in the New Testament specifies when or how often believers are to come together. Traditionally, "the Lord's day", that is, Sunday, the day of His resurrection (cf. Rev.1:10), has been the day when most Christian groups have met, but there are many groups which meet more days a week than this. It is not the day which is important (since the Bible doesn't address the question as is true of many other issues of polity over which people often get quite exercised), but what happens when Christians do meet:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:24-25

As these verses make clear when carefully considered, the purpose for meeting is "spurring one another" on to do what Christ would have us to do and "encouraging one another" – both of which can only be legitimately done through the truth of God's Word. Teaching and learning the Word is therefore the reason for formal Christian association, and a group which does this consistently would certainly profit from meeting as often as possible. But for groups which are all about music and announcements and funny stories and illustrations and pablum which has nothing to do with the doctrines of scripture, it doesn't matter whether they meet on Saturday or Sunday – or even if they meet at all.

Here are some links to some other responses I have posted on this question which may prove helpful for you:

The Sabbath

Should Christians honor Sunday as the new Sabbath?

The Sabbath Rest of Hebrews 4:9-11

Saturday Sabbath?

Is Sabbath Observance Legitimate for Christians?

Legalism and Sabbath Observance

Sabbath Observance as Legalism

The Sabbath and the 10 Commandments

Sabbath Questions

Day 7

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior – He who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Bob Luginbill

Question #4:   

Thank you. Would you say that if it were applicable to today, that Saturday would be the correct day to worship? I've read some very convincing arguments on the lunar sabbath which say that the sabbath is neither Saturday nor Sunday, but is based on the phases of the moon.

Response #4: 

Hello again,

In my view, there is no particular mandatory day of worship, the shadows of the Old Testament having now been replaced by the glorious reality of the Son of God.

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
Romans 14:5 NIV

Paul makes this comment in the context of his comparison of weak versus strong believers, allowing the weak to retain their immature peculiarities (like "day observance" in the example above) and counseling the strong not to use their spiritual maturity to dishearten or to cause controversies with the weak. To apply this to today, I would not give a believer a hard time for considering worship on Saturday the norm nor for the same regarding Sunday – even though I realize from scripture that Jesus Christ is our Lord and worthy of our worship and intimate walk of fellowship every day. However, I would also not allow the incorrect views of the immature to change my way of thinking or the approach I have adopted in good conscience and out of love for the truth.

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
Colossians 2:16-17 NIV

As those blessed to know the actual Savior, our dear Lord Jesus, we have the opportunity (and the responsibility) of entering into His rest at all times. Anything that detracts from that closeness to Him (as in my view honoring any form of specific day worship must necessarily do) is not something I would personally wish to embrace.

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.
Hebrews 4:1 NIV

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest (i.e., at all times), so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
Hebrews 4:9-11 NIV

Best wishes for your continued and continuing growth in the truth of our dear Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Could you please clarify 1 John 2:7:

7 Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.

In particular, John stating that he is not and then that he is writing a new commandment.

Response #5: 

My understanding of these verses is that John is making the transition here from reinforcing the gospel message and the basics about it which he and others have already shared with his listeners many times and the "new commandment" of love which will be the theme of the rest of the epistle. After all, he says in the Greek "I am writing to you [about] a new commandment again", so this is not the first time they have heard about love as the basic commandment of the Church of Christ (our Lord, of course, made the same point many times). The "old" is one which "you have been in possession of since the beginning" and corresponds to the gospel and also to the Old Testament; the "new" is "true in Him and in you" and which is directly related to all that is to come when the "darkness" has passed away and the "true Light" who is "already shining" returns. In other words, the old is specific and literal; the new is dynamic and universal. If we walk and act and think in love, we need no specifics or literal injunctions; and of course the specific and literal teachings of all scripture lead us to perfecting our walk of love and hold us to account as to how we are doing on that score. We find similar usage in 2nd John as well (v.5): the regulations of the Old Testament are completely consistent with the love of the New if understood in truth. Love perfectly fulfills the true essence of the Law if perfect in its application; the Law perfectly points to a life of love, if understood in its true substance (see the link: "The New versus the Old Commandment").

Question #6: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I read in 2 John 1:6 "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, that, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it."

This seems to be the definitive meaning of love which applies directly to Mat 22:36-40 "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

Of everything I've read in the Bible, the ten commandments seem to be the law and the Mosaic laws of Deuteronomy and Leviticus just ordinances. Have I misunderstood this?

If my understanding is correct, is it true that "Thou shalt not kill" of Exodus 20:13 means murder, premeditated assassination or suicide and not war or self defense? Also, why should I not be angry or defensive if someone confronts me with behavior I would not tolerate of myself? That seems more rebuke than lack of love.

As a side question not related to any of the above, do you know of anything published that describes the culinary practices of early Israel or any other late bronze or early iron age culture in the region?


Yours in Christ

Response #6: 

Good to hear from you again. As to your questions:

1) My understanding of this issue, to put it in a nutshell, is that there are two ways to look at how God wants us to behave, namely, the old and the new. The old is characterized by prohibitions and specific ordinances. In other words, it is largely negative in its formulation. The new, on the other hand, is characterized by its appeal to virtuous behavior, love being the prime and preeminent virtue. In other words, it is largely positive in its formulation. But the two are not in conflict at all, when everything is rightly and positively understood (indeed, in truth both have always been present and necessary for the dedicated believer). As a practical matter, the two approaches complement one another. For while it is true that if a person carried out every single command and injunction of scripture perfectly, adhering to the spirit as well as to the letter of the Law, that person would not be sinning. But of course none of us is capable of avoiding sin entirely (let alone understanding the Law perfectly in every respect including the underlying spiritual meaning of every single statute). And it is also true that if a person acted in perfect love, love of God and love to all others, that person would not be sinning. But of course none of us is capable of perfect love, being imperfect and steeped in sin. Prudent believers attempt to stay away from what God prohibits and embrace all that God commands of a positive nature. By striving to live in love, we will avoid much sin and will be better able to understand and interpret the true meaning of all of the Bible's commandments. And by striving to adhere to the prohibitions and strictures of scripture, we will be less likely to fall into sin so as to compromise our love and confuse our spiritual approach. That is why John in this passage combines the two and commends both the Old and the New Commandments (see the link: "The New versus the Old Commandment"). And of course whatever approach we lean toward we will not want to overlook the essential fact that a deeper walk with the Lord in spiritual growth, progress and production is the true purpose for all of our lives after salvation.

2) The term Law when used in the Bible most often refers to the Torah or the first five books of the Bible (e.g., Matt.7:12). Occasionally it may also refer to the entire Old Testament (Paul's usage, for example, is more general in this regard). The ten commandments are often referred to as the covenant or the testimony (e.g., Ex.34:28-29), because they sum up the Law (and as such stand as an intermediary between the simple law of love and the entire written code of the Law). If the ten commandments are rightly understood (see the link), they give a solid basis for a correct spiritual, moral, and legal approach to living righteously before the Lord (of course the Sabbath of the seventh day has now to be replaced by the moment-by-moment walk with the Lord to which all believers are called: Heb.4:9; see the link).

3) Yes. This command is speaking of the illegitimate taking away of the free will of someone else; it is not speaking of the legitimate actions of the state in protecting the free will of all through necessary deadly force. See the link: "What does the Bible say about War, History, and Politics?".

4) While I wouldn't recommend anger or defensiveness, I see your point and agree. There is much legalism out there in contemporary Christianity, and many whose "favorite sport" is finding fault with other Christians and telling them (and others) about their perceived failings. This is so even in the wide-ranging number of areas where the behavior for which one is being reproached is either not sinful at all or would only be sinful under certain circumstances, but has been frowned upon by the group or individual in question. As responsible Christians, we have to be careful to discern between instances where the person is a spiritual bully on the one hand or an immature believer who is really offended and might be spiritually damaged by our adverse reaction on the other. I.e., we don't eat meat in the presence of those who in their spiritual infancy may really believe that some spiritual issue is attached thereto, but we do not yield to those who are merely trying to assert their spiritual superiority via such false methods (Rom.14). One caveat here is that occasionally we may find ourselves in actual error large or small (even if without reflection we did not see or appreciate that error before it was pointed out). In such cases, even though our initial reaction may be one of anger or negative response, we should restrain ourselves and realize that God has just done us a favor:

Let a righteous man strike me--it is a kindness; let him rebuke me--it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it.
Psalm 141:5 NIV

5) As to your final question, it is a standard feature of all pre-literate cultures that we can know very little about them and are generally restricted to a) what later (ancient) writers have said about them (as in, for example, Julius Caesar's description of the Gauls and the Germans and their customs et al.), or b) what may be gleaned from archaeology. As the latter is always questionable on its face and for obvious reasons would have little to offer on the subject you ask about, that leaves us with only source a). The only reliable information about early Israel comes from scripture, so that would be the place to look (e.g., Jacob's preparation of bread and lentil stew for Esau, and his mother's preparation of the goat for Isaac). As to other late bronze age or early iron age civilizations, the best documented of these is of course the Greek civilization, and there are some books and resources which address this issue. Generally speaking, the diet and culinary repertoire of early peoples seems to have been quite simple (from all of the information we have from various sources, I believe it is fair to say). So we can perhaps extrapolate backward to some degree from the "high civilization". Smith's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities will give you the basics and an idea of the sources (see the link). We do also have one surviving Roman cookbook by Apicius. For a modern edition see: Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome by Apicius and Joseph Dommers Vehling (1977).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I'm having a bit of difficulty seeing a difference between the old way and the new. I see and understand how the sin aspect has been taken away from much of Mosaic law; dietary laws for example. (I can see a mechanical reason for those laws, though.) Jesus said that not one title or jot would be taken away from the law until all is fulfilled which is why I understood the ten commandments the law to which he referred - particularly in view of Paul's list of those who would not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Since there is more to come, I don't see how His resurrection was a complete fulfillment. I know He said that He was the fulfillment of the law but I don't know that he said that He had fulfilled it all. I thought the second coming was the fulfillment or the judgment after the millennium when He planted His law in our hearts.

Would you mind pointing me to the verses I've probably misread?

Thank you for the book references. It's a help. I've had little luck finding information. From what I understand, the Roman diet was somewhat barbaric. I know little about the Greek diet before the last 200 years or so. And nothing about the ancient near east.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #7: 

Certainly, it's not a problem. My point in the previous email was that there is no conflict whatsoever between the message of the Old Testament and the message of the New Testament, only a difference in approach. Perfectly understood, the two blend together perfectly. The Old Testament looked forward to the cross; the New looks back to the cross. The cross – our Lord's spiritual death in the darkness for the sins of all mankind – is what fulfills the requirements of the Law and what empowers the Law of Love. Clearly, there is plenty of prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled, and also just as clearly there is much of spiritual value in the Law if "used aright" (1Tim.1:8; and see the link: "The Law of Moses is still spiritually valid").

He said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old."
Matthew 13:52 NIV

As to passages which speak of our Lord's accomplishment of all of the righteous requirements the Law entails, that is, the offering up of a perfect Sacrifice which would fulfill the prophecy of the taking away of the sins of the world, these are frequent in scripture but it is not always obvious from English translations how that the Greek root tel- (meaning end/completion) is often used to link then together; see for example:

(28) After [all] this (i.e., His physical suffering and His spiritual death for the sins of the world), since Jesus knew that everything had now been accomplished (Gr. <teleioo) in order for the [prophecy of salvation found in] scripture to be fulfilled, He said, "I am thirsty". (29) Now a jar of wine-vinegar lay there, so they placed a sponge full of the wine-vinegar on a hyssop [stalk] and brought it to His mouth. (30) So when He had taken the wine-vinegar, Jesus said, "It (i.e., salvation) has [now] been accomplished (Gr. <teleioo)!", and having thrown back His head, He gave up His spirit. (see link for commentary: Our Lord's Statements of Completion)
John 10:28-30

For Christ is the end (accomplishment/fulfillment: Gr. telos) of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Romans 10:4 NKJV

(11) If then completion (or fulfillment: Gr. teleiosis) [of the Law] were coming through the Levitical priesthood (for the Law was received by the people on the basis of that priesthood), why was there still need for another Priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek rather than being called according to the order of Aaron? (12) For when the priesthood is put aside, of necessity the Law is put aside as well.
Hebrews 7:11-12

(18) There is [now] an abrogation of the former Commandment because it was weak and useless. (19) For the Law brought no completion (or fulfillment: Gr. teleiosis), but [we now have] a better hope, through which we are come near to God.
Hebrews 7:18-19

Yours in Jesus Christ through whom we have God's perfect righteousness – something unattainable through the Law.

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Now I understand. Thank you. Sorry to be a pain in the neck. I do want you to know I appreciate your patience. The Romans reference rang the bell. I must have read that hundreds of times and never connected it. The John 19 reference I've understood all these years to mean his physical incarnation that was finished - not the law. It makes many of Paul's later comments much clearer.

This also resolves a major concern of mine about the Sabbath. A serious trap I fall into is accepting what I've come to believe as the meaning of what I've read. Or maybe I'm blinded by my primary concern at the time and just don't see the larger meaning. That's something I need to work on.

Thanks for your help.

Yours in Jesus,

Response #8: 

You are very welcome,

I am happy to have been able to have been of some help to you.

Feel free to write any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

I read your installments on the Sabbath and, as always, these have progressed my understanding. Although, I always strive for full understanding of the scripture (and hence the multitude of questions - I'm keen to comprehend as much as possible - your patience is much appreciated), and one part which prevents me from recognizing the cohesiveness of your reasoning is that the commandment (and it's the commandment that I refer to here, as opposed the Law) says clearly that 'six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath'.

8 "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

Consequently, in order to fully understand your writings on Sabbath, I would like to know what to do with the content of this commandment specifically talks about six days and a day of Sabbath. I know that Our Lord healed on Sabbath and hence I obviously accept that this is what we should do, but in terms of interpreting the commandment - it makes it even more difficult to understand, as Our Lord said that 'He didn't come to abolish the Law' (and on the other hand, He did what was considered to be the breaking of a commandment). Please clarify.

Response #9: 

I've opined before about the fulfilling of the Law and what that means elsewhere (see the link: Paul and the Law), so I will restrict myself here to answering the specific question. The fourth commandment is the only one not repeated in the New Testament and that is for a very good reason, namely, that it is the most likely to be misconstrued by those who are now not under the Law but under grace. The ten commandments comprise a code of behavior that includes much more than is often assumed. I break down the various categories to show that when seen from a positive viewpoint (i.e., the Law of Love vs. the Law of Rules) they are a clear guide to how even Christians should live their lives (see the links: "The Ten Commandments"; and "The Commandments" in this piece to which you refer). The fourth commandment follows the commandments dealing with how we are to reverence the Lord and is the one commandment which deals with our positive response to Him. Under the Law, that response was focused upon the teaching rituals of the Law which were predominantly focused on the seventh day. Today there is no temple, no sacrifice, no community of God's people living according to the regulations of the Law. Today, our response to the Lord is, with the coming of the Spirit, so much more than the observance of shadows. It is now the reality of sanctifying the Lord not by a one day observance but in a moment by moment walk with Him, sanctifying Him in our hearts, and not in some ritual. The fourth commandment, rightly understood and applied, comprised and encapsulates what our Christian lives in these latter days should be all about: living for Jesus every day – every hour, every minute, every second, every step of the way.

So then there does remain a Sabbath-comparable rest (sabbatismos) for the people of God.
Hebrews 4:9

So yes we do still have the Sabbath rest – at all times, if we are "resting in Jesus", relying on Him and not on ourselves, "resting from our own work" (Heb.4:10) and trusting God to work for us and through us. Honoring and loving Jesus in a moment by moment fellowship of resting in Him is the only way to advance far in the Christian life, and the only way to be completely spiritually safe:

Let us therefore be eager to enter into that [continual and spiritual ] rest, lest anyone fall [from grace] following the same pattern of disobedience [as the Exodus generation did].
Hebrews 4:11

Question #10:  

Your response on Sabbath really helped - in particular, the explanation that this (the forth commandment) is the 'one commandment which deals with our positive response to Him. Under the Law, that response was focused upon the teaching rituals of the Law which were predominantly focused on the seventh day. Today there is no temple, no sacrifice, no community of God's people living according to the regulations of the Law'.

The problem I had is that I treated the Ten Commandments as a separate entity and because of that I wouldn't even take into account that they might not be absolute and ultimate code (which they are, but apart from the fourth commandment). This is probably another relict of my catholic background - Sunday is the day of the mass and rest and the commandment is considered to be 'in place' and as valid as ever. In the light of that, am I correct to assume we should perceive the six days and a Sabbath mentioned in the commandments as a part of the Law that was fulfilled and no longer to be followed?

Response #10: 

It has been fulfilled in the sense that we can now "enter into His rest" at all times. That was always the case, of course (cf. Ps.62:1), but with the coming of the Spirit who indwells all believes, we now have the power to do so, and with the completion of the New Testament, we now have the full panoply of truth to be able to do so consistently as individual Christians imitating Jesus Christ. One word on this is that there is no scriptural brief for "moving" the Sabbath to Sunday which is the first day of the week, not the seventh. So Christians who want to observe the Sabbath but are doing it on the wrong day merely show how silly this exercise is. Of course then if we wish to "observe the Sabbath" correctly, the next thing you know we will be adopting Jewish customs (as the Messianics do) until we are doing precisely what Paul was trying to do before he was saved and behaving just like the people whom Jesus criticized. The manner of Sabbath observance as it existed in Jesus' day was a post-exile phenomenon, and while it originated from a desire to do what God required it quickly morphed into a legalistic ritual for legalistic ritual's sake devoid of the true original purpose: time and opportunity to learn the truth of the Word of God.

Question #11: 

Having read all your answers to my questions and all your installments regarding this issue, I still don't fully understand how specifically Hebrews 4:1-11 teach the day-by-day rest for Christians. I understand that following our Lord's example on this matter is what we should do and I am not putting this teaching into question, but I am not clear as to how Paul teaches it in the fourth chapter of Hebrews. At the moment this chapter seems ambiguous to me and leaves a lot of room for a number of interpretations.

And there are numerous ways in which these passages are explained (for example many teach that the rest discussed there is the eternal rest in heaven), hence I would like to know why and how specifically we can build the doctrine of continual rest in this life for Christians based on this piece of scripture. I would really appreciate it if you could guide me through the verses 1 to 11, step-by-step clarifying your interpretation.

Response #11: 

Hebrews is a difficult book to interpret, perhaps the toughest. And it is hard to disentangle one small part of the argument from all the others. I would want to start here by saying that the "Sabbath rest for the people of God" mentioned in verse 9 of chapter four is clearly important as the center-piece of the discussion in the context and has to refer to something. So the first step is to determine to what it refers. I have never heard the "heaven" interpretation before but I think that can be easily disposed of. Paul is throughout this context and this book exhorting believers to change their ways here and now and adopt better practices in their Christian walk. His particular discussion of what this "faith rest" is in verse ten shows that it requires "ceasing from [our own] work", and in verse eleven not only are we commended to exert effort to enter this rest but also told that failing to do so is disobedient. Since eternal rest comes to all Christians when God takes them home – quite apart from any specific effort directed towards this end – and since it is automatic and cannot be resisted when death comes – so that there can be no question about any disobedient failure to enter – it seems that this interpretation you mention cannot hold water. It is also the case that nothing in this context in Hebrews near or far is focused on heaven or the resurrection or eternal life.

If we are in agreement that the rest here is not "eternal", then the next thing is to establish that Paul is not talking about the Jewish Sabbath. Since the entire epistle is designed to turn Jewish believers away from prior practices of continuing to follow the Law in preference to Christ, it would stand to reason prima facie that this is not the meaning here. That, it seems to me, is also very clear from the context. Paul compares this "rest" to what Moses and the people had been offered and denied with what Joshua and the next generation had actually entered into: the "peace" of coming into an inheritance and a life with God. This is clearly something that is not a once a week peace, but a "rest" which is meant to be entered into and continued in ever after. For Joshua and those who came into the land it was a physical rest from their journeying; for the Jewish believers to whom Paul is writing it is a rest from the "works" of the Law in preference to the "faith" of the new life in Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 4:1 begins the discussion with the idea of the promise. As discussed previously, promises are God's part, but believing them, having faith in them, is our part. The basis for the successful Christian life, its entrance and its execution, is faith. God has worked for us. We accept that work and rest in Him, believing in Him and His work, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Heb.3:1: You should believe in Christ

Heb.3:2-6: Christ is superior to Moses and to the Law; you should believe in Christ

Heb.3:7-10: Don't follow the example of the generation that refused to enter the land of promise.

Heb.3:11: They refused to believe God's promise and He refused them His rest – which comes as a result of believing the promise.

Heb.3:12-14: Jesus is our Lord, the fulfillment of the promise to us, if we hold onto our faith.

Heb.3:15-19: So don't be like the exodus generation who failed to enter rest, that is, failed to enjoy the promise of God, because they refused to believe the promise, refused to enter their rest through faith.

Heb.4:1: That promise of rest, that salvation through faith, that life of faith that leads to reward, is valid for us today – so we better not fall short of it through lack of faith.

Heb.4:2: Like them, we have the good news about the promise, but they refused to believe and as a result did not enter the rest of a life of faith with the Lord.

Heb.4:3-5: We have entered into the rest and the peace of God through believing in Jesus Christ – so should we not make every effort to live that way from here on in (as you in Jerusalem are not in fact doing as you should)? After all, the Lord told that generation that because of their lack of faith they would be excluded from His rest. But what is He referring to? He had completed His construction of the universe long before – so it is not the rest of the seventh day to which He is referring when He mentions "rest".

Heb.4:6-7: It is precisely because some do obey and trust in Him in all things, entering into His rest initially and abiding in it thereafter, that He has proclaimed "Today" as the day of rest – meaning everyday.

Heb.4:8: That is clear because the "today" promise still exists after Joshua's day.

Heb.4:9: Yes, there is "rest day" right here and now available for God's people, a "day" everyday wherein we are to rest from our own work and the works of the Law and instead trust God, accepting all of His promise by faith.

Heb.4:10: He set the example of what we are to do by resting on the seventh day forever after; we too then ought not to go back to the works of the Law or any personal striving after accepting Christ, but should instead walk hand in hand with Him in faith: that is the rest of faith.

Heb.4:11: Failing to do so is to lack faith, to be disobedient to His truth, to refuse the rest and the peace He offers us day by day; so let us not be unfaithful, disobedient, and spurn the promises of God; let us instead do all we must and should to rest in Him, believing all His truth and following it, rather than trusting to our own efforts, and especially to the precepts of the Law which have now been fulfilled and replaced (Christ is superior to Moses in every way as I demonstrated above: He is the true object of our faith, not Moses or the Law or the works of our own hands).

Heb.4:12: The way to accomplish this day by day walk of faith is by believing without reservation the truth of the entire Word of God . . .


"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."
Matthew 11:28-29 NIV

"Abide in Me, and I will abide in you."
John 15:4

Peace I leave for you; peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
John 14:27

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
John 16:33 NKJV

A psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23:1-6 NIV

For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, "In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength." But you were not willing.
Isaiah 30:15 NIV

So now that we have been justified by faith, let us take hold of the peace [we have] with God [the Father] through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained our access into this grace in which we stand, and let us boast in the hope of the glory of God (i.e., in anticipation of our resurrection).
Romans 5:1-2

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence.
1st John 3:18-19 NIV

Thus, it is not as if the peace of faith-rest which comes from believing the promises of God and walking in them is a doctrine which is not taught elsewhere in scripture – far from it. It is a doctrine which pulses through every page of the Bible. Paul's phrasing of the issue here in Hebrews is unique (because Paul is addressing a Jewish audience whom is trying to dissuade from going back to the Law, and as a result puts things in Jewish terms, the Sabbath in particular in this context). We are certainly blessed to have this wonderful articulation of the doctrine of faith-rest in Hebrews, but even without it, based upon all of its other iterations in scripture, we would still be approaching our day by day walk of faith with Jesus Christ in exactly the same way, resting in Him and His truth above and beyond all else (see, e.g., the link: "Walking with Jesus").

Question #12:  

Hi Bob,

Someone sent me this and I found it interesting, but would like to know what you think. The signs in the moon and stars timing, as in total lunar eclipses and blood moons and that (as stated) has never happened, nor ever will again, makes one think. I'm sure as they say, these things can be looked into and if true, what do you make of them. He seems sincere and Christian, but one never knows. The scriptures he uses seem to line up with what he is stating and I can see nothing which goes against God's Word, but I am not as wise as I would like to be. The video is about an hour long, I have not watched the others he says we should, yet, but I suppose I am asking you before I waste any time doing so.


In Christ,

Response #12: 

Always good to hear from you!

As a rule of thumb, whenever end times "teachers" start talking about astronomy, eclipses, phases of the moon, comets, stars and constellations, etc., that is a warning to "tune out". That is because 1) the Bible says almost nothing about any of these things, especially not in terms of any sort of prophetic signs or predictions, and 2) since most of us are not experts in celestial mechanics it is pretty easy for someone who has spent a little time becoming familiar with these matters to throw up a few charts and pictures and sound profound. This is easy to do with Greek and Hebrew too (here is something I know a little bit about, and the things they say about the Hebrew, for example, exemplify a "magical" approach to interpretation). The difference of course is that the Bible is actually written in Greek and Hebrew, but there is no need to have a clue about astronomy in order to interpret the Bible correctly.

So I can't endorse this website (which seems to be a gentiles-pretending-to-be-Jewish type of site). They have spent countless hours on astronomical details but none of that is relevant to biblical interpretation. On the other hand, they have completely failed in the things that do have to do with scripture. They seem to feel that the judgments of Revelation (the trumpets and bowls) are all precursors or close attendants of the Tribulation's commencement. The text of Revelation tells an entirely different story: the bowls, for example, are harbingers of the second advent (they should have read the Bible instead). They are also working with a chronological lens which is dependent upon the present-day rabbinical calendar – and this is a reconstruction from medieval times which does not go back to Jesus' day. Finally, they also seem intent on selling their videos (and that is always a sure tell). Perhaps the most damning observation I can make is that in spite of searching this site and the internet generally I was unable to find out who these people are – even their names – let alone what their origins, qualifications, objectives, etc. might be.

I confess that I did not spend an inordinate amount of time on these materials, but there are innumerable other obvious "problems" with this legalistic, "Hebrew roots", pseudo-Messianic ministry (as there inevitably are with all such). It has always been a source of amazement to me personally that such groups which are generally very anti-Roman Catholic are really doing exactly what Rome did, namely, reinvent itself as the "new priesthood" with a new law, new temple, et al.

I'm happy to answer any specific questions you might have.

Hope all goes well with you and yours!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

Hi--I think you explained this to me once before, but if so, I cannot find it. It is about Colossians 2:16-17, and the use of "is/are". In vs. 17, is it "which are" or "which is" a shadow of the things to come"? Our interlinear has "which is (are)." Is this another Greek idiom? An MJ correspondent is making a big deal out of the "are". I can't find it among the e-mails from you on Col. 2:16-17. You addressed the unwritten, but understood "is" as in "but the body (is) of Christ." Anyway, can you tell me why the "is (are)" in different versions? Thanks.

Response #13: 

I remember corresponding with you about these verses but not about this issue.

"Shadows" here in Colossians 2:16-17 refers to the rituals of the Old Covenant which looked forward to the cross, the things which before Jesus came in the flesh the prophets of old could not quite make out, though they were "trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow" (Pet.1:11 NIV). I'm guessing that your correspondent is wanting to make the word singular in order to reinterpret in some self-serving and incorrect way. However, the word here is in definitely in the plural as is the relative pronoun "which", so without question we have to do with multiple "shadows" . . . "which".

As to the verb, yes, literally the Greek says "is" but we translate "are". That is because throughout the history of ancient Greek neuter plurals take a singular verb. This is something unique to Greek (although I did run across one time an article by a scholar who believed it to be an "original Indo-European idiom" – but since of course "original Indo-European" is unknown to us outside of certain common vocabulary words and roots, no one can tell). I personally believe it has something to do with Greek seeing things which are component parts as part of an integrated whole and conversely seeing wholes in terms of their component parts. For example, Greek is very likely to say tauta, "these things" when we would wish to say simply "this" and conversely touto, "this", where we in English would be more inclined to say "these things".

Since this is a just a standard Greek idiom, the "is" vs. "are" has nothing to do with the argument one way or the other (although it is a truth-teller in regard to how well your correspondent knows this first-year grammar rule).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:   

Hello--I am sorry to bother you again. Hopefully, you will have a blessed Holy Week and Easter/Resurrection Day!

I have a question about Matt. 5:48. You know, where Jesus says "Therefore, you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." This sounds like a command of sorts to me, like when I was little and my mother would tell me, "You will clean up your room." This MJer says that it isn't a command, because of what the blue letter bible says:

It is a statement of fact. None of us can make ourselves as perfect as God!

"The indicative mood is a simple statement of fact. If an action really occurs or has occurred or will occur, it will be rendered in the indicative mood." "The future tense corresponds to the English future, and indicates the contemplated or certain occurrence of an event which has not yet occurred."  Blue Letter Bible

I told her that of course, none of us can make ourselves as perfect as God, but there IS one way to be perfect in His sight. And it doesn't involve our efforts at all, which would be impossible. I think she is saying that Jesus is saying that we will be one day as perfect as our heavenly Father is, but in the future, in heaven. But in context, it sounds as if Jesus is giving a command, now, NOT to be like the gentiles and tax collectors, who only love those who love them, etc. And that His disciples and others listening to Him are NOT to be like them but to be as perfect as their heavenly Father is.

Could you check on this for me, please? Is it a command or just a statement of fact about something that will happen in the future? Is it a Greek idiom or something like that? Thanks and God bless you for your help.

Response #14: 

Your explanation of the theology is precisely correct. As to the grammar, the verb form here at Matthew 5:48, esesthe (ἔσεσθε), is in the future indicative. However, Jesus is quoting from the Old Testament:

"You must be blameless before the LORD your God."
Deuteronomy 18:13 NIV

"Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy."
Leviticus 19:2b NIV

Greek is different from Hebrew, so the LXX translators had to make some accommodations, and one thing which they did pretty consistently was render the Hebrew imperfect as the Greek future. And, indeed, the Greek in the Septuagint version of both of the quotes above is using the future of the verb "to be" to render the Hebrew imperfect of the verb "to be" – because in Hebrew the imperfect, as it is called, does the work of both a future and a modal. This is more often seen in negative commands, as in "Thou shalt not . . ." (where we have the Hebrew imperfect with the negative adverb lo', consistently rendered in the LXX with the future plus the negative adverb ou).

So Jesus' audience certainly knew that this was a command in spite of the fact that the verb is in the indicative, because it was clearly not only a case of Old Testament usage but a near quote (or, better, a combined quotation) of a very well-known Old Testament command.

Yours in the Perfect One whose perfection was indeed commanded to strive to emulate,

Bob L.

Question #15:   

Thanks. However, my correspondent will probably say it is just our opinion that Jesus was combining and paraphrasing two well-known OT quotes. She still thinks that Jesus was saying what will happen to His listeners at a later date, namely, in heaven, where they will be as perfect as God. But context does not support that supposition. And she keeps saying that no human being can make themselves perfect on their own. Well, DUH! That is what Jesus does for us, through our faith in Him, where we "put on Christ" and HIS righteousness, for we have NONE of our own. For all their touted knowledge of the Law and its precepts, most of these MJers have no clue as to what it means to be a new creation in Christ Jesus. This lady still doesn't think THE Law is being talked about when Paul wrote that Jesus is the "end of {the} Law for righteousness for those who believe" because "law" here is anarthrous. But what other law could Paul be talking about, that we had been under? We were never under man-made rabbinical laws to begin with and God never said to obey those for righteousness' sake1

Thanks again. Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter!

Response #15: 

You're very welcome,

Just out of curiosity, what do they usually say about these verses?

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
Romans 6:14 KJV

So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
Romans 7:4 NIV

But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.
Romans 7:6 NIV

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:1-2 NIV

Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
Galatians 3:25 NIV

Since we who believe and now stand in God's grace are no longer under the Law, have died to the Law, have been released from the Law, have been set free from the Law, and are no longer under the supervision of the Law, how is that anyone should think that Christians ought even to consider trying to keep the Law instead of relying upon God's grace shed bountifully upon us in Jesus Christ in whom we have put our faith apart from any law?

You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
Galatians 5:4 NIV

Thanks for all you do,

In Jesus in whom we are saved by grace through faith – completely apart from the Law.

Bob L.

Question #16:  

It depends upon whom you ask on the boards. Some are more fanatical than others. Some would say that Paul is talking about all the man-made laws that were such a burden. But we have to keep pointing out to them that man was never under man-made laws to begin with and that Jesus didn't come to die to free us from them--but from the curse of THE Law, which can only condemn, not save. Which they admit. But if we point out these verses they usually try to deflect the discussion by accusing us of interpreting those verses to mean that we can go out and sin as we please, since we are under grace and not Law and Jesus will forgive us--and I keep telling them to read Romans 6. We get accused of this all the time. They will say stuff like "Oh, I guess you can go out and murder someone now, since Jesus will forgive you."

See what I mean? Most have no concept of what it means to be a new creation in Christ Jesus, that would NEVER want to kill ANYONE.

If there is no "the" in front of "law" in these verses, most take to mean man-made laws. Some say this is what was such a burden to the Jews, not God's laws, which they point out is good and righteous--which it is. But though it demands perfection, it provides no way to BE perfect. That can only come through the blood of Jesus Christ. Also, many, if not most, think that Peter in Acts 15 was talking about all the man-made laws that had been added to the LOM as the "burden neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear." But the discussion talks ONLY about the Law of Moses, which vs. 5, I think it is, plainly states. They get around this by saying, since Moses is "read in every city" that those 4 rules laid down were just the beginning and that the Gentiles were to be gradually introduced to the entire LOM and taught to follow it--even though, much later on in Acts--and it must have been some years later--those four rules were still the only ones the Gentile believers were required to follow.

Thanks for responding. Have a blessed Easter.

Response #16: 

You're welcome.

Thanks for you insight as well. It seems to me such people of whatever cult or inclination are just as Zechariah prophesied: "But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears" (Zech.7:11 NIV).

Here's wishing you and your family a blessed time this weekend as well.

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hello Brother Bob,

It has been quite a while since I have written. Hope all is well with you and your ministry for our Lord.

I am looking for info on the Priesthood of Believers, and trying to understand the difference between Chief Priest and High Priest. As always, I look forward to your spiritual insight!!

God Bless,

Response #17: 

Great to hear from you as always. On the difference between "the chief" and "the high" priest, these are synonyms for the same office. Some Hebrew authors (Jeremiah, for example) use "chief" (lit. "head") for the person who occupied the Aaronic headship, though more use "high" (lit. "big" or "biggest"). In either case, the person who was the one to enter the holy of holies on the Day of Atonement is meant. In the New Testament, we do find the plural designation "chief priests" in some of the versions as a translation for the plural hoi archiereis (οἱ ἀρχιερεις), which means, literally, "the high priests". The arch- in archiereis is a Greek translation of the Hebrew word ro'sh ("head") used by most of the OT writers for the high priest and that is paralleled precisely in the NT usage as well (i.e., the same word is used for the one high priest wherever he is mentioned only in the singular). As a result, while some have felt that "the chief priests" ought thus to be translated "the high priests" (that is what it actually says), most have concluded (against, e.g., Schόrer), that this group could not have contained only prior high priests. That is not, however, impossible. After the Maccabees, the office of high priest was not passed on in the traditional way but became a political office and a means of enfranchising key players into the top echelon of the Jewish elite. Biblically speaking, however, there is no such thing as a "chief priest" or "former high priest". In God's economy, there is the high priest and all the other priests. Everything else is later human invention.

As to our Lord's High Priesthood which replaced the one in the Law (Heb.2:17; 3:1; 4:14; and chapters 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, and the "priesthood of believers", that is, the unique access we all have to God as a result of union with Jesus Christ, sharing in everything He has and is by virtue of being a part of His Body, the Church, including His priesthood (e.g., Rev.1:6), you will find what I have written about these matters at the following links:

Our Access to the Father gained through Christ's victory

Our Access to the Father as Illustrated in the Tabernacle

Jesus is the High Priest

Melchizedek and the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ

The Priesthood of the Believer

Sharing Christ's Priesthood

This precise subject has not yet been treated directly in a formal way, so please do let me know if you have any further questions not answered in these links.

Yours in Jesus Christ our Great High Priest whose access to the Father we share through faith in Him,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Why were some commanded to abstain from grapes when taking a vow for dedication? Num.6:3

Response #18: 

Numbers 6:3 refers to the nazarite vow. Grapes are the origin of the essential alcoholic beverage of the ancient world, namely, wine. Since fermentation represents corruption and as drinking alcohol represents worldly rather than spiritual influence, nazarites were required to abstain even from the possibility of having anything to do with this symbol – while they were under the vow. And at least where grapes are concerned, we certainly have to do with symbolism: Priests also, for example, were not to drink wine before coming into the tent of meeting (Lev.10:9).

Question #19: 

James 1:23: and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

How should we understand 'the garment polluted by the flesh' - is it a symbol, or should it be taken literally?

Response #19: 

Well, it's both. In the Law, the pollution that came from contact with those who were unclean was a large issue, and required even those who were clean but who had contact with the unclean person or his/her garments et al. to be unclean for a time as well – so that no doubt everyone shied away from all such persons during their uncleanness. That is the type of circumspection James commends – and it can be taken literally as well since, clearly, if there is any physical mark of unclean behavior that would be a sign that such circumspection is necessary.


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