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Legalism, Past and Present.

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Question #1:

Could you explain Mark 10:18-21:

18 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’" 20 "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

The young ruler calls our Lord "good" through empty flattery, and yet "Jesus looked at him and loved him"?

Response #1:

The Greek verb agapao is often not well-understood even by biblical exegetes. There were three common verbs for love in ancient Greek: erao which always has a sexual reference; phileo which was the more common verb and comprised everything from friendship to passionate romantic love (and can also mean to kiss); agapao is not particularly common outside of the NT but means the sort of love which stems from familiarity and customary use; my old pastor used to describe this as "impersonal love" and that is not a bad perspective to keep in mind. The verb means, generally, to love without passion or arbitrary preference, but rather with the comfort of long usage. The verb is so prevalent in the NT that we might not want to exclude the more generic idea of "love", but as in this passage it is also the case that we have to keep in mind its basic meaning elsewhere in Greek from time to time. In this passage you ask about we might over-translate for the sake of elucidation, "Jesus looked at him with tolerant friendliness". Our Lord was well-aware of the legalistic mind-set represented by this person, but also recognized that the young man was floundering for a life-line. Therefore His attitude towards him was one of agape, the tolerant love we owe our brothers and sisters when they likewise say ridiculous things or act in legalistic ways but may have "good intentions" hidden behind their actions. It doesn't mean that we consider them our best friend or love them in a romantic way of course; rather it means that we put up with them as we would anyone or anything that is within our personal ambit – in a godly Christian way. This young man was different from the other Pharisees and scribes who were merely trying to trap Jesus or justify themselves without any intention of changing; he had one foot stretched out to the truth even as the other was mired in the quick-sand of legalism. Our Lord was completely apprised of the true situation and sought to help him extricate himself – if only he were really willing to be extricated. That is the sort of loving attitude scripture commends in us when we confront anyone in whom there might be a glimmer of the positive.

Question #2:

Dr. Luginbill,

What were the sins of the pharisees exactly? I read that the modern interpretation of pharisees is wrong. Most people believe that the pharisees were righteous. I know the Bible says that unless we exceed the righteousness of the pharisees, we will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. This person made the case though, that the pharisees were not righteous. They were experts in the Law, but they themselves did not follow it.

Matthew 23: " The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ (vs. 2-7)"

So, it seems the Pharisees were righteous in word but not deed. How does this effect the interpretation of verses like Matthew 5:20? I always thought there was no way to be more righteous than the Pharisees, because they strictly kept the law. However, they apparently didn't keep it at all. So to be more righteous than the pharisees, one only needs to back up their words with deeds.

How did the current view of pharisees come to be so backwards? It's almost the exact opposite of how it was in biblical times. The pharisees were people who knew the Law and gave it lip service, but would not hold to it. I've noticed that when a Christian takes a strong stance against sin, they are called a pharisee. If you say that Christian's are still bound to the ten commandments (with the exception of the sabbath), you're a pharisee.

Ironically, the person calling someone a pharisee is probably the real pharisee. It seems to me that a Pharisee is someone who talks about following God, but they never get around to actually following.

What are your thoughts on this interpretation?

Here is the link to the website I was reading from.



Response #2:

I have heard this interpretation before, but only in recent years. It seems to stem from the new Messianic "Law-keeping" movement that has been gaining popularity of late. In terms of the Bible, however, as you clearly know our Lord is very specific about the Pharisees and in many places. One of the most detailed indictments He delivers are the famous "seven woes" (Matt.23:13-36; see the link). Here Jesus systematically castigates these unbelievers for their hypocritical and legalistic conduct, summarizing towards the end "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?" (v.33). In light of this, how anyone who has actually read the New Testament could possibly think that the Pharisees were "good guys" or truly righteous in God's eyes is, frankly, beyond me. The New Testament is very clear that the only righteousness which counts with God is the righteousness which comes through faith (e.g., Romans chapter 4), because " if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Gal.2:21 NIV).

So I commend your obvious spiritual-common-sense which led you to question this dangerous and clearly incorrect point of view. I have written a good deal about these sorts of issues in the past. Here are some pertinent links:

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism I

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism II

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism III

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism IV

The Law, Love, Faith-Rest and Messianism

The Apostles, the Jerusalem Council, and Legalism then and now.

Paul and the Law

Combating Legalism I

Combating Legalism II

Combating Legalism III

Combating Legalism IV

Combating Legalism V

Combating Legalism VI

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Robert,

Hope you are well! Could you tell me if God accepted in an legitimate capacity any further 'blood' sacrifices subsequent to the Cross as obligatory to the Mosaic Law, the Aaronic priesthood, and the Temple sacrificial system?

As we know from history the Temple stood many years following the Crucifixion of Christ until 70 A.D. - but did God 'officially' accept, as before the Cross, their sacrifices?

Response #3:

When Jesus exhaled His spirit so as to depart this life, His work of redemption accomplished, God supernaturally split the temple veil, indicating fairly obviously that the prior ritual requirements had been replaced by the reality of the gift of life in His Son our Lord.

We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2nd Corinthians 3:13-17 NIV

There is no indication directly from scripture that believers presented such sacrifices after the sacrifice of Christ – with two exceptions: 1) Paul's ill-fated attempt to participate in the ceremonial purification of some young men which resulted in his many years of imprisonment (and scripture is fairly clear on the point that he was in error in doing this; see the link: "Paul's Jerusalem Error"); and 2) Paul's later warnings to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem about the serious error of participating in such sacrifices now that "Christ our Passover has been sacrificed" (1Cor.5:7):

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because (i.e., "while") to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.
Hebrews 6:4-6 NIV

The fact that the Lord allowed the second temple to be utterly destroyed and has to this day not allowed it to be rebuilt or such sacrifices to be reinstituted is also very telling – at least to those of us who understand that God in His power could easily have accomplished this at any time. I believe the reason is that the continuation of such things would have been a fatal distraction to the young Church – just as it was to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem to whom Paul (anonymously) addresses the book of Hebrews. Escaping from the traditional Jewish orbit of thought and practice was necessary, not because of any defect in the Law or Israel – far from it! It was necessary because the majority of the Jewish people at that time and the influential and powerful among them in particular did not accept Jesus as the Messiah. As such, the meaning of the sacrifices would never be changed from what they had originally signaled, namely, the future sacrifice of the Messiah for the sins of the world. In this case, then, participating in the sacrifices on the temple mount after the cross supported and gave credence to the false idea that the Messiah had not yet come, that He still needed to make (another) sacrifice, and was thus "crucifying Him afresh" (Heb.6:6). Only after the return of the two witnesses, when the third temple is erected and the sacrifices reinstituted with all appropriate explanation as to their true post-cross purpose (i.e., as a memorial to the accomplished work of Jesus on the cross, rather than an anticipation of a future sacrifice), will God allow a revival of these practices.

The "learning curve" for that first generation of believers was steep, and we know from the epistles and the book of Acts that even the apostles didn't necessarily "get it" all immediately (cf. Peter's failure to see the 2,000 years of the Church to come at Acts 3:19; and Paul's continuation with "vows" at Acts 18:18). For example, we find out at Acts 11:16 that Peter only "remembered" about the Lord's prophecy stressing the baptism of the Spirit over water-baptism when he saw Cornelius and the assembled company of pious gentiles receive the Spirit's outpouring. And in this last case, it required 1) a very detailed and thrice repeated waking vision from the Spirit (i.e., the tablecloth lowered from heaven containing the unclean animals); 2) a direct, audible command from the Spirit to go with the men who were seeking him; 3) the report of the vision of the angel giving specific instructions to send for him; and 4) the actual experience of seeing the Spirit coming upon gentiles at the point of faith for Peter to begin to understand that the gentiles were being called to salvation, that they too would receive the Spirit, and that it was this baptism of the Spirit to which all prophecy was directed (not water baptism). If the apostles required such detailed help to "get it", well, it is not surprising if the Jewish believers of Jerusalem did not immediately switch from Law to grace. Indeed, it is not too much to say that the entire history of the church-visible is tied up in conflicts on that essential point, with the Roman church being essentially a gentile version of the regime of Law (absent any of its original truth, however).

So to answer your question, I believe the issue is beyond doubt that animal sacrifice from the day of the crucifixion until the present time was and remains a serious misapplication of God's truth based (at best) on a lack of appreciation of what Jesus actually accomplished on the cross. It is probable that first century believers in Judea continued in these rituals from time to time. I would imagine that in the early days there would have been a greater measure of understanding/forgiveness for such behavior, but less as time went by and the Lord began to make His truth more and more accessible (cf. Lk.12:48). Paul baptized with water early on in his ministry, but later regretted having done so (1Cor.1:14-17). The best we can say on this, therefore, is that believers who understood who Jesus really was and what He had really done very much should have understood as well why continuing to sacrifice was wrong, especially with the new ministry of the Spirit.

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

In the Lord Jesus who died for all of our sins on Calvary's cross,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hello--I have one VERY quick question for you--could you please tell me what this means?

Stop being a  מבֿין

Someone on CARM called someone else that. I suspect it is "ass" but just wanted to see what you had to say. If it were in Greek, I could read it and look it up, but I can't read Hebrew. Thanks as always. 

Response #4:

I'm not Modern Hebrew expert, but this form is derived from bhiyn which means "to perceive, understand". The noun in MH means "expert", but I think in this context it probably means "know-it-all".

Yours in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Dr

During my study I have come across the name Metatron and so much is being said about him related to the Bible yet I have never come across his name in the it, would you know of him and who he is and his significance


Response #5:

Good to hear from you – many apologies for the delay in response (I was out of town visiting family for Christmas).

"Metatron" is not biblical and has nothing to do with the Bible whatsoever. This is a part of Judaic mythology where M. is a high-ranking angel (see the link: "Gnosticism"). I am no expert in this area but it seems to me that he was probably invented to explain all those difficult Old Testament passages which clearly show the Trinity, such as passages where the Angel of the Lord is identified as the Lord (you might want to check out the link: "Jesus Christ in the Old Testament").

Yours in Jesus our Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

I have just re-located from South Africa, and am now in the United Kingdom. I have wandered from church to church - cannot even count how many different churches! The last were people who ONLY believed in the Saviour's Hebrew name - Yahshua (pronounced Yawshua ) ... they said Jesus meant ZEUS! I am afraid I was in such a state of worrying to do the RIGHT thing - that I believed them for a time! Then I realised that it was just to keep people in their church - and isolated from the Body ... and became quite threatening to me. So I left that congregation. I have joined an Evangelical church here. I have come to realise that I am English, not Hebrew and there IS no harm in using the name Jesus the Messiah. Have I done an evil thing by believing He has a Hebrew name? I have been reading Watchman Nee's writings, which have really helped me to come right - and of course, as you see - searching all the time for revelation after many wrong teachings. Would be most grateful for your input, as the church have asked me to become a member here. I know I am already a member of the Body of Christ and really don't see why I have to become a member ... but I think it is so they don't take in any phonies. Anyway, would like your input. Thanks a lot

Response #6:

Good to make your acquaintance. Transitions like yours are always difficult, especially as we get older (I know that is true for me and for my loved ones).

On the Name, yes I quite agree that this is a silly issue. In the Greek New Testament, Jesus' name is Iesous, not Yahshua or anything of the sort. If the inspired New Testament is given to refer to our Lord as "Jesus", I'm not sure how groups who have a problem with this can complain – except by throwing out the New Testament (which is precisely what many of them do). Please see the link: "Changing the Name of God?"

I also quite agree with you about the "joining" thing. You clearly have a good sense of self-preservation when it comes to cults and cult-like behavior. In my estimation of these issues, wanting people to "join" is less about protecting the group and more about exploiting the individual. Please see the links: "Church Membership and Salvation" and "Read Your Bible: Protection against Cults".

Please do feel free to write back about any of this – and welcome to Ichthys (no joining necessary)!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #7:

Hullo Bob and thank you for a wonderful response. I still have another important question - these people also said that the Messiah was once, or still is Michael the arch angel! Can you help here please?

Response #7:

You're very welcome.

As to your question, Jesus is the Son of God. He is not an angel, not Michael or any other angel. He is true God and a true human being (since the incarnation) in one unique person. There is an entire book of the Bible devoted to disproving that terrible untruth (i.e., the book of Hebrews where Paul disabuses Jewish believers of this Jewish myth designed to denigrate our Savior). For some details, please see the link: "The Divinity of Jesus Christ", and please also feel free to back about anything else.

Yours in the LORD Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Oh how grateful to have rectified this terrible untruth. I will go into that link and study. One more thing Bob! Sorry to be a nuisance - but these people also say we must not use the pagan words - like Holy. They say it comes from holi a greek god! Also Glory was gloria, and the word sanctify also they say is wrong. I did not agree with them and have a friend who is corresponding with me who is very strict about not using these words and uses Yahshua ... but believes in the discipline of the Spirit. I got that scripture that talks about "strife of words". I would so like your confirmation on this. Am studying all your notes and as I said, eternally grateful for the help to straighten out the crookedness.

Thank you for your time.

Response #8:

Good to hear from you again. Yes, this is more nonsense. The word "holy" is of Germanic origin (as most of the basic words in English are), and means, etymologically at least, "whole"; "glory", on the other hand, is a Latin loan-word from gloria – which means "glory". If these two words were not appropriate for Christian use, it is hard to say what words could be used instead. We believers would be reduced to grunts and nods so as not to offend. In fact, of course, I know of no verse in the Bible which commands us to refrain from using particular words, except of course if they be pornographic, blasphemous, or scatological. Since that is not the case for any of these words about which you ask, your notice of the scriptures which counsel avoiding conflict over such things is well-taken (1Tim.6:4; 2Tim.2:14).

Thanks for your good words in Jesus Christ!

Bob L.

Question #9:

Thanks Bob,

Another question about the name - the last assembly I was at are just going bonkers about the name - have changed it 3 times and now considering changing all their choruses and notes! I believe they will never find the right name ... not the way they go. I have searched a lot over this and last looked at Andrea Clarke's on Rev 3 v 12. He talks about the Presence. I see the Scriptures use that a lot. I read a book by Brother Lawrence called "Practising the Presence of God" and he said he could do that while washing the dishes, working and all. So is that praying ? So we can pray as to communing with God this way?

Also-for the name or Presence: Rev 2 v 17; Acts 4 v 12; Acts 27 v 23. The last says " For this very night there stood by my side an angel of God to Whom I belong and Whom I serve and worship". Somewhere it says not to worship angels...oh dear! This confused me a bit as Acts 4 v 12 says "there is NO OTHER name under the heavens" to call upon. If we believe it is Jesus, then isn't that the name we should use ... what about His Hebrew names ... Yeshua/Yashua

Sorry to worry you, but after all I've been through I must get it right! I think God had me sent over here to the UK to get me right! Whatcher think?!

Thanks a lot Bob for your help.

Response #9:

Good to hear from you. The word "Name" in the Bible, based upon Hebrew usage, means more than our English word does, but also something rather different. The "Name" is the Person represented by the Name, and it is the Person behind the Name which is important, not some magical property in the wording or pronunciation of the Name for the Person which is what is truly important. God's Name YHVH is a form of the Hebrew verb "to be" and expresses His essence as the font of all being and all life. Understanding that is what is important, not how it might be pronounced (please see the link: "YHVH"; and if you have not already done so, I really do recommend having a look at this set of email responses which are most germane to your questions: "Changing the Name of God?"). So for example when our Lord tells the disciples to be "baptizing [new converts] into the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit", He is speaking of the union we possess in God when we believe (not water-baptism), as the "Name" is the Person – we become one with Jesus (and the Father and the Spirit) when we place our faith in Him. In the context of Acts chapter 4, "Jesus Christ" is the "Name" which is the only one through which to be saved, and thus it is clear that it is not any magical pronouncement of the specific name itself but belief in His Person and acceptance of His saving work about which Peter is speaking, using "Name" in the Hebrew sense. Indeed, English really is somewhat silly in this regard, because what is a name or of what use is a name except to represent someone or something behind the name which has the true significance? In like fashion, Revelation chapter 2 is speaking of the new name each Christian will receive in eternity. Just as God has sometimes renamed important believers in this life, so all of us will be renamed in eternity with a name which perfectly reflects the nature of our lives for Jesus Christ here in this temporary world (something that should motivate us to serve Him as best we can; please see the link: "The White Stone"). I'm not sure what Acts 2:17 has to do with any of this, but I'm happy to discuss it if you wish to clarify.

Finally, it says in Psalm 1:2 of the believer who loves the Lord, "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." (NIV). N.b., "law", or torah, means, literally, "teaching". There are many passages in scripture and even more examples of spiritual men and women contemplating God's truth at all times. Everything we do in this life is a choice, and that includes what we decide to think about (or allow ourselves to think about) moment by moment. Clearly, it would be wonderful if in all our spare waking moments we made our hearts dwell on the Lord and all His wonderful truths which He has shared with us. None of us is perfect in this respect; there is much room for improvement, and we can and should improve. For the more we actually access and apply the truth of the Word we have learned, the better our relationship with the Lord in every way, since He is the source of our strength. We are told by scripture that Moses' courage and endurance stemmed from exactly this as he kept on "seeing him who is invisible" through every pressure (Heb.11:27 KJV). On this topic please see "Walking with Jesus" and the other links contained therein).

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Sorry Bob, it was Acts 27 v 23 where Paul said "... by my side, an angel of the God to Whom I belong and to Whom I serve". Very much God's own angel, as by this time Jesus was ascended ... and it could not have been Michael? I am going to study the great tribulation, the 144 000 and your Satan's rebellion series ... so will be very busy!

Bob thank you so much - this is what I have been finding out too - that it is the Person, the Eternal Spirit behind the name that counts. They are going dilly trying to find the right name and some even say if you don't know the right name to call on, you won't be saved! I ask you! I will spend all my time on searching your website, especially the links you have just given me.

Thank you for all your help

Response #10:

Paul says "an angel of God", so it could have been any angel, Michael included (not specified).

You are very welcome – best wishes for your studies!

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hullo Bob,

Me again! Was reading Revelation ch 14 v 14 and Daniel ch 7 v 13 ... could you just tell me where to slot in at your site to get the answer?

Going to start the Great Trib series next!

Many thanks

Response #11:

Both passages feature our Lord Jesus, but the Revelation passage is an allegory which foreshadows the coming Great Persecution of the Church (see the link: "The Harvest of the Martyrs" in CT 4). The Daniel 7 passage, which parallels the opening of the scroll of Revelation at Revelation chapter 5, is translated and discussed at the following link in CT 2B: "The Lamb and the Scroll".

Best wishes for your continuing study of the Word!

Write any time.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Have just spent about 2 hours on the harvest of the martyrs - have copied it to my documents and will have to ask for more air-time soon ... but it will be worth all I have to do the studies. Just one or two things - in John 1 v 1,2 it says "The Word was God "... am not too clear on this as we have had so much hurled at us - also the Trinity. In Rev 14 v 1 it says "with Him 144 000 men who had His name and His Father's name inscribed on their foreheads ..." Does this mean they have different names - the name of the Father and the name of the Son, Jesus? I have to get this right! If you could just tell me where to look.

Many thanks.

Response #12:

You are very welcome. On "the Word was God", please see the link: "What does "the Word was with God" mean in John 1:1-2?". On the Names, yes, this is indeed Jesus' Name and the Father's name; please see the link in CT 4 "The Martyrdom of the 144,000: Revelation 14:1-5" for the details.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hullo Bob - just want to thank you for your last reply about the Trinity. This has worried me for the last 6 years as I think I was in a heretical sect that taught there was no Trinity and were chopping and changing to first One God, then 2 Gods, changing the name. I do not know why I was taken in so badly. Kept reading watchman nee's books which I think kept me alive - and until I could get to your truths in Ichthys.com. Thank you so much for your dedication. I really owe my spiritual life to you.

Many thanks

Response #13:

You are most welcome.

Write any time.

I appreciate your spirit.

In Jesus the Lord who died for us that we might live forever with Him,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hullo Bob

Some more questions! I see the Trinity is One essence and three persons. Thank you. Do you think the Essence would be the Spirit? Jeremiah ch 23 v 24..."Do not I fill Heaven and earth ?"

Then I had one on the "cloud " used so many times for our beloved Lord. Just give you where I found it - Matthew 17 v 5; Exodus 13 v 21; Exodus 28 v 18; Exodus 40 v 34; Deut 31 v 15; I Kings 18 v 44; I Thess 4 v 17; Psalm 68 v 34; Ps 105 v 39; Acts ch 1 v 9; 1Cor 10 v 21. The Bride, the Lamb's wife: is it true believers now? I have gotten into such a muddle with all the places I've been and need to get it straight now before it's too late! Revelation ch 21 v 9-10 and 17, says "the holy city of Jerusalem descending out of heaven from God". If you could just show me where to look on your site - I did look but got lost !

Many thanks

Response #14:

God "is spirit" (Jn.4:24), but the Spirit is a separate, distinct Person of the Trinity, so named because He is largely invisible yet extremely powerful (in both of these respects just like the wind/spirit – which is the same word in Greek and Hebrew both).

On the cloud, I'm not sure what your question is here. The cloud is generally a manifestation of the presence of God on earth, cloaking His glory so that on-looking human beings might not behold that glory and so be destroyed (cf. Ex.33:18-23).

Yes indeed, the Bride is the Lamb's wife (cf. Matt.9:15; Matt.25:1-13; Mk.2:19; Lk.5:34; Jn.3:29; 2Cor.11:2-3; Eph.1:22-23; 5:22-33; Rev.19:7-14; 21:2-4; 21:9ff.; 22:17). It is a synonym for the Church (as these passages show). The Church or Bride consists of all present day believers and all believers back to Adam and Eve (a point unappreciated or completely misunderstood by many groups; cf. 1Cor.15:23; and see the link: "The Church"). The significance of the angel calling the New Jerusalem "the Bride" is that this will be the Bride's home for all eternity (and it is likely that where we are in New Jerusalem will be a result of what we have done "by means of the body" here in time; see the link "The Judgment and Reward of the Church").

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Thank you Bob. I have put 2 other people on to your website - one in Pretoria, the other here in England.

How can we compensate you for all you do for us? I am eternally grateful to you and to God for leading me in this way.

Love in our wonderful Messiah Jesus

Response #15:

You're most welcome. Thanks for the "evangelism", and for your dedication to seeking the truth.

As far as compensation goes, I am always most grateful for whatever prayer support you can give.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Dear Dr. Luginbill--I hope things are going well for you and you are enjoying this cooler weather...I hope you don't mind my asking you another question. It's about Matt. 5:17-18. The Messianics I debate with say this proves the Law of Moses is in effect, since heaven and earth have not passed away. Jesus said that not the smallest letter or stoke shall pass from the Law until ALL is fulfilled. Yet, at least part of the LOM has passed away--the entire sacrificial system and the Levitical priesthood, which is a whole LOT of strokes! Jesus certainly fulfilled THAT entirely by His holy innocent suffering and death, as even most of them admit, though a few think, foolishly, that Jesus' sacrifice was only meant to pay for the sins that led to death, while animal sacrifices were to pay for lesser sins. In the absence of the temple and priesthood in Jerusalem, Jesus pays for those, too, but it wasn't supposed to be. Yes, this is what a few actually have written on CARM boards. But His sacrifice was the perfect, once-for-all-time sacrifice for sins, never to be repeated. So, I was wondering how to explain the fact that heaven and earth haven't passed away yet, yet Jesus fulfilled the Law. Thanks. God bless.

Response #16:

I think your analysis of the overall issue here is excellent. As to your specific question about "heaven and earth", in the Greek there are two "until" clauses (Gk.: heos an). The first one, "until heaven and earth pass away" comes before "not one iota etc.", while the second one "until everything is fulfilled", comes after that main clause, and the positioning is significant. The first "until" modifies "not one iota etc.", but then all that precedes is then qualified by the second "until" clause. That is to say, the "passing away of heaven and earth" depends not only on the main clause but is also subject to the final clause, and this gives that second "until" clause the effective force of "unless and until". The meaning is clear: "it is impossible for anything to be removed from the law, so impossible that even the prophesied passing away of the present heavens and earth cannot happen first – not until everything written in law has been fulfilled by My death". To put it in formal grammatical terms, the second "until" clause is epexegitical; that is, it appends an important qualification upon which the meaning of everything preceding it in the sentence turns:

"Until heaven and earth pass away, not one iota or one serif will pass away from the Law – that is, until everything has come to pass (i.e., until the shadows of the Law are fulfilled on the cross)."
Matthew 5:18

Hope this helps,

Yours in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hi--Thank you for your analysis. How would one answer those who say that we are still under the Law, and quote this verse? Since heaven and earth haven't passed away yet? Yet, I point out that one HUGE part of the Law HAS passed away--the entire sacrificial system and Aaronic priesthood, and there is now a NEW priesthood of believers. So, how would you answer them? They quote this verse ALL THE TIME. Thanks and God bless.

Response #17:

I think by telling them as explained that "until heaven and earth pass away" only applies "until everything is fulfilled". Everything has been fulfilled. Therefore, we no longer have to wait for "heaven and earth to pass away" for the Law to be replaced by the reality which has now in fact replaced it in Jesus Christ. Without the cross, the Law would have stood until the end of time, "until heaven and earth" had passed away. But since in fact "everything" in the Law has now in fact "been fulfilled", this proviso regarding "heaven and earth" has been removed. The "heaven and earth" proviso depends grammatically upon the stipulation "until everything [in the Law] has been fulfilled". To claim that the Law will stand "until heaven and earth pass away" with no exception is to ignore completely the last part of the verse which states explicitly that this proviso only applies "until everything [in the Law] has been fulfilled". And, quite logically, once it has been fulfilled, there is no further need of the Law. And beyond all argument the Law has been fulfilled:

For Christ is the fulfillment (lit., "end") of the Law, resulting in righteousness for everyone who believes [in Him].
Romans 10:4

Yours in Him who has fulfilled the Law (before the passing away of heaven and earth), our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hello--I have told them your argument here, but they say that all has NOT been fulfilled, because the last thing to be fulfilled would be Jesus coming again--and He hasn't yet. Since that part has not yet been fulfilled, they reason that NONE of the Law has been fulfilled--but most will acknowledge that the need for animal sacrifices is over, so that part HAS been fulfilled--yet Jesus said NONE of it, not a stroke, would pass away until all has been fulfilled--which is the argument I give them. It's unbelievable how they make a Procrustean bed out of the scriptures--trying to make them fit their theology, instead of the other way around.

The MJs will say that there are many meanings to the word for "end" in the verse "For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness for all who believe." I think it means "fulfillment" myself and I think most commentators think that is what is meant. Some MJers, esp. that one I told you about, who has his own translation of this verse as "Messiah is the end of the norm for justice, for those who believe." Meaning, that Jesus brought to an end the punishment that our sins deserved--what was the "norm" for God's justice--which is of course, true. He claims the BDAG has "norm" as the first meaning of "nomia" and gives it that translation most of the time. But he thinks it means ONLY this--not that Jesus fulfilled the entire Law.

Thanks for your help.

Response #18:

No one without an agenda would ever have come up with such a frivolous interpretation of Romans 10:4. For one thing, the word nomia does not even occur in the Bible (it is a very rare word anywhere in Greek and means "lawfulness"). Secondly, the word in Romans 10:4 is nomos, Law. Third, in my edition of BAG, the word "norm" does not occur anywhere in the definition (let alone being the primary meaning). Fourth, even if this person is allowed to substitute "norm" for Law in Romans 10:4, then what, pray tell, allows him not to have to do the same in Matthew 5:18? If nomos is "norm" in the one passage, then it is in the other as well, so that whatever we call it, Christ is the fulfillment of it, and this straw-man objection is blown out of the way.

That is of course all beside the point in regard to Matthew 5:18. Here is what our Lord said in the verse immediately preceding the passage under discussion:

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."
Matthew 5:17 NIV

Christ came into the world with the express purpose of fulfilling the Law and the Prophets. Therefore one of two things must be true: either Christ did not fulfill the Law and the Prophets as these legalists claim, in which case He failed in His mission and we are all damned, or He did in fact do what He came to do as Romans 10:4 proclaims and the Law and Prophets then have been fulfilled.

These people need to learn what the cross means. Jesus' death on our behalf was the turning point of all history, human and angelic combined (please see the link: in BB 4B: "God's Plan to Save You"). Without the cross, there would have been no creation, and the cross divides everything in creation: the lost from the saved, life from death, ritual from reality. As Paul said to the Galatians who were similarly in the process of making the horrible bargain of turning back to the old as if the cross had never taken place, "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace" (Gal.5:4). This is no mere minor theological point. Those who would deny the cross – which is what legalism does – are doing precisely what the Jewish believers did in first century Jerusalem for which they were rebuked in Hebrews:

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
Hebrews 10:29 NKJV

If the Law had not been fulfilled, we would need to look for another Messiah. As it is, Jesus has atoned for "what the Law could not accomplish" (i.e., solving the sin problem) "because it was weak on account of [its dependence on sinful human] flesh"; for God, by "having sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for the purpose of [expiating] sin rendered summary judgment on [all] sin in [Christ's] flesh" (Rom.8:1). Why so many are so determined to "turn back to those weak and miserable principles" so as "to be enslaved by them all over again" (Gal.4:9) is a mystery to me. I thank the Lord that they have absolutely no reasonable scriptural basis for doing so – and at least two entire books of the Bible, Galatians and Hebrews, completely dedicated to keep them from it.

Yours in the love of Jesus Christ who has liberated us from the curse of the Law by His precious blood,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hi--I'm sorry, that is my fault--the "nomia" bit. I forgot; this guy wrote "nomos" not "nomia." The newest edition of the BDAG does have "norm" as the first translation of "nomos," with "law" as second. My BADG has "law" as first, "norm" as second, if I remember correctly. This guy doesn't translate "nomos" always as "norm,". but he does where Paul says that Christ is the end of the Law, etc. He calls himself Daniel Gregg, and is a self-styled Greek and Hebrew "expert." I told you about him before, last year. He is trying to get his own translation of the bible published. You said anybody could do that, no matter how bad a translation is, if an editor thinks it will make money. He is also a fanatical Messianic. Gotta go. Thanks.

Response #19:

I don't have the newest edition, but that seems very odd to me; i.e., I'd have to see it to believe it, and if true would have my opinion of that edition reduced dramatically. LSJ, the premier Greek Lexicon, does not have "norm" anywhere in a very long article, and makes a point of saying that in the LXX nomos means "Law of God"; they also seem to suggest that it only fails to mean Law of Moses in the NT where the "Law of Christ" is being contrasted to the Mosaic Law. That is certainly my sense of it too after nearly thirty-five years of reading the Greek New Testament day by day.

Clearly, in Romans 10:4 Paul is taking about the Law since the next verse builds on this statement and we find "Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the Law". Since it is "the Law" in Romans 10:4, if we chose to call it "norm" in that passage, we have no right not to call it "norm" in another passage which is likewise talking about the Mosaic Law. If we do so, it is clearly only to avoid having to consider this passage whose prima facie meaning we do not want to accept.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hi--I looked on our BibleWorks 4.0, which I think is based mostly upon the BADG, and it doesn't have norm as a meaning, anywhere. Mostly just "law, rule, injunction" and the like. Norm, indeed!

I can think of one place in the NT where "Law" doesn't mean "Law of Moses" and that is where Paul talks about the "Law of sin and death." One of our commentaries says that in this case, it means mostly "control." But I agree that "norm" is a weird translation. I would have to double-check our BADG to be sure, but I think "norm" was the second defintion given. I wonder what Thayer's would say.

I agree with you on the BDAG. Its sole editor was a Dr. Danker, who has very liberal leanings. My church, the LC-MS, has the copywrite on the editions of the BDAG/BADG, though most have forgotten about it, even the professors at the two seminaries. I contacted the head of the Greek department at one of the seminaries, a Dr. Voelz, who helped to translate the NT in the ESV bible that came out about 9 years ago, about it, since I knew he had a hand in the BDAG. He told me that Danker was the sole editor and all he, Voelz could do, was make suggestions. He told me that Danker has "very liberal leanings." He didn't specifiy and I didn't ask, but that right away makes me suspicious. In 1974 my church synod had what has come to be known as Seminex--Seminary in exile. The 1960's led up to a broad faculty walkout in 1974. Most of the faculty that walked out, along with a large chunk of the student body, had gotten their Ph,Ds at liberal bible colleges and were teaching their students the "historical/critical" method of interpreting the bible. I am sure you must know what that is, so I won't elaborate on it. A new president of the seminary was instituted, who was conservative and tried to get the seminary back on track. I don't remember much about it, as it happened when I was a newlywed, But there was an article about it in TIME magazine. One thing I remember from the article is that the students were being taught that the virgin birth never happened. That is a HUGE heresy and no wonder a conservative president was sent for. I don't know all the particulars but that is it in a nutshell. Danker is one of the profs that walked out. The Seminex people were eventually absorbed in to the present day ELCA--Evangelical Lutheran Church in America--which is ultra liberal, saying that not everything in the bible really happened--some things are just stories that show us God's love--and year before last, they authorized ordaining openly gay men and women to the ministry.

My own LCMS retained its conservativism, weathered the storm, and reaffirmed that the entire bible is God's inerrant word. Thank goodness, or my husband would never have become a minister in that church body!

Anyway, that is why I don't like to use the BDAG. In the BADG, which we have, one of the examples that shows that 'theos' means the one true God is John 1:1--the entire verse, including the "Word was God." A friend of mine has the BDAG and found out that this example is absent from the BDAG--but it is in our 2nd edition BADG. As I wrote, "norm" is given as a meaning in our BADG, but it is the second definition, if I remember correctly. "Law" is still the first. Does the order of the definitions in a lexicon such as the BDAG indicate which is the most common or best translation? Or does order make no difference?

This Daniel Gregg guy, who came up with his own "translation" of the bible, would never tell me where he supposedly learned Greek and Hebrew. He said he used the BDAG as a reference, but never told me where he learned Greek and Hebrew. So, I think that means he was self-taught. He is a died in the wool MJer, the "One Law" kind. They think the new covenant is a renewal of the old, Sinai covenant. One such person even had the audacity to put in "I will make a {re}new{ed} covenant with the house of Israel and the House of Judah...." What unmitigated gall--esp. when God says the NC will NOT be like the old one. A renewed covenant would then BE just like the old Sinai Covenant Law....it is amazing the twists that these people give the bible. Not just them, but the Jehovah's Witnesses, too.

Oh, well, enough of my ranting. Thanks for responding. God bless you.

Response #20:

Thanks for all this! Very informative indeed.

As to lexicons, well, making them is an art, not a science. They are all derivative (i.e., no one makes one without relying fundamentally on prior ones). Generally speaking, multiple main entries constitute significantly different meanings or particular usages. To list "norm" as separate from law would indicate, in classical lexicon style, that the passages listed under "norm" are different from the ones listed under "law". If the two words are found in the subentry (often italicized), they are only suggested translations, and the earlier they are in the entry the more "literal" or "basic" to the word they tend to be. The word nomos, of course originally means "cow pasture" in early Greek, and comes to mean "law" in the same way we have "common law" (i.e., the law of the common pasture; cf. "Boston Common"). For the New Testament, where nomos is always either technical for the Law of Moses or is a take off on the Law of Moses, not having Law with a capital "L" as the first entry is a flat out mistake.

On Romans 8:2, compare 1st Corinthians 15:56: "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law." I think Paul is contrasting the "law of the Spirit" with the Law that brings death (cf. Rom.7:10-11). After all, in the very next verse (Rom.8:3) Paul is indeed talking about the Law of Moses.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hello--Remember our discussion about the BDAG and "norm"? Well, I asked a cyber Lutheran friend of mine, who owns one, to look up the definitions for "nomos" in it and this is what he wrote back to me:'

1) of nomos in the bdag: a procedure or practice that has taken hold, a custom, rule, principle, norm

In the intro paragraph, prior to 1), "The primary mng. relates to that which is conceived as standard or generally recognized rules of civilized conduct esp. as sanctioned by tradition."

I don't see "Law" there, but I asked him what the second definition was. I will let you know when he gets back to me. So, it could be that this MJer, Daniel Gregg, was lying through his teeth, though I hate to think of someone doing something like that.

I have one more quick question: do you have Dr. Daniel Wallace's book, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics?

I have a good reason to ask, but no sense telling you, if you don't have it.

Hope you and yours have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Response #21:

I've never seen Dr. Wallace's book, but I think you had asked me some specific questions on a few of his disquisitions a few years back.

On BDAG, this is not a "wrong" definition for a diachronic Greek lexicon treating the word throughout the ca. 3,000 history of written Greek. I think I may have mentioned that the word actually means "cow pasture" (from the verb nemo meaning "to pasture"). Just as we have "Boston common" and "common law" because English common law was derived from the law of how assets held in common are treated, so it is with nomos in Greek in archaic times (i.e., pre 6th cent. B.C.). By classical times, however, nomos more commonly means written law, and even when it may mean non-written law it still means established law in the sense in which we think of law today. By the time of the Septuagint, it was the natural Greek term to be used for the written Law of Moses. And by the time of the New Testament, nomos means "the Law of Moses" in any sort of a biblical context unless there is some specific textual signal to the contrary (as for example "Law of Christ" to be understood as a deliberate parallel and contrast with the "Law of Moses"). Since BDAG is a New Testament lexicon, one would expect the almost universal meaning to be the first entry, and the original etymological meaning to come later. I suppose it doesn't matter for those who know Greek, know what a lexicon is and is not, know how to interpret scripture, etc. But for people who are under the greatly misguided impression that it is somehow legitimate to pick and choose any suggestion in a lexicon and insert it into a translation as suits their fancy without any heed to linguistic principles or hermeneutic canons, such a practice is like handing a bucket of gasoline to an arsonist.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.


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