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New Testament Interpretation II:

Who is equal? Grace in vain. Unequally yoked.

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Question #1:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

As I study 2 Corinthians, I am trying to grasp chapter 2 verses 15-17. Does Paul mean that even though some that we love and pray for perish without the Lord, we are still considered a sweet fragrance to Him? Does ‘And who is sufficient for these things?’ mean that we can only do as much as we possibly can and then it is up to the person we are praying for?

I have always loved studying and your site is so full of information that some days I become immersed like Mary and really have to make myself get up and be more like Martha.

Thank you for your time and knowledge; my prayers are with you.

Response #1:

Paul is speaking about himself in this passage (the "we" really means "I"; cf. the following verse, 2Cor.2:17), although you are certainly correct to see a wider application to all believers here. God's witness to the world takes many forms, and consists in all that He has made and also in particular those to whom He has given new life. Everything and everyone in God's universe which/who reminds us of the truth is just such a sweet smell, reminding believers of their salvation, and, one hopes, impinging on the consciousness of unbelievers to remind them of their mortality, sinfulness, and impossible situation when standing before the Lord on that day of judgment soon to come.

By "who is equal (etc.)", I believe Paul is demonstrating his humility. His ministry was perhaps the most powerful light to shine in the world with the exception of that our Lord (and if not #2, certainly one of the most important of all time). As such, that ministry led to the salvation and spiritual growth of many, but also confirmed, sadly, even more in their unbelief. In doing so, it took away any excuse for their rejection of the truth. So we can certainly understand, I think, why a humble man such as the apostle Paul would confess feeling unequal to the important and consequential task he had been given, desiring all to be saved, as our Lord does, striving for the salvation of all to whom he ministered, and being fully aware of the eternal results in each and every case. This certainly also applies to the rest of us as well, only to a lesser degree. Whenever we take the truth of the Lord upon our lips or demonstrate by our life and actions the power of His truth (or, conversely, fail to do so), we may also well feel inadequate to that important task. Yet the Lord has assigned us all the ministries for which our gifts and preparation uniquely suit us (1Cor.12), and it is incumbent upon every Christian to measure up, even if we personally feel that we fall short on the measure. Humility is fine, but it passes over into something else whenever it stanches legitimate growth, progress and ministry (compare Ex.3:14 with Ex.4:10-13).

As to Mary and Martha, as I recall, our Lord commended Mary and reproved Martha. Spiritual growth and progress should always precede ministry – not only because they are more important in the scheme of things, but also because all truly effective ministry is based upon one's faith and progress in the truth of God's Word, without which we shall only find ourselves spinning our wheels no matter how much energy we expend.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Dear Bob,

I hope responding to me emails isn't annoying or frustrating to you, since you probably get many emails every day. If I do email too frequently, please tell me so I may send them less often. I'm pretty sure I don't since you would have mentioned something beforehand, I believe, but if I do, I'd like to know. Anyway, today I read 2 Corinthians 6 and 7, and had a couple of questions about a couple of passages in 6.

The first one is towards the beginning, where Paul says "We beg you not to accept the gift and then ignore it." (NLT), and "We urge you not to receive God's grace in vain" (NIV, I think), to whom is he speaking of? I feel as though he is speaking of/towards people, like in today's age, are the 'lukewarm' believers who, while they believe ... also don't produce fruit? Is that right when I speak of 'lukewarm' people? I feel like he's speaking of/to them. Is this assumption correct?

The other one is the well known "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers." (NIV), 2 Cor 6: 14-16. "Don't team up with unbelievers." (NLT). What is Paul speaking of? The feeling I get is that he means not to let unbelievers lead you (by you I mean them, since he is addressing people in the letter) astray: don't partake in their pagan rituals/meetings/etc. Right? Am I right in believing he means not to associate with them in terms of partaking in/joining in their beliefs/rituals?

Thank you for being so patient with me.

Response #2:

Always a pleasure to hear from you (write any time).

As to your questions, as far as "receiving the grace of God in vain", while I do think it covers a lot of ground, one particular application I would always mean to make with this passage is pretty much as you describe: we are here after salvation for a reason; if we fail to do what we have been put here to do – whether that failure is catastrophic and results in loss of salvation or else the sin unto death, or merely disappointing resulting in nothing much to show for ourselves at the judgment seat of Christ – in either case we would than have "received all this wonderful grace without achieving the purpose for it". This is, as you relate, the age of Laodicea wherein lukewarmness and just such "wasting of grace" is the rule rather than the exception (see the link). So while none of us is ever going to come anywhere near to making full and appropriate use of absolutely all the wonderful things the Lord has provided in the gift of the Spirit, the spiritual gifts we have been given, the Bible, the presence of Christ, and so much more, still, we certainly ought to be doing all we can to get out the "you're wasting it" category.

Many people take the "yoked" passage to have to do with marriage. But while it is certainly clear that marrying an unbeliever is a big mistake and is covered by this passage, in my view this verse is speaking more generally about close and intimate personal associations with unbelievers of every sort. We live in the world and we cannot avoid having dealings with unbelievers every day – nor should we seek to try to avoid them. However, if we were planning to start our own business, for example, we might want to take care about whom we took on as an equal partner. One caveat to this sort of thing is that the flip-side is not without risks either: just because marrying an unbeliever or going into business with an unbelievers is unwise, that does not mean that just because the person is a believer that they are therefore the right person to marry or to go into business with.

Finally, I would certainly agree with you that your understanding of the second passage is also true: there are many things Christians should stay away from in this world, even though it is impossible to leave the world.

Best wishes for all your plans!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Dear Bob,

Today I read James 1 and 2, and understood most of it, even learned more than I had known before; though, there are a couple of verses that did confuse me, even after looking at the different versions. It's James 2:12-13.

"12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you." (NLT)

"12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment." (NASB)

"12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment." (KJV)

Earlier in the chapter, he was speaking of not showing favoritism (another topic I wanted to ask about, or I should say, revisit), though I don't know what "mercy" means in this context. Is he talking of general kindness, or giving to those who need? Like with the coat and food example in chapter one?

Also, the 'not showing favoritism part of the chapter has drawn up a small concern for me: I just might be showing favoritism in one personal situation, even though I try not to and don't want to. I have brought this up before, but this chapter is making me think about it again. Obviously, I would still try to save this person from problems whenever possible, say if serious trouble ever arose or something along those lines; however, just generally overall 'liking' this person, even as a friendship type relationship seems hard for me, part of me not even wanting to. Is this wrong of me? How can I fix feelings of "I just don't even want to be around person X"?

I hope to hear from you soon.

Response #3:

On favoritism, James is talking about giving undo respect and/or benefits to some people merely because of their worldly status to the disadvantage of other believers, merely because they lack the same sort of status. This is along the lines of what Paul says in Romans 12:16: "Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble" (NKJV) – by the way, I do like the NLT here: "Don't be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people", although the point is not socializing but being accepting of other Christians who may not be of one's own rank or social status or who may be poorer, less cultured, of a different ethnicity, etc., and not depriving them of the ministrations of the Church because they are "less worthy" by worldly canons. Paul gives the positive while James gives the negative of this principle of not treating other Christians inappropriately because of their lack of worldly prowess. That is what being a "respecter of persons" is in scripture, and we know that "God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34; Rom.2:11; Eph.6:9; Col.3:25). He does not play favorites but treats everyone equally in all important matters. That really is the key here. We are not required to socialize with everyone nor even to like everyone; we are required to be good Christians to all, to benefit all in the Church with the ministering of the gifts we have been given, and thus to exhibit genuine Christian love to all. If a person had the gift of healing (which is not being given at present in my view), and would heal only the rich and respectable but not the poor and downtrodden, that would be the kind of favoritism that James condemns and would be failing in the command to "put up with" or "accommodate oneself to" those who are not as "lovely" from the world's point of view. One last point here: this is a set of commands that deals with hypothetical situations where the recipients of our attentions are otherwise worthy in God's eyes; so this does not mean that we should associate with Nazis or axe-murders, for example . . . "or with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat" (1Cor.5:11 NIV). Families, of course, may constitute an exception. We don't always get to pick when it comes to our relations (or our family members' "significant others"), so that it is often the case that we may be in the right to continue for righteous reasons to associate with family members whom we would otherwise avoid if we were not related to them (although even here there are limits for the prudent – i.e., if our family member is a Nazi or an axe-murderer or "sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler", e.g.).

The "mercy" in the context of James 2:13 is God's mercy, and this sentiment is exactly the same as we find in our Lord's explanation of prayer to explain why we should pray "and forgive us our sins as we have forgiven our debtors":

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Matthew 6:14-15 NIV

If we want to benefit from God's mercy, His tolerance and forgiveness of us and all our faults, mistakes, errors and sins, we better make sure that we are exercising mercy to all with whom we have to do as well (see the link: "Repentance, Confession and Forgiveness").

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:


Thank you for the time and effort you have put into this site! I have found it to be a valuable resource for long-pondered questions.

My question relates to John 6:46 where it states that no man has seen the Father. While I understand that the appearances of God in the Old Testament (Mt. Sinai, wrestling with Jacob, accepting a meal from Abraham, etc.) were of the pre-incarnate Christ, it appears that The Father has hidden himself from mankind throughout history. Is this true, and if so, why?

In Christ,

Response #4:

Good to make your acquaintance – and thanks so much for your encouraging words!

As to your question, you are absolutely correct in your assumption. The reason, in my view, is for the preservation of free will. For the same reason that our Lord said so many things in parables, and for the same reason that while natural revelation tells everyone everything they need to know about God in order to be motivated to be saved – and yet does not hit them over the head with it – for that same reason the Father does not make Himself visible to the world. Unbelievers have to be free to disbelieve, otherwise this life would not be a fair test in deciding who really wants to spend eternity with God and who does not (since the immensity and majesty of Him would command worship even unwillingly given; cf. Is.45:23). Clearly, there is also the problem that no one can see God and live. But beyond that, even so it is true, as scripture says, that "Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel" (Is.45:15 NIV). Truth is precious. It is not to be poured out before swine. People ought to have to at least demonstrate an interest in it in order to receive it. For all those who do, God has provided the entire set of scriptures and the means through the Church to understand them all. But for unbelievers who are ready to trample them under foot, these things, like God Himself, remain somewhat hidden. Obvious on one level as being there (as all come to know that God exists), but unattainable and invisible for those who do not have faith. For those of us who do have faith, however, God's invisibility does not prevent us from seeing Him perfectly clearly, for the Father is distinctly revealed in the glory of the Person of Jesus Christ.

By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible (i.e., the Lord).
Hebrews 11:27 NIV

Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father;
John 14:9a NKJV

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #5:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

"And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers." (Luke 11:46)

I am ashamed that all the liberal theologians are right. The evangelical Christians today are the Pharisees of yesterday. If they could, they would start a new temple and get all mothers who committed abortion to perform daily sacrifices, and the fathers to become circumcised.

Speaking of which, the KJV of Galatians 5:12 says that the agitators should be "cut off," while the NIV says that they should go emasculate (!) themselves. Is the KJV bowdlerizing the original text, or does the NIV better capture the intended flavor?


Response #5:

I would only say "all" in the Old Testament Hebrew sense of "commonly among the group generally". There are some good men out there who are trying to teach the Bible as opposed to being involved in political action or personality cult (e.g.). Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Here is a good ministry I can highly recommend: Pastor Curt Omo's "Bible Academy" on YouTube (see the link).

As to Galatians 5:12, I suppose that depends on one's impression of the "flavor" of the words: "emasculate" is more technically accurate, but "cut off" is more viscerally graphic and also leaves no doubt about what is meant. Translation is always a tricky business: we try to capture the entire flavor of the original text while being as literally accurate as we can be – a nigh on impossible needle to thread in many if not most instances (which explains my inordinate use of parenthetical explanations in my own translations).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Could you clarify Titus 2:13:

looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,

Does by saying 'our great God and Savior' Paul refers only to our Lord, or does he mean the Father ('great God') and the Son ('Savior')?

Response #6:

While the Father can certainly be described as "Great God" and "Savior" in His own right, so can the Son, and that is the meaning here, with "Jesus Christ" being placed in apposition to these titles to show that in this instance it is Jesus to whom Paul is referring. The presence of the definite article before "Great God" before the conjunction KAI and the absence of the definite article after it before "Savior" means that the two are meant to be taken together (sometimes called "Granville Sharp's Rule"' cf. 2Pet.1:1 for a similar occurrence).

Question #7:

I came across a view that faith is grace. In a similar vein, recently a friend of mine called her faith 'God-given'. My view is that even though we cannot work our way to salvation, which comes by grace, it requires a conscious, free will choice, which is our faith. So in that regard our faith is what we 'do' or our choice. Consequently, I would not say that faith is grace, for in that case then it seems to me there would be no choice involved in salvation, because the sacrifice of our Lord is a sign of God's endless mercy and grace and not something we deserve or can achieve ourselves on the one hand, and if on the other placing the faith in that sacrifice was a matter of grace as well, or God-given gift (I'm aware that God helps us nurture the faith and directs our walk, but even that to the degree that we desire it and not against our own will, which in His perfect righteousness He cannot violate), then it would make both conditions necessary for humankind to be saved external, hence there would be no free will basis to it.

That's how I understand this matter, please correct me where needed.

Response #7:

You are exactly right. Faith and grace are – one would hope – very clearly two different things (and two different words for a reason). This is what the passage in the background here actually says:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV

Problems of misinterpretation stem from faulty renderings of the above which can make it seem as if the thing which is "not of yourselves" but "is the gift of God" is faith. In fact, it is salvation which is "not of yourselves" – that is what makes salvation of "grace" and "not of works", since God accomplishes salvation (for those who believe). But if salvation came from our own works, it would not be a grace thing but an "owed" thing (e.g., Rom.4:2-5). Faith is the (non-meritorious) means we employ to access God's grace, but it is His grace which saves us. Grammatically speaking, the "this" in verse eight above is neuter, whereas if it were referring directly to faith it ought to be feminine, as faith/pistis is a feminine noun. So is grace/charis. The neuter "this" thus must refer as its antecedent to the idea which precedes (a very common thing in Greek), namely, the fact that "you have been saved" or "salvation" (to boil this statement down to a single concept noun).

Question #8:

One more question regarding Ephesians 4:8. Why does the verse say 'He led captive'? I understand that these pre-cross believers were 'captives', but since they were freed by our Lord, why doesn't it say that 'He led to freedom' or 'He freed', but rather 'He led captive'?

Response #8:

In Ephesians 4:8, "He led captivity captive" is an (overly) literal rendering of the Greek which is in turn a literal rendering of the Hebrew based on the Greek Septuagint version. Were I worried about any confusion, a better way to render Psalm 68:18 would be "you took captive those who had been taken captive". This still presents the "problem" you adduce, I suppose. The Psalms are poetic, and one feature of poetry the world around is the use of figures of speech. In Hebrew as in many languages, this sort of deliberate repetition of roots in subjects and objects is something that might sound strained in prose but which strikes the ear as melodious and even pleasant in poetry (if done with skill). Christ liberated the captives (that is, the pre-cross believers who were in paradise below the earth and not allowed into heaven per se before the sacrifice of the cross was a reality; see the link), put more prosaically. But "took captivity captive" has a powerful, emotional effect, and readers with some experience of poetry will probably not fail to understand the essential meaning. On a literal level, it is also not wrong. Those who were before in custody below the earth (a metaphorical sort of captivity) have now had that custody transferred to the One who liberated them and brought them to heaven in His train.

Question #9:

2 Peter 2:10-12 and Jude 8-10 seem very similar - is it possible than one of the authors was paraphrasing the other?

and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed,
2 Peter 2:10-12 NASB

Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. 9 But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" 10 But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.
Jude 1:8-10 NASB

Response #9:

Yes. Indeed, I think it likely. Either Peter includes a paraphrase in his encyclical, or Jude paraphrases Peter in a letter meant for the local and broader Jewish community. My guess would be that Peter is paraphrasing Jude (as you know I place Jude a little earlier), taking Michael out because while the gentile and Hellenic Jewish communities were becoming involved with Gnosticism generally, getting Michael into the picture would have been a specific Jewish problem, akin to the worship of angels and confusion about the Person of Christ with which Paul has to contend in the book of Hebrews.

Question #10:

You wrote: Human life begins when at birth God imparts the human spirit, and it ends when the spirit returns to the One who gave it (no matter what secular science may believe),(85) and no one has the right to infringe on God's prerogative in this respect.

I assume that killing someone in self-defense, obviously in a situation where no other solution would have been effective, is not an infringement of this?

Response #10:

There are of course, instances where human beings do "infringe", and also instances where life is taken but in circumstances where God has ceded His prerogative – at least to the degree of letting human beings be His agents in this respect (e.g., Num.35:19; Rom.13:4). "Deadly force" is legitimate in self-defense, and also on the part of members of the police and military when acting within their mandates in a legitimate way.

Question #11:

He was handed over (i.e., forsaken) on account of our transgressions (i.e., to redeem us from sin), and was raised up on account of our justification (i.e., so that we too could be raised, having been justified by His death).
Romans 4:25

Although I understand the general meaning of this passage, I would like to know why specifically is it phrased the way it is. It is quite clear that Jesus was 'handed over on account of our transgressions' - He was sacrificed for our sins. Although, I'm uncertain about the expression 'was raised up on account of our justification' - were we now justified by our Lord's death? Is the meaning of it that we are justified by faith? Or is it simply to show that our Lord's death accomplished it purpose - which is reconciliation to God?

Response #11:

It is a difficult passage. I believe that what it demonstrates is the two-fold nature of salvation: we are saved from death and condemnation; we are saved into resurrection and eternal life. Being justified by faith in Jesus Christ and His death for our sins, it would do us not much practical good if He had not been resurrected – for then we would not be resurrected with Him as part of His Body (cf. 1Cor.15:13-14). Both the solving of the sin problem and the solving of the death problem (impossible without the former) are necessary for the so great salvation we anticipate on the wonderful day of His return.

Question #12:

Also on Romans 4:25 you wrote: Resurrection is the Father's seal set upon our Lord's work on the cross, and was necessary in order for us to be justified through faith in Him and thus receive all the blessings of salvation.

Why was the resurrection necessary for us to be justified by faith?

Different reasons are proposed:

- resurrection confirms our faith in Jesus (showing that He fulfilled the prophecies), and without the faith there is no justification,

- resurrection means that the process of bearing our sins is completed - if it wasn't finite, that would mean that our justification has not taken place (at least, not yet), and our Lord is still bearing those sins.

Let me know what you think of the above and what is your take on this matter.

Response #12:

As to "Why was the resurrection necessary for us to be justified by faith?", as expressed above, I think it's the other way around when it comes to the resurrection of believers. Of course we want and need to be delivered from the bonds of death – that is what salvation is all about, deliverance from death in spite of sin. And God wants that for us: His ultimate blessing for us is a perfect eternity with Him and our Lord Jesus in a perfect New Heavens and New Earth – impossible without the resurrection because "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable" (1Cor.15:50 NKJV). Christ's resurrection was necessary for our faith and justification to mean something: eternal life as a result of our response to God through believing in the Person and the work of our dear Savior Jesus Christ. Please see the link: "Justification"

Question #13:

Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith.
2 Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)

What does Paul mean by 'test yourselves'?

Response #13:

Paul is addressing the rebellious faction (and rebellious nature) of the Corinthian congregation, making it clear in this section that if there is any disparity in teaching or application it would not be Paul who is at fault, logically requiring the fault to lie with them. How this "test" and "self-examination" is to take place, Paul does not specify, but I do not think it terribly important to be any more specific than he is here: if a person honestly asks him/herself the question "Am I doing things the right and godly way?", surely the Spirit will make use of that honest and genuine introspection to guide said person to a correct answer – as well as to any or all necessary correction. What is lacking in such cases, after all, is not information about "the faith", what we should believe and what we should do based on our faith in the truth. What is inevitably lacking, rather, is just this willingness to comply with the apostle's command. Those who are "not in the faith", that is, not walking with Jesus, not advancing spiritually, not behaving themselves in a godly Christian way, are not in this poor position accidentally but because of poor decisions they have made and are making regarding their Christian walk. If when reproached like this a person is willing to do even a quick inventory or scrutinizing of their present approach and application, he/she will quickly discern if there are areas where major improvement is necessary or minor repairs indicated. It is also true that if a Christian is wrongly reproached by someone who is not really following Christ correctly, a similarly objective inquiry will lead to a reinforcement of the good things and perhaps even a tweaking of areas of potential improvement. Generally speaking, it is only in the case of those who are spiritually immature and already wandering from the straight path that such a reproach from a charlatan will result in said person's spiritual enslavement (though sadly that is a common enough occurrence in our Laodicean day). So when such examination comes from oneself through response to something read in the Bible (this verse, for instance), or even response to the reproach of a godly person who is easily identified as such (like the apostle Paul), only good is likely to come. However, while such self-examination is good on occasion, it should not become a morbid and daily fascination, nor, despite the truth that we are all capable of improving, should any of us who are largely walking with Christ allow ourselves to have our faith rocked or our peace roiled by any of the thousands of groups and millions of individuals out there in the devil's world who would gladly shower us with false reproaches for the sake of their own twisted ends.

Question #14:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 2:4-7 (NASB)

Could you please clarify verse 6: 'and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus' - it seems as if the meaning is 'and raised us up with Him (Jesus), and seated us with Him (Jesus ) in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus'? I'm uncertain about why Paul says 'with Him (Jesus) in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus' - with Jesus and in Jesus.

Response #14:

I suppose the "with" makes the issue of being "in Christ" more clearly distinguishable from the advantages we share with our Lord by being "in Him", one of which is the absolute certainty of our resurrection and entrance into the presence of God the Father so as to be "with Him" by virtue of being "in Him" (if that was your question). The Greek actually says "jointly-raised and jointly-seated" [us, i.e., with Him]. For more on this please see the link: "Union with Christ"

Question #15:

You wrote: Think about it – if He created everything, then He created whatever would have been there before ex nihilo - that is, there must have been a time when there was only God and no universe if, indeed, God created the universe (which is clearly stated in many scriptures and implied throughout the Bible: e.g., Ps.90:2; Jn.1:3; Col.1:16; Heb.1:2-3).

I'm not sure I can understand the expression "whatever would have been there before ex nihilo" - doesn't ex nihilo mean that there was nothing before it (apart from God)?

Response #15:

Yes indeed – that's the very point I'm trying to make (if ever so inelegantly).

Question #16:

You wrote: The old things have passed away, and our Lord has made all things new (Rev.21:4-5).

You used this passage as a reference to what has already been made and it seems it refers to what was yet to happen?

Response #16:

It is technically true that Revelation 21:4-5 is speaking of what is yet to come. However, we are already part of that "new creation" in principle as members of Jesus Christ (2Cor.5:17; cf. Rom.6:4; Gal.6:15; Eph.2:10; 2:15), so I am happy to lay claim to this verse as one who has a sure and certain share in the ultimate fulfillment of all the glories to come.

Question #17:

In one of your replies you wrote: "Works" are things "we do 'for' God". That whole mentality is sinful because God doesn't need anything from us (contrary to what pagan religion assumes: Acts 17:25).

I take it that works that come as a result of faith should be understood differently and not as done 'for' God? How could such proper works be called in relation to God?

Response #17:

Generically, "works" out of any context are just "what we do". But "works" in a biblical context without any further explanation generally has the sense of "our fleshly works" in contrast to things done through God's grace (as in the last judgment: Rev.20:12-13); the latter are often called "good works" to differentiate. Here is how Paul distinguishes the two, making very clear that God is the one who authorizes and empowers all legitimate works which He has actually commissioned:

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

See also the link:  "The Issue of Faith"

Question #18:

For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness.
Romans 10:5 (NASB)

Does Moses say it believing that this righteousness is attainable?

Response #18:

In Leviticus 18:5 (the source of Paul's quotation), the Lord is talking and is telling Israel to obey His laws. In doing so a person will "live by them", meaning, have them as a proper code of conduct and prevent being put to death as a criminal or judged by God as an apostate. Since the truth of the gospel is also contained in the Law, paying proper attention to these truths will lead a man to Christ, as even Paul says in Galatians 3:24. What this verse doesn't say – and what neither the Lord nor Moses means by these words – is anything like "a person can be saved by following the strictures of the Law". No one can be: "for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified" (Gal.2:16 NKJV). Salvation has always been by faith alone, looking forward dimly to the cross before Jesus' first advent, and looking back with clarity to the reality of Jesus and His sacrifice for us thereafter.

Question #19:

You wrote: throughout the Psalm, the righteous are promised an acceptable lifestyle despite the persecution of the wicked: they will have plenty in famine (v.19); their offspring will be blessed (v.25); their cause will be vindicated when persecuted by the wicked (v.6). They are never promised wealth in this life as a matter of course.

In this email response regarding Psalm 37 you say that "their cause will be vindicated when persecuted by the wicked (v.6)". Could you please explain why do you make this point about verse 6 and clarify why this verse talks about the persecution of the wicked? What is meant by "He will bring (...) your judgment as the noonday"?

Response #19:

The whole Psalm is talking about believers who are suffering for their righteousness while the wicked seem to be prospering for their wickedness. But for all believers, all "the righteous", who are persecuted, as is the case for those being comforted by this Psalm, God will make clear that they are in the right. That is what "He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday" means. We may not be vindicated immediately or in the time and manner others expect, but God has not forgotten us, and will bring forth justice for us speedily, if we but trust in Him.

Question #20:

You wrote: It seems that the expansion of human race after the flood must have occurred quickly. There is some evidence (admittedly inconclusive) of cultures in some parts of the world showing a degree of development at about 2000 years BC, which is immediately after the flood.

I would like to know more about this.

Response #20:

The Sumerians are the best documented example of this and the Wikipedia article on them will give you a good start. One note: the dating one finds in all of these secular appreciations of ancient culture must be taken with a grain of salt and approximated more correctly by comparison with the biblical evidence. The means science uses for dating such things are flawed for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that they assume things were about the same on earth before the flood as they were after (and that is totally incorrect). There is more about these issues at the links: "Science and the Bible" and "The Problem of Science and the Bible".

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