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Servants, Slaves, Disciples, and Ministers

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Question #1: 

Hi again, Doc!

I am trying to reconcile two passages in the bible regarding the one who serves as being great, and the one who sent the servant being greater.

John 13:16 - Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.

Luke 22:26,17 - But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.

Jesus says in John that the one who commands the servant is greater but in Luke says that the one who serves is greater. How are these passages reconciled? Thanks in advance!

Response #1:  

Always good to hear from you. It's a good question. I think the key distinction here has to do with "sending". The one who commissions someone else, gives him orders and sends him on a mission is, by definition, "greater" in the sense of being in authority over the person sent. Thus, John 13:16 is talking about authority relationships exclusively. In the case of the second passage, Luke 22:26-27, the real issue is one of privilege in spite of being under authority; or, better put, of those in spiritual authority being required to behave as if they were the ones under authority. Pastors (the example in this passage) unquestionably have greater authority, but those who learn from them are in the privileged position as those being ministered to (when the ministry is functioning in the biblical way, at any rate), and in that sense those who learn are "greater" (in privilege as those being ministered to, not in authority as those responsible for the ministry).

The Greek word in both passages is the same, meizon, the comparative of the adjective megas (from which we derive a whole host of English words, e.g., megaton, megalomania, etc.). Thus, meizon actually means "bigger" and the type of "bigger" has to be determined by the context. Our Lord is not saying in either passage that the person in question is taller or weighs more or has bigger bone structure, but is using the word metaphorically in both cases. The potential confusion comes from English and from translations which do not bother to distinguish the two instances so as to make the matter clear (not that accurate translation which also communicates effectively is an easy thing!). In the John passage meizon could be translated "of higher rank" while the Luke passage might be rendered "in a more privileged position". At any rate, the precise meaning is somewhat different in each case, and that does not come out in the KJV (which incorrectly has the superlative "greatest" rather than the comparative in the Luke passage; NIV has the same problem). It is true that the Luke passage also involves the issue of leadership, but that is essential since the application is for those in spiritual authority. Pastors are to serve with enthusiasm and humility; those who learn from them are in the position of those being waited on at table. That does not mean, however, that those who learn from them do not owe them the respect due their position (a respect that is earned through faithful teaching, not handed over on a silver-platter without effort). It does mean that pastors are not to have swelled heads or see themselves as those who should be served. That would be to forget just WHO it is they are working for.

Thanks as always for your very good questions and for your enthusiasm for the Word of God!

In Jesus our dear Lord, the One we all seek to serve well,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Doc!

A friend of mine shared a commentary with me by Pastor John MacArthur where he says that nearly all the versions of the bible mistranslated the word "servant" and it should be translated as "slave."

I copied and pasted a portion of it:

"But what exactly is our relationship to God? What is our relationship to Christ? How are we best to understand it? Well if you read the New Testament in its original text, you would come away stunned really by how different the original text is from any English version that you’ve ever read...whether King James, New King James, New American Standard, ESV, NIV and you can name all the rest. All of them virtually have found a way to mask something that is an absolutely critical element of truth. In fact, the word "slave" appears in the New Testament 130 times in the original text. You will find it once in the King James, once the Greek word "slave" is translated slave. You will find it translated "slave" a few other times in other texts, like the New King James text and even the New American Standard text, and it will be translated "slave" when, one, it refers to actual slavery, or two, it refers to some kind of bondage to an inanimate reality. But whenever it is personalized, the translators seem unwilling to translate it "slave." For example, in Matthew 6:24 Jesus said this, "No man can be a slave to two masters." What does your Bible say? "No man can serve two masters." The favorite word for slave is servant, favorite English word. Very often bondservant is used which tends to move in the right direction but is not exactly slave. You have a word used 130 times in the New Testament, you have other uses of that word with a preposition, sundoulos which means fellow slaves, used about a dozen times. You have the verb form used another approximately a dozen times. So you have at least 150 plus usages of just three of the words and there are others in the group with the root doul, d-o-u-l in English for doulos. There are about twenty established English translations of the New Testament, about twenty. Only one of them...only one of them always translates doulos slave, only one and it is a translation of the New Testament written by a formidable scholar in New Testament Greek who studied the original papyri, and things like that, by the name of E.J. Goodspeed. Have you ever heard of Goodspeed translation? Goodspeed is a well-known scholar. For fifteen years he was a pioneering professor of New Testament Greek at the University of Chicago. The Goodspeed translation always translates doulos as slave. And when you read it, it gives you an entire different sense of our relationship to Christ. You do have a personal relationship to Jesus Christ, you are His slave. That’s putting it as simply as I can put it."

Is what he's saying true? Why does it say in John 15:15 that we are not His servants, but friends?

John 15:15 - Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

Other passages in the bible states that we are His servants:

Revelation 22:3 - And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:

My brothers and sisters in Christ tell me that the bible says that when we're born again, Jesus becomes our friend and as "adopted as children of God, God is now our Father. They also said that we WILLINGLY submit ourselves to Jesus as Lord and obey Him in all things but this is to come out of a heart of love, not because we have been made a slave. They said that we are yoked to God with the Holy Ghost; not by a chain of slavery.

I've received different interpretations on the word servant and how it applies to us as children of God and I'm not sure which is correct. I don't want to feel like I'm under obligation to keep the commandments or else I will lose my salvation, but on the other hand, I want to faithfully serve the Lord as best as I can and be obedient in every area of my life. What does the bible mean by servant? and is John MacArthur's commentary correct? Also, he's even wrote an entire book that just came out recently on this titled, "Slave." What are your thoughts? Thanks in advance!

Response #2: 

MacArthur has a point insofar as vocabulary is concerned. The word doulos does mean slave. That said, there is the questions of 1) what we mean by the word "slave" and what the Greeks meant, and 2) what difference that makes for our understanding of scripture. American slavery was unique in many ways and in its racial aspects in particular, and while it has never been a desirable thing to be a slave, I think it is fair to say that the word and the idea in our contemporary American understanding of it means something far more egregious in its status and offensive in its nature than was true in antiquity. Paul says at 1st Corinthians "Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so" (NIV). Note that the KJV has "servant" here, though I doubt if many over the years in reading this verse were under any illusions that the verse is talking about compulsory servitude (which it is).

As to my second point, your quotation of John 15:15 is right on the mark. The fact that Jesus calls us His friends cannot be overlooked. Paul calls himself a "slave of Christ", and I think it is appropriate to point out that this does suggest his total commitment to the will of God and the service of Jesus Christ. But we know that there is a huge element of free will involved in this. Paul was not compelled to "work harder than all of [the other apostles]" (1Cor.15:10), not, at any rate, to the point of having no choice in the matter, but he did so anyway of his own volition. So while he counted himself a slave, his labor was a function of his free will response to the Lord in love. Jesus is our Lord and our God, and we owe Him absolutely everything. He created us, He became a man for us, He went to the cross for us, He faced the continual burning in Calvary's darkness and died for our sins, He led us to salvation, and He will resurrect us and reward us when the time comes. We certainly ought to give Him all our obedience – to an even greater degree than any slave would do under the most severe compulsion – and we ought to do so with a song in our heart. We fall short in many ways, of course, but if we look at these things aright, in time we will come to put what Jesus' wants us to do before everything else (at least more often and more consistently as we grow). All that, however, has to come from inside of us, from the love for Jesus that grows (or should grow) every day. Slaves are beaten when they don't respond; we have been given a marvelous opportunity by being left here on earth after salvation; whether or not we make proper use of it is a matter of our choosing.

So while MacArthur has a point, I suppose the problem I have with this line of analysis is that he seems to be emphasizing, or, as is typical of "preaching" versus teaching, in the absence of drawing a clear conclusion letting his hearers lead themselves to precisely the sort of conclusion that is bothering you: "if I am a slave, then if I do not obey, am I lost?", or "if I am a slave, well, I guess I have to do whatever it is I'm reluctant to do". The problem with the first false conclusion is that it wrongly suggests we are somehow in danger of losing our salvation, that the standard is different from what it really is, namely, faith in Christ (not slavish obedience to whatever we find difficult to do); the problem with the second false conclusion is that it wrongly suggests we get no credit for spiritual growth, spiritual progress, and spiritual production when in fact our Lord loves it when we follow the path of spiritual advance, and there is indeed great eternal reward for doing so – precisely because it is hard and something we could decline. The problem with both false conclusions is that they wrongly suggest a legalistic basis for our relationship with Jesus both initially and going forward in the Christian life. In fact, of course, He loves us so much He died for us, and we are saved not by works but by grace through faith. That is also how we advance.

In my reading of the New Testament, there are all manner of dire warnings to keep us from sin for our own good, but when it comes to spiritual advance, the positive is almost always emphasized. In MacArthur's example, "serve two masters", the whole point is to teach us not to serve/be enslaved to money – rather than to describe the manner in which we ought to serve our Lord. We ought to want to serve Him in a absolutely obedient way which would be no different from if we were enslaved, but this "slavery" is obviously voluntary – to judge from nothing else than that so few Christians come anywhere near that sort of standard, especially in our present Laodicean age.

Thank you for your good, spiritual common sense as always!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

When Jesus told His disciples in the Great commission to make disciples of all nations, was He saying make disciples of Him (Jesus) or disciples of the apostles? I've heard bible teachers say that we are to make disciples or followers of us. To me that sounds false. I always believed it to mean to make disciples of Jesus. Am I correct?

God Bless,

Response #3: 

Apologies for the delay. I was out of town visiting family and then got hit with a wicked flu upon my return. I am only now starting to dig out.

As to your question, yes I entirely agree. The first part of Matthew 28:19-20 deals with leading others to salvation (that is how they come to be "baptized into" the Trinity); the second part is leading them forward in Christ once they belong to Christ. Verse 20 would be better translated "by teaching them". After all, etymologically a disciple is a "learner" (in English, in Latin from which "disciple" comes, and in the original Greek: mathetes: cf. "math" is "something which has to be learned"), and an adherent of the truth which the teacher is teaching. Jesus is our Teacher and the gospel, the entire realm of all of God's truth about the Kingdom contained in all scripture, is what we are supposed to learn, not merely in an academic way, but in a deep and intrinsic way, believing it through the ministry of the Spirit, living it, and helping others to do the same through the proper function of our individual spiritual gifts. Much damage has been done to this passage by those who have a false view of what "discipleship" is: when people use this word today it has generally come to mean some "teacher" or "mentor" taking away one's free will and running their life for them – something which is absolutely anathema to genuine Christianity. This passage, Matthew 28:19-20, is completely consistent with all other scripture which makes it our mandate as Christians to grow spiritually, and then to help others to do likewise once we become spiritually mature and come into the full function of our own particular gifts.

Again, apologies for the long delay. I hope that the above is of some small help in any case.

In Him who is the Word of Truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

It's always a pleasure to know that I am learning the Word of God correctly especially when you tell me that how I interpret it is correct, or you agree with me. I know just by reading your email that you have wisdom from God, so I wanted to ask you about wisdom that is not found in scripture. There's an older woman at work who people believe that has been "around the block" more times than other people. She's really gentle, meek, and always says hi to everyone with a glowing smile. I noticed several books on her desk with teachings from Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyers (female pastor), Joel Olsteen, and other false teachers that are widely known in Christendom as false teachers, wolves in sheep's clothing, and prophets. And those who label them as these are men who rightly divide the Word of Truth, and are experienced Pastors and teachers. I told her to stay away from such teachers because a "little leaven leavens the whole lump" and it only takes a drop or poison in a glass of water to kill. She completely disagreed and said, "well, nobody's perfect, just pray for them." She has tapes and books from these false teachers but at the same time people take advice from her and thinks she is wise. Nobody believes me and completely disagrees with me when I tell them that she is being led astray by false teachers and wolves in sheep's clothing, not even her. I pray daily to God for discernment and wisdom, and to never be led astray as long as I diligently study the bible and never take a position where my mind is already made up. I'm iffy about whether I should take advice from this woman since I find it hard to believes that she can be so easily deceived and led astray by false teachers and prophets. To me, this demonstrates lack of discernment. It's difficult for her to believe me because she's older than me and has a reputation for being "wise." I've been told by some believers to "chew the meat and spit out the bones, or don't throw the baby out with the bathwater." Sometimes it's difficult to tell though. What should I do? is it wrong to ask her for advice? and how do I persuade or convince her that the false teachers, wolves in sheep's clothing, false prophets, are deceiving her? Thank you!

God Bless,

Response #4:  

Sometimes God uses unsolicited, well-placed words from other believers to get through to us and to get us to consider something in a way we haven't done before. As we all have spiritual blind spots, and as we all have need of spiritual growth, no matter how advanced we may think we are, we certainly ought to consider advice coming from our brothers and sisters in Jesus, even if we feel that we are in a much better place spiritually than they are. Of course, we also ought to keep in mind that they could be wrong. This does call for spiritual discernment, but in many cases that is not too difficult a thing to employ. For a Christian who is deep into the Word and growing spiritually through diligent personal Bible study and accessing orthodox teaching on a daily basis, things that are untrue or tainted are usually going to be very obvious. If God uses someone else to guide us, with an observation about our behavior or a word of encouragement or a pertinent spiritual insight, odds are the truth of what they say will be immediately obvious (and so will the reverse if they are off base). So I don't think we have to worry about the source in such cases; the content will be clear for those walking close to Jesus, whether it be gold, silver, precious stones, or wood, hay, stubble.

As to the issue of advice, you should know that I am not big on seeking specific advice from other people. As in the answer to your question here, I am avoiding giving you any specific direction. That is because unless something is definitely sinful or definitely spiritually necessary, when it comes to the application of truth to the ins and outs of life much depends upon who is making that application and with whom they are interacting. What a mature believer should do is often very different from what an immature one should do, even in identical circumstances (e.g., if an immature believer thinks it is wrong to eat meat, he/she should not eat meat; but a mature believer will not be constrained by false standards – unless to avoid offending the immature: Rom.14). The only person who is even close to being capable of making "the right call", especially if the situation involves "disputable matters" (which is often the case in life), is the person in question.

Of course if you are talking about professional advice or how to do or handle something in the course of work, that is a completely different question. In such cases seek the person who has the most knowledge and experience and best track record, and that may well be an unbeliever.

As to convincing other people, my own experience suggests that a positive approach is better than a negative one. One of my many issues with Christian crusades and other organized evangelizing efforts is that they have so little concern about what guidance to give people if they do respond to a gospel appeal. Sending them to "your local church" is in many cases equivalent to having them "walk the plank". Of course God overcomes everything for those who are truly seeking Him, but that is not an excuse to do things the wrong way.

What I mean is this. In my experience, when considering things from the standpoint of human agency, heaven is often much more convincing than hell, and the attractiveness of a good ministry is more persuasive than pointing out the problems with a bad one. That is true for two reasons. First, those who are confirmed in unbelief or committed to a bad ministry in most cases are not interested in the truth at this point anyway (which is why in a culture awash with Christianity some have not yet believed and those who have have not yet "gotten with it" in terms of positive spiritual growth, even though the Lord has no doubt already made clear to them the reality of hell in the first case and the truth about what they should really be doing beyond "scratching their ears" in the second). Second, even if you do preach hell and/or problems with their approach, well, you are going to have to get right to explaining heaven and/or recommending a good ministry right afterward anyway – otherwise you have not accomplished anything of value.

We want the unbeliever to be saved and the believer to begin living effectively for Jesus. For that reason, although I admit that it is tempting and allow that there are times for it, in my view the best approach is to preach/teach the positive side of things. After all, there is nothing more positive, attractive, and absolutely blessed than salvation in Jesus Christ and all the wonders of His Word which come to those who diligently seek Him in truth.

In Him who is the Word of God, Jesus our dear Lord.

Bob L.

Question #5:  

I am grateful for your website. I am a follower of Jesus Christ and accept the Spirit as my guide, though I am often distracted by this, His creation. If acceptable to you, I would like this question to stay within the books of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

As Christ followers: Regarding a gathering place we today call a church - is a formalized church building mentioned as a specified place to gather? (not a synagogue)

Regarding paid speakers - what were the disciples (which I would consider pastors of their day) taught by God to take with them, or to receive?

Like what has happened in too much government, I see a complacency in those who attend a ‘church’ and proclaim to know the good news, because the ‘curtain’ that was rent has been re invented in a paid intercessor (career clergy) on their behalf. Some one else to do the ‘work’ rather than the blessing of each individual to partake, and be blessed.

Listening to many speak of their particular church experience, has me often likening their account to something like ‘Who played your favorite 007?’ Good actors that have assumed a role, which many attendees hope will play it again, when they return. The better they play ‘Bond’ , the more content their paying public.

My sentiments regarding money in politics and religion are not to deny any who have been called to those stewardships to partake of our collective labors. But as I desire this life to be as Christ crucified, my model, and illustration, I feel that removal of the pastoral ‘career’ will allow those who are truly ‘called’ to be His messenger.

My thoughts are not to take from my belief, that all things have purpose. Thank you for your time.

Response #5: 

Good to make your acquaintance – and thank you for your kind comment about this ministry.

As to the professional pastorate, on the one hand scripture gives no indication of whether or not there should be one or what that would look like (and certainly nothing like what we see abroad today in contemporary "evangelical-dom" is recommended anywhere in the Bible); on the other hand, our Lord's ministry was supported by contributions (Lk.8:3) and scripture mentions on more than one occasion that those who minister the Word are worthy of their wages (e.g., Matt.10:10; Luke 10:7).

This ministry, Ichthys, is conducted in a non-traditional way and does not accept contributions, but, personally, I don't think there is anything we could do about "the professional pastorate" even if we were so inclined (and I am not: we are here on this earth to choose and everyone has to make their own choices).

I know of no formalized gathering places recommended or even alluded to in scripture outside of synagogues. Early Christians as reported in Acts and the epistles met wherever they could (e.g., in "the home" of Prisca and Aquilla; in the "school of Tyrannus"), but no dedicated building is ever mentioned during apostolic times. Our Lord frequently taught outside, from a boat or from an elevated position, or occasionally from inside buildings (e.g., Mk.2:1ff.). As I have often remarked, the preoccupation Christians have with physical plant has always disturbed me personally. I think there is no doubt that on balance over the centuries it has done more harm than good to have them (personally, I think "very much more harm"). I haven't made a detailed historical study of it, but it seems to me that dedicated "church buildings" seem to have their origin in Constantine's day when Christianity became the Roman state religion and pagan temples were appropriated and converted into "churches".

As to the "wages of the disciples", the seventy-two and the twelve received instruction from our Lord to enter into the homes of those willing to receive them and to eat whatever was placed before them. This regime, of course, is not to be repeated in the Church. After all, these heralds of our Lord were given miraculous protection and miraculous support (they took nothing and nothing wore out); whereas our Lord Himself tells the eleven on the night of His betrayal that in future things will be much different: they will need to take ordinary precautions and provisions (Lk.22:36).

Like you, I find much in the present applications of the contemporary church-visible distressing and disturbing. But of course we are not required to follow suit or to support things we know through faith in the Word are lacking or even wrong. That is why this ministry is on the internet.

Please do feel free to write me back about any of this.

Yours in Jesus the Great Shepherd of the sheep,

Bob Luginbill

Question #6: 

Robert, thank you.

Not only for your prompt reply to my questions, but for insights that reflect the neutrality that the life in Christ has, on the perceived chaos in this world. Peace. I also appreciate you reminding me of 'choice'. My goodness, how soon I forget that we are all individual 'pens' instrumental in the hand of the Author, as He writes the story, quite possibly on someone else's heart. I wrestle often with the knowledge that I am choosing to have my life defined by other people, rather than my Creator. It is a battle that leaves me humbly grateful for new grace, today.

If you want to know any more about me, or my candid exploits as a creation trying to fall forward, you are welcome to visit. http://moses2-ridinghome.blogspot.com/ On the suggestion of a friend, who happens to be a pastor, I put it out there, for others who may find themselves in a similar struggle to mine, as I try to let go, and let God.

Again, thank you,

Response #6:  

You are very welcome. And thank you for sharing your blog link. Each of us has a gift, and each of us is called to a discrete ministry by our dear Lord Jesus. Best wishes for carrying out your purpose to our Master's good pleasure. When I get around to posting this, I'll include your link.

Question #7:  

Dr. Luginbill,

Just happened upon your website today. What a resource for the church. Thank you!

I'll be preaching on the topic of theophanies/chistophanies tomorrow. And now I'll be making some last minute changes to my Melchizedek section based on your insightful translation of the circumstantial participle aphomoiomenos in Hebrews 7:3. Wish I had seen this much earlier.

The correct link is www.ariel.org. Just thought I'd let you know.

Lastly, out of curiosity, did you know Col. Ridge Ryan? Col. Ryan was the founding pastor of our church, a graduate of DTS, and a friend of the Thieme family. He passed away last month. We'll be celebrating his life at a memorial service at our church one week from today. I figured there's a slight chance you may have known him.

Blessings in Christ,

Response #7: 

Very good to make your acquaintance. Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words. And thank you especially for noticing the misplaced link (now corrected) – I'm always appreciative of editorial suggestions and reports of problems.

I don't believe I ever met Col. Ryan (but am sorry to hear of his passing nonetheless).

I think one of my old seminary chums had some connection with your church at some point in the past (I may be mistaken about that).

Thanks again for your help!

Best wishes for your continuing good service to our Lord Jesus and His Church.

Bob Luginbill

Question #8: 

Hello Bob,

Thank you so much for the prompt reply and info. as usual. I am in the process of taking in the info. you suggested. It is a lot to take in at one time and I read at intervals so not to become overwhelmed.

I was wondering where you are based and if you get out to do seminars, lectures, etc.? Would love to hear you speak as would some of my friends who also follow your site. I am just amazed at how God has and continues to use you .I cannot even begin to imagine the time and study, effort and most of all PRAYER that has gone into your website, I absolutely love it and I must admit I get overwhelmed at times as I read as it is so in depth.

I thank God I found your website and I always go away with a better understanding of whatever topic I have in question.

Thank you so much for all you do.

In Christ,

Response #8:  

You are most welcome, and thank you so much for your encouraging words – and especially for all those prayers!

Between my full-time job and this ministry as it is, branching out in those ways is not in the picture at present. I think I would have to be retired to be able to push into other areas along these lines (conferences, some type of formal publication, web videos and MP3 files being the most likely next steps). But that is not anywhere even on the planning horizon at present.

I do appreciate the sentiment, though! Nothing is impossible with God.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Hello Bob,

As the Word says, He knows the plans He has for you, and they are Great! I Thank you for being obedient to your calling as many of us are reaping the benefits of all your hard work. I will keep your ministry in prayer. I have been saddened of late that some who have been called to preach have gotten away from the Word. So much is happening in the church so many falling away, we must continue to pray for all to see God's TRUTH.

Look forward to reading more on your website as always. Have a Blessed Day in our Lord.

In Christ,

Response #9: 

Thank you! As always, I draw great encouragement from your words. It is true that there is plenty to be dismayed about out there in the church-visible, but we are responsible for our own free will and faith. The more others are letting down, the more we need to make sure that we do not allow ourselves to be influenced by it. I have the sense that the Lord is preparing us.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Wow I'm not even going to go into what I want you to answer. I will say that for a week I have read your website, and I have yet to find such truth my friend, that I have sought my entire life. Your words are as that of the living word of God, in as much, I don't want to lift you up that much, so I'll tell you that you are human just like me...but the difference between us is my love for God drives me to death because I know i will never fulfill his purpose for me. You are so smart and so darned true, I have fought such things in my life that maybe you will never know but I do know that in my life or death your page has touched me simply because you are a man of God, and TRUTH! And maybe I am a Judas just at a later date, but if so I would more that willing to die a thousand times over for his majesty!

Response #10:  

Don't despair of ministry! Moses spent forty years in the desert and was eighty when God put him into service in what turned out to be one of the greatest ministries of all time. If we are faithful in growing spiritually and following Jesus, He will put us to use in just the right place, in just the right way, and at just the right time.

Many years ago after hearing a particularly gifted pastor-teacher speak I was plunged into despair because it seemed impossible for me ever to reach such a level.  I considered taking up plumbing.  Fortunately for me, I am anything but gifted in the area of home-improvement.  I persevered with my education instead and things turned out fine.  This ministry is different from anything I imagined at the time.  Jesus has a role for each and everyone of us to play, and play it we shall if only we stay faithful in preparation and response to Him who has called us all to minister to the Body of Christ.

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
1st Peter 4:10  NKJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #11:  

Good morning my friend,

We spoke a while back about baptism and you really help understand something that I was confused on and I really appreciate you responded back with great information.

I come to you today, because I feel all alone in this walk down here on earth, though I know God is with me. I have a small church in my house, mainly me and my family and about have a dozen or so who join in by phone. I enjoyed your teaching about the charismatic church, which that is what I came out of once God begin to reveal his word to me. The Church of Christ was on point on those issues, but water-baptism is what confused me. It confused me so much that I felt like I did not know anything. Keep in mind, I'm a young preacher who have been pastoring for about 6 years. Though I was under a so called Bishop at the time, I never had a mentor. It has been me and God. So I actually stop preaching from home and started going to the church of Church Christ and they were trying hard to bring me up to par on their teachings because they are looking for one more Elder.

But I stop going of course, since I now know their error. The problem is I have lost confidence and I have become discouraged. Because I work 40 hours a week with a schedule that changes, it has been hard for me to study like I should and prepare for Sunday. I know I'm supposed to content, but I'm not happy with my job, because it traps me and under-pays me. I have been trying to go to school, but if I do, it would really take all my time. I been trying to come up with idea to be self-employed, but I have a family to support. I feel all alone with no one to talk to. I pray often, but still I'm so heavy. I really want to able to spend time studying the word of God and focusing on the ministry, but it has been hard for me. I need to get back doing what I love to do and back to the home church teaching my family and the few who joined in before. I come to you my friend because I respect and appreciate your hard work and dedication in studying Gods word. Maybe you can lead me in the right direction with some encouraging words and a strategy that can help me get organized. I have saved all the study tools you gave on the website and I also have my own. I want to really learn and study correctly and effectively. I know the enemy is at work, but I will never give up on God. Even if that means swallowing my pride and reaching out to my brethren for help. Thanks my friend and I wait for your reply. God bless.

Response #11: 

Dear Brother,

It is good to hear from you again, but I am sorry to hear that you are having such difficulties. These are difficult decisions you face, but I can tell from observation, experience, and from the Word of God that the Lord honors the desire to serve Him and also in particular a consistent follow-through. My advice to you is the same I give to everyone: find a way to be consistent in taking in the Word of God and in ministering it to others. For anyone with a family and a full-time job, pressures, challenges and time-constraints are considerable. God knows this very well. Our job is to supply the willingness; He supplies everything else. Please do not get discouraged or allow yourself to be knocked out of the race by these difficulties. There is always someone who seems to be running faster or running an easier course or running without being loaded down by the same weight. But we are all responsible for running our own race on the track that the Lord has laid down for us. If God is with us – and He is – then who can stand against us? If after a long day of carrying out our responsibilities we have only a half-hour left for ourselves, if we are consistent in giving ten minutes of that time to the Lord in pursuing the ministry He has given us, doing so gratefully and cheerfully, then in so doing there is great reward – especially if we indeed make a practice of doing so day in and day out. On the other hand, if we allow ourselves to get ground down by the situation and despair because we have so little time (or money or energy or opportunities or listeners or, or, or), then it is a sure bet that if suddenly our time was completely liberated and we had all the resources we could ever ask for, we would not use the new opportunity any better.

"Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?"
Matthew 24:45 NIV

'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
Matthew 25:21 NIV

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much."
Luke 16:10 NIV

Whether it is Bible reading, learning from Bible studies, prayer, preparation, or personal ministering, God will help you find a way to do what you can do (He does not expect you to do what you cannot do). Keep on running the race, step by step, day by day. It tests us, but the rewards are beyond anything earth can offer in comparison.

In Jesus our dear Lord, the Chief Shepherd of the sheep.

You are in my prayers,

Bob L.

Question #12: 

God bless you brother Robert,

I wanted to share something with you, because I have no one to share this with who can relate to it. I'm going through something I just can't understand. I would like to share with you what I have been going through, and if can share your thought about it, I would greatly appreciated. I shared with you before on how I came out of a charismatic church. They taught the basic and believed in holy living without compromise. But they still walk in some error in regard to how the Spirit operates and gifts. Also some other things. I have been a pastor for 6 years and preaching for about 9 years or longer. Just around 2 years ago or less I came out of a church that I was brought up in and respected. Reason being, I began to see my error and that some of their teaching was incorrect. About 1 year ago, I started listening to the Church of Christ locally online. The same thing they were teaching was the same thing God was revealing to me – about tongues having lapsed and how the Spirit indwells us. During that time, I was renting out a space for about 6 years. The only members I had were my family and about half a dozen people who join us online and by conference phone. I then decided, to move the church into my house because money was getting tight and we had no local membership. Not sure if you remember, but that's when I started fellowshiping with the Church of Christ and all confusion broke lose when I heard them teaching about water-baptism. After several months of wondering if I was truly forgiven or not because of baptism I got re-baptized because I didn't understand the scripture, even though I had already been baptized. Well you know since then I began study like never before and I also ran across your website and through your teaching I understood even more. The five people who use to join us, well, the ones who seriously disagreed with me about the how the Spirit indwells us and also about the lapse of speaking in tongues mostly departed. So for a while it has just been me and my family. Now 2 of them listen in, but still have their doubts. But to try to make the long story short, I have not been consistent with teaching every Sunday and with my studies. I feel like I've lost my confidence, and also I began to question myself on whether I'm truly qualified. I have no Bible college education. I know I have so much to learn and understand. But I never had a Mentor or an Elder to teach or to help lead me in the right direction. I'm not talking about salvation; I'm taking about being an effective teacher with the proper understanding. I'm a young man, and I feel like I have wasted so much time and have let my family down.

I come to you, because I respect what you stand for and the knowledge you shared. I know I must continue to pray and rely on God; this I do, but God uses men on earth to encourage and help lead them in the right direction. Just like Paul and Timothy. I know you are seasoned and well learned. I need that in my life, because I don't have that in my life. It has always been me. I feel alone because at this point I am alone. I know God is with me, but I'm talking about naturally so. So please don't look at this like I'm depending on you for everything, I'm just looking for some guidance and instruction that will help me grow in knowledge. I would like to learn more from you. Thanks my friend.

Response #12:  

There is a lot to talk about here. Let me say first that you are very welcome here at this ministry, and also very welcome to write me any time about anything. Pastoring a church as you are doing – whatever the size (God knows the work He has for each of us; numbers mean nothing) – is difficult work and a huge responsibility. Anyone who tackles that challenge ought to be appreciated (1Thes.5:12), is worthy of "double honor" (1Tim.5:17), and is entitled to special rewards in eternity (1Pet.5:1-4). The main thing is not to let oneself grow weary in doing the Lord's work (Gal.6:9; 2Thes.3:13). That is, of course, much easier said than done. Still, that is the standard to which we who teach the Word of God have been called (Jas.3:1).

I do understand that you have some special issues. Ideally, a person who is called to the service of the Lord in teaching the Word will be able to prepare first, minster second; then, once prepared, ideally the person will be supported in ministry by his church. That sequence, however, is not always possible. I was, blessedly, able to concentrate on my preparation for ministry for many years before actually taking on the Bible study which grew into Ichthys. However, I do support this ministry completely by means of my "day job". So while I have no doubt that the pressures are greater on you, I also can say that I do have some idea of the conflicts and problems you face.

My advice to you would be very simple:

1) Teach what you know and what you believe completely. If the Lord has brought sheep to you to be fed, then there is no question but that you know things, truths of the Word of God, from which they can benefit. These may not be the things which most interest you or the things which you are still learning, or the things which you are still trying to work out; but you can still feed your sheep from the fund of truth you do have solidly in your heart. Concentrate on that as far as ministry is concerned, and try to keep our Lord's last words to Peter clearly in mind:

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."
John 21:17 NIV

2) Keep branching out by learning the truth yourself for yourself. No one knows everything about the Word of God. I read my Bible everyday, including in the Greek and Hebrew, and I learn something every day. In the process of doing these studies, I am learning "line upon line and rule upon rule" – I just get it before those who read what I have finally digested and then been able to teach get to it. The same principle applies to all pastor-teachers, all, that is, who are genuinely studying and teaching God's Word the way it is meant to be done (i.e., very few currently in the pulpit). In fact, if you abide by principle #1, I know that you will find as you research topics you know very well, that nevertheless you will learn new things about them and learn them better and come to believe them more deeply:

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1st Timothy 4:16 NIV

3) Keep honing your "study tools". This step, I know, will be the most difficult for a person who has already taken on a family, a day job, and a church. Still, whatever you can do to advance your knowledge of Greek and Hebrew (and Aramaic, if possible, but Hebrew should certainly come first), of ancient history and church history, of systematic theology, and of the Bible generally, will not only be to your credit but will also help you immensely with the first two principles. I would suggest trying to develop a plan where you spend a few minutes a day on your priorities here. Even if you can only give ten minutes a day to Greek, for example (and even that might be a great sacrifice), it is certainly better than doing what most have done in the history of the church-visible, namely, letting what they learned in seminary go completely to seed.

In all these things I stand ready to give you the benefit of my experience and my ear. I am not sure how much good mentoring does per se, because, in my view, these things are all pretty clear. What is needed is our will to do them and God's help in doing them. Of the latter, we may be completely assured – the Lord never lets us down. The question is, how willing are we to respond to what we know He really wants us to do? Few of us are Timothys – much less Pauls! But I know for certain that God meets us more than half-way in any good decision we make, in any commitment we genuinely undertake, and in all our efforts to serve His Son and the Church He loves so much. By that I most certainly do not mean that He makes it easy. It will never be easy. The evil one will do all he can to see to that. It does mean, however, that every stride towards this honorable and godly objective we take in faith, we can be sure that our Lord Jesus will be there, walking hand in hand with us every step of the way. We are not strong enough to do what needs to be done – any of us. But He is. We need to marry up our faith and faithful commitment to the good intentions which set us on this road in the first place. We cannot know ahead of time just how Jesus is going to work these things out, but it is a dead-certain lock that He will do His part - - and then some. Our job is to try and make sure that we push hard enough on our end in order to make the grade. We may not be "apostle-grade"; we may not be "Levite-grade"; we may not be "100" or even "60 fold", but God wouldn't have put us here if we were not capable of making at least the "30 fold" level of production for His Son. That we can do whatever may betide, and we can do more too – we do not even realize what we are capable of in the awesome power of God. We control very little in this world; our strength is meager, and the enemy is strong. But we do control our own God-given free will, and the Lord always honors genuine response to Him and to His truth, especially when it is consistently forthcoming. If we do indeed "stand fast" in this faith and in our faithful response to Jesus day by day, we are assured of success in ministry now – as God, not the world, defines success – and reward in eternity that will surpass anything the world can now imagine (please see the link:  "The Judgment and Reward of the Church").

I commend this noble endeavor to you, knowing that you have already committed to it and have already paid a price in blood for its advancement. Only do not give up what you worked so hard for. Teach what you know; keep learning more; keep sharpening your tools; and leave the rest to the Lord – you are not alone.

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:23-26 NIV

Please do feel free to write me back with your questions and concerns, and I will do my best to answer them.

Yours in Jesus Christ, the Lord and Master we so gladly serve,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

Dear Brother Robert,

I first want to thank you very much for responding back in depth. I truly needed to hear every bit of it. I will take heed to everything that was said, because I know it's true. I thank God for allowing me to meet you this way over the web. I know it was God that lead me to your website. I'm ready to do what I must do and I will do it. You nailed it right on the head about teaching what I know, and researching what I know will help me understand what I know better. As of late, I have been trying to take on way more challenging topics, at a quicker pace and then prepare to teach on it. Which I was not ready for. And though I believe in what the topic is about, I wasn't ready to tackle it when I was asked questions about it the way I should of. I wasn't ready to an give an answer, because I was not prepared to tackle the topic which brought on more frustration. I just can't express how much you have already help me, and I know God is blessing you for your labor.

Also when you say study Greek and Hebrew, which tools can I use online to study Greek and Hebrew – I have not a clue how to go about learning them. One more thing I wanted to share. I have been thinking about going to Bible college an earn a degree. But I know this will make things harder on me. Working, Family, Preparing for service. In your own opinion, do you think that will be wise? With the wealth of information you have on your website, could it be possible that one could get where he needs to be, by being dedicated daily to research and study without going to Bible college? I believe I could, but I would just like to know what your thoughts are on that. I will be praying for you and your ministry daily brother Robert, because I know the enemy is mad at the wonderful work you are doing in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you have any material suggestion or tools to help me get better organize and prepared, it would be greatly appreciated. God bless you my friend and I will keep in touch. I know you are a humble man, but I just want to say again, I TRULY thank you for taking the time and carefully writing to me with words seasoned with grace. You are truly appreciated and needed. Your brother in Christ,

Response #13: 

Thanks for your kind words. I did some checking, and there aren't many options for ancient Greek classes in area. Maybe that is just as well because tuition at all institutions of higher learning these days is through the roof. It's gone up about 400% at U of L since I started teaching here twenty years ago – not that my salary has! Who knows what they do with the money. Anyway, I see that there is one place in your area which has Biblical Greek at night, but the tuition, while "reasonable" in comparative terms, is very stiff in absolute terms.

I managed to find on the internet a series of Greek lesson podcasts which are available for free (and there are many such things out there in cyber-space nowadays with more and more being added all the time – nothing at Khan Academy yet, but give them time):

Evan Der Millner: Ancient Greek podcasts (at iTunes)

I also found the book they are using; it is available for free online:

Greek Ollendorff

This may not be the best way to learn ancient Greek (in-person classroom instruction is the best by far), but it is a fine alternative for anyone whose time is constricted and for whom money is a consideration.

As to Bible College, I have to say that I wouldn't recommend it. Having been to an evangelical seminary (Talbot Theological in La Mirada, CA), the next "step up" from Bible College, I have a pretty good idea that you would be wasting your money. The language training at seminary was far below the level I received at secular universities, and that was true of both Greek and Hebrew. I'm not saying I didn't learn a few thing in the exposition, systematic theology, and church history classes – I did. But what I learned would not have been worth the two years and the (at that time) huge expense, except for the fact that I made the acquaintance of a number of like-minded men with whom I discussed theology et al. continually for those two years I was there (a much better education than I received on campus). Simply put, seminaries back then and even more so today are focused on "practical ministry" and are really very little concerned with the hard academic subjects which prospective pastors really need. If that is true of seminary, how much more of Bible Colleges!

You can read systematic theology, ancient and church history, and Bible exposition et al. for yourself. I do, in fact, think that the extensive materials at Ichthys can be a very good supplement to what you do on your own. That is how and why I wrote them. And you can learn language on your own with the help of books and podcasts and other free online resources. At the prices charged by brick and mortar institutions these days, I think you could get much more "bang for the buck" by looking into tutoring if you feel that the online stuff is just not doing the job. Of course, everyone has different need, different calls, and different life circumstances, but those are my opinions, for what they are worth.

One more consideration in all this is the state of the present day church-visible. Based on my personal experiences and observations of the situation out there in the world today, for those who are not going down the road of a very definite denominational track, it has to be kept in mind that there are not likely to be "traditional church ministries" available at the other end of a long, formal preparation. Along with myself, other old seminary friends have had to find alternative ways to serve the Lord. If I had any kind of an actual ministry such as you do, knowing what I know I would be very reluctant to give it up for several years of formal education since I know that at end of that road I would be hard put to find another such ministry. Even though your ministry is small, it is from the Lord and it is therefore an incredibly wonderful blessing – and a serious responsibility. So this is also a personal judgment call, no question about it. But that is my perspective. I do almost all of my ministering over the internet. Despite being in this community for very many years now, nothing of a face-to-face nature ever developed. I am happy to be serving Jesus in the way I am serving Him, but I think my experience and that of the many of the men with whom I correspond makes it clear that there is very little interest in the present day church-visible for churches and pastors focused on actually teaching the Bible (as opposed to giving entertaining sermons – quite a difference).

I hope the above is useful. Please feel free to write me any time, my friend.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #14: 

Good morning my Dear friend and Brother in Christ.

It's a slow day this morning at work today. I thought I would take time out to say I was just thinking about you and praying for you. I saved your emails to keep myself encouraged when my situation seem to be getting the best of me. No doubt, I've been struggling with the same problem I had before. But I also know that I haven't fought hard enough to do the things I need to be doing, as far as be being consistent in my study, preparation, etc. I have allowed my circumstance to get the best of me at this point, and it is affecting me strongly. But I again want to thank you for those encouraging words given to me in your previous emails. It serves as a reminder, to what I need and should be focused on. It gives me strength. I pray that all is well with you and I hope your day is filled with gladness. Please continue to pray for me. I have no mind to give up. I'm just battling the thought of what is my position and direction. Working full time, family, and ministry has been a very hard juggle. I feel that I need a trade or part time work to be able to be free or flexible with my time, but then that would cause other problems. Every since we moved the church to our home, it feels like we have no structure. I have had some differences with family and close friends over some of these things I have been teaching and even with the few listeners that join in on Sundays when I do have a service. I'm not worried about numbers. I never have been. But yes. it can be very challenging when it feels like no one is listening or taking notes.

Ever since I told you about how I moved my church to my home and at one point, stop preaching completely for a short period, because I went through a brief moment of confusion, when I started dealing with the Church of Christ. I've lost confidence, not in the Lord, but with in myself being able to preach and teach correctly. The reason being is because of my background and so many things that I had to unlearn and then re-learn well enough to teach them correctly. What with not having the time or energy to completely study on these topics and yet still prepare for service, I have not been able to master them. Now with that being said, my lifestyle of having a full time job, family, ministry combined, has admittedly been too much for me. I was laid off for over 2 1/2 years. I worked maybe a few jobs in between. But during that time, I had the time I needed to draw closer to God. I used that time to study more, seek more, research more, and because of that, change took place. It lead me out of a lot of error and that's when I came out from among them and separated myself from the church I was with. Then shortly after, that's when I started listening to the Church of Christ on the internet and decided to fellowship. They taught a lot of good things about the tongues ceasing and how the Spirit dwells within us and other things that God had already revealed to me thorough study and prayer while I was unemployed. So at that time, I was drawn to them, because in those things I previously mentioned, nobody else I knew was teaching those things. So I felt that I needed to learn more under a seasoned Elder who took to me quickly and was there for me. So I stop having church at the home and started attending their services. I can tell they were trying to prep me to be one of there Elders in the church, because they believed in having two elders or more, and at the time they only had one Elder and a Evangelist but could not find any qualified brethren they say. That did not move me, nor was that my purpose for going to their church. My purpose was and is to learn more of what God has been revealing to me. I even battled confusion about water-baptism and got re-baptized twice because of my lack of understanding and even convinced someone else they needed to get re-baptized even though the person did not believe it was necessary. But then God would not let me rest until I completely understood about baptism. That's when I began to search and search, study and study until I knew the truth about baptism. That's when I came across your website and you confirmed and gave me more insight on the topic. Since then, I have been trying to establish the church in my home, but I have not been consistent as far as having service every Sunday and in my studies. So as you can see, I'm in a sort of rebuilding mode. I can't figure out what to do as far as ministry and working. I know I can't do anything foolish as far as not working, though my wife has a very good job. My job helps, but due to the layoff, I'm making less then half of what I use to make. I will continue to pray and trust God. Sometimes sitting still is good, but I get confused sometimes on whether I should sit still or step out on faith and make changes in my life. Brother Bob, I did not intend to unload all of this. My original purpose was to just check up on you to see how your doing and to let you know you are my thoughts and prayers everyday. Thank you for praying for me as well. Have an awesome day my friend! In Jesus Christ's name.

Response #14:  

Good to hear from you. I appreciate your prayers and your concern for me. I am keeping you in my prayers day by day.

I do want to encourage you to keep on punching. The Christian life is a fight. We are told, for instance, to put on the "full armor of God". And we know well who the "adversary" is. We cannot guarantee that in this fight we do all the right things. No one has ever fought a perfect fight. But there are two things we can do. We can determine never to give up, to stay "in the ring" until the final bell. And we can also determine to keep on punching, no matter what. We are going to get hit. We are going to get knocked down. And despite our intention along with Paul to "make every punch count" (1Cor.9:26), we are going to miss the target quite a bit. But if we hang in there and keep punching back as best we can, we can be satisfied that we are doing what our Lord wants us to do. And eventually, as with all things, we will get better about everything as we make a habit of consistently doing what we ought to do.

So we should not get overly upset with ourselves that we are not perfect, any more than we should become pleased with ourselves about our present level of advance and service. On the one hand, we should not expect the impossible of ourselves; on the other, we should never settle for second best. Between impossible expectations and settling for the mediocre lies the true strait and narrow road to Zion. The measure of our progress is not how we feel, especially when we get down, or how successful we think we are in what we are trying to do for Jesus – Paul would not even dare evaluate himself (1Cor.4:3), and no one could have been more sure of his effective service being well-pleasing to the Lord than Paul. The measure is whether or not we are moving forward, whether or not we are trying, whether or not we are still punching – and how hard.

We will never be perfect, but as long as we are doing what we can to diminish the "room for improvement" day by day, we know that at the very least we are not in need of serious course corrections. For those who are off the road entirely, God does send "life-changing" experiences to get their attention – that is wonderful grace for those who need it. For those who are on the road, the world, the flesh, and our adversary the devil often conspire to try and knock us off of our good efforts. It is a very common thing for believers who are doing what they should be doing to begin to second guess themselves when things get tough or when things start to go in ways they didn't expect. This is a necessary part of the process of spiritual growth.

Christians who want to grow closer to Jesus in fact have to learn to keep walking forward even when they are tired, to keep expending the effort, even when it seems to be back-firing, and to keep getting up off the canvass and punching back, even when we feel like we are getting slaughtered. The battle is the Lord's (1Sam.17:47), and He is the One who gives victory – but only to those who show up (are saved), who put on their armor (grow spiritually), who learn how to use it (progress spiritually through applying the truth believed to life and living by it), and who engage the enemy (in the accomplishment of the ministries to which we have been called).

This fight is a nasty one. It's never clean, it's never easy, it's never pretty. We can't be perfect in it, and it is going to cost us. Eventually, it will cost some of us all we have (in martyrdom during the Tribulation). Instead of getting despondent when we are being hit and knocked down, we really ought to recognize that meeting opposition is the best sign that we are making some progress. Satan doesn't waste his time opposing deserters; he saves his best efforts for those who are doing what Jesus wants them to do.

Keep on fighting the good fight in Jesus Christ.

Your friend in Him,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

Dr. Luginbill,

Thanks for posting your weekly email correspondence; I benefit from it every Sunday morning. I still pray for you often, as we are fighting the principalities we cannot see. Keep running the race to win. Please pray for my friend. I sent him a couple of emails months ago with the intent of showing him the false teaching of absolute eternal security (and eventually tribulational security), and after not corresponding for a while, I linked him tonight to the three false doctrines ichthys.com/pet27.htm. Pray that he receives it with an open heart. He is a former "taper" too ever since he was in the Navy. He feels God sent Thieme's ministry to him, that 1 John 1:9 was very important and he wasn't getting the teaching he needed, and then Thieme's ministry was a Godsend. I agree, our brother Thieme was a Godsend, and though we both (you and I) disagree with Thieme on AES and tribulational security, I pray Thieme's reward is full. Also I have another friend who may have crossed over to the land of unbelief, possibly the sin unto death. If we should pray about it, let's. I just ask our Lord to pray in my stead, as I do not know the "utterings" needed. Here is a list of others for whom I seek prayer and the reasons why. Also, I have a question about a job opportunity (details withheld).

I do not take the privilege of your correspondence lightly. I do not wish to take away from your time finishing your ministry. But I consider you my teacher, and I have a couple of questions. How do I read the Bible? If Christ's thinking confuses me, then I know that it is I who needs to change my thought process. But for example, I started reading the Old Testament with Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the SoS, and now to Psalms. If I did not know Christ, then I would assume that I was hellbound because I find myself resembling the "fool" or the "wicked" or the "unrighteous" often. How do I know when verses are "absolutes?" To pull an example from the New Testament, drunkards, idolaters, etc shall not inherit the Kingdom. But they will, if they are found in Christ through faith. So how do I know when a verse is absolute vs. open for interpretation? The Bible fascinates me, and I do not take it lightly that we have the completed work and the filling of the Spirit, but I just don't know how to use both. I feel scared, even, reading the Old Testament. It seems to condemn me. I know that is to lead me to Christ, and I am certainly in Him, but I guess to start with a simple question again, how do I know which verses are "absolute" and literal?

In Him in Whom we hope to be found through faith,

Response #15: 

Very good to hear from you as always. I do promise to say a prayer for everyone mentioned in the email. As to your questions, eternal security is a tough one. Of my cohort of five "Thiemites" with whom I went through seminary, only two of us (myself and one other) have allowed the Bible to temper this dearly loved and closely held false belief into the truth: namely, while we are not walking on eggshells in regard to salvation, nevertheless apostasy is a possibility for those who give themselves over fully to a life of sin. And the process of transition was not easy for him or for me either, especially since the "Thieme training" is very good at giving a person absolutely solid confidence on all that is taught (even if, as in this case, it is off-base). So I do very much understand where your friend is coming from.

One of the things that always bothered me about that system was that it did not encourage personal reading of the Bible. As your comments here make clear, even for believers of true humility who desire to draw closer to the Lord in truth and by the truth, the process of personal Bible reading can lead to some "spiritual turbulence". So on the one hand it is easier just to "let Bob (Thieme) do it", and on the other hand it is also most definitely true that many people who are not genuinely humble are wont to take one verse they think they understand from an English translation and either wreck their own faith or zealously go out and try to wreck other people's faith with some false interpretation. However, neither of these occupational hazards justifies not reading the Bible. Reading the Bible is the only thing that "keeps us honest", teacher and learner alike, along with its many other spiritual benefits. Running has its hazards. I might pull a muscle. I might damage a joint. I might slip and fall and break something. I might be accosted or robbed or hit by a car. But if I took that view, I would never run, and that would not be good for my health or my weight or my disposition. On the point and in the example, laziness is certainly the worse hazard: "There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!" – so says the sluggard (Prov.26:13).

The fact is that the road to Zion is strait and narrow. The journey is not easy. It tests our resolve. Not everyone will get there. Not everyone will earn a significant reward. And there will be great differentiation in the rewards which are won. Reading the Bible day by day is in my view an extremely important part of our walk with Jesus Christ. It always reminds of truths we know, some of which need much reinforcement in order for us to be keeping them in the forefront of our thinking, some of which need much repetition for us to thoroughly and deeply understand. And I rarely read the Bible – in Greek, Hebrew or English – without learning something new.

I do know what you mean about bumping into passages which challenge our assumptions. But once a person gets to a certain level of faith and spiritual maturity, that is all to the good. We have to be able to stand pat with what we believe knowing why we believe it, and at the same time remain sensitive to the voice of the Spirit working through the Word of God. We are rough pieces of work, all of us, and like dull knives the process of honing is also sometimes rough when the truth hits nicks and burrs, and sometimes the sparks fly. But there is only one way to sharpen a knife – and the knife will always need to be kept sharp by the same process, and the knife will never be sharp enough to stop bothering about it, not if we have the correct standard.

Speaking of Col. Thieme, he always used to say about his own teachings that the proper approach when running into something that caused a person problems and doubts was to put that particular teaching aside for the moment like one would a bone when eating a fish then come back to it later. Not the perfect analogy, of course, but it is a somewhat useful approach in dealing with scriptures one does not understand or does not know how to reconcile with one's overall understanding of the truth of the Bible. Everyone has this issue, including teachers (if they are honest and if they have not lost all sensitivity to the Spirit's prodding). For if on the one hand we do not dismiss a "problem" (whether in scripture or in the teaching we are listening too) and at the same time also do not let it dominate our thinking to the point of throwing us off our game, then we have hit just the right balance. That is because over time one of two things will happen with this "problem": 1) either it will be resolved by more information and a better understanding of the entirety of scripture, or 2) it will be reinforced and eventually built up to such a degree that the whisper of the Spirit becomes a veritable yell; at that point, we will realize that what we had previously thought or been taught was wrong, and we will need to change course. I have personally experienced #1 many times; two good examples of #2 for me are the "pre-Trib rapture" and "absolute eternal security", neither of which line up with scripture – and it was only through repeated reading and re-reading of scripture that this conviction of where the truth really lay was ever reached. If neither #1 nor #2 has happened yet, then just keep reading and learning and thinking and listening to the Spirit, and eventually one of the two will result.

Now it is certainly true that a person without the gift of teacher and/or someone who does not yet have the linguistic, historical and theological tools and/or the experience of exegeting and teaching the Word is necessarily somewhat limited when it comes to developing "doctrine" on their own; but we all have the ministry of the Spirit, and that ministry, accessed and informed by our reading of the Bible, contemplating and applying its truths, and listening to and learning from orthodox teaching of the scriptures from others, will most definitely lead us to see at least in broad terms when something is "right" and when something is "wrong", if not immediately, certainly eventually (as long as we continue with the process). If you have not already done so, please do have a look at the special study at the link: "Read Your Bible: Protection against Cults / a Basic Christian Right and Responsibility"). By the way, the most recent thing I have on eternal security is "The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III", a link which links to just about everything else I have ever written on the subject directly.

As to your question about your job opportunity, it seems to me that in your thinking about this you have considered all of the pertinent points, spiritually speaking. First, we are all responsible to work for a living (2Thes.3:10-12). Second, it is impossible for a Christian to completely isolate him/herself from the world and its sinners and sinfulness – we should not sin, but we cannot isolate ourselves from people who do. I think a person would be very hard-pressed to find an employment situation in this country where there would be absolutely no case of such potential "compromise". I work at a university. Universities engage in all sorts of "research" much of which I find either ridiculous, or personally repugnant, or even immoral. On top of that, many of my fellow professors in academia generally preach a brand of secular liberalism which is anti-Christian to its core. However, apart from purely Christian schools (whose doctrines would in almost every case cause me some problems), if I were to make this as a matter of conscience, I would not be able to earn a living with my extensive and expensive education.

I frequently get this question, by the way. Col. Thieme used to tell about Baptist churches telling cocktail waitresses they had to quit their jobs because they were serving alcohol – and rightly lambasted the people who would do such a thing as have some poor woman lose her livelihood to satisfy their own self-righteous view of the world. Meanwhile, I might add, they were probably tax attorneys or business men or government employees whose organizations were involved in things which were far worse (after all, only excess is a problem in the case of alcohol). For me, the key distinction is this: if I am doing something in the course of my job that someone else may potentially take the wrong way or use to do the wrong thing (though they are not forced to do so), that is not immoral or wrong, that is, generally speaking, the way of the world, a place not even the Amish have been able to escape in truth. If I make a good sword, I am not responsible if someone uses it commit murder. Paul made tents; there are plenty of sinful things that can take place in a tent. If, however, I am required to do something immoral or wrong myself (or my actions compel someone else to do so), then I have an issue with it. If the cocktail waitress is required to drink to excess to hold her job, or if she is required to poor grain alcohol down the throat of freshmen fraternity brothers who are being physically restrained against their will, that would be a job to leave in either case.

So much for general rules. The practical issue is a personal one. As Paul says in regard to a similar case of "disputable matters" (Rom.14:1), "everything that does not come from faith is sin" (Rom.14:23). A person has to be confident in their own heart that what they are doing is right to do, or confident in their own heart that they should not do some otherwise necessary thing for some reason. On the one hand, I personally like to stay away from anything where there is serious doubt; on the other hand, it is true that for all of us – and for some more than others – that there is also a tendency to become overly squeamish about things that may bother us for what are not genuine or important biblical reasons (that is the stuff that legalism is made of). What all this means is that we often have judgment calls in such situations, and these are best made through prayer, consultation of scripture, and keeping an open ear to what the Spirit tells us through our (hopefully by now mature) conscience and our spiritual common sense.

I am confident that a man of your spiritual maturity who is so dedicated to the Lord and to finding the truth is going to be able with prayer and searching to come to a definitive conclusion, one solid and sure enough that the decision once taken will not be doubted. That must be true both ways, of course. It is equally undesirable to regret giving up such an opportunity for what later turns out to be understood as an inconsequential reason based upon unnecessary fear and misapplication of scripture as it is to do something out of rationalization and rue it down the road. I think I have made my own view of this clear enough (if only between the lines), but you are the one who has to decide, and I will also say a prayer for you for that. For in any case, God will never forsake you or desert you (Heb.13:5). As one who truly loves the Lord, He has your absolute best "good" in mind at all times (Rom.8:28), and by doing what is well-pleasing in His sight you will never be disappointed or put to shame.

Thank you for all good words – and feel free to write me any time!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Praise be to God,

I did see one photo of you. In military dress. But your educational attainments lead me to think of a much older person...like me! May we ask when/where you served our country please. My son, is most interested. He is 15, trying to be a pastor, a musician, an explorer, a linguist...I tell him to Pray and follow his heart. Do not think about where his money will come from. The WORST job in the world is having a "job'. I want my children to love what they do, wake up every morning with a God-renewed excitement so that their "job" is not a job at all. It is who they are. Is that how you feel about your "work"? If you love it, it isn't work! I ask this also because for several years I have been with a business man's Christian fellowship of which I was the co-founder here in Mindanao. But, it has become "work", a "job". The passion is gone and it saddens me...I helped start this Chapter and I find myself attending meetings only for that reason.

Anyway, thank you brother. I hope to see you in this life,

Response #16:  

I do like my job, but I love my ministry. I think that if they were "one and the same" there might be a lot less "like" and maybe even a little less "love". As it is, the Lord has worked things out for me blessedly, and I sincerely appreciate it.

Here's praying for your son to find his way in good time and for your own job/ministry situation to improve day by day. Nothing we do for the Lord is ever in vain.

In the Lord Jesus who died for us,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

Dear Dr. Lungibill,

Thank you for your last reply. I was out of the country for a family funeral. During these last months I have considered going back to school to study theology (or divinity, whatever it is called), and cant think of a better advisor than yourself. I don't know where to start looking, as I'm very concerned with the false teachings prevalent among today's churches. My impression is that they reflect those of academic centers, something I would like to avoid. Whenever you have the time, please drop me a line.

Response #17: 

I am very sorry to hear about your loss, and I will say a prayer for your comfort.

As to your intention, as Paul says, "if any man aspires to the office of overseer (i.e., pastor-teacher), it is a fine work he desires to do" (1Tim.3:1 NASB). For I would imagine that the reason behind your desire is to serve Jesus Christ in ministering the truth of the Word of God, and there is no finer thing, in my estimation.

As to means and methods, I am most pleased to offer you the online resources of Ichthys to help with grounding in all things theological. If my experience at seminary tells me anything, it is that while such preparation is valuable and perhaps even necessary, it is not sufficient to gain a true, deep understanding of the truth of the Word of God. Traditional systematic theologies are very helpful to read (Hodge, Chafer, Strong, Thiessen are all very good). The best thing I personally got out of seminary was my becoming acquainted with a group of like-minded prospective pastor-teachers with whom I shared much "sweet fellowship" in discussing, debating and exploring the Bible day by day (much more educational than all of the classes I went to or research I did for papers et al.).

Theology, Church History, and Ancient History are all very important tools for exegeting the Word on one's own, but there is no substitute for personal spiritual growth through personal Bible reading and study, learning and believing the truth (and in the early stages of which at least attention to some Bible-teaching ministry where that is being provided is always key). And the most critical set of tools are the language tools. Greek and Hebrew (and Aramaic if one can get it) are absolutely essential for getting to the place of really being able to feed oneself and one's sheep from the scripture with a confidence that what one has seen in the Word beyond what one has been taught is genuinely correct (and these are better gotten at secular universities in my opinion).

There are many more things to say on this topic, but I will let you have a look at these links and chew on your plans a bit more first:

How important is education for a pastor (includes other links)?

Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly

Yours in the Chief Shepherd of Sheep, whose desires that His sheep be fed, and bountifully so,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

Thank you. Please add me to the mailing list. How humbling that we can work the works of the Father. Keep it up! I feel like I watch from the sidelines and will be doing well to cross the finish line overcoming the world. I struggle so much with the old man. I apologize for asking questions already answered in this specific study. I fired off a couple of emails which may have wasted your time. But your ministry is like His cycle of judgement and restoration. I had to want it and work for it, but look to your reward and how you're doing His work and how awesome He is for letting us do that. Drinking deeply of the truth is our protection for the times to come. And come they will. I'm starting to realize my life is more than half over and if He let's me I'll have a ministry then, but I am clueless as to my own spiritual gifts. (discernment perhaps?) My friends and family are all "absolute eternal security" and pre-tribulational. If I feel called to see them through, could that be the Spirit or just delusions of grandeur? Your decrepit self may hang around for the bittersweet but who knows old man. Fight the fight. And keep fighting it like the soldier you are. Let's pray for each other. No one understands another man's battles. But One does.

In All that matters.

Response #18:  

Thanks for this. I appreciate the encouragement. It's not necessarily easy or immediate to get a handle on "the sin that easily besets", whatever it be in individual cases, but with God's help we can do it, because we do have free will – and God's help through the Spirit. I am praying for you in this fight. And don't despair of ministry. First of all, if we are learning the truth and persevering in applying it to our lives, we cannot help but minister to those with whom we have contact, often in ways that are not always readily apparent. Shining the light of God's truth into the various dark places of this world through our Christian walk, words and attitude is a ministry unto itself. And as we grow, we become more acutely aware of our particular strengths and how it is we might best hone them and put them to use for the sake of Christ's Church. There's yet time.

Fighting the fight side by side with you and all our brothers and sisters in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

Dear Mr. Luginbill,

I am extremely appreciative of your labor and dedication to the word of God. Your insight is obviously inspired, and your teaching style is very understandable, at least to me. I read your studies with much interest. You have found the real purpose for the internet. God’s people may not know each other personally, at this time, although God knows. Through a web sited like yours, with your labor of love for those who have eyes to see and a mind to hear, you proven to be a very generous man with your life. I want to say THANK YOU! for your very time consuming studies you have freely given. I know the truth is not for sale, Matthew 10:8, but it is still a choice. Thank you for yours. I find no matter how many times I read a passage of God’s word, there is something new for me to know. I do not know your age, but I hope and pray God gives you the time to finish your great study of love. I for one am appreciative of benefits received. I have not seen this insightful study anywhere. It takes courage to stand up and be counted, but it takes more courage to keep standing up after you have been counted. It is simply this, you do not find your values in a trial, but take them into the trial with you. I have no question, just THANK YOU! for your fidelity.

In Jesus name,

Response #19:  

Very good to hear from you again. Your words of encouragement are deeply appreciated. Yes indeed, once the trial comes on, it is to late to start to be concerned about one's values or one's spiritual status. The hour is late, and we would all do well to remember your words – and our Lord's many warnings to "be alert".

Yours in the hope of the resurrection in Jesus Christ our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

I totally disagree. The Bible is same it doesn't matter what others think. It Is same for all! Regardless of Faith you are. The Bible Is same for everyone. And I feel it is not Right for Women to Preach because the Bible says it. And if the Bible says it I believe it. Thanks

May God Bless

Response #20: 

Apologies for the delay. This message was sequestered for some reason (html attachment?). Scripture is very clear that women are not given the gift of pastor-teacher and so are not authorized to teach scripture to the congregation. That is certainly the position of this ministry too (see the link: "Women Preachers?").

Please feel free to write back about any of this.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

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