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Regarding (Hebrews 8:10); when God puts his Law in the mind and writes it in the heart... is this prophecy referring to the discernment inside (Matthew 7:12)?

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you. (Matthew 7:12; NASB 1995)

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The simple answer is "no." First, Hebrews is a Christian text, and from a Christian viewpoint the New Covenant is not one of Law in any sense, even a summary of it. It is one of blood shed by Jesus on the Cross. It involves primarily faith, not good deeds such as loving one's neighbor or doing unto others as you would have them do to you. Good works consistent with the Law result, of course, but the Christian version of the New Covenant is not one involving deeds.

  • Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20)

Hebrews itself takes a similar viewpoint, calling works of the Law "dead."

  • If the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Matthew 7:12 is essentially a reiteration of an "Old" commandment:

  • you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18)

It is also a reiteration of a teaching of Rabbi Hillel in the generation just prior to Jesus:

  • That which is hateful to you, do not to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a)

There is another problem with seeing Jesus' teaching in Matthew as closely related the the teaching of Hebrews. Matthew presents a very different understanding from Hebrews regarding the importance of the Law. Heb. 8 says the "old" covenant based on the Law is being made "obsolete" (8:13) but in the Gospel of Matthew, the Law is not obsolete. Jesus wants us to do even more than the OT asks. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus consistently emphasizes that his followers should not only follow the Law of Moses but must go beyond it: not only "do not murder" but do not even be angry; not only "do not commit adultery" but don't even look lustfully upon a woman, etc. (see Mt. 5-6) Moreover, Jesus strongly criticizes those who would undermine even the finest point of the OT Law:

  • Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Finally, at the time when Jesus taught, the New Covenant of Jeremiah was understood as a writing of God's Law on people's hearts, not a replacement of the Law by a summary of it. This is the plain meaning of the text:

  • I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer. 31:33)

The prophet doesn't speak of a one-sentence condensed version of the Law here. Of course, the summaries by Jesus and Hillel are important and profound, but we should not presume that they were taught as a substitute for the entire law, especially given Jesus' insistence in the Sermon on the Mount that not even the smallest point should be removed from the Law.

Thus, to interpret Hebrews' doctrine of the New Covenant as an expression of Jesus' teaching in the gospel of Matthew is problematic. Mt. 7:12 is a kind of summary of the Law; and Matthew indeed presents Jesus as a New Moses, but not as someone who makes the OT Covenant obsolete.

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  • I edited the above to answer first from a Christian viewpoint, which I had neglected in the first draft Aug 24, 2022 at 19:08
  • +1 for a well-reasoned answer with supporting evidence, but I would say that the Christian covenant is the same as Jeremiah's new covenant, in that Christ, who did keep the law (and was the only one to keep it perfectly), has been placed in our hearts, so Christians do have the law placed in their hearts exactly as prophesied by Jeremiah. However I agree that it is not a one sentence summary that is placed in our hearts, but the entire law.
    – Robert
    Aug 24, 2022 at 20:35
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    Eye for eye is a dramatic example of a basic principle of justice: demand no more what is due to you and no more. If we get beyond the gruesome example it's not so outrageous. It works well with "new house for destroyed house" or "$1,000 for bent fender of that value." Jesus taught that we should go beyond the "equal justice" concept and embrace the idea of loving our enemies, forgiving those who persecute us. Aug 24, 2022 at 22:48
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    @Dottard, for me it's not a question of Jesus v. Hebrews; it's a question of Matthew's view of the Law vs. that of Hebrews. Matthew's attitude toward the Law is much more positive. However, I admit that if I have to chose between the two, I chose Jesus. I also admit that in other Gospels, Jesus is portrayed as much less focused on law-keeping. I think God wants us to wrestle with this stuff but we don't have to make it all fit perfectly together like a jigsaw puzzle. Aug 24, 2022 at 22:53
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    Jesus 'Peace' mission is bit of a fallacy - see hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/78079/33268 Aug 25, 2022 at 15:07
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The writer of Hebrews twice refers to the prophecy in Jeremiah and the reference is surprising as will become apparent:

Heb 8:8-12 - 8 But God found fault with the people and said: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 9 It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, because they did not abide by My covenant, and I disregarded them, declares the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord. I will put My laws in their minds and inscribe them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be My people. 11 No longer will each one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will forgive their iniquities and will remember their sins no more.”

Heb 10:16, 17 - “This is the covenant I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord. I will put My laws in their hearts and inscribe them on their minds.” Then He adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”

Jer 31:31-34 - 31 Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt— a covenant they broke, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33 “But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD. I will put My law [תּוֹרָה = "Torah" or "law"] in their minds and inscribe it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they will be My people. 34 No longer will each man teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquities and will remember their sins no more.”

The New Covenant

The "new Covenant" is referenced a number of times in the NT - Matt 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor 11:25, 2 Cor 3:6, Heb 7:77, 8:6-13, 9:15, 10:16, 29, 12:24, 13:20, (Jer 31:31, 33), an eternal covenant (Heb 13:20).

One of the best and most succinct summaries of the New Covenant is found in 1 Peter 1, 2.

  • Purpose: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may express the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light … Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:9, 12. (See also Matt 5:16.)
  • The promise: Salvation by grace through the promised Messiah, 1 Peter 1:3-12, 20, and freedom from slavery to sin, 1 Peter 2:16. (See also 2 Peter 2:19.)
  • Moral Requirements: holiness (1 Peter 1:15), Purity (v22), Obey the truth (v22), love (v22), “rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (1 Peter 2:1), abstain from sinful desires (1 Peter 2:11), submit to civil authorities (v13-17), see also Rom 13:1-7, etc.
  • Sacrifice: Blood of Jesus, 1 Peter 1:18, 19, with its “sprinkled blood of the new covenant” of “Grace and peace” as per V2.

There is no direct lingustic link (other than a theological link) between the New Covenant and the Matt 7:12; except that we have earlier in the same sermon of Jesus the statement in Matt 5:17-19 -

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. So then, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

APPENDIX - Old Covenant was a Covenant of the heart

In Ex 19 Moses is instructed in the Covenant directly by God. Moses then conveys the content of the covenant to the people which is recorded in Ex 20:1-17 as the 10 Commandments, and then explained and amplified in Ex 20:22-23:33. The people answered, three times, “whatever the Lord has said we will do”, Ex 19:8, 24:3, 7, thus creating the Israelite covenant. [Later they rejected the Covenant and a New Covenant had to be instituted with Christians with the same content.] This Covenant was open to all people from its inception and was voluntary. See “Israel”.

This Israelite Covenant consisted of the following:

  • God promises to “save” Israel from Egyptian slavery and deliver them to the Promised Land as stated in the preamble to the 10 commandments, Ex 20:1, 2, 23:23, Deut 5:6. This was to fulfil God’s earlier promise to Abraham and others to give the Promised Land to Abraham’s descendants, Ex 2:24, 6:4, 5, forever, 1 Chron 16:15, Ps 105:8, 111:9.
  • God promises to protect His people by sending a protecting angel, Ex 23:19, 20, and establish their borders, Ex 23:31.
  • The benefits/promises of the covenant are also clearly set out in Lev 26:1-13, Deut 28:1-14 (blessings for obedience), and, Lev 26:14-39, Deut 28:15-68 (curses for disobedience). [Note that the curses for disobedience are specifically listed in Lev 26 as plague (V14-17), famine (V18-20), wild animals (V21, 22), sword/war (V23-26). Subsequently, these curses for disobedience are simply listed as “sword, famine and plague” in many places such as 1 Chron 21:12, 2 Chron 20:9, Jer 21:9, 24:10, 27:13, 29:18, 42:22, Eze 5:12, 17, 7:15, 12:16, etc, etc. The same is repeated in the first four seals of Rev 6.]
  • The purpose the Covenant (Ex 20:1-17) is stated clearly in Ex 19:5, 6 – to make the Israelites God’s peculiar treasure, his special people, distinguished by the way they conducted themselves. Ps 50:16-18, 74:20, 78:36, 37.

This purpose of the covenant was stated in other ways as, “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, … ” Ex 6:7. This is stated repeatedly: Lev 26:9-12, Deut 29:9-13, 2 Sam 7:24, 1 Chron 11:2, Ps 50:7, 95:7, 100:3, Isa 40:1, Jer 7:23, 11:1-4, 24:7, 30:9, 22, 31:1, 33, 32:38-40, Eze 11:20, 34:30, 31, 36:26-28, 37:23, 24, Hos 1:9, 4:6, Joel 2:26, 27, Zech 8:8. It is significant that the first of the 10 Commandments is a decree to have only ONE God, the LORD, Ex 20:3, Deut, 5:7, 6:4-6.

This same idea is also expressed another way – creating a people who would be “called by the name of the LORD”, or, “called by my name”, 2 Chron 7:14, Isa 43:7, 65:1; that is, to bear the character of a gracious, loving, kind God. The Jerusalem Temple was also a symbol of this covenant because it was “called by my Name”, 1 Kings 8:13, Jer 7:10, 11, 14, 32:34, 34:15. Such people, God declared, “out of all nations you will be my treasured possession … a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Ex 19:5, 6. See also Ruth 1:16.

Significantly, in Eze 36:16-38, the LORD sternly rebukes Israel because, “they profaned My holy name, because it was said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD, yet they had to leave His land.’ But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they had gone. (v22, 23). That is, Israel had profaned the name of God by sinning.

The requirements of the Israelite covenant are the 10 Commandments as recorded on the tablets of stone and amplified in Ex 20:22-23:33, the book of Deuteronomy and elsewhere such as Lev 17-19, 26. This is shown by the following facts:

  • Ex 24:7 introduces the “Book of the Covenant” (which see) as already existing, ie, Ex 20:22 – 23:33. It served as an expansion and legal context in which to place the Israelite Covenant of the 10 Commandments.
  • These tablets of stone with the 10 Commandments are called “the covenant” (Ex 34:27, 28, Deut 9:9, 11, 15) and placed inside the ark (Ex 25:16, 21, 40:20, Heb 9:4). [The tables of stone were also called “the tables of Testimony” (Ex 31:18, 32:15, 34:29), or just, “The Testimony” (Ex 25:16, 21).]
  • The “Ark of the Covenant” (Num 10:33, 14:44, Deut 10:8, 31:9, 25, 26, Josh 3:3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, 4:7, 9, 18, 6:6, 8:33, etc) or, “Ark of the Testimony” (Ex 25:22, 26:33, 34, 30:6, 26, 31:7, 39:35, 40:3, 5, 21, Lev 16:13, Num 4:5, 7:89, Josh 4:16, etc) is described thus precisely because it contained the stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God (Ex 31:18, Deut 9:10) with the Israelite Covenant of the 10 Commandments. 1 Kings 8:9, 2 Chron 5:10.
  • The ancient sacred “Tabernacle”, also known as the “tent of meeting” (Ex 39:32, 40:2, 6, 22, 24, 35, Lev 17:4, Num 3:7, 8, 4:25, 31) was also called the “tent of covenant law” (Num 9:15, 1:50, 53, Ex 38:21) because it housed the Ark of the Covenant containing the Covenant Law.
  • The re-statement and expansion of the 10 Commandments as the covenant in Deut 4:13, 23, 31, 5:2, 3 includes a reference back to the Covenant at Horeb, ie, Mt Sinai (See Ex 3:1, 17:6, 33:6, etc, and the statement of the covenant in Ex 19, 20, and restated in Ex 24).
  • The 10 Commandments Covenant is distinct from the Levitical law and Davidic Covenant.
  • The visible symbols of the Israelite Covenant solemnity and importance included: an altar of 12 stones (Ex 24:4), a sacrifice (Ex 24:5), sprinkled blood of the covenant (Ex 24:8). The blood of the covenant was used dramatically when painted on the door posts in Egypt at the first Passover (Ex 12).
  • The tokens/signs of the covenant (Heb: “oth”) appear to have been the law of the 10 Commandments themselves (Deut 6:8, 11:18), and especially the Sabbath (Ex 31:13, 16, 17, Isa 56:4, 6, Exe 20:12, 20, see “Sabbath”); the blood of the covenant from the Passover Lamb is also used as a sign in Ex 12:13; the famous “Ark of the Covenant” containing the 10 Commandments on tablets of stone (Ex 16:34, 24:12, 25:16, 21, 31:18, 32:15, 19, 34:1, 4, 28, 40:20, Deut 4:13, 9-11, etc). [Note: This did not include circumcision as this was a sign of the Abrahamic covenant to which the Israelites fell heirs.]
  • Lev 26:44, 45, Jer 31:35-37, 32, 40, 33:25 declare the Israelite covenant immutable and irrevocable. See also Heb 13:20, 1 Chron 16:17, Jer 50:5, Ps 105:8, Eze 37:26.
  • The giving of the written 10 commandments at Sinai was NOT novel – they had always existed (see 10 Commandments) showing that God had always had a people made distinct by the keeping of the moral law.

Later Views on the Israelite Covenant

On numerous occasions, the Israelite Covenant, or “Old Covenant” was presented as fulfilling, or at least an extension of the covenant God had made with Abraham. Ex 2:24, Lev 26:42, Deut 29:13, 2 Kings 13:23, 1 Chron 16:16, Ps 105:9. See also Luke 1:73, Acts 3:25, 7:8, Gal 3:17, etc. This older covenant was the origin of the promises concerning the land of Canaan. This was fulfilled when Israel conquered Canaan. See 1 Kings 4:20, 21, 2 Chron 9:26.

The ancient Israelites were often reprimanded for assuming that God’s covenant with them was a mere matter of ceremonies, the stone tablets and the temple. 1 Sam 15:22, Ps 40:6-8, 51:16, 17, Prov 15:8, 21:3, Isa 1:10-17, Jer 6:3-6, 20, Hos 6:6, Micah 6:6-8, etc. That is, they confused the Levitical and Moral Covenant. More particularly, the Israelites were repeatedly told that the conditions of the Covenant were a matter for the heart and NOT external regulations (Deut 6:5, Ps 40:8, Jer 24:7, 31:1, 33, 34, 32:38-40, 36, 26-28), because God initiated the covenant to save Israel; it was a covenant of transforming grace and forgiveness! Isa 59:21 says the covenant is the eternal gift of the Spirit. That this Israelite Covenant was a covenant of transforming grace is confirmed by several ideas:

  • The Old Covenant was a covenant initiated entirely by God alone, to save Israel. God alone set out the requirements and blessings. God makes it clear that they were selected as the chosen people, NOT because of any Israelite merit, but simply because God wanted to. Deut 7:7, 9:5, 6, 10:15.
  • The Old Covenant was a matter of the “heart” (Deut 6:5, 10:12, 16, 11:18, Ps 40:8, Jer 24:7, 31:33, 34, 32:38-40, Eze 11:19, 18:31, 36:26) and NOT mere regulations (1 Sam 15:22, Ps 40:6-8, 51:16, 17, Prov 15:8, 21:3, Isa 1:10-17, Jer 6:3-6, 20, Hos 6:6, Micah 6:6-8). These references make it clear that the Old Covenant did not really include the animal sacrifices, and that they could not define nor atone for sin. (Heb 9:9, 10:4, Ps 51:16, 17, 1 Sam 15:22). The animal sacrifices and the sanctuary ritual were part of the Levitical covenant which acted as teaching device that anticipated, and was a type of, the High Priestly ministry of Messiah.
  • The Ark of the Covenant, containing the Covenant stone tablets of the 10 Commandments, was constructed in a highly symbolic way. The 10 Commandments were inside the box and the “atonement cover” or “mercy seat” was placed above them. Ex 25:17-22, 26:34, 30:6, 31:17, 37:9, 40:20, Lev 16:13; see also Heb 9:5. This arrangement was placed in the Most Holy Place, in the sanctuary, and always remained at the center of God’s Covenant people.
  • In Solomon’s prayer of dedication, he describes the (Israelite) Covenant as God showing “lovingkindness”, or, “steadfast love”, to people. 1 Kings 8:23, 2 Chron 6:14, See also Neh 1:5, 9:32, Ps 89:28, 33, 34, 103:17, 18, 111:4, 5, 9, Isa 54:10, 55:3. This suggests that the Law of God, or the Moral Law, is an expression of God’s love and is just as eternal.

Note: Most of the confusion about the various covenants arises because people confuse the Israelite Covenant with the Levitical Covenant, or, assume that the Levitical Covenant and the Davidic Covenant are part of the Israelite (Old) Covenant. This confusion is perpetuated by the (erroneous) practice of labelling the Israelite and Levitical covenants, “Mosaic”, as if they are the same thing.

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  • This was a lot of work and a very orthodox, well researched presentation. I have no idea why it was downvoted. +1
    – Robert
    Aug 25, 2022 at 17:09
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The Golden Rule

The golden rule says to apply the same standards to others as yourself -to use a single objective standard, not a double standard - and so it's a distillation of a key attribute of the law, which is supposed to be something above us that we submit to, and not something that we rise above in rebellion to manipulate. In this sense, it's like the other teachings against double standards in Matthew, and should be interpret as such:

  • Matt 6.14-15 (KJV): For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

  • Matthew 7:1–5 (LEB):

“Do not judge, so that you will not be judged. For by what judgment you judge, you will be judged, and by what measure you measure out, it will be measured out to you.And why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, ‘Allow me to remove the speck from your eye,’ and behold, the beam of wood is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the beam of wood from your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye!

But think about what it would take for a person to be obedient to a single external standard, instead of a double standard. It would mean that they are no longer rebelling against God by trying to justify themselves or making their own rules. They no longer have a little lawyer that excuses why something shouldn't apply to them.

  • And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts Luke 16.15a KJV

It would also mean that they do not project their own failings onto others, which means they do not give pre-eminence to their own selves. Someone who could do this would overcome the fallen nature, and therefore no one can do it.

Thus the golden rule is a distillation of the undigestible part of the law - the part no one can keep - because human nature is to throw the dart and then draw a bullseye around it, therefore always treating yourself differently from others.

This was basically the Pharisees, who created vast and elaborate systems of interpretations as well as institutions to promulgate them in order to smooth out and control the law. For example, one of my favorite passages in the Talmud is the following struggle to smooth Leviticus 19.18a ("Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge") by arguing that revenge was good, actually, and different from bearing a grudge (which was bad), and that Leviticus 19.18 did not apply to matters of honor.

R. Johanan in the name of R. Simeon b. Jehozadak said again: A scholar who is not revengeful and remembers not injuries as a serpent, cannot be called “Talmud Hakham” (a teacher). But it is written [Lev. 19:18]: “Thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge”? There precautionary matters are spoken of (but in regard to bodily pain or honor it is different).

(See also Mark 7.6-13 for a New Testament example).

Here the goal is not to pick on the Pharisees, because they were just living examples of the human condition, but to show that it really is impossible for man to abide by any objective external standards because man always wants to be a little god that makes his own law. If that part could be overcome, the rest of the law would be automatically met. This is why Jesus said "For this is the law and the prophets".

From all of the above, we can see why the golden rule is not an example of "inward discernment" - but rather it is a profound attack on the sin nature.

Relationship to New Covenant

The relationship between the golden rule and Jeremiah's covenant is not that the standards of behavior are different, but that the former sets the standard (which man did not meet, but Christ met) and the latter provides for a mechanism of meeting the same standard (by God renewing our minds so that we have the mind of Christ). They are closely related, but not in the way the question suggests.

10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people. Hebrews 8:10 KJV

It is the same laws. But now it's possible to meet the law, because Christ met the law and is our life. But it's not a different law, rather it's a different covenant.


Michael L. Rodkinson, trans., The Babylonian Talmud: Original Text, Edited, Corrected, Formulated, and Translated into English, vol. 6a (Boston, MA: The Talmud Society, 1918), 32–33.

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  • I see the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) as the Holy Spirit of Empathy, where we put ourselves in someone else's shoes. As we think about how we would want to be treated if we were in their position; we are in essence, treating others the same way we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). I don't see how we can fulfill the Golden Rule without the inner discernment of the Holy Spirit. Aug 25, 2022 at 23:06
  • @StevieC. Well, it's nice to be empathetic, but you can only do that occasionally. So again, people take a general blanket rule "do unto others" - similar to "Love the Lord with all your heart" -- and they smooth it out into something they can accomplish, such as "be empathetic from time to time" or "focus on God when you worship". But there are no qualifiers in either the golden rule or the Shema, that would limit them to occasional observances. Someone who is totally empathetic at all times to all people would be erasing their ego - they would overcome the sin nature.
    – Robert
    Aug 25, 2022 at 23:30

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