Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Romans 8:19-23 - The Groaning of Creation


Paul had last begun a discussion on the believers' adoption and the glory that would one day be revealed in them. Paul continued with this.

Romans 8:19-23 (KJV)
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

In verse 19 Paul stated that creation is earnestly waiting for the manifestation (revealing) of the sons of God. This manifestation will take place as believers receive their glorified bodies. The human fleshly, corruptible body will no longer exist, but will be replaced by the glorified resurrected body that is no longer subject to decay.

Paul's statement indicates that creation itself is in a condition of decay and is seeking a release. According to verse 20, creation's condition resulted not from anything that it did, but was subjected or cursed because God desired it. Verse 21 finishes the explanation as to why God would curse creation. It was to create hope, that with the glorification of the children of God (believers), creation would also be set free from its slavery to corruption and would realize the same glorious liberty as the children of God.

Verse 22 further illustrates that creation is groaning and suffering as if it were experiencing the pains of childbirth. Notice that Paul used the word, "now." Although creation is still groaning, something occurred and made a change.

Verse 23 alludes to the change. Creation, as well as believers, have the firstfruits of the Spirit. Prior to the death and resurrection of Yeshua and the coming of the Holy Spirit creation could only groan under the burden of corruption. But since then creation and believers have an installment that gives hope for the final adoption or redemption of the body that will take place at the end of the age when Yeshua returns.

Ephesians 1:14 (KJV)
14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Although we can be saved spiritually now, the final redemption of the body is something that we have to look forward to. Creation joins us in that glorious hope for the future. What a glorious day that will truly be!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Excuse the Delay!

Dear Readers:

I will be away from my computer for a little while! In the meantime, please look over my archived articles.

Blessings to you all! Much love in our Messiah Yeshua!

Eclectic Christian

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Romans 8:14-18 - Adopted By God


Believers are to walk in the Spirit and are to discipline the deeds of the body. What more was Paul going to teach?

Romans 8:14-18 (KJV)
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

According to verse 14, they, that are led by the Holy Spirit, are the sons of God. Here Paul again stressed that although all people are his children in a sense, true sons and daughters are only those that have entered into a relationship with God and are walking accordingly. There is a definite distinction between the majority of mankind and His own.

But believers have not received the spirit of bondage that results in fear (verse 15). They have received the Spirit of adoption which entitles them to call God, "Father." Traditional Christianity has thought that the spirit of bondage came as a result of being under the obligation of Torah. But based on Paul's glowing descriptions of the Torah, it would be unthinkable that he would consider obligatory Torah observance to lead to bondage.

Romans 7:22 (KJV)
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

John also agreed with Paul.

1 John 5:3 (KJV)
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

The spirit of bondage results from being enslaved to sin, which leads to fear of the judgment of God. For believers, however, their status has changed. They are no longer enslaved to sin, but to righteousness, where there is no fear.

Verse 16 assures believers that the Holy Spirit is dwelling within. He witnesses with their own natural spirit that they are children of God.

1 Thessalonians 1:5a (KJV)
5 For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance...

And if believers are the children of God, then they are also heirs of God, just as Yeshua is (verse 17). Although this means that believers will suffer persecution and reproach because of faith, they will also be glorified like Yeshua. In fact, believers will be glorified together with Him! This statement was meant to be a great comfort for believers. Paul went on to compare the sufferings of this age to the glory that will eventually be bestowed on the believers (verse 18). Although the sufferings can be great, the glory far outweighs them.

2 Corinthians 4:17 (KJV)
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;

1 Corinthians 2:9 (KJV)
9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

Paul would continue his thoughts in the next section. Stay tuned!


Friday, December 13, 2013

Where Does Your Help Come From?

Where do you turn for help? God, right? But do we always truly seek Him first with complete confidence?

Recently, as I was coming upon a stressful situation I early sought the Lord's help. Yet, as I went through the days leading up to it, I found that I was looking around in my circumstances for an escape path. I was seeking help externally, rather than truly seeking God. This is not to say that God can't bring outside help, but my focus had moved away from God to those possible outside helps.

Wham, I got that slap upside my head again! (See here:)

Look what my devotional reading for this morning was!

Psalm 121:1-8 (KJV)
1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Yes, my help comes from God. He may use some outside assistance, but He is perfectly capable of operating all on His own. After all, He is the creator of heaven and earth. Unless it is His will, He will not let my foot be moved. He never sleeps and He is able to keep me at all times. He is my shade to keep me from the sun or moon. He preserves me from evil and He preserves my soul. He preserves my going out and my coming in. His care is forever.

Whatever more do I need?! I will truly trust Him today!

Shabbat Shalom to all my dear readers!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Romans 8:12-13 - Debtors


Paul had contrasted life in the flesh to life in the Spirit. He continued in this theme.

Romans 8:12-13 (KJV)
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

According to verse 12 believers are debtors.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (KJV)
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

They are bought with a price. It took the Creator God to offer himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of those who would believe. He took the penalty that sinful man deserved and was crucified. Through Him believers have eternal life. They owe Him everything.

Yet, believers are not debtors to the body with its fleshly desires. For if believers lived according to those desires, they would die (verse 13). Instead the believers were, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, to mortify (bring under control) the deeds of the body. Then they would live.

It is important to understand that the desires of the flesh refers to those attractions and pulls that lead to sin, and are not those desires that are acceptable to God. In other words caring for your body is not what is in mind here. Throughout church history believers have attempted to gain God's approval by some rather horrendous practices, such as climbing stairs on the knees, refusing food, and abusing the body. This was never God's intent.

Yet, these two verses pack a punch! Without question, salvation comes by grace through faith. However, these verses clearly indicate that continuing to live according to the desires of the flesh is inconsistent with true belief. When the Holy Spirit lives within believers, desires and behaviors change.

This behooves us to examine ourselves carefully! If we are living in habitual sin, or have the idea that God accepts us in our sinful state and we do not change, we are likely not saved!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Parable of the Two Sticks

This morning I was reading the Haftarah portion for Vayigash. It was Ezekiel 37:15-28. In it Ezekiel was told by God to take two sticks. He was to write "For Judah" on one of them and "For Joseph" on the other. These sticks were to represent the divided Kingdom which was made up of Judah (the southern kingdom) and Israel (the northern kingdom that was also known as Ephraim, which came from the name of one of the sons of Joseph). Ezekiel was to put these two sticks together, although it doesn't say how he was to do that. Perhaps he joined them in some way, or perhaps God miraculously joined them. Anyway, in their joined state, this single stick represented that the divided kingdom would one day become one again.

Ezekiel 37:21 (KJV)
21 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:

In verse 21 God explained how this joining would take place. He would bring back to the land of Israel his Jewish people from wherever they had been scattered. This prophecy is being fulfilled during our own days. Beginning with the statehood of Israel in 1948, Jews have been going back to their own land.

Ezekiel 37:22-23 (KJV)
22 And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all:
23 Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.

Verse 22 adds that there will be one king over the reunited Israel. This has not yet been fulfilled, but verse 23 gives us a clue as to the timing of this one king. In this joined Israel, the Jews will no longer defile themselves with their idols, their detestable things, nor their transgressions. God will save them and cleanse them, so that He would be their God and they would be His people. This is depicting a time that Paul speaks of in Romans. Eventually, all the Jews will be saved and they will recognize their Messiah.

Romans 11:26 (KJV)
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

Ezekiel 37:24 (KJV)
24 And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.

Verse 24 of Ezekiel specifies that the king will be David. This is not David in some reincarnated sense, but rather indicates that the Messiah King will be a descendant of David. That King will be Yeshua. This verse also points out that the Jews having been saved will walk in God's judgments, observe His statutes, and will do them. What are God's judgments and statutes? Any Jew will know that God's judgments and statutes are found in the Torah. Since they will be saved, they will have the indwelling Holy Spirit that will enable them to observe the Torah. Let me say this again. After salvation, God's people will observe and obey the Torah.

Ezekiel 37:26 (KJV)
26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.

Lastly, Ezekiel repeats that God will make an everlasting covenant of peace with the Jewish people. This is not a new covenant that abolishes the old, rather it is the renewed covenant that is spoken of in Jeremiah. Notice, too, that the dwelling place of the Jews will be in the land of Israel, where God will set His sanctuary in the midst of them. This will be their covenant and dwelling place forever.

Jeremiah 31:31 (KJV)
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

The time that Ezekiel has been speaking of is after Yeshua's return, when He establishes His Milennial Kingdom. However, the covenant that God makes with Israel and their homeland will last forever. This means that the time goes beyond the Milennial kingdom into eternity.

If we Gentiles want to be a part of God's people, we can only participate through the Jews. By grace through faith, God grafts us into Israel. There is no other way. Although God has intended that both Jews and Gentiles are a part of His Kingdom, they are identified only by the term Israel.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Romans 8:9-11 - Walking in the Spirit


After discussing walking in the flesh, Paul next turned to the walking in the Spirit.

Romans 8:9-11 (KJV)
9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

Paul reminded his believing readers that they were not held in bondage to the flesh any longer, but were in the Spirit because the Holy Spirit dwelt within them (verse 9). If the Holy Spirit was not dwelling within, that person was not God's. So often today in churches there is talk about a universal gospel, where, basically, everyone is saved (except maybe for the worst sinners, i.e. Hitler). But this concept is unknown in the Scriptures. Clearly, unless a person is born again (repented and believed), he or she is not God's, but is lost in sin.

And if Yeshua (through the Holy Spirit) is within, the body is dead because of sin (verse 10). Paul was reminding his readers that because of sin, the body must die (the wages of sin are death).When someone becomes a believer, he or she is joined with Yeshua in His death, and in a certain sense the believer's body is then dead, too. The good news is that then the Holy Spirit can dwell within, giving life because of Yeshua's righteousness.

And because the Holy Spirit dwells within the believer, the Holy Spirit will quicken (or make alive) his or her mortal body, just like Yeshua was raised from the dead (verse 11). The body is enabled to live in righteousness and walk in the Spirit.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Romans 8:5-8 - Walking in the Flesh


It is only through Yeshua's death and resurrection and the enabling of the Holy Spirit, that the believer is able to follow Torah. Believers are to walk in the Spirit rather than in the flesh.

Romans 8:5-8 (KJV)
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

Paul continued his thoughts in verse 5. Those that walk in (or live according to) the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh. However, those that walk in (or live according to) the Spirit are concerned with the things of the Spirit. Although the flesh is not evil in itself, having such an orientation causes the unregenerate person to be occupied with the pleasing of the flesh. They can do no other. It is only through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that the believer can be oriented to being occupied with the things of the Spirit.

Being carnally minded (unregenerate, occupied with pleasing the flesh) results in death, but being spiritually minded (born again, occupied with the things of the Spirit) results in life and peace (verse 6).

The carnal mind is at enmity (like an enemy or is hostile) with God because it is not subject to Torah (verse 7). In fact, it is impossible for the carnal mind to be subject to Torah.

So, those that walk in the flesh cannot please God (verse 8).

Paul was describing the two differing states of mankind. Either a person is in the flesh or he or she is in the Spirit. If he is in the flesh, his carnal mind is hostile to God. Notice that the reason the carnal mind is hostile to God is because it is not subject to Torah. Yet, this is not the understanding of traditional Christianity. The vast majority of Christians are hostile to Torah, believing that Paul taught that Christians were no longer subject to Torah. Obviously, this interpretation is incorrect. Walking in the Spirit, which results in life and peace, means being subject to Torah and being enabled to fulfill it by the Holy Spirit. If there are only two states, are traditional Christians actually walking in the Spirit or are they still walking in the flesh? This is a very sobering thought and should be examined carefully.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Romans 8:1-4 - Righteousness of the Believer


Paul had last concluded that he had been a wretched man, serving sin with his flesh even though his will and mind wanted to serve Torah. But he thanked God through Messiah Yeshua for His deliverance.

Romans 8:1-4 (KJV)
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

In summary for chapter 7, Paul said that there is no longer any condemnation from the Torah for those who are in Yeshua, those who do not walk after the flesh, but walk according to the Holy Spirit (verse 1). Once someone has become a believer by repentance and faith in Yeshua, the condemnation that results from not following the Torah is gone and the believer can walk in fellowship with Yeshua through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and is enabled to follow Torah rather than live and act according to the fleshly nature.

Verse 2 is somewhat of a restatement of verse 1. Paul was saying that the "law of the Spirit of life in Yeshua" is that power by which the believer is saved and is enabled to live according to the Torah. It is that power that has made the believer free from the "law of sin and death" (the law whereby death results from sin and the inability to follow Torah).

The Torah could not make man righteous, because of the inability of the flesh (verse 3). But when God sent His own Son (Yeshua) in human form, He defeated sin that reigned in the flesh.

It is through Yeshua that the righteousness of Torah can be fulfilled in the believer (verse 4). Again, Paul added that the believer does not walk by flesh, but by the empowering Holy Spirit.

Notice that by walking according to the Spirit, Torah is fulfilled. It doesn't mean that the Torah is then over and done with. Torah can never be fulfilled in the sense that once it is done, it can be set aside. The believer's life is to be characterized by Torah living. It the the Holy Spirit's function to enable the believer to obey the Torah. How blessed believers are!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Romans 7:14-25 - Inability to Obey Torah


Last time Paul related that the purpose of Torah is to reveal sin and intentions. It functions as it should, just how God designed it.

Romans 7:14-25 (KJV)
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.
17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

Based on Paul's examination of the purpose of Torah, he concluded in verse 14 that Torah is spiritual, but he was carnal, sold under sin. The word carnal, in this case, is not referring to anything sinful, but just the fleshly, natural, physical state that humankind is housed in. It can be inferred that mankind is made up of two parts, the spirit and the flesh. The fleshly part is not necessarily sinful either, but to be "sold under sin" means that Paul was driven by fleshly lusts. This truly is the state of all mankind.

For Paul did what he didn't want to do, and he didn't do what he should have done (verse 15) (Paul is using himself as an example of all mankind). In verse 16, Paul said that even if he does what he shouldn't, he understood that the Torah is good. But even though he could see that the Torah is good, Torah was unable to make him good. In a way, he was not responsible for his actions, but rather it was the sin that dwelt within him that was responsible (verse 17). (Although, Paul was saying that his situation was not due to anything that he had created, he was not saying that he was not guilty before God for the sin he committed.)

In verse 18 Paul further explained that even by applying the human will (desiring to do that which is right) he was unable to do the good.  No good thing dwelt within his flesh. This statement is in reference to the old nature, that prior to salvation, enslaves mankind to sin.

Verse 19 is somewhat of a repetition of verse 15, but notice that Paul pointed out again that the human will can choose to do good, yet fails to do so. The sin that enslaves overcomes the will.

Verse 20 is a repeat basically of verse 17.

Paul concluded that he found that there was a "law" within himself that counteracted his good will (verse 21). Evil was present within him. This, too, is the case of all mankind.

Paul delighted in Torah in his inner self (verse 22). But there was that other "law" warring against the law of his mind (desiring to obey Torah) that brought him into captivity to the law of sin that existed within his fleshly body (verse 23).

"Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" Here, Paul cried out in desperation. Who would deliver him from this fleshly body that had enslaved him to sin and death (verse 24)?

Paul thanked God through Yeshua. He is able to deliver not only Paul, but all of mankind (verse 25). So, with his mind Paul served Torah, but with his flesh he served the law of sin.

Christianity has traditionally interpreted this passage in one of two ways. Probably, most frequently, this passage is believed to be the back and forth tug of sin upon the believer, but the context instead seems to imply that Paul was describing the state of mankind, in general, and a Torah follower specifically.

The second interpretation is that this is an example of unregenerate man before belief. This understanding comes much closer to what the context seems to imply. In this case, the passage has nothing to do with the struggle with sin believers face after salvation. However, this model fails in that "the good" one desired would not necessarily be Torah, but whatever concept the person had of "good."

What must be remembered is that Paul's point was to demonstrate that Torah was unable to make mankind good, that it is only through Yeshua that righteousness is possible. Only Yeshua can deliver someone from the "body of death."


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Romans 7:7-13 - The Function of the Torah


In the last post on Romans, Paul used an analogy about marriage to describe the position that the believer has regarding the Torah's condemnation, the old fleshly nature, and the new nature. In essence, the believer's fleshly nature is dead, there is no longer any condemnation or guilt because of Torah disobedience, and he or she is legally free to "marry" and serve Yeshua.

Romans 7:7-13 (KJV)
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

After Paul's analogy, he expected his readers to ask the question in verse 7, "Is the Torah sin?" Again, he answered firmly, "God forbid!" In fact he had known sin only because of the Torah. For example, he had not known lust except that the Torah had commanded, "Thou shalt not covet." Paul was saying that the Torah could not be sin because it is through Torah that sin is revealed. In fact, while examining himself regarding the command not to covet, he found in his heart a deeper problem, lust. So not only did the Torah reveal sin, but it revealed the intents of the heart. How could Torah be sin when it served such a good function?

In verse 8 Paul stated that sin, once revealed as sin, wrought in him all manner of strong desire or lust. Notice that Paul is not saying that the commandment or Torah wrought these desires, but the sin itself. The Torah acts as a mirror. When sin is revealed, there is shame, guilt, and estrangement from God. Seeing, through Torah, that there is even more behavior and inclinations contrary to God within, it is as if the sin is multiplied. Paul added that without Torah, sin was dead. This goes back to his prior argument about there being no accountability or guilt for sin, until it is known and transgressed.

Verse 9 continued Paul's thought. Paul himself had been alive (free from the condemnation of Torah) before he knew Torah, but once he knew the Torah he came under its condemnation and in a sense he died (dead in trespasses and sin).

Although the commandment (regarding coveting) was meant for life (shows how life should be lived), was found by Paul to be unto death (the penalty for sin) (verse 10).

For sin, being revealed by the Torah, deceived Paul and it (the sin) rendered him guilty and deserving of death (verse 11). Paul was admitting that sin comes with the expectation of good or pleasure. However, once sin is committed, sin only brings its wages (death).

Therefore the Torah is holy and the commandment against coveting is holy, just, and good (verse 12).

Paul then asked in verse 13, was the good Torah the source of death? He answered again, "God forbid." He clarified by saying that although the Torah revealed his sin and he became guilty of death, that was the function of the Torah, to reveal, by the commandments, how exceedingly sinful sin was. The Torah does what it was designed to do!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Do You Belong to "The Way?" Part 4


Up to about 90 A.D. "The Way" was considered a sect of Judaism. The beliefs and practices were very much in line with Judaism except that Yeshua was believed to be the Messiah. What about after 90 A.D.? Did the Nazarenes continue in this manner?

The next important event in history for both the Pharisaic Jews and the Nazarenes was the Second Jewish Revolt in 132-135 A.D. The Pharisaic Jews supported Shimon Bar-Kokhba as their leader. Because Bar-Kokhba means "son of the star" and in light of Numbers 24:17, he was believed to be the Messiah.

Numbers 24:17 (KJV)
17 I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.

However, the Nazarenes, knowing that Yeshua was the Messiah and had already come, refused to support Bar-Kokhba. The Nazarenes left the army. They were then labeled as traitors, deepening the divide between the Pharisaic Jews and the Nazarenes. Eventually, Rome, under the Emperor Hadrian, put down the revolt, plowed Jerusalem, and forbade any Jews from living there. Hadrian changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina and the name of the region to Syria Palestina. He outlawed Torah study, circumcision, Sabbath observance, and other Jewish practices (The Bar-Kokhba Revolt 132-135 CE, www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/revolt1). A Gentile Christian named Markus was made Bishop of Aelia Capitolina.

With the increased persecution of the Jews at this time, the desire for Gentile Christians to distance themselves from the Jews became even greater. Gentile Christian places of worship existed next to Nazarene places of worship in the eastern part of the Roman Empire.

At the Council of Nicea in 325 Christianity was basically standardized. The Nazarenes were excluded. Jewish practices were banned. Instead of Saturday Sabbath, the "Day of the Sun" (Sunday) was substituted. Nazarenes were called apostates. From this point on many of the Nazarenes fled the Roman Empire to the Parthian Empire where they assimilated with the Nestorians. Many were also wiped out because of the encroachment of Islam. The Nazarenes eventually disappeared from history probably around the fifth century.

"The Way" was the sect of Judaism that Yeshua's disciples carried on after their Master's death. Historically, they continued in existence at least until the fifth century. Their continued observance of Torah, which is historically verifiable, should cause all believers today to reexamine the beliefs and practices of the Christian church that we have inherited. We have long followed a pagan/Christian amalgam that should be rejected. If the church desires to be like first century Christianity, we must look beyond our current understandings and seek out those truths that were contained in "The Way."

(Much of this information came from Moreh ben Friedman, "What is Nazarene (Netzarim) Judaism?," www.yashanet.com/library/nazarene_judaism and Moshe ben Shaul, "The Nazarenes," www.yashanet.com/library/temple/nazarenes.)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Do You Belong to "The Way?" Part 3


From both the New Testament and writings of the Early Church Fathers there is evidence that the followers of Yeshua were both Torah observant and known as a sect of Judaism. What evidence exists in the historical record after the book of Acts?

During the days following the death and resurrection of Yeshua thousands came to faith. Although "The Way" had initially stayed close to Jerusalem, periods of persecution caused the Nazarenes (as they were also called) to move out of Jerusalem and into the other parts of Israel and beyond. Eventually, with Paul's ministry, Gentiles were added in great numbers. The Beit Din (Rabbi's Court or House of Judgment) of the Nazarenes remained in Jerusalem in the capable hands of Yeshua's half brother James, known as Ya'acov HaTzaddik (James the Just). According to the writings of Josephus, when James was thrown off the pinnacle of the Temple in 62 A.D. by the chief priest (a Sadducee), the Pharisees protested over his death.

Up to this time, the Jews as well as the Nazarenes continued to worship in the Temple, although there was certainly some animosity between the groups. However, after the beginning of the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66 A.D. and the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans, the Nazarenes remembered the words of Yeshua in Luke.

Luke 21:20-21 (KJV)
20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.

The Nazarenes fled to nearby Pella (in modern Jordan). This action was considered cowardly by the Jews, who remained in Jerusalem. The siege of Jerusalem lasted five months, the Romans invaded the city, and the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. There was much loss of life amongst the Jews and this further damaged the relationship between the Jews and Nazarenes.

In 90 A.D. Samuel the Lesser added the Birkat haMinim to the Eighteen Benedictions of the Amidah. This prayer was a curse that was pronounced on the Nazarenes ("minim" meaning "heretics"). This prayer is still said three times a day in the Jewish community.

"And for slanderers let there be no hope, and may all wickedness perish in an instant; and may all Your enemies be cut down speedily. May You speedily uproot, smash, cast down, and humble the wanton sinners -- speedily in our days. Blessed are You, LORD, Who breaks enemies and humbles wanton sinners." (Artscroll translation)

From a prayerbook from Cairo Genizah an earlier version is found:

"For the renegades let there be no hope, and may the arrogant kingdom soon be rooted out in our days, and the Netzarim (Nazarenes) and the Minim perish as in a moment and be blotted out from the book of life and with the righteous may they not be inscribed. Blessed are you, LORD, who humbles the arrogant."

In essence, this effectively threw all the Nazarenes out of the synagogues, since they would be praying a curse upon themselves if they remained. This was the desired goal of the Pharisaic Jews. Yet, life continued for both groups. Some Jews and Nazarenes apparently came back into Jerusalem.

Clearly, "The Way" was viewed as a sect of Judaism during the days after Yeshua and up until about 90 A.D. The Nazarenes also obviously participated in the worship at the Temple until its destruction. They even continued to worship in the synagogues until the Birkat haMinim was instituted. If the traditional view of Christianity was correct, 60 years should have been enough time for the believers to understand that Torah was no longer to be practiced. Historically, it must be entertained that it is today's Christianity that has misunderstood the role of Torah observance in the life of faith.

Stay tuned for Part 4 and the history after 90 A.D. 

(Much of this information came from Moreh ben Friedman, "What is Nazarene (Netzarim) Judaism?," www.yashanet.com/library/nazarene_judaism and Moshe ben Shaul, "The Nazarenes," www.yashanet.com/library/temple/nazarenes.)


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Do You Belong to "The Way?" Part 2


From the book of Acts there is strong evidence that the apostle Paul continued to be Torah observant even after Gentiles were added to the body of Messiah. They called themselves "The Way," and were also referred to as Nazarenes. 

Acts 24:5 (KJV)
5 For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:

However, most readers will still believe that Paul and the assemblies he began were not Torah observant. His writings have been interpreted from an anti-Torah position for so long that belief in a Torah observant community seems impossible.

Yet, it is in reviewing quotes and history from later periods that it is evidenced that "The Way" practiced their faith by Torah observance.

"To-day there still exists among the Jews in all the synagogues of the East a heresy which is called that of the Minæans, and which is still condemned by the Pharisees; [its followers] are ordinarily called 'Nasarenes'; they believe that Christ, the son of God, was born of the Virgin Mary, and they hold him to be the one who suffered under Pontius Pilate and ascended to heaven, and in whom we also believe. But while they pretend to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither." (Jerome, Epistle 79 to Augustine, written in the fourth century). ("Minaean" comes from "minim" meaning "heretics.")

Notice that Jerome stated the Nazarenes were orthodox in their beliefs, but were heretics because they "tried" to be both Jewish and Christian. Also notice that the assemblies were located "in the East."

"We shall now especially consider heretics who... call themselves Nazarenes; they are mainly Jews and nothing else. They make use not only of the New Testament, but they also use in a way the Old Testament of the Jews; for they do not forbid the books of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings... so that they are approved of by the Jews, from whom the Nazarenes do not differ in anything, and they profess all the dogmas pertaining to the prescriptions of the Law and to the customs of the Jews, except they believe in [Messiah]... They preach that there is but one [Elohim], and his son [Yahshua the Messiah]. But they are very learned in the Hebrew language; for they, like the Jews, read the whole Law, then the Prophets...They differ from the Jews because they believe in Messiah, and from the Christians in that they are to this day bound to the Jewish rites, such as circumcision, the Sabbath, and other ceremonies." (Epiphanius; Panarion 29; translated from the Greek; written in the fourth century).

Notice from this quote that the Nazarenes and the Christians appear to be two different groups.

Read the following quote from Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, regarding the observance of Passover among the assemblies of Asia Minor:

"We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead ? All these observed the fourteenth day of the Passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man'...I could mention the bishops who were present, whom I summoned at your desire; whose names, should I write them, would constitute a great multitude. And they, beholding my littleness, gave their consent to the letter, knowing that I did not bear my gray hairs in vain, but had always governed my life by the Lord Jesus" (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book V, Chapter XXIV, Verses 2-7 . Translated by A. Cushman McGiffert. Digireads.com Publishing, Stilwell (KS), 2005, p. 114).

Clearly, at some point in time, the body of Messiah split into two separate groups, that of "The Way" and that of the Christians (those who today are not Torah observant).

"They (Nazarenes) are characterized essentially by their tenacious attachment to Jewish observances.  If they became heretics in the eyes of the (Catholic) Mother Church, it is simply because they remained fixed on outmoded positions.  They well represent, (even) though Epiphanius is energetically refusing to admit it, the very direct descendants of that primitive community, of which our author (Epiphanius) knows that it was designated by the Jews, by the same name, of ‘Nazarenes’.”  [First Century expert Marcel Simon, Judéo-christianisme, pp 47-48.]

Without a doubt "The Way" was the church of the first century. They were Torah observant. Doesn't it seem right, then, that today, the true followers of Yeshua should also be Torah observant? How would you answer the question, "Do you belong to "The Way?" Perhaps Christianity needs to seriously rethink the Scriptures and return to truly being "The Way."

How did it become so different? Stay tuned for some historical insights in part 3.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Do You Belong to "The Way?"

In Christianity today there is an emphasis on getting back to the worship that existed in the first century. I've even seen advertisements that claimed that this or that church was like a first century church. Acts 2:42-46 is usually cited as the correct model. Admittedly, this has been an elusive goal. Even with the Bible we don't have a clear blueprint of what that worship looked like. Yet, this does seem to be a commendable effort, since there appears to be a consensus in that the church today has developed through times and traditions very much unlike those of the early apostolic days. In other words church as been corrupted.

But in order to virtually go back in time we have to get the history right first. Initially, most all of the believers were Jews. They continued to worship in the Temple and in the synagogues. They continued to be Jews, although they had become believers in Yeshua. Then, following Peter's vision in Acts 10, the Gentiles were understood to be eligible for the same indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They became fellow believers grafted into Israel.

It is then at this point that the history becomes more murky and the assumption is generally made that the Jewish believers came to see that the Torah, the Temple, and the synagogue were no longer necessary to belief in Yeshua. Paul's writings, especially, have been used to verify this position. As the Gentiles began to outnumber the Jewish believers, the church eventually became totally distinct from Judaism.

This progression, however, is not validated by the historical record. The first believers called themselves, "The Way."

Acts 9:2 (KJV)
2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

Acts 19:9 (KJV)
9 But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.

From these two Scriptures we see that the believers were a part of "The Way." In Acts 9 Paul was sent to Damascus to the synagogues. At this point, obviously, these Jewish believers were still worshipping in the synagogues. In Acts 19 Paul had been preaching in the synagogues until trouble arose when he and the believers separated from the synagogue and went to the school of Tyrannus. Although this verse indicates that the believers had to move out of the synagogue, it must be seen that they started there and only moved because of trouble. This is long past Acts 10 and by this time most of the new believers were Gentile.

Acts 24:14 (KJV)
14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:

In Acts 24 it is evident that "The Way" had become known as a heresy and no longer just another sect of Judaism. Yet, Paul stressed that even though "The Way" was considered a heresy, he worshiped the God of his fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and he believed all the things that were written in the law and in the prophets (the Old Testament).

Some have tried to say that Paul may have believed the Old Testament, but that he realized that the Torah no longer had to be obeyed. Apparently, there were others who thought that Paul had abandoned the Torah as well. Even in Jerusalem many thought this. However, when Paul had taken a Nazarite vow (Obviously, he still obeyed the Torah) and had gone back to Jerusalem to fulfill the vow, James counseled him to pay for four others to prove to his naysayers that he was fully supportive of obeying the Torah.

Acts 21:26 (KJV)
26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

Based on Scripture alone, the abandonment of Torah cannot be upheld. Stay tuned for part 2 where the evidence in the historical record after the writing of the New Testament is considered.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Play Church

I was a little hesitant when I picked up this fictional novel about an associate pastor in a megachurch. It was supposed to be an extremely funny book that would keep the reader in stitches, so I decided to take a chance. I needed a little humor in my life anyway!

Well, the book was well written and actually pretty funny, so from that standpoint, it was well worth reading. However, the most important lesson I learned from it would probably have horrified the author! Yet, I'm glad that I read the book.

First off I'm not into megachurches. Members can and do get lost. Many church goers may actually like that so that they never have to take on any responsibility. In fact, after becoming totally exhausted in ministry at very small churches myself, I have many times threatened to go to a church where I could slip in on Sunday morning and slip out at the end where no one knew me or even seemed to care. I understand, but I don't believe that's what church is about.

However, I was appalled by the opulence in which the senior pastor and top people lived. Luxury cars, regular golf times at prestigious golf courses, magnificent offices, vacations in the Caribbean, and staff retreats at expensive spas were the way of life for this bunch. Was this author serious? I kept waiting for the cynical main character to disassociate himself from the church, wondering about the disconnect between the senior pastor and the third world where church and faith mean persecution, poverty, loss, and even death. But, the main character only spoke about how much good the church was doing, how many lives were changed, and how God had placed him in this wonderful church.

Also, I was bothered by the rigid set up of the Sunday morning service. It could only last exactly sixty minutes and the pastor's sermon could run no longer than twenty-five minutes. It was performance and entertainment oriented. The sanctuary was given a circus name.

Surprisingly, the main character seemed to have a personal relationship with God, although it got somewhat lost in all the references to popular rock music, movies and near swearing.

So why did I decide I was glad that I had read the book and what lesson had I learned?

There was a conversation in the book about someone wanting to become a Christian, but he was hesitant because it would mean giving up so many things. The associate pastor's answer blew me away. He said that Christianity was about freedom, even in those bad habits of his. He continued to say that God would change the believer's perspective and those habits just wouldn't seem so important any more. I almost fell off my chair! Most bad habits that we have are just plain sinful! God doesn't give us freedom to live in sin! It was then that I realized that this book was a prime example of where the church is going today. Satan must be ecstatic! There was no talk of sin or repentance. It was the "God accepts us just as we are" line that never gets around to stating how God will not leave us in sin. He demands repentance, the turning away from sin.

Where is the church headed? If we continue to follow in the line of this book, there soon won't be much of a church left, at least not the Church where there is repentance and true change to holy, righteous living. We'll just be playing church.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Romans 7:1-6 - Marriage and Salvation


When believers trust in Yeshua for their salvation, they become new creatures. The old carnal nature is dead and they are freed from sin and are able to become servants of righteousness. Paul continued with this:

Romans 7:1-6 (KJV)
1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

Although Paul was continuing his discussion from chapter 6, he expanded his thought by drawing on another analogy, this time from the laws regarding marriage. He began by asking his readers another leading question (verse 1). Don't the believers know that the Torah has dominion over a man as long as he is living?  He added a parenthetical comment to make his readers aware that the coming argument was written with those in mind who understood the Torah. This undoubtedly was a reference primarily to Jews, although because the Roman congregation was largely Gentile, there seems to be an understanding on Paul's part that many of the Gentiles were at differing stages of understanding Torah.

In verse 2 Paul explained Torah law regarding marriage. A married woman is bound by Torah to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is free from that marriage.

Further, if while the husband is living, the woman marries another man, she is an adultress. However, if her husband is dead and she marries another man, she is not an adultress (verse 3).

Before going on to verse 4, it must be understood that in Paul's analogy, the woman, upon her husband's death, is no longer subject to the Torah law that says she cannot marry anyone else. The Torah itself and all the laws regarding marriage are still in force. She simply has the legal ability to marry someone else.

In the same way, believers become dead to Torah by the death and resurrection of Messiah (verse 4). This is not saying that Torah or any laws of Torah are done away with. It simply means that the believers, because of trusting in Yeshua's death and resurrection for salvation, are no longer subject to the condemnation of Torah and the penalties sin requires. The believers are, in essence, able to "marry" or serve someone else besides the fleshly nature. That someone is Yeshua. The believers are then able to bring forth fruit unto God.

For prior to this, the believers were in the flesh (they lived according to their fleshly, carnal natures) (verse 5). The sin they committed which were by the Torah (the Torah showed what sin was and then brought condemnation on those who sinned) , worked in their body parts to bring forth fruit unto death.

But believers, upon salvation, are delivered from the condemnation of Torah, their old natures are dead, and they are able to serve in newness of spirit, rather than in the oldness of the letter. The Torah still exists, still points to sin, but believers have new natures (hearts) upon which the Torah is written. The believers receive power and desire to live Torah, rather than living under the Torah's condemnation.

In summary: believers are originally "married" to their fleshly natures (the old man), but after the fleshly nature is dead, they are free to "marry" Yeshua and serve Him in righteousness. Hallelu-Yah!


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Romans 6:16-23 - Servants of Righteousness


Paul had answered the question, "Shall we sin, since we are no longer under Torah, but are under grace?" His response was, "God forbid!" He continued with this:

Romans 6:16-23 (KJV)
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul's response in verse 16 reflected some surprise. Didn't the believers understand they were servants to whomever they yielded themselves? There are two choices. They can obey sin and receive death, or they can obey righteousness.

Paul then thanked God because he was speaking about believers who HAD been servants of sin, but who had from their hearts obeyed the doctrine of Yeshua which had been delivered to them. In other words, Paul was grateful for his readers who had turned in repentance and trusted in the death and resurrection of Yeshua and were born again (verse 17).

Because of their trust in Yeshua, they were made free from sin, and became servants of righteousness (verse 18).

In verse 19, Paul acknowledged that the manner of his speaking was due to the "infirmity" of  his readers' flesh. Although, they were believers, they still lived in human bodies that could be weak, sickly, or otherwise infirm. In the same way that they had yielded their members (parts of the body) to uncleaness and to iniquity unto iniquity, they were to henceforth yield their members to righteousness unto holiness.

For when they were servants of sin they were free from righteousness (verse 20).

In verse 21 Paul spoke about the sin, the sin that they are now ashamed of, and the fruit of that sin, that the believers had "harvested" prior to their conversion to believers in Yeshua. The end of those things is death.

But now they were free from sin, were servants to God, and would "harvest" fruit unto holiness. The end of which is everlasting life (verse 22).

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Messiah Yeshua (verse 23).

As a reminder, Paul was not speaking about a works salvation, but rather works being the outcome of the changed relationship that occurs at salvation by faith. It is still possible for believers to sin, but since they are no longer captive in sin, righteousness should be the believers' standard of living. The believers' status change to righteousness through Yeshua results in eternal life!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Romans 6:12-15 - Let Sin Not Reign!


Last time Paul had left us with two very important realities for believers. 1.) Our old man is dead and 2.) Our body of sin is destroyed. Through our identification with Yeshua in His death and resurrection we are freed from sin. Paul then spoke on the natural result of these realities.

Romans 6:12-15 (KJV)
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

Paul charged the believers not to let sin reign in or to obey the lusts of the physical body (verse 12). Now that the old man (the natural, carnal nature) and body of sin are dead, the believer's inability to refrain from sin has been severed. Through the Holy Spirit's indwelling, the believer's new man is able to live righteously. Let me say that again, believers are able to refrain from sin!

At the same time Paul admonished the believers not to use their bodies as "instruments of unrighteousness" (verse 13). Instead they are to yield themselves unto God. They are to live like those risen from the dead and to use their bodies as "instruments of righteousness."

According to verse 14 sin no longer has dominion over believers because they are no longer under Torah, but are under grace. But what does " no longer under Torah" mean? Traditionally, it has been accepted that believers are no longer held to Torah observance, but that meaning doesn't make sense in the context of the verse. It would be saying that sin no longer has dominion over believers because they no longer have to obey the Torah. This gives the idea that sin was wiped away by grace. This is not true. Rather, "no longer under Torah" reflects the change in status of the believer. Sin no longer has dominion over believers because they are no longer under the condemnation of Torah that law-breakers deserve, they have been saved and changed by grace.

Paul then asked the leading question, "Shall we sin because we are not under Torah, but under grace? Again, Paul answered negatively, "God forbid!" If believers are no longer under the condemnation of Torah, what is the big deal if they sin? Paul will further explain in the next post!

born again Believers not standing under the condemnation of the Torah upon Law-breakers, - See more at: http://messianicpublications.com/j-k-mckee/paul-opposed-or-not-opposed-to-the-torah/#TN4
born again Believers not standing under the condemnation of the Torah upon Law-breakers, - See more at: http://messianicpublications.com/j-k-mckee/paul-opposed-or-not-opposed-to-the-torah/#TN4

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Romans 6:5-11 - Death and Resurrection With Yeshua


Paul had been comparing the death and resurrection of Yeshua to what believers experience through faith as symbolized in baptism. He further explained in this next section.

Romans 6:5-11 (KJV)
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.
8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul began in verse 5 by saying that believers are "planted." This is reminiscent of John's discussion in John 12.

John 12:24 (KJV)
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

Yeshua was like that seed of wheat that is planted in the ground (a kind of dying), that would bring forth much fruit. Believers are similarly planted with Yeshua in His death and they will also experience a similar resurrection.

Because believers have been crucified with Yeshua, their bodies of sin are destroyed (verse 6). Henceforth, believers should not serve sin.

Paul introduced a couple of terms in this verse that need clarifying.  The "old man" is the entity that is crucified. "The old man was the natural man, the Adam man, earthy, natural, carnal, dead in personal trespasses, weak through the flesh, and could not please God" (Pearl, Michael. Romans 1-8, Verse by Verse. No Greater Joy, Pleasantville, TN, 200l. p. 112). This "old man" is now gone and is replaced by the "new man" in believers.

When the "old man" is crucified, the "body of sin" is also destroyed. The "body of sin" is "the physical body with all of its natural and accumulated lusts, tainted and depraved by a life of disobedience." (Pearl 113). Because the "old man" and the "body of sin" are gone believers should no longer sin.

According to verse 7 believers are virtually dead and are freed from sin.

Next, Paul turned to the subject of resurrection. If believers are dead with Yeshua, they are also alive with Him (verse 8). Because Yeshua was raised from the dead, He cannot die again. Death has no dominion over Him (verse 9). He died to sin once (verse 10). Now He lives unto God.

Paul then concluded that believers are to consider themselves dead to sin, but alive unto God through Yeshua (verse 11).

The burden of sin that surrounds us in our human state is removed by Yeshua, our Messiah, when we trust in Him! We are freed! Hallelu-Yah!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Romans 6:1-4 - Cheap Grace?


Having finished the analogy between Yeshua and Adam, Paul began a discussion on the believer's position in Messiah. He asked another leading question that connected to the material he had just covered. If sin should cause grace to abound ......?

Romans 6:1-4 (KJV)
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Simple reading of the text might lead someone to conclude that if grace abounded because of sin, sin should be increased so that grace would abound even more (verse 1). But Paul's response in verse 2 is a very strong negative, "God forbid!" Then he reminded his readers that believers are dead to sin. How could someone dead respond as he had in the past? How could a believer ever want to live in a sinful manner again?

To many of Paul's detractors Christianity appeared to be an easy religion. Salvation wasn't based on works, all you needed to do was believe. It seemed as if the Christian God overlooked sin. The Jews especially had a difficult time and thought that Paul was down playing the Torah too much. What they didn't realize was that by true faith, a believer is changed internally. No longer is the believer bound in sin. Paul wasn't describing a cheap grace, or the overlooking of sin. A believer should want to live perfectly!

Verse 3 begins another analogy, this time comparing the believer's experience of faith to Yeshua's death and resurrection. With Christian baptism, believers are baptized into Yeshua's death. Although Paul was using the word baptism and, indeed Christians are to be baptized upon faith in Yeshua, it isn't the baptism itself that causes the connection to Yeshua's death, but rather the coming to faith which is then symbolized by water baptism. Just as a believer is immersed into water, it is as if he experienced a death like Yeshua's. Another way of looking at it is that Yeshua paid for all the sin of the world in His death. The believer symbolically participates in that death when he or she is immersed.

Verse 4 continues by comparing the believer's baptism to the burial of Yeshua. Then just as Yeshua was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, believers are "raised" from the waters of immersion to walk in a new life. They are changed and are no longer held in the power of sin. Again, this is not cheap grace that overlooks sin, but rather a heart change! The true believer will be different regarding sin!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Romans 5:18-21 - Yeshua and Adam Part 4


Paul had explained how one man, Adam, sinned and brought death into the world. He then connected and finished his thought of verse 12 with verses 18-21.

Romans 5:12 (KJV)
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

The new material:

Romans 5:18-21 (KJV)
18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

The first part of verse 18 is a repetition of verse 12. By the sin of Adam, the judgment of death came upon all mankind. The last part of verse 18 gives the comparison. In the same way, by the righteousness of Yeshua, the free gift of justification comes upon all mankind. Paul was describing how one man acted and how many received from the action without doing anything to deserve what was received. In other words, when Adam sinned, death came to all his descendants even though they had not done anything to deserve that punishment. (Remember, this is not saying that man does not suffer because of his own sin, but that the death penalty comes upon man before any sin is ever committed. The punishment is undeserved.) The same is true of Yeshua. By His righteousness, the gift of justification is available to all men even though they have done nothing to deserve it.

By Adam's disobedience many were made sinners (through the estrangement between God and man) (verse 19). In the same way, by Yeshua's obedience many shall be made righteous.

In verse 20, Paul reminded his readers that with the Torah, sin abounded. The amount of sinning was not more, but rather, the understanding of sin increased with the Torah, and man knew, not only by conscience but by Law, that he was committing sin. The accountability or guilt of sin increased. How much more, then, did grace abound by Yeshua's obedience? With the increased accountability for sin, God's gift of grace also expanded.

Sin reigns until man's death (verse 21). By contrast, grace reigns through righteousness unto eternity by Yeshua, the Messiah, our Lord!


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Romans 5:15-17 - Yeshua and Adam Part 3


Paul had begun using Adam as a comparison and contrast to Messiah Yeshua. His points so far have been:
          1. Through one man (Adam) sin and death entered the world.
          2. Man has inherited death as a consequence of Adam's sin.
          3. Man does not inherit the guilt or accountability of Adam's sin.
          4. While Adam brought sin and death, Yeshua brings the cure.

 Romans 5:15-17 (KJV)
15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

This section of Scripture is still a part of the parenthetical comment Paul was making, in explaining how death came upon the human race through Adam.

In verse 15 Paul stated that there was a contrast between Adam's sin (the offence) and Yeshua's gift of righteousness. For if through the sin of Adam many die, how much more, through the death and resurrection of Yeshua, the gift of righteousness abounds unto many? The grace given would far outweigh the sentence of death.

Paul further stated that Adam's sin led to condemnation whereas Yeshua's gift of righteousness leads to justification (verse 16). Nor does Yeshua's gift cover only Adam's sin, but all the sins of the entire world.

Finally, in verse 17, Paul contrasted the reign of death that Adam's sin brought to man, to those who by abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, brought by Yeshua, shall reign in life. Not only did Yeshua defeat death, but He brings abundant life to those who believe in Him.

Although there are similarities between Yeshua and Adam, the work of Yeshua far exceeds Adam's!


Monday, September 30, 2013

Romans 5:13-14 - Yeshua and Adam Part 2


Paul began his comparison of Yeshua and Adam in verse 12.

Romans 5:12 (KJV)
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

When Adam disobeyed the Word of God by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, sin entered into the world. With sin came death for all mankind. The last phrase of the verse says, "for that all have sinned."

Paul then continued.

Romans 5:13-14 (KJV)
13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

Verses 13 through 17 in Romans form a parenthetical note that ties into verse 12 and helps in the understanding of the last phrase in verse 12. We will cover only verses 13 and 14 today.

Between the time of creation and the giving of the Torah to Moses and the people of Israel, sin was committed (verse 13). But since there was no law, sin could not be imputed to the sinner's account. This statement of Paul seems to contradict the case that he had outlined in the first chapters of Romans, where he had made an important argument about the guilt that all man had regarding sin. Did Romans 5:13 excuse those before the Torah? Obviously not, when we consider God's destruction of the world in the days of the Flood or of Sodom and Gomorrah, because of the wickedness of mankind. So, Paul was not saying that an individual who committed sin during this time was not punished or was not guilty of sin. He or she was subject only to the light of their consciences, not a specific law that demanded the death penalty.

Paul then said that in spite of sin not being imputed to sinners before the Torah, death reigned from Adam to Moses, (verse 14). Therefore, death, as something that comes to all humans, could not have come to those between Adam and Moses because of their own individual sin. Other examples of those who had not sinned in the similitude (or manner) of Adam, besides Paul's example, are unborn babies, or newborns, who have not committed any sin. They still die. Therefore, death resulted to the human race because of something else. Death had to have come only because of Adam's sin.

But this raises an issue since being penalized for someone else's sin runs counter to the principles in God's Word.

Ezekiel 18:20 (KJV)
20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

Deuteronomy 24:16 (KJV)
16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

Therefore, it is not possible that we are held accountable for Adam's sin. We don't inherit his guilt. This is the point Paul was trying to make. It is only a consequence of Adam's sin.

Finally, Paul introduced the main goal of this section of Scripture, to compare and contrast Adam with "the figure of him that was to come," meaning Yeshua. Stay tuned for next time.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Romans 5:11-12 - Yeshua and Adam


Paul had been listing the many benefits of justification. He added one more.

Romans 5:11 (KJV)
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

We, believers, rejoice in God through Yeshua by whom we have received the atonement (reconciliation). Sinful man, as enemies of God, are reconciled to Him. We belong to Him and He belongs to us!

With so many benefits already mentioned, it is possible that God has more for us? Paul then began an extremely important passage in Romans 5:12-21 where Yeshua and Adam are compared. Whereas Adam wreaked such havoc on the human race, Yeshua is demonstrated as the solution.

Romans 5:12 (KJV)
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Sin entered into the world through one man. This one man was Adam, the very first person created by God. Although, the Genesis account of the fall of man reveals that it was Eve, Adam's wife, who first ate of the forbidden fruit and then gave some to Adam, it is Adam who is held primarily responsible for the act. It was not only in the act of eating the fruit that Adam sinned. The eating of the fruit was the outcome of Adam's choosing to rebel against God's Word, his pride, and his desiring to be like God.

There was no sin in the world before Adam. Although Satan and the other fallen angels had committed sin prior to Adam's, the human race was without sin until Adam.

When sin came into the world, death came in as the penalty or consequence of sin. Prior to Adam there was no death. After Adam all human kind would die as a result. This is the final consequence to which Paul will prove Yeshua is the answer!

But before we go on, we need to look at the last phrase of verse 12 that says, "for that all have sinned:" This phrase has caused a great deal of confusion, misunderstanding, and pages of written theology, that go far beyond the scope of this post. This phrase is where the ideas of original sin come from. Historically, there are about six different theological views regarding original sin. Suffice it to say that without looking at various views, the phrase simply seems to imply that once Adam had sinned God and man were estranged. In this condition, every human being now sins.

Stay tuned for part 2!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Romans 5:1-10 - Benefits of Justification


Paul had just finished his discussion of Abraham's faith. Now he expanded his ideas from verse 25 of chapter 4.

Romans 5:1-10 (KJV)
1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Therefore, because we are justified by faith, we can have peace with God through Yeshua (verse 1). It is by Him that we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand (verse 2). We can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Within these first two verses Paul listed two benefits of justification. The first is that we have peace with God. When Adam and Eve sinned, the peace that had existed between God and man was destroyed. We became enemies. By Yeshua's death the ability for peace or reconciliation was restored. The second benefit is that we can rejoice in the glory of God. Because of man's sin, we all fall very short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but by being justified we have the hope of His coming glory, when all will be restored and the Kingdom of God becomes a present physical reality.

The third benefit is that we can glory in tribulations (verse 3). Although glorying in tribulation seems to be a negative thing, the believer knows that tribulation can produce desired results in his or her life. Tribulation can produce patience, waiting on God. Having patience can produce experience of God (verse 4) and experience can produce hope in that future glory. That kind of hope will never let us down (won't make us ashamed) (verse 5), because we can trust in God's promises. We have already experienced the love of God that has been given to us by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. We can trust Him, indeed!

In verse 6 Paul reminded his readers that they were without strength. In other words man is totally unable to save himself. We are all guilty and deserving of death. Yet, Messiah Yeshua, at the right time, died in the place of the ungodly (us). But how unusual was Yeshua's willingness to die in the place of sinful mankind? Although someone might die for a good man, it would be very unusual for someone to die for a wicked man (verse 7). Yeshua died for His very wicked enemies (us)!

An aside: The Greek text in verse 7 doesn't seem to make sense. However, the confusion can be cleared up by looking at the text in Aramaic. In the Greek text, "the Aramaic word rashiaa, which means 'wicked,' has been confused with the Aramaic word zadika 'righteous.' The Eastern text more correctly reads, 'Hardly would any man die for the sake of the wicked, but for the sake of the good one might be willing to die.'" (From Roth, Andrew Gabriel, Aramaic English New Testament, Netzari Press, 2008, footnote 33, p. 470).

Yes, God manifested His love toward us while we were still sinners, when Yeshua died for us (verse 8).

Being justified by Yeshua's blood, how much more will we be saved from wrath through Him (verse 9)? And if we, as enemies, were reconciled to God by His death, how much more will we be saved by His life (verse 10)? These questions bring Romans 4:25 back into focus as a kind of summary. God certainly did a marvelous work in our salvation, yet that is only the beginning. God continues to work for us and within us.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Romans 4:17-25 - Abraham's Righteousness Part 4


Both Jews and Gentiles can receive the righteousness of God by the same kind of faith that Abraham had. Paul described Abraham's faith further.

Romans 4:17-25 (KJV)
17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:
20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
22 And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.
23 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

Paul began by quoting Genesis 17:4 (verse 17).

Genesis 17:4 (KJV)
4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

God told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. (Although Abraham looked upon this in a physical way, God intended it to refer to Abraham's spiritual descendants as well, to those who were grafted into the Kingdom by the same kind of faith that Abraham had.) Abraham believed that God was able to raise the living from the dead (Think about the faith Abraham had when he was willing to sacrifice his son on Mount Moriah. This of course also connects to Yeshua's death and resurrection.)  and call into reality those things that aren't real. Paul explained this further in the next verses.

Even though the promises of God seemed impossible, Abraham believed that he would become the father of many nations just as God had said (verse 18). (Mention of "seed" connects back to Genesis 3:15 and Yeshua's being the remedy for man's fall.)

Genesis 3:15 (KJV) 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

And since his faith was not weak, Abraham didn't take into consideration the fact that he had reached the age of about one hundred, where he was unable to have children (verse 19). Nor did he take into consideration the deadness of Sarah's womb. This is how Abraham physically viewed his body. It was dead and only God could make it come alive again.

Instead of unbelief Abraham was strong in faith and gave glory to God (verse 20).

He was confident that what God had promised He could do (verse 21).

Therefore, that faith was imputed (or credited) to Abraham for righteousness (verse 22).

In verse 23 Paul informed his readers that this description of Abraham's faith had not been written for Abraham alone, but also for those who believed in the God who had raised Yeshua from the dead (verse 24). It was Yeshua who had been crucified for our sin and raised again for our justification (or salvation) (verse 25).

This section of Paul's discussion of faith is multifaceted. The verses refer not only to Abraham in both a physical and spiritual sense, but to Yeshua also. The meanings are deep, but the conclusion is simply that we can be justified by Abraham-like faith, trusting in the work that Yeshua accomplished on the cross and the God that raised Him from the dead.