Thursday, January 31, 2013

Galatians 3:5-14 Messianic Style


In chapter three Paul began by asking the Galatians if they had received the Holy Spirit by works of the law or by faith. He continued.

Galatians 3:5-14 (KJV)
5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Paul asked another question in verse 5. Did God minister to the Galatians the Spirit and work miracles by works of the law or by faith? The answer was, of course, by faith. In verse 6 Paul pointed out that Abraham had received righteousness by believing in God just as the Galatians had. Therefore, all those that have faith in God are the children of Abraham (verse 7). This meant that the believing Galatians had been added to the commonwealth of Israel. They were a part of the Kingdom of God.

Ephesians 2:19 (KJV)
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

Ultimately, this implies that not all Jews were true children of Abraham. Belief in God was the determining factor. However, this argument does not imply that ethnic Jews were not ethnically children of Abraham, nor does it remove the prophetic importance of the physical nation of Israel and the promises given to the nation.

Paul's arguments do prove that the Kingdom of God was to be made up of both Jews and Gentiles. These Galatians simply did not have to become Jews in order to participate, nor did they have to add anything to their faith in order to become part of the Kingdom. This is Paul's message!

In verse 8 Paul continued to explain that God had hinted about the inclusion of Gentiles when He made His promises to Abraham, that all nations would be blessed in him.

Genesis 12:3 (KJV)
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Paul recapped his thinking in verse 9. The Galatian believers did not have to add those things that the false teachers were insisting they needed to add in order to be truly a part of the Kingdom of God.

Paul continued to explain that the nature of the Torah is such that its requirements are complete obedience. Any disobedience results in a curse (verse 10). In verse 11, Paul reiterated that no one was justified by observing the Torah, because everyone sins and falls under the curse of disobedience. He then quoted Habakkuk.

Habakkuk 2:4 (KJV)
4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

This again informs us that salvation by faith was not new to Christianity. Judaism is also based on the same. Nothing has changed! God knew from the beginning of time that mankind would not be able to keep the Torah perfectly. So within Torah itself were remedies for disobedience. Repentance and certain sacrifices would atone and cover sin.

Torah obedience was not the way to salvation, but it is how the righteous live (verse 12)! Paul quoted from Leviticus.

Leviticus 18:5 (KJV)
5 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.

Verse 13 states that Messiah Yeshua saved sinners from the curse of the disobedience of Torah by becoming a curse himself. Paul quoted Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (KJV)
22 And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:
23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

Although Yeshua committed no crime and obeyed the Torah perfectly, He paid the penalty for mankind's sin by dying on the cross. Indeed, He was cursed for mankind. Through His sacrifice the blessing of Abraham was bestowed on the Gentiles and they receive salvation through faith.

Paul was continuing to make an argument that the Galatians received salvation by faith and not works either of the Torah or any deeds that the false teachers were trying to add. His argument here is not on whether the believers should continue in observing Torah after salvation. In fact, because of verse 12, Paul believed observing Torah was how the righteous (the saved) live! This makes perfect sense, since believers should understand that just because they aren't saved by Torah observance that it is not acceptable to murder, lie, or steal. Neither is disregarding any of the Torah's requirements acceptable. The false teachers were not advocating anything about Torah observance either, but rather traditions and culture that the Jews had come to believe were as essential as Torah observance.

We will continue next time with more of Paul's argument.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Galatians 3:1-4 Messianic Style


So far in Galatians, Paul had expressed his surprise that the Galatians were turning from Yeshua to another "gospel." Paul outlined how he had come to faith and how the apostles in Jerusalem had given him approval and had agreed that he was the "apostle to the Gentiles." His narrative demonstrated that he had authority to question what the Galatians were doing. In chapter two, Paul related an event that had taken place in Antioch where Peter had succumbed to pressure from some men from Jerusalem to separate from the Gentile believers. Paul took him to task over his violating the true gospel message. Lastly, Paul described salvation by faith.

As we come to chapter three Paul turned his attention back to the Galatians. The similarities between what happened in Antioch and what the Galatians were going through should be kept in mind as we continue.

Galatians 3:1-4 (KJV)
1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.

Paul began this section of Scripture by again berating the Galatians. He called them "foolish." He asked, "Who has bewitched you?" The word "bewitch" means to "cast a spell over" or to "captivate completely" (Free Online Dictionary). The idea is that this new gospel had so overtaken the Galatians that it was as if a magic spell had been cast over them. The rest of verse 1 contrasts this "spell" that the Galatians were under to the truth that had been presented to them that they were not obeying.

In verse 2 Paul asked the Galatians another question. Did they receive the Holy Spirit by works of the law or by faith? First of all, Paul's question implies that these Galatians were already believers. They were already members of the body of Yeshua. They were already saved. So what the Galatians were turning to was not an invalid method of salvation, but something wrong consequent to salvation. Obviously, then the answer to Paul's question was that they received the Holy Spirit because they had faith in Yeshua. They had not received the Holy Spirit by "the works of the law." From chapter 2 Paul explained that "works of the law" were basically any kind of righteous works. For the Jew this would include the commands of God as well as the rules in the oral law (the traditions of the fathers).

Paul asked a second question in verse 3. Were the Galatians so foolish to think that once having been saved by the Holy Spirit through faith that fleshly deeds could make them perfect? Again, obviously, no amount of righteous deeds that any human could do would perfect him or her, because our righteousness is never enough. We are flawed, fallen people who continue to sin even after salvation. In spite of our flaws God does expect us to live righteously.

1 Peter 1:15-16 (KJV)
15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (conduct);
16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

Paul's concern was not the righteous deeds expected after salvation, rather it was something extra. What were these false teachers trying to add? Paul didn't specifically tell us here, since his readers would have understood the issue at hand. But from the prior chapters we do receive hints. In Antioch the false teachers wanted to maintain Jewish traditions based on the oral law as if they were absolutes from the written Torah. Paul's inclusion of the Antioch episode would lead to the understanding that the issues were similar. Likely, the false teachers in Galatians were also trying to insist that the new Gentile believers follow the oral law, specifically the requirement to undergo ritual conversion to Judaism.

In verse 4 Paul asked the question, "Have ye suffered so many things in vain?" David Stern in the Jewish New Testament translates the phrase as, "If that's the way you think, your suffering certainly will have been for nothing." Paul summarized, by question, that if the Galatians continued in the direction that they were going, everything that they had gone through would have been for nothing. This was a strong statement of how far off the Galatians were straying from the true Gospel.

We will continue with Paul's comments next time.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Galatians 2:14-21 Messianic Style


In my last post, Paul had begun to explain how he had confronted Peter over his being carried away by the practices of some false teachers who had come to Antioch. Today we will continue with Paul's explanation.

Galatians 2:14-21 (KJV)
14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

When the false teachers (men from James) arrived in Antioch, Peter, Barnabas, and the other Jewish Messianic believers separated themselves from the Gentile believers. Paul stated in verse 14 that they were not behaving in a manner consistent with the truth of the gospel. So, he called Peter out in front of all of them. He asked the question, "If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?" What does this mean exactly? Peter, who was a Jew (ethnically and religiously in that he had been circumcised) was now living as a Gentile. Traditional Christianity has insisted that this has meant that Peter no longer followed the Torah, especially the food laws, but in light of the fact that the men from James most likely came from the same assembly as Peter and James, this seems unlikely. This issue would have been dealt with in Jerusalem long before Peter and the men came to Antioch. The problem was not the food laws, but rather a Jewish tradition of Jews and Gentiles eating separately.  So how did Peter live as a Gentile? Peter understood that the gospel was for both Jew and Gentile. The traditions in the oral law that were binding on Jews was no longer binding on the believers. Peter had been living in accord with this understanding. Apparently, his understanding had not been put to the test very strenuously in Jerusalem. He had no problem eating with Gentiles until the men from James pressured him into old ways of thought. If Peter understood that there was no difference between Jews and Gentiles in Messiah, Paul asked him why he wanted to compel the Gentiles to live according to all the oral traditions?

From this point on Paul explained why he had taken Peter to task.

In verse 15 Paul's use of "Jews by nature" and "sinners of the Gentiles" was not pejorative, but his Jewish way of differentiating the two groups. In traditional Judaism Gentiles were by nature "sinful." Paul used this description, although he was fully aware that both Jews and Gentiles were sinners.

Verse 16 makes it clear that the Jews knew that justification didn't come through doing any works, including the observance of Torah, but through faith in Messiah Yeshua. There has been a misunderstanding in Christianity that Judaism is a works-based religion. This is not true. We see this in Genesis.

Genesis 15:6 (KJV)
6 And he (Abraham) believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Yet, this has not stopped either Jews or Christians from acting as if righteousness comes from obeying laws. This is what the men from James were guilty of, believing that the Gentiles' salvation was dependent on righteous deeds, not only those of the Torah, but of the Jewish traditions as well. Paul, who knew how that understanding can lead believers astray, pointedly stated that "no man is justified by works.

In verse 17 Paul anticipated the reaction of his statement to all false teachers like those that came to Antioch. If receiving salvation came by faith and it was not dependent on works of righteousness, was not Messiah a minister of sin, if believers were found to be sinners? Paul emphatically exclaimed "No way!"

Paul then added that if he built back up the foundation of a works-based salvation as demonstrated by the false teachers, that he had worked so hard to destroy, he would be guilty of transgressing the real Torah (verse 18). In other words the Jewish religious system had created a god of their own making, by insisting that the Jewish traditions were essential, not the true God who allowed both Jews and Gentiles into salvation through faith and not works of any kind.

In verse 19 Paul used the word "law" in two different ways. The first was as "the Torah", but the second was as "the Jewish traditions." In other words, Paul, by understanding the true Torah's method of salvation, the Jewish traditions of the oral Torah were dead to him.

Believers share in Yeshua's death and resurrection (verse 20). Although, they still live in the flesh, the life they live is no longer controlled by the sinful nature, but is lived by Yeshua living within them. This is a picture of the new covenant where the Law was to be written on the hearts of believers.

Jeremiah 31:33 (KJV)
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Verse 21 then recaps Paul's statements by reiterating that if salvation had come by works of righteousness then Yeshua would have died in vain.

In summary, the false teachers were demonstrating that faith in Yeshua was not enough for salvation, that works were needed. Paul boldly corrected that notion. Faith in Yeshua was all that was required. Paul was pointing out that not even following Torah would result in the salvation of anyone. So certainly, the traditions of the Jews were not needed. However, just because salvation is not gained by doing works, it doesn't mean that the the Laws of the Torah are done away with. The Torah was now written on the believers' hearts and those good works would follow after salvation. The false teachers were wrong in trying to add Jewish tradition into what was required for salvation.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Galatians 2:11-13 Messianic Style


In the first part of this chapter Paul summarized how his gospel message was received by the apostles in Jerusalem. They had given Paul and Barnabas their approval. This becomes important as we begin the second part of chapter 2.

Galatians 2:11-13 (KJV)
11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.

This portion of Galatians covers an incident that occurred in Antioch (verse 11). Peter had come from Jerusalem and during the time that he spent in Antioch Paul ended up by confronting him because of a wrong action that Peter displayed. By explaining in the first part of chapter 2 that the apostles had approved of Paul's message, Paul had laid the groundwork for demonstrating that he was of equal stature with Peter and had the right to call Peter's action into question.

Certain men came to Antioch from James (verse 12). What is meant by "from" James is somewhat unclear. James may have sent them, but there seems to be a lack of understanding about Paul's stature in the Messianic community. So "from" James may simply mean that they came from the same group as James. In any case, the practice they espouse is very different from the practice in Antioch. I believe the difference lies in the fact that the community in Jerusalem had been in existence for a while and had been started before any Gentiles had come into the community. The practice, undoubtedly, was very much Jewish culture based. Even as the Gentiles began entering in, they were in small numbers compared to the Jewish group. Yet, prior God-fearers would have understood much of the Jewish culture as well. But in Antioch, where many more Gentiles were coming directly out of paganism and because they eventually outnumbered the Jewish group, the practice would have been less based on Jewish culture.

But what had Peter done? Verse 12 states that before these men came from James, Peter ate with the Gentiles. Afterwards he separated himself from the Gentiles and ate only with other Jews. This was because he feared the circumcision group. Notice how "circumcision" is used here. It is not identifying all the Jews as it had been used in verses 7-9, but it is further detailing that these men believed that the Gentiles needed to become Jews before they could enter into the community. Where did these men get this idea? I don't believe that these men were rogue believers, teaching their own brand of doctrine. I think they were mistaken in their beliefs because the practice in Jerusalem didn't really convict them into thinking differently.Why would Peter have been afraid? He was the apostle to the Jews! We don't exactly know why. Perhaps he felt outnumbered and that these men had a certain amount of stature themselves. What this does tell me is that while Peter understood that eating with Gentiles didn't violate any Torah law, he was not used to eating with Gentiles in Jerusalem. He fell back into previous ways of behavior. This is why I believe that Paul's gospel message was a refinement of what Peter and the other apostles learned after Peter's vision in Acts 10. The apostles did not come to any understanding that the laws of Torah were abrogated by Peter's vision. Instead, they simply came to understand that Gentiles could enter into a saving relationship with Yeshua. See here about Peter's Vision: It took Paul to flesh out the proper practice in a mixed Jewish and Gentile Messianic community.

When the other Jewish believers in Antioch saw Peter's withdrawal, they all got caught up in Peter's deception, even Barnabas (verse 13).

Next time, we'll discuss Paul's response to Peter's wrong behavior.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Galatians 2:1-10 Messianic Style


In my last post Paul had been giving us a summary of how he came to Yeshua. We last left him as he had gone to Syria and Cilicia.

Galatians 2:1-10 (KJV)
1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

"After fourteen years," Paul went back to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus (verse 1). This fourteen year period of time began with Paul's conversion on the Damascus Road or from his first visit to Jerusalem.

Barnabas was a Jew from Cyprus, who became a follower of Messiah Yeshua. In Acts 9:27 Barnabas introduced Paul to the Apostles in Jerusalem. In Acts 11:22-26 Barnabas was sent to Antioch and from there sought Paul in Tarsus, bringing him back to Antioch with him. Paul and Barnabas are commissioned to go on Paul's first missionary journey together.

Titus was a Gentile believer in Messiah Yeshua who apparently knew Paul and Barnabas from Antioch.

Verse 2 states that Paul went up "by revelation, " in other words he decided to go back to Jerusalem not because of any human person telling him to do so, but because of a revelation by the Holy Spirit. His purpose in going was to communicate with the apostles the gospel message that he was preaching to the Gentiles. He spoke privately to those of reputation, meaning those in authority, probably James, Peter, and John (see verse 9). Verse 2 also states that the reason why Paul wanted to discuss his gospel message with the apostles was so that his ministry was not in vain. Since Paul had received his message directly from God, he was not concerned that his message was in error, but knew that without agreement from the apostles his message would be questioned (which apparently happened as evidenced by the false teachers coming in and making accusations). By being able to relate this history the accusers' accusations were diminished.

In verse 3 Paul points out that Titus, the Gentile was not compelled to be circumcised by the apostles. This is a key verse that helps us to understand what the controversy in Galatians is all about. However, it is also part of what has led many believers astray. We will come back to this.

Verse 4 gives us even further information about the false teachers. They came in with an ulterior motive to spy out the liberty that the believers had in Yeshua. They wanted the new believers to come under bondage. Paul strongly resisted the false teachers and wouldn't allow them even for an hour to have their way (verse 5).

The apostles that Paul spoke to, the ones who seemed to be of reputation, added nothing to Paul's Gospel message. This was the decision of the apostles, that Paul's message was acceptable to them. Paul added in this verse (6) that rank or importance didn't really matter to God nor to him. (An aside: Paul seems to be a rather stubborn and unique character!)

Verse 7 indicates that Paul was acknowledged as an apostle to the Gentiles in the same way that Peter was an apostle to the Jews. Notice how the word "circumcision" is used here. It denotes a group. It means the "Jews." In the same way, "uncircumcision" refers to Gentiles. Verse 8 informs that the power behind both men is God. The apostles then gave Paul and Barnabas the "right hand of fellowship." They were acknowledging that both groups were of the one body of Yeshua.

Verse 10 ends by the apostles instructing Paul and Barnabas not to forget the poor. This was the only area where the apostles apparently thought that Paul and Barnabas might fail, but Paul already had this in mind.

Although this post is already lengthy, it is essential for us to understand what the difference was between the gospel preached by Paul and that of the apostles. From Galatans 1 we saw that the message really sounded the same, that God raised Yeshua from the dead, that Yeshua gave himself for our sins, and that He might deliver us from this present evil world. In this regard the message was the same.

Prior to Paul's preaching to the Gentiles, only Jews became believers in Messiah Yeshua (for the most part). Being Messianic differentiated the believers from all the other sects of Judaism, but it was Judaism. There are no accounts of God informing the apostles of any new revelation. The Jews simply believed in Yeshua and by faith they entered the Kingdom of God.

As the Gentiles came in contact with the Messianic Jewish believers they also found faith in Yeshua. They experienced the same results as the Jews (receiving the Holy Spirit). They were incorporated into the body of Messianic believers alongside their Jewish brothers and sisters.

This is where the trouble began, because of the Jews' understanding that only Jews were to have a part in the World to Come. Even though the Old Testament is clear that Gentiles would be a part of the Kingdom in the World to Come they didn't fully understand. Paul did. This was really what his revelation from God was about, that Jews and Gentiles together would make up the Kingdom of God. They would both come to faith in the same way.

The false teachers, however, apparently had heard that these Gentiles were being accepted without becoming Jews first. This was not acceptable from their understanding. The Gentiles needed to go through ritual conversion, which consisted of circumcision (if male), agreeing to obey the written as well as Oral Law, paying the temple tax, and immersion.

This is what was contrary to Paul's gospel message. The Gentiles did not need to go through ritual conversion. They were accepted as they were. Titus had become a believer and had been admitted to fellowship without being compelled to being circumcised. Just like no one can force someone to be baptized, no one can be compelled to be circumcised. This doesn't mean that circumcision or baptism is not commanded by God.

Paul's "new" message was not really new, but a refinement of what God had already revealed. The false teachers wanted the Gentile believers to come under a bondage that the Jews themselves had not been able to bear (the Oral law). Paul resisted and shared his message with the apostles and they added nothing to Paul's understanding and they gave him their support.

We will see how this plays out in future posts!


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Galatians 1:11-24 Messianic Style


Paul had been speaking about how he was trying to please God and not trying to get man's approval. With this in mind he went on to describe the origins of the gospel message that he had been given.

Galatians 1:11-24 (KJV)
11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
14 And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,
16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.
20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.
21 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;
22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:
23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
24 And they glorified God in me.

Verses 11 & 12 consist of Paul's assertion that the gospel message he received did not come from man, but rather directly from the revelation of Messiah Yeshua. The rest of chapter one relates the history of Paul's receiving that gospel.

Initially, Paul had been a part of traditional Judaism. He noted that the Galatians had heard of his "conversation." In the KJV this word means "conduct." Paul admitted that he had persecuted the Messianic believers in Yeshua. He said that he wasted, or tried to destroy this body of believers. Notice Paul's intensity and the zealousness of his actions (verse 13). Verse 14 further reveals how Paul was such an overachiever that he advanced in Judaism well before others his age. He was extremely zealous when it came to the traditions of Judaism. Paul was making a differentiation regarding the traditions taught in Judaism and the Law of God. Although Paul was undoubtedly zealous regarding God's Law, the thrust of his letter had to do with those traditions of his Jewish fathers and not the Law. Specifically, Paul is referring to the oral traditions that he learned because he was a Pharisee, the most strict sect of Judaism.

Verses 15 & 16 informs us about Paul's conversion. Although Paul had been separated unto God from before his birth (Aren't we glad that his mother did not abort him?), it was not until the right time in God's plan that he was called by God's grace and shown Yeshua, God's son (Acts 9:1-9). Paul's purpose from that time on was to preach the gospel to the heathen (Gentiles). After Paul's conversion he did not turn to any flesh and blood person. Verse 17 states that he didn't go to Jerusalem to seek out the disciples of Yeshua, but went into Arabia before returning to Damascus.

After three years Paul then went up to Jerusalem, saw Peter, and spent fifteen days there (verse 18). It is often taught that Paul spent three years in Arabia, but that is not necessarily the case. For sure that is the upper limit, but the three years also included the time spent in Damascus. Verse 19 states that Paul saw only James, Yeshua's brother, besides Peter. Acts 9:27 indicates that Paul met "the apostles." David H. Stern, in the Jewish New Testament Commentary (p.524), suggests that Paul met the apostles, but only discussed his gospel message with Peter and James.

In verse 20 Paul affirmed the validity of what he was relating.

After that, Paul went into Syria and Cilicia (verse 21). This is the area from which Paul originally came from. He spent a number of years there.

Verses 22 & 23 tells us that Paul was not known by face to the Messianic believers in Judea, but they had heard that he had been preaching the faith he had once tried to destroy. Verse 24 conveys that those believers were praising God because of Paul.

The question remains. What was the gospel message that Paul received directly from God? How was it different from the message the apostles were preaching? This will be the topic of discussion in the next post.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Galatians 1:6-10 Messianic Style


In Paul's short introduction to the book of Galatians he managed to pack in a summary of the what the Gospel message is and the foundation of the what Galatians discusses. The book continues:

Galatians 1:6-10 (KJV)
6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

After his calm yet meaty introduction, Paul started off his letter by emotionally getting right to the problem at hand. He marveled at how quickly the Galatians, who had been called into a saving relationship with Yeshua by His grace, had turned from Yeshua to another gospel. The Aramaic English New Testament by Andrew Roth, translates "I marvel" by "I am stunned into silence, as if dead." This was no small matter to Paul and he expressed his shock to his readers.

Verse 7 clarifies that this "other gospel" is not really another, because any message that varied from what Paul had stated in his introduction was not really "good news" (what the word "gospel" means), but rather a message without power to save, leaving the believer without salvation from sin. Apparently, this message came from false teachers that had come into the Galatians' assemblies with the intent to pervert the gospel of Yeshua.

Paul informed his readers that if anyone, himself included, or an angel from heaven, preached any other gospel than the one that they had received, should be cursed (verse 8). The mention of an angel is interesting in that the word in Greek is "aggelos." This can be translated as "messenger" or "angel." The Greek word for gospel is "euaggelion", which as has been stated means "good news." Notice the common root in both words. Paul was making a play on words. Again, Paul was using pretty strong language. Paul repeated himself in verse 9. He wanted to make sure that his readers understood the seriousness of what was going on in the Galatian churches.

As of yet, the book of Galatians has not told us exactly who had come into their churches and what they had been preaching that was contrary to the gospel of Yeshua. This will come as we get further into the letter. At this point Paul is simply warning the believers about not accepting any other so-called gospels.

But before we go on we need to remind ourselves of some further details that are not included in the obvious reading of Galatians. Is Paul's summary a complete description of the gospel message? Since books have been written on the topic, obviously Paul didn't mean his statement of summary to be the end all of what the gospel message is, but there are some clues that can help us.

There are other places in Scripture where the "good news" is discussed.

Psalm 40:9 (KJV)
9 I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest.

Isaiah 52:7 (KJV)
7 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

Romans 10:14-15 (KJV)
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Matthew 4:23 (KJV)
23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

Matthew 4:17 (KJV)
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

These passages speak about the "good things" that Yeshua's message was all about. Specifically, the Matthew verses highlight that the kingdom of heaven was near. See here about the kingdom of God:
This is the foundation of what Yeshua's whole plan was about, bringing in a kingdom where He is the king, and believers are His subjects.

Although Paul doesn't directly address this, his statement from verse 4, "that he might deliver us from this present evil world," implies that something better is coming. Whereas the Jews had come to believe that only Jews could participate in that kingdom, God's plan from the beginning included both Jews and Gentile believers.

Zechariah 8:23 (KJV)
23 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.

Isaiah 2:2-3 (KJV)
2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Hang onto the idea about the coming kingdom being composed of Jews and Gentiles. We will return to this.

Verse 10 of Galatians 1 ends this section by Paul's affirming that he was not trying to win any man's approval, but that he only sought God's. Apparently, someone was accusing Paul of this and apparently, his gospel preaching appeared to be anti-God in some way. As we progress in this study more on this will come to light.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Galatians 1:1-5 Messianic Style

In reading my posts many people have quoted Galatians to refute some of the statements that I have made. However, I have not been ignoring Galatians in my writing, rather it only seems that way, since I understand Galatians from a Messianic perspective. It is time for me to address this important book, to demonstrate how traditional Christianity has misinterpreted it and has caused Christians to ignore the Law of God. I would just ask that my readers give my study of Galatians a fair hearing. Thank you!

Galatians 1:1-5 (KJV)
1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
2 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:
3 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,
4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
5 To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Galatians begins with an introduction which is common in letter writing of the day. In this introduction Paul is identified as the author and he stated that he was an apostle. The definition of an apostle according to Free Merriam-Webster online is "someone sent on a mission, as a : one of an authoritative New Testament group sent out to preach the gospel and made up especially of Christ's 12 original disciples and Paul." The question as to whether or not there were other apostles besides these listed, as well as whether there are apostles today is beyond the scope of this discussion and will be left to another time.Verse 1 also informs the reader that Paul became an apostle based on the authority of Yeshua the Messiah and of God the Father and not by the authority of any man. It is stated that God the Father raised Yeshua from the dead. 

Verse 2 gives us further information that this letter was not only from Paul, but from the brothers in Yeshua that were with him. He wrote this letter to the churches of Galatia. Galatia is located in central Turkey where Paul had established several churches (Act 13:51-14:23). The word translated "churches" is the Greek "ekklesiai" which refers to the Messianic congregations that Paul had established. (See map below.)

Roman Province of Galatia
25 B.C. ­ 137 A.D.

Paul greeted the congregations in verse 3 by expressing his desire that grace and peace from God the Father and Yeshua the Messiah would be given to them. Verse 4 sums up what Yeshua had done for the believers. He gave Himself for their sins in order to deliver them from the evil world in which they lived. This was according to the will of God, who is their Father. Verse 5 gives God the recognition that glory belongs to Him forever and ever. Paul ended with "Amen" which is a solemn ratification or agreement of what had been said (

The introduction that Paul gave sets the tone for what is to follow. He stated what the true Gospel message is and we will see its contrast in the next verses.


Monday, January 14, 2013

The Most High God - Daniel 3:13-18


When the mighty king of Babylon was told that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had not worshiped his golden image, how did he respond?

Daniel 3:13-18 (KJV)
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.
14 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
15 Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Verse 13 tell us that King Nebuchadnezzar had the three men brought before him. What question did he ask in verse 14? He asked the three men if what he had heard was true, that they didn't serve his gods or worship the golden image. Undoubtedly, Nebuchadnezzar was aware that these men worked as government officials, but it does seem likely that Daniel was not in Babylon at the time, since he is not mentioned. In verse 15 the king gave the men another chance. If they fell down and worshiped, everything would be well, but if they didn't what would happen to the men? They would be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. What else did the king say? The king asked, "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" Remember how Nebuchadnezzar had acknowledged that Daniel's God was the greatest God in chapter 2? He seemed to have forgotten his experience with Daniel's God and how Daniel had told the king about his dream and its interpretation. Before we cast any disparaging comments about Nebuchadnezzar's stupidity, we should recognize that we, as humans, are a very forgetful, ungrateful race as a whole. Nebuchadnezzar, after all, was the most powerful man in the world at the time. The proud are the most forgetful and ungrateful people! In verse 16 how did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answer the king? Their response indicated that they were not trying to give the king crafty ideas about why they behaved as they did. Verses 17 and 18 gives their forthright answer. If the men were thrown into the furnace, their God would be able to deliver them. However, if even their God did not deliver them they still would not serve Nebuchadnezzar's gods, nor worship the golden image.

This portion of Daniel teaches us a great deal about God's sovereignty, our prayers, our expectations of prayer, and faith.

God is in control of all things. He does what He knows is best according to His plans. When we pray we don't command a genie to do our will, rather we pray that God's will is done. When we pray for particular outcomes, God may veto them if our prayers are against His will. Yet, true faith understands that whatever God does is right and we will accept His will.

What happened next? Were the men thrown into the fiery furnace? If they were, did God deliver them or not? Stay tuned!


Saturday, January 12, 2013

One Law for All

Do Christians have to observe the Torah? There are generally two responses to this question. The first is that Christians don't have to, because Yeshua fulfilled the Torah.The second response is that the Torah is only for the Jews, so Gentiles don't have to observe it. It is this second response that we will talk about today.  Please see here for previous discussion:

There are several places in the Old Testament that outline who is responsible for what in the Torah. For example there are obligations that only the priests have, obligations that apply only to men, and there are some that apply only to women. In any case, the assumption is made that the Torah is written exclusively for God's people, the Jews, but this is not exactly the whole truth.

Exodus 12:43-47 (KJV)
43 And the LORD said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof:
44 But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.
45 A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof.
46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.
47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it.

This passage initially gives the impression that the Passover is meant only for Jews. No stranger, foreigner, or hired servant is to participate in the Passover. Only a circumcised slave is qualified to eat the Passover meal. However, look at the next verses.

Exodus 12:48-49 (KJV)
48 And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.
49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.

These verses make it clear that if a stranger desires to keep the Passover with the Jewish people, he or she can. The only stipulation is that if the stranger is a male he needs to be circumcised first. Then he or she is just like a Jew. Verse 49 especially informs that there is ONE LAW for all those that desire to be a part of God's people.

Leviticus 24:22 (KJV)
22 Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.

After listing several commands God sums up who is responsible for keeping these laws, the Jews as well as any stranger that has joined with them. This is reiterated in the following:

Numbers 9:14 (KJV)
14 And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the passover unto the LORD; according to the ordinance of the passover, and according to the manner thereof, so shall he do: ye shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger, and for him that was born in the land.

Numbers 15:15 (KJV)
15 One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD.

Numbers 15:15 also mentions that this is an ordinance forever!

Exodus 20:10 (KJV)
10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

Even the seventh day Sabbath is to be kept by both Jews and the strangers that dwell with them.

The problem with these verses in the minds of most Christians, however, is that they refuse to see themselves as strangers that dwell with the Jews, but the Scriptures are very clear on this, that Gentile Christians are grafted into Israel and are made a part of God's people.

Romans 11:17 (KJV)
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

Notice the words "with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree." When Gentile Christians are grafted in to Israel they partake of the "root and fatness."

Ephesians furthers the idea of Israel and Gentile Christians being one.

Ephesians 2:12-19 (KJV)
12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

Verse 12 highlights that Gentiles are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, but by Yeshua (verse 13) they are brought into the commonwealth. Verse 19 confirms that Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners but fellowcitizens to the natural born olive branches that are not broken off.

The Old and New Testaments together picture the blending of Jew and Gentile together in the Body of Yeshua. It is called the commonwealth of Israel and we all belong when we believe in Messiah Yeshua. We are all then subject to the ONE LAW for all.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How Long is Forever?

There are two common responses to whether or not Christians need to follow the Torah. The first is that Yeshua fulfilled the Torah so that no one else has to any more. The other is that the Torah is only for the Jews, so Gentile Christians don't have to observe it.

For the next several posts I will be discussing these responses. While I have previously dealt with the first response, See Yeshua Fulfilled the Law,  I would like to add to it today.

Exodus 12:14 (KJV)
14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.

This verse in Exodus is referring to Passover. Notice that it is a feast that is to be kept forever.

Leviticus 16:29 (KJV)
29 And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you:

Leviticus 16 states that the keeping of Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement is to be a statute forever.

Leviticus 23:14 (KJV)
14 And ye shall eat neither bread, nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

Leviticus 23 speaks about the Feast of First Fruits. Its observance is also a statute forever.

Leviticus 23:41 (KJV)
41 And ye shall keep it a feast unto the LORD seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month.

This verse is describing the Feast of Tabernacles. Again, its observance is a statute forever.

Leviticus 24:3 (KJV)
3 Without the vail of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation, shall Aaron order it from the evening unto the morning before the LORD continually: it shall be a statute for ever in your generations.

The menorah in the tabernacle was to be kept lit continually. This also is a statute forever.

Ezekiel 46:14 (KJV)
14 And thou shalt prepare a meat offering for it every morning, the sixth part of an ephah, and the third part of an hin of oil, to temper with the fine flour; a meat offering continually by a perpetual ordinance unto the LORD.

This verse in Ezekiel refers to the grain offering that was to be offered in the Temple every day. This is a perpetual ordinance. The interesting thing about this is that this in conjunction with the worship in the Third Temple, the Temple that will be in existence during the Millennial Kingdom. However, the grain offering was first proscribed in Leviticus during the days of Moses.

The picture that God is relating to us is that His Law will last forever.

What does "forever" mean? Doesn't it mean for all time? How is it possible that "forever" could mean until c 33 A.D. or until Yeshua's death and resurrection? By forcing our interpretation of "forever" to fit into our theology rather than fitting our theology to what Scripture says is backwards and has led Christianity into disobedience of the Law. This is a serious matter since our observance of God's commandments reveals whether or not we love Him and are His.

2 John 1:6 (KJV)
6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.

Let's think about this today and the implications of what "forever" means to us.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Response to Why Yeshua Cannot Be The Messiah

I normally write to Christians, trying to advance the understanding of the Hebraic roots of our faith, but I recently watched an anti-missionary video clip that listed six reasons why Yeshua could not be the Messiah. It was very eye opening for me and I wanted to address those six reasons today, specifically answering those objections that our Jewish family and friends have.

The six points are:

When Messiah comes there will be:

1. An ingathering of the Jewish people to their land.
2. The Temple will be rebuilt.
3. There will be worldwide peace.
4. All the Jews will embrace Torah observance.
5. There will be universal knowledge of God.

The sixth point reveals a characteristic of Messiah which is:

6. He will come from the tribe of Judah and will be a descendant of Kings David and Solomon.

First of all, Christianity and Judaism are in total agreement about the first five of these points. We all believe that these are requirements of the Messiah. The only difference is that in Christianity we understand that there are two appearances of Messiah. During His first coming he came as a suffering servant.

Isaiah 53:2-9 (KJV)
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

By Yeshua's death and resurrection God and man are reconciled. We now have the ability to accept His gift of grace by trusting in Him as our Messiah and we receive eternal life.

This is not the end of the story, though, because Messiah will come a second time, this time as a conquering King. It is at this time that the first five points will be completed.

1. There will be an ingathering of the Jewish people to their land. We began to see this happen when Israel became a state in 1948 (Isaiah 11:11-12).

2. The Temple will be rebuilt (Ezekiel 40).

3. There will be worldwide peace (Isaiah 2:4)

4. All the Jews will embrace Torah observance (Isaiah 4:2-4)

5. There will be universal knowledge of God (Isaiah 11:9).

The sixth point is addressed in the New Testament, in the genealogies of Yeshua in Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 3. These genealogies differ in that Matthew's account follows Solomon down to Yosef, Yeshua's legally recognized father, while Luke follows David's son Nathan down to Heli, also listed as Yosef's father. Many scholars believe that this is actually Miriam's ancestry.

These two genealogies give Yeshua a legal descent from David and Solomon, yet because Christians believe that Yeshua was the son of God and not Yosef, He is still a descendant by way of His mother. Plus, Miriam's line avoids the curse listed in Jeremiah 22:30 where the descendants of Jeconiah were not allowed to reign as kings any more. In any case Yeshua will restore the line when he returns again according to Amos 9:11.

Jeremiah 22:30 (KJV)
30 Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.

Amos 9:11 (KJV)
11 In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:

It is time that Christians and Jews recognize that we are related to each other and that we can learn from each other. The six reasons why Yeshua cannot be Messiah should serve as a start for discussion and a means by which we find agreement.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Precept Upon Precept, Line Upon Line

There seems to be a growing spirit of lawlessness in the church today. The commandments of God are rejected by Christians based on the idea that the law of Christ supersedes the law of the Old Testament. The following Bible verses are used as proof texts.

Galatians 6:2 (KJV)
2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Mark 12:28-31 (KJV)
28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Rather than understanding that the Mark passage is a summation of the law of God, it is said that the 613 laws contained in the Old Testament are REDUCED to two. Then, by a faulty understanding of the law of Christ and Christian liberty there are pastors that preach that the only law that anyone has to obey is the law of love! So, even an action that is against the law can now be the "loving" thing to do and is no longer prohibited (e.g. speeding to the hospital with a wounded person in the car or stealing to feed your family).

Galatians 5:1 (KJV)
1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Galatians 5:13 (KJV)
13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

But the problem with this line of thought is that each individual then becomes the arbiter of what is right and wrong. This sounds like the book of Judges and God was not pleased.

Judges 17:6 (KJV)
6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

In this week's haftarat reading, Isaiah had something to say about God's law.

Isaiah 28:10-12 (KJV)
10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:
11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.
12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.

Isaiah was expressing disgust over the prophets and priests of his day that were drunken. They responded in verse 10 by mimicking what Isaiah had tried to teach, reducing his warnings of not returning to God to mere building blocks that only babies would listen to. In verse 11 Isaiah informed the prophets and priests that since they would not listen to the instruction of God they would learn from foreign invaders, the Assyrians. Then in verse 12 Isaiah stated that the instructions of God, the precept upon precept, line upon line, and here a little, and there a little were meant as a means of life that lead to rest for the weary, a refreshing, but they would not listen.

God wrote His Law so that by living precept upon precept we would find rest and refreshing. We learn what love looks like by reading the whole Bible and committing to the obedience of those precepts and lines. Without the Old Testament law the law of Christ makes no sense.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Rose By Any Other Name

William Shakespeare's famous line, " that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," indicates that the name of something doesn't matter nearly as much as what that something is. Was Shakespeare correct, or are names just as important?

In Christianity we use a lot of terms that are widely familiar like salvation, faith, repentance, and sin. Yet, when we use those terms do our listeners or readers understand how we are using those words? Once upon a time, in our American history, our culture was so steeped in Christianese that everyone understood those words in a similar manner. Today, this is not the case. Many are now coming from cultures and places that are unfamiliar with the the words' uses that Christianity has applied to them. Also, how many cults and other religions use the same words, but have very different meanings? For example, when I first heard the word "missional," I assumed it had to do with missionaries and going out and witnessing, but the term has become much more broad. It has more to do with the "mission" of the church and living in a manner consistent with that mission. Sin is also another word that many do not fully understand. Pastors preach on our "mistakes," "errors," and how we've "messed up", instead of the wrong bent and evil actions that humans display.

To prevent misunderstanding do we need to stand with a dictionary in hand or state the meaning of every Christian word we use? I believe this will take some finessing. While defining every potential problem word is unreasonable, defining those most likely to cause misunderstanding would be helpful. We also need to learn to ask, "How are you using the word, _____?", if there is some confusion. Often, fault finding and misunderstandings can be mitigated if we clarify how a particular word is used.

At the same time I think we need to reduce our sensitivity to others who use words differently than we do. My example is the phrase, "I don't have religion, I have a relationship." Since I am a believer in Yeshua, I have a wonderful relationship with Him. I understand that this can be very different from an "institutionalized" religion and can be a beneficial help to an unbeliever who has been very turned off by "religion." Just think of all the crimes perpetrated in the name of "religion." Indeed, a relationship sounds a whole lot better. Yet, "religion" is defined as, "a set of beliefs...." by So no matter how you want to look at it, or want to convince yourself that you don't have "religion", you really do! Everyone does! Even an atheist has religion! I believe this is a case where we need to lighten up and not worry so much about what "religion" means.

Even the word, "Christianity" can become problematic. The other day I was listening to the radio in my car when I heard on a Christian radio station a man who was taking Christians to task because of the overall view that the world has of Christianity. He claimed that the world views Christianity as a religion of do's and don'ts. He thought this was terrible because Christianity was so much more. Think "relationship"! Was this man right? Or was he using the word "Christianity" in such a narrow sense that he became a nit-picker? Doesn't it seem natural that the Christian would be viewed as someone who didn't steal, use bad language, harm others, or didn't cheat on their spouses because their Master told them not to? Wouldn't we be ecstatic if Christians were viewed as perfectly good people? Unfortunately, I think Christians themselves have bought into the idea that "we don't have to be perfect." But that is the goal. We fall by a mile, but that shouldn't stop us from the attempt.

Words that we use in Christianity are complex and sometimes easily misunderstood. We should try to make our words understandable as best as we can. Some of these are so important that we can't afford to convey them improperly, yet there are others that we split hairs over and may not be as important as we think. May God give us a clear understanding of when our roses, by whatever their names may be, smell sweet and when a rose must be a rose or we've destroyed its essence!