Saturday, August 30, 2014

Classes Break!

Dear Readers,

I am in the process of taking a few classes and I have found it necessary to step away from this blog. Please do not forget about me, I will be back during the month of December, 2014! Until then, please reread my posts, stay close to the Lord by reading His Word and by prayer! I appreciate you all and I look forward to returning!

Blessings, Dear Ones!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Everyone Who Thirsts, Come to The Waters!

This week's portion from the prophets, Isaiah 54:11-55:5, is brimming with wonderful nuggets from the Lord! Here are two examples.

1. Isaiah 54:11-14 (KJV)
11 O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.
12 And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.
13 And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.
14 In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.

The afflicted "one" in this passage is Jerusalem. Although it is tossed with tempest and not comforted, things will change. The description that follows speaks of beauty, peace, and righteousness. It is hard to miss the similarities with the description of Jerusalem in Revelation.

Revelation 21:4,6-7,18-21 (KJV)
4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
18 And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.
19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.
21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

This is what God's people have to look forward to!

2. Isaiah 55:1-4 (KJV)
1 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
2 Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
3 Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.
4 Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.

Mankind thirsts for God, whether we know it or not. We try all kinds of things in life hoping to find that satisfying "something." We spend money. We labor for it, but everything falls short. However, the answer is easy. We only need to listen and come to God! It is a free gift! Then He will make an everlasting covenant with us and our souls will delight in fatness. Verse 4 also tells us that the gift is a person, one who would be a witness, a leader, and a commander to the people. He is our Messiah. Those who have heard God's message and have come to the satisfying waters, know that that person is Yeshua!

But there are more nuggets! More passages of encouragement and hints at God's essence are there for us to read. Why not partake, today?!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Doing What is Right in Your Own Eyes

Although Christians hold to a general body of rights and wrongs or moral code, they seem to have difficulty in identifying what that code exactly is. Some will cling to the Ten Commandments, but others shun the Old Testament completely and believe that the Law of Christ, loving God and one's neighbor, is the only true guideline that we have. Add to this Paul's cryptic "Christian liberty," and you have individual Christians running around, all deciding for themselves, their own code of morals and ethics. We also have the "thou shalt not judge" anyone enthusiasts, leaving true believers without a clue as to how we really are to live, at least in the details.

From Torah portion, "Re'eh - Behold" we read the following:

Deuteronomy 11:26-28 (KJV)
26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse;
27 A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day:
28 And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.

From this we see that God had given the Israelites detailed descriptions on how they were to live. They would be blessed if they obeyed God's commandments and would be cursed if they did not. God also said this:

Deuteronomy 12:8 (KJV)
8 Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes.

"Doing what is right in your own eyes" is clearly an idea that God despises. Yet, this is often how Christianity determines what is right and wrong.

"Yes, we got a divorce. God wants us to be in a happier place."

"Yes, I buy lottery tickets. If I win, I'll donate some to my church."

"Yes, we're living together. We're saving money and besides, marriage is just a piece of paper anyway."

"Yes, we go to church on Sunday, or Tuesday. God doesn't care what day we worship."

"Yes, I eat bacon. God doesn't care what we eat."

This fuzzy moral code is really a figment of our imaginations. Christians are living contrary to the Word of God and somehow they believe that God is pleased.

Deuteronomy 12:32 (KJV)
32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

What God has commanded, He intended His people to observe and obey. Rather than trying to determine on our own what is right and wrong, He has given us His guidelines in His entire Word, the Bible. It's about time we fully paid attention.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Your Wilderness

Do you ever feel like you are walking through a wilderness? I imagine most of have at some point in our lives. Have you wondered why? Why are things not improving? Where is God?

This week in Torah portion "Ekev", we read:

Deuteronomy 8:5 (KJV)
5 Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee.

When these words were spoken to the people of Israel, God had been recounting to a new generation how their fathers had been freed from bondage in Egypt, how they had sinned greatly in their journey through the wilderness, and how they had been punished by continuing in the wilderness for 40 years. Yet, at that time, they stood on the threshold of crossing into the Promised Land. God explained how the people needed to live as they built new homes and new lives. He explained why their fathers had had to remain in the wilderness for so long, and he gave them instructions on how they were not to forget what had happened to their fathers.

God wanted this new generation to know that their fathers had been chastened. Although this word can carry the negative connotation of punishment, God's intent was reform, or more accurately, discipline. God's Word is the Torah, which means "instruction." It is our instruction to holy living. Yet if we violate God's instructions, there are consequences. Although sometimes God punishes, His intent if for our improvement.

However, we should not think that all wilderness experiences are because of sin. Sometimes, God just needs to teach His people something that can best be learned by hard knocks.

Deuteronomy 8:2-4 (KJV)
2 And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.
3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.
4 Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.

God is a teacher! He provided for the Israelites' every need. They had to learn to rely on Him, because there was no other help for them in the desert. He allowed this wilderness experience to humble them, to test them, and to find out where their hearts were focused. Would they love God with all their hearts, would they follow His commands, and would they trust Him? When they arrived in the Promised Land, food and resources would be in abundance. If they had not learned to follow God, in trust, during the wilderness, they would probably not follow Him during the good times.

If you are going through the wilderness, make sure there is no sin that is responsible for where you are. If there isn't any sin, trust that God has a purpose for your wilderness experience. He could be trying to teach you something. Just continue to live according to the Word of God and trust Him! He will, in His time, lead you through the wilderness safely!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Blessing After Meals

Deuteronomy 8:10-18 (KJV)
10 When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.
11 Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day:
12 Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein;
13 And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied;
14 Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;
15 Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint;
16 Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end;
17 And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.
18 But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.

When I was a little girl, my family faithfully prayed before every meal. Although it was a rote prayer, it established in my heart, the need for thanksgiving to God. In that prayer we asked God to bless us and our food. We also stated our recognition that it came from Him. However, God's commands in this area are a little different. Deuteronomy 8:10 says that we are to bless God after we have eaten and that we are to thank Him for the good land which He has given. Consequently, the Jews have traditionally blessed God before eating, but have ended meals by praying a significantly longer prayer called the "HaMazon."

From Deuteronomy 8 we also see the reason for this command. It is so that we do not forget where our many blessings come from and assume our blessings are the product of our own means (verses 11 & 17). You see, once we forget to bless God and thank Him for the land, our food, and all our blessings, not only do we forget that God is the responsible party, but we begin to forget God in all the other areas of our lives. God is removed from the throne of our hearts, and God is no longer our first love. May this never be!

First Blessing of HaMazon

Blessed are You, YHVH, our God, King of the universe, Who nourishes the entire world, in His goodness -- with grace, with kindness, and with mercy. He gives nourishment to all flesh, for His kindness is eternal. And through His great goodness, we have never lacked, and may we never lack nourishment, for all eternity. For the sake of His Great Name, because He is God Who nourishes and sustains all, and benefits all, and He prepares food for all of His creatures which He has created. Blessed are You, YHVH, Who nourishes all.  (Artscroll translation - Women's Siddur)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

God Isn't Done With Israel!

There is a large part of the church that believes that God is finished with Israel. After all, the Jews failed to uphold the covenant, right? They practiced idolatry and God punished them by exile. When Yeshua came, they failed to recognize Him as Messiah. Now the blessings that were reserved for Israel passed on to the church, right?


In our haftarah portion for this week (Isaiah 40:1-26), God said:

Isaiah 40:1-2 (KJV)
1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.

Although Israel had received double for all her sins, she was to be comforted, her warfare would be ended, and her iniquity would be pardoned.

Isaiah 40:9-11 (KJV)
9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

This promise given to Israel speaks about God's return and His Kingdom. She (Israel) was not to be afraid, for He would come with a strong hand and His arm would rule. He would feed His flock like a shepherd, He would gather the lambs and carry them, and He would gently lead those with young.

This passage is very reminiscent of John 10:14 where Yeshua claims that He is the good shepherd.

John 10:14-16 (KJV)
14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

Believers have correctly claimed Yeshua as their shepherd, but Isaiah clearly shows this promise was for Zion. How can both be true? Verse 16 indicates that the original fold must be Israel, but there is another fold that would also be brought in. This second fold is made up of Gentile believers. Yeshua said that the two folds would become one and that He was the one shepherd.

If most of the church believes that Israel has no further place in God's promises, what hope does the church have? Not only has Israel been guilty of idolatry, but the church has as well. If God can remove Israel from His promises, He can also remove the church!

The idea that God is finished with Israel is not Biblical, nor is the idea that God's promises to Israel now belong to the church. Praise God, we Gentiles can be gathered into the sheepfold of Israel and all those who believe in Messiah Yeshua can stand on God's promises! They will not fail!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

God's Law is Grace

Most people recognize that law, in general, is good. Justice and order can result when a society is governed by law, but without it, society would be in chaos. However, human nature has a tendency to rebel against law. We also sort law into categories of "necessary", "acceptable", and "stupid", and base our law-abiding behavior on those laws that make sense to us.

The law that man makes is not always just, sometimes it becomes corrupt and perverted, but God's law is always just and good. Still, mankind often desires to rebel or to find reasons why obedience is not necessary.

This seems to be the situation in the church today. An entire theology has been developed in order to explain why the Torah is no longer applicable. Well-meaning and sincere believers in Messiah read the Bible from a Greek perspective, ignore its Jewish base, misunderstand texts that are used to prove the Torah's obsolescence, and then ignore those texts that prove Torah is still necessary. The bottom line is that we want to reduce the law to its smallest number and then become our own determiners of the standards in those areas outside the purview of our whittled down law. We are trying to usurp God's own role!

The Torah portion of this week is called, V'et'chanan, which means "I pleaded." The portion covers Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11.

This title comes from the Hebrew root "chanan," which is often translated as "grace." In traditional Christianity grace and law are seen as opposites, yet this is a very incorrect and skewed view. God has been extending grace to mankind since the very beginning of creation, it did not start with Messiah's human birth or His death and resurrection. The most visible evidence of God's grace to us, besides Messiah's gift of salvation, is His written Word, the Bible. Therefore, the Torah, the law of God, is a gift of grace to us. Each law, each sentence, and each word demonstrates God's love toward us. He has shown us how he wants us to live and how we can please Him.

So why don't we accept His gift? Why do we want to be the deciders of what is right and wrong when God has already told us?

Deuteronomy 4:5-8 (KJV)
5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
7 For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?
8 And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

If we decide our own standards, how will we fulfill this passage of Scripture, that says obedience to Torah is to be the reason why the nations take notice?

And how can we fulfill the following in the end times?

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.

If we want to be witnesses and show our neighbors that we are truly different, we need to start practicing Torah living. It cannot save us, but it is the evidence of salvation.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Romans 16:21-27 - Conclusion

Romans 16:21-27 (KJV)
21 Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, salute you.
22 I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.
23 Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother.
24 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:
27 To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.

As Paul came to the very end of his letter, he recorded further greetings to the Roman believers. This time, the greetings came from Timothy, his fellow worker, and Jason and Sosipater, his kinsmen (verse 21). Also, Tertius, who physically wrote Paul's letter (or epistle), sent a greeting (verse 22). Gaius, his host, and the whole church, the Corinthian church (Paul probably wrote this letter while in Corinth.) sent greetings. Erastus, the chamberlain (or treasurer) of the city and Quartus, a fellow believer, with whom Paul apparently felt very close, finished out Paul's list of greetings (verse 23). Paul prayed, "may the grace of our Lord, Messiah Yeshua, be with you all. Amen" (verse 24).

Lastly, Paul prayed, "To Him, who has power to establish the Roman believers according to the Gospel message that I had outlined, and the preaching of Messiah Yeshua, according to the revelation of the mystery (hidden until now) (verses 25 & 26), and by the Scriptures as recorded by the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, the good news has been made known to all nations, that would lead to the obedience of faith in Messiah; to God the only wise one, be glory through Messiah Yeshua forever! Amen! (verse 27).

Friday, July 25, 2014

Romans 16:17-20 - Beware of Them Who Cause Division

Romans 16:17-20 (KJV)
17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
19 For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.
20 And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.

Paul's final remark to his readers was a warning against them who cause divisions and offences which are contrary to the doctrine which they had learned (verse 17). They were to be avoided! Just like in our own congregations of today, there were those who came into the assembly with ideas and doctrines which were in opposition to sound Biblical teaching. Paul said they were to be avoided. However, this seems to be advice very contrary to how our churches respond today. There is such an emphasis on being seeker-friendly and relevant to today's culture that not only are sermons watered-down, but doctrines contrary to the Word of God are allowed to slip into our churches causing all kinds of havoc in the Body of Messiah. Instead, our assemblies should hold to Biblical truth and to teach thoroughly those truths. While there are honest variations in Biblical interpretation, reflected in the myriad denominations in our world today, there are major core teachings that should be non-negotiable, that anyone teaching or espousing anti-Biblical views must not be allowed in our assemblies.

Those who taught contrary to sound doctrine did not serve Messiah Yeshua, but themselves, by their good words and fair speeches (verse 18). They deceived the hearts of the simple. This is what is happening in our churches today, as well. These false teachers deceive those that are not grounded in Biblical truth. And today, there are too many who are Biblically illiterate and who fall prey to these teachers.

Yet, Paul's Roman believers were known to be obedient to Messiah Yeshua (verse 19). Paul was glad for this, but he also cautioned them to be wise unto that which is good, and to be simple concerning evil. Paul was not saying that believers should not have an awareness of what is evil, but that an over familiarity with evil was to be avoided.

Paul then encouraged the believers by saying that the God of peace would bruise Satan under their feet shortly (verse 20). Although nearly 2,000 years have passed since Paul's declaration, Satan's time is ever shorter and we are closer than ever to his defeat. Hallelu-Yah!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Romans 16:11-16 - More Greetings

Romans 16:11-16 (KJV)
11 Salute Herodion my kinsman. Greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord.
12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord.
13 Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.
14 Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them.
15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them.
16 Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.

Paul continued his greetings in verse 11 by mentioning Herodion, his kinsman, who possibly had some connection to the Herod family. Next he greeted those of the household of Narcissus who were believers. Next he greeted Tryphena and Tryphosa, two women who labored in the work of the Lord (verse 12). He also greeted the beloved Persis, another woman who labored in the Lord's work. In verse 13 Paul greeted Rufus, who was chosen in the Lord (perhaps meaning distinguished?).

Mark 15:21 (KJV)
21 And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.

This Rufus, whose father helped to carry Yeshua's cross, may be the same as the one Paul now greeted.

At the same time, the greeting was extended to Rufus' mother. Paul apparently felt so connected to this woman that he referred to her as "his own." Paul then greeted Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the fellow believers that were with them (verse 14). He also greeted Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints (believers) that are with them (verse 15). Julia and the sister of Nereus were two more women that Paul mentioned.

Then in verse 16 Paul tells his Roman readers to greet one another with an holy kiss, which was a Middle-Eastern custom. These greetings were also to be understood as coming from all the other congregations of Messiah.

Next, Paul would give some further advise.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Romans 16:1-10 - Commendation and Greetings

Romans 16:1-10 (KJV)
1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:
2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.
3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:
4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.
5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Salute my wellbeloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia unto Christ.
6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.
7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.
8 Greet Amplias my beloved in the Lord.
9 Salute Urbane, our helper in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.
10 Salute Apelles approved in Christ. Salute them which are of Aristobulus' household.

Paul had now come to the end of his letter to the Romans. The last chapter consists of some follow-up details. In verse 1 he commended Phebe to the Roman assembly. It is believed that Phebe was the one who carried Paul's letter to the Roman believers. She was a servant of the church in Cenchrea, which was the eastern seaport of Corinth. Although the term "servant" can mean any number of roles in the church, the Greek term is "diakonos," from which the term deacon comes from. It is interesting to note that "diakonos" is the masculine form of the word (Stern, David H. Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., Clarksville, MD. p. 439). This seems to indicate that Phebe had a very important role in the Cenchrea church. The Hebrew parallel would have been "shammash," the person who handled the practical tasks of keeping a synagogue going (Stern 439). Paul exhorted the Roman believers to receive her and to assist her in whatever business she had need of (verse 2). She had succoured many, including Paul.

In verse 3 Paul began his greetings, first to Priscilla and Aquila, Paul's helpers in Messiah Yeshua. According to Paul, they had laid down their own necks for him at some point, although, Biblically there is no record of any specific such incident (verse 4). For this, Paul and all the churches of the Gentiles were grateful. Likewise, Paul greeted the assembly or congregation that met in their home (verse 5). Some have believed that the mention of Priscilla before Aquila may have indicated her greater prominence.

Paul then greeted his well-beloved Epaenetus, who was the first fruits of those in Achaia (Greece) who came to Messiah. He greeted Mary, who had done much labor for Paul and his co-workers (verse 6). Next, he greeted Andronicus and Junia, his kinsmen and fellow prisoners (verse 7). They were important among the apostles and they had come to Messiah before Paul. Junia is a feminine name and may be Andronicus' wife. In any case she is counted among the apostles. In verse 8 Paul greeted Amplias, his beloved in the Lord. He greeted Urbane, his helper in Messiah, and Stachys, his beloved (verse 9). Paul greeted Apelles who was approved in Messiah, and those who were of the house of Aristobulus (verse 10).

Paul's greeting will continue in the next post.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Romans 15:22-33 - To Spain

Romans 15:22-33 (KJV)
22 For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you.
23 But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you;
24 Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you, if first I be somewhat filled with your company.
25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.
26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.
27 It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.
28 When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.
29 And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.
30 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me;
31 That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;
32 That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.
33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

Next, Paul explained that he had been hindered from coming to the believers in Rome because of his desire to complete his mission of spreading the Gospel in the eastern Mediterranean area (verse 22). But now, because he felt his mission in the east was "done," and because he had felt a great desire for many years to go to Rome, he was going to do so (verse 23). He would come first to Rome and then continue on to Spain where he could spread the Gospel to those who had not yet heard (verse 24). Certainly, he would see the Roman believers on that journey and they would see him onward. But first, he wanted to be filled with the Roman believers' company. Paul's visit wouldn't necessarily be short, but would provide a starting place for his journey into Spain.

However, he was first going to go to Jerusalem to minister to the saints (verse 25). Macedonia and Achaia had collected contributions for the poor saints in Jerusalem that Paul would deliver (verse 26). They were cheerful givers because they felt they owed a debt to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem (27). Just as the Jewish believers shared their spiritual blessings, the Gentile believers would share their material blessings with the Jerusalem believers. Once Paul had carried out his delivery he would come to Rome (verse 28). He was sure that in going to Rome God's blessings were upon him (verse 29).

Paul asked the Roman believers to pray for him (verse 30). He specifically asked for prayer regarding his delivery from those in Judea that did not believe in Messiah Yeshua (verse 31). He also asked for prayer that the Jerusalem believers would accept the contributions that he brought to them. Paul lastly asked for prayer that he would come to the Roman believers with joy and that both he and the believers would be refreshed (verse 32). Paul ended by blessing his readers by asking the God of peace to be with them. (verse 33).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Romans 15:13-21 - Paul's Testimony

Romans 15:13 (KJV)
13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

As Paul came to the end of his letter to the Romans he gave his readers a blessing, that God would fill them with all joy and peace, so that by faith they would abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit (verse 13).

Romans 15:14-21 (KJV)
14 And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
15 Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God,
16 That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
17 I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.
18 For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,
19 Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation:
21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.

He then stated that he was persuaded that the Roman believers were full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and were able to admonish one another (verse 14). Nevertheless, he had written to them boldly, as a reminder, because of his calling from God (grace) that he should be the minister of Yeshua the Messiah to the Gentiles (verses 15 & 16). He ministered the Gospel of God so that the Gentiles might be acceptable to God, having been sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

He therefore gloried through Messiah Yeshua in those things which God had accomplished (verse 17). However, he didn't dare to speak of any of the things which Messiah had not wrought by him, through word or deed, to make the Gentiles obedient. In other words he would confine his speech to only the things that he had been concerned in, and not to others' ministries (verse 18). Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit, he had fully preached the Gospel of Messiah from Jerusalem into Illyricum (verse 19). So, Paul preached the Gospel, not where others had preached so that he wouldn't build upon another man's foundation (verse 20). But as it is written in Isaiah:

Isaiah 52:15 (KJV)
15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

Paul brought the Gospel message to those who had not heard before (verse 21). Then they would see and understand.

Next, Paul would continue with his testimony.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Romans 15:8-12 - Yeshua's Ministry to the Jews

At this point Paul began to discuss the two reasons why Yeshua came as a minister to the Jews.

Romans 15:8-12 (KJV)
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:
9 And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
10 And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people.
11 And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people.
12 And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.

Messiah Yeshua ministered to the Jews (the circumcision) on behalf of the truth of God, to confirm the promises that had been made to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (verse 8).

Genesis 12:1-2 (KJV)
1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

Yeshua, Himself, spoke plainly that He had come to minister to the Jews.

Matthew 15:24 (KJV)
24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

However, Yeshua had not come only for the confirmation to the Jews that God would fulfill His promises, but He also came so that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy (verses 9-11). Paul then quoted from the Old Testament.

2 Samuel 22:50 (KJV)
50 Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto thy name.

Deuteronomy 32:43 (KJV)
43 Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.

Psalm 117:1 (KJV)
1 O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.

Then Paul quoted from Isaiah regarding the inclusion of Gentiles into the Kingdom of God (verse 12).

Isaiah 11:10 (KJV)
10 And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.

The root of Jesse is Messiah Yeshua, who descended from David, the son of Jesse. The Gentiles would also be under the kingship of Messiah and they would trust in Him.

God's people are collectively called Israel, but throughout history, those who believed in Messiah, whether Jew or Gentile, were allowed entrance into that body. Although both Jews and Gentiles can belong, there is only one body, one Messiah, and one Law (instruction) for all.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Romans 15:1-7 - Edification and Harmony

Paul continued discussing the believers' responsibilities to each other.

Romans 15:1-7 (KJV)
1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.
4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
5 Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

Paul summarized in verse 1. Believers, who are strong in faith, are to bear with the weaker in faith. They are not to choose their behaviors based on their own desires, but on the needs of the weaker. They are to please their neighbors based on what will edify (verse 2). Yeshua the Messiah was the ultimate example for believers. He didn't please Himself, but rather He took on Himself the reproaches that the rest of the world deserved (verse 3). Paul quoted from Psalms.

Psalm 69:9 (KJV)
9 For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.

For, those things that were written before in Scripture were written for the present time believers' learning, that through patience and the comfort of the Scriptures, they might have hope of the future final salvation (verse 4). Christians have a tendency to focus solely on the New Testament, much to their detriment. Yet, Paul demonstrated by all his many quotes, that the foundation of faith cannot exist apart from the Old Testament. It is the believer's comfort and source of understanding of eternal salvation.

Paul then blessed his readers (verse 5). May the God of patience and consolation grant the believers to be like minded with one another according to Messiah Yeshua, that with one mind and one mouth, they will glorify God, the Father of our Lord, Messiah Yeshua (verse 6). Therefore, may they receive one another as Messiah has received them to the glory of God (verse 7).

Paul's prayer was not only for the believers of his day, but for those in our day as well! May we live in harmony with fellow believers, practicing those things that will edify each other. May we, with patience and the comfort of the entire Bible, look forward to our final salvation. And may all our actions, thoughts and words, glorify God!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Romans 14:14-23 - Faith, Righteousness, Peace, and Joy

Paul had just admonished his readers not to be stumbling blocks to others. He continued.

Romans 14:14-23 (KJV)
14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
15 But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.
16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of:
17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.
19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
20 For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.
21 It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.
22 Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

In verse 14, Paul said that he was persuaded by Yeshua, that nothing was unclean of itself. Traditional Christianity has used this verse as a proof text that the food laws of the Torah are no longer applicable. But the context of the text, just like in verses 1-4, is not about the believer's ability to eat contrary to Torah, but about eating meat or vegetables. Therefore, Paul's argument is that meat that may have been offered to idols, in and of itself, was not unclean. What made it unclean was whether or not a believer thought that it was unclean. So, if a believer, thinking the meat was acceptable, served it to another believer who thought the meat was unclean, would cause his brother to sin (to be destroyed in the KJV) if he ate the meat (verse 15). The first believer would not have behaved in a charitable way to his brother.

Paul again stated that the use of liberty, which is a good thing, should not be used in the wrong way (verse 16). For, the kingdom of God is not about liberty in meat or drink, but about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (verse 17). Believers are to think first of others and by doing so, serve Messiah, and are acceptable to God and approved by men (verse 18).

In verse 19 Paul concluded that believers are to follow after the things that make for peace and edification between each other, instead of destroying the work of God over meat. Although, the meat may be perfectly clean, it is sin for the one who believes otherwise (verse 20). It isn't good to eat meat, drink wine, or anything else that will cause a brother to stumble, or to be offended, or to be made weak (verse 21).

If the believer has the faith and understanding that the meat is acceptable, he is to keep that between himself and God (verse 22). Blessed is the believer that doesn't condemn himself over his liberty.

And the one who doubts the acceptability of the meat is condemned if he eats it, because he didn't eat it in faith (verse 23). Anything that is done contrary to one's faith is sin.

This is such a serious matter! The Jewish believers of Paul's day had come from strict adherence to all kinds of man made laws and the Gentile believers had come from all kinds of paganism, both of which were difficult to leave behind. Behaviors had to be weighed against their new faith and what they knew of God's Law. New freedoms were pridefully displayed, often at the expense of fellow believers. Today's Christians still struggle with the tension between liberty, things from one's past, and God's Law. Liberty often trumps the true righteousness of behavior that results in peace, joy, and edification of fellow believers. This should not be! Let's think first of others!

(Here is an example. There are differing opinions on the drinking of alcoholic beverages in the body of Messiah. Although, it may not be sinful, since there is no command against drinking except for drunkenness, others may be impacted negatively by the observance of drinking by a fellow believer. If a believer's actions caused another to drink something that was considered sinful, he or she has acted uncharitably towards a brother and has caused him to sin. This is a case where liberty was used inappropriately. It would have been better to have kept liberty to oneself and refrained from drinking.)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Romans 14:10-13 - Being a Stumbling Block

Paul continued his thoughts on the weak and strong in faith.

Romans 14:10-13 (KJV)
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way.

So, if believers are subject to their master Yeshua, why should believers judge one another (verse 10)? Or why would believers regard their brothers with contempt? They all must stand before the judgment seat of Messiah and be held accountable for their own actions.

For it is written in Isaiah (verse 11):

Isaiah 45:23 (KJV)
23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.

Paul used this quote not to focus on the future day when all would come to understand that God is to be worshiped, but that all are accountable to God (verse 12). Therefore, believers are not to judge one another, but rather judge whether or not certain actions of theirs places a stumbling block in the way of another that will cause him or her to fall into sin (verse 13).

The context of these verses remains the same as in verses 1 through 9. Paul had been comparing a meat diet versus a vegetarian diet. But since each believer is accountable to God, whether one eats meat (that was offered to idols) or not, is between him and God. It is not for anyone else to judge. This was not a passage to be used to denounce all judgment. Believers have an obligation to judge sin based on God's standard in His Word. Therefore, Paul again was not talking about actions prohibited by God's Torah, but other actions, like the eating of meat or not, that are not prohibited in the Torah.

Often, the decision on an action's appropriateness (after determining its Torah-acceptability) is based on whether or not the action could cause another to fall into actual or perceived sin. If by eating meat offered to an idol the believer caused another to then eat the same meat, thinking that that might be sinful, the believer has placed a stumbling block in front of another. Believers must take into consideration how their actions affect others. Too often, believers use their "Christian liberty" to boast about all kinds of actions that cause others trouble. They stand on their "rights." But according to Paul, believers do not have any such rights. These verses denounce this kind of behavior. Again, believers must think of their own actions in light of their affect on others!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Romans 14:1-9 - The Weak and the Strong of Faith

Paul next moved into a discussion on the weak and the strong in faith.

Romans 14:1-9 (KJV)
1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
7 For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.
8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.
9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

The assembly of believers is to receive the weak in faith, but it can't be with the intention of quarreling over the individuals' faith choices that are not sinful (verse 1). For one believes that he may eat all things, whereas another, who is weak in faith, believes he may only eat herbs (verse 2). Therefore, the one who eats all things is not to despise the one who eats only herbs and the herb eater is not to judge the one who eats all (verse 3). God has accepted both believers.

Only the master of the servant can judge his servant (verse 4). Yeshua is the believer's master who not only judges him, but is able to make him acceptable.

One believer esteems one day above another, but another believer esteems every day alike (verse 5). Each believer must be fully convinced in his own mind as to the rightness or wrongness of his or her actions. In both cases of eating and observing days, these believers act in the manner in which they believe God would be pleased (verse 6).

For no believer lives or dies without accountability to God (verse 7). If the believer lives, it is as a servant to God (verse 8). If the believer dies it is also unto the Lord. Believers belong to the Lord. Because Yeshua died, rose, and revived, He has become the Lord over both the dead and the living (verse 9).

The primary question of this passage is, "Who are the weak and strong of faith?" Traditional Christianity has usually interpreted the weak in faith to be those believers who try to follow Torah, while those who are strong in faith have put aside Torah living. The problem with this understanding is that the discussion is not about Torah observance at all. In Paul's example of the two believers who eat different things, the contrast is between someone who eats only herbs and someone who eats "anything." There are no Torah rules about only eating herbs. So why would a believer choose to only eat herbs? In today's culture, many espouse vegetarianism because of its supposed health benefits, but back in the first century it was likely that the believer who only ate herbs was someone who was trying to avoid any possibility of eating meat that had been offered to an idol before being sold in the market. Yet, not all the believers felt this way. They were convinced that eating the meat was fine. Paul admonished them not to judge each other's decision. Therefore, the contrast does not mean that believers could eat contrary to Leviticus. That simply was not the issue.

Regarding the contrast of the esteemed days also does not mean an abrogation of the Saturday Sabbath or the Feasts of the Lord. Both the Jews and the Gentiles had many days that were celebrated for religious or cultural reasons. The weak in faith chose to continue to follow the observance of days that they were used to following (assuming that they were not contrary to God's Torah), whereas the strong in faith were able to let those go. Again, the two groups were not to judge each other's behaviors.

Lastly, it is important to realize that believers are on a journey of faith. Growth and development happen on the individual's timetable that God determines and that can vary greatly from one person to another. These elements of faith that are outside of God's direct commands must not be used as standards between believers.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Romans 13:11-14 - Put on Messiah Yeshua

Paul now concluded his thoughts on the believers' behavior.

Romans 13:11-14 (KJV)
11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

In verse 11 Paul reminded his readers that their ultimate salvation was nearer than when they first believed. This conclusion may imply that the first century believers thought that Yeshua's return was imminent. After all He did teach the following:

Matthew 24:42 (KJV)
42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

However, in close examination of Matthew 24 it is evident that many things had to take place before Yeshua returned.

Matthew 24:29-30 (KJV)
29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

So, although Yeshua was going to return at an unknown time, there were specific things that the believers were told to watch for. In light of this, Paul considered his day to be the beginning of the last days. The writer of Hebrews agreed.

Hebrews 1:2 (KJV)
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

Paul therefore instructed his readers that since they knew Yeshua was coming, it was time for them to awake from sleep and to seriously watch for Him. The night was far spent and the day was at hand (salvation) (verse 12). Paul told the believers to spend their watching time by casting off the works of darkness (sin) and put on the armor of light. They were to walk in honesty and not be engaged in rioting, drunkenness, sexual immorality, strife, or envying (verse 13). They were to put on Messiah Yeshua and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (verse 14).

How do believers put on Messiah Yeshua? As believers come to faith in Yeshua they are clothed in His righteousness. After that they are expected to live holy lives in accordance with the Scripture's teachings. By living in this way, in obedience to God, believers put on Messiah Yeshua. And as the end approaches believers should feel an increased desire to be righteous for when He does appear. That is the only way in which believers will truly be ready!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Did Paul Teach Against Torah?

Christianity has traditionally taught that Yeshua has fulfilled the Torah in the sense that believers no longer have to observe and keep Torah. Part of this understanding comes from Paul's supposed teachings that seem to agree that believers are no longer under any obligation to the Torah. But is this accurate? Let's examine this a little further.

Acts 21:17-26 (KJV)
17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.
18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.
19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.
20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:
21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.
23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;
24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.
25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
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.

Paul had come into Jerusalem in order to complete the Nazarite vow that he had taken. When he had arrived, the brethren received him gladly (verse 17). The next day, Paul visited James, the leader of the Jerusalem assembly and half brother to Yeshua. The elders of the assembly were also there (verse 18). Paul then gave them many details regarding his ministry to the Gentiles (verse 19). Notice that Paul gave all the credit to God. When the elders heard Paul's report, they glorified the Lord (verse 20). They then related to Paul about the thousands of Jews which had come to faith and were zealous of the Torah. However, these Jews had heard about Paul and how he was teaching the Jews to forsake Moses, saying that they should not circumcise their children nor walk in their Jewish customs (verse 21). James wondered what they should do, because the multitude would certainly learn that Paul had come (verse 22).

Apparently, the Jerusalem believers found Paul's teachings to be scandalous. Yet, James and the elders received Paul wholeheartedly and didn't believe that Paul was teaching against Torah.

James and the elders had a suggestion for Paul. There were four other men in their assembly who had also taken a vow (verse 23). Paul was encouraged to go with the four, purify themselves, pay all their expenses, and have their heads shaved (verse 24). In this way, the multitude of believers would see that the rumors surrounding Paul were nothing and that Paul himself kept Torah (like observing a Nazarite vow).

If Christianity persists in saying that either Paul didn't keep Torah or that he taught against Torah, it is accusing Paul of the very same things that the Jewish believers accused him of. Also, James and the elders thought that Paul did indeed keep Torah and did not teach against it.

In verse 25 James continued speaking. He did point out that the Gentiles had not been obligated to do anything more than keeping away from things offered to idols, blood, strangled animals, and fornication. This is in keeping with the Jerusalem council's decision in Acts 15. However, from that passage Gentiles were expected to learn more about Torah as they participated in the synagogues every week on the Saturday Sabbath. The Acts 15 obligations reflect a starting point.

Acts 15:20-21 (KJV)
20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

Then in verse 26 Paul agreed with James' suggestion to carry out the completion of the vow.

In this passage of Acts Paul was observing a Torah prescribed vow and he agreed to complete the vow with four others and pay for their expenses to show that he was strictly continuing to follow Torah. He did not want the Jerusalem believers to think that he was teaching against Torah or telling the Jewish believers to stop observing Torah. But Christianity has believed in the rumors and has taught a Torahless faith that Paul so desperately wanted to dispel. This anti-Torah teaching is just as scandalous today as it was in Paul's day!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Romans 13:8-10 - Love & Fulfillment

Paul turned from the believers' responsibility to government to their responsibility to others.

Romans 13:8-10 (KJV)
8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

According to verse 8 believers are to owe nothing to anyone except love, because that is the fulfillment of the Torah. Paul went on to list several of God's commands like, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not kill," "You shall not lie," and "You shall not covet." All God's commands regarding the treatment of others falls under loving your neighbor as yourself (verse 9). So, if believers do no ill to their neighbors they have fulfilled the Torah (verse 10).

The overarching theme of the behavior of believers is love. Any action taken must be with the good of others in mind. Therefore, when multiple actions are compared, the one that demonstrates love is the correct action to take.

However, traditional Christianity has gone beyond Paul's intent and generally has believed that Paul was saying that the individual Torah laws weren't important, that as long as a believer responded in a loving way to others, Torah was fulfilled. In essence Christianity has determined that the only law regarding others that anyone needs to be concerned about is, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Rather, Paul was placing a hierarchy over the details. Each of all the Torah Laws are still in force, but deciding which one might take precedence in any given situation could be determined by asking, "Am I loving my neighbor as myself if I take this action, or another?"

This way of looking at the Romans passage fits in with Yeshua's comment to the Pharisees in Matthew.

Matthew 23:23 (KJV)
23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Before the Pharisees should have tithed their mint, anise, and cumin, they should have treated their fellow man with love. Their tithes (following a Torah law), although good in principle, gained them nothing because other weightier (loving) Torah laws were ignored. They did not fulfill the Torah by their actions.

Any time believers act in love towards others they fulfill the Torah. It is something that can be done over and over again. When Christianity removed Torah from believers' obligations, it removed their guidelines on what love looks like. Without Torah, believers no longer know what God expects and they are left choosing actions based solely on feelings. Without knowing the Torah how can the believer ever fulfill it?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Romans 13:1-7 Our Relationship to the Authorities

Paul had just finished his exhortations by telling his readers not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil by good.

Romans 13:1-7 (KJV)
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Paul was continuing on his theme of how believers are to live. Here, Paul spoke on the believers' interactions with the government. Verse 1 summarizes Paul's stance. Believers are to be subject unto their governments. This means that believers are to obey the laws of the government under which they find themselves.  All the powers of the world are in place because God has allowed them. This certainly doesn't mean that God condones or approves of all the governments on earth, but He uses all to accomplish His will, whether the governments are good or bad.

In light of this, believers are to be law abiding citizens. However, Paul was not instructing believers to obey laws that contradict the Law (Torah) of God.

Acts 5:29 (KJV)
29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

In fact, when believers resist the government, they resist what God has told them to do and are guilty of sin and punishment (verse 2).

Government exists by God's design to institute civil order on a nation (verse 3). Believers who behave in a lawful manner do not need to fear the government. Only those who do evil need to fear. When good is done, the government praises the doer. Verse 4 continues. The ruler of a government is a minister of God to the people for their good. It is government's responsibility to bear the sword and to execute wrath upon those that do evil. Paul was again speaking in a general sense about God's purposes in government and not about those times when laws or the government itself is contrary to God. Therefore, believers are subject to the government, in order to avoid punishment, but for their consciences' sakes, as well (verse 5).

Because believers are subject to the government they must also pay their taxes, again because the government functions as a minister unto God doing its duties (verse 6). Therefore, believers are to give tribute (taxes) to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom is due, fear to whom fear is due, and honor to whom honor is due (verse 7).

In summary, there is no place for believers to disobey the government unless God's Laws demand otherwise. This means that believers should not refuse to pay their taxes or protest against legitimate government activities. On the other hand, laws instituted that are contrary to God's Laws should be protested and disobeyed when necessary. For example, under Hitler's regime, believers had a responsibility to protect the Jews and others who had committed no crimes.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Romans 12:16-21 - Exhortations 2

Paul continued with his exhortations.

Romans 12:16-21 (KJV)
16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Believers are to have the same attitude towards all (verse 16). They are not to look more favorably on the wealthy or prestigious than those of lowly estate. They are not to think themselves wise when that wisdom is based on one's own arrogance. Believers are not to treat those who have treated them poorly in the same poor or evil manner (verse 17). They are to be honest in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as far as it depends on the believer, they are to live peacefully with all men (verse 18). Believers are not to take revenge, but rather to leave room for God's wrath (verse 19).

Leviticus 19:18 (KJV)
18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

Deuteronomy 32:35 (KJV)
35 To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.

It is God who will take care of any vengeance. He is the one who will repay. Therefore, believers are to feed hungry enemies and to give drink to their thirsty enemies (verse 20). By doing this it will be as if the believers have heaped coals of fire on the enemy's head.

Proverbs 25:21-22 (KJV)
21 If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.

Finally, believers are not to be overcome by evil, but rather overcome evil with good (verse 21).

Again, Paul gave his readers many good examples of how believers should behave. This has never been an easy way to live, since it is so contrary to human nature, but the indwelling Holy Spirit is available to give assistance. It is possible!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Romans 12:9-15 - Exhortations

Paul continued with his thoughts on how believers are to live.

Romans 12:9-15 (KJV)
9 Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
14 Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

Believers are to love truthfully without being artificial (verse 9). They are to hate what is evil and to cling to that which is good. They are to be loving and kind (verse 10). They are to give preference to others. In business believers are not to be lazy (verse 11). They are to serve the Lord fervently in the spirit. They are to rejoice in hope, in the assurance of God's promises and His gospel message (verse 12). Believers are to be patient in trials and tribulation and they are to persevere in prayer. Believers are to provide help with the physical needs of other believers (verse 13). They are to be hospitable. Believers are to bless those that persecute them, to treat their persecutors well and not curse them (verse 14). Finally, believers are to rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep (verse 15).

Paul's exhortations, straight from Yeshua's heart and the Torah, reflect the life that believers are to live. In summary, Paul urged the believers to be righteous in their personal behavior, to show love to their fellow believers by caring for them and by sympathizing with them. Regarding all men, the believers are to give preference to others rather than themselves and to treat even persecutors with kindness. Ultimately, believers are to be engaged in the work of the Lord, to be patient in tribulation, and to be in prayer continually. These exhortations, although essential, are only accomplished by the help of the Holy Spirit. Stay tuned for part 2!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Be Ye Holy

Have your children ever embarrassed you by something that they either said or did? Probably most parents have experienced this, although with growth and maturity, we hope that our children will come to understand what is acceptable behavior. This is a part of growing up and becoming more adult like. As parents we try to model good behavior, and our children respond by emulating what we do.

This process of growth through emulation takes place in the believers' lives as well. Yeshua is our master, our savior, and our God. If we want to grow to be like Him, we must emulate Him. Although we can look to the Gospels for His examples, we also find behavioral advice throughout God's Word.

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;
16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

When Peter penned these two verses, he was talking about our emulating God. Because God is holy, his people, the believers, are to be holy also. Specifically, verse 15 talks about our being holy in our manner of conversation. This is King James' talk for being holy in our conduct. Although our thoughts do matter, it is our behavior that shows what is going on in our minds. His readers had come out of paganism and self-centered ignorant behavior that didn't please God. Instead Peter advised them to be holy as God is holy. But Peter was not the originator of this concept. He was quoting from three separate places in the Old Testament.

Leviticus 11:44 (KJV)
44 For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Leviticus 19:2 (KJV)
2 Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.

Leviticus 20:7 (KJV)
7 Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.

Although Peter was able to write about behaviors that were considered holy, he used the quotes from the Old Testament to remind his readers about the contexts of the three verses from which he quoted. God had already stated what constituted holy behavior. Let's examine what God said in Leviticus about holy behaviors.

Obviously, from Leviticus 11:44 we can see that holy actions included not defiling oneself by eating creeping things. However, the whole chapter 11 of Leviticus is about what constitutes food and what doesn't. For example, according to God, eating pork is not how believers behave in an holy manner.

Leviticus 19 is about revering one's father and mother, keeping of Sabbaths, and other laws. Apparently, holy behavior consists of reverence for parents and the observance of the seventh day Sabbath.

Leviticus 20 is about maintaining sexual purity. Again, God had already declared what behaviors were holy and what were not. Peter was simply reminding his readers.

Too often as we read the Bible, we see all the wonderful quotes that the New Testament writers have used, but we don't look back to see what God had already said regarding a matter. This has led to misunderstandings and incorrect theologies. Until we begin to follow the threads written through both New and Old Testaments we will continue to call holy behavior unholy, and unholy behavior holy. It is only through correcting this, that we will know how to emulate our master Yeshua, and not be an embarrassment to Him.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Romans 12:3-8 Faith and Gifts

Believers in Messiah Yeshua are to be living sacrifices, transformed by the renewing of their minds. How are they to live this out?

Romans 12:3-8 (KJV)
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7 Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8 Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

The term living sacrifices from verse 1 of Romans should connote selfless living, a living for God. Yet immediately following, Paul admonished his readers to not think more highly of themselves than they ought to think (verse 3). Obviously, human nature tends to self-aggrandizement, even in the face of being a sacrifice! How well Paul knew his audience!

Instead, believers are to think soberly with sound judgment about themselves according to the measure of faith given by God. In other words, the gift of faith that God gives His born again believers is to be used in understanding themselves correctly and not in being puffed up with pride.  For just like the human body, which is made up of many parts but have differing purposes (verse 4), the body of Messiah is made up of many individuals that function together (verse 5) but have differing gifts given by God's grace (verse 6). If prophecy is the believer's gift, he should prophesy. If his (or her) gift is ministry (service), he should minister (verse 7). If his gift is teaching, he should teach. If his gift is exhortation, he should exhort (verse 8). If his gift is giving, he should give with simplicity (liberality). If his gift is ruling, he should rule with diligence. If his gift is mercy, he should be merciful with cheerfulness.

In other words, Paul realized that human nature causes even believers to think they should have the most important jobs and the most prestige. Instead, he cautioned the believers to discern their gifts soberly, and then with the faith they are given, use their gifts, whether great or small. Oddly, there are also some believers who, through a false humility, never use the greater gifts that they have been given. So Paul was not saying that God gives differing amounts of faith, but rather differing gifts that are to be carried out by the faith given. How often do believers "feel" a lack of faith, and fail to use their gifts? The problem is not that the faith isn't there, even a mustard seed's worth can move mountains, but that believers don't use or realize what they have. Let's commit today to using our faith and gifts to the best of our abilities!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Romans 12:1-2 A Living Sacrifice

After finishing his discussion on God's plan for the Jews, Paul began speaking on how believers should live in light of what God has done for them.

Romans 12:1-2 (KJV)
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Because of God's great mercies, Paul begged his readers to present their bodies to God as living sacrifices, which were to be set apart and acceptable to God (verse 1). This is the believers' reasonable service. After all that God has done, believers should feel a duty and loyalty to Him.

How can believers do this? By not being conformed to the world and its standards, but by being transformed by the renewing of the mind (verse 2). As God works in the hearts and lives of His people, they are no longer the same. They are new creatures.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)
17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Then in the renewing of their minds, believers will come to know the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.

However, let's be honest. Do believers today exemplify this exhortation from Paul? The answer is probably not. Certainly, there are some who have taken Paul's plea to heart, but often it seems that the majority looks to the world rather than to God. Has God been replaced by the love of money, power, the latest technology, or pleasure? Have believers yielded their entire bodies, personalities, desires, etc. to God's transforming power, or are they adhering to exalting themselves? Has God swept out all the recesses and nooks in their minds and filled them with the desire for His will, or are they holding back parts of themselves?

Let's commit to truly becoming living sacrifices and let the renewing begin!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Romans 11:33-36 - God's Wisdom and Knowledge

Paul had last summed up his discussion on the salvation of the Jews by saying that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. God was not done with the Jewish people!

Romans 11:33-36 (KJV)
33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Paul then nearly burst into a song of praise! He ended his thought about the Jewish people by praising God. In verse 33 he declared that the wisdom, knowledge, judgments, and ways of God are richly deep and are far beyond the understanding of man. For what human can know the mind of God, or be His counsellor (verse 34)?

Isaiah 40:13 (KJV)
13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?

What human could have first given anything to God and then expect anything back in the way of a debt (verse 35)?

Job 41:11 (KJV)
11 Who hath prevented me, that I should repay him? whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine.

For all things that man has received has come from God, or through God, and all belong to Him (verse 36). May God be glorified forever! Amen!

God's plan of salvation came from His ultimate wisdom. Gentile believers lovingly are grafted into His family, while His chosen people, Israel, have not been forgotten. They will be grafted back in! Hallelu-yah!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Romans 11:27-32 - Irrevocable!

Paul had finally come to the climax of his discussion regarding the Jews in chapters 9-11. "All Israel will be saved."

Romans 11:27-32 (KJV)
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.
29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

Verse 27 continues the thought of verse 26. God, from the beginning, has been a covenant maker. His covenant people, Israel, shall again one day, as a nation, turn to Messiah Yeshua, when God will then take away their sins.
Yet, at the time of Paul's writing and on into today, the Jews (most of them) are enemies concerning the Gospel (verse 28). This situation was for the Gentile believers' sakes. However, the Jews are still God's beloved chosen people. They are beloved because of the patriarch's sakes. God had made promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God would keep His word and fulfill those promises. They had been promised a land and a nation. According to verse 29 the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. In other words, His gifts and calling are irrevocable! God's honor is at stake. He cannot change what He promised. These gifts and calling for Israel cannot be changed, or God would not be trustworthy. He will do what He says.

Paul then related again historically, how the Gentiles had not believed in God (verse 30), but by the unbelief of the Jews, Gentiles have obtained mercy from God and have been saved. In the same way, by grace through faith, the Jews will once again obtain mercy and be saved (verse 31).

For both the Jews and the Gentiles have been in rebellion toward God (verse 32). By God's amazing grace He will show mercy on both groups!