Sunday, February 23, 2014

Romans 10:14-17 - How Beautiful Are The Feet


Whosoever believes in YHVH shall be saved! But...

Romans 10:14-17 (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!
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Paul returned to his method of asking leading questions. How can anyone call on YHVH when he or she does not believe (verse 14)? How can anyone believe in someone about whom they have not heard? How can anyone hear without a preacher? How can anyone preach unless he or she is sent (verse 15)? Paul then quoted from Isaiah.

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!

God claims that the feet of him or her that preaches the gospel of peace and brings glad tidings of good things are beautiful!

Paul digressed here a little by pointing out how important the preaching of the gospel is. Without God sending preachers no one would hear and be saved. Even the most ugly of feet become beautiful when engaged in carrying the preacher to his mission field.

But Paul was also again answering potential questions from his opponents. How could the Jews be responsible for not believing, if God had not sent a preacher? Most of the Jews were very familiar with the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, but refused to see Yeshua as their fulfillment. In verse 16 Paul refuted the argument by ultimately saying that the fault of disbelief still lay with the individual Jew, since God had sent a preacher, Yeshua, who some believed. He then quoted Isaiah again.

Isaiah 53:1 (KJV)
1 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

This verse in Isaiah 53 begins one of the most Messianic passages in Scripture. Upon quoting this verse Paul expected his Jewish readers to understand the full context of his statement. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (verse 17). The Jews had all they needed in the Word of God to reveal to them that Yeshua was the Messiah. God had indeed sent many preachers, the Old Testament prophets, and finally Yeshua himself! They had no excuse.

Although Paul had been primarily dealing with the Jews in this section of Romans, much of the same can be said about the Gentiles. God has sent His prophets and other preachers. God has given His Word. God has given Messiah Yeshua. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God!!


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Romans 10:11-13 - Whosoever Believes Shall Be Saved


Faith in Yeshua and subsequent consistent actions are the evidences of salvation. Paul continued his argument regarding who can be saved.

Romans 10:11-13 (KJV)
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

In verse 11 Paul quoted from Isaiah, although it may not seem like it from most of our English translations.

Isaiah 28:16 (KJV)
16 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

Isaiah 28:16 (Amplified)
16) Therefore thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am laying in Zion for a foundation a Stone, a tested Stone, a precious Cornerstone of sure foundation; he who believes (trusts in, relies on, and adheres to that Stone) will not be ashamed or give way or hasten away [in sudden panic].

Paul, in agreement with Isaiah, stated that "he" who believes in the foundation stone will not be ashamed. In Ephesians 2:20 Paul identified the foundation stone as Yeshua.

Ephesians 2:20 (KJV)
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

Paul also clarified that the "he" of Isaiah 28:16 is in essence "whosoever." He further explained in verse 12 that the "whosoever" refers to both Jews and Gentiles. There is no difference between their ability to be saved, because the same Lord is over all and is rich to ALL who call upon Him. Paul repeated his thought in verse 13 replacing the "will not be ashamed" with "shall be saved."

Two things to notice in Paul's discussion are 1.) salvation is limited to those who call, and 2.) there is no change from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Consequently, salvation is not limited to any certain group, it is open to all, and it requires a choice on the would-be believer's part. Secondly, faith is the requirement of salvation in both the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament does not teach a works based salvation.

Finally, in verses 12 and 13, there is reference to the Lord. Since "Lord" is a title and not a name, who is being referred to here? Christianity has long assumed that the reference is to Jesus/Yeshua, but is this correct? The Greek is not a help either, since "Kurios" (the Lord) is also a title. However, in the Aramaic Bible in Plain English and in the Complete Jewish Bible, the actual name of God appears (YHVH in Hebrew). This makes sense in light of the following:

John 17:11 (KJV)
11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

As Yeshua was in prayer, He asked that the Father keep through HIS OWN NAME those whom He had given to Yeshua.

Jeremiah 16:19-21 (KJV)
19 O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.
20 Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?
21 Therefore, behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is The LORD.

Jeremiah prophesied that the Gentiles would come one day to God and that they would know His Name. In the Hebrew "The LORD" is the four letter name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (YHVH).

Paul may have been referring to YHVH and not Yeshua. Something to think about!


Monday, February 17, 2014

Romans 10:5-10 - The Righteousness of the Torah


While mankind strives to obtain righteousness by deeds, the Torah specifies that righteousness can only come by trust. Messiah Yeshua and His righteousness is the goal of the Torah. Paul continued.

Romans 10:5-10 (KJV)
5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.
6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)
7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Paul began with a quote from Leviticus (verse 5).

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.

Traditional Christianity has believed that Paul was making a contrast between salvation by grace through faith and the Torah's supposed salvation by works. This makes Paul's phrase, "For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law," seem to be a negative. Man can never come up to God's righteousness by doing the works of the law. However, Paul's repetition of Leviticus 18:5 and its positive connotation about salvation (life) being found in the Torah must be used in the same way. Paul, too, was saying that there is life in the Torah! Repeatedly, Paul has shown that salvation has always been through faith, that the Torah has taught this very thing.

Verse 6 continues to apparently contrast faith and works by the unfortunate translation of the Greek "de" into the English "but." Rather, the context of verses 5 and 6 imply "moreover" or "furthermore" as a better translation of "de" (David Stern. Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarksville, MD, 1992, pp. 397-8). In this case, verses 6 through 8a further explain verse 5, which comes from Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (KJV)
11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.
12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?
14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

The gist of both Deuteronomy 30:11-14 and Romans 10:6-8a is that mankind's effort to affect salvation is neither necessary or possible. God's grace has provided both Messiah and the Torah so that "Israel may 'hear...and do'" (Stern 400).

Verses 8b-10 describes the faith that Paul had been preaching. Although faith is initially a mental activity, it means nothing if it is not accompanied by confession (a willingness to be open and forthright about what is believed). In other words actions must be consistent with faith. Also, the object of faith in Yeshua is only viable if that faith includes the belief that God raised Messiah from the dead. The heart believes and the mouth confesses!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lamp and Light

Teaching children in Sunday school has been a part of my life for a long time. Telling the stories in the Bible, helping with memorization, and building foundations of truth, occupied my life during those precious hour slots on Sunday mornings. One of my favorite activities was teaching cute children's songs. Even today I find myself repeating those songs, like the one taken from the following verse.

Psalm 119:105 (KJV)
105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

This simple verse and the song derived from it packs a punch. The Word of God is the lamp and light that guides the believer through life! Yet, there are many Christians who barely open the Word of God. Few routinely memorize or actually engage in study of the Scriptures. Without the Word of God we have no lamp or light, we wander around in darkness, stumbling into things, taking wrong paths, and falling into pits that are hard to climb out of. Is it any wonder that Christianity today seems to be in decline?

The Bible is full of references to lamps and light. Yeshua preached about them, too.

John 8:12 (KJV)
12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

In this verse Yeshua claims to be the light of the world, which makes so much sense since He is the living Word of God (John 1:1-4), while the Bible is the written Word of God.

Matthew 5:14-16 (KJV)
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Although Yeshua is the light of the world, believers also become lights that reflect Yeshua. We are commanded not to hide our light under a bushel, but to put it on a candlestick so that we shine light before men. What exactly is our light? What are we to put on the candlestick? According to this passage our light is our good works!

Where do we find out what constitutes good works? We certainly can study Yeshua's life to see the perfect example of good works. We can study the New Testament and take to heart the teachings found therein. However, the teachings in the New Testament are not really new, they are packaged a little differently, but they are not new. They are all found in the Old Testament, particularly in the Torah.

Proverbs 6:23 (KJV)
23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:

Proverbs tells us that the commandment is a lamp. Which commandment is this referring to? The second phrase tells us that the Torah is light. These are two parallel phrases that mean the same thing. The commandment is not a particular one, but refers to the entire Torah. The last phrase states that the reproofs of instruction are the way of life. While "Torah" means "law", it is more accurately translated as "instruction." Again, the writer of Proverbs was indicating that Torah is the way of life.

Most Christians, however, reject Torah as a way of life. Although we teach our children songs about God's Word being a lamp and light, and read Proverbs 6:23 as if it only pertains to the New Testament, we violate the simple meaning of both of these texts. We also violate the interwoven connections between the Old and New Testaments. We arbitrarily enshrine the New Testament, while lopping off the Old. Yet, the New Testament could not exist without the Old. Try removing all the Old Testament quotes from the New and you'll have nothing left. The New Testament is dependent on the Old. Psalms and Proverbs gives truth. The Torah is our lamp and light. If Christianity is to find its way again, it must pay attention to the whole Word of God.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Romans 10:1-4 - Messiah the Goal of the Torah


Paul had explained that the majority of the Jews had not accepted Yeshua as Messiah because of their failure to thoroughly grasp that the most important requirement of Torah is faith. He continued.

Romans 10:1-4 (KJV)
1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Paul again expressed that his desire and prayer for Israel was for her salvation (verse 1).

He further admitted in verse 2 that the Jews had a zeal for God, but that it was not according to knowledge. In other words they zealously strove to follow the Torah, but they misunderstood. He further explained in verse 3. They were ignorant of God's righteousness that can come only through faith. Instead they went around trying to establish their own righteousness by following the Torah as an end in itself. This was not what Torah observance was about! That type of Torah observance could only end in failure, not in salvation. Since man cannot follow Torah perfectly, there is no salvation without the righteousness that comes by faith in Messiah. In verse 4 Paul summed this up by stating that Messiah Yeshua is the end or goal of the Torah. He is the one who provides the righteousness of God by observing Torah perfectly for everyone who believes.

The use of "end" in verse 4 in many translations is unfortunate. It gives the impression that with Messiah's coming, the Torah had come to an end. Most of Christianity has agreed to this meaning. However, logically, this doesn't make sense. If God has done away with the Torah, mankind is left in anarchy. Without the Torah there are no laws! Murder, theft, adultery, and every heinous crime must now be acceptable. Since the New Testament confirms that these are still sins, there must be a misunderstanding. A better translation of the Greek, "telos," is aim, purpose, or goal.

"Messiah is the goal of the Torah for righteousness to everyone that believes."

The Torah points mankind to the coming Messiah by prophecy and by showing us how God wants us to live. Mankind can access the righteousness of God (salvation), not by keeping the Torah as a goal in itself, but rather by faith in Messiah who lived out Torah perfectly for mankind.

Torah is and will always be God's perfect law. What believer would not want to live accordingly?


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Romans 9:25-33 - The Stumbling Stone


Paul's distress over the rejection of Messiah by most of the Jews continues in today's post.

Romans 9:25-33 (KJV)
25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:
28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.
29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.
30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

In verse 25 Paul quoted from Hosea.

Hosea 2:23 (KJV)
23 And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.

Although Hosea was referring to the Jews, Paul used the verse as a description of the believing Gentiles. They were once not God's people, nor were they beloved, but they will be added to His Kingdom, to Israel.

In verse 26 Paul again turned to Hosea in referring to the believing Gentiles.

Hosea 1:10 (KJV)
10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.

These Gentiles were not God's people, but they will now be called the children of the living God.

Next Paul quoted Isaiah in verse 27.

Isaiah 10:22-23 (KJV)
22 For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness.
23 For the Lord GOD of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land.

Here Paul drew attention to the promise that God had given to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that the number of the children of Israel would be as the sand of the sea. Although the Jews believed that this meant that all individual Jews would be saved, only a remnant of them would in actuality be saved. And God would finish the work in righteousness (verse 28).

In verse 29 Paul again quoted Isaiah.

Isaiah 1:9 (KJV)
9 Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.

In mercy God had decreed that a remnant would be saved. If not for that, the Jews would have been totally destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah. Although Paul was referring to the Jews in this passage, he had already discussed at length the guilt of both Jews and Gentiles regarding sin. It is only through God's mercy that anyone is saved.

So the conclusion is that the Gentiles, who hadn't followed after righteousness, found righteousness through faith, but the Jews, who had followed after righteousness, did not find righteousness (verses 30 and 31).

Paul then asked in verse 32, "Why?"  He then answered. The unbelieving Jews had not attained righteousness because they had tried to attain it by works, but righteousness can only be attained through faith in Messiah Yeshua. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. Surely, they thought, their religious traditions and works would save them, not simple faith in Messiah. It was too easy.

Lastly, Paul again quoted from Isaiah.

Isaiah 8:14 (KJV)
14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Although Messiah was a stumbling stone to many of the Jews, those who believed in Him would not be ashamed (verse 33). The believers would be saved.

The Jews had misunderstood. Salvation has always come by faith, but traditions have a way of blinding us to truth. This mistake is not just made by the Jews either. Gentiles also, whether Christian or not, often find faith in Messiah "not enough." We add to the Word of God. We subtract from the Word of God, creating our own religion and traditions. We put them on a pedestal and treat them like they are God's truth, when in fact, they are lies and distractions. If only a remnant of the Jews are saved, there is only a remnant of Gentiles that will be saved as well. This should be a sobering thought for all of us.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Romans 9:15-24 - Israel Identified Part 2


As Paul had laid out God's plan for believers, his heart was stung with pain over his fellow Jews that rejected Messiah. Paul concluded that not all Israel was Israel! God's Word had not failed, but was He unjust in His choices? God had preferred Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau. Paul continued to explain.

Romans 9:15-24 (KJV)
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

In verse 15 Paul reminded his readers that God had told Moses that He would have mercy and compassion on those of His choosing.

Exodus 33:19 (KJV)
19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

Verse 16 further relates that the choice is not because of the one who might will the choice, or the one who might run after or try to do something for the choice, but rather it is only up to God.

For example, the reason that Pharaoh was raised up was so that God's power and might would be declared throughout all the earth (verse 17). God hardened Pharaoh's heart and gave mercy to the Israelites (verse 18).

The natural question then, is, "Why does God find fault (verse 19)?" If God's will is sovereign, isn't He responsible for Pharaoh's actions and not Pharaoh? In like manner, isn't it God's fault that many of the Jews have rejected the Messiah?

Paul answered negatively (verse 20). What right does does mankind have to reply against God? What right would a created being have to question the intent of the Creator?

The potter has power over the clay (verse 21). The potter can choose to make one lump of clay either honorable or dishonorable.

Paul's discussion highlighted God's right as Creator to do whatever He chose with His creation. He is sovereign. Yet, Paul is not unmindful of the tension between God's sovereignty and man's free will. In chapters 1 and 2 of Romans Paul explicitly stated that mankind is without excuse as to their sin. They are responsible. Then in looking forward, Paul stated that WHOSOEVER calls upon the name of God will be saved.

Romans 10:13 (KJV)
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Although God is sovereign, "God does not harden the heart of anyone but a confirmed rebel; He wants all to turn from sin to Him" (David H. Stern. Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., Clarksville, MD, 1992. p. 391).

Then in verse 22 Paul shifted gears slightly by pointing out God's long suffering in enduring those vessels of wrath (as in the potter's creations) by giving them time to repent. In the same way, God makes known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which have been prepared unto glory (verse 23).

In verse 24 Paul revealed that those vessels of mercy are those of the Jews that have been called. With this statement Paul must have sighed in his heart. Although not all the Jews accepted Messiah, there was a called remnant that responded to God's mercy. Plus, there were also Gentiles who responded and embraced Messiah.

So who is Israel? The true Israel is made up of both Jews and Gentiles who have responded in repentance and faith to Yeshua the Messiah.