Category Archives: Apostle Paul

Rosh Hashanah

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As you read this understand that the LORD, blessed be His name, loves Israel. And I love Israel — enough to speak the truth and overturn some carts.

Three things struck me this day that have churned my soul, and I must write about them as the LORD has so inspired. (This will stub some people’s toes, but it must be shared.)

I was reading the Jewish Press — an article by Yoram Ettinger — about Rosh Hashanah (Hag Sameach). Though not mentioned in the Torah it is a celebration of the Jewish New Year (5776).

There were some interesting bites of information. For example: Why is the pomegranate — engraved on the Ark and sewn on the coat of the High Priest — a featured item at the Holiday meal?

There are 613 genetic seeds in a pomegranate reflecting the 613 statutes of the ceremonial Law, and a customary blessing is typically recited over the meal:

May you be credited with as many rewards as the seeds of the pomegranate.

Comments are welcomed at the end of the JP article with the exception of those that promote foreign religions, gods or messiahs. More on that later.

Having read the article I then climbed aboard the Bible Bus for my daily study with J. Vernon McGee. He began the session by saying that the Abrahamic Covenant has not yet been fulfilled. McGee is at odds with many Dispensationalists who see, at least, a partial fulfillment in 1948 when Israel became a state.

Later, I was watching Greg Laurie, and he carried on with the theme that God’s promise to Abraham has not been fulfilled. What was the promise God made to Abram?

In Genesis 15 the LORD promised Abram an heir (Isaac), and that his seed will possess the land. Abram offered a sacrifice unto God, and while he slept the LORD passed between the carcasses thus affirming His covenant.

In ancient days, two men would validate a mutual agreement by walking between the halves of a slain animal. The LORD put Abram into a deep sleep, and He walked alone between the pieces thus suggesting that the covenant was unilateral, irrevocable and everlasting.

Dispensationalism teaches that the land promise will not be fulfilled until the Messiah returns to establish the Millennial kingdom and reign upon the earthly throne of David in Jerusalem — a fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (Jeremiah 33:17). 

Okay, take a deep breath because what I am about to say will cause some to throw stones. Please hear me out because this is historic Christianity — not revisionist evangelicalism.

I believe the land covenant was fulfilled in the days of Joshua (3500 years ago), and that the Messiah is now reigning on the throne of David.

Jesus Christ said that He came to fulfill the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17). All of Jewish history pointed to a singular culmination — the coming of Mashiach. Like the Christians, Jews believe in two comings, but it gets complicated. Mashiach ben Yosef is a descendant of Joseph who will prepare the way for Mashiach ben David who will then reign eternally upon the throne of King David.

The zealots — even some of the disciples — thought that Jesus had come to restore the kingdom to Israel even though He said, My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

This is the stumbling block for Jews. Christ came the first time, but was rejected by His people. He will come again in great glory taking vengeance on those who know Him not (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Understand what I am saying. All has been fulfilled except the Second Coming of Christ which, according to Jesus, will be on the last day — not pre, mid or post but, as Peter wrote, the day of the Lord which will come like a thief in the night to destroy the heavens and earth with fire. All will be removed (you can call it raptured) — some to eternal life and the rest to eternal judgement. Then the new heavens and earth will descend and the saints will live forevermore in the presence of our Lord and Savior. Blessed be His name. (John 6:39, John 6:40, John 6:44, John 6:54, and 2 Peter 3:10).

What about the land promise? Written between 1400 and 1370 B.C. we find the answer in the Old Testament book of Joshua:

So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it (Joshua 21:43).

You know the history. The Jews are in bondage in Egypt … Moses leads them through the wilderness for forty years … and Joshua provides the details of their conquest and possession of the Promised Land.

Dispensationalists will say that the Jews did not physically occupy all of the land therefore God’s promise to Abraham has not been fulfilled. When the LORD promised to return the captives of Babylonian exile only a remnant came home. Many were comfortable with their adapted lives and chose to remain in Babylon.

No. You can’t be a literalist and then deny a matter-of-fact declaration. Consider this scenario: A father promises his son that when he turns sixteen he will give him the family sedan. The son turns sixteen and his father transfers title, but the son — for whatever reason — doesn’t take possession of the vehicle. Has the father fulfilled the promise he made to his son? Certainly.

I will not split hairs over the meaning of take and possess, (Heb. lakad, yarash). Judah fared well in taking and possessing their inheritance while the northern tribes had difficulty with the Jebusites who were quite tenacious.

In any case, Jesus Christ has fulfilled both the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. Don’t believe me? Would you believe Luke and Peter?

Read Peter’s sermon as recorded by Luke in Acts 2.

It is the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit has been poured out which Peter cites, by the way, as a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:16) — you know, the one about blood moons, a darkened sun, signs and wonders (Joel 2:28-32) — the prophecy that, according to Dispensationalists, has yet to be fulfilled. Hagee and Cahn are making lots of money selling books on this false teaching.

Joel was using symbolic imagery to convey a prophetic word from God. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Revelation utilize the same customary style. For example, in describing the destruction of Babylon, Isaiah wrote:

For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light (Isaiah 13:10).

The heavenly imagery depicts cataclysmic events, or prophetic fulfillment upon the earth, and is the literary style of ancient Hebrew text.

Peter then addresses the Jews who believed that King David would return to sit on his throne in Jerusalem. They glean this from Psalm 16:10 where David says that the LORD will not abandon his soul in Hades nor allow His Holy One to undergo decay — an unmistakable reference to Jesus Christ.

David died, was buried and his tomb, said Peter, is with us to this day (Acts 2:29). David isn’t coming back to reign for the prophesy was not about him but the resurrected Son of God.

When David speaks in Psalm 110:1 about the LORD saying to my Lord, sit at My right hand, he is speaking not of himself, said Peter, but of the Mashiach.

Peter was making the case that Jesus Christ is sitting on the throne of David:

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ– this Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:36). 

As Peter revealed that Christ is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, Paul declared that the promise made by God to Abraham had been fulfilled in this same Jesus:

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ (Galatians 3:16). 

Paul explains that God’s promise to Abram came 430 years before the Law was delivered to Moses. The Law does not nullify the promise which was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Because Abram was deemed righteous through faith so are Jews and Gentiles counted righteous — not by the Law which came later — but by their faith in the One who fulfilled the Law, that is, Jesus Christ of Nazareth (Galatians 3).

Brethren, we have a problem. I have dared to speak so boldly of Christ at this time of holiday because Israel needs to hear the Gospel that would otherwise be censured.

Citing the aforementioned Jewish Press, understand that Israel (the Jewish people) have rejected Jesus Christ and His atonement. They are in rebellion against the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The olive tree and grape-vine (symbolic of the nation of Israel) are presented afresh in the B’rit Chadasha:

But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree — some of the people of Israel — have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree ((Romans 11:17 — NLT).

With regards to Israel being the vine, Jesus said, I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser (John 15:1). 

Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it (Matthew 21:43). 

McGee and Laurie deride this as Replacement Theology — that the ‘church’ has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption. Reformers (such as myself) refer to it as Covenant Theology, that is, Old Testament promises have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ just as the LORD revealed through His prophet (Jeremiah 31:31). Conversely, some evangelicals teach a two-step plan of redemption — one for Gentiles, another for Israel. No, there is only one plan of salvation and that is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

The problem is that Dispensationalism has embraced an almost idolatrous love affair with Israel. How did Paul define Israel?

… they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants … (Romans 9:6-7).

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter (Law); and his praise is not from men, but from God (Romans 2:28-29).

If you, who are Gentile, have been grafted in then you are a Jew, a descendant of Abraham — a High Priest and a Holy nation, God’s very own possession (1 Peter 2:9).

True Israel — the vine being Jesus Christ — consists of believing Jews and Gentiles who have been declared righteous by their faith in Yeshua HaMashiach …

… and in this way all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26).

Stop watching the fig tree and blood moons for your salvation, and keep your eyes on the Lord.

Okay, you can breathe now.

Suggested Reading:

Want to know more about Dispensational Theology? Read our series beginning with the 70 Weeks of Daniel.

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To’aiva: A Rabbi Speaks

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From the writings of Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel (with comments following):

The Torah clearly states its views about the act of homosexuality. The act of homosexuality, i.e. two men having sexual relations, is prohibited (Leviticus 18:22). The act is twice called a To’aiva — an abomination …

If not for the fact that homosexuality is prevalent in Western Society today, there would be little controversy about this Torah sin. It is clearly forbidden and never condoned anywhere in the Torah.

Usually, the Rabbis do not explain the meaning of Torah words. And the meaning of abomination seems reasonably clear — it is abhorrent to God. But in this case, the Talmud does offer a specific explanation. Based on a play on the Hebrew words, the Talmud says that in the act of homosexuality, the person is straying.

The commentaries on the Talmud say that by abandoning heterosexual sexual relations, the person is straying from one of his prime goals in life — to procreate and populate the earth (Genesis 1:28). (See also  Romans 1:26). We will amplify this theme below, but this explanation does not seem to be the abhorrence that the word TO’AIVA implies in the simple meaning. The classic explanation of why homosexuality is prohibited in the Torah is because of straying, i.e. failure to populate the earth. The Chinuch explains that any ‘wasting of seed’ on homosexual relations is preventing procreation and inhabiting the earth, the prime directive of man. This prime directive is echoed by Isaiah 45:18 in describing the purpose of Creation — to be inhabited. This explanation does not point to the unholiness of the homosexual relationship, but, rather, the violation of man’s purpose on earth.

CHINUCH, MITZVAH 209

At the root of the precept lies the reason that the Eternal Lord blessed is He, desires the settlement of the world He created. Therefore, He commanded us that human seed should not be destroyed by carnal relations with males. For this is indeed destruction, since there can be no fruitful benefit of offspring from it, nor the fulfillment of the religious duty of conjugal rights (due one’s wife).

Messiah Gate Says:

To’aiva is not exclusive to the homosexual act. G-d took the life of Onan when he did not fulfill his conjugal obligations towards his deceased brother’s wife:

Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord; so He took his life also (Genesis 38:8-10). 

G-d created sex between a man and a woman for the purpose of procreation and bonding. The most natural form of birth control is the fear of pregnancy. The Pill radically altered — even overturned — the fundamental precepts of Biblical morality. Abortion and gay marriage have further eroded what G-d intended.

I have engaged in a lengthy debate at a gay Christian website regarding arsenokoitais (ἀρσενοκοίταις) as it is referenced in Paul’s epistles, e.g. 1 Timothy 1:10.

Arsen (men, man, male) and koitas (beds, from which we get the word coitus) is understood by gay Christians to be a condemnation of prostitution, pedophilia (pederasty) and idolatry — not homosexuality.

The moderator refutes all of the relevant Biblical text (both Torah and B’rit Chadasha) by reinterpreting Scripture contrary to the ancient Judeo-Christian tradition.

Following is a summary of my rebuttals:

… men with men (arsenes en arsesin) committing indecent acts (Romans 1:27) … 

Paul is quite clear in this passage. Subterfuge is not good hermeneutics. Otherwise I could use 1 Timothy 5:23 to justify getting drunk every night.

(Moderator called me anti-gay.)

With regards to Romans, I have read all of the contrarian viewpoints and they are not dissimilar from the faulty exegesis that asserts G-d destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their inhospitality.

(Moderator asked me to provide Scriptural support that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for homosexuality and not inhospitality.)

Look, we can’t interpret the Bible from the bias of contemporary mores thousand of years removed from the original text. You can’t defend any type of behavior by asserting that the Bible doesn’t say what it clearly meant to the ancient people to whom it was written.

This is evident in the Halacha (Oral and Written Law) which has preserved the Rabbinic interpretation of Torah that this particular act is to’aiva — an abomination.

It is not difficult to find arguments within Reformed Judaism to support your position. However, orthodox Rabbin hold to ancient tradition. 

Ben Witherington wrote:

The word [arsenokoites] literally and graphically refers to a male copulator (cf. Sib. Or. 2:73; Greek Anthology 9.686), a man who has intercourse with another man. It is true that this term can refer to a pederast (an older man who has sex with a younger man or a youth), but the term is not a technical term for a pederast; rather, it includes consenting adult males who have sexual relationships in this manner, as well as any other form of male-to-male intercourse.

Andreas Kostenberger wrote:

In light of the discussion of teaching in the Old Testament and the book of Romans above, it appears very unlikely that what is universally condemned in the Hebrew scriptures might, in New Testament times as well as ours, be acceptable. Arsenokoitas most likely refers to the general practice of homosexuality.

It appears like that the term arsenokoitas, which does not seem to appear in the extant literature prior to the present reference, was coined by Paul or someone else in Hellenistic Judaism from the Levitical prohibition against males “lying or sleeping with males” (Lev. 18:22). This suggests that the term is broad and general in nature and encompasses homosexuality as a whole rather than merely specific aberrant subsets of homosexual behavior. This is important since some want to make arsenokoitas refer specifically to pederasty.

The argument that Paul’s use of arsenokoitas refers to pederasty falls short on six counts:

a) There was a clear and unambiguous word for pederasty (which Paul did not use), the term paiderastes.

b) The attempt to limit Paul’s condemnation to pederasty is contradicted by Paul’s reference to the male partners’ mutual desire for one another in Romans 1:27.

c) In the same passage in Romans 1:26, Paul also condemns lesbian sex, which did not involve children, so that an appeal to pederasty does not adequately account for the prohibition of same-sex relations in this passage.

d) Even if (for argument’s sake) Paul were to censure only pederasty in the passages under consideration, this would still not mean that, as a Scripture-abiding Jew, he would have approved of homosexuality as such. Quite the contrary. In contrast to the surrounding Greco-Roman world (which generally accepted homosexual acts), Hellenistic (Greco)-Jewish texts universally condemn homosexuality and treat it (together with idolatry) as the most egregious example of Gentile moral depravity.

e) Not only is Paul’s view of homosexuality as contrary to nature in keeping with the foundational creation narrative in Genesis 1 and 2, but it is also illumined by prevailing views of homosexuality in contemporary Greco-Roman culture.

f) Ancient sources do not support the idea that homosexuality was defined exclusively in terms of homosexual acts but not orientation. Paul refers to both. Some scholars erect a false dichotomy between the two, and then use the false dichotomy to reason that the concept of  ‘homosexuality’ has changed.

Final Word

Arsenokoitais is not a reference to prostitution, idolatry nor pederasty, but (as the Talmud concurs) male-to-male sexual intercourse. How curious that the teachings of Augustine, Luther and the Rabbin are irrelevant in this age of enlightenment — or deception?

Christians who have preserved (in their hearts) the original context of the eternal Word of G-d are a minority in this fallen world. Those in-name-only need to stop imitating an ostrich and prepare for the persecution. The UMC minister who chastised me for predicting a dystopian future because of his gay advocacy should read the headlines. The future is now.

The Master’s Seminary posted an article about the Bible and homosexuality on its website, and within hours received a cease and desist order to take down the post. A lamenting judge told his pastor that, by law, he now has to marry homosexual couples. Said the judge, “I cannot.” Maybe there’s room for him in the jail cell of the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses.

The world will be given over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28), but G-d is unchanging and He will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7).

Credits:

Homosexuality in Orthodox Judaism, article by Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel.

“Arsenokoitais” (ἀρσενοκοίταις) in 1 Timothy 1:10 (et. al.), article by John Piippo.

Witherington, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians, Volume 1: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Titus, 1-2 Timothy and 1-3 John, 198).

Kostenberger, God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation (with David Jones)..

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I am Elijah

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Are you Elijah? The underlying theme of Scripture is that God will keep for Himself an elect remnant. Elijah, when he feared that all had forsaken the LORD, fled to the shelter of a cave to escape the enemies who sought to kill him.

Jehovah told Elijah that there were 7,000 faithful who had not bowed down to the false god. And so it will be on the last day when the winnowing fork of the Lord separates the chaff from the wheat. He has allowed the weeds to grow with the grain until the harvest is gathered (Matthew 13:24-30).

Weeds can choke a healthy plant, and absorb the nutrients needed to produce good fruit. The church of Jesus Christ is like a field of wheat. Apostasy and false teaching are tares that were sown even before the death of the last apostle.

There are two schools of thought as to how this unfolds. Either things will get better due to the influence of the church, or conditions will deteriorate as the body of Christ becomes marginalized by an increasing secularization.

If we don’t understand that Revelation is unfolding in this age then it will only embolden the Satanic assault that seeks to take advantage of a church that is not fully dressed in the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).

I am utterly stunned at the outpouring of support within the church for social changes that are inconsistent with a Christian worldview. I am told that I must be reeducated or rehabilitated — that my thinking is wrong and I don’t possess the love of Christ. I will restate once more: Christian love is corrective — not permissive. Yes, Jesus loved sinners. But He exposed their sin with the admonition to go and sin no more (John 8:11).

After 2,000 years liberalism has become deeply rooted in the church. People don’t like to be admonished. So the church — in a vain effort to stay relevant — has conformed to the world. No one wants to sit and listen to a fiery condemnation and then be hustled for a donation. That’s why upwards of 7,000 churches close their doors every year.

A prominent Midwest pastor who was defrocked for moral failings was asked if he ever went to church. “No,” he said. “I don’t need to go and be told that I’m a sinner. I already know that.” He added that he watched Robert H. Schuller because his sermons made him feel good. Schuller authored the Ten Commandments of Possibility Thinking which was a hodgepodge of motivational, humanistic, metaphysical, New Age concepts that entranced the laity and pulpit. Think Fulton Sheen and Norman Vincent Peale. Where is the Crystal Cathedral today? So we simply anoint new faces who will tickle our ears and make us feel good (2 Timothy 4:3).

Of course, the genesis of our devolution began in the Garden of Eden. The serpent was the first liberal, but evil suffered a monumental defeat at the Cross; and Satan knows his time is measured. This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ for those who have ears to understand. The papacy has given ground in the midst of ongoing spiritual warfare, but the church in Rome remains a steadfast defender of the sacrament of marriage and the sanctity of life.

The fruit of Reformation has been pornography, divorce, drugs, abortion and gay marriage. At the heart of the Reform movement was a liberal rejection of Rome’s conservative tenets. Granted, some of these were extra-Biblical (or based on tradition), but they were the cohesive glue that maintained unity. Understand that only the Spirit of God can keep the church together, and even then only a remnant will be saved. Some Catholic, some Protestant, but not all. It has always been about a remnant, or the elect few.

In his article, Why the Gay Marriage Debate was Over in 1950, Joel Miller suggests that psychotherapy supplanted religion. The 50’s generation that grew up with Freud and Spock (not the Vulcan) were essentially taught that they could obtain joy and peace without the Bible. This may offend you but until 1974 the American Psychiatric Association (as codified in DSM-11 — Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) classified homosexuality as a mental disorder. At the APA convention in San Francisco (1974) gay advocates were able to overthrow the classification. Homosexuality was deemed “normal” behavior by politics — not medicine.

And the church has bought into this “new religion” that love overrides all else. This is the crux of the matter. If love is the greatest commandment then the church must be tolerant of abortion and gay marriage. My friends, God does not tolerate sin. Indeed, unrepentant sin will be judged.

Calvin and Luther were branded heretics because they both denied that marriage was a holy sacrament as defined by the Council of Trent. Okay, so the Catholic Church does translate the Greek word mystērion (μυστήριον) — as used by Paul in Ephesians 5:32 — to mean sacrament rather than mystery; but this doesn’t alter the doctrine that God, not men, invented marriage as a typology of the sacramental relationship between Christ and His church.

Calvin went so far as to equate marriage with agriculture, architecture, shoemaking and hair-cutting. [1]

Luther could have written the Court’s majority opinion:

No one can deny that marriage is an external, worldly, matter, like clothing and food, house and property, subject to temporal authority, as the many imperial laws enacted on the subject prove. [2]

Marriage is a civic matter. It is really not, together with all its circumstances, the business of the church. [3]

… marriage is outside the church, is a civil matter, and therefore should belong to the government … [4]

I feel that judgments about marriages belong to the jurists. Since they make judgments concerning fathers, mothers, children, and servants, why shouldn’t they also make decisions about the life of married people? [5]

God is the ultimate judge — isn’t He. Where are the 7,000, as Elijah, who will stand with me in defense of God’s truth?

Editor: The tone of this article is in no way a blanket defense of Catholicism, but an indictment of the Protestant church for its liberal interpretation of essential Christian doctrine which has sown division, and deviancy from the true Word of God. The seed of the Reformation has produced the fruit of so much of the false teaching that is preached today. Prosperity gospel?

Notes:

1. Institutions, John Calvin, IV, xix, 34.

2. What Luther Says, CPH 1959, Vol. 46, page 265.

3. Ibid, Vol. II, page 885.

4. Ibid, Vol. 54, page 363.

5. Ibid, Vol. 54, page 66.

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Holy Chaos

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For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

This topic won’t go away. The seed of this rebellion has not fully germinated — much like the issue of abortion. Make no mistake … we are engaged in spiritual warfare and the Evil One has scored another victory.

New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, elected in 2003 as the first openly gay (non-celibate) bishop in the Anglican Church, since retired, is quoted:

We don’t need to win the argument, but simply change minds. This is going to end with the full inclusion of gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the church. Let me tell you a little secret: the conservatives know it, too … there is no stopping it.

Throughout his tenure Robinson used the pulpit to promote the homosexual agenda including same-sex marriage. He praised gay advocates for creating enormous confusion and holy chaos within the church.

This is evil speaking. Pure evil.

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them (Romans 16:17).

I feel like Abraham pleading for Sodom:

“Lord, if there be one righteous man left will You spare the nation?” (Genesis 18:32)

Is there a remnant in the Episcopal church worth saving, or will they be spewed out as the church at Laodicea? (Revelation 3:16)

My soul is afflicted and deeply wounded. Where are the God-fearing men and women?

Where is the “church”?

We are ruled over by those who violate both legal contract (Constitution), and moral covenant (Bible). More sinister are the pulpit liberals who throw away the epistles, charge Paul to be a heretic (for his condemnation of immorality); and who justify their acceptance of transgression because Jesus, they say, was silent on this issue. Shall we discard the moral law? Yeshua came to fulfill, not throw away, Moses and the prophets. When asked about moral issues, Jesus would typically respond, What is written in the Law? (Luke 10:6)

So, no, Jesus did not itemize every jot and tittle of the Law. Nor should He. Making rules based on our fallen sense of justice and fairness is to live outside the will of God, and in disobedience.

If it was sin in the Torah it is sin in the B’rit Chadashah. Nothing is changed. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever  (Hebrews 13:8).

Faithful Christians — distinguished from those who are Christian in name only — are further marginalized and set apart from secular society. We who walk in the light are called hateful and phobic.

We are chastised to love and not judge as if those who recite these commands have any contextual or spiritual understanding of God’s word.

We live in an age where the truth has become a lie, and the “church” apostate. Reformers did not break enough from Rome to rebirth that which was anointed in Jerusalem; and Protestantism has wreaked further division through the establishment of denominated assemblies. Know this — the judgement of God will fall hardest upon the ecclesia.

There is no unity when the papacy has usurped the authority of Christ, and priests commit heinous sexual crimes while the Protestant assembly is fragmented by doctrinal and theological disagreement.

So the church across the street celebrates gay marriage … the one on the corner denies the divinity of Christ … and the parish across town says none of it matters — just count a few beads, recite a few “Hail, Mary’s” and all will be fine. Oh, my brothers and sisters, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth come Judgement Day (Matthew 13:42).

And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ (Matthew 7:23)

Answering an altar call and mumbling a two-sentence recitation does not make you a Christian. Jesus said to follow His commandments and abide in Him:  John 14:15, 14:21, 14:23.

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments (1 John 2:3). 

Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned (John 15:6).

If we could ask Jesus for a definition of marriage He would point to Adam and Eve. As for Paul’s condemnation of sexual immorality, well, the apostle was speaking on behalf of our Lord.

When Jesus says, “Truly, truly,” we best take heed:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me (John 13:20).

To the red-letter Christians and Hebrew Roots disciples who frenetically disparage and reject Paul, I ask this question: By whom was he sent?

Of Paul, Jesus said, … he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel … (Acts 9:15).

If you reject Paul … you reject the Son of God (Luke 10:16).

Paul was unmistakably clear. It is dishonest to ignore his writings simply because they offend contemporary mores. But, if you are one who is willing to throw out one-third of the New Testament then may I leave you with the following quote by a church father who is revered by both Catholics and Protestants — St. Augustine:

Therefore the first natural bond of human society is man and wife. Nor did God create these each by himself, and join them together as alien by birth: but He created the one out of the other, setting a sign also of the power of the union in the side, whence she was drawn, was formed. For they are joined one to another side by side, who walk together, and look together whither they walk. Then follows the connection of fellowship in children, which is the one alone worthy fruitTherefore the good of marriage in every nation and for all mankind lies in the purpose of procreation and in chaste fidelity; but for the people of God, it lies also in the holiness of the sacrament. [1]

Marriage is the Holy union of man and wife for the purpose of having children, and as a testimony of the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church. That a court of judges can overthrow the foundation of human society — that which was established by Eternal God — should be a clarion call for the truly born again.

The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me (Luke 10:16).

Notes:

1. On the Good of Marriage (De bono coniugali), St. Augustine, 401 A.D.

Credits:

Scripture — New American Standard Bible, Lockman Foundation, 1995. “Used by permission.”

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Love Wins

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Love Wins is a headline proclaimed across the nation following a recent Supreme Court decision that judicially alters the fundamental precept of marriage. (See our post, Marriage.)

Frankly, I am stunned — even disoriented — at the course of events that have transpired in our generation. God has been expelled from our public schools … millions of babies have been sacrificed upon the altar of choice … and, now, the bedrock of our society — marriage and family — has been discarded or, at least, redefined. I submit that mortal man, while he has the right to choose this course of action, will do so under condemnation and judgement.

So, the man who was elected will say that ours is not a Christian nation; and (because of the Court ruling on marriage) that we have become a more perfect union. Well, I would agree in the one sense we are not a Christian nation, but there are a present remnant as the LORD spoke to Elijah (1 Kings 19:18).

In that vein please allow me one other digression. 1 Samuel 8 is an interesting study how man attempts to exert his will over God. The prophet was aged, and the people clamored for a king to rule over them. I won’t spoil your study except to say that sometimes God releases you to the desires of your own self-will even to your unintended detriment.

If this were a truly Christian nation would it not reflect the will of God?

Today, people are celebrating the victory of love. But the love they are confessing is a romantic or desirous kind of love — eros as it was understood by the ancient Greeks. Biblical love, however, is expressed by these Greek words — agapē (ἀγάπη), a Godly love; and philadelphia (φιλαδελφίᾳ), a brotherly love.

It is critical to understand that Biblical love is not a sentiment or a feeling, but an action. (It is not the clammy hands of a teenager on her first date.) The action taken is a selfless act done for the benefit of another.

In Mark Dever’s acclaimed study The Message of the New Testament (Foreword by John MacArthur): Promises Kept the author states that, more than an action, love is a disposition of the heart toward God and others which then shows itself in our actions. [1]

Dever then characterizes Biblical love with some of the most treasured words in Scripture — from Paul’s letter to the assembly at Corinth:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Love is the missionary doctor who flies to Africa to help save those who are suffering and dying from Ebola. Love is not marching in a colorful parade loudly proclaiming the fruit of  flamboyant, self-willed pride.

Dever queries his readers:

Could this be more clear? Love is not self-seeking.

John MacArthur expounds on this distinction between the Biblical and worldview of love:

The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians may be, from a literary viewpoint, the greatest passage Paul ever penned.

Agape (love) is one of the rarest words in ancient Greek literature, but one of the most common in the New Testament. Unlike our English love, it never refers to romantic or sexual love, for which eros was used, and which does not appear in the New Testament. Nor does it refer to mere sentiment, a pleasant feeling about something or someone. It does not mean close friendship or brotherly love, for which philia is used. Nor does agape mean charity, a term the King James translators carried over from the Latin and which in English has long been associated only with giving to the needy. This chapter is itself the best definition of agape.

The problem, however, is that few people have any idea of what true love is. Most people, including many Christians, seem to think of it only in terms of nice feelings, warm affection, romance, and desire.

Self–giving love, love that demands something of us, love that is more concerned with giving than receiving, is as rare in much of the church today as it was in Corinth. The reason, of course, is that agape love is so unnatural to human nature. Our world has defined love as “romantic feeling” or “attraction,” which has nothing to do with true love in God’s terms.

The supreme measure and example of agape love is God’s love. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16).  Love is above all sacrificial. It is sacrifice of self for the sake of others, even for others who may care nothing at all for us and who may even hate us. It is not a feeling but a determined act of will, which always results in determined acts of self–giving. Love is the willing, joyful desire to put the welfare of others above our own. It leaves no place for pride, vanity, arrogance, self–seeking, or self–glory. It is an act of choice we are commanded to exercise even in behalf of our enemies: “I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44–45). If God so loved us that, even “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:4–7), how much more should we love those who are our enemies. [2]

The Holy Spirit has been pressing me to love more like Christ. If I say, love is … the Spirit replies, love does … 

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

Notes:

1. The Message of the New Testament (Foreword by John MacArthur): Promises Kept, by Mark Dever, Crossway Publishing, (November 16, 2005).

2. Is Biblical Love a Feeling or an Action?, COPYRIGHT ©2015 Grace to You, All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Credits:

Scripture — New American Standard Bible, Lockman Foundation, 1995. Used by permission.

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Hope

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[Editor’s Note: If you received the email version of our last post you probably missed Joey and Rory singing Leave it There since videos do not appear in the electronic post. However, you can watch it on our blog.]

For my mother whose middle name was Hope. She passed away last Christmas almost four years to the day of my father’s passing. I miss them very much.

When I was taken to the emergency room I had hope. When I lost a job I had hope. When I was on the verge of homelessness I had hope. When my bank account was bankrupt I had hope. When I couldn’t pay my rent I had hope. When I was housebound four years because of acute panic disorder I still had hope.

Hope (in God) kept me alive and preserved my soul.

Christians know all about faith and love, but there are three fruits of the Spirit that remain (1 Corinthians 13:13), and hope seems to be an afterthought in today’s church. We know that we are saved through faith (Ephesians 2:8), but did you know that Paul told the Romans that we are saved by hope? We’ll address that later.

Readers of Messiah Gate know that I occasionally engage [in] lengthy discourse over the more complex issues of theology, but that makes me somewhat like the Pharisees who knew the letter of the Law, but not its practice. John the Baptist called them a brood of vipers (Matthew 3:7)  — echoed by Jesus (Matthew 12:34) who also condemned them as hypocrites (Matthew 23:13).

Joel Osteen has been, at times, a target of my criticism as I have suggested that watching his sermons is like eating a candy bar — empty calories with a sugar rush. He tickles my ears (2 Timothy 4:3).

But when my days were darkest I found myself listening to him because his words made me feel good. TBN recently broadcast Night of Hope in Jerusalem with the Osteens which originally aired in 2011. To be expected there were the circuit preachers bellowing their motivational mantra sounding much like the used-car salesmen who pitch their inventory on late-night television:

I declare your suffering has ended … I proclaim your deliverance from poverty … I declare that your storehouse will be filled … I proclaim this day of healing … You will get that job … You will prevail … You will overcome … and so on.

Yes, Osteen is light on theology so what is it about his message that inspires so many people?

May I suggest that it is a message of hope. That’s what Joel Osteen preaches — hope. Now, I still have theological differences with him, but I can’t deny that my hope meter charts full, and my spirit is lifted, when I watch him.

The Night of Hope in Jerusalem was near the anniversary of the death of Osteen’s father. Osteen buried his head in his hands and sobbed as he reminisced about his dad, John — how his father encouraged him to pastor the congregation even though Joel had no training in seminary, or confidence that he could assume such a role. At that moment you could sense an outpouring of love and hope, and the very real presence of the Holy Spirit.

It was an awesome night … Jesus was preached … and our God was glorified.

I’m sure that I am wrong about some things as well, but my hope is that one day we will sit together at the feet of the Master who will teach us the great and hidden truths of His heavenly kingdom.

Now, what about Paul’s statement that we are saved by hope? Your King James Bible reads:

For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it  (Romans 8:24-25).

The translation does not convey all that Paul is saying. The Aramaic version is worded … Because we live in that hope … or the English Standard Version that reads … For in this hope we were saved

So, if we compare Paul’s writings we learn that we are saved through faith, and in hope. But for what are we hopeful? Paul reveals that in the previous verse:

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us (Romans 8:23).

The apostle was not immune to suffering as he wrote to the assembly at Corinth:

[Of the apostles] Are they servants of Christ? — I speak as if insane — I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure  (2 Corinthians 11:3-27). 

Might the circuit preachers declare Paul’s deliverance from all of these hardships? Our Lord said that, in this life, we will suffer:

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Ellicott summarizes:

Because hope in the future is of the very essence of the Christian’s life. It was [in] hope that he was saved. Hope, at the time when he first believed, made him realise (sp) his salvation, though it is still in the future. This is, indeed, implied in the very nature of hope. Its proper object is that which is future and unseen. [1]

Benson wrote that our hope is in a salvation not fully possessed. [2]

And Barnes surmises:

[As to saved by hope] perhaps the word “saved” may mean here simply, we are kept, preserved, sustained in our trials, by hope. Our trials are so great that nothing but the prospect of future deliverance would uphold us; and the prospect is sufficient to enable us to bear them with patience. [3]

Consider, finally, that the underpinning of hope is love, of course, but also patience.

This message is not heard but from a few pulpits. Maybe that is why people listen to Joel Osteen. Certainly, my own testimony confirms that in my darkest days, hope — I’m speaking from the Spirit — was the sustaining power in my life.

To Him be the glory.

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Baby David and Mom

Notes:

1. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers VIII, by Ellicott, Charles J., Cassell and Company, 1905.

2. Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Benson, Joseph, 1811–18, 5 vols.

3. Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes, 1834.

Mom’s Poetry

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Circumcise Your Heart

The message of Messiah Gate seems confusing to some readers. They wonder if our background is Jewish or Christian; if we celebrate feast days and honor the Shabbat, or Sabbath.

[We do celebrate the Jewish roots of our faith within the context of their fulfillment in Messiah.]

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that there is no distinction for those who believe in Jesus Christ; and to the Galatians he wrote that there is neither Jew nor Greek for we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Paul wrote that a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly according to the circumcision of the flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly whose heart has been circumcised by the Spirit.

Jehovah said to the men of Judah, Circumcise yourselves to the LORD and remove the foreskins of your heart (Je 4:4).

So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer (Dt 10:16).

Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live (Dt 30:6).

Physical circumcision, as commanded unto Abraham, was a sign of obedience that is the outward cleansing of the flesh, but it was only a shadow pointing to the circumcision of our heart which is the inward cleansing of our soul.

Are you under the Law, or led by the Spirit?

Paul wrote that if you are under the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Here’s the context: There were Jewish believers in Galatia teaching Gentile converts they had to obey the Law to be saved so the Galatians began circumcising themselves, and Paul rebuked them:

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? [Gal 3:1-3]

[There are messianics today who profess Jesus Christ, but live by the Law; and we must be discerning with whom we fellowship.]

Paul admonished the Galatians for abandoning grace, and receiving a distorted gospel:

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! [Gal 1:8]

The essence of Paul’s teaching is that we are saved by grace through faith, and not of works; and that we are dead to the Law, but alive in Christ Jesus.

Within the messianic community you will find teachers that call believers to celebrate the feast days, keep the Sabbath, adhere to dietary restrictions, obey ordinances and statutes and conform to the Law of Moses.

Paul was accused in his day of blasphemy for teaching Gentiles that these observances were unnecessary. The sect of the Pharisees who believed in the LORD, called Paul to testify before the Jerusalem Council to answer their charge that it was necessary for Gentiles to be circumcised, and to observe ceremonial law.

After much debate, Peter stood up and questioned the reasoning for placing this burden upon the Gentiles, while recognizing that it was a yoke that not even Jews were able to bear; and he affirmed Paul’s teaching that we—both Jew and Greek—are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

James—the half-brother of Jesus, and head of the Jerusalem assembly—had the final say:

Therefore it is my judgement that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. For Moses from every generation has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath (Ac 15:19-21).

The apostles and elders at Jerusalem then sent Paul, Barnabas, Barsabbas and Silas to deliver the Council’s decree to Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. It read in part:

Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls…we lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials that if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well (Ac 15:23-29).

The distorted gospel is still being preached today by a segment of the messianic assembly which includes both Christian and Jewish converts. They adhere strictly to the Law and Torah, but it might be useful to read what Moses told the children of Israel:

Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully. The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today (Dt 5:1-3).

Moses was speaking of the law which was not given unto the patriarchs; that is, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but to the children of Israel who were brought up out of Egypt.

It is well to consider that the LORD didn’t make this covenant with you nor did He make it with me.

We have been told by the LORD that the people broke His covenant with Moses; and we have confirmation by Peter that the Law was a curse that neither they nor their fathers could bear.

Paul warned the Galatians if they abide in the Law they are cursed; that no one is justified by the Law which is not of faith; and that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming our sin bearer. This begs the question which Paul asked the Galatians (rhetorically), Why the Law then? [Gal 3:19]

A careful study of Paul’s writings will reveal the paradox of his thinking that the Law was both a blessing and a curse. Put simply, the Law was given to reveal our sinful nature, but it could not save us. The Law is not the problem then, we are.

Paul explains that the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death.

To our brethren—both Jew and Gentile—who strictly adhere to the Law and Torah, please heed this warning from Rabbi Saul (Apostle Paul) who wrote that you are then under obligation to keep the whole Law (all 613 statutes and ordinances). Remember that James wrote if you stumble in one point you are guilty of all (James 2:10).

That is a heavy burden to bear.

When Christ kneeled before the woman’s accusers (Jn 8:1-11), and wrote in the dirt, causing them to walk away, it’s at least probable He was writing down their sins: envy, lust, immorality, strife, jealousy, impurity, drunkenness, carousing, idolatry, sensuality, anger, disputes, dissensions…

It is very dangerous seeking redemption by works as Paul writes:

You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace (Gal 5:4).

Friends, the law cannot save you for it was given to condemn, but faithfully seek the grace of God and His righteousness.

Next: When Paul Rebuked Peter