Category Archives: Law

Rosh Hashanah

Pomegranate_Image

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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Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

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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Christ, Our Passover Lamb

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From the Gospel of John:

Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! [Jn 1:29]

An angel of the Lord instructed Philip to journey south on the desert road that leads from Jerusalem to Gaza. A court official of the Ethiopian queen was returning home after worshipping in Jerusalem, and Philip found him reading from the prophet Isaiah [Is 53:7-8]:

He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so He did not open His mouth. In His humiliation He was deprived of justice. Who can speak of His descendants? For His life was taken from the earth [Acts 8:32-33].

[Who can speak of His descendants?  Contrary to liberal thought Jesus Christ was not married, nor did He have children!]

Moved by the Holy Spirit, Philip asked the man if he understood the scripture that he was reading; and the Bible says that Philip began to preach Jesus from the Scriptures [Acts 8:35].

It is notable that before the New Testament was written people learned of Jesus Christ from reading the Law and prophets. The Old Testament is a signpost of the types and shadows pointing towards the coming Messiah. Indeed, the Rabbin have taught from ancient times that references to the last days. or day of the Lord are Messianic prophecies of the age of Mashiach.

We can see this is by examining the Feasts of Israel. YHWH established appointed times that the nation of Israel would meet with Him in worship and thanksgiving. There were three feasts in the Spring (Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits); one in the Summer (Pentecost); and three in the Fall (Trumpets, Atonement and Tabernacle).

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of these feasts, or appointed times. When He spoke from the cross, It is finished [Jn 19:30], our Lord closed the book on the Old Covenant, and established a New Covenant written in His blood:

Behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,  I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people [Jer 31:31-33].

This New Covenant was instituted by Christ at Passover:

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body [Mt 26:26].

And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying: Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins [Mt 26:27-28].

What the Law could not do [that is, redeem us from our sins] Christ our Lord fulfilled on the cross [Romans 8:3].

A year earlier, while teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus said something which confounded even His disciples:

Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him [John 6:56].

Understand this mystery. It is the Word of God that nourishes our soul — and Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh  [John 1:14].

The LORD spoke unto Moses:

These are the appointed times of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD’S Passover. Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread [Lv 23:4-6].

On the 14th day of Nisan (Hebrew calendar), Passover  is celebrated. This is a fixed date which falls within the month(s) of March/April on the Christian calendar. YHWH told Moses that Nisan would be the beginning of months as the first month of the year. At twilight, on the fourteenth day, each household was to offer an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. The blood of the lamb was to be spread on the doorposts and lintel of the house:

The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt [Ex 12:13].

After the LORD had executed judgement upon Egypt, Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron to take the captive sons of Israel out from the land of exile. They left in such haste that their kneaded dough was not yet leavened thus the children of Israel ate unleavened bread for seven days following Passover as a reminder of how YHWH brought them out of the land.

Matzah is traditionally eaten during the Passover Seder meal. The dough is striped and pricked with holes representing the scourging and piercing of our Lord Jesus Christ. When Yeshua broke matzah (at the Last Supper) He was passing to His disciples what represented His sinless (unleavened), broken body offered as the sacrificial Lamb of God.

The Feast of First Fruits is celebrated on the day following the Sabbath of Passover week. In the year of our Lord’s Passion, First Fruits fell on Sunday (the day of our Lord’s resurrection):

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming [1 Co 15:20-23].

(First Fruits presents a dilemma for Orthodox Jews who, because of its Messianic relevance, choose to ignore the feast.)

In all love we must say that the Easter celebration does not reveal the beautiful depth and saving grace of Elohim’s plan of salvation fulfilled in the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. Bunnies and eggs, representative of pagan fertility rites, were co-opted by the Church which also established the date for Easter at the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD).

We are not commanded to celebrate Easter, or Christmas (see our post The Idol of Christmas); but the first century assembly commemorated the resurrection of Christ within the calendar days of Passover (First Fruits), and certainly on the first day of the week when they met and broke bread:

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight [Acts 20:7].

The Ishtar egg was a Babylonian fable in which a giant egg fell into the river Euphrates, and from this egg the fertility goddess Astarte (Easter) was hatched. The rabbit was associated with the Mother Goddess of fertility; and Eastre was worshipped as the Teutonic goddess of Spring. One of the greatest sins of Israel was their adoption of pagan rituals, or playing the harlot with other gods [Jdg 2:17].

Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals (false gods), and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger [Jdg 2:11-15].

To associate pagan symbols (rabbits and eggs) with the death, burial and bodily resurrection of our Savior is, well, not kosher.

We have seen, then, that Jesus Christ fulfilled the appointed times, or Spring feasts of the LORD. He was our Passover Lamb, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits. Counting 50 days from the Feast of First Fruits (the day our Lord rose from the dead) the Summer feast of Pentecost, or Shavuot is celebrated. This is in commemoration of the day the LORD met with Israel after the Exodus, and when YHWH delivered the Law unto Moses. It is on the day of Pentecost that the LORD poured out his Holy Spirit upon the body of Christ.

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you [Jn 14:16-17].

When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning [Jn 15:26-27].

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance [Acts 2:1-4].

Finally, Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Fall Feasts which are celebrated on the Christian calendar in the months of Sept/Oct. Yeshua is our Atonement, or substitutionary sacrifice.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement [Lv 17:11].

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Co 15:3].

Trumpets will be the regathering of His people.

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed [1 Co 15:51-53].

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first [1 Thessalonians 4:16].

Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord [1 Thessalonians 4:17].

The Feast of Booths, or Tabernacle represents our eternal rest and reunion with Christ our Lord.

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest [He 4:9-11].

We love our Christian brothers and sisters in the Lord, but please excuse us if we don’t color Easter eggs, or eat chocolate bunnies.

Christ is our Passover Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and we joyously exclaim with the body of Christ (both Jew and Greek):

He is Risen!

Suggested Reading: The Kosher Christian

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Copyright © 2015 Messiah Gate

Law and Gospel

(A personal note: I want to thank all of you who are praying for my health. I believe in the healing power of prayer.)

Melissa was driving to work on an overcast day — a reflection of her dreary soul — as she contemplated why her Christian girlfriends were not showing the fruits of their salvation. Quite the opposite of Melissa’s spiritual growth, her friends continued walking in the world — partying, drinking, drugs and immorality.

Donald sought counsel from his pastor regarding his Christian brothers who had no interest in going to church or studying the Bible. Their attitude was that the Bible is just a collection of ancient fables and tales.

Gathered around a lunch table were several young Christian women. I approached them expecting to hear a fruitful discussion on some deep, theological doctrine; but these unmarried, twenty-somethings were talking about their prescriptions for birth control pills.

Kristy, who had introduced me to Calvary Chapel, enjoyed sitting around the pool smoking pot. “It’s natural,” she said,” … and not like tobacco.”

(Excuse me? They’re both weeds!)

Brad asked Jeannie — a supposed Christian — to attend a Saturday night Bible study. Jeannie was leery as she asked aloud, “Who stays home on Saturday night reading the Bible?”

(Well, I do.)

Church can be a dangerous place for the unsuspecting elect. Where are the truly saved who are justified by the blood of Christ, and sanctified by the Spirit? Brothers and sisters who have renounced the world and walk in reverence and obedience?

Some will accuse me of preaching legalism — that we are saved by works not by faith.

Legalism is a heresy, but so is antinomianism (against the law). Paul, with his gospel message of faith by grace, was thought by some Reformers to be antinomian in his theology. In some quarters of the modern Church, Paul is denounced as a heretic, and his epistles are disregarded.

… because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight .(Romans 3:20).

… nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified  (Galatians 2:16).

Conversely, the Book of James was resisted by early Church fathers who thought it preached legalism.

But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).

You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone  (James 2:24).

Careful study will reveal that there is no contradiction between Paul, and the brother of our Lord. James is speaking of justification not salvation. Both men would agree that we are saved by faith to perform good works as Paul explains to the ecclesia at Ephesus.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

The Law of Moses has not been abrogated at least in the moral sense. Otherwise, what did Jesus mean when He said:

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17).

Understand, Christ is not speaking of all 613 mitzvot (ceremonial ordinances), but the commandments of God. Indeed, through the end of the chapter He not only specifies, but elevates the moral precepts given to Moshe at Mt Sinai.

For example, if you are angry with your brother you are guilty of murder … if you look upon a woman with lust you have committed adultery … and so forth.

And yet … and yet … there are Christians who believe that Christ saved us not from sin, but from the Law.

To some, going to church on Sunday is nothing more than punching a ticket to heaven. If you go to Church with a hangover — well, that’s just exercising your Christian liberty. You don’t have to repent nor confess your sins. That is taking grace to the nth degree.

My brothers, this doctrine is prevalent within the modern, evangelical church — and it is a heresy as described by Paul.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2)

This is so troublesome to me that I have devoted much study trying to discover the genesis of this false theology. Examine the following quote from one of the leading Reformers:

Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides … No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner. (1)

Was the author suggesting that we freely sin — even to commit murder and adultery — or was he glorifying a God who is so merciful that He will forgive even the vilest of transgressions?

Hyper-Calvinists will refer to this quote of Martin Luther to defend their doctrine of eternal security. John Agricola, a disciple of Luther, preached an antinomian interpretation of the stated quote, and was defamed as a heretic when he died in 1566.

In his Solus Decalogus est Aeternus (Antinomian Theses and Disputations, published in six volumes, ca. 1537), Martin Luther sought to refute the Antinomians who were teaching that man is neither condemned by works of the flesh since the Law was an instrument of the old dispensation, nor justified by righteous deeds since man is saved in the new dispensation by grace alone. (Readers of this blog know I have serious theological issues with dispensational theology, Some church historians trace the modern Dispensational movement to Agricola.)

Paul had to correct the Gnostics who were preaching the same doctrine — that man is an independent creature, no longer under the Law and free to follow his own impulses and desires.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Colossians 2:8).

O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge” (gnoseos, Gr.) which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith (1 Timothy 6:20-21).

The clarification of his later writings are evidence that Luther understood the harmonious teaching of Paul and James.

Therefore it must be that those who would rid the Church of the Law are either devils themselves, or siblings of the devil. It doesn’t matter that they preach and teach a great deal about God, about Christ, about grace and the Law. (They are) libertines, who give permission to all kinds of infamous deeds. (2)

You have heard frequently that there is no better way of teaching and preserving the pure doctrine than that we follow this method, namely, that we divide Christian doctrine into two parts, law and gospel; as there are also two things which are set before us in God’s word, namely, either wrath or grace, sin or righteousness, death or life, hell or heaven. And these matters are certain and clear. (3)

Luther explains in a lengthy dissertation that the Law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ who was the first fruits of God’s righteous plan of salvation. The moral law is not erased, but made manifest through the power of the Holy Spirit working a perfect work in those who are called.

Kathy, a Catholic sister, confessed that she sleeps with a different man every weekend. “Oh, we don’t do anything,” she said, “… just sleep together, get up in the morning, take a shower and fix breakfast.”

Incredulous.

Look, Christ would not approve, and Kathy would say I’m being judgemental. However, Jesus did not say, “Do not judge.” Study the entire passage in context — Matthew 7:1-6. Our Lord commands us to not judge with hypocrisy. If I’m sleeping with my girlfriend then I have no right to judge Kathy. Since I have lived a celibate life I have every right to judge her. Paul said to not associate, or eat with one who claims to be a Christian, but lives an immoral life (1 Corinthians 5:11).

Of course, Christians must judge (and righteously so) according to both the Law and Gospel, but I fear the narrow path has become less crowded (Matthew 7:13-14).

Suggested Reading: Christ Our Lord, Messiah Gate, 15 October 2014.

Notes:

1. A letter from Martin Luther to Melanchthon, Letter 99, 1 August 1521.

2. Don’t Tell Me That from Martin Luther’s Antinomian Theses (Lutheran Press 2004).

3. First Disputation Against the Antinomians, from Martin Luther’s Antinomian Theses, 18 December 1537.

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The Law Has Set Me Free?

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. [Jn 8:32]

We never miss a daily broadcast of the enduring, folksy teaching of Dr. J. Vernon McGee on his Through the Bible radio program. You can listen here to archived programs including the Sunday Sermon, weekly Questions and Answers, and the daily 5-year Bible Study. McGee’s Bible bus has been faithfully rolling on since 1967, but he once recalled how ignorant he felt upon entering the seminary:

I was the youngest in my class. I never saw a Bible, or heard a prayer recited in my home as a boy growing up in Texas; but I just felt that the Lord was calling me to do His work. A liberal, seminary professor told me one time that I’d do alright if I just talked about prophecy, and stayed away from the truth. I asked God to relieve me of this calling if I couldn’t be myself and preach the Gospel. One thing I learned in all my years of preaching is that some of the most unrighteous people you’d ever meet could be found teaching seminary, sitting in a pew, or standing behind the pulpit. One fella accused me of preaching my version of the truth. Well, friend, that’s the only version I know, and it was revealed to me by the Holy Spirit.

We absolutely love Vernon McGee! Incidentally, his initial “J” stands for “John”. He said that all the men in his family were named “John” so it was kind of confusing when someone called out for “John”. McGee said he started using the initial and going by his middle name “Vernon” just so he’d know if they were calling him. What a treasure and a blessing he has been to the body of Jesus Christ. We are sure that he is up yonder in heaven charming even the angels of God.

There’s a classic line in the movies, You can’t handle the truth, which explains why we never hear messages of sin and redemption in some of the popularly attended  mega-churches. A young woman told us recently that she attends a universalist church which is perceived by younger people to be more welcoming than the dogmatic, orthodox denominations which are seen as arrogant and irrelevant.

Barna Group survey revealed that 60% of young Catholics between the ages of 18-29 believe the church is out of step with this generation’s views regarding sex and birth control. Another study conducted by the USA Today revealed that 75% of young people fall away from the church after high school. These statistics are alarming, but not surprising. Simply look at the cultural influences that entertain our young people, and you will find the cause of this falling away. The Apostle Paul warned that the coming Day of the Lord would be preceded by a great falling away, or apostasy:

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction (2 Thes 2:3).

The world hates the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and many churches are afraid to speak the truth about culturally sensitive issues such as homosexuality and abortion because our children (who have been force-fed a doctrine of accommodation and tolerance) reject the bedrock Christian truths of justification (blood) and sanctification (Spirit). We have heard it said many times that Christians think they are better than everyone else. That is a false perception. Like the bumper stick says, We Are Not Better–Just Saved. It is a deception of the world–yes, Satan–that our righteousness is deemed to be arrogance. Confronting sin does not come from a place of boasting, but of love–much like the chastisement of a parent towards a child.

A number of young people have rejected the mainstream denominations not because of arrogance, but hypocrisy. These young prodigals have been the driving force behind the so-called emerging church. They have friends who are gay, or know someone who has had an abortion. In their social circle are people who struggle with alcohol, or drugs. They see the established church as being too judgemental regarding culturally sensitive issues.

The emerging church seeks to establish personal relationships with people much like Jesus did to the consternation of the religious leaders of His day:

Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. [Mt 9:10-13]

This is probably the most positive attribute of the emerging church, but because it is an independent, non-affiliated movement it is difficult to define. Some groups within the church are faithfully aligned with essential Christian doctrine regarding the nature of God, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Other groups, however, have re-interpreted the Bible to make it more palatable to the world, but the Gospel they preach is so watered down that it is stripped of its power to save.
 
The emerging church, similar to the early church, typically meets in people’s homes. It is an informal movement that rejects the tradition of pews and pulpits, and seeks to “do church” differently. However, their desire to establish personal relationships sometimes clouds the greater need to establish a spiritual relationship with God.

There is still another group of young people who are drawn to the Hebrew Roots Movement. Messiah Gate has been characterized as a Hebrew Roots ministry. That is true in the sense that we believe there is value in understanding the Jewish roots of Christian faith, but we are not legalistic. We do not command anyone (Jew or Greek) to follow the 613 mitzvot (commandments) of the written Law.

We know a Christian sister who goes through the whole ritual of Passover including the selection of an unblemished lamb that is prepared for her family’s holiday feast. While the Passover sacrifice was commanded in the Torah (see Exodus chapter 12), it was only a shadow of the Lamb of God who was sacrificed at Passover for the sins of the world.

This is what distinguishes the messianic teaching of Messiah Gate from the radical, legalistic doctrine that is taught by Michael Rood, for example. The modern-day Pharisees can be silenced with one simple verse of scripture:

…by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight. [Ro 3:20]

And consider also:

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

YHWH established the saving grace of faith 430 years before the Law was given at Mt. Sinai. The Law was a curse that no one could abide:

For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. [Gal 3:10-14]

The assembly at Galatia was troubled by the party of circumcision (Gal 2:12) who traveled from Jerusalem to command the Galatians that they must obey the Mosaic commandments–all 613 statutes–to which Paul replied:

You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from 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? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. [Gal 3:1-6]

The Law was given not to redeem us, but to convict us. It was only a shadow of the righteousness fulfilled in Yeshua HaMashiach.

To our sister who observes the ritual of Passover we make no judgement. Paul admonished the Roman assembly to not be contemptuous of a brother who is weak in the faith. Some choose to eat meat, for example, while others–according to their conscience–are vegetarians. A brother may observe one day over another (Sabbath, for example) while some observe every day alike. Paul said that we must be fully convinced in our mind that our observance is for the Lord otherwise it is sin. We believe it is acceptable to observe these things in context of their fulfillment in Christ our Lord (Mt 5:17).

[You can read about the principles of conscience in Romans chapter 14.]

The Galatians, in contrast, were so confused by the party of circumcision that they believed they had to obey the ritualistic legalism of the Old Covenant to be saved.

[Editor’s Note: The “party of circumcision” is used in place of the offensive term “Judaizers” to describe the Jewish converts from Jerusalem who commanded that Gentile converts be circumcised and obey the Mosaic laws and statutes. See our post, When Paul Rebuked Peter.]

And so it is today that Christians are falling into the trap of the Hebrew Roots Movement that demands adherence to what Paul describes as the weak and worthless elemental things (Gal 4:9). Paul condemned the legalistic observance of days and months and seasons and years (Gal 4:10).

The Galatians were coming under bondage of the Mosaic system from which Christ has set us free. They were keeping the Sabbath; observing the feast days, New Moon festivals and Year of JubileePaul feared that he had preached to them in vain.

Friends, we are no longer in bondage under the law which was given by God to reveal the weakness of our flesh. It is not possible for any of us to keep all 613 mitzvot. That is why God sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins. If you choose to live under the law you will be judged by the law, and you will fall short of the glory of God (Ro 2:123:23). Years ago, when we evangelized door-to-door, people would tell us, “I don’t know Christ, but I’m a good person.” To which we quoted this scripture:

A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. [Lk 18:18-19]

Being good is not good enough, and the Law will not set you free. But being free in Christ is being free, indeed.

[Editor’s Note: Is Christ telling the questioning ruler in Lk 18:19 that He is God?! Dr. Bob Utley, professor of hermeneutics, comments:

We must remember that this is not a theological passage dealing with the person of Jesus Christ. Many try to use this as a proof-text that Jesus did not consider Himself to be divine. This question and statement of Jesus reflects this man’s understanding about his ability to be right with God based on his own efforts. This passage is similar to Matt. 19:16, which reads teacher, what good things shall I do to obtain eternal life?

This really sums up the message of this post. Most people feel that they can be good enough to be saved. You can participate in charity walks, and donate time and money to worthy causes, but Jesus says it won’t be good enough. Though we are saved, by faith, to do good works–the work of Jesus Christ is all that is acceptable and pleasing to God.]

Suggested Reading: What is the Emerging Church?

Next: Your Faith Has Made You Well

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Times of the Gentiles

And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. [Lk 21:24]

This week we wanted to expound on our previous post, Have You Replaced Abraham?, regarding the topic of so-called Replacement (or Supersessionist) Theology that the “church” has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption. A Catholic reader had this to say:

“Replacement Theology” is an inaccurate term. We believe that the promises given to Abraham and his children were fulfilled in the Messiah, Jesus ChristThe Catholic Church is the New Israelthe New Jerusalem. Christ’s Kingdom is His Church – on earth and in heaven (and in purgatory). The children of Abraham are all of those who are united with the Messiah, Christ. This has nothing to do with racial heritage. In the Kingdom of Christ, there is no longer Jew or Greek as far as having privilege. So it depends on how you define “replacement theology”, but the Catholic Church is the continuation and fulfillment of the religion given by God to Moses, through the Prophets, through the Messiah. The covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them, but we are living under a New Covenant. “Replacement Theology” is a derogatory term made up by dispensationalists to label anyone who believes in Covenant Theology.

There is some truth (as we have underlined) in this reader’s comment, although we question the idea that the Catholic Church is the New Israel in light of the assertion that the Mosaic covenant is eternally valid. The covenant with Moses includes the giving of the Law at Mt. Sinai, but we will assume that the reader does not mean to suggest that Jews can be saved by the Law. It is true that the promises given to Abraham and his children were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, wrote: 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 (Gal 3:16)Paul, here, is referencing this passage in Genesis: In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice (Ge 22:18).

We learn from the Galatian letter that the Law does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise (Gal 3:17-18). The Law, priesthood, temple sacrifice, and Feast Days all pointed to, or were a shadow of, spiritual promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ (the seed of Abraham).

Paul wrote to the Roman assembly that they be not uninformed of this mystery—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Rom 11:25). We see the similarity of this passage with the fullness spoken of by Christ in reference to the times of the Gentiles, although in a different context.

The Apostle goes on to say that God’s choice (the Jews) are beloved for the sake of the fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob); for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Ro 11:28).  He is talking here about the spiritual gifts of election and redemption, or as Peter writes:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. [1Pe 2:9-10]

In this passage Peter paraphrases the prophet Hosea (as does Paul in Ro 9:25), and applies the contextual reference of the Old Covenant to both Jew and Gentile (a chosen people under the New Covenant).

In Paul’s epistle to the Romans he quotes from Isaiah (Is 59:20-21) that God has a covenant to remove ungodliness from Jacob (Israel) and take away their sins, but this will not happen until they call upon the name of Messiah (Mt 23:39). It is our faith if Israel confessed Yeshua HaMashiach that He would return immediately in power and glory. Because they rejected Him our Lord prophesied that Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles, and her people led captiveIn the context of this discourse He was speaking of a cataclysmic event that was to take place in that generation (Lk 21:32).

[Editor’s Note: The phrase this generation will not pass away has been debated for over 1900 years. The word genea is used 17 times in the New Testament and always is translated generation. Some theologians will define genea as race in order to apply the phrase to an end time scenario. Their reasoning is that the Jews have been scattered, dispersed and exiled throughout history, and yet they still survive as a distinct race that will not pass away until all things have been fulfilled. Literally, the prophecy of Christ regarding the destruction of Jerusalem was fulfilled in the generation to whom He was speaking, and was probably witnessed by John the Apostle.]

We have been living in the times of the Gentiles since, at least, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Romans killed 1.2 million Jews out of a population (according to Josephus) of 2.2 million. The Christian population was scattered, the city razed, the temple burned to the ground and close to 100,000 captives were dispersed into the provinces, or taken to Rome to build the Coliseum. Christians were lit as human torches to light the avenue leading to the Coliseum. People of God had to burn a pinch of incense in the palm of their hand and confess Caesar as Lord in order to receive a license to buy, or sell in the marketplace. Mark of the Beast? Well, we know that Beast was the Jewish code name for Caesar, six is the number of man and three 6’s signified ruler, or authority.

It was most certainly a time of Great Tribulation for that first century generation. It is critical that we understand the historical context of Bible prophecy. For example, to whom was the Book of Revelation written: Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Adventists, Mormons? No, it was written to the seven churches in Asia who uniquely understood the symbolism and prophetic language of John’s apocalyptic vision. (Without a doubt the seven churches could decipher the cryptic message of Rev 13:18.) When was it written: Before, or after 70 AD? If it was written after 70 AD why doesn’t John mention the most terrible of events, that is, the destruction of Jerusalem which he surely witnessed? It would be as if someone wrote about the War on Terror and did not mention the attack on 9/11.

And why would John write to the seven churches about things that had no relevance to them? Things that weren’t going to happen for thousands of years, and things that Christ makes very clear will happen soon (Rev 1:1).

Times of the Gentiles? End of the age? Our trust is in the last day (there is only one). Christ said, Whosoever believes on Me, I will raise him up on the last day (Jn 6:39Jn 6:40Jn 6:44Jn 6:54). Prophecy writers can debate about the rapture and tribulation and Millennial Kingdom and Second Coming…

We’re just persevering to the last day.

[Editor’s Note: Messiah Gate does not hold to either Dispensational, or Supersessionist doctrine. We have problems with both. A radio preacher we listen to was naming 14 things that must happen before Christ returns. Well, some of the things he mentioned have already happened which is why you will hear prophecy teachers speak about partial, or double-fulfillment of prophecy. One of the 14 items listed by this preacher was the abomination of desolation (Mt 24:15). We know that this desecration was to occur in the holy place, or temple of God. While there are plans to build and furnish a new Jewish temple the Al-Aqsa Mosque currently sits on the site of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. No, this prophecy of Christ was fulfilled in 70 AD.]

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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