Monday, July 18, 2011

More Musings on the Law (Part 2)

In my last post, I spoke about the new covenant law that we are now under.  There are still a few things swimming around in my head that I would like to put down in writing.

For folks who try to keep the Sinai law today, I would like to ask:  Do you make the three annual pilgramages to Jerusalem that the law requires?  What about all the animal sacrifices that are required under Sinai law?  Do you purify yourselves following childbirth as required by the law, and then offer the appropriate animal sacrifices?  Do you go to a priest when you have any kind of skin rash?  If you do have such a rash, do you yell out "Unclean, unclean!" to anyone who passes by, and do you live separately?  If you ever have mold in your house, do you go through all the purifying rituals and then have a priest come and inspect it?  Do you follow all the requirements regarding bodily discharges?  Do you avoid cutting your hair at the sides or clip your beard?  Have you built parapets around your roof, so that if someone falls from it you won't be guilty of bloodshed?  Have you ever worn clothes that are woven with wool and linen?

James 2:10 says, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."

Do you see how impossible it is?  Yeshua HAD to fulfill all of them, so that when he created One New Man out of Jew and Gentile, all could live together in the body of Messiah - the Kingdom of God - living by the Spirit instead of the law.

Romans 3:21-23 says "But now apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus the Messiah to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"

Ephesians 3:6 says, "This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Messiah Jesus"

Galatians 3:28 says "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Messiah Jesus."

Let me be clear on one thing:  Jews are not required to become Gentiles in order to come to faith in their own Messiah!  They should never be required to give up the feasts they celebrate (since they all point to the Messiah anyway), or be forced to celebrate the pagan-rooted holidays of Christmas or Easter or to eat ham.  Remember, Jewish believers in Messiah also have the privilege of being led by the Spirit.  Besides, who are among those that they are going to witness to?  Most likely family members and other Jewish people.

When witnessing to different groups of people, we would be wise to follow the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:  "To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Messiah's law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

(Part 3, written three years later, can be found here)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Here a law, there a law, everywhere a law law... (Part 1)

Ever since I became interested in the Jewish roots to our faith, I have come across many different ideas on the keeping of the law, or "Torah observance."  Some are "Moses" folks; those who believe the 613 commands of Mt. Sinai given to Moses are still in effect today, end of story.  Then there is the church, in which I have often heard, "nope, we are under grace, end of story."  It made me scratch my head for a long time.  But I think I get it now, so I will try to explain it to the best of my ability.

First of all, covenants.  God deals with man through covenants.  Some are forever, and some are temporary.  God made a covenant with Adam that his seed would crush the head of the serpent.  God also made a covenant with Noah that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood.  Abraham was promised many descendants and the land of Israel.  These are all permanent, irrevocable, non-conditional covenants.

When the children of Israel escaped from Egypt, God made a covenant with them at Sinai which required action on their part - a conditional covenant. They were given a large set of laws to obey, including the TEN BIG ONES written on stone tablets.The covenant made at Sinai with Moses was conditional on Israel's obedience to the law (which was impossible).  It was needed to demonstrate just how unable each one of us is to keep it. (It was added because of transgression, see Galatians 3:19).  But check out Jeremiah 31:31-32:
 “The time is coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,

though I was a husband to them,”
declares the LORD.

No human being was ever able to perfectly keep the commands of the Torah.  Except the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus), who came and kept the Sinai law perfectly.  In doing so, He became our substitute.  2 Corinthians 5:15 says, "God made him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Great!  So we are not under the law, right?  Wrong!  We are under NEW COVENANT law!  This law is summed up in two things:  Love God and love people.  The externals of the Sinai law were eliminated, but the internals of the heart were magnified!  For example, even by looking at a woman with lust, you have commited adultery with her.  If you hate your brother, you have committed murder.  An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth becomes turn your other cheek (Matthew 5:38...)  See what I mean?  Yeshua was preparing people for the change in covenants.

Just a little side note here.  The church, who often says that we are under grace and not law, still likes to hang their hat on the tithing part.  What would you say if I said you are not required to tithe anymore?  Stop cheering, I heard that!  Because if it is true that the internals are magnified, you'd better be prepared to give a lot more than ten percent, according to the leading of the Spirit.  The early church members sold EVERYTHING and gave liberally to others who were in need.

Anyway, I digress.  When the LETTER of the law was fulfilled by the Messiah, the covenant changed so that we are now under the SPIRIT of the law.  What does this mean?  It means that when we become a believer, we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who is our counselor. Keeping the New Covenant law is only possible through an intimate relationship with Yeshua the Messiah, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.  He is the one Who will guide you. 

If you are prompted by the Holy Spirit to give up bacon or not work on Saturday, then by all means, you'd better obey His leading.  BUT, you are not to judge someone who is receiving a different leading on such matters.  Colossians 2:16-17 says:  "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Messiah".

We have freedom through the Messiah!  I love how Galations puts it:
"For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman.  His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.
These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar...    Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise... Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman."

For part 2, click here

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oh, my Bob!

I recently returned from a serving trip to a mission in Mexico with a great group of people who have wonderful servants' hearts.  However, I made an observation while there.

It seems to me that the third commandment has been forgotten.

I heard a lot of OMG-ing going on.  OMG this.  OMG that.  It has become such a part of our cultural way of speaking that I believe many people, Christians and otherwise, don't even realize they are doing it. 

In rabbinic Judaism, we see the opposite end of the spectrum.  The name of God is treated with such reverence that it is often written G_d.  Or they will say "haShem," which means, "the Name," or "Adonai," which means "Lord."   In fact, throughout the centuries of rabbinic Judaism, the tetragrammaton YHVH (Hebrew for "I Am") has been replaced with "Lord" throughout the scriptures. 

The NIV says it this way:  "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name."

I also like the way the Amplified version puts it:  "You shall not use or repeat the name of the Lord your God in vain [that is, lightly or frivolously, in false affirmations or profanely]; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain."

I actually heard someone say this on the trip:  "Oh, my God, the toilet flushed automatically!"  Personally, I was horrified.  I have often told my children that if they aren't talking either to Him or about Him, they shouldn't be throwing His name around like it means nothing.  Consider the following scenario:

Steve:  Oh, my Bob!  Look at the time!

Bob:   Hey, Steve!  Nice to hear from you. 

Steve (to Bob, annoyed):  What do YOU want?

Bob:  Didn't you just talk to me?

Steve (rolling eyes):  What are you talking about?  Oh, my Bob, I need to run.

Bob:  Ok, let's go!

Steve:  I wasn't talking to YOU!

Bob:  Aren't I your Bob?  Didn't you just say that?

Steve:  What are you talking about?  Good Bob, man, I'm in a hurry!

Bob:  But you keep talking to me.

Steve:  Huh?

Bob:  If you'd only take some time to talk with me, I'll help you to get where you are going.

Steve:  Oh, my Bob.  Like I need this in my life.  I am going to be late for my Bob-dammed meeting.

Bob:  (sighs and walks away sadly).

By the way, saying "oh my gosh" really isn't any better - it's called a minced oath.  Check out this definition from
(used as an exclamation or mild oath): Gosh, this bag is heavy!
1750–60; euphemistic alteration of God