Unity: The Fuel of Revival

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalm 133)

The power of unity is demonstrated throughout history and scripture. It is a tremendous power that always brings results. During periods of revival, it is one of the top Satanic strategies to destroy. History is replete with movements of God that have been shut down over division and disunity. From the Corinthians who claimed, “I follow Apollos, and I follow Paul” (I Cor 3:4) to the modern day Brownsville revival (1), Hell has always sought to disrupt Christian unity. Unity fuels the advancement of the kingdom.

The Bible describes human unity in very plain language. In fact, the Biblical character giving the description is God, Himself. In Genesis 11, the people are building a tower in order to “establish a name for themselves so they aren’t scattered abroad.” (Genesis 11:4) Their efforts are achieving success. God looks at the scene and makes a very important observation about it. He states, “Behold, the people are one, and anything they set their minds to do will not be withheld from them.” (Genesis 11:6) This is a unity apart from the anointing of the Holy Spirit and yet, anything that we, as united people set out to do, we will accomplish it. It gets things done. When Christians gather together, a spiritual force, as well as the human force, is released as well. This brings revival

On the day of Pentecost, we read that the people were “of one accord”(Acts 1:14, 2:1) Meaning, that they were united in purpose. An anointing so strong that it changed human history was released out of this unity. Jesus describes His unity with God when He states, “I and My Father are One” (John 10:30) Out of His Unity comes the reconciliation of humans to God. Spiritual forces are fueled by our agreement and released through our unity. This gives us insight into why God told Israel to “have nothing to do with the gods of the people that I drive out before you.” They disobey the command, and years later they are exiled from the land because “the worshipped the gods of the people that God had driven out before them.” (I Kings 17:8) Human agreement fuels spiritual power and the unity of those people release whatever spiritual force is present. Psalm 133 (see above) describes the anointing that is poured out of unity. It drenches the priests.

In corporate or individual revivals, every effort must be made to maintain unity. Division is a strategy from hell designed to disrupt revival. When we allow division to shut us down, it disrupts what the Spirit is doing. As the people of God, we should be on the look out for attempts of the enemy to disrupt our unity as a people to drive us into division. Division scatters the troops and decreases the release of anointing.

Jesus’ time was short. He knew He was about to depart the physical realm. He had one last prayer to pray after His Passover meal. The enemy was just a few miles away and they were closing in on Him. His prayer time was going to be interrupted and He knew it. What does he pick as the topic for the bulk of His last prayer on earth. Unity is His topic. Why? So that the world may know that Jesus is Messiah. This is the essence of revival. We will let the words of His final prayer end the discussion on this topic. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. ”(John 17:20-23 ESV)

Endnotes

1. The Brownsville Revival went into a steep decline when a division took place in the church led by a “prophetess” of the revival.

Healing: Evidence of His Love

“When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Mat 14:14 ESV)

There are two primary models from which to minister to the sick. One is from a position of power and authority and another from a position of love. Christians who minister from the power and authority base will focus on the power of God, brought by the Holy Spirit, and delivered to the sick through the hands of the authorized believer. The release of power destroy the works of the devil, which includes sickness. Their prayers are authoritative, speaking directly to the disease, as God’s appointed image bearer on earth. They speak of God’s promises and faith in those promises releases healing virtue. All of this is true, relevant, and biblical when praying for the sick. There is another biblical model that is oftentimes overlooked in Charismatic circles. It the position of healing through love and compassion.

The emphasis, from the love camp, is on the character and nature of God. A God, who is love (I John 4:8), that responds to the prayers and the needs of His children. God is interested in restoring the entire person and not just their eternal soul. God is interested in healing the entire being because of His Love. Faith, here, is rooted in the character of God and expects healing to come according to God’s wisdom and timing. Frances MacNutt writes, “Healing is not so much a test of faith as it is the natural response to God’s generous love.” (1). Jesus preformed at least one entire miracle crusade out of His compassion. (Matt 14:14) This position is equally true, relevant, and biblical. If then, both camps are true, relevant, and biblical, the best approach to healing would include a combination of the two.

The Bible states that, “Faith worketh through love.” (Gal 5:16) It would appear from this passage that the love position should be the primary “modus operands” through which the display of divine power is manifest. What is really happening, when love and power are combined, is a catalytic reaction that brings about a greater propensity to release healing. God’s image bearer, at a minimum, should reflect His character and model His love and compassion for the sick. Combine this with the presence of God, who is love (I John 4:8), and the atmosphere is permeated with love. Inside of this spiritual climate, the believer can claim their status as the image-bearer of God, having authority and dominion over disease, and command the sickness to go, through faith in the Word and the Character of God.

Far to long, have ministers prayed healing over the sick, with the absence of love. If healing doesn’t take place, the sick are, oftentimes, left feeling guilty because of their supposed “lack of faith” or their “unconfused sin.” (It seems that Job was accused of both of these, but neither was the case.) When the sick are loved, they leave the prayer feeling edified and hopeful. They can rest in the assurance of the release of grace they have received which will bring improvement, if not healing, to their condition.

Endnotes

1. MacNutt, Frances, Healing, Ave Marie Press, Notre Dame , IN, 2006, page 122. This is a great work. Anyone who is serious about healing needs to read this book.

The Expulsion of the Torah

The Jews, and subsequently, the early Christians, were recognized as a People by their observance of certain Torah laws that made them separate from the rest of the world. The Roman world knew that a man was a Jew because he practiced circumcision and kept the Sabbath day holy. He was easy to spot by his tassels on his garments and his long beard. Having firmly established that the Apostles walked in a torah-observant lifestyle, it was not easy for the Roman to distinguish between the Christian and the Jew. During periods of upheaval between Jews and Romans, Christians were caught up in the middle of this persecution. To complicate matters, at the same time, Jews were persecuting Christians because of their belief in Messiah. Many were excluded from the synagogues and the daily prayers of the Jew spoke a curse over Christians. (1) It was in the middle of this mess, that Christianity sought an identity away from its Jewish root in order to establish itself in the Roman world, in an attempt to free itself from persecution. Consequently, torah observance as a lifestyle would be annexed from Christian thought. It is my position that this persecution from without, from the Romans, coupled with the persecution from within, from the Jews, leads the early church fathers to develop allegorical theology that moves Christians away from the Torah observant lifestyle of the first apostles and the scriptures. The evolution of this process begins with the martyrdom of James and ends with the destruction of the Nazarenes under Constantine.

Early Church Fathers and Martyrs

The martyrdom of James, the bother of Jesus, marks the initial movement away from Torah. James, unlike his brother the Messiah, was not killed by the Romans. James was martyred by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. Josephus records the events and tells us how a new High Priest, who had issues with power and control, sought to demonstrate his authority by killing James. He writes, “Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity (to exercise his authority). Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, (or some of his companions); and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned; but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy that the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king (Agrippa), desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified…upon which, king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him.” (2) It appears obvious from the text, that the unbelieving Jews were appalled at the martyrdom of James because he was an upright man, whom was surnamed “the Just.” Furthermore, Eusebius tells us that Josephus felt that the killing of James led to the destruction of Jerusalem. Eusebius quotes Josephus as saying, “These things happened to the Jews to avenge James the Just, who was the brother of him that is called Christ, and whom the Jews had slain, notwithstanding his pre-eminent justice.” (3) This event highlights the heart of Jewish persecution against the Christians. It planted a huge chasm in the rift that already existed between the Jews and the Christians.

Roman persecution of Christians heightened under Nero as both Paul and Peter were martyred by his policies. Furthermore, Roman policy forbade the circumcision and Sabbath observance as fostering anti-roman sentiment. During this time frame, Christians were being persecuted right alongside of the Jews. It was out of this culture that Christians leaders sought audience with Roman leadership to emphasis that Christians were separate from the Jews. Thus, an anti-nominal position was favored and an allegorical and spiritualized approach to the scriptures justified the drift away from the literal applications of torah observance. This is evident in the writings of Ignatius, Barnabas, and Justin.

Ignatius

Ignatius, was the bishop of Antioch, during the time of Trajan (98-117) During his tenure, he writes several letters to the churches in his area. He encourages them to be aware of those “Judiazing Christians” and the danger of the influences of the synagogue. This suggest to us that the separation from torah was already in progress. In his letter to the Magnesians, Ignatius writes, “For if even unto this day we live after the manner of Judaism, we avow that we have not received grace; for the divine prophets lived after Christ Jesus…If then those who had walked in ancient practices attained unto newness of hope, no longer observing Sabbaths but fashioning their lives after the Lord‘s day, on which our life also arose through Him and through His death which some men deny.” (4) It is evident from this passage that the law was perverted into a vehicle of salvation by the Judiazing Christians, perhaps even the same elements that Paul confronted, but the restoration torah as a lifestyle was being rejected. This restoration would identify Christians to closely to the Jews who were persecuting them and make Christians susceptible to Roman persecution as identifying them to closely with the Jews. Additionally, we see the allegorical theology already being taught that the Lord’s day was changed from Sabbath to Sunday because of the resurrection. This theology is foreign to scripture but was propagated by the early fathers in an attempt to establish a certain Christian identity that was separate from Judaism. Furthermore, it may be relevant that Christians were still practicing torah as a lifestyle and being accused of living after the “manner of the Jews.” Perhaps these were the Ebionites or the Nazarenes that we will discuss later.

Barnabas

The Epistle of Barnabas is the best ancient example of how Christian theology had developed in order to change customs away from Torah. It exemplifies a distance from persecuting Jews and attempts to establish a Christian identity separate from torah. What will be evident from the text is that torah observant Christians did, in fact, exist and Barnabas is attempting to “win” them away from torah. “In order to persuade these Judaizing Christians to abandon Jewish beliefs and practices, Barnabas launches a twofold attack against the Jews: he defames them as a people and he empties their religious beliefs and practices of any historical validity by allegorizing their meaning. As a people, the Jews are described as “wretched men” (16:1) who were deluded by an evil angel (9:5) and who “were abandoned” by God because of their ancient idolatry (5:14). They drove “his prophets to death” (5:12) and they crucified Christ “setting him at naught and piercing him and spitting upon him” (7:9) As to the fundamental Jewish beliefs (such as sacrificial system, the covenant, the promised land, the circumcision, the levitical laws, the Sabbath and the temple) the writer endeavors to demonstrate that they do not apply literally to the Jews, since they have a deeper allegorical meaning which finds it fulfillment in Christ and in the spiritual experience of the Christians.” (5) If successful, Barnabas establishes as separate Christian identity apart from the Jews. This allows them to tell the Romans that “we are not like them.”

The Epistle of Barnabas also gives us the best example of allegorical and spiritualization of scripture. This is evident in chapter 15 when he writes, “Moreover concerning the Sabbath likewise it is written in the Ten Words, in which He spake to Moses face to face on Mount Sinai; And ye shall hallow the Sabbath of the Lord with pure hands and with a pure heart. And in another place3 He saith; If my sons observe the Sabbath, then I will bestow My mercy upon them. Of the Sabbath He speaketh in the beginning of the creation; And God make the work’s of His hands in six days, and He ended on the seventh day, and rested on it, and He hallowed it. Give heed, children that this meaneth; He ended in six days. He meaneth this, that, in six thousand years the Lord shall bring all things to an end; for the day with him signify a thousand years; and this he himself beareth me witness saying; Behold the days of the Lord shall be as a thousand years. Therefore, children in six days that is in six thousand years, everything shall come to an end. And He rested on the seventh day. This He meaneth; when His Son shall come, and shall abolish the time of the Lawless One, and shall judge the ungodly, and shall change the sun and the moon and the starts, then shall he truly rest on the seventh day, yea and furthermore, He saith; Thou shalt hallow it with pure hands and with a pure heart. If therefore a man is able now to hallow the day which God hallowed, though he be pure in heart, we have gone utterly astray. But if after all then and not till then shall we truly rest and hallow it, when we shall ourselves be able to do so after being justified and receiving the promise, when iniwqui9tey is no more and all thing have been made new by the Lord, we shall be able to hallow it then, because we ourselves shall have been hallowed first. Finally he saith to them; Your new moons and your Sabbaths I cannot away with. Ye see what is His meaning; it is not your present Sabbaths that are acceptable (unto me) but the Sabbath which I have made, in the which, when I have set all things at rest I will make the beginning of the eighth day which is the beginning of another world. Wherefore, we also keep the eight day for rejoicing in the which also Jesus rose from the dead, and having been manifested ascended into the heavens.” (6)

Barnabas attempts to empty the Sabbath of its meaning by using allegorical exegesis. First, he explains that the real Sabbath has not yet arrived but is an end times celebration. Secondly, that men are incapable of keeping the Sabbath because of our fallen states, having not yet achieved perfection. Lastly, the eighth day theology is developed because God has rejected the “new moons and Sabbath” and will establish a new one, presumably, on the eighth day. It is interesting to note that Barnabas gives the resurrection of Jesus as a secondary reason for Sunday worship and not a primary reason. One can presume that Sunday theology was only being birthed at the time of Barnabas. It was still in preliminary stages, as later, the primary reason for the change of the day of worship is the resurrection of Messiah.

Justin

Justin was a Christian philosopher who was from Gentile birth. Therefore, he doesn’t except the moral and ceremonial benefits of torah. His position is that the law was only given to sinful men. It didn‘t exist before the time of Moses, so the men of old, needed not the law to walk in holiness. Hence, the Christian, who walks in purity, needs not the law as its only use is for sinful men. He writes, “We, too, would observe your circumcision of the flesh, your Sabbath days, and in a word, all your festivals, if we were not aware of the reason why they were imposed upon you, namely, because of your sins and your hardness of heart…Therefore, we must conclude that God, who is immutable, ordered these and similar things to be done only because of sinful men”. (7) For Justin, this position is the only safeguard for the Christian. He writes, “If we do no accept this conclusion, then we shall fall into absurd ideas, as the nonsense either that our God is not the same God who existed in the days of Henoch and all the others, who were not circumcised in the flesh, and did not observe the Sabbaths and other rites, since Moses only imposed them later; or that God does not wish each succeeding generation of mankind always to perform the same acts of righteousness. Either supposition is ridiculous and preposterous. Therefore we must conclude that God, who is immutable, ordered these and similar things to be done only because of sinful men.” (8) For Justin, Christianity was a higher religion requiring not the law. Biblical evidence for this position, in light of all we have discussed thus far in this series, is difficult to develop. Nevertheless, Justin was very popular among the Gentiles who wanted a separate identity from Jews to escape persecution from Jews and from the Romans. It is interesting to note, that in his attempt to make distinction between Christians and Jews, the Romans rejected his thesis and he was martyred anyway. Hence, he is referred to as Justin Martyr.

Ebionites and Nazarenes

The tension between Rome and Jerusalem peaked when Vespian sent his son Titus to dispel the rebellion of the Jews. Titus destroys the city and the temple in 70 AD and thus marked the end of biblical Judiaism and the end of torah observant Christians. As the myriads of those who were zealous for the law fled Jerusalem, two groups of torah observant Christians did survive, for a while, in their own little hidden communities. They were the Ebionites and the Nazarenes.

By the time of Eusebius, Christian thinking had already shifted to call torah observant Christians as heretics. The Ebionites are described in this light. The name is derived from the Hebrew word for “poor.” It is either used to describe their lifestyle or their theology. Eusebius writes, “With them the observance of the law was altogether necessary…They also observed the Sabbath and other discipline of the Jews just like them, but on the other hand, they also celebrated the Lord’s days very much lie us I commemoration of his resurrection.” (9) Eusebius paints the Ebionites in a negative light, but his description tells us that these were torah observant Christians who were in a very small minority. Perhaps they were a community that escaped the destruction of Jerusalem and attempted to continue in torah as a lifestyle. It is also evident that the Ebionites didn’t embrace the law as a vehicle of salvation by their belief in Messiah. They understood the observance of torah practice as for edification and devotion. Additionally, the did observe the “Christian” customs as well as the torah. This may have been their way of preserving unity. The lifespan of the Ebionites was short lived. Experiencing the rejection of Gentile Christians, Jews, and Romans, they may have evolved into a heterodox sect adopting the Gnostic views of Messiah. (10)

The Nazarenes also developed after the destruction of Jerusalem. Early church bishop Epiphanius writes, “The sect originated after the flight from Jerusalem, when the disciples were living in Pella, having left the city according to Christ’s word and migrated to the mountains because of its imminent siege. Therefore, in this manner arose when those of whom we spoke were living in Perea. From there the heresy of the Nazarenes first began. ” (11)

This group of believers have been described as “The Nazarenes were not ‘Christians’, believing that the law was nailed to the cross.” Rather, they were a sect of Israel that understood it was not rote observance of the Law that saved you. They understood salvation to be a free gift, yet they still observed the law of Moses as an outward sign of their devotion.” (12) This would appear to be a continuation of the early religion of the apostles. Another assessment of the Nazarenes is given to us by another bishop, M. Simon. He writes, “The Nazarenes do not differ in any essential thing from them (the Jews), since they practice the customs and doctrines prescribed by the Jewish law, except that they believe in Christ. They believe in the resurrection of the dead and that the universe was created by God. They preach that God is one and that Jesus Christ is His Son. They are very learned in the Hebrew language. They read the law…Therefore they differ from the Jews and from the Christians; from the former because they believe in Christ; from the true Christians because they fulfill till now Jewish rites as the circumcision, the Sabbath and others.” (13) This witness demonstrates that the religion of the early church continued outside of Jerusalem but it was subject to persecution from Christians and Romans. It was eventually destroyed under Constantine as being a heretical sect against the true holiness of the Roman church.

After the destruction of the Ebionites and the Nazarenes, the torah observant lifestyle of the first apostles became only a memory that was to be shunned from Christian thought. When Constantine becomes the Emperor of the Roman Empire, he declares Christianity to be the religion of the empire. This causes a huge influx of paganism into the church that, frankly, she was unable to handle. The strongest biblical and spiritual leaders had been martyred in recent years, and this lack of leadership coupled with the influx of paganism led to the development of the Catholic church. Easter replaced Passover, Sunday replaced Sabbath, Christmas become the birthday of Christ instead of the birthday of all the gods, and church authority trumped the authority of scripture. Apostolic succession justified the movement away from the bible and allowed for the establishment of repackaged paganism with Christian themes. Thus had been the condition of the church for the last two thousand years. Perhaps now, God, in His mercy, is restoring and renewing His Church to a return to Torah and biblical practices. May it be so, even in our day, Amen.

Endnotes

2. Whiston, William, The Works of Josephus, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody MA, 1987, page 538.

3. Curse, D.F. Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody MA, 1998, page 61.

4. Lightfoot, J.B. The Apostolic Fathers, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1976, page 70-71.

5. Bacchiocchi, Samuele, From Sabbath to Sunday, The Pontifical Gregorian University Press, Rome, Italy, 1977, page 219.

6. Lightfoot, J.B. page 151.

7. Bacchiocchi, page 224.

8. Ibid, page 225.

9. Cruse, page 93.

10. Bacchiocchi, page 155.

11. Ibid, page 156.

12. Willis, Norman, Nazarene Israel: The Original Faith of the Apostles., Nazarene Israel Press, Northport, WA, 2003, page, 7.

13. Bacchiocchi, page 157.

Deep Calls To Deep: A Study in Calvinistic Spirituality

“My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. My soul is cast down within me; Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Sections of Psalm 42 ESV)

I’ve been, predominately, an Arminist in my spirituality. (Arminius was a theologian who focused on the free will of man in creating their spirituality) Recently, God has been doing some things in my life and in the lives of many who I am close to, that relate more to Calvinism. (John Calvin was a theologian who taught that God’s will controls the circumstances in our lives and our personal will matters little) (1) It is my opinion that the two positions are neither diametrically opposed, as church history has tended to make them, nor are they necessarily mutually exclusive, also as the church has tended to make them. Be all of that as it may, I’m progressively embracing more Calvinistic spirituality. (2) What I mean by Calvinistic spirituality is “God orchestrating circumstances in our lives to bring us into a position where we will do His will.” He is a really Big and Smart. He knows the hearts of people and how they will respond in a given set of circumstances. This is what I will define as Calvinistic spirituality. Let’s come back to this in a minute.

In Psalm 42 (sections of which are quoted above), the Psalmist is very depressed. He is “pouring out his soul”, and is “downcast” and crying. We are not told of the circumstances surrounding this depression; but, a solution is offered. The Hebrew word for “deep”, in the Psalm, generally refers to the deepest part of a body of water. (Hence, the references to water in the rest of that verse.) It can also mean the “deep part.” So, how is it that deep calls to deep? It is evident in the Psalm that the “deepest part” of man is calling out to the “deepest part” of God. When the heart of man touches the heart of God, things get shaken up in both the physical and the spiritual realm. It is my opinion that God desires this and, using my new found Calvinistic spirituality, orchestrates circumstances, occasionally, in our lives where the deep of us calls to the deep of Him. Today, I found a biblical example.

In the opening chapters of I Samuel, we read of a woman named Hannah. She is married to a man who has two wives. One of them, Penniah, has children and Hannah, the other wife is barren. Two times the text tells the source of her barrenness. It states, “the Lord closed her womb.” (I Samuel 1: 5&6) As a result of the Lord’s action, she is provoked by her rival, the other wife. In ancient times, a barren woman was considered cursed. She would’ve been seen as a social outcast. This, of course, greatly distressed her. She gets depressed and she is stirred in her deepest parts. At the yearly sacrifice, her deepest parts can no longer take it. She arises from the festive meal and the deepest part of woman calls to the deepest part of God. She pours out her soul to God and, in doing so, is accused of drinking by the High Priest. She informs him that she is not drunk but she is praying out of the depths of her soul. He, in turn, speaks blessing over her. She arises from the prayer with a sense of release about the matter and returns to the festive meal contented and eats. Shortly thereafter, she gets pregnant and has a son. That son is Samuel. In Hebrew, the name means “heard of God.” She names him a name that describes what takes place when the deep of humans call to the deep of God. He hears and He acts. It is my supposition, that God set all of this up. He is the One that closed her womb. He is the One that put her in a position of adversity from her rival. He is the One that caste her in the social light as being “cursed.” What could be His motive, a Samuel.

Samuel was not birthed by chance. He was prayed into existence when God ordained circumstances in the life of Hannah, knowing how she would respond, where the deepest parts of her would call out to the deepest part of God and give occasion for God to act and birth a Samuel. The prophet and priest. God ordained all of this. Thus, Hannah happened to be on the receiving end of Calvinistic spirituality.

What can we learn from all of this? The next time we find ourselves in an emotional pickle, it may very well be that God has ordained these circumstances. Why, to birth something great our of the deepest part of me calling out to the deepest part of Him.

Endnotes

1. It is not my intention to delve deeply into the doctrines of either camp here. My superficial parenthetical note does neither Arminius nor Calvin justice. Anyone wishing further information is encouraged to Google either name, and a wealth of information will follow. Wikipedia has good stuff on both.

2. By spirituality I mean the way that I live out my theology. Thus Calvinistic spirituality looks for the hand of God in adverse circumstances.

To Burn or not to Burn?

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (1Pe 3:9)

There has been much rhetoric over the last week about Terry Jones and Dove World Outreach’s plans to burn the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. At the risk of being “politically incorrect”, I thought I would put in “my two cents worth.” I have attempted to read the theology behind Jones’s bon-fire extravaganza,; but, was disappointed to learn that their website server had canceled their site due to “contractual issues.” (if anyone does know their theology behind this act, please let me know, see author tab for contact info) So, being unable to hear their side of the story, I can only speculate as to why a Christian would desire to burn the Koran. I would like to examine two points in this post. First, is there a biblical precedent for book burning. Secondly, does this precedent apply to the current situation.

There is one occasion in scripture were we do, in fact, see book burning. In Ephesus, Paul is leading a very large revival. Multiple spectacular manifestations of the Spirit are taking place and thousands of people are being brought into relationship with Jesus. As a result of their new found experiences with God, they bring out the sacred texts of their former religions and burn them. The Bible states, “And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. (Act 19:19) The value of these text could have been anywhere from 10,000-12,000 dollars. They decided that they were of little value coming from a source other than their new found faith. Hence, they consigned them to the flames as being demonically inspired. Therefore, there is a biblical precedent for book burning. Next, we must discern if this precedent applies to the Gainesville congregation.

Even a cursory glance at the situation yields a resounding “No!” First, the folks in Acts 19 were Christians who had just converted from alternative religions. I’m quite certain that the bulk of members attending the Koran burning are not recently converted Muslims. If that were the case, one could justify a Koran burning, but, it wouldn’t need to be broadcasted internationally as an event to be watched around the world. Why? It would bring cause to offense. This brings me to the second reason.

I can sum up the entire mission of the Christian in one word. That word is “love.” Christians are called by God to love people without condition. The Christian does not love the radically fundamental terrorist only when they stop killing innocent people. The Christian loves them until they stop. This is the nature of the love that God has for all of humanity. (see Jesus comments below) We are to model God’s love to the world. We are called by scripture to not return “evil for evil.” (I Thess 5:15) Simply because certain Muslims want to burn the Bible does not mean that I need to burn the Koran. (1) The Scriptures states, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. (1Thess 5:15) The main question to ask here is, “Does this action communicate love to the world of Islam?” The obvious response is absolutely not. In fact, it is hard to find anyone who believes that this will actually benefit the international community. Even the President has spoken against it. I’m not sure how well the President knows his Bible, but, he got this one right. What possible benefit could come from offending Muslims in Jesus name? We would do better by arranging material and medical resources to assist the Muslims in Pakistan with their horrendous flood situation. This is what the Bible teaches, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ” (Rom 12:19-21) The words of Messiah Himself reiterate this, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:43-48) If Christian would act accordingly, it would dispel the myth that Americans (mostly Christians) hate Muslims as much as the radically fundamental Islamist hate us. The Koran burning only solidifies the radically fundamental Islamist worldview and will be used to recruit young Muslims into their ideology. Burning the Koran is attributing to the problem rather than the solution. In fact, it is, in this case, unbiblical and an embarrassment to Christianity. Personally, I think they are wrong and need to apologize.

One may say, “Well, the Koran is a demonically inspired book; therefore, it should be burned.” Again, here is a half-truth. It is my opinion that the Koran has some demonically inspired parts in it, particularly, what it has to say about Jesus. Nevertheless, we are not called by God to breed hatred in the world under the banner of eliminating demonically inspired literature. If burning the Koran would bring folks to a relationship with Christ, then burn them all. However, if burning them would further drive them from that endeavor, then we are working against Christ and aligning ourselves with Satan. We find ourselves working against the same Spirit that has called us in Christ. This places our allegiance in the camp of the enemy and only furthers his agenda to “kill, steal, and destroy.” (John 10:10) Many zealous disciples have made this error. (2) We must not repeat it. Let us breed love as a community of Christians, as a united body, and not breed hatred while working for the enemy in Jesus’ name.

Endnotes

**All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton IL, 2001. Unless otherwise stated.

1. Incidentally, it has been a number of years since I read the Koran, but I don’t remember ever reading anything that tells the Muslim to burn the Bible. In fact, the Koran and Islam does support the idea that it is inspired by God, but the Koran is a more recent revelation so it takes precedent.

2. See also my post entitled, “Know ye not what Manner of Spirit?”

Know Ye not what Manner of Spirit? How Do You Handle Rejection.

“And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.” (Luke 9:51-56 KJV)

It is imperative that we have some prophetic insight into what is happening in the spiritual realm. It directly impacts what is happening in the physical realm, the realm that we live in. It is my opinion that the disciples, in the above mentioned verses, completely missed what was happening in the spiritual realm. Therefore, they made a judgment that was out of character for the situation that they were facing. Jesus understood this and rebuked them. Let’s look at the circumstances surrounding this event.

Jesus had “set His Face” to go to Jerusalem. The wording of the Greek text here suggest that He was determined and that He had resolved to accomplish this trip to Jerusalem. It is the same wording from the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) in Isaiah 1:7 which states, “I have set my face like flint.” (1) Because Jesus lived constantly in the will of God, there were no coincidences in His life. His rejection by the Samaritans was an event that assisted Him in His mission to go to Jerusalem. The Bible gives us the reason for this rejection. It states, “And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:53). This suggests that God had ordained the rejection to assist Jesus in His rapid progress toward Jerusalem. This was something that was ordained in the spiritual realm and then had an effect on the physical realm. To this, the disciples completely missed it.

To get a picture as to why or how they missed it, let’s look the cultural differences that existed between the Jews and the Samaritans. Samaria was located in the northern sections of Israel. In the times of the Kings, it had become the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Judah existed in the south, and Israel to the north. The kingdom of Israel fell to the king of Assyria and all the people were exiled. The king of Assyria repopulated the area with folks from different regions that he had conquered. God was not very pleased with this and He sent lions to attack them. So, the polytheistic people of the land sent to the King of Assyria and reported that the God of the land was not pleased and they knew not how to worship Him. Therefore, the King sent an exiled priest from Israel, with a copy of the law, to teach these people how to worship God. This race of people become known as the Samaritans. They were regarded with disdain by the Jews as being a “mixed breed” of peoples and a poor substitute for the Jews themselves. Hence, much discord existed between the two.

During the time of Jesus, Jewish travelers from the north, would pass through Samaria on their way to Jerusalem. Oftentimes, they were heckled, mocked, and ridiculed. (2) Traveling through Samaria was an action that the Pharisees wouldn’t even do. They felt even being in that place would contaminate them. So, it became vogue for the pious of the Jews to travel the long way around Samaria to Jerusalem. The shortest route was through Samaria and thus, we see Jesus taking this route. We can now begin to see the harsh reaction of the disciples. What the disciples did not see, however, was that God can use any circumstances to bring about His will. This is what we see happening as God uses the rejection of the Samaritans to allow Jesus to continue to Jerusalem. The disciples failed to “know” this piece of information. So, they judged the people of worthy of death because of their rejection of the Messiah. Jesus, thusly, rebukes them. Let’s look at this rebuke and see if this can give us some insight into what Jesus knew that the disciples did not.

The traditional teaching about this rebuke is beautifully illustrated by John Lightfoot. He writes, “What Elijah once did to those of Samaria, the sons of Zebedee had an ambition to imitate in this place; dreaming (as it should seem) that there were those thunders and lightening in their very name Boanerges (Greek for sons of thunder, a nickname that Jesus had given them) that should break out at pleasure for the death and destruction of those that provoked them. But could you not see, O ye sons of Zebedee, how careful and tender your Master was, from the very bottom of his soul, about the lives and well-being of mankind; how he healed the sick, cured those that were possessed with devils, and raised the dead? And will you be breathing slaughter and fire, and no less destruction to the town than what had happened to Sodom? Alas! You do not know, or have not considered, what kind of spirit and temper becomes the apostles of the Messiah.” (3 parenthetical note mine for clarity) We completely agree with Lightfoot’s commentary and it agrees with most traditional commentaries of the text. However, there may be something more here.

In His rebuke, Jesus tells them that they “do not know” the manner of the spirit. The Greek word here for know means, “to be aware, to perceive, to understand, to see.” (4) This may mean that the disciples lacked the prophetic knowledge to see the purposes of God behind the rejection of the Samaritans. They lacked the prophetic revelation that Jesus possessed to see that this rejection was further moving Him toward the accomplishment of God’s will in His life. The disciples lacked the information from the spiritual realm that told Jesus that this rejection was “because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.” Hence, they had condemned to die, the same death as the sodomites, those who had rejected them. This, Jesus would not tolerate. He has not come to destroy and burn with fire those who reject us. The Holy Spirit has been given to us that we may see rejection as Jesus saw it, as only fueling the advancement of the will of God in His life. Jesus then clarifies that His mission on the earth is not to bring destruction to those who reject Him; but, to bring life to those who will accept and receive Him.

Endnotes

1. Jamieson, Robert; Faussett, A.R.; Brown, David, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Hendrickson Publishing, Peabody Mass, 2002 second printing, page 263.

2. Keener, Craig S., The IVP Bible Backgournd Commentary: New Testament, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1993, page 215.

3. Lightfoot, John, Commentary on the New Testament form the Talmud and Hebriaca, Hendrickson, Publishers, 2003, volume 3, page 93.

4. Strong, James, The Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishing, Nashville, TN 1995, Strong’s number 1492.

Jesus keeps the Torah

When we are examining the role of the law in the life of the believer, it is important to look at the role of the law in the life of Jesus. He is our example and His observance of Torah is paramount to how we should order our lives. If, per say, Jesus lived His life in without following Torah, then a case can be made for us to live an “anominal” (The Greek word for torah is “nomos” so, the word for torah-less-ness, would simply to add the prefix “a” to nomos. Thusly giving us, anominism) lifestyle. What we will find is that Jesus kept all the commandments that pertained to Him and even encouraged others to do the same and to examine the role of the law in their own lives. Perhaps it will be best to utilize a list format:

1. Matthew 5:17 Jesus teaches that He does not destroy or do away with the law. (see previous post on Jesus and the Law.)

2. Matthew 8:1-4: Jesus heals a leper and tells him to offer the sacrifices of the Torah as prescribed in the law. Please see Leviticus 14 for complete details.

3. Matthew 19:1-12: Jesus entire teaching on marriage comes from the Torah

4. Luke 4:1-12: Jesus quotes from the Torah to defeat the strategies of Satan.

5. Luke 2:22-23 : Jesus grew up in a Jewish Torah-observant home.

6. Mark 3:1-6: Jesus keeps the Sabbath

7. Luke 8:44: Jesus wore tassels (tzitzits) according to the commandments (Numbers 15:33)

8. John 7& John 13: Jesus kept the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles

9. There is not one instance of Jesus eating anything other than kosher foods. (There is a reference in modern translations that says “He declared all foods clean.” It is my opinion that this is a theological interpolation into the text as older version of scripture translate it differently. It will be the subject of a future post.)

10. We could literally write documents of all the references where Jesus upholds the Torah or teaches on the Torah or is performing the commandments of the Torah.

In short, there is not one instance in scripture where Jesus violates the commandments of the Law. He was completely obedient to them. He had to be, because He had to be sinless in order to be the “Lamb of God without spot or blemish.” For Jesus to have violated Torah would have been for Him to sin. Hence, Jesus never broke even the “least of these commandments” (Matthew 5:19)

It is also a point of interest that there are commandments which Jesus never kept. Such as, the laws for the high priest at the day of atonement (Leviticus 16). Jesus never kept these commandments because they didn’t apply to Him. The same can be said for us today. If a particular commandment is one that I am not able to keep ie: going to Jerusalem during the feasts, then I don’t keep that commandment. Likewise, if I am able to keep a commandment, then I do it as an expression of my love for God. I have a beard and I wear tassels, exactly as Jesus did. If He truly is our example, then we ought to do what He did. I’m not advocating that we all become Jewish, that misses the point. I am saying that we should keep the commandments as we are able to. This allows for the unique expression of individualism within the boundaries of God’s Holy Standard for His People.

The Apostles and the Law

“You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law. (Acts 21:20)

 After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the disciples begin to live out their new found faith in Messiah. It is important for us to examine how they lived in order to determine if they continued to follow Torah. Again, not as a means of salvation, but, did they keep it as an expression of their stance as a community of God. We will begin with the book of Acts and progress into the theological teachings of the letters from the apostles in a following post. Is there evidence that the first apostles had torah observance as an expression of their religiosity? If so, this tells us that early apostolic thought was not that the Torah was “done away with” after the resurrection of Messiah.

Immediately in the book of Acts, we find support for, not only Torah observance from the apostles, but also from the Lord Himself. Prior to His ascension, Jesus tells the apostles to “tarry in Jerusalem” until the coming of the Holy Spirit. This would’ve been a great time for Jesus to demonstrate to His new church that the law was “done away with.” However, this is not what we read in the New Testament. What we find is that Jesus, the one who baptizes with fire, choses a holy day as prescribed in the Torah, as the day for the Holy Spirit to come. Jesus sets it up this way. He purposefully tells the apostles to stay in Jerusalem till the coming of the Spirit. He knew it would come at Pentecost. All Jewish males were required to be in Jerusalem according to the law, and Jesus commanded His new church to be in the place that the law required. If Jesus was anominal (without the law or doing away with the law) He should have chosen a different city from which to establish His church and not the capital of the Old Testament, and the place where the law states that God will “establish His name.” Especially since this particular Holy Day celebrates the giving of the Law to Israel. This would’ve been an awesome opportunity for Jesus to distance Himself from Torah; however, He does not. He continues in torah observance for His church even after His ascension and resurrection. This tells us that Jesus still has respect and honor for the law and that the law has a place in the life of a believer. This theme continues. We see a constant undertone in the life of all the apostles where their lifestyle centers around torah observance while walking in the power of the Spirit.

In chapter 3 of Acts, we find Peter and John (two of Jesus inner circle of disciples) going up to the Temple at the “hour of prayer” which is the ninth hour. It is interesting to note the particular time that these two apostles pick to go to prayer. The law commands that two sacrifices were to be made daily, one in the morning and one in the evening (Exodus 29:39). The evening offering was usually offered at the ninth hour. Hence, all the faithful in Jerusalem would pack the temple precincts at this time for prayer according to the Torah. Who do we find in the middle of all this? Two of Jesus closest disciples. John Lightfoot notes, “This is certain, that the ninth hour of the day (which with us is three o’clock in the afternoon) was the ordinary hour as for sacrifice, so also for prayer too. As to the hours of sacrifice, Josephus gives us this account: ‘in the morning and at the ninth hour they offer sacrifices on the alter twice a day.” (1) The fact that John and Peter where in the temple precincts praying with every other Torah obedient Jew in Jerusalem makes a statement about their stance on the law. This also applies to the newly appointed deacons.

When we get to Acts chapter six, we find Stephen going to trial. What is he accused of? He is charged with “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” (Acts 6:11) Stephen is accused of being “anominal.” (Not observing the Torah) What is interesting about this is that it was all a lie. The first part of that verse tells us “ Then they secretly instigated men who said.” thus, they were making up a lie. This means that there was no grounds for the accusation. Hence, Stephen must have been Torah observant in some regards because if he was not, they wouldn’t have had to lie about him. In fact, when they pick up stones to kill him, he accuses them of not keeping Torah. He states, “you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7: 53) Stephen tells them that they received the revelation of how to live as God’s chosen people and they rejected it. Then, they, full of rage, picked up stones to kill him. Why? Because he was right.

In Acts chapter 10, Peter has a vision that is filled with multiple images and illusions that some have used to justify the eating of unclean foods. This subject is one that I will cover in an additional post, but one interesting point I would like to bring up now. Peter had been walking in the power of the Holy Spirit for awhile prior to this vision. If Jesus were “doing away with the dietary laws”, as some theologians would have us believe as recorded in the gospel of Mark (another post that will come later on Mark 7:19) Let’s suppose that Jesus did declare all foods clean back in the gospel of Mark. What should we find Peter doing at this time in his apostolic career? Eating whatever he wanted and teaching others to do the same. What we find in the book of Acts is exactly the opposite. Peter states, “But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” (Acts 10:16) One might argue that the fact that Peter didn’t “get it” until now is difficult to imagine. Peter was raised a Jew and if Jesus was teaching the disciples to “do away with the law”, as dense as he was on occasions, Peter would’ve gotten that, for sure. It would’ve been a no-brainer for him and for any other Jew. (In fact, the Sanhedrin could’ve had actual charges to bring against Jesus had he broken the dietary laws of Torah, they wouldn’t have had to bring in liars. They would’ve had real charges.) To sum it up, we find Peter here still adhering to a torah observant lifestyle.

Once again, in Acts chapter twelve, we find the apostles in Jerusalem during the Holy Days. It is the feast of unleavened bread and it was commanded in the Torah that all males go to Jerusalem. Again, we find the apostles in the middle of the torah observant crowd preaching the gospel.

In chapters 13 and 14 we find Paul and Barnabas going out on their first missionary trip. We see them going to synagogue on the Sabbath day. Thus, we find them observing the Sabbath, a huge torah observant trait. Why wouldn’t these apostles, sent by God, have told these converts to have church on Sunday because Jesus changed all that with his resurrection? The reason we find it absent from the text is that this particular theology didn’t exist at this time. (again, another post that will follow) What we are demonstrating throughout the book of Acts is that, the apostles led an underlying torah observant lifestyle,

The Jerusalem council takes place in Acts 15. When one is discussing the Jerusalem council, it is important to put the whole thing in its proper context. The context of the council is not, what is the role of torah in the life of the believer. The context of the council ia, how does one get saved. Salvation is what they are discussing and not the law. Evidence of this is found in the first verse of the chapter. It states, “ But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1 italics added for emphasis) Why was there so much disputing? Does it make any sense that if the Law had been “done away with” as is so commonly taught, someone here would have said so, and the dispute would have been resolved quickly and easily? If the believers in Christ were not obligated to follow the Law, why didn’t they just say “well, this is awfully silly. None of us have to follow the law! Don’t you know that it’s been done away with?” But no one says this. Instead they are trying to figure out the laws the Gentile believer must follow in order to be saved ([see verse 1]) Once we understand that they are not discussing the role of Torah in the life of the believer. Things begin to make sense.

The law is only mentioned because it is being misused as a vehicle of salvation. This is what Peter clarifies when he states, “Now, therefore, why are you putting to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:10-11 italics for emphasis) Peter is telling us exactly what we have been saying throughout this series, that the law was never intended to be a vehicle of salvation. But it does have a role in the life of the believer. This is what James clarifies when he states, “but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” (Acts 15:20-21) What James means by this statement is that the Gentiles need to turn from a polytheistic worldview to one of monotheism. All of the activities described for the Gentiles to turn away from are forms of pagan worship. It would’ve been easy for the polytheistic culture of the Greeks and the Romans to lump Jesus into a category with all the other gods. The apostles were moving them into a monotheistic worldview. What is amazing about these recommendations is that many of them are from the Torah. As noted Jewish scholar David Stern notes, “Abstain from things polluted by idols, defined in v. 29 as food sacrificed to false gods, especially meat. Fornication, any form of sexual immorality. In the first century pagan world sexual unions outside of marriage were regarded very lightly, along with homosexual behavior, temple prostitution and other improper practices…And blood. This could be either literal, referring to drinking animals blood, or failing to remove it from meat, or figuratively, a metaphor for murder.” (2) Also, in the Torah, God tells Noah, “ But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” (Genesis 9:4) So, it would appear that the recommendations for the Gentiles, again in order to be saved, was to turn ones heart completely toward God which is demonstrated by doing some things that are listed in Torah. (see below for details) Furthermore, common sense tells us that these can’t be the only four things of the Law that are required of Gentiles, because then Gentiles would be free to murder or to lie or to steal or to hate their neighbors, or to practice homosexuality, or witchcraft – all of which come directly from the Torah but are not mentioned here as the “necessary things” (vs. 28) These four laws have something distinctive about them that sets them apart from other Laws such as hatred or homosexuality, which we believe to be the worship of idols.

James goes on to suggest that after the Gentiles have turned from a polytheistic worldview, that they should go to synagogue and learn the torah as the standard of holiness. Avram Yehoshua, a torah observant Jew and teacher in Israel writes, “This is probably the most interesting sentence in this passage. “For Moses of old time has in every city those who preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.” What does Moses being taught in the synagogues have to do with anything? We believe that verse 21 is the logical extension of verse 20 and verse 11 (that the Gentile is saved in the same way as the Jew.) The Gentile didn’t need to be circumcised in order to be saved (more on that later.) But the Gentile did need to be told what would disqualify him from membership in the kingdom of God. (v. 20) Then he was directed to the synagogue to learn all of the rules of the Kingdom that pertained to him (v. 21). Not every law of God pertained or applied to the Gentile, just as every law of God didn’t apply to Jesus. He didn’t need to keep the laws pertaining to offering up the daily sacrifice (Exodus. 29:38-42) because He wasn’t the High Priest in the Jerusalem Temple. But Jesus kept all the laws that applied to Him. The Gentile would learn Torah as they walked with Jesus. No one, least of all James, expected the Gentile to learn Torah overnight. The Gentile would assemble in the synagogue on the Sabbath (see Acts 13:42; 13:44; 18:4) to learn the Torah of Moses, gradually. This verse tells us that James assumed or understood that the Gentile was to go to the synagogue to learn the Law of Moses. In declaring to everyone at the council that the Gentiles were to go to the synagogues on the Sabbath Day to learn Christ’s commandments, we see that James was thinking about Torah specifically in relation to the Gentile. They would learn it every Sabbath. With that, he shows us today that Torah should be a part of every believer’s life. James was establishing the place of the Law for those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:31). He was presenting Torah as a lifestyle of sanctification for the Gentile just as it is for the Jew (e.g. Peter, Paul, etc). (3)

 

To re-cap, the Jerusalem council met to discuss the question of “how are the Gentiles to be saved?” They determined that the law was never intended to be a vehicle of salvation. Furthermore, the Gentiles that were turning to God, were encouraged to keep some of the commandments of torah (thou shalt have no other gods(Exodus 20:3), do not engage in temple prostitution (Duet 23:17) and stay away from blood(Lev 17:10). If the intention of this council was to “do away with the Torah” because Jesus fulfilled the law, then they failed miserably. Far from doing away with it, the apostles established it as a measuring line for holiness. This was the original intention of the law. To provide a standard of holiness for God’s chosen people.

The apostle Paul begins his second missionary journey in chapter 16. The first thing that Paul does in preparation for this journey is circumcise Timothy. The reason for this being “because of the Jews” in that area. This demonstrates that Paul continued to have a reverence for Torah. Later in his life, Paul will be accused of taking an uncircumcised man into the Temple, an action which would’ve violated temple customs. In order to live above reproach, he circumcises Timothy. At a minimum it demonstrates his respect for the law. (As regards to Titus’ uncircumcision, it would appear that Paul wouldn’t circumcise Titus in order to placate Judiazing Christians who purported that circumcision was necessary for salvation, again this was the reason for the Jerusalem council.)

In chapters 16 and 17, we again see Paul, as was his custom, going to synagogue on the Sabbath. Again, Paul is observing Shabbat. More information is available on Paul observance of the law in chapter 18.

Two interesting events take place in chapter 18 that gives us insight into Paul’s torah observance. First, he is accused, by the Jews, of “This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.” (Acts 18:13) Let us recall that this is the same accusation that was brought against Stephen. Paul never gets the chance to refute these charges, but he will later while on trial in Jerusalem. Secondly, Paul takes an interesting vow that required him to shave his head. (Acts 18:18) The only vow that demanded the shaving of the head in scripture is the Nazirite vow of Numbers 6:1-21. Commenting on this passage, the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states, “Paul had evidently taken a Nazirite’s vow which he began to terminate at Cenchreae by cutting off his hair (Acts 18:18), and which was completed formally in Jerusalem with other Christians under Nazirite vows (Acts 21:23).” (4) This proves a great deal about Paul’s personal convictions about the Torah. It was more to him than a tool of evangelism, more than just being a “a Jew to the Jews”, it was his lifestyle and culture. It was not his vehicle for salvation, but, he continued to observe it as a lifestyle of holiness. As noted Jewish scholar David Stern notes, “No matter what the details of Sha’ul’s (Paul’s Hebrew name) vow were, this proves that he did not abandon the Torah; on the contrary, even when he became as a Gentile among Gentiles he continued to observe Jewish practices. See also Acts 13:9, I Corinthians 9:20-22 (5) This fact is further demonstrated when the scripture states “I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem.” (Acts 18:21 KJV) This is a quote from Paul who desired to go to Jerusalem for an upcoming holy day. If he was not concerned with Torah, the feast in Jerusalem wouldn’t matter to him. Scripture paints a different picture of the apostle. Mainly, that he continued to be torah-observant.

An interesting phrase is used in Acts 20 that, on the surface, seems to inaugurate Sunday worship instead of Sabbath. This verse states, “ On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.” (Acts 20:7) There are several reasons to believe that this was not a traditional Sunday morning worship service. First, Paul continued to preach until midnight. This is either the longest recorded sermon ever, perhaps lasting around 14 hours, or, something else may have been happening. Perhaps the phrase, “On the first day of the week“, had something to do with it. “We have reasons to believe that Luke uses consistently in his narrative the Jewish time reckoning. According to such a system…the first day began on Saturday evening at sunset, the night part of Sunday preceding the day part. The evening of the first day on which the meeting would then corresponds to our Saturday night…In light of these indications it would appear that Luke respected the Jewish liturgical calendar and used it quite consistently when reckoning time” (6) ( Consequently, the meeting took place on Saturday night after the close of the Sabbath. It is interesting that at this time of day, Jesus did ministry as well. (see Mark 1:32)) Perhaps Luke’s numerous mentioning of Torah, proofs that he, himself, was a torah observant Christian. It would seem unlikely that Luke would follow around Paul and not participate in the things that Paul was doing. This evidence suggest at a minimum, Luke’s knowledge of torah, and at a maximum, his participation, along with Paul, in torah observant events. Nevertheless, it does seem to de-bunk the theology of Sunday worship beginning here. On the contrary, it occurred in a meeting after the Shabbat.

Further evidence for the Torah observance of Paul and his traveling companions is found later in chapter 20 where it states, “for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.” (Acts 20: 16) Again, Pentecost is one of the feast that required Jewish males to be present in Jerusalem. Because of his torah observant lifestyle, Paul was hastening to be in Jerusalem. Was he present in Jerusalem at all the feasts? No, but, he lived torah as his lifestyle and when it was possible for him to “keep” a commandment, then he kept it. When the work of an apostle kept him from Jerusalem during the feast, then he honored the higher calling on his life. Nevertheless, Paul was mindful of the Holy days and desired to keep them according to Torah. Additionally we find in chapter 20, “And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days.” (Acts 20: 6) Here we see Luke and those with him make specific mention to the feast of the unleavened bread (which starts on the day of Passover.) We also see Luke make specific mention to the fact that they did not leave Philippi until after the days of unleavened bread. By this it can be determined that they were keeping the feast of the unleavened bread, else there would be no reason to tell us that they waited until the days were over.

Another example of Paul’s torah observance is found in Acts 23:2-5: And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, [thou] whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the *law? And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest? Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. (KJV) The word “law” used in verse 3 is the Greek word “paranomeo” (Strongs 3891) which means “to break the law, Torah”. Paul, who is usually so bold and unwilling to compromise calls the High Priest a “whitewashed wall.” However, upon finding out that he is a High Priest, he backs down saying: “it is written, thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.” Did it make the High Priest any less wrong? No. But we see Paul clearly unwilling to disobey a Commandment found in the Torah. (Leviticus 5:17, 18; Exodus 22:28)

There are some other references to believers as being torah observant. In his defense, Paul describes Ananias, the one who laid hands on him to receive his healing and subsequent, baptism in the Holy Spirit, as “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there.” (Acts 22:12) This means that a believer, other than an apostle, was a torah observant Christian. Furthermore, the book of Acts mentions, “The Fast” in Acts 27:9. No doubt, this is a reference to the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kipur in Hebrew), a day when the devout Jews would fast. (See my article on the blog entitled, “The Day of Atonement.”)

 

Perhaps the strongest evidence for torah observance among the apostles and the first Christians comes from Acts 21. Several references exist both to the church in Jerusalem’s stance on torah and the apostles stance, as well. First, Paul and James meet and James and the elders in Jerusalem glorify and rejoice with all that God is doing among the Gentiles. Secondly, James shares with Paul about the ministry in Jerusalem. James states, “ “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law. (Acts 21:20) This verse demonstrates that the first believers of Christ, were saved by grace but joyfully and willingly chose to live out the holy standard of the law as a lifestyle. This was the essence of the church in Jerusalem. It is also important for us to understand exactly how many people were living according to this lifestyle. If this is just a few radical fundamentalist, then a case can be made that this was not the stance of the first church. A cursory glance at the text dispels all doubt. “It is estimated that the population of Jerusalem in the first century C.E. was approximately 100,000 to 120,000 people. In Acts 21:20, the Greek text literally tells us that “tens of thousands” (Greek word for myriads) of Torah observant Messianic Jews lived in Jerusalem. Using the least case scenario, at least 20,000 people in this population were Torah-observant Messianic Jews.” (7) This tells us that the bulk of, if not all the Christians in Jerusalem, were torah-observant Christians. In point of fact, torah-observant was not the minority opinion, it represented the bulk of all Christians living within the first 30 years of the resurrection of Messiah. This gives us insight into their theology and how they practiced the faith. Exactly as we have maintained the relationship with the torah.

Then, James tells Paul that they have heard rumors that He was “ they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.” (Acts 21:21) This was an accusation that was made of Paul earlier in his career, as we have already noted, and an accusation that was made against Stephen. James, however, is confident in Paul’s’ torah observant lifestyle, that he asks Paul to take some Christians who had taken a Nazirite vow, to the temple to offer the appropriate sacrifices and pay for the purification rites. This Paul willing does. Why? The only motive that is mentioned in the text is to prove his own torah observance to those who were torah observant, all of which, are Christians. While in the temple, Paul is again accused of anomonism (a torah-less-ness lifestyle) and is almost killed by unbelieving Jews. This leads to his arrest and eventual trip into Rome. To sum up Paul’s stance on Torah, perhaps we should let his own words speak for himself. “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.” (Acts 28:17) and in another place he states, “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets.” (Acts 24:14) . If the ministry of Christ was truly to abrogate all of the torah in the lives of the believers, then that ministry failed. It is evident from this review of the book of Acts that the apostles continued to observe Torah while maintaining the stance that they were saved by grace. Yet, the law remained the standard for the Holy People of God. This stance completely agrees with our stance as set forward in the beginning article, The Law and The Believer. Therefore, the bulk of the evidence in the lives of the apostles points toward torah observance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endnotes

**All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton IL, 2001. Unless otherwise stated.

1. Lightfoot, John, Commentary on the New Testament form the Talmud and Hebriaca, Hendrickson, Publishers, 2003, volume 4, page 37.

2. Stern, David, The Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarksville, Maryland, 1992, page 277.

3. For further discussions on the Jerusalem council and torah observance in general, the reader is encouraged to visit Avram Yehoshua web site, www.seedofabraham.net and also to see his book entitled, Set my People Free. Much of what is written here as been gleaned from his work.

4. Bromiley, Geoffrey, The International Standrd Bible Encyclopedia, Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, MI, 1979, Page, 502.

5. Stern, page 291.

6. Bacchiocchi, Samuele, From Sabbath to Sunday, The Pontifical Gregorian University Press, Rome, Italy, 1977, page 105.

7. Freidman, David, They Loved the Torah, Lederer Books, Baltimore, MA, 2001, page 74.

Revival is a Mess

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” (Pro 14:4 ESV)

     Revival is messy business. So many issues are bound to arise out of a movement of God. There is no coincidence that John Wesley prayed, “Lord, send revival without all the defects, but if this is not possible, send revival anyway. We must have revival.” (1) Wesley, knew all to well, that revival brings out issues. I think there is an obvious spiritual reason for it.

     The last thing that the devil and the demonic hordes of hell want is for revival to take place. Why? Because a true revival develops multitudes of people that remain faithful to God because of their experiences in revival. Revival raises up ministers for the Kingdom of God that have a lasting impact on the world. We could quote numerous sources from Azusa Street and the Toronto revival where this point is amply illustrated. (2) Nevertheless, revival changes people. It changes the most notorious sinners into saints, and it changes saints into anointed and powerful men and woman of God. Obviously, this is something that hell would like to avoid. Hence, it does all that it can to prevent it from occurring. Some of us may be experiencing this now, in this present time. We must, however, press on. Revival is going to come, so we must press on in prayer. ( Please see my post from last year about praying for revival. Many great revivals have been birthed in prayer, Red River, Azusa Street, and the Welsh revival.)

     Even after revival begins, hell does all that it can to destroy and stop it. Again, the historical references here are too numerous to list. We can begin with Clara Lum stealing William Seymour mailing list after his marriage. Prior to that, Evan Roberts was deceived by the Lewis-Penn couple and locked away for years ending the Welsh revival. The recent Brownsville, Florida revival was ended over division that originated from a so-called prophetess. Lastly, the events of the Lakeland revival with Todd Bentley are all obvious examples that the forces of hell move violently to stop revival. Therefore, we must be prepared.

     We must remain transparent with one another and maintain lines of communication. We must remain connected to each other in covenant relationships. We must have humility to allow God to control everything that is happening. We can not allow doctornal issues to separate unity of the Body. What matters most during revival is that people are experiencing the Presence of God in such profound ways that it changes who they are as individuals. Nothing should ever be done to hinder this work of the Holy Spirit. This is what matters most. We must be flexible to allow God to change our own religious paradigms. Revival happens when God works outside of the box of how we feel He should operate. We must be open to God doing things that make us somewhat uncomfortable without attempting to control or change what is happening. The Holy Spirit must have complete control to change any order of any service regardless of who the speaker or worship leader might be. We must never allow pride to justify harboring an area of sin.

     Humility, above all else, is key to revival. My dear friend, Brian Vandiver, had a wonderful experience where humility became a living entity to him. I believe this is huge. This is what is necessary for the continuing of revival. Humility and a spirit of repentance. Frank Bartelemann Of Azusa street once wrote that, “the depth of revival will be determined exactly by the depth of the sprit of repentance.”(3) We must be willing to be convicted about stuff and be able to confess that to each other without a fear of judgment or condemnation. Neither of which exist in the Kingdom of Christ. When the power of God shows up, it will change the saints. We must allow the presence of God to convict us and bring us to repentance about whatever issues might exist. Randy Clark, one of the leaders of the Toronto revival wrote, “Revival is not just abut power. It is not even primarily about power. More importantly, it is about love and humility. Are we willing to allow the Holy Spirit to do whatever it takes to break us of our pride, our need to control, out of self-seeing motives in ministry? Are we desperate enough for Him to let Him completely have His way in us.”(4) Revival has a transforming effect on people and transformation can get real ugly. Can we please remember that each of are human beings and are fallible. Let us operate out of a spirit of love, mercy, and grace.

      It is important to remember that persecution will follow revival. Again, there are too many historical examples to site. The Los Angeles Times blasted the Azusa Street revival. Fox news blasted the Lakeland Revival. In old days, drunken mockers would come to disrupt services. During revival, hell ramps up its efforts to instill in us the “fear of man” so as, to shut down the revival. We must not allow this to happen. It can be combated by being transparent about our fears and discussing them with one another and with God. Through our relationships with each other and with God, we can overcome them.

     There will also be different manifestations of the Spirit. We must be willing to accept this while praying for discernment to see where demonic spirits may be attempting to operate during a meeting. However, we must allow an environment that permit’s the unique expression of a person individuality and their relationship with God without prejudice. Frank Bartlemann writes, “But we can be cautious without being critical. We can be discerning without being destructive. Oh, let us have an open mind lest we be among those who cling to tradition and miss God.” (5)

     We must also take care of each other and watch for potential burnout. When revival fires are burning, people don’t get much sleep, and they tend to eat poorly. I remember Todd Bentley’s doctor telling him that he had the body of a sixty year old man, when Todd finished revival. We must watch each other and take care of each other. Roberts Liardon has some good advice in this arena, He writes, “Mature revivalist much learn to care for their physical bodies. You can live out of your spirit, operate in the anointing, and get the rest you need. If you don’t disaster is pending…A revivalist must know how to lead and rest in order to remain a vital instrument of God.” (6)

 Endnotes

1. Clark, Randy, There is More! Reclaiming the Power of Impartation, Global Awakening, Mechanicsburg, PA, 2006, page 123.

2.  Here the reader is referred to the above mentioned book by Randy Clark. Suffice it to say here that Heidi and Rolland Baker powerful movement in Mozambique has roots in the Toronto Revival. Secondly, the reader is referred to a book which is a collection of William Seymour’s newsletter that came from the Azusa Street revival: Hyatt, Eddie, (editor) Fire on the Earth, Creation House Publishing, 2006.

3. Bartlemann, Frank; Azusa Street; Whittaker House, New Kinsington, PA, 1982, page 19.

4. Clark, page 186.

5. Bartlemann, page 173.

6. Liardon, Roberts, God’s Generals, Whitaker House Publishing, New Kensington, PA, 1996, page 88-,89.

The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath

“And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.   So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
(Mark 2:27-28 ESV)

Having discussed previously that the Law has a role in the life of every believer(see the law and the believer), let’s discuss exactly what that role is.  In the aforementioned passage, Jesus makes some statements about the Sabbath and who is the ruler or “lord” of the Sabbath.  As we define exactly what Jesus is saying, this will gives us some insight into the keeping of the Sabbath, and subsequently, into the keeping of the law.  The idea presented here is that, it is up to each individual believer to determine, through their relationship with God, exactly how they are going to “keep” each commandment. The Law was given to us and we are the “lords” of that law.  It is to serve us and not us it.  Therefore, every believer, through their consciousness before God, must determine how they are going to “keep” the commandments.  First, let’s discuss this passage and draw conclusions from what Messiah is telling us.

The most common interpretation of this passage is as follows:  “In what sense now is the Son of Man Lord of the Sabbath day?  Not surely to abolish it–that surely were a strange lordship, especially after just saying that it was made or instituted for man–but to own it, to interpret it, to preside over it , and to ennoble it, by merging it into the Lord’s Day, breathing into it an air of liberty and love necessarily unknown before, and thus making it the nearest resemblance to the eternal sabbatism.” (1, please see footnote for additional information)  What we can infer from this traditional Christian commentary is that the passage “Son of Man” is a Hebrew idiom in which Jesus is referring to Himself.  With this interpretation, we completely agree.  Jesus was the “Son of Man”, the God-man, who put on flesh and dwelt with us, and who came as Messiah to give us the complete interpretation of the Law. (as was previously discussed in the post “Jesus and the Law”)   However, if we delve deeper into the Hebrew of this passage, we can come up with an additional interpretation, that will shed some light not only on the Sabbath, but, on who we are as a people of God.

“In Hebrew, ‘son’ can mean not only a male offspring, but also ‘descendant’, citizen, member and even  disciple…Actually its range of meaning is even wider than we indicated”  ‘son of a house’ is one who is such a close friend that he is like a member of the family; ‘son of death’ is one who deserves to die, or who has been condemned to die; ‘son of Gehinnon’ (hell) is someone who is bound for hell;…and there are many other idiomatic usages in Hebrew of the word “son”.” (2)  So, if someone was considered a son of something, then, it meant that they had the characteristics of that particular lifestyle.  Well, son of man, basically means that a person is a human being.  It is the most common designation that God uses when he is talking to the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel.   Repeatedly, God calls Ezekiel, “son of man.”  This gives us a different and unique interpretation of the aforementioned passage.   Jesus is telling us that first, the Sabbath was created for us.  Meaning, that God gave us the Sabbath (Exodus 16:29) for our own benefit and that we as “lord” of the Sabbath determine exactly what activities are prohibited and what is permissible based upon each ones consciousness before God.  We do not serve the Sabbath, the Sabbath, was given to us by God and as lords of the Sabbath we determine how we celebrate it before God.  As Paul writes, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. “  (Colossians 2:16 ESV)  With this interpretation, noted Jewish scholar David Stern agrees.  He writes, “It may be, therefore, that Yeshua’s comment in v. 28, that the Son of Man is Lord of the Shabbat, does not refer only to himself but to everyone, since Hebrew ‘ben-adam’ (literally, son of man) can mean simply ‘man, person’ with no Messianic overtone:  ‘people control Shabbat’ and not the other way round.” (3) Also, with this interpretation, that Talmud agrees as well, “Rabbi Yonatan ben-Yosef said:  ‘For it (Shabbat) is holy unto you.’ (Exodus 31:14)  That is, it is committed into your hands, not you into its hands!”(4)  Additionally, David Friedman gives us both interpretations.  He writes, “I understand Yeshua to be saying that collectively; men rule over the Sabbath,  Yeshua, as a special “Son of Man” (in Second Temple language, son of man denoted an apocalyptic figure, or the Messiah) had authority from God to teach the Jewish people about correct Sabbath priorities.” (5)  Hence, Jesus has the authority to tell us that we are the ‘lords’ of the Sabbath because He is the “Son of Man.”

If we can spring-board off of the Sabbath and apply this principle to the law, we determine the role of the law in the life of the believer.  We do not serve the Law, the Law serves us.  It is up to each individual believer to determine which commandments they are capable of keeping and how they will keep those commandments in their own individual relationship with God.  It matters not to me how one keeps the commandments.  What matters is that we believe that we ought to keep them as an expression of love toward God.  Paul agrees with this when he writes, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but obeying God’s commandments is everything.” (I Corinthians 7:19, ISV)  We were not created for the Law, but, as God’s chosen and special people, the law was given to us.  Therefore, it is our obligation as holy people, to determine how we are going to “keep the commandments of God.”

Endnote

1.  Jamieson, Robert; Faussett, A.R.; Brown, David, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Hendrickson Publishing, Peabody Mass, 2002 second printing,  page 70.  Of course, we completely disagree that Jesus was here changing the Sabbath to Sunday worship, which seems to be the inference from this passage, as is also noted in the Matthew Henry commentary.  We will discuss the changing of the day of worship by the church in another post.

2.  .  Bivin, David, Blizzard, Roy, Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus, Destiny Image Publishers, Shippensburg, PA, 1994, page 55 & 127.

3.  Stern, David, The Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, Clarksville, Maryland, 1992, page 89.

4.  The Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 85b, as quoted in Stern, page 89.

5.  Friedman, David, They Loved the Torah, Lederer Books, Messianic Jewish Publishers, Baltimore, MY, 2001, page, 16.