Friday, February 7, 2020

Faith's Works

Therefore by the deeds of YHVH’s instructions no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the Word of Elohim, in the Torah, we come to the knowledge of sin that is, in our flesh.  But now the righteousness of Elohim apart from the Torah is revealed, being actually witnessed by the Torah and the Prophets… “(Romans 3:20-21 my modifications and emphasis).

How is YHVH’s righteousness revealed in the Torah and the Prophets?

The answer is, “I will write My Torah on your heart”.  If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, you ‘shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ [and] you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:9 emphasis added). Paul raises a very important question: “What shall we say then? Are the Commandments of Elohim sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the Commandments in the Torah. Therefore the Torah is holy, and the commandments holy and just and good…” (Rom. 7: 2).  

 “Then He [Yeshua] said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Torah of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.’  And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures (Torah and Prophets)…”  (Luke 24:44-45).  Why is it so important for us today that Yeshua has (also) been opening our understanding of the Torah and the Prophets?  There are religious voices in our midst which claim that the Word of Elohim, “Yeshua”, in the ‘Old Testament’ have very little relevance compared to ‘New Testament’ writings.  If the word of Elohim is the same yesterday today and forever, how can such a distinction be made?  Their favorite ‘proof text’ is:  “For Messiah is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).  The Greek word used there for “end” is 5056 telos {tel'-os} – meaning, end, completion or purpose.

The anointing of the Spirit of Yeshua in the life of a believer is in itself the righteousness of the Law to its fullness, thus ‘end’ does not mean that the Law has been done away with, rather, that nothing more may be added to its fullness, completeness or purpose in Messiah.  The righteousness of Elohim is seen as the fruit of the Spirit. Now that we have received Yeshua as Lord and our life is embedded in the Spirit of the Son, we have His righteousness expressed in the works of faith.

The apostles often quote and instruct from the Torah and the Prophets, giving credence to these writings in their preaching and teaching of the gospel of the Kingdom and Yeshua the Messiah (see Acts 28:23).  “For what the instructions of Elohim could not do while humanity lives in the flesh and under the power of Sin, the Father did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of Torah might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit…” (Rom. 8:3-4 emphasis added).

 “But now the righteousness of Elohim apart from the Torah is revealed, being actually witnessed by the Torah and the Prophets…”  (Rom. 3:20-21), as we noted above. “Do we then make void the Torah of Elohim through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish it…‘‘ (Rom. 3:21) “For we delight in the Torah of Elohim according to the inward man… “(Rom. 7:22). “We thank our Heavenly Father, through Yeshua our Messiah and our Lord, we can serve the Torah of Elohim with our mind…” (Rom. 7:25). For when we are in Messiah, and He in us, He is the completeness and fullness of the Torah “for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4. My modifications in all of the above quotes). 

Therefore the evidence of faith is not justification only, but righteousness that is seen through the works of righteousness.  The works of the flesh are enumerated in Galatians 5:19-21. Immediately following this list comes the list of the works or fruit of the Spirit:  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.  And those who are Messiah have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-25).  

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have the works of righteousness? Can faith save him?... “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14 ,26 emphasis and modifications added). 

In what way is faith dead?

Yeshua summed up the commandments that have been written on our hearts into: “Love YHVH with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself”.   This is the proof of righteousness that comes by faith in Messiah.  James challenges the believer who says he has “faith without works”.  In other words, he is asking for evidence in the behavior of the one who claims to have faith. If faith is truly present, then so would be the fruit of the Spirit or ‘works’ of the Spirit. “He who loves another has fulfilled the royal law” (James 2:8). “Owe no one anything except to love one another” (Romans 13:8). If there is no evidence of the righteousness that comes through faith, then as James states, “faith is dead” and if faith is dead, then one is fooling one’s self into believing that they have been justified through faith only.  A living faith sees and becomes an expression of that which is unseen.  Our life in Messiah is unseen until it is manifested through the obedience of faith to His Word. What is it about our life in Messiah that is seen? Would it not be “the works that YHVH prepared beforehand that we should walk in them”? (Eph. 2:10b). Yes, we are “His workmanship that have been created/prepared in the Messiah Yeshua for good works” (Eph. 2:10a).  

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A HEAVENLY LADDER


John 1:43-51:   The following day Yeshua wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, "Follow Me."… Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote -- Yeshua of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."  And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."  Yeshua saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!"  Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?" Yeshua answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."  Nathanael answered and said to Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of Elohim! You are the King of Israel!"  Yeshua answered and said to him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these."  And He said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of Elohim ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."

At first glance, it must be admitted that this episode is quite unusual and enigmatic.  Yeshua, who had just ‘conscripted’ Philip, is now interacting with Nathanael. This is a moment when the Son of Elohim speaks into a man’s heart: “I saw you,” He says to him, thereby meeting a deep longing to be SEEN truly for who we are! Yeshua, in so doing, expresses His insight into Nathanael’s inner being. And much to the latter’s (probable) surprise, the Messiah says of him, “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit”. Having been seen, in soul and physically, Nathanael responds by exclaiming: “Rabbi, You are the Son of Elohim! You are the King of Israel!” Thus “an Israelite indeed” recognizes that the King of Israel has just been revealed to Him. Certainly a touching scene! But Yeshua does not stop there, and continues to reveal Himself and His mission, culminating with: Hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of Elohim ascending and descending upon the Son of Man". The picture or illustration which Yeshua presents here leave no room for doubt as to who He is, tying Himself, as He does, to the very heavens and to Elohim’s messengers. But who or what else does Yeshua infer by this illustration?

The obvious answer is found in Genesis 28:10-15: Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran.  So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep.  Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of Elohim were ascending and descending on it.  And behold, YHVH stood above it and said: "I am YHVH the Elohim of Abraham your father and the Elohim of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your seed. Also your seed shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.  Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you".

The theme of Jacob’s “ladder dream” is YHVH’s repeated promises to three generations of men that, their descendants, of whom there will be many, will inherit the land, will spread in all directions and will bless the other peoples/nations of the world. Comparing Himself to the ladder, connecting heaven and earth, Yeshua is making a definitive statement of His identity and role. But it doesn’t end there. The picture of YHVH’s messengers which is being invoked by Yeshua, is the picture that Jacob saw, so as to become cognizant of the fact that YHVH’s promises are guaranteed and witnessed to by the heavenly host. So why is the One who has just been declared King of Israel by another Israelite, associates this promise with His ‘description’ of Himself? Is it because Yeshua is pointing to the fact that when He is truly perceived or seen as the one whom the Father has sent in order to tie or link heaven and earth, then the auspicious promises to Jacob (and his fathers) will finally materialize in their fullness? Is Yeshua saying that what has been a dream will morph, through His kingship over Israel, into a full blown reality?

With all this said, if Yeshua’s above-quoted statement is examined in light of two more encounters, which follow this one, it will become apparent that Yeshua was not only ‘upgrading’ Jacob’s dream, but that He will also add another dimension to its fulfillment. In the next two examples Yeshua will use, once more, illustrations from Israel’s past in order to point to Himself as a Giver of Life, and to the Spirit of Truth as the agent of action and fulfillment.

Thus, after the wedding at Cana, we see Yeshua meeting Nakdimon (Nicodemus), in which encounter He compares Himself to the brazen serpent that Moses lifted up in the desert thus thwarting the attack of the fiery snakes on the Children of Israel (in the wake of the latter’s complaints about their food supply. See Numbers 21:4-9). The “lifting up of the Son of Man”, likened to the lifting up of the bronze serpent, is an obvious reference to Yeshua’s coming death on the cross and to the resultant outcome to those who will believe in Him, who will not perish but will have eternal life (see John 3:15).

In the next instance Yeshua encounters a Samaritan woman at a well, where He points to Himself as to the source of “living water, springing up into eternal life” (John 4:14). Just as in the occasion with Nathanael, here too Yeshua appears to know the woman through and through (v. 18), and according to her own admittance “told her all that she ever did” (v. 29). But aside from this personal aspect of the encounter, when Yeshua makes reference to worshiping in the ‘holy sites’, notably bringing up Jerusalem, He declares categorically: “…the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father…  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth…” (John 4:21, 23).  

Historically not too long after these words were uttered Jerusalem was destroyed, and for many years worship therein was not possible. In saying these words Yeshua was not abolishing Jerusalem’s (future) role, but was emphasizing that worship rendered to the Father, whether in Jerusalem or elsewhere, was to be first and foremost IN Spirit and Truth. 

So how does this relate to our original text of the “ladder”, the heavenly one, or to the one in Jacob’s dream? Let us repeat once again the questions as to why the One who has been declared King of Israel by another Israelite, is associating the promise to Jacob at Bethel with His own ‘description’ of Himself. Is it because Yeshua is pointing out that when He is truly perceived or seen as the One whom the Father has sent in order to tie or link heaven and earth, the auspicious promises to Jacob (and his fathers) will finally materialize in their fullness? Is Yeshua saying that what has been a dream will morph, through His kingship over Israel, into a full blown reality? If the answer to these questions is a resounding YES, in light of what we have just cited, what else must be added?

We saw Yeshua ‘spiritualizing’ the brazen snake’s healing power as well as having ‘spiritualized’ worship beyond a physical locality, teaching us that the fulfillment of promises to the Patriarchs’ progeny also has to be ‘spiritualized’. Yeshua is not negating the literal fulfillments. Rather, He is elevating them to a higher place or status. The fulfillments and their recipients are to be, first and foremost, imbued by Spirit AND Truth. Upon being seen by their/our Redeemer (just as He saw the sufferings of the Hebrews, Exodus 2:25), an awakening has to take place such as Nathanael’s, who was transformed from total skepticism, to a softening of the heart which led him to recognize the Persona of Truth, a recognition which brought about submission. Likewise, without a radical heart transformation on the part of the would-be recipients, the fulfillment of the promises will be, at best, made up only of the grains of the dust mentioned by Elohim in the words that He spoke our forefathers…