Romans 14: “Does It Do Away with the Food Laws & Feasts?” (Part 1/2)

DOES ROMANS 14 DO AWAY WITH THE FOOD LAWS AND FEASTS?  When questions about the food laws or even the biblical feast days, including observing the Sabbath, one of the references that Christians use to try and disprove the need for them to observe God’s law about them is Romans 14.  But is this the appropriate CONTEXT in which we are to understand this passage, or is this another example of Christians removing verses out of CONTEXT?

WHAT IS THE APPROPRIATE CONTEXT?

It should be remembered that Paul is writing this letter to a Roman congregation, not to a Jewish one, and that the ancient Romans also had their own customs and traditions, including those that dealt with food and special days.  So just because beliefs about food and special days are mentioned DOES NOT MEAN Paul is talking about the biblical food laws or feasts.

In fact, there’s textual evidence to support the fact that the biblical food laws and feasts were NOT the topic under discussion.  Let’s examine the following passage to get a better idea of the context of this chapter.  It should be remembered that when Paul wrote this letter, there were no chapter or verse breaks.  Those were put in over 1300 years later.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.  Receive him that is weak in the faith, but NOT to doubtful disputations.  (Romans 13:14 – 14:1; Emphasis mine)

As we can see here, Paul is discussing “the flesh,” its “lusts,” and “doubtful disputations,” or as its written in more modern translations, “not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions” (NASB).  Now God’s commandments are not “the flesh,” or its “lusts,” nor is the Word of God a person’s “opinion.”  Clearly, the context here is dealing with human opinions about human (i.e., Roman) beliefs.

WHAT IS THE CONTROVERSY?

In verse 2, Paul lays out the controversy between these two Roman groups in regard to food.

One man has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables ONLY.  (Romans 14:2; Emphasis Mine)

The word “ONLY” is not in the original Greek text; it was added by the translators.  But today, we would identify these two groups as “meat-eaters” and “vegans” or “vegetarians.”  In God’s food laws, there is no commandment that people are to eat only vegetables, but He does give us many different types of animals that we can eat.  Yes, there are certain ones that He forbids us to eat, but many He permits.  Consequently, this is not an argument regarding the biblical food laws, but Roman practice in regard to food.

In Saugat Adhikan’s online article “Top 10 ancient Roman foods and drink,” published July 21, 2015, on the Ancient History List website, he writes in regard to “vegetables,”

Unlike the rich Romans, the common peasant diets were more dependent on vegetables than any other food items. The staple vegetables were the legumes which consisted of three primary legume items – beans, lentils and peas. They were often mixed into bread and since they were much easily available sources of protein, these legumes became a routine item in Roman meals.

Later on in the article, he discusses “meats and fish”:

Meat used to be an expensive consumption item in ancient Rome (at least for the poor Roman peasants), so the common people preferred buying it in small pieces and used to get a major share during the festivals. Meat used to be more exclusive to the rich since they could afford pretty much anything. So naturally, a variety of meat items used to be served in the grand dinner parties the rich Roman families used to throw on occasions. Primary meat sources were poultry, wild game such as rabbit, hare and boar.

It further extended to a variety of birds like geese, ducks, blackbirds, doves, magpies, quails and woodcocks. The meat of flamingo, peacock and ostrich were considered quite exotic   – THEIR PRESENCE AT THE DINNER WAS TAKEN AS A MATTER OF HONOR FOR THE HOUSE OWNER.  They also had a taste for fish, especially the ones found in the Mediterranean, which they ate fresh, dried, salted, smoked or pickled.  [Emphasis Mine]

Consequently, what we learn from this article is that social status was attached to food.  The poor were those who ate breads and vegetables, and the wealthy were those who could eat “all things.”  So the controversy was not just about food, but about social status and prestige that was reflected with the food.  I can imagine the rich, wealthy Roman believers looking down, or passing “judgment,” on the poor believers for only being able to serve vegetables; whereas, the rich, wealthy ones could provide a luxurious meal at their homes.

PAUL’S ADMONITION

Then beginning in the next verse, Paul begins to address this issue:

Let not him who EATS regard with contempt him who does not EAT, and let not him who does not EAT judge him who EATS, for God has accepted him.  (Romans 14:3; Emphasis Mine)

Now in this verse, the word “EATS” and “EAT” are present participle verbs.  This means it refers to “repeating” or “continuing action.”  This alludes to the fact that the rich, wealthy Roman believers ate whatever they wanted before they got saved, and the poor ate vegetables before they got saved, and each group was continuing to eat the same way AFTER they got saved.  But now that they’re saved and in the SAME CONGREGATION, these attitudes regarding social standing and food was causing problems, and Paul is feeling the need to address this conflict.

Who are you to judge the servant of another?  To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, for the Lord is able to make him stand.  (Romans 14:4)

Paul here clearly states that when it comes to HUMAN OPINIONS on things outside of the Bible’s teachings, we are not to judge one another.  But according to Paul, when it comes to clear violations of biblical teaching, then we ARE to judge one another.  And there’s a specific reference to this.

PAUL CONDEMNS THE CHURCH AT CORINTH FOR ALLOWING SEXUAL IMMORALITY.

In I Corinthians 5, Paul condemns the Christians at Corinth for allowing a Christian man to remain a part of their congregation for his blatant sin (or violation of God’s law):

It is actually reported that there is fornication [or sexual immorality] among you, and fornication [or sexual immorality] of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his fathers wife.  And you have become arrogant, and have not mourned instead, in order that the one who had done this deed might be removed from your midst.  (I Corinthians 5:1-2)

Now whether this guy was sleeping with his mother or his step-mom is not clear, but this is a clear violation of Leviticus 18:6-8.  I wish I could say this was still a sin so heinous that even Gentiles don’t do it, but that is not true in this day and age.   But does Paul say to just love and forgive him?  No, he says to cast him out of the church:

For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.  In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.  (I Corinthians 5:3-5)

For any Christian to boast about God’s grace while allowing sin to thrive within the church, Paul says is wrong.  In fact, Paul went on to say,

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral people.  I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolators: for then you would have to go out of the world.  But actually, I wrote to you NOT TO ASSOCIATE with ANY SO-CALLED BROTHER if he should be an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolator, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler – NOT EVEN TO EAT WITH SUCH A ONE.  For what have I to do with judging outsiders?  Do you not judge those who are within the church?  But those who are outside [of the church] God judges.  REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.  (I Corinthians 5:9-13; Emphasis Mine)

Obviously, for any Christian to follow Paul’s teachings here in I Corinthians 5 REQUIRES that we judge other believers, but NOT BASED ON OUR OWN OPINION, but BASED ON WHAT THE WHOLE BIBLE CLEARLY TEACHES.  Therefore, this only reaffirms again that Romans 14 does NOT deal with biblical teaching, but with ROMAN BELIEFS AND PRACTICES.

IN REGARD TO ROMAN FESTIVALS

In Romans 14:5-6, Paul then begins to address the conflict regarding the Roman festivals.

One day regards one day above another, another regards every day ALIKE.  Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind.  He who OBSERVES the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.  (Emphasis Mine)

Again, the word “ALIKE” is not in the original Greek, but it was added by a translator.  Also, the word “OBSERVES” is a present participle verb, which again refers to “repeating” or “continuing action.”  So just like the food, these “days” or “festivals” were celebrated BEFORE one group was saved, and they continued to celebrate them AFTER they were saved.  The same is true with the other group as well.  And Paul here intimately connects the food and festivals together.   They are one in the minds of the Romans, and they are one in Paul’s mind too.

CONNECTING I CORINTHIANS 8 AND ROMANS 14

In I Corinthians 8, Paul deals with the Christians at Corinth in regard to these same Roman festivals,

Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.  For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.  (I Corinthians 8:4-6)

Paul here denies the existence of any God, but the One God of the Bible.  And then he says that even if there were other gods (which he just denied the existence of), he says for us, there’s only one.  He then says,

However, not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience BEING WEAK is defiled.  But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we eat it, nor the better if we do eat.  But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to THE WEAK.  (I Corinthians 8:7-9)

Here seems to be a clear reference to the “weak in faith” that Paul refers to in Romans 14:1-2 when it comes to the food and festivals (or “days”).  Paul then gives this warning:

But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to THE WEAK.  For if someone sees you, who have knowledge [that these gods are false], dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is WEAK, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?  For through your knowledge, he who is WEAK is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.  And thus, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is WEAK, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.  (I Corinthians 8:9-13; emphasis Mine)

Consequently, by pairing I Corinthians 8 with Romans 14, we gain a lot more insight into another part of the issue with the Christians who are “weak in faith.”

As Adhikan’s article pointed out, fish and meats were often a part of the Roman festivals, and these meats would be sacrificed to the Roman gods before being served to the congregants in attendance.  So it seems that the ones Paul calls “weak in faith” may have been newborn believers who were very involved in the idol worship and the festivals, and so seeing any Christian partaking of them would be a “great offense” and “a stumbling block” to these believers.  And what was true at Corinth was apparently also true in Rome.

PAUL CONTINUES HIS ARGUMENT

Notice how Paul continues his argument in Romans 14:

For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.  For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.  (Romans 14:7-9)

When it comes to things NOT clearly taught in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, we are NOT to judge one another’s PERSONAL OPINIONS, nor are to cause AN OFFENSE or A STUMBLING BLOCK to others that Jesus died to save.  Instead, we are to lift each other up and to edify (or strengthen) the faith of all believers, regardless of their social status within society.

CONCLUSION

Does Romans 14 invalidate the biblical food laws or the biblical feasts, including the Sabbath?  And the answer is no, it doesn’t.  Romans 14 deals with man-made Roman beliefs and practices, it does not in any way deal with the biblical teachings regarding the food laws or the biblical feasts.  To apply Paul’s comments and teachings on something man-made or Roman to the Word of God is a heinous misinterpretation and misapplication of the Scriptures.

We CANNOT use Scripture to INVALIDATE and ANNUL Scripture, for just as Jesus taught,

And if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.  (Mark 3:24-25)

And if we divide the Bible “against itself,” then the Bible cannot stand.  We do not strengthen the faith of people in the Bible, and the God of the Bible, by dividing the Bible up and using one part to invalidate the other.  We must approach the WHOLE BIBLE as ONE CONTINUOUS REVELATION, and NOT as TWO SEPARATE REVELATIONS.  The Law of God, nor the Old Testament as a whole, ended at the cross.  This is simply not the case, as if I have shown over and over again.

This error that the Old and New Testaments are “TWO SEPARATE REVELATIONS” is error based upon error, and we can already see the damage that this erroneous approach has caused (and is continuing to cause) the Christian faith, and it will only continue to get worse, unless Christians go back to a WHOLE BIBLE APPROACH.  Please pray and seek God about this, because it is vitally important.

Now in Part 2 of this study, I want to continue breaking Romans 14 down and examine how it all weaves together.

 

Return to top

Advertisements

GOD LOVES US, BUT DO WE REALLY LOVE GOD?

“HOW MUCH DO I REALLY LOVE GOD?”  This is a question that’s been on my mind over the last two years.  In any relationship, love must be something that is both received and given.  It won’t work if it’s only going one way.  And over and over again growing up, I’ve heard from ministers and have read in the Bible that God loves me, He loves each of us, but the question I found myself repeatedly asking is, “Do I really love God?  And how do I know?”

TAKING A HARD LOOK AT MY LOVE FOR GOD

I grew up going to church, and singing hymns, choruses and songs to God during worship, and I’ve written songs expressing my love for Him.  But during the week, Monday through Saturday, do I love God with the same intensity, the same emotions that I do when I am standing in church?  It’s easy to say I love God when things are going well, or when I get a raise or a bonus, or when everyone in my family is healthy, but what about when things are not going well, when I am sick or someone I love is sick, or when a tragedy happens?  Do I love God still, or do I turn on Him, and begin to blame Him for everything wrong in my life?

FACING THE REALITY

I wish I could say that I’ve always loved God, even in the darkest of moments, but the truth is that there’s been many times when I’ve gotten plenty angry when I’ve prayed for things and they didn’t happen, or when a tragedy happened, I’ve turned around and blamed God for my circumstance.  Over the last few years, I’ve had to really look hard at myself, and I’ve discovered things about myself and my relationship with God that I’m not proud of.  My relationship with God has been more superficial, on the surface, but over the last year-and-a-half, I’ve been really trying to work on putting more real “substance” into my relationship with Him.  Not just love Him in church with words, but with my words and actions all seven days of the week.

I remember many years ago, there was a song written  and performed by Gary S. Paxton called, “I Wonder If God Cries.”  As a teen, it was a song that made me begin to think differently about God.  I had forgotten about the song after I got married and started having a family of my own, but recently, God has brought it back to my remembrance.  The lyrics of the song are the following:

I wonder if God cries / when we do the things we do /
do love drops fill His eyes / cause He loves us, oh, so true? /
Sometimes I feel such hurt / when I try to realize /
that even though He’s God / I wonder if God cries. /

I wonder if God cries / is His heart filled with pain /
Does He bow and weep / when we damn His holy name? /
I wish I could see Him / and for the world apologize /
when we stumble so / I wonder if God cries. /

Maybe time will tell / when we reach that distant shore /
with all His children home / maybe God will cry no more. /
Even though He’s God / I wonder if God cries.

How many times do we stop to consider how what we say or do makes God feel?  I know I don’t stop to think about this nearly enough.

DO WE REALLY “LOVE” GOD?

Do we really “LOVE God,” or do we love what He does for us?  Do we seek His Face, His Presence, or are we after His hand, what He can do for us?  Do we love Him as a person?  Do we love His personality, the way He thinks or feels?  Do we ever stop and wonder what makes Him smile, laugh, or cry?  Do we only want enough of God to keep us out of Hell, or do we want all of God that we can get?

I have wondered, maybe, we like having God around in our lives so that when we are sick or in need, He will heal us and provide for us, but how often after we have received that, do we then go our own way and focus on living our own lives, our own goals, our own wants?  How often do we not give God any other thought until we need Him again?  But I have to ask myself, Is treating someone like this “LOVE”??

When we love someone, aren’t we supposed to care about him as a person?  Care about what he likes or doesn’t like?  Care about what makes him smile or laugh, or even what makes him cry?  And yet, it’s so easy to get so focused on “my wants,” “my needs,” my health,” “my financial breakthroughs,” that we don’t ever stop to actually think about God, His needs or His wants.  And yes, God does have “needs” and “wants.”  Not for Himself, but in wanting to bring more people into His Kingdom, as well as meet the needs of those inside and outside of His Kingdom.

But again, are we only trying to get what we can from God and our relationship with Him, or are we contributing to this relationship as well?  Are we spending time “wooing after God,” in the same way that He “woos after us”?  Are we being faithful to Him, as He is to us?”  Are we giving “grace” to God, as He gives “grace” to us?  Remember, a real relationship is two-sided, not one.  I can’t just receive from God, I must also give to Him, if the relationship is real.  God gave us His all, including the life of His only begotten Son, am I giving Him my all in return?

In looking at this issue further, here are six (6) basic ways we can use to begin to measure our love and passion for God:

DO WE PRAY?

Do we spend time each day in prayer with God?  When we really love or care about someone, we like to spend time with them, speaking with them, sharing our day with them.  But if we don’t have a desire to spend time with someone, or even have a desire to speak with them, then we would have to question our claim that we actually do love or care about them.

Although I do pray, I don’t spend as much time in prayer as I should.  I need to work on developing that part of my relationship with God more.  I admire people, like David and Daniel, who prayed three times a day.  I would like to develop that kind of daily prayer life.  But the fact is, what is really important to us is seen not in what we say is important to us, but in what we do.  And I know that this is an area I need to develop more in my relationship with Him.

DO WE STUDY THE BIBLE?

Do we spend time reading and studying the Bible?  There are many American Christians who say they love God, but they don’t spend any time during the week reading or studying the Bible.  How can we say we love someone, but then not have any curiosity to find out who they are, what they are like, or what they want from us as His partner in the relationship?  This is another place where we fail to live up to our confessions of love.

This is apparent that we are not loving God in this area since several studies and articles have been written about the growing biblical illiteracy in America.   For example, in the online article “The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches” (July 6, 2015), by Ed Stetzer,

A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers [almost 20%] say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.

Regularly spending time in the Word is what strengthens us spiritually, so obviously if almost 60% of American Christians do not spend a regular time in the Word, then they would be spiritually weak and open to attacks from the enemy.   In a more recent survey, published on April 25, 2017, called “Americans are Fond of the Bible, Don’t Actually Read It,” the Lifeway Research study discovered that the majority of American Christians have not read through the Bible even once.  Of that 80%, 23% have either not read it or just a few sentences.  Only 20% of people sitting in a church have actually read through the Bible from cover-to-cover at least once.

Obviously, if we’re not reading the Bible, then how can we know who God is, what He is like and what’s He’s not like, or even what He expects of us as His people?  If we are not reading the Bible, then how can we expect God to transform our lives?  How can we “be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2) if we are not reading the Bible?  How is God supposed to believe that we sincerely love Him, if we are not even willing to open the Bible at home to read about Him?  How can we say that we would rather die than give up our faith when we won’t even crack a Bible during the week?

DO WE OBEY GOD?

Obviously, if we are not even reading the Bible, then how can we obey Him?  How can we say that we are obeying Him if we don’t even know what it is that He wants us to do?  Without a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, there’s no way any of us can really be living our lives in obedience to God.  In fact, over and over again, throughout the Scriptures, God repeatedly says, “IF YOU LOVE ME, KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS.”  But how do we do that if we don’t even know what it is He has commanded?

James says that if our faith does not result in corresponding actions, then our faith is dead (James 2:17, 26).  In fact, he says,

But be ye doers of the word, and NOT HEARERS ONLY, deceiving your own selves.  (James 1:22; Emphasis mine)

If all you do is listen to the words of the Bible, but you don’t make it a part of your life by putting it into action in how you live each day, then you are only “deceiving” yourself into believing you have a relationship with God when you don’t.  Even if you get emotionally moved during the sermon, jumping up and down or running around, but you do not obey God’s word outside of church, in your day-to-day life, then your faith is dead, and you are only deceiving yourself.  The sad reality is that a dead faith will ultimately get you the same eternal destination as no faith at all.  It’s time to wake up and to put life into your faith – BEFORE it’s too late!

DO WE GO TO CHURCH?

Another area where many Christians are failing when it comes to loving God is going to church.  More and more churches in America are being forced to close their doors due to non-attendance.  In fact, among those who are still open, many of them no longer have any services on Sunday nights because there’s not enough people coming to warrant keeping the electricity on during those few hours.

How is God to feel about our alleged love and devotion to Him when we won’t even come to church to worship Him?  Do you really think God believes we love Him when we would rather watch a football game on Sunday night than go to church?  C’mon, really?  We are not fooling God by our claims of love while failing to demonstrate our love for Him in our lives.  The only person we are fooling is ourselves.

DO WE TELL OTHERS ABOUT JESUS?

When we fall in love with someone, we can’t wait to tell all of our family and friends about him or her.  But when it comes to Jesus, do we feel at least the same level of passion towards Him?  Are we sharing Him with our family and friends?  How about our co-workers at our job, or do we keep our relationship with Jesus a secret, hidden away, because we’re afraid that if we tell them about Jesus, then we’ll be mocked, made fun of, or even lose friends?

If you kept your boyfriend or girlfriend a secret from your family and friends, afraid to mention him or her to anyone, don’t you think they would believe that you were ashamed of them, of even being seen with them?  If that’s true of how they would feel, how much more do you think Jesus feels when we are afraid to mention His name, or our relationship with Him, to our family, friends and co-workers?  In fact, Jesus even said,

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him [or her] also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.  (Mark 8:38; a similar statement is made by Jesus in Luke 9:26)

Are you ashamed of Him?  A great article to read with 13 examples of ways to test whether you are ashamed of Him is an article written by an Australian Christian: Steven Kryger’s “Are You Ashamed of Jesus? Consider These 13 Examples.”

DO WE MINISTER TO THE NEEDS OF OTHERS?

Finally, do we minister to the needs of others?  All that Jesus died to do was not just for you to keep for yourself, but it was so that you could share Him with others, as well as to minister to their needs.   How are people to know that there’s more to the gospel than a bunch of words, if we are not willing to put ourselves out there and demonstrate the power of His name and the gospel message by ministering to others?  When you see someone in need, do you like the priest and levite, just walk or drive past him, or do you follow the example of the “good Samaritan,” and stop and help?  Yes, it can be scary at first to put yourself out there, but our love for Jesus demands that we do so.

A WAKE-UP CALL – NOT A CONDEMNATION!

Please do not take this article as if I am trying to condemn you, I am not.  I am trying to give you the same wake-up call that God gave to me.  The result of His call is that it changed my life, and I am hoping that the effect of this article on others will be the same.

There will be those who will try to argue that I am teaching “works righteousness,” but I am not.  I am teaching that we need to do more than simply say, “I love Jesus,” we need to demonstrate that love by what we say and do not only in the church, but also outside of the church Monday through Saturday.  In fact, I believe that what we say and do outside of the church is, in fact, even more important than what we say or do inside the church, because the true test of our love for Christ will happen when we leave the church doors, not when we enter them.

But yes, we should enter them.  God says in His word that –

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: NOT FORSAKING THE ASSEMBLING OF OURSELVES TOGETHER, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another; and SO MUCH THE MORE, AS YOU SEE THE DAY APPROACHING.  (Hebrews 10:23-25; Emphasis mine)

First of all, we are told that we are “NOT” to forsake “the assembling of ourselves together.”  This means that if we regularly stay home and do not go to church, even though we are able to do so, then we are in violation of Scripture.  Also, notice that we are supposed to be meeting MORE OFTEN the closer it gets to the day of the Lord’s return.  But instead of gathering more often, American Christians are gathering less often, in contradiction to the teachings of the Scriptures.

If you have not found one already, please find a church that teaches the whole Word of God, not just the New Testament, but all of it.  You want a minister who believes that it is his or her duty to teach “the whole counsel of God,” from cover to cover.  And you also want a minister who believes in interpreting the Bible literally, unless it’s obvious that what is being said is not to be taken literally.  For example, when the Bible refers to us as “His sheep” or when Jesus says, “He is the door,” these are obviously passages that are not to be taken literally.  But any other references should be taken literally.

We need to love God, and not just with our words, but in our actions as well.  LOVE Him with all that you are, all that you have, and with all the resources you have available to you.  Love Him 24-7, not just for a few hours a week on Sunday mornings.   And when you begin to love Him with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength, beginning with these six (s) simple ways, you will begin to see God transform your life, just as He has transformed mine.

 

Return to the top

HOLINESS – THE REAL FOCUS OF GOD’S COMMANDMENTS (Part 1/2)

JESUS DID NOT COME TO DO AWAY WITH THE LAW (Matthew 5:17), BUT HE CAME TO SHOW US HOW TO LIVE IT OUT IN OUR DAY-TO-DAY LIFE.  By living out the commandments in our life, we are following Christ’s example of how to live; we are, in fact, being “Christ-like.”  Unfortunately, many people do not understand that the purpose of the law is NOT JUSTIFICATION, but DISCIPLESHIP AND SANCTIFICATION.  In fact, did you know that there’s NOT a single verse in all of Paul’s epistles where he argues against using the law for SANCTIFICATION?  Instead, the opposite is true.  There are plenty of examples where Paul alludes to the Law in discussing the SANCTIFICATION and daily lifestyle of the believer.  In fact, the very first mention of the word “disciple” is in connection with the law (see Isaiah 8:16).

SALVATION – NOT A ONE-TIME EVENT?

Most people have been erroneously taught that salvation is a one-time event.  They go forward to the altar, they say the “sinner’s prayer,” they ask God to forgive them and then ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior, and then from that moment on, they are told that “they are saved.”  The problem, of course, is that people then put all of their trust in a one-time decision, rather than in their continuing relationship with Jesus Christ.

When people ask, “Are you saved?”  They think back to this one-time decision, rather than examining where are they right now in their relationship with Jesus.  Have they continued with Him?  Has their relationship with Him grown?  Has it intensified?  Has it ceased?  Has it grown stale?  Or do they have the fruit of holiness in their life as proof that their continuing experience of salvation was, in fact,  legitimate and real?

WHAT IS “SALVATION”?

SALVATION is NOT a one-time event, but a life-long journey, an exodus where we leave behind our old life of sin and we move forward with Christ to the “promised land” of His Kingdom.  And in this journey, there are three stages that we usually go through and experience: JUSTIFICATION, SANCTIFICATION, and GLORIFICATION.  And at each of these stages, we are “separated” from some aspect of sin:

JUSTIFICATION.  “WE HAVE BEEN SAVED.”  This is when we are “SEPARATED FROM THE PENALTY OF SIN.”  This initial stage is called being “Born Again,” being “Born Anew” or “Born from above.”  And Repentance, Regeneration, and Adoption are all things that happen in this initial stage.

SANCTIFICATION.  “WE ARE BEING SAVED.”  During this stage, we are being “SEPARATED FROM THE POWER OF SIN.”  This stage is the longest one in the life of the believer and involves most of our Christian walk.  (We will discuss this further on in this article.)

GLORIFICATION.  “WE SHALL BE SAVED.”  This stage occurs in the future when we shall be “SEPARATED FROM THE VERY PRESENCE OF SIN.”  This stage will happen very quickly, “in the twinkling of an eye,” at the time of the resurrection from the dead when we receive our immortal bodies (I Corinthians 15:51-55; i Thessalonians 4:15-17).

MOSAIC LAW – NOT ABOUT JUSTIFICATION?

So in arguing that we are not saved (or JUSTIFIED) by the “works of the law,” Paul is saying that the law has no role in this initial stage.  In doing so, Paul is not arguing against Judaism or the Torah (the Hebrew word trans. as “law”), but he is, instead, fully supporting it.

There was an error being perpetuated in the first century that began some time between the Old and New Testaments that one could use the law for one’s JUSTIFICATION, but you will not find this attitude anywhere in the Old Testament Scriptures.  This is the danger I find in learning to read your Bible backwards (New Testament and then the Old Testament): You read about this erroneous view in the writings of Paul, and then you end up falsely imposing it on the Old Testament.  This is wrong, because this view is NOT in the Old Testament at all!

The Law’s purpose is NOT for JUSTIFICATION, but DISCIPLESHIP AND SANCTIFICATION.  In the Old Testament, God is seen as a TEACHER, we are His disciples (or STUDENTS), the TORAH (trans. as “law”) is His “INSTRUCTIONS” or “TEACHINGS” or “TEXTBOOK,” and life is our CLASSROOM.  For example, God gave His TORAH to Moses, and then He instructed Moses,

And the LORD commanded me at that time to TEACH you statutes and judgments, that you might perform them in the land where you are going over to possess it.  (Deuteronomy 4:14)

And then in Isaiah 8:16, God says,

Bind up the testimony, seal the law [Heb. TORAH] among My disciples.

Consequently, we see the same idea that’s expressed in Deuteronomy 4:14 also expressed in Isaiah 8:16.  God desires that His TORAH, His “instructions, teachings, and commandments” are not only taught to His people, but that it be “sealed” “among [His] disciples.”  Isn’t it interesting that Jesus came in the same occupation as His Father, a “TEACHER.”

Obviously, then, the TORAH (lit. “instructions, teachings, guidelines, or directives”) was given in the context of an educational paradigm – not as a method of JUSTIFICATION.  Although the word TORAH is translated in our English Bibles as “law,” this is actually not the meaning of the word in Hebrew.  The problem with the translation as “law,” in English-speaking countries, is that this word has such a negative connotation to it, which the word “instructions” does not have.

JESUS AND THE LAW

But since Jesus was (and continues to be) a Jew, who spoke Hebrew and Greek, He did not view the TORAH as “law,” but as the loving instructions from His Father; consequently, Jesus did not have any of the same hang-ups about the TORAH that many Christians do who view it as “law.”  Instead, what we see in the life of Jesus is that He lived His life in accordance to the TORAH, “God’s Instructions,” not because He had to, but because He loved God and wanted to demonstrate His passion and love for Him.

In fact, in the Psalms, there is a prophecy that the TORAH is not only a written description of the Messiah, but that it is also in His heart:

Then I said, “Behold I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of Me; I delight to do Your will, O My God; Your Law [Heb. TORAH] is within My heart.  (Psalm 40:7-8).

Not only is this prophesied regarding the Messiah, but it is also written in the psalms that the TORAH would be in the heart of the righteous:

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.  The law [Heb. TORAH] of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.  (Psalm 37:30-31).

God says when the TORAH is in our hearts, then we will not slip and fall into sin.  But in reading through and studying the Old Testament, I really do not understand how anyone can read through its writings and come up with the idea that God’s TORAH (or “law”) is in any way oppressive at all, particularly reading the Psalms.  That attitude just isn’t there.  If anything, there’s nothing but praise and thankfulness for the TORAH.  Consequently, Jesus during His life and ministry did not support the Christian attitude towards the Law (the law as “bondage” or “legalism”), but opposed all those who saw or treated the Law as if it were oppressive.

PAUL AND THE LAW

Paul also saw that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12), and even delighted “in the law of God after the inward man” (Romans 7:22), as well as “served the law of God” with his mind (Romans 7:25).  Why would Paul “delight” in the law and “serve the law of God,” if the law allegedly ended at the cross?  The very fact that Paul continued to “delight” in it and to “serve” it only demonstrates that in Paul’s mind, the Law of God did NOT, in fact, end at the cross at all.

Instead, Paul, like Jesus, saw the beauty of the Law, but also understood that there were those who were attempting to use the TORAH (or “law”) for a purpose it was never intended, i.e., as a means of JUSTIFICATION.  So over and over again in his epistles Paul argues against this misuse, but instead, argues that we are JUSTIFIED BY FAITH and NOT by the “works of the law”:

Therefore we conclude that a man is JUSTIFIED BY FAITH without the works of the law.  (Romans 3:38; Emphasis mine; Romans 5:1, 16, 18)

Knowing that a man is not JUSTIFIED by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might JUSTIFIED by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be JUSTIFIED. (Galatians 2:15; Emphasis mine)

But that no man is JUSTIFIED by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The JUST shall live by faith.  (Galatians 3:11, Emphasis mine)

But even the TORAH (“law”) itself does NOT teach that we enter into a covenantal relationship with God (“JUSTIFICATION“) by keeping the commandments.  Why? For the very simple reason that the Mosaic covenant is NOT the relationship covenant of the Old Testament.

The relationship covenant is the Abrahamic Covenant – NOT the Mosaic Covenant.   And even in the life of Abraham, we learn the biblical pattern: God’s calling of repentance (Genesis 12), a time for us to get to know God (Genesis 12:4-15:1), God then enters into covenant with us (Genesis 15) and then God AFTERWARDS requires our obedience (Genesis 17).  Relationship ALWAYS precedes obedience!  Never the other way around.

Consequently, then, Paul’s teaching in his epistles does not in any way contradict the TORAH (“law”) or the Old Testament since the Mosaic covenant came AFTER the Abrahamic covenant; i.e., the relationship covenant.  The Mosaic covenant is NOT about establishing Israel’s relationship with God since God was already in a relationship with them BEFORE the Exodus ever happened.

So what’s the Mosaic covenant for?  It has several purposes, such as discipleship, to teach us about sin and holiness, to be a written description of Jesus Christ (John 5:45-47), and to teach and establish us, as God’s people, whether we are Jews or non-Jews, as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5; I Peter 2:9).  Based on this and many other references, then, the focus of the Mosaic Law (or Covenant) should be seen to be  SANCTIFICATION – that is, on the 2nd stage of our salvation journey –  NOT JUSTIFICATION (the first stage of our salvation journey).

GOD MADE US IN HIS IMAGE AND LIKENESS

You see throughout the Scriptures, we are told that “God is holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26; I Samuel 2:2; Isaiah 57:15; I Peter 1:16).  And according to Genesis 1:26-27 and 5:1, God made man [Heb. Adam] in “the image and likeness of God.”  Therefore, if God made us in His image and likeness, and God is holy, then we were designed to also be holy, just like God is holy, but Adam and Eve (Heb. Chavah) sinned, and as a result, that “image and likeness” was distorted, twisted, and changed into something “evil” and “unholy.”  So now, we have a “SIN NATURE” – NOT a “HOLY NATURE.”

JESUS CAME TO RESTORE OUR ORIGINAL DESIGN

God designed us to be “in His image and likeness,” so God sent Jesus to show us what His “image and likeness” looks like (John 14:7, 9-11; Colossians 2:9).  Since Adam and Eve sinned, we no longer have an example to show us what that original “image and likeness” was like.  God gave a written description of it in the form of His commandments, but people were still getting it wrong.  So Jesus came and lived a holy, obedient life to provide us with a living example of how we are to live as “born again believers”; i.e., as sons and daughters of God who have been reborn in His image and likeness.”

According to John 1:14, Jesus is the “WORD MADE FLESH,” and this WORD would include the TORAH, God’s “instructions, teachings, and commandments.”  So Jesus was able to give us a living example of the TORAH, because He is the TORAH MADE FLESH; He is the living embodiment of what is written and taught in the TORAH (John 5:45-47);  They are, in a very real sense, spiritually connected.  It was the same Holy Spirit who engraved the writings of the “10 Commandments” on the tablets of stone and inspired the writing of the five books of the TORAH by Moses, who also came upon Mary, and she then conceived Jesus in her womb.  The same Holy Spirit brought about the WRITTEN TORAH and the LIVING TORAH.

To do away with the TORAH is to do away with Jesus; they are connected.  And likewise, in contrast to the popular erroneous teaching,  Jesus did not live a holy, obedient life so we wouldn’t have to, but instead, He did it to be our example.  You see, the more like Jesus, the LIVING TORAH we become, the more we conform to the WRITTEN TORAH, and the more we conform to the WRITTEN TORAH, the more we conform to the Jesus, the LIVING TORAH.

And since Jesus is the living embodiment of the “image and likeness of God,” then the more like Jesus we become, the more like “the image and likeness of God” we become, and the more like “the image and likeness of God” we become, then the more we conform to God’s original design and intent for our lives, as seen in Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1.

WHAT IS “SANCTIFICATION”?

So SANCTIFICATION is not only the second stage of our salvation journey, when we are “separated from the power of sin in our lives,” but it is also the process that God uses to restore us back to His original design.  The English word SANCTIFICATION comes from the Greek word, hagiasmos, and it refers to “the process of making or becoming holy or set apart.”   To “be holy” does NOT mean “to be morally pure,” as I’ve often heard people define the term, but it means “to be separate, distinct, other than,” so to say that “God is holy” is to say that God is “separate, distinct, and other than” anything that we can experience or imagine.  To speak of His holiness is to speak of His uniqueness, His transcendence, His separateness from this world.  It is to say that there is nothing that we can use or imagine to compare God to in order to understand Him.  He is beyond our comprehension or understanding.

This is what God is getting at in the book of Isaiah when He asks the question or makes the following statements,

To whom then will you liken (or compare to) Me, or shall I be equal?  says the HOLY ONE.  (Isaiah 40:25; Emphasis mine)

For I am the LORD your God, the HOLY ONE of Israel, your Savior… (Isaiah 43:3; Emphasis mine)

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the HOLY ONE of Israel;… (Isaiah 43:14)

I am the LORD, your HOLY ONE, the creator of Israel, your King. (Isaiah 43:15)

The one name that God uses repeatedly for Himself, especially in the Prophets, is “the HOLY ONE.”  Holiness is not just another attribute of God, it is what makes God “God.”  So when someone asks me, “How can a loving God send people to Hell,” it is apparent to me, they don’t understand that love is NOT the central essence or core of who God is, but His central essence is His holiness.  For example,

  • It is because He is holy, that He loves like no other;
  • It is because He is holy, that He shows mercy like no other;
  • It is because He is holy, that He forgives like no other;
  • It is because He is holy, that He redeems like no other; and
  • It is because He is holy, that He must judge sin.

All of these traits and qualities all flow out from the holiness of God, so to not understand holiness is to not understand God.

SANCTIFICATION IS A PROCESS – NOT AN EVENT

Since God is holy, then He expects us, as His sons and daughters, to likewise be holy.  In fact, God comes right out and says in Leviticus, the book that comprises the heart of God’s law:

For I am the LORD your God: you shall therefore SANCTIFY yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy:….For I am the LORD that brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.  (Leviticus 11:44-45; Emphasis mine)

Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, You shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.  (Leviticus 19:2)

SANCTIFY yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.  And you shall keep My statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which SANCTIFY you.  (Leviticus 20:7-8; Emphasis mine)

God says in Leviticus 20 that He “SANCTIFIES” us, so in return, we are to work together with God by “SANCTIFYING” ourselves.  It is a process in which we work together with God; it is not a process that we are to do by ourselves.  And this is NOT just something that’s taught in the Old Testament:

As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: but as He which has called you is HOLY, so be ye HOLY in all manner of conversation [or behavior]. (I Peter 1:14-15; Emphasis mine)

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a HOLY NATION, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into [His] marvelous light. (I Peter 2:9; Emphasis mine)

Whether in the Old Testament or the New Testament, God’s expectations for His people are the same: that we be holy, even as He [God] is holy.  Throughout the Scriptures, God wants us to imitators of Him (Ephesians 5:1).

And in Romans 6:16-23, Paul describes the process of SANCTIFICATION.  He begins by saying that if we obey sin (the violation or transgression of God’s commandments; I John 3:4), it results in death, but OBEDIENCE to God’s Word (the opposite of sin) leads to RIGHTEOUSNESS (Romans 6:16-18).

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of OBEDIENCE resulting in RIGHTEOUSNESS.  (Romans 6:16; Emphasis mine)

Which one are you obeying?  Sin or Obedience?  And as a result of yielding ourselves to RIGHTEOUSNESS (or obeying God’s commandments according to His standard), then this leads to HOLINESS (Romans 6:19-21).

I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh.  For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness [sin], resulting in further lawlessness [sin], so now present your members as slaves to RIGHTEOUSNESS resulting in SANCTIFICATION [or HOLINESS]. (Romans 6:19; Emphasis mine)

And finally, the FRUIT OF HOLINESS, which is ETERNAL LIFE.

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your FRUIT unto HOLINESS, and the end EVERLASTING LIFE. (Romans 6:22; Emphasis mine)

Obviously, then, if we are not made “free from sin” and “become servants to God,” then we will not have the “fruit unto holiness,” which in the end is “everlasting life.”

FORGIVENESS VS. LIBERATION

There is a difference between “forgiveness” and “liberation.”  A slave can be forgiven and still remain a slave, but if a slave is freed, liberated from his chains, then he is no longer a slave.  There are many Christians who asked Jesus to “forgive” them, and then they keep going back and back to the same sin.  Why?  Because although they were “forgiven,” they were not “liberated” from it.  We need more than forgiveness when it comes to sin, we need to be liberated, and only then, will we truly be “set free,” no longer captive to that sin in our life anymore.  For once we are free, sin is no longer a “have to,” for we are no longer its slave; instead, if we sin, it’s because we chose to sin.  For as free men and women, we are free now to choose to obey God or to disobey God.

BUT DON’T I RECEIVE ETERNAL LIFE WHEN I GET SAVED?

Now, although I discussed this question in much more detail in my article, “Eternal Life: “What is it & When do we receive it?” I’ll briefly say that eternal life is not “a thing” that we can possess, but it is something that we continue to experience as long as we continue our relationship with God and Jesus Christ.  Also, there is a future aspect to eternal life, which we do not receive until the time period of the resurrection from the dead.  So until that time, we do not actually experience eternal life in its fullness.

For example, when Jesus was responding to His disciples about what they would receive for giving everything to follow Him, He said,

And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and IN THE WORLD TO COME ETERNAL LIFE.  (Mark 10:29-30)

Notice, He said that they would inherit eternal life “in the world to come.”  There is a portion that we get now when we receive Christ into our life, but there’s also a future aspect of eternal life that we will receive “in the world to come.”  Here’s some other references:

And this is the PROMISE that He has promised us, even ETERNAL LIFE.  (I John 2:25)

In HOPE of ETERNAL LIFE, which God that cannot lie, promised before the world began. (Titus 1:2)

That being justified by His grace, we should be heirs according to the HOPE of ETERNAL LIFE.  (Titus 3:7)

Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against THE TIME TO COME, that they may lay hold on ETERNAL LIFE by Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Romans 5:21)

Notice the language that’s used to describe ETERNAL LIFE:  promise and hope.  If the disciples received it when they accepted Christ, then why is it still a “promise” and a “hope”?   And what is this future aspect of ETERNAL LIFE?  I believe it is, at least in part, our new immortal bodies.  Until we receive them at our GLORIFICATION, the time of the resurrection, we do not have everything that God has planned for us to have as part of our salvation and ETERNAL LIFE.

Consequently, there is a process involved in our SALVATION and our receiving ETERNAL LIFE.  It is sad that churches do not discuss more fully that this is a process, and not just a one-time event.  If they did, there would be a lot less confusion about the matter.  So this process of SALVATION begins with JUSTIFICATION, and then we move through the process of SANCTIFICATION, which culminates then in our GLORIFICATION, the moment when we actually receive our new immortal bodies.

In review then, Paul describes the process of SANCTIFICATION as –

  • Beginning with our OBEDIENCE to God’s written Word and the leading of the holy Spirit;
  • OBEDIENCE leads to RIGHTEOUSNESS;
  • RIGHTEOUSNESS leads to HOLINESS; and
  • The end of the FRUIT OF HOLINESS is ETERNAL LIFE. (Romans 6:16-22)

And all of this process is made possible by Jesus’ death and resurrection, including the coming of the Holy Spirit, which empowers and guides us through this process.  And is the TORAH, God’s “instructions, teachings, and commandments” an intricate part of this process?  Absolutely.

In the next part of this study, I want to examine the dietary laws, and how God designed them to be part of our SANCTIFICATION process.

 

Return to the top

A Christian Pastor’s Yom Kippur Plea for Forgiveness from the Jewish People

ON THIS YOM KIPPUR, I AM WRITING TO ASK YOU, THE JEWISH PEOPLE, FOR YOUR FORGIVENESS FOR EVERY ANTISEMITIC THOUGHT, WORD, AND ACTION COMMITTED AGAINST YOU BY CHRISTIANS.  I am writing this, because I am hoping that other Christians will read this and join me in my petition.  I am also writing this because I do not have the means to go to every Jew in the world and to personally make this request.  But I am writing this, not only as a Christian, but also as a pastor who dearly loves HaShem (G-d) and His Torah.  Although my obedience is not where it should be, I am still striving towards the goal of walking in obedience to HaShem (G-d).

Last night, my wife and I began our fast and read the passages in the Torah that dealt with Yom Kippur.  But early this morning, HaShem (G-d) woke me up and moved on me to write this letter to you.  I was not asked to write this by any Christian leader or organization, nor am I doing this for any other reason than to seek your forgiveness.  I am fully aware of the many vile atrocities that has been done to you by Christians, all in the name of Jesus Christ, such as the pograms, the inquisition, and the Holocaust, which was the most vile of all the atrocities.  But I am also aware that these are but the tip of the iceburg of the many sins that Christians have committed against you since the first century, C.E.

By giving your forgiveness, you are not saying what was done to you was okay, nor are you letting people go who should be punished.  Instead, you are setting yourselves free from the chains of bitterness, hate, anger, revenge, depression, sadness, or any other chain that was put upon you as a result of this sins.  I am writing this so that you may e set free.

I am, therefore, publicly acknowledging that we Christians have sinned against you.  Our hands are not just “tainted” with your blood, but our hands, minds, bodies, and our very history are soaked in your blood.  I cannot justify any of it, nor am I going to try to do so.  We have sinned by coveting your role and position with God, we have sinned by bearing false witness against you by calling you “Christ-killers” and by accusing you of “blood-libel,” the false and horrendous accusation that any Jew would kidnap and kill a Christian child in order to make Passover food was, indeed, a horrible and grievous lie.  And we have sinned by not loving our neighbor, and committing murder more times than history has been able to record.

But our greatest sin against the Jewish people is that we have done all these things in the name of Jesus.  For example, when Jewish men, women, and children were rounded up in a town and village, and locked inside the synagogue there, and then Christians would set the building on fire, while standing outside, singing, “Onward Christian Soldiers!”  The horror of our crimes against you is multiplied 100 fold, because in doing these hellish acts in His name, we distorted, twisted, perverted, impugned, and profaned His name among you.  We have so misrepresented Him and His teachings by our many sins against you, that we have caused you to view Him and His name as something vile and evil.  Nor has our actions been representative of the teachings of the B’rit Chadasha (“Renewed Covenant”; popularly called the “New Testament”).  If anything, we have committed vile desecration and violence against it as well.

We did not show you the true Yeshua of the B’rit Chadasha or of history.  The Yeshua who was circumcised on the eighth day, and redeemed as the first born in keeping with the writings of Moses.  The Yeshua who grew up as an Orthodox Jew, by Yosef, a Tzaddik (trans. “just”) in relation to the Torah, and even Ya’acov (“Jacob”; trans. “James”) is described not only as a Tazddik, but also was a Nazarite from birth, much like Samuel and Samson.  Yeshua had 4 brothers and at least 2 sisters.

Not only did he grow up in an Orthodox Jewish family, but he and his family regularly attended Shul (synagogue) where he was a regular reader of the Torah.  He and his family kept the Shabbat, the mo’edim (feasts), kept kosher, etc.  Not only did he keep every yodh and decorative stroke of the Torah, but he dearly loved his people, the Jews, and the land of Israel.  He would go out of his way to embrace and bless the Jewish children who loved being around him, as well as he loved and ministered to any Jew who was sick, diseased, downtrodden, helpless, or was considered a social outcast.

Even his early talmidim (disciples) were Orthodox Jews who dearly loved HaShem (G-d) and were all zealous in their observance of the Torah.  Yeshua did not encourage anyone to dismiss or to abrogate the keeping of the Torah; in fact, his talmidim learned their zeal and passion for the Torah from him.   This is the Yeshua you should have rightly been introduced to, but was not.  I am saddened by people who have lifted things out of context, or were horribly misunderstood, and then presented him as opposing the Torah when he was not.  He, in fact, was dearly loved by the Jewish masses in Israel; however, there were a few influential Jewish leaders who felt threatened by his popularity and opposed him.  But should all Jews be blamed for their sin against him, particularly since 98% of Jews, during the 2nd Temple period of the 1st century, C.E., actually lived outside the land of Israel and had NEVER seen him, heard him teach, or watched him heal or do any other miracles?

No, absolutely not!  In fact, for Christianity to blame all Jews since the 1st century up to the present for what a few corrupt leaders did is heinous and simply abominable.  Yeshua compared Israel to a precious garden, or vineyard, that He taught his talmidim (disciples) that they were to tenderly care for the people and the land.  And although it started that way, it did not stay that way.

At first, when Goyim (Gentiles; non-Jews) were allowed to join the movement, they viewed themselves as being a part of a Jewish movement within Second Temple Judaism, but then other Goyim (Gentiles) entered who sought to take the movement away from Judaism and to form their own religion.  Rav Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) saw this coming, and he warned various congregation about it for three years, he writes, with tears.  It broke his heart, but even he couldn’t do anything to stop it.  And indeed, as he predicted, “the wolves” came in and led to Christians breaking away from the original Jewish movement to form their own religion.  A religion that turned on its mother, Israel, as well as the same movement that originally brought them the “good news” of Mashiach and the Ga’ulah (the redemption).

Do I believe that Yeshua is Moshiakh ben Yosef and Moshiakh ben Aaron?  Yes.  Do I believe that HaShem (G-d) used his horrible death to reverse the damage caused by Adam and Chavah (Eve) in the Garden, as well as fulfilled the promise that HaShem (G-d) made to Avraham Avinu (our father) when He walked between the pieces in Avraham‘s vision?  Yes.  Do I believe that HaShem (G-d) raised him bodily from death, and then sat him on the right hand of Power, and will one day restore him to Jerusalem, when he will fulfill all the prophecies regarding Moshiakh ben David?  Yes.

But do I believe any of these beliefs have given any Christian the right to ill-treat, persecute, or do any violence at all to any Jew?  No, absolutely NOT!  I am gratefully aware that there were some Christians who were “righteous Gentiles” who risked, or sacrificed, their lives in order to save the lives of Jewish men, women, and children.  But the unfortunate truth is that they were few in comparison to those who did not do the same.

I am not writing all this to “stir up trouble” between Christians and Jews, but actually for the opposite reason: there needs to be forgiveness and shalom (peace) between us.  We cannot get to this point if we only suppress or try to hide the evil and pain of the past.  We need to get it out on the table, confess and acknowledge the heinous evils (sins) that were done, and then to ask for forgiveness.

But in addition to asking for your forgiveness for the sins Christians in general have committed against you, I must ask for your forgiveness for my own sins as well.  My wife and I were in Jerusalem two years ago for a period of three months.  It was the first time that I have ever been outside of the United States.  But even though we were treated well by most people there, including making some Jewish friends, there were times when I could’ve reached out in love to a Jewish man, woman, or child, and I did not.  There were times when I could’ve spoken a word of encouragement or told a Jew how much HaShem (G-d) loved them, how He has not changed, nor has He changed any of His Torah, but I did not.  There were also times when I could have reached out a kind hand, or sat down and learned from various Jews, including the Chasidim, but did not take the advantage to do so.  If I had, I would’ve hoped that they would’ve learned of my own love for HaShem, and my love, and sometimes struggle, with the Torah.  But I didn’t do any of these things because I allowed fear and intimidation to capture my mind and my heart.  And as a result, I lost these opportunities.  So today, on Yom Kippur, I pray and ask HaShem (G-d) for His forgiveness for my fear and disobedience, and I ask the forgiveness of you, the Jewish people, as well.

Finally, I am writing this petition and prayer because I sincerely believe it is what HaShem (G-d) wants me to do.  I do not know if any Christian has publicly confessed and asked forgiveness to you, the Jewish people, for the vast sins that Christians have committed against you, but I felt as a Christian and as a pastor, that this was something that He wanted me to do.  If no one has, then this is long past due.  I am aware that there are many Christians since the Holocaust who have sought to bless Israel, the Jewish people, and that there is this growing awareness among many Jews that there are Christians who are not Israel’s enemies, but allies and friends.  And this is awesome, but I also want there to be forgiveness and shalom between us as well.

So with a sincere and contrite heart, I offer you my petition for your forgiveness and shalom.  I wish only HaShem’s best for every one of you.  And perhaps, if there’s finally forgiveness and shalom (peace) between us, Christians and Jews, we will finally fulfill the calling that Hashem (G-d) has for each of us, and He will return the Messiah to the earth again, and we will finally experience the wondrous peace and prosperity of the Messianic era.

Shalom v’chesed,

Chris L Verschage
Pastor
Cocopah Assembly of God
Somerton, AZ., USA

 

Return to the top

THERE’S MORE TO REPENTANCE THAN SAYING, “I’M SORRY”

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: REPENT ye, and BELIEVE the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)

As a modern believer in Jesus, I find this verse extremely fascinating.  Why?  Because according to Jesus, the expected response to the KINGDOM message is two-fold: REPENT and BELIEVE.  But what’s fascinating about this is the order of the two things.  REPENT first, and then BELIEVE.  However, growing up in the church, the order was reversed: BELIEVE and then REPENT.   But in my mind, His statement does provoke some interesting questions, one of which is WHAT IS “REPENTANCE”? and WHAT DOES IT TAKE “TO REPENT”?

I’VE HEARD MANY AMERICAN CHRISTIANS SAY THAT THEY BELIEVED THAT “REPENTING” WAS MERELY TELLING GOD, “I’M SORRY.”  However, when we examine what all of the Bible teaches us regarding “REPENTANCE,” we learn that it involves much more than this,  and gaining a proper understanding of REPENTANCE is not a frivolous undertaking.  A biblical understanding of REPENTANCE is crucial, in fact, if we want to gain forgiveness and a right standing with God, but since the 1950’s tent revivals and crusades, only a partial understanding of “REPENTANCE” has been taught.

WHAT IS “REPENTANCE”?

So let’s start by asking the question, “WHAT IS ‘REPENTANCE’?”  Many Christians today define “repentance” based on the Greek definition only, which literally means to “change one’s mind.”  However, in the Hebrew, it’s root meaning is to “turn around” or “return,” or to do a complete 180° degree change in the direction of how one’s been living.

So true biblical repentance involves more than just “changing one’s mind,” it involves a 180° change in the direction of one’s life, from rebellion against God to living in obedience to Him.  In other words, there needs to be an inner transformation that occurs.  But contrary to what some may think, repentance is NOT a one-time event, as is often portrayed in churches, crusades, or on TV ministries, but it’s a LIFE-LONG PROCESS, which involves a changed heart, a change of attitude, and a change in behavior, and ultimately, a changed life.

REPENTANCE INVOLVES CONFESSING OUR SINS

First of all, repentance involves us acknowledging and confessing our sins.  In Leviticus 5, God says,

So it shall be when he becomes guilty in one of these [sins], that he shall CONFESS that sin which he has sinned.  (Leviticus 5:5)

In order to repent, we need to ACKNOWLEDGE that we have sinned, and then CONFESS those sins to God.  Obviously, we are not going to CONFESS something until we first ACKNOWLEDGE what we’ve done was wrong.

BUT WHAT IS “SIN”?

The biblical definition of sin is “disobedience to God.”  For example, four times in Leviticus 4, we have the same repeated definition:

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul [person] shall SIN THROUGH IGNORANCE AGAINST ANY OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD concerning things WHICH OUGHT NOT TO BE DONE, and shall do against them.  (Leviticus 4:2)

And if the whole congregation of Israel SIN THROUGH IGNORANCE, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against ANY OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD concerning things WHICH SHALL NOT BE DONE, and are guilty; When the sin. which they have sinned against it, is known,… (Leviticus 4:13-14a)

When a ruler has sinned, and done somewhat THROUGH IGNORANCE AGAINST ANY OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD his God concerning things WHICH SHALL NOT BE DONE, and is guilty; or if his sin, wherein he has sinned, come to his knowledge;… (Leviticus 4:23-24a)

And if any one of the common people SIN THOUGH IGNORANCE, which he does somewhat AGAINST ANY OF THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD concerning things WHICH OUGHT NOT TO BE DONE, and be guilty; or if his sin, which he has sinned, come to his knowledge:… (Leviticus 4:27-28a)

Notice all four times, what is discussed are (1) sins are acts committed through ignorance; (2) sins are committed when we go against ANY of the commandments of the LORD; and (3) it’s still a sin, even when the one who is doing it doesn’t realize it’s wrong at the time, but later discovers that what he or she has done is a sin.  A person is not innocent, just because he or she didn’t realize what they were doing was wrong.  IGNORANCE IS NOT AN EXCUSE!  In fact, in Leviticus 5:17, God says in His Word,

And if a soul sin, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; THOUGH HE KNOWS IT NOT, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.  [Emphasis Mine]

Again, ignorance is not an excuse, particularly in America where Bibles can be bought in most book stores, as well as available free online.  I think it is also important to note who defines what is or is not a sin.   You see what is a sin is not based on what a ruler defines as sin, it is not based on what society defines as sin, nor is it based on what a religious denomination, group, or even your congregation defines as sin, or even for that matter, what we, personally, define as a sin, but only what God defines as a sin.  God is the ONLY ONE who can determine what is a sin or what is not a sin, no one else.  And He has told us in His Word, the Bible, what is sin and what is not a sin.

REPENTANCE INVOLVES A SACRIFICE

Next, after confessing our sins, we are to bring the appropriate sacrifice.  In biblical times, the appropriate sacrifice was based on the sin and the wealth of the person.  However, one could only offer a sacrifice for sins done through ignorance, but sins done in willful rebellion against God did not have any sacrifices one could offer.  Instead, the only punishment for those sins was death. The sacrifices that were offered had the ability to “sanctify for the purity of the flesh (or the physical body) of the person (Hebrews 9:13), but it could not sanctify or cleanse the person’s heart or conscience.

However, with the death and resurrection of Christ, almost all sins,  even those sins that did not have a sacrifice for them under the earlier Temple system can now be forgiven by a person asking for God’s forgiveness and placing his or her faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ for them.   In fact, the Apostle John writes in his first epistle,

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (I John 1:9)

But the Bible also states that even after Jesus’ death and resurrection, there are still two sins that cannot be forgiven, neither in this life nor in the next:  The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10) and the taking or receiving of the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:16-17; 14:10-11).   This is one reason why it is extremely important for us to read, study and practice the teachings in the Bible in our day-to-day life, so we will know what is and what is not a sin, and how to repent.

REPENTANCE INVOLVES WATER BAPTISM

Although Christianity has relegated water baptism down to be used only for conversion, water immersion or water baptism had many more purposes than this during the biblical period.  It’s purpose was to indicate a change of status, whether in one’s physical health, in one’s ritual purity, in one’s occupation, in one’s walk or status with God (e.g., conversion and/or repentance).

In Matthew 3:11, John explains what he is doing: “I indeed baptize you with water unto REPENTANCE:..” (emphasis mine).  John here is clearly saying that his ministry was to aid in the REPENTANCE process by baptizing them in water.  We see this also in the beginning of Mark’s Gospel:

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach THE BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS.  And there went out unto him all the land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.  (Mark 1:4-5; Emphasis Mine)

And again in the Gospel of Luke,

...the word of God came unto John the son of Zacherias in the wilderness.  And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching THE BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS.  (Luke 3:2-3)

So as we can see, water baptism is part of the process of repentance.  Did Jesus’ death on the cross remove water baptism from this process?

Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that BELIEVES AND IS BAPTIZED shall be saved; but he that believes NOT shall be damned.  (Mark 16:15-16)

This same basic message is preached by Peter in Acts 2:

REPENT, AND BE BAPTIZED everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS.  (Acts 2:38)

Just as John the Baptist preached “THE BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS,” so Peter here is preaching the same idea. REPENTANCE AND BAPTISM FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS with the addition that we put our trust in Jesus and what He did for us on the cross and through His resurrection, and that we make Him the Lord of our life.  And this same message was taught by Ananias to Paul when he was healed after his conversion experience on the road to Damascus:

The God of our fathers has chosen you, that you should know His will, and see that Just One [Jesus Christ], and should hear the voice of His mouth.  For you shall be His witness unto all men of what you have seen and heard.  And now why do you wait?  Arise, and BE BAPTIZED, and WASH AWAY YOUR SINS, calling on the name of the Lord.  (Acts 22:14-16)

In fact, throughout the book of Acts, there are TEN (10) examples of people getting baptized in water immediately after believing in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

REPENTANCE HAS “FRUIT”?

For example, in the gospels, when the Pharisees and others come to him to be baptized in water, he tells them to “Bring forth therefore the FRUITS appropriate for repentance” (Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8), and when the people began to ask what they should do to prove their repentance was, in fact, sincere, he gives them examples of what they could do (Luke 3:10-14).   If the repentance is real, then it will bring forth the FRUIT of a changed life, a change in how we think and act.

REPENTANCE INVOLVES FORSAKING SIN

But according to God’s Word, we are not only to ACKNOWLEDGE and CONFESS our sins, accept the SACRIFICE OF JESUS’ SHED BLOOD on our behalf and be BAPTIZED IN WATER, but we are also to FORSAKE our sins as well.  Merely CONFESSING our sins is NOT enough.

He that covers [or tries to hide] his sins shall not prosper: but whoso CONFESSES AND FORSAKES them shall have mercy.  (Proverbs 28:13)

We can also see this idea of “forsaking sin” in the teachings of Jesus, for example, when He told the woman caught in the act of adultery to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11), as well as to the lame man Jesus healed at the pool of Bethesda, He told him afterwards, “Behold, you are made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto you” (John 5:14).  Notice that Jesus told him that if he did not stop sinning, something worse would happen to him.  There’s no indication anywhere of Jesus telling anyone it was okay for them to continue in their sins.

FORSAKING SIN – AN IMPORTANT PART OF REPENTANCE

Since SIN is “disobedience to God,” whether we are disobeying His written word and/or the leading of the Holy Spirit, then to FORSAKE SIN means that we are to STOP doing the sin, TURN AWAY from it, do a complete 180° degree turn in our behavior and attitude towards the sin, and then to START obeying God, by walking (or living) in obedience to His commandments and to the leading of the Holy Spirit (called “righteousness”).  FORSAKING SIN is an important part of REPENTANCE; so much so, that if a person CONFESSES the sin, but they do NOT FORSAKE the sin, they have NOT truly repented.  They may feel guilty, remorse and sorry for what they did, but if they have not FORSAKEN the sin, they have not REPENTED.

THE TWO DIRECTIONS OF REPENTANCE

In Ezekiel 18, we learn that “repentance” does NOT happen in only one-direction, but it is bi-directional.  For example, God tells us,

But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he has committed, and keep all My statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.  All his transgressions that he has committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he has done he shall live.  (Ezekiel 18:21-22)

This is the understanding of “repentance” that most people know.  If we repent from our sins, then our sins are forgiven and forgotten by God.  But notice that one who is truly repentant will not continue to live in his sins, but in his “righteousness” (or in his obedience to God).  However, there’s another direction that repentance can work as well:

But when the righteous turns away from righteousness, and commits iniquity (or sin), and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live?  All his righteousness that he has done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he has trespassed, and in his sin that he has sinned, in them shall he die.  (Ezekiel 18:24)

In other words, if a man is living in obedience to God, and then for whatever reason starts living a life of sin, then by making that change in behavior or lifestyle, he has “repented” from his life of obedience, and by so doing, God then follows the same rule regarding repentance: what came before the repentance is forgotten, and only what comes after the repentance is remembered.  God forgets the time he or she lived in righteousness and ONLY remembers the sin.  This side of repentance we don’t like, and neither did ancient Israel.

Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is NOT equal.  Hear now, O house of Israel [and Christianity]; is not My way equal?  are not your ways unequal?”  (Ezekiel 18:25; Emphasis Mine)

We don’t like this view of repentance because it doesn’t work in our favor.  We like the process to always give us the advantage, but God applies the process evenly in both directions.

When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, and commits iniquity [sins], and dies in them; for his iniquity [sin] that he has done shall he die.  Again, when the wicked man turns away from his wickedness that he has committed, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.  Because he considers, and turns away from all his transgressions [sins] he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.  (Ezekiel 18:26-28)

Because God is equal in applying the process of repentance, what is His advice?

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel [Christian & non-believer], every one according to his ways, says the LORD God.  Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin.  Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby you have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will you die, O house of Israel [Christian or unbeliever]?  For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, says the LORD God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live.  (Ezekiel 18:30-32)

So biblical repentance involves CONFESSING our sins, bringing the appropriate SACRIFICE (our faith and trust in Jesus’ shed blood on the cross for our behalf), WATER BAPTISM, and to STOP doing evil (those sins) and to then TURN AWAY from those sins (disobedience to God), doing then a complete 180° degree turn, and then to start living a life of obedience to God.  Consequently, then, repentance is a PROCESS; it involves CONFESSING, STOPPING, TURNING AWAY, AND STARTING.  It begins with CONFESSION and culminates with OBEDIENCE TO GOD.  As a result, repentance should follow the process set down by God in His Word; in other words, repentance that does NOT result in heart felt obedience to God is not true repentance.

REPENTANCE – MORE THAN MERE OBEDIENCE

But on the other side of this, merely going through the motions of obeying God without a real heart felt change is still NOT true repentance either.  In Isaiah 1:10-20, God criticizes Israel for them bringing Him “multiple sacrifices,” “burnt offerings,” “incense,” and He said that He hated  their “new moon festivals and anointed feasts.”  Why?  God Himself is the One who instructed them to do these things, but the problem here is that even obedience to God and the Bible, if it is NOT mixed with true heart-felt repentance – is NOT acceptable to God.  For example, He says, “I cannot endure INIQUITY and the solemn assembly” (Isaiah 1:13d; emphasis mine).

In verse 16, God tells them the first part of what they need to do to repent:

Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.  Cease to do evil.  (Isaiah 1:16)

Notice the order here, we are to (1) “wash yourselves, make yourselves clean” (this is an early form of “water immersion” or “water baptism,” which we’ve discussed); (2) remove the evil of your deeds from My sight” (i.e., FORSAKE SIN).  Consequently, as I’ve mentioned, “water immersion/baptism” is an intricate part of REPENTANCE.  And then, we are to do the following:

Learn to do good; seek justice.  Reprove the ruthless; defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)

In other words, repentance involves “stopping something,” and then doing the opposite instead:  “stop doing evil, start doing good.”  Good not based on our standards, but on God’s, His word.  It is after saying this that God then says,

Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD, Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be white as wool.  If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.  Truly the mouth of the LORD has spoken.  (Isaiah 1:18-20)

God will NOT accept our praise and worship, if we are still living in INIQUITY (rebellion or sin), just as He would not accept the praise and worship of Israel when they were still living in INIQUITY.  In order for there to be TRUE BIBLICAL REPENTANCE, we must change our hearts, our attitudes, and the direction of how we are living by doing a complete 180° degree turn from disobedience to God (sin) to heartfelt obedience to God (righteousness).

Contrary to what some may think, we do have a role to play in our repentance before God.  We must do more than say, “I’m sorry,” we must work with God to change our thoughts, our attitudes, and our behavior.  And if all we do is say, “I’m sorry,” but we do not change, then according to God, we have not truly repented.

REPENTANCE – BOTH VERTICAL AND HORIZONTAL

Not only is repentance VERTICAL, an important process that connects us to God, but it is also HORIZONTAL, an important process that connects us to one another.  Most Christians in church, crusades, and even on TV only talk about the VERTICAL element of REPENTANCE, but in the Bible, the HORIZONTAL element is also discussed; consequently, it is something that God sees to be equally important.

REPENTANCE – INCLUDES FORGIVENESS?

Also, another part of REPENTANCE is that it includes us forgiving others.  In the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus teaches us,

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has aught [or something] against you; leave your gift there on the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  (Matthew 5:23-24)

Then later on in the Sermon, when Jesus is talking about forgiveness, He says,

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  (Matthew 6:14-15)

Obviously, then, if we are wanting to REPENT of our sins and have God forgive us, then we must also forgive those who have hurt us or done wrong to us; otherwise, Jesus says, God will not forgive us (Matthew 18:35; Mark 11:26).

REPENTANCE – INCLUDES MAKING AMENDS OR RESTITUTION?

In addition, REPENTANCE includes us making amends or restitution with those whom we have wronged, if possible.  For example, in Exodus 22, there are a number of examples given to teach us that if we steal from someone or cause damage to something, for example, we are to pay back what we have stolen or replace what we have damaged or ruined; in other words, we are to make RESTITUTION for the wrong we have done:

If a man shall steal an animal (an ox, a sheep, and kill it, or sell it, he shall restore more than what he has taken….for he should make RESTITUTION;… (Exodus 22:3)

If a man shall cause property damage [cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man’s field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make RESTITUTION (whenever it is possible). (Ex. 22: 5)

A good example of this is the account of the tax collector, Zacchaeus, in the town of Jericho.

And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans (sinners), and he was rich.  And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little in stature [he was short]. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him: for He was to pass that way. (Luke 19:2-4)

As a tax collector, many people considered him to be a traitor against his own people.  He was rejected, because many of them, including him, would also charge extra money to pad their own pockets above and beyond collecting the required taxes for Rome.  And for some reason, Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but he was short, so he runs ahead and climbs up into a tree to see him.

When Jesus gets to the tree, He doesn’t ignore him and go on, which may be what Zacchaeus may have expected, but instead, Jesus stops, looks up into the tree, and addresses him:

Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide in your house. (Luke 19:5)

This, I’m sure, shocked both Zacchaeus and the crowd.  But as a result of him spending time with Jesus, he repents.  He tells Jesus,

Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.  (Luke 19:8)

And what was Jesus’ response to his promise of restitution?  Did He rebuff him for what he had done?  Did he preach to him about the evils of stealing?  No, instead, He says,

This day is salvation come to this house forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man is come to seek and save that which was lost.  (Luke 19:9-10)

The willing desire of Zacchaeus to make restitution for the wrong that he had done to others was the “fruit of repentance.” It was a clear demonstration that his repentance was real, and not just words.

CONCLUSION

So as we have seen, there’s much more to REPENTANCE than saying, “I’m sorry.”  It’s a process that begins when we acknowledge and confess our sins, ask God to forgive us and place our faith and trust in Jesus’ shed blood on the cross for our behalf, be immersed or baptized in water, and along with this, we are to make a public confession of our faith and that we are changing our life, giving it over to Christ and that we are going to live in righteousness and holiness from this day forward, seeking to obey God and His Word in our day-to-day lives.

Then we need to honor our confession, by stop doing the sins we were doing, forsaking it (or them), turning 180° degree around, and then to start doing good by obeying God and His Word.  This includes forgiving others and making any needed amends or restitution, if possible.  And this process is what God defines and describes as BIBLICAL REPENTANCE in and through His Word.

 

Return to the Top

TESTAMENT OR COVENANT: DOES IT REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

“TESTAMENT OR COVENANT: DOES IT REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?”  For example, there are many Christians who call themselves “New Testament believers,” while others call themselves  “New Covenant believers”?  Does it really make a difference which one is used?  Aren’t they just two different words that mean the same thing?  Most Christians say they mean the same thing and use the two terms interchangeably, but should they?  Many of them think they know what they mean, but when I hear them speak about God and the Bible, particularly about the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), it quickly becomes apparent that they really don’t understand the biblical concept.  They are, instead, mostly mimicking what they’ve heard others say.

DIFFERENT LEVELS OF MEANING TO WORDS

The problem behind people’s misinterpretation and misunderstanding of these two terms is NOT a problem with the original Hebrew or Greek, but what English words are chosen to translate the words in their original languages, whether it be Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek.  As an ex-English professor, I’ve taught students for 25 years that in English, every word has its own DENOTATIVE (or dictionary) meaning, its CONNOTATIVE meanings (various associations we have with the word), as well as its own NUANCES (or subtle differences in or shades of meaning or expressions).

For example, the words “residence” and “home” have the same DENOTATIVE (or Dictionary) meaning, but their CONNOTATIVE meanings (those associations we ascribe to the word) are NOT the same.  The word “home” has emotional associations attached to it that the word “residence” does not have.   Also, consider the words “bum,” “vagrant,” “panhandler,” “street urchin,” “pauper,” “unemployed,” “vagabond,” or “hobo.” Which word one may choose to use has its own NUANCES, or subtle differences of meaning, and it will influence how many readers or listeners will view a person.  And oftentimes, words do not just have only ONE meaning, but many.

WORDS OFTEN HAVE MULTIPLE MEANINGS

For example, the word “gay,” when I was growing up meant “someone who was happy and prosperous.”  We have this meaning in mind when referring to the “Gay 20’s” in American history, but then the word has taken on another meaning, as referring to someone as a homosexual, and now with the younger kids, it has taken on yet another added meaning of referring to something as “dumb.”  The same word, but three very different meanings, depending on its how it’s used.

The word “CONTEXT” refers to the “framework” that we use to interpret and understand something.  For example, if I am reading a passage, then what came before and after the passage will influence the way that I interpret and understand that particular passage.  In a form of writing, this would be the immediate CONTEXT.  But then we need to consider whether it fits the CONTEXT of the entire chapter, the whole book, the whole Testament, or the whole Bible.  In other words, if you’ve interpreted a passage from the New Testament, and it is in conflict with what’s said in the rest of the book, or in the rest of the New Testament, or in the Old Testament, then the interpretation is in error.

MOVING FROM ONE LANGUAGE TO ANOTHER

How words move from one language to another is an interesting study for me.  For example, let’s look at the words TESTAMENT and COVENANT.   In the Hebrew Old Testament, the word B’RIT (Strong’s #1285) is translated into English as COVENANT, but the word TESTAMENT is not an intrinsic part of this word’s meaning.  However, in the New Testament, the Greek word DIATHEKE (Strong’s #1242) is used as the Greek equivalent to B’RIT, but DIATHEKE has an additional possible meaning that B’RIT does not have, TESTAMENT. Consequently, the Hebrew word means COVENANT, but not TESTAMENT, but the Greek word can mean either COVENANT or TESTAMENT.

Beginning in 200 AD, Latin versions of the New Testament began to appear, and by the time of the 4th century, there were several versions.  Because Pope Damascus I wanted a standard Latin translation that all the churches could use, helping to standardize interpretations and doctrines, he commissioned Jerome, a scholar of languages, to produce the new Latin translation, which he completed in 400 A.D.  This translation was the only official of the Bible from 400 AD until the Reformation.

In his Latin translation, commonly known as the LATIN VULGATE, Jerome translated the Greek word DIATHEKE into Latin as TESTAMENTUM, which in Latin can also mean COVENANT or TESTAMENT.  It is from the Latin word TESTAMENTUM that we derive the English word TESTAMENT.

THE PROBLEM IS IN THE ENGLISH

Although the word TESTAMENT is directly derived from the Latin, the English meaning of this term does NOT include the concept of a COVENANT.  And this is a major problem.  Because the English meaning of the word TESTAMENT, as it’s commonly understood by most people, can only be seen in only TWO VERSES of the entire Bible. What should be the dominant meaning, COVENANT, is not really understood, because just as TESTAMENT is not an optional meaning for the Hebrew, B’RIT, so COVENANT is not an optional meaning for the English TESTAMENT, as it is in the Greek and Latin.

THE MEANING OF TESTAMENT

Let me explain, in English, the dominant meaning of the word “TESTAMENT” refers to a persons will, like in one’s “WILL AND TESTAMENT,” and we understand in our English- speaking societies that an OLDER TESTAMENT (or WILL) can be REPLACED when a person writes a new and updated WILL or TESTAMENT.  And like I just mentioned, there’s only TWO VERSES (Hebrews 9:16-17) that actually use the word TESTAMENT with this meaning in mind.  In spite of that, when most people read the words “OLD TESTAMENT” and “NEW TESTAMENT,” they understand these terms in reference to a WILL; this means that they view the OLD TESTAMENT as what God had originally designed and written, but now a newer and more updated TESTAMENT has been written, like with a WILL AND TESTAMENT, so the NEW one REPLACES the OLD one.  And if you listen to most ministers in churches or on television, this is how they present the meaning and relationship between these two testaments.

COVENANT VS. TESTAMENT

In contradiction to the idea of a personal will, the Hebrew word B’RIT and the Greek word DIATHEKE means “COVENANT” in all of the Bible, except for those two verses in Hebrews 9, and again a COVENANT is completely different than a TESTAMENT.   For one thing, a TESTAMENT (WILL) can be replaced with a newer TESTAMENT (WILL), but a COVENANT can NEVER be REPLACED.   Why?  Because unlike the word TESTAMENT, which refers to a legal written document that states what should happen to the property and items owned once someone dies, a COVENANT is all about building, maintaining, and improving RELATIONSHIPS between “two parties,” whether those two parties are two individuals, two families, two nations, or between God and individuals, or God and the nation of Israel.  To do away with a COVENANT is to bring an end to a RELATIONSHIP.

THE PROPER UNDERSTANDING OF COVENANT

If you look up the word “COVENANT” online, you will find multiple articles written about the ancient process of how COVENANTS were made.  This is how they erroneously understand “COVENANT.”  This is like someone understanding the meaning and essence of marriage by examining the marriage ceremony.   Some marriage ceremonies are rather simple in their structure and what will happen, while others are extremely ornate and complex, with many components that need to be properly orchestrated at just the right time.  But whether the marriage ceremony is simple or complex, it does NOT in any way indicate the passion and love between the bride and groom, and the same is true when it comes to COVENANTS.

The purpose of a COVENANT was nothing like a TESTAMENT.  In the Bible, two people entered into COVENANT for one of the following three reasons:

  • To reaffirm, strengthen, or intensify an already existing relationship.
  • To resolve a relational conflict or difference.
  • To renew, refresh, or re-establish a relationship that hand been broken.

A COVENANT is NOT about a list of “Do’s and Don’ts,” but about the RELATIONSHIP between two parties.  The stipulations of the COVENANT merely lay out the expected responsibilities and obligations of both sides.   This was a common practice during the biblical time period.  I’ve heard people say, “Man, I’m glad we have relationships now, and not covenants!” Statements like this only demonstrate that the person really does NOT understand the concept and purpose of a COVENANT.

A COVENANT is a tool for two people who want to build, maintain and improve or strengthen their RELATIONSHIP.   It provides an agreed upon basis or foundation upon which the two people can stand, and then continue to work on building and developing their RELATIONSHIP.    In American dating, for example, people don’t always know where they stand, or what the other person expects, or where exactly the lines are drawn in the RELATIONSHIP.   This leads only to uncertainty and confusion, and can hinder, if not introduce possible suspicions and hurt feelings into, the RELATIONSHIP they are trying to build.  But in a COVENANT, many of these issues are settled upfront, so that without the confusion and uncertainty of these “unknowns,” the two are able, then, to build a strong, confident RELATIONSHIP.

BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF COVENANTS

First, COVENANTS are used to improve, strengthen, or intensify an already existing RELATIONSHIP.  For example, marriage between a man and a woman.  Prior to marriage, the man and woman began and have an ongoing social relationship, but then at some point, they decide to strengthen and intensify that RELATIONSHIP, as well as make it more intimate, by getting married.  Another example of this is the COVENANT that God entered into with Israel and the “mixed multitude” (Exodus 12:38) with them at Mt. Sinai.  God and Israel were already in a RELATIONSHIP prior to Sinai.  In fact, God refers to Israel as “My people” (e.g., Exodus 3:7, 10) and even His “first born son” (Exodus 4:22).  Consequently, the Sinai COVENANT did NOT begin the RELATIONSHIP, but it strengthened and intensified an already existing RELATIONSHIP, moving it up to a higher, more intimate level.

COVENANTS are also used to resolve RELATIONAL conflicts or differences.  For example, in the Bible, there was a conflict between Jacob and his father-in-law, Laban.  For example, it was customary for men to pay an agreed upon dowry to the family, as a way of demonstrating that the man had the financial means of supporting the potential wife.  The potential husband was expected to maintain, at least, the living standard that the woman was accustomed to living while at home with her parents.  Consequently, the dowry was an objective way of showing the woman’s family that he, indeed, was able to do this.

However, in Jacob’s case, he did not have any money, so he agreed to pay the dowry by working for ban for seven years for Rachel, the woman Jacob wanted to marry.  However, when it came time for the marriage, Laban switched his older daughter, Leah, for Rachel, without Jacob’s knowledge.  Women, then, wore veils that hid much of their face, so Jacob was not aware of the deception until it was too late.   Jacob had to then work another seven years for the woman he truly wanted.  Once he had both wives, as well as had 11 sons and 1 daughter, he had to work another 6 years to acquire the wealth he needed to support his family.  During this time, we learn that Laban changes Jacob’s wages 10 different times.  After 20 years now, Jacob, afraid of Laban’s growing hostility towards him, leaves with his wives, children and herds.

When Laban and his sons pursue them with weapons, Jacob realizes the potential danger he and his family are in.  It should be remembered that there was no police officers then, no one to go to in order to report a crime, so Jacob calmed the situation down and resolved the conflict and potential disaster by making a COVENANT with Laban.  After the COVENANT is made, Laban stays the night with Jacob and his family, and in the morning, Laban kisses his daughters and grandchildren, and gives them his blessing.  Therefore, through the use of COVENANT, Jacob was able to resolve a RELATIONAL CONFLICT that was on the verge of collapse.  Jacob’s story begins in Genesis 25:19 and goes through to the end of Genesis 35.

Finally, COVENANTS are used to renew, refresh, and re-establish a relationship that has been broken.  Two great examples of this is the “NEW COVENANT” (or “NEW TESTAMENT“) and the future “COVENANT OF PEACE.”   God’s RELATIONSHIP with the Northern Kingdom of Israel (i.e., “the House of Israel”) and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (i.e., the House of Judah) had been broken because of sins.  The Northern Kingdom had been taken off into Exile by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., and now the Babylonians were about to take the Southern Kingdom into exile to Babylon, which happened in 586 B.C.  Consequently, God promises to renew, refresh, and re-establish His covenant with both of them through “the NEW COVENANT.”

Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a NEW COVENANT with the HOUSE OF ISRAEL and with the HOUSE OF JUDAH. (Jeremiah 31:31; Emphasis Mine)

Notice that the NEW COVENANT (or NEW TESTAMENT) is NOT made with the world, but it is made with the HOUSE OF ISRAEL (the Northern Kingdom of Israel) and the HOUSE OF JUDAH (the Southern Kingdom of Judah).  The NEW COVENANT is NOT for the purpose of REPLACING the original covenant, but to RENEW, REFRESH, and RE-ESTABLISH it with these two Houses, and then to ultimately join them back together again into ONE NATION, ONE KINGDOM, under ONE KING, MESSIAH (Ezekiel 37:15-24).

What about those who are not of the HOUSE OF ISRAEL or the HOUSE OF JUDAH?  Throughout the Scriptures, and throughout time, God has always been willing to accept anyone who would come to Him and accept His covenant.  There’s been Rahab, Ruth, Doeg, and others in the OLD COVENANT (called the OLD TESTAMENT), and throughout the NEW COVENANT (called the NEW TESTAMENT), God has been reaching His hand out to all nations, all tribes, all people, to make ONE PEOPLE, ONE KINGDOM with only ONE KING, MESSIAH.  Although God is always willing to receive all people unto Himself, we should not lose sight that the original purpose of the COVENANT is for the RESTORATION OF ISRAEL; therefore, to present this COVENANT apart from this purpose is to take it out of its proper CONTEXT.

Finally, another example of a COVENANT that God is going to use to RENEW, REFRESH, and RE-ESTABLISH His relationship with Israel is the future COVENANT OF PEACE.  When the Messiah Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) returns to finish establishing His Kingdom here on earth, He will establish the COVENANT OF PEACE with His people Israel.  This COVENANT is not the NEW COVENANT (called the NEW TESTAMENT) because it does not deal with the “writing of the law upon our minds and hearts” nor with the forgiveness of sin, but with the establishing the physical SAFETY, SECURITY, AND PEACE of the land of Israel (e.g., Ezekiel 34:23-31; Ezekiel 37:25-28).  Consequently, the NEW COVENANT (called the NEW TESTAMENT) is NOT the last and final COVENANT.

CONCLUSION

Therefore, does it make a difference whether we use the word “COVENANT” or “TESTAMENT“?  The same word may be used in the Greek and Latin for both, but in English, the two words are miles apart.  Therefore, if we are going to use the best word possible to communicate what is written in the original languages, then the word COVENANT should be used, except for the two verses in Hebrews (9:16-17) where the word “TESTAMENT” is clearly appropriate.  And instead of using two verses to understand the rest of Scripture, how about we take the more logical option of understanding the two verses in the light and context of the rest of Scripture?

It’s extremely important hat we remember that to end a COVENANT is to end a RELATIONSHIP.  And contradictory to traditional Christian thinking, God does NOT, nor will He ever, end any of the COVENANTS or RELATIONSHIPS that He has established within His Word.  Whether that COVENANT be with Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the children of Israel, the nation of Israel as a whole, the Levites, David, or the RENEWED AND REFRESHED COVENANT through Jesus Christ.  Not ONE of these COVENANTS has God ended, abrogated, ceased, annulled, “done away with” or “nailed to the cross,” NOT ONE, NOT NOW, NOT EVER.

 

Return to the Top

Bridegroom, Garments & Wine: What Do They have to do with “Not Fasting”? (Part 3)

WHERE DO WE PLACE OUR GREATEST TRUST: IN SCRIPTURE OR IN OUR TRADITIONS?  In looking at this parable of Jesus, I believe this is the real question behind it.  For some reason, people in the first century, and even today, believe that they have the right, and even the moral obligation, to add their own views to Scripture, or even to delete Scriptures, whenever they seem opposed to the current beliefs and views of the time.  Yet these two acts, of ADDING TO and DELETING FROM the Bible, are explicitly forbidden TWICE by God: “You shall NOT ADD TO the word which I am commanding you, nor TAKE AWAY from it” (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32).  Therefore, when Jesus condemns human traditions that ADD TO or DELETE FROM God’s commandments, He does so on the authority of Scripture.

PUTTING THE PARABLE BACK INTO CONTEXT

In putting this study back into its historical context, we need to remember that the telling of this parable happens near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  He has been calling His disciples, doing some healing and teaching, and have been receiving some criticism for it.  For example, before healing the paralytic man, Jesus told him that his sins were forgiven, and then when some Pharisees accused Him of blasphemy, He proves his authority to forgive sin by healing the man.  Then He calls Levi (or Matthew), the tax collector, and He has dinner at his house, and He’s accused of eating with publicans and sinners.

It needs to be pointed out here that the criticism that Jesus receives is NOT about Him failing to keep God’s LAW, but the LAW OF THE PHARISEES.  Throughout the Gospels, Jesus stands against this man-made LAW, comprised of Pharisaic interpretations, teachings and traditions whenever they invalidate and oppose God’s LAW or commandments.  We see it with the Pharisees’ teachings about healing on the Sabbath, with the washing of hands, and with designating something as a “gift,” so one did not have to use it to support and honor one’s parents.  But why do we, in the church, tend to agree with the Pharisees and see Jesus as “guilty” of these things, rather than seeing the Pharisees as “guilty” for trying to raise their own “law” up against God’s LAW?

Perhaps, the reason for this is that we don’t know God’s LAW, His commandments, the way that we should, so we just accept what they say to be true.   But also, it’s sad to say, that over the centuries, Christianity has likewise followed the example of the Pharisees, and we too have created our own man-made interpretations, teachings, and traditions, and just like the Pharisees, we too have also used them to invalidate and replace God’s commandments in our lives and in the lives of others.

We cannot point fingers at the Scribes, Pharisees, and Essenes, when we have a “log in our own eye.” How many times have I heard about the Jesus who celebrates Christmas and Easter, who goes to church on Sunday, teaches Sunday School, and even turns His back on the “old ceremonial law,” the “cold unfeeling law” of the Old Testament, to follow “another law, the law of love” of the New Testament, and yet this Jesus that’s often described in our churches is NOT the biblical Jesus, it is a construct of our own imagination.

I have heard thousands of sermons in my life on the divinity of Jesus, but I have NEVER, EVER heard a sermon in a church about “Jesus the Jew,” and most certainly not about “Jesus, our Jewish Rabbi.”  But the Jesus of the Bible is as much Divine, as He is a Jew, and most certainly, a Jewish Rabbi.  But we never talk about that part of Him or His life.  We ignore it, hoping that people will not notice, or that it will just “go away.”  But if we don’t love ALL that Jesus is, how can we really say we love Him at all?

I believe that this study is important for all of us, Jew and Christian alike.  We need to be brave enough, and objective enough, to look at our own MAN-MADE INTERPRETATIONS, TEACHINGS AND TRADITIONS, i.e., our own MAN-MADE LAW, regardless if it is Pharisaic or Christian, regardless of how “sacred” these man-made teachings or traditions may be, and we need to ask ourselves, “How would the Jesus of the Bible feel about them?  Would He see them as something that we are using to REPLACE the commandments of God?  Would He see them as a man–made teaching of our own denominational beliefs, rather than the beliefs and teachings found in God’s Word, in both the OLD and NEW TESTAMENTS?  I believe we need to prayerfully consider these questions when going through this study.

A SUMMARY OF THE STUDY SO FAR

In part 1, we discussed how the question on fasting actually had to do with John the Baptist’s disciples’ concern with HOLINESS and the PURITY LAWS, and in part 2, Jesus gives the response of saying that the “new cloth” (the man-made purity laws of the Pharisees and the Essenes) was not strengthening or improving the “old cloth” (God’s instructions, laws, and commandments) but were, in fact, making “the tear” between God and His people “worse.”  This now brings us to part 3, the parable about the “NEW WINE and NEW WINESKINS.”

A PARABLE ABOUT THE NEW WINE

In this final parable, Jesus tells them,

Matthew 9:17 Mark 2:22 Luke 5:37-39
“Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runs out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”

 

 

“And no man puts new wine into old bottles: else the new wine does burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.”

 

 

“And no man puts new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.  But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.  No man also having drunk old wine immediately desires new: for he says, “The old is better.”

All three accounts agree on the following points:

  • No man puts new wine into old bottles;
  • If new wine is poured into old bottles, then the bottles will break, the wine will run out, and the bottles will perish; and
  • New wine should be put into new bottles, so that both are preserved.

However, in Luke’s account of the parable, we have an added detail:

  • No man having drunk old wine immediately desires the new wine, for he says, “The old is better.”

Again, just like in part 2, it is imperative that we correctly identify the elements of this parable to correctly understand what Jesus is saying.

TRADITIONAL CHRISTIAN INTERPRETATION

Traditionally, Christianity has viewed the NEW WINE as representing the GOSPEL OF GRACE, and the OLD BOTTLES (or WINESKINS) as the MOSAIC LAW.   For example, consider the following Christian teaching:

And by these very apt illustrations our Lord teaches us that it is a vain thing to attempt to mingle together the spiritual freedom of the gospel with the old ceremonies of the Law. To attempt to engraft the living spiritual energy of the gospel upon the old legal ceremonial now about to pass away, would be as fatal a thing as to piece an old garment with new material, or to put new wine into old wineskins. There is here, therefore, a valuable lesson for the Christian Church, namely, to treat new converts with gentleness and consideration. (“Pulpit Commentary”; https://biblehub.com/commentaries/mark/2-22.htm)

THE PROBLEM WITH THE INTERPRETATION

The major problem with this traditional interpretation is that it contradicts the parable. In order for their interpretation to be true, the OLD would have to ruin the NEW, but this is NOT what Jesus said in the parable.  He said that the NEW ruined the OLD.  In both parables, “The Old Garment and the New Patch,” and now this one, the “New Wine and the Bottles,” it is the NEW PATCH and the NEW WINE that ruins the OLD, not the other way around.

SO HOW DO WE UNDERSTAND JESUS’ PARABLE OF THE NEW WINE?

So how do we understand this parable?

  • OLD GARMENT” and “OLD WINE” (implied) represent God’s TORAH;
  • The “NEW PATCH” and the “NEW WINE” represent the MAN-MADE TORAH of the Pharisees and the Essenes: their interpretations, teachings, and traditions.

NEW WINE – CAN BREAK NEW BOTTLES?

In my study of the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, I discovered that it’s the NEW WINE, which is potentially destructive, NOT only to OLD BOTTLES, but also to NEW BOTTLES, if certain precautions are NOT taken. As Christians, we have this built in bias in thinking that the “NEW” is always BETTER than the “OLD,” but I discovered in the New Testament that there are several times when this is not the case.  Instead, the opposite is often the case, the OLD is BETTER than the NEW.

Also, it is important to remember that according to Jesus’ parable, it was NOT the OLD that ruined and destroyed the NEW, but it was the NEW that ruined and destroyed the OLD.  And when I did my study of the Scriptures, I came across the following three passages.  Now even though I’ve heard many people discuss the parable of the NEW WINE, even from Messianic Jewish teachers, I’ve NEVER heard anyone include these passages in as part of the discussion.

JOSHUA 9: 3-13.   In Joshua 9:3-6, the inhabitants of Gibean had heard what Joshua and the Israelites had done to Jericho and Ai, and so they pretend to be ambassadors of inhabitants that lived a long distance from Canaan.  They dressed in old shoes, old garments, and carried old dry and moldy bread.  And when they came to the Israelite camp at Gilgal, they told Joshua that they had come from a far off country, and they wanted to enter into covenant with them.  It is Joshua 9:12, 13 though, that provides us with some interesting insight:

This is our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is moldy: and these BOTTLES of WINE, which we filled, were NEW; and behold, they be RENT [or BURST]: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.

Obviously, these men from Gibean are attempting to deceive Joshua into believing that they’ve been on the road for a long time.  But what was interesting to me was that the NEW WINE, which they claimed to have poured in the NEW BOTTLES [or NEW WINESKINS] at home had “RENT” [or BURST] due to the alleged long journey, which was not true.  They had traveled only a short distance and, yet, the NEW WINE had caused the WINESKINS or “BOTTLES” to “RENT” or BURST.  Apparently, we can infer from this reference and Jesus’ parable that NEW WINE can, in fact, cause both OLD and NEW WINESKINS (or BOTTLES) to BURST under the right conditions.  This point will be further clarified in the next passage.

JOB 32: 17-20.  In this passage, we gain a little more insight into the idea that NEW WINE can, in fact, BURST NEW BOTTLES.  The fourth and youngest of Job’s friends, Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, says in his response to Job and his three other older friends,

I said, I will answer also my part, I also will show mine opinion.  For I am full of matter, the spirit within me constrains me.  Behold, my belly is as WINE which has NO VENT; it is ready to BURST like NEW BOTTLES.  I will speak, that I may be refreshed: I will open my lips and answer. [Emphasis Mine]

Today, we would say, “I’ve got to say something, or I’m simply going to pop.”  But what I found interesting here in his response is the reference again to NEW WINE (I’m assuming) causing NEW BOTTLES to BURST, but this time, unlike Joshua 9:3-13, there’s a cause mentioned:  there was NO VENT given to the WINE.  From these two passages, we learn that NEW WINE can be destructive to both OLD BOTTLES and NEW BOTTLES, if the BOTTLES [or WINESKINS} are not prepared and handled properly.  And by Elihu comparing himself to “NEW BOTTLES,” then we can infer that the use of BOTTLES in these passages is used to represent PEOPLE, an inference which is supported by the next passage.

JEREMIAH 13:12-14.  And finally, in Jeremiah 13, we again see the use of BOTTLES [or WINESKINS], like in Job 32, to represent PEOPLE:

Therefore  you shall speak to them this word: Thus says the LORD God of Israel, Every BOTTLE shall be filled with WINE: and they shall say to you, Do we not certainly know that every BOTTLE shall be filled with WINE?  Then you shall say to them, Thus says the LORD, Behold, I will FILL all the INHABITANTS of this land, even the KINGS that sit upon David’s throne, and the PRIESTS, and the PROPHETS, and all the INHABITANTS of Jerusalem, with drunkenness.  And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, says the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.  (Emphasis Mine)

SUMMARY OF THE THREE PASSAGES

From these three passages we’ve learn the following:

  • From both Joshua 9 and Job 32, we learn that NEW WINE can, in fact, cause NEW WINESKINS or BOTTLES to BURST, if proper VENTING is NOT provided.
  • From Jeremiah 13, we learn that the word “BOTTLE” without any modifiers is used to represent sinful people (i.e., the Jews of Jeremiah’s day who were about to be punished by God).
  • From Job 32, we see the phrase “NEW BOTTLE” being used by Elihu to refer to himself, the youngest of Job’s four friends, perhaps indicating that “NEW BOTTLES” refers to “YOUNG PEOPLE” and “OLD BOTTLES” then refer to “OLD(ER) PEOPLE.”
  • However, the image of WINE, in Jeremiah 13, representing “DRUNKENNESS” and “JUDGMENT” does NOT at all fit the context of Jesus’ parable.

SO WHAT DO THE BOTTLES REPRESENT?

Based on this, I would suggest that the OLD BOTTLES represent older mature disciples, and the NEW BOTTLES represent young, inexperienced disciples.  And interestingly, I found that this same concept continues, even though in Paul’s epistles, he does not use the same terminology.  For example,  the NEW BOTTLES, or NEW BELIEVERS, are those who–

  • tend to be fleshly, envious and divisive (I Corinthians 3:3);
  • are NOT subject to the law of God (Romans 8:7);
  • still need the “milk of the word” (the basics) (I Corinthians 3:1-2; Hebrews 5:12); and
  • “are unskilled in the word of righteousness” (Hebrews 5:13).

However, the OLD BOTTLES, or the OLDER, MATURE BELIEVERS are those
who —

  • walk after the Spirit and have their mind on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8: 1, 4),
  • are subjected to the law of God (e.g., Romans 2:13-15; 7:22, 25; and inferred from Romans 8:4, 7);
  • spend their time with the “strong meat” of God’s Word (the more advanced teachings, which includes the TORAH) (Hebrews 5:14, and is exemplified by the source of content in Hebrews 7-11); and
  • “by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

OLD WINE DON’T ALWAYS COME FROM OLD BOTTLES

Also in doing my study, I discovered this passage from Job 32, which reveals that OLD WINE, God’s TORAH, HIS WISDOM and UNDERSTANDING, does not always come from OLD BOTTLES.   Elihu gives what I thought was some interesting insight into this:

I  said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach WISDOM.  But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them UNDERSTANDING.  Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment.   Therefore I said, Hearken to me; I will also show my opinion.  Behold, I waited for your words; I gave ear to your reasons, while you searched out what to say.  Yes, I attended to you, and, behold, there was none of you that convinced Job, or that answered his words. (Job 32:7-12)

We are supposed to find God’s TORAH, His OLD WINE, in the OLDER, MATURE MEN (“OLD BOTTLES“) of our Communities, those who have spent their lives studying and observing God’s WORD, but unfortunately, as Elihu discovered, at least in Job’s older three friends, this expectation is not always the case.  Sometimes, an OLDER PERSON may still have within them NEW WINE, rather than the OLD VINTAGE WINE that one would expect.  And just as Elihu found within Job’s three older friends, Jesus found within many of the Scribes and Pharisees of His day.

Now interestingly,  when I put all of the “OLD” things together on one side of a chart, and then put all of the “NEW” things together on the other side, I was amazed by what I discovered.

SPIRITUAL

FLESHLY

OLD GARMENT NEW PATCH
OLD WINE NEW WINE
OLD BOTTLE NEW BOTTLE
OLDER DISCIPLE YOUNG DISCIPLE
OLDER, MATURE BELIEVER NEW BELIEVER

All those on the OLD side represent the things of the Spirit.  For example, the OLD GARMENT and OLD WINE both represent the TORAH, which was written by the Holy Spirit, “the finger of God.”  THE OLD BOTTLE, THE OLDER DISCIPLE and the OLDER, MATURE BELIEVER are those who have had the TORAH (God’s INSTRUCTIONS and commandments) written upon their hearts by the Holy Spirit as they’ve studied and practiced it.

On the other hand, everything on the NEW side represents the FLESH.  For example, the NEW PATCH and the NEW WINE represent the Oral man-made interpretations, teachings, and traditions of the Pharisees and the Essenes – the LAW of men – NOT the LAW of God.  And the NEW BOTTLE, YOUNG DISCIPLE, and NEW BELIEVER are those who are carnal, envious, divisive, unlearned in the TORAH, the ways of God, and who pursues the things of the flesh, rather than those of the Spirit.

MY INTERPRETATION OF THE PARABLE

Quite simply, I believe what Jesus is telling us is that when you mix the man-made things of the flesh (the oral traditions and practices of the Pharisees and the Essenes) with the things of God (1) they don’t mix; and (2) you end up destroying the life of disciples, even mature disciples, resulting in them losing what wine they did have.  But in most cases, flesh follows flesh, and the flesh will seek to preserve itself by pouring its man-made teachings and traditions into young disciples or new believers, who are usually inexperienced with God’s Word, and who cannot yet distinguish the things of the flesh from the things of the Spirit.

In other words, Jesus here is criticizing the massive efforts of the Pharisees and Essenes in filling God’s people with these false man-made ideas of what it means to “love and obey God.” As Jesus says later on,

For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne [carried], and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.  (Matthew 23:4)

It is NOT the NEW WINE of men’s own created law – their interpretations, teachings, and traditions – that we should be “pouring” into people, but the OLD VINTAGE WINE of God’s TORAH, His instructions, teachings, and commandments.  But the nature of people then and now is to always chase after every NEW thing.

The NEW WINE of the Pharisees and Essenes were taking God’s people away from God’s calling for them: “To be a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS AND A HOLY NATION” (Exodus 19:5; I Peter 2:9).  Instead of their man-made “law” taking them to this goal, it was, instead, transforming God’s KINGDOM nation into a RELIGION, a RELIGION molded and shaped by their man-made interpretations, teachings and traditions, now known as Rabbinical Judaism, just as Christianity, another RELIGION, would later likewise do with their own man-made interpretations, teachings, and traditions. In either case, a RELIGION is NOT what God wants.

Conclusion

Jesus came to preach “the gospel of the Kingdom” (Luke 4:4) and to die to liberate us from our sins and the power of our sin nature.  God wants to bring us back to a Kingdom mentality and perspective, which is what He originally set up and established in His Word.  But in our RETURN, we will need to learn to think and respond to God’s KINGDOM as an actual KINGDOM, and Jesus as our KING that God has chosen and established within His KINGDOM.  This is not an easy journey, but we must leave the man-made interpretations, teachings and traditions (the NEW WINE) behind, and we must RETURN to what is actually taught within the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

There are many man-made interpretations, teachings, and traditions (NEW WINE) that have moved us away from the OLD WINE that’s in God’s TORAH, His Instructions, Teachings, and Commandments.  We need to empty ourselves of these NEW WINE man-made counterfeits, and RETURN to God and His WHOLE WORD, and fill our lives with the OLD VINTAGE WINE that He has for us in the Old Testament AND New Testament.  Without a WHOLE BIBLE perspective and understanding, we are missing out on all that God has for us.

The only real question is what will we allow the BOTTLES of our lives to be filled up with: the OLD WINE of God’s TWO TORAHS, the Written TORAH of His Word AND the LIVING TORAH, His Son, Jesus Christ, or will we continue to be filled with the NEW WINE of man-made RELIGIOUS counterfeits?  The choice is really ours to make.  We need to take the LORD’s instruction in Jeremiah 6:16, but instead of responding the way that the ancient children of Israel did, we need to do as God says.

Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ANCIENT PATHS, where the GOOD WAY is, and walk in it; and you shall ind rest for your souls, but they said, ‘We will not walk in it.'” (Jeremiah 6:16, Emphasis Mine)

 

Return to the Top

The whole Bible for the whole person for all time.