Category Archives: Biblical Studies

Christian, Messianic, Orthodox Jew: Does the Terminology Matter?


I am appalled at how we use “names” or “titles” to distinguish or separate ourselves from one another.  Even within Christianity itself, people identify themselves according to their own denomination or even by what church they attend to distinguish themselves from another church within the same denomination.  It’s ridiculous.  I asked a pastor friend of mine once, why these churches within the same denomination on the same side of town didn’t work together to do an outreach to that part of town?  His response shocked me.  He said, it was because there were simply too many egos involved.  People, he said, would argue over who got what people and who would get the credit for what.


When we are more concerned with our egos and titles, rather than working together to demonstrate God’s love to those around us, there’s something very wrong at what we are doing.   I mean, does it really matter whether we call ourself “a Christian,” “a Messianic,” “an Orthodox Jew,” “a Conservative Jew,” “a Baptist,” “a Nazarene,” “a Lutheran,” “a Pentecostal,” “a Catholic,”or some other man-made title?  It should be remembered, as I said, that all religious titles are just man-made entities used to distinguish one group from another.  Personally, I really don’t believe what name a person uses to describe themselves matters.


What does matter is whether or not the individual is in God’s Kingdom.  I believe we could eliminate a lot of division between denominations, religious branches, and groups if we would just focus on what’s really important – on whether we are entering and actively participating in the kingdom of God.

Let me give an example of what I mean.  A few years ago, Moore, Oklahoma, was devastated by a couple of tornadoes, tearing down homes and businesses.  People from all over the United States came to lend a helping hand with food, supplies, labor, etc.  People in Texas didn’t say, “Well, those people in Oklahoma are not part of our group in Texas, so as a result, we are not going to help them.” No, all divisions, and even competitiveness between states in sports, were all put aside.  All that mattered was that there were Americans who were in trouble and needed help.

What would happen, for example, if people in God’s kingdom took on that same mind set.  What if they could put aside their church and denominational differences and work together simply because they saw other Kingdom people in trouble or they saw some need around them?  Can you imagine the impact that would have when people, outside of God’s kingdom, could witness that kind of love and unity at work – rather than the division, conflict, fighting and criticism that is often seen?


Now let me be clear what I am not saying here.  I am not saying that all religions are equal, nor am I advocating that people should just believe or do whatever they want.  God is King, and as such, it is He who sets the standards for what is right or wrong, not us.  A kingdom is a monarchy, not a democracy.  Consequently, in a kingdom, people do not have the right to choose or vote upon which laws they want to follow and which ones they can simply ignore.  In a religion people can, but in a monarchy, they cannot.  The word of the king is law, and it is up to the citizens of that kingdom to follow and adhere to the laws of that kingdom.


Contrary to what many people have been taught, God really is not interested in establishing a religion on this planet.  This world all ready has way too many religions as it is.  For example, God did not give His commandments, judgments, and decrees to Moses simply so that they could be used to formulate a religion, but people did turn them into a religion.  Nor did Yeshua/Jesus come to this earth, teach for three-and-a-half years, die a gruesome death on a cross, and then rise bodily from the dead, so that people could turn His teachings and life into yet another religion, but people did.  But contrary to people’s consistent turning of God’s work into religions, God’s central focus and desire is on establishing His Kingdom here on earth – not on us continuing to take His kingdom efforts and using them to formulate yet another denomination or religion.


You see, religion takes us away from the kingdom, not towards it.  Throughout Yeshua’s/ Jesus’s years of ministry, He proclaimed THE KINGDOM of God, NOT the RELIGION of God. Man’s deepest need is found in God’s KINGDOM, not in the formation of another religion. For example, Yeshua/Jesus began His ministry proclaiming,

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe the gospel (or good news).  (Mark 1:15)

What was the focus of the gospel?  The kingdom of GodNOT the religion of God.  You see, people enjoy formulating something into a religion, because then they can control it. They can decide what to believe and what not to believe.  For example, how many branches and denominations of Christianity have decided which parts of the Bible is “for today” (i.e., what they’ve chosen to believe and practice) and which parts aren’t?  The fact is, there is no where in the Bible where human beings are given the right to decide what part of the Bible they will accept and what part they can reject.   But when people turn something into a religion, then they can take that right upon themselves.

When it comes right down to it, it’s a control issue.  We like control.  What we don’t like is the idea that someone other than ourselves has any control or power over us at all.  We want to be the ones who control our own lives, our own beliefs and values, and even our own destinies.  But the idea that there is a real God out there, who objectively exists outside the minds and imaginations of people, who wants us to turn over the control and right of our lives into His hands, even to a loving, benevolent God, is not acceptable to the majority of people.  If we give God the control of our life, then He will have the right to indicate what our values and beliefs should be, how we should live, and even how we should treat others, etc., and deep down inside, that just goes against our natural human beliefs and desires.  Am I saying that giving our lives to God is bad?  No, I am saying it goes against our natural, carnal human nature.

I mean, think about how often in America, for example, we focus on having things done “our way.” For example, there was Frank Sinatra’s renowned song, “I Did It My Way.” or Burger King’s theme song, “Have It Your Way.”  We even feel that the most American thing that we can do is pull ourselves up by our own “bootstraps” and to do things ourselves.  Consequently, we are taught and trained within the American culture to be completely independent and self-reliant.


Some may wonder, What is wrong with that?  Shouldn’t we want to be “independent and self-reliant”?  Of course, the problem with this is that in being “independent and self-reliant,” we are the ones in control, not God.  Many American Christians may question this by saying, “We believe in God; We go to church.”  But when you begin to really dig down at how they view themselves, you discover that most American Christians view themselves first and foremost as “Americans, who happen to be Christians, seeking to live the American dream until they die, and then hope after they’ve died that they will go to heaven.” However, that’s a whole different mindset than viewing yourself as “a citizen of God’s Kingdom, serving the needs and desires of your king, until the time of your king’s return or until you die and enter into His Presence.”  The latter is a Kingdom mindset and perspective of oneself, which is not the dominant one held by most people.

The values and beliefs of America and the American dream are NOT, in fact, synonymous with Kingdom living.  In fact, in many ways, they are in direct contradiction to one another.  And during my own lifetime, I have noticed that the contrast between the two have been growing larger and larger.  In viewing our own self-identity, the question we each need to ask ourselves is, Whose values and beliefs am I embracing: the values and beliefs of my nation or God’s?

Does this mean I ignore my country?  No, it means that we realize that as believers, we are first and foremost citizens of God’s kingdom, and secondly, citizens of the nation where we have been born and live.  For example, I’ve heard people say that God is on America’s side or that He is on this party’s side or even that God is on the side of some team.  But this is not the correct perspective.  The correct question is not whether God is on the side of the United States (or any other nation, party, or team), but whether the United States (or any other nation, party, group or team) is on the side of God?  It is God who sets the standard of what is right or wrong, not our birth nation, party, group, or team we happen to belong to.


Also, the majority of people view the Bible as just another “religious text,” or just a “list of do’s and don’ts.” However, this really is a gross misrepresentation of the Bible.  In fact, the Bible is God’s Kingdom Manual.  It is in His manual that He presents and discusses all aspects of Kingdom life and living, including His own identity, character, and revelation of Himself as our Creator and King, a description of His kingdom, as well as His laws and guidelines regarding all aspects of Kingdom life, such as agriculture, politics, social values and norms, relationships (between men and women, family dynamics, working relationships, and other social interactions), and yes, there are even some religious aspects to kingdom life and living.


Now some may wonder, Is Yeshua/Jesus important at all to God’s Kingdom, or is He just something that Christianity added?  The answer to this question is He is absolutely central and important to the kingdom!  Why?  Because He came to teach us more about the Kingdom, to correct erroneous ideas about it and its teachings that were being taught at that time, to proclaim to all God’s invitation to come into His Kingdom, and to provide the way into the Kingdom through His death and resurrection.  It is only through Messiah Yeshua/Jesus that we have access into the Kingdom and to the person of God Himself.

As a result of Yeshua’s/Jesus’ faithfulness, even to the point of dying on the cross, God has set Him as ruler over all that He, God the Father, has created, both in heaven and on earth. This is what Yeshua/Jesus meant when He said prior to His ascension to the right hand of Power:

All authority (or “power” KJV) has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28: 18)

Notice that “all authority has been given” to Him “in heaven and on earth”?  But “given” to Him by whom?  God the Father, the Supreme King over all that He has created.  Many ministers argue that Yeshua/Jesus was not given “a promotion in status,” since He was already God or “Lord.”  However, those who argue this position are only looking at Yeshua/Jesus in His Divinity, not His humanity.  As a human being, more specifically, as the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua/Jesus only had authority over those who resided in His own country, Israel. However, after His death, burial and resurrection, there is a change in His authority.  Prior to His ascension, we learn He now has authority over all of God’s creation, both in heaven and on earth, and it is only after receiving this authority from God the Father that He now sends His disciples out to all nations.

Shi’mon Petros (Peter) likewise refers to God’s choice of setting Yeshua/Jesus in authority over all things in his sermon in Acts 2:36:

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him [Yeshua/Jesus] both Lord and Christ [Messiah] – …

Notice, again, it was God who made Him “both Lord and Christ [or Messiah].”  The term “Lord” was commonly used by Caesar since he had control over an entire empire, involving many different countries.  It is also used of God, for God rules and reigns over all of His creation, including all the nations and peoples of the world.  The word “Lord” means “Owner” or “Master,” and since God is the Creator, He likewise has the right of ownership and control over all that He has created.  However, God has also given to us as individuals the right of free choice.  We have the right to choose Him or to reject Him.

In addition, though, as the Supreme Ruler over His creation, God has the right to decide who will rule and reign over His kingdom, and He has already made that choice, the Messiah Yeshua/Jesus.  Rav Sha’ul Paulus [Paul] communicated this same idea this way:

Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [Heb. Yeshua HaMoshiakh] is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Philippians 2:9-11)

I used to think when I was growing up and I heard ministers say, “Won’t you make Jesus the Lord of your life?” that each time a person said, “Yes,” it was like each person was casting a vote for Him, and if we got enough votes, then Yeshua/Jesus would then be Lord. But then, in my late thirties it hit me as I read Acts 2:36 and Philippians 2:9-11 that God has already placed Yeshua/Jesus in the position of being Lord.  There is no vote.  The decision has already been made.  He is Lord over all of humanity right now, whether a person happens to believe this or not.  Our belief in (or denial of) His Lordship does not change His position as “Lord,” rather it determines our relationship to Him and to His Kingdom.


Salvation entails more than simply having membership in the “right church or synagogue,” or regularly attending services or giving your tithes.  It also entails more than carrying your Bible around or knowing facts from it that you use to quote at people. Instead, salvation involves an inner transformation that occurs when one willfully and heartfully gives their life completely over to the Lordship of Messiah (Christ).  Rav Sha’ul Paulus [Paul] communicates this in Romans 10:

that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek (non-Jew); for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for “Whosoever will call upon the name of the LORD will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

In the Bible, God’s Kingdom Manual, the heart and the mouth are continually connected, for it is taught that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45; Matthew 6:34).  As a result, we must not only “believe in our hearts,” but we must also “confess Him with our mouths.”


Does belief in Messiah Yeshua/Jesus do away with or in any way annul God’s Torah, His commandments, judgments and decrees?  Absolutely not!  The Torah is God’s revelation of Himself and describes kingdom life and living.  It is, in essence, the Constitution of God’s Kingdom.  I’ve got friends who were not born in the United States and became citizens or who were students from other countries who came to the United States to study.  Both of them have told me that even though they obey U.S. laws, it did not automatically make them U.S. citizens.  Instead, the U.S. has a specific program that people have to go through to become U.S. citizens.

In like mannet, just because someone obeys God’s commandments, judgments, and decrees, it does not make him or her a citizen of God’s kingdom.  God has a special program that people have to go through to become kingdom citizens: they must willingly and heartfully accept the gift of Messiah Yeshua’s/Jesus’ death on the cross for their sins and His resurrection, as well as His Lordship over their lives (see above under “What is ‘Salvation’?”).  Consequently, there is no conflict between one’s faith in the Messiah Yeshua/Jesus and obedience to the Torah, God’s commandments, judgments, and decrees.


Consequently, then, in closing, it is our decision whether-or-not we are going to acknowledge and submit to whom God has placed as the authority over all of our lives or not.  If we accept the gift of His death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, as well as declare our loyalty and allegiance to Him as “Lord” and to His Kingdom, then we are “saved” and become a part of His Kingdom.  Believers in the first century understood the connection between making Yeshua/Jesus Lord and swearing their loyalty and allegiance to Him and to His Kingdom.  However, that political aspect has been forgotten in today’s world.  So once we are “born again” into His Kingdom, then we need to demonstrate and walk out His Lordship over our lives each day by submitting to God’s kingdom teachings and expectations – found from Genesis 1 to the end of Revelation – and to the leading of His Spirit.

But as long as we continue to reject His offer of salvation, then we are outside of God’s Kingdom, since to reject Yeshua/Jesus is to reject whom God has placed as Lord over us, and this is, in fact, then, to reject God Himself.  For example, Yeshua/Jesus said to the masses:

He who believes in Me does not believe in Me, but in Him who sent Me….And if anyone hears My sayings, and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.  He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.  For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak. (John 12:44, 47-49)

We cannot reject Yeshua/Jesus and then expect to be accepted by God in His Kingdom.  We must accept Yeshua/Jesus as Lord to be accepted by God into His Kingdom.  In addition, note, it is what God the Father told Yeshua/Jesus to say that’s recorded in Scripture and that will be used to judge each individual on the day of judgment – not which church, synagogue, or denomination they happen to belonged to.  God will want to know if we lined up to His teachings or didn’t we? And these teachings not only include what is in the New Testament (Heb. B’rit Chadasha) but also what is in the Tanakh (or “Old Testament”).

Again, we are the ones who must choose whether we will accept or reject His Lordship over our lives.  This is why Yeshua/Jesus told Nicodemus,

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name (or person) of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

God gave us the gift of His Son.  We choose what to do with that gift.  In fact, the word translated “believes” doesn’t just mean “to mentally acknowledge,” but it entails us “trusting,” “being reliant upon” and “submitting and obeying” Him.  In other words, it’s not enough just to submit to Him “mentally,” but we must completely, totally, and willingly bend our knees and submit to Him each day from our hearts.  Merely going through the motions will not do it.  Also, this is not just a one-time decision, but it is a decision we must make each and every day.

Also, note that “he who does not believe has been judged already.”  Why?  “Because he has not believed in the name [or person] of the only begotten Son of God.”  But for those who do believe, John writes,

But as many as received Him [Yeshua/Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)


So what is your decision?  Will you accept His sacrificial gift and His offer of the Kingdom, or will you reject it?  The choice is yours to make.  The choice is not what religion is right or wrong, or what denomination to belong to, or even what title to call oneself, but on whether you will accept God’s conditions on what it takes to enter into His Kingdom.  God tells each of us, as He told the children of Israel at Mount Siani:

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

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A Romantic Get-Away with a “Bed Bug” Ending: A Lesson about Sin?


It is the one thing we never thought would ever happen to us.  I remember growing up and saying to people before they went to bed, “Don’t let the bed bugs bite!”  But what I didn’t know growing up was that there really were things called “bed bugs.”  My wife and I both thought that this expression was just something people said about some imaginary creature, much like the “boogie man.”  But since last year, we’ve had a harsh wake up to reality – “bed bugs are real!”


After the end of the semester last May in 2015, I had this idea to take my wife of thirty-four years on a romantic get-away, a second honeymoon.  Our kids are all grown with jobs of their own, and so I thought it would be a great time for my wife and I to get away to have some much needed alone time.  We both grew up in Lansing, Michigan, and I had gone to Mackinaw Island, Michigan, when I was seven years old, but she had never been there, and so I thought it would be fun to go there together.  The island is about nine miles around and is located east of Mackinaw Bridge.  There’s no bridge out to the island, so the only means to get to it is by ferry, and since there are no cars on the island, the only way to get around is by walking, riding bicycles, or by horse and carriage.

We spent the day there and had a lot of fun.  We went to Fort Mackinaw, a British fort from the days of Colonial America, enjoyed the various re-enactments, went bike riding around the island, and yes, we made it all nine miles.  We also went in and out of the many shops that sell fudge, and I am firmly convinced that we have tried every type of fudge imaginable, including one called “Superman Fudge.”  There were also many different tourist shops that sold a variety of different things, including all types of T-Shirts.  And then on the mainland, we saw the Colonial fort, went through the various tourist shops there, saw an old lumber mill, and even went zip lining.  Overall, it was a great trip.


It was about a month afterwards when my wife started waking up with bites all over her arm.  The red bite marks went from her shoulder down to past her elbow, and they were extremely painful.  She described the bites as fiery red and felt like she was burning from the inside out.  We didn’t know what it was, but day after day, she would wake up with these bites, and it was becoming more painful by the day.  Finally, she called the doctor. The doctor asked her where she was being bitten, and when she told her “in bed,” she responded, “that’s not good.”

After hanging up, my wife went to our bed and pulled off the sheet, and as soon as she did, a bunch of little brown bugs started scurrying to the corners of the mattress.  She yelled for me, and when I saw them, I went and grabbed a sandwich baggy to try and capture some of them in it, so we could show them to the doctor.   We were pulling back the corners, finding bugs, and we flipped over the mattress and saw even more bugs.  The more we looked, the more we found.  Finally, my wife was even more horrified when we found bed bugs crawling up and around our curtains.

My wife just stood there in disbelief and horror.  We’d been married for 33 years and NEVER have we ever had any issues with these type of bugs before.  She called the doctor back up and told her we had caught a few of them in a baggy, and she asked her doctor if she wanted her to bring them in to show her.  The doctor replied with an abrupt, “No, don’t come in” and told her she would send her a prescription to Wal-Greens.

We immediately then took the bedding and the drapes and threw them in a black trash bag and took them outside to the trash container, and then came back for the mattress and the box springs, as well as the bed frame.  The doctor also told us to call Terminex. Although we attempted to eliminate the problem, it did not solve it.  To summarize a very long process, we tried every imaginable solution possible to rid ourselves of this problem with no success. Finally, we bit the bullet and called Terminex, who told us they had a three-treatment plan for ridding homes of this impossible pest.  They explained we would have to move everything out of the house and into the garage, shed, and storage units in black bags so they could treat the house.  However, on hearing this, it just seemed too overwhelming and difficult for us to do since we had so much stuff, so we tried other solutions with no success.


We have been battling these pests for the past fifteen months.  Every time we thought we had them beat, they showed up in another room of the house.  Once we moved our bed and curtains out of our bedroom, we discovered that instead of killing the bugs, they simply moved to our kids’ bedrooms and followed us to the living room.  No matter how much we cleaned, vacuumed, or what furniture we threw away, the bugs did not go away.


This month we moved our children and their things out of the house and up to Michigan. And during these long months, we have been reducing the amount of things in our home little-by-little.  Finally, a couple of weeks ago, we called Terminex again.  When the man came out to our home to inspect it the second time, we learned some things about bed bugs.  He said that the bed bugs were coming from the Middle East and that up until Desert Storm, the U.S. had been completely devoid of any bed bugs at all. However, since that time, bed bugs have been spread throughout the United States.

Bed bugs can be picked up by anyone at any location: hotels/motels, theaters, restaurants, in essence anywhere someone can sit down.  Once someone sits down who has bed bugs, the bed bug falls off of them onto the place where they were sitting, and then the next person sits down and the bed bug gets on them and then goes to their home.  The one advantage he said we had over many individuals is that we now know what these pests look like. They do not look the same throughout their life cycle, but they change color and appearance, depending on the particular stage of development.  Tomorrow, July 25th, they will begin the process of treating our home, and we will finally put an end to this horrible nightmare.

In looking back at this whole experience, I feel bad about the fact that I had taken my wife to this place, but even though my intent was good – to give us a fun getaway as a couple – it ended up becoming a 15-month nightmare.


For the last few nights, my wife has been waking up with bed bug bites on the right side of her back.  The pain has been such that my wife has had great difficulty sleeping, so my wife has been crying out to the Lord and asking Him, “Why?  Why would you put us through this horrid experience?  What is it that we are supposed to get from this?” Although she has been tearfully making this prayer for several nights now, she has not received any reply.


Last night, July 23, at about 1:30am, I woke up and could not get to sleep.  I started going back and reading over things that the Lord has spoken to us about regarding our lives and things He is calling us into.  And He brought to my remembrance the fact that God often gave the ancient prophets visuals to use when they preached to help communicate what He wanted them to say, or He had them go through certain experiences that they used for the same reason.  Even Yeshua/Jesus used experiences that the people were familiar with as illustrations in His own teachings.

It is ironic to me that, according to the man from Terminex, “the Middle East is the hotbed of bed bug activity,” and that is where God is sending us for at least the next three months.  Was He getting us ready for a “buggy” future?  What was the purpose for this? God shared with me that in many ways, bed bugs are a lot like sin.  Just like bed bugs, sin is all around us, and we may not be aware at first that we’ve allowed it into our lives.  It may start out as something innocent, a prank, a behavior we’ve learned or “picked up” from a friend, family member, or someone else, or even just a little thing, something that we think shouldn’t be “a big deal,” but then over time we begin to feel the effects of it.  It grows worse and worse, until it becomes a battle that we are continually fighting, but like our battle with bed bugs, the more that we fight it, the more it seems to win and gain the upper hand.


Like bed bugs, sin has infested our lives.  In many ways, we are not aware of how badly sin has infested it.  We look around and compare ourselves with criminals or other “bad people,” and we think, “I’m not that bad.”  But God does not compare us with other people; He compares us with Himself.  Why?  Because according to Scripture, God created us in His own image and likeness:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:….So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Genesis 1:26a, 27)

God created humanity, man and woman, in His image and likeness, so that they would physically reflect and represent Him on the earth.  As a result, then, God is the standard by which we will be judged since we were made “in His image and likeness.”  However, after Adam and Eve (Heb. Chavah) disobeyed God, their disobedient act resulted in God’s original image and likeness to be distorted, twisted, and even changed.  And since that time, we could say that humanity has inherited a virus (another type of “bug”) that has been passed down from generation to generation.


If we were to use a computer example, we could compare it to a computer manufacturer who was coming out with a brand new computer on the market, and they were ready to go into mass production.  However, the night before, unbeknownst to anyone, a competitor broke into the factory and damaged a part of the model’s mother board.  The next day, the factory went into major production and created thousands upon thousands of computers based on the damaged model.  Consequently, all those newly created computers carried the same damage as the original model.  In much the same way, humanity has carried the same damage within each of us – a distorted, twisted, and changed image and likeness – as was formed within Adam and Eve (Heb. Chavah) when they disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden.


Unfortunately, as the Bible teaches, we cannot fix ourselves.  And just like with the bed bugs, we tried throwing out our mattress, bedding, furniture, and even cleaned and scrubbed all that we could with no avail, and so it is with sin, we can try to “clean up” our ways, our thoughts, how we speak, and what we do to try and get rid of the sin in our lives. And for a time we may even think that we have been successful, but then something will happen, and we’ll discover sin again growing in another “room” or part of our life.  And no matter how many self-help programs we go through, how many times we struggle to quit, we come to the ultimate conclusion, we can’t do this on our own.

For example, consider the following passages:

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)

The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.  They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Psalm 14:2-3; Psalm 53:2-3)

These same lines from Psalms 14 and 53 are quoted by Rav Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) in Romans 3:

For we have previously charged that both Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) are all under sin, as it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. (Romans 3:9-11)

Teaching, laws, legislation, etc., may seem to help solve the issue for a time, but it doesn’t because the problem is not an external one, but internal.  It is a problem of the heart.


The message of the Bible is consistent that we have all been affected by the “bed bugs of sin.”  We are all called to walk “the narrow way” that leads to life and to avoid the infested “broad way” that leads to death and destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).  But the problem I see among many Christians today is that they have given up fighting against the “bugs of sin” that has infected each of their lives and have come to accept the fact that this horrible, parasitic bug called “sin” is just a part of who they are.  I’ve heard them tell me and others, “We are no different than anyone else.  After all, we are just forgiven sinners.”

What they don’t seem to realize is that if they are truly no different than someone who does not know Yeshua/Jesus as their Lord and Savior, then God has really made no difference in their life. If they are not different, then what do they have to offer any one else?  People who do not have Messiah (Christ) in their life are spiritually dead, according to Scripture, but God says in His Word that those who have Messiah (Christ) living in their lives have been made “spiritually alive.” Shouldn’t there be a difference between someone who is spiritually dead and someone who is spiritually alive?   If not, there’s something wrong.


I’ve heard many Christians say, “No matter how much I try, I just can’t quit sinning.  I might stop for a time, but then it happens again, and then again.” Yeshua/Jesus taught, “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34).  You see, a slave can be forgiven, but he or she will still remain a slave.  Forgiveness does not “free a slave,” it just forgives them of the wrong that they have done.  And there are many Christians who are “forgiven slaves of sin.”  They’ve been forgiven, but not liberated.  They are still enslaved since they can’t quit sinning, according to their own testimony.  But Yeshua/Jesus did not die just to “forgive” people of their sins, He died and rose again from the dead to free and liberate them from the very power and control of sin.  Yeshua/Jesus Himself taught,

A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free. (John 8:35-36)

Consequently, if we have been truly set free from the control and power of sin, then sin is no longer our master or a “have to,” but if we do sin after being freed from it, then it is because we chose to return to our slavery, we chose to do it.


What all people today – Christian and non-Christian alike – need is to experience God’s forgiveness and liberation from sin’s power and control over their lives.  The Lord has done all that’s needed for us to experience His forgiveness and liberation.  The problem is that the “bug of sin” has so infested the hearts and minds of the modern church that they have lost sight of God’s message of a new Exodus from the slavery of this world and sin into the “Promised Land” of His Kingdom, an exodus where we can leave the hurt, pain, and lashes of shame, guilt, depression, and worthlessness behind, and we can experience the forgiveness, liberation, indwelling Presence, love, and power of God and His Kingdom.  Rather than the message of the Exodus and the power of the cross, the modern church has substituted human programs to try and meet people’s needs.

Therefore, it isn’t enough that we are forgiven, we must be liberated from the control and power of sin, and then changed and transformed within each of us.  As Rav Sha’ul Paulus (Paul) writes,

If so be that you have heard Him [Messiah], and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus [Yeshua]; that you put off [or remove] the former conversation [conduct, behavior] the old man, which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:21-24)

Notice that God does not expect His people to remain what they were.  We are to change and be transformed so that we can become like Him, righteous and holy, but not by our own efforts and willpower, but by us receiving some new things from God.


The first thing that we need from God is “a new heart and a new spirit,”

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)

Notice that God’s intent is to give us “a new heart and a new spirit.”  And it is only after receiving these new gifts that He also will cause us to live in accordance with His commandments. Obviously, then, there’s a problem when someone says they’ve received this “new birth,” but they still cannot live in obedience to God since this contradicts God’s promise here in Ezekiel 36.

Also, the problem here, of course, is that we cannot give ourselves this “heart transplant,” only God can.  He is the only one who can give us a new heart and a new spirit, and He is the only one who can cause us “to walk” or live out His statutes and judgments, i.e., His commandments.  This means that God never intended for any of us to do this on our own.


Yeshua/Jesus came to earth to deal with the “sin bugs” within our lives and to be our model of how to walk out the way of true obedience to the Father.  He, like Terminex, has been sent to destroy the “bugs” that have infested our lives.  Although Terminex destroys bed bugs and other insects, Yeshua/Jesus has been sent to destroy the control and power of sin that has infested our lives through His death and bodily resurrection.  Only He can liberate us from sin’s hold and power and bring us into the freedom and reality of His Kingdom.


Also, like Terminex, God has a three treatment program for dealing with what troubles us. However, instead of bed bugs, God’s three treatment program is made to correct the core issues of our lives, to transform us into what He had originally intended.

And there are three that [continue to] bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. (I John 5:8)

In this verse, I see an allusion to the three main stages of the Exodus, which, I believe, provide us with biblical pictures of God’s three treatment plan to free and liberate us from the slavery of sin and to bring us into the glorious reality of His kingdom.  Although I am not going to go into great depth on these three stages in this article, I am planning on discussing them more in depth in the next article.  In overview, though, God’s three treatment plan involves –

  • THE BLOOD.  The blood represents the first stage of our Exodus journey, our “Passover Experience.”  Yeshua/Jesus, our “Passover Lamb was sacrificed for us,” so that we can apply His sacrificial blood to the door posts and lintels of our heart and lives, so that God’s judgment may “pass over” us and that we may begin to experience the liberation from our “Egypts” of sin.
  • THE WATER.  The water represents the next stage of our Exodus journey, our “Red Sea Experience.”  Just as the children of Israel needed to “pass through the waters” to escape Egypt, so we need to “pass through the waters” to leave behind the control and power of sin in our lives.  The water represents not only the waters of immersion (or baptism) but also the water of the Word.
  • THE SPIRIT.  The Spirit represents the third stage of our Exodus journey, our “Siani Experience.”  Just as God brought His people to Mount Siani to reveal Himself to them and to write His Word upon their hearts and lives on the original Pentecost (Heb. Shavuot), so God will also give His Spirit to those who ask Him, which He poured out upon the original disciples on the Feast of Shavuot/Pentecost.  The Spirit leads us and empowers us to walk in obedience to God and His Word.

These three elements, as we will discuss more fully in the next article, are used by God to purify us of the “bugs of sin” that has infected humanity from the beginning.  These are not one-time events, but daily experiences.   As we’ll discuss, we’ll see this same pattern of experiences repeated over and over again throughout the Scriptures and even in our lives today.


What about you?  Are you experiencing God’s three treatment plan to prepare you for His return and coming kingdom?  Are you being successful in defeating the “bugs of sin” that has infested your life, or are you losing the battle?  If you are losing the battle and find yourself failing God over and over again, then call out to Yeshua/Jesus, our Divine Terminex Savior, who will come and liberate you from the “bug infested sinful life” that you’ve been living and He will make you clean and whole, and set you free from bondages and torments of this life.  He has a wonderful plan for you.  Will you trust Him to provide it for you?


If you would like to experience God’s liberating power, please pray this prayer with me:

Lord, sin has infested my life, and I’m tired of losing the battle.  Please forgive me of my sins, and come into my life.  Lord, I give you every room and crevice of my life.  It is yours, Lord, to have and to use in any way You choose.  Clean me up, Lord, and make me whole, and help me to follow You faithfully from this time forward.  Thank you, Lord, for your death on the cross and Your resurrection.  And help me to learn what I need to know to get ready for Your soon return.  In Yeshua’s (or Jesus’) name, Amen.

If you have prayed this prayer, I would like to hear from you.  Thank you for visiting this site, and I pray God’s blessing on your journey with Him.

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Critical Thinking & Faith (Pt. 2): What is “Biblical Faith”?

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1)

by Chris L. Verschage

In the first part of this series “Critical Thinking & Faith,” we discussed that most people have a long historical misperception of what biblical faith is.  It is NOT

  • merely the mental or verbal agreement or acknowledgment of a belief, a particular doctrine, or a set of doctrinal statements;
  • merely Calling Yeshua/Jesus “Lord” and Doing Good Works; or
  • “a Divine Force”

However, in this second part of this series, I would like to build on our previous study by exploring the question, “What is ‘Biblical Faith’?”

Some Basic Principles in Interpretation

Before exploring what “Biblical Faith” is, let’s establish some basic principles of interpretation.

  • When examining the Scriptures, we need to keep things in context.  To take any verse or passage out of its original context and you open the door to misinterpretation, misunderstanding and error.  Too many people think that just because it is the Bible, they can take all the rules of how to properly handle a text and “throw them out the window.” But you can’t.  The same rules apply.
  • When examining any biblical concept, we need to remember that we should always examine the concept first in the Tanakh (or Old Testament), and then in the New Testament.  God did not write the New Testament first and then the Tanakh/Old Testament, but the other way around.  Unfortunately, many Christians have been taught to read their Bible backwards – New Testament and then Old Testament –  which causes interpretational problems and misunderstandings when they get to the Tanakh or Old Testament.
  • To understand the basic, foundational meaning of any term, concept, or idea, you need to find where it is first mentioned or used in Scripture.  In Hermeneutics, this principle is known as “the Law of First Mention.”

Genesis 15 – It’s First Occurrence

The first occurrence of the word “faith” in its basic root form is in Genesis 15.  In Genesis 12, God calls Abram to leave his country and his father’s house, and He promises to make of Abram “a great nation” (Genesis 12:2).  Implying, of course, in that promise, is that Abram would have many children.  Abram gladly responded to this since he and his wife, Sarai, were childless.

In Genesis 15, it has now been several years, and he and Sarai still do not have any children.  It’s clear from the chapter that Abram has come to the point in his life when he has accepted that he is not going to have any children and that his servant, Eliezer of Damascus, is going to inherit everything from him (Genesis 15:2-3).  But in spite of this, God then reaffirms His promise to Abram and takes him outside to give him a visual to help build his faith:

And behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be your heir; but he that shall come forth out of your own bowels (or body) shall be your heir.  And He brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell (or count) the stars, if you are able to number them: and He said unto him, so shall your seed (descendants) be. (Genesis 15:4-5)

Now let’s think about this logically.  If we consider my student’s definition again from the first part of this series that “Faith is believing in something where there is no reason or evidence for it.  If there was evidence, then it wouldn’t be faith,” and so if this is true, then why did God take Abram outside to provide him with a visual to build his faith?  And what was Abram’s response to this visual that God was providing him?

And he believed in the LORD; and he counted to him as righteousness.  (Genesis 15:6; emphasis mine)

Abram “believed.”  His belief was based on the evidence of what He had heard and what He saw, and it was also based on the relationship that He had experienced so far with God. In other words, it was based on various forms of evidence.  This same verse is quoted (in full or in part) by the Apostle Paul (Heb. Rav Sha’ul Paulus; see Romans 4:3, 9, 22; Galatians 3:6) and by James (Heb. Ya’acov; see James 2:23).  Why is this verse used by both Paul (Rav Sha’ul) and James (Ya’acov)?  Because this is the first use of this concept, and as such, it establishes the foundational meaning of the term.

What Does It Mean “Believed”?

In English, the word “believed” means “mental agreement,” but in the Hebrew, the word used here is ‘aman (Strong’s #539), and it means “to trust; to believe.”  In fact, in the Greek translation of this verse, it uses the Greek word for “trust,” rather than “believe.” You see “trust” has a cost, but “belief” (or mental agreement) does not.  An example of this can be seen in the story of a man who tight-roped his way across Niagra Falls.  On the other side, there was a great crowd cheering him on.  When he reached the other side, people clapped and cheered.  He then asked them,

How many of you believe that I can make it back across to the other side?

Everyone raised their hands.  He then asked, “Who would like to get on my back?”  No one volunteered.  There was no cost to their belief, but there was a great cost to anyone who would trust him to carry them across on his back.  The same is true of biblical faith.  So one meaning of “faith” is trust.

Faith is not merely mentally accepting the concept of God, but it is trusting God with your life.

Abram was trusting God with his future, the hope that his family line would continue.  He was not merely acknowledging the possibility that God could exist, nor was he mentally agreeing with the idea that God does exist.  Instead, he was trusting God to come through and keep a specific promise that God had made to him.  He was trusting God to bring to pass the promise of children during his lifetime. And those who know the story of Abram (later Abraham) is that he ended up having eight (8) sons.

  • Ishmael from Hagar (Genesis 16)
  • Isaac from Sarah (Genesis 21), and
  • six (6) sons from Keturah: Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah (Genesis 25:1-2).

These eight (8) sons Abraham fathered prior to his death.  Most people have heard of Ishmael and Isaac; however, there are many people who have not heard about Abraham’s other six (6) sons by Keturah.  In Leslie’s (also known as “Tikkunknitter”) blog article “Chayei Sarah: Keturah & Life Beyond Boundaries,” she writes,

My own search for Keturah turns up only bits and pieces. I am intrigued by a referencer to the “Yakult Midrash,” which suggests that each of Abraham’s three wives descended from a son of Noah: Sarah, a daughter of Shem; Hagar, a daughter of Ham; and Keturah, a
daughter of Japheth. How tidily this medieval   
midrash connects the entire family which    
  survives the Flood with the entire family of tribes
who people the 
mideast; how remarkably      
  generous, how “modern”. I suppose I am not
  surprised to find that the approach of this
  midrash is similarly employed in the roughly
  contemporaneous map of the world contained in
  the 15th-century Nuremburg Chronicle, in which Noah’s three sons support the perimeters of the (known) world. (Tikkun Knits: Knitting Together Jewish Thought, Life, and Social Action, November 1, 2007)

Although we do not know much about Keturah and her six (6) sons, we do read several references regarding the descendants of one of her sons, Midian.  For example, it was Midianite traders who pulled Joseph out of the pit his brothers had thrown him into, and then these same Midianite traders turned around and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites, who then took him into Egypt (Genesis 37:28).  Now it is possible to interpret this verse to mean that Joseph was actually sold three different times: once to the Midianites, then to the Ishmaelites, and then to Potiphar the Egyptian, rather than the one time we see in most movies about Joseph’s life.  But then after 215 years after Joseph dies, we read in Exodus 3:1 that Moses marries Zipporah, whose father is “a priest of Midian.”

These are only a couple of biblical references to the people of Midian, the descendants of Abraham and Keturah.  Did God keep His promise to Abraham during his lifetime?  Yes, He did.  What does this teach us about “faith”?  That faith is not a noun, it’s not a thing that we mentally accept to be true, but it is a verb, an action that you take based on the trust you have in someone.  In other words, faith is an action, it is something that you do.  This is why James teaches,

What does it profit, my brethren, though a man says he has faith, and has not works?  can faith save him?…Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone.  Yes, a man may say, “You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works…But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?…For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2: 14, 17, 18, 20, 26)

How can an action be an action when there’s no action?  Obviously, it can’t.  Also, let’s logically think about this.  The Hebrew word ‘aman (trans. “believe”) also means “to trust.”  Do we normally place our trust, our confidence, in someone we don’t know anything about?  No, of course not.  If a total stranger walks up to you and asks you if he can borrow your credit cards, are you going to give them to him?  Of course not!  However, if a family member or friend you knew extremely well came to you with a need, and you knew from being around them and from the evidence of their life and choices that this person was extremely trustworthy and responsible, would you loan your credit card to them?  You are more likely to.  Why?  Because based on the evidence you saw and knew over several years, you knew that person was trustworthy and, therefore, could be trusted. Based on this, then,

Faith assumes (and is derived from) the existence of evidential proof.  And without the existence of evidential proof, there can be no faith.

Have you considered faith in this light before?  Is your faith in God based upon evidential proof?  What are the promises that you trusting God to accomplish during your lifetime? In considering your level of trust in God, have you ever considered the following: How far are you willing to trust Him?  Are you willing to put your life, your future, in His hands?  Are you willing to trust Him with all that you own?  your finances?  What about the lives of your children?  Is there a line that you are not willing to cross in your trust of God?  And if so, where is that line in your life?  These are questions that I believe each of us need to answer for ourselves.  And if you are having problems trusting or believing God, perhaps the real problem is that you haven’t seen enough evidence yet.

The Bible – Our Source of Proof?

Did you know that the Bible claims that it is a source of “proof” or “evidence”?  In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul (Rav Sha’ul) writes:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. [emphasis mine]

The word translated “rebuking” in this modern English version is translated as “reproof” in the King James Version.  In English, “reproof” literally means “to prove again,” just as “revision” literally means “to see again.” In other words, during the biblical writers, including Paul’s (Rev Sha’ul’s) lives, God proved Himself trustworthy through the situations that they experienced.  As we read and study the Scriptures, it “proves again” to us that God is worthy of our complete and total trust in Him by offering us the examples of God’s character and personality, and how He intervened in these people’s lives.

The Greek word that’s used here is elegchos, and it is a legal term, which means,

Conviction, only [used] in 2 Timothy 3:16 and Hebrews 11:1.  It implies not merely the charge on the basis of which one is convicted, but also the manifestation of the truth [or evidence] of that charge.  The results to be reaped from that charge and the acknowledgement, (if not outwardly, yet inwardly) of its truth on the part of the accused are referred to as well.  (“Lexical Aids to the New Testament” 1712)

In order to convict someone legally in a court of law, there must be evidential proof that’s offered. Without the offering of any evidential proof, there can be no conviction.  This means that Paul is telling us here that “All Scripture” – both the Old Testament and the New Testament – provides us with the evidential proof AND the manifestation of that truth seen through the lives of those discussed in the Scriptures to give us the conviction and the assurance to know that God is who He says that He is, and that He is worthy of our complete trust and faith in Him.

Personal Experience is NOT Proof?

There are those who argue that personal experiences are not evidential proof since they are usually biased and subjective.  However, this is a position of convenience, rather than one of fact.  Personal experience and personal observation are considered in any court room as evidential proof.   People have been sent to prison, and even to death row, based on the personal experience and observations of “eye-witnesses.”  To argue that personal experience and observation cannot be seen as evidential proof contradicts their use in court room trials for centuries.  It’s inconsistent.  If it is evidence in the court room, then it should be considered evidence outside the court room.

However, someone always raises the objection that a person’s experience or observation can be wrong, and people have been innocent who were sent to prison.  However, that possibility great decreases with the increased amount of eyewitnesses.  Biblically, a person should never receive the death sentence UNLESS there’s been at least two or three eyewitnesses to the crime.

If anyone kills a person, the murderer is to be put to death based on the word of witnesses.  But no one is to be put to death based on the testimony of one witness. (Numbers 35:30)

The one condemned to die is to be executed on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  No one is to be executed on the testimony of a single witness. (Deuteronomy 17:6)

One witness cannot establish any wrongdoing or sin against a person, whatever that person has done.  A fact must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15)

In many cases, if biblical teaching had been followed, there’s a lot of people who would not have been erroneously placed on death row and killed since there was not “two or three witnesses” to the crime.  Instead, they should get life in prison, or whatever time period deemed appropriate for that particular crime.  This principle was so entrenched into Jewish culture that be the first century, C.E., it became a basic principle for the establishment of any truth or fact.  For example, Yeshua/Jesus taught His disciples,

If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother [back].  But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses, every fact may be established. (Matthew 18:15-16; emphasis mine)

Did you note Yeshua’s/Jesus’ quote of Deuteronomy 19:15?   He based His own teachings on the Torah given by God to Moshe (Moses).   A great many of His teachings, in fact, were based on it (see John 5:45-47).

“Faithfulness” – The Other Side of Faith?

In exploring the concept of “faith” then, we discover that “Trust” is only one side of the meaning of “faith.”  What many people do not know is that there is another side.  The other side is “faithfulness.”  Biblical faith not only means “trusting God,” but it also means “being faithful to God.”  The Hebrew word ‘emunah, the complete form of the word for “faith,” is built off of the word for “mother” (em), and is rooted in intimacy and relationship.  The first occurrence of the word ‘emunah is actually found in the book of Exodus.  The children of Israel have crossed the Red Sea, and they are about to engage in their first battle as a free people, with the Amalekites.  Joshua led the forces, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur oversaw the battle from a nearby hilltop.  The Scriptures state,

And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.  (Exodus 17:11)

Moses could only stand there for so long, holding the rod of God in his hand (Exodus 17:9), but as long as he held the rod up, Israel would prevail.  So what happened?  Did Israel end up losing?  No, Moses got some help.

But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they [Aaron and Hur] took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up [or held up] his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side, and his hands were steady [Heb. ’emunah] until the going down of the sun. (Exodus 17:12)

The Hebrew word ‘emunah is translated here into English as “steady,” it can also be translated as “firmness, steadiness;” “steadfastness” (Isaiah 33:6); and “faithfulness, trust, honesty” (Psalm 37:3; Proverbs 12:17; Isaiah 25:1).   According to the “Lexical Aids to the Old Testament”:

This word [‘emunah] has as its key idea faithfulness or certainty.  It is especially important in expressing God’s faithfulness (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 33:4; 89:49), a key divine attribute in the OT. (1599)

Faithfulness, trust, honesty, and steadiness are all terms that center around and are foundational to sustaining strong intimacy and relationship.   If someone is not faithful, honest, or steadfast in their commitment to the relationship, it will not last.  And how many times have we heard of a relationship falling apart because there was no longer any “trust” in the relationship?

Not only is ’emunah rooted in intimacy and relationship, but as I’ve mentioned earlier, it assumes the existence of evidence.  How many people will really trust someone they don’t know?  The amount of trust is dependent on how trustworthy the person is, or to put it another way, it is based on the amount of evidence they’ve demonstrated to prove that they are, in fact, trustworthy.  The same is true of “faithfulness,” “steadfastness,” and “honesty.”  We measure all these things based upon the evidence provided.  Without evidence, how can these characteristics truly be evaluated or determined?

This is one of the reasons for the Bible as discussed earlier.  It provides us with the evidence that God is ’emunah: faithful, steadfast, true, honest, and reliable. In fact, the Hebrew word ’emunah is used to describe God in Deuteronomy 7:9,

Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful [Heb. ’emunah] God, which keeps covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations.

A major attribute of God is that He is ’emunah, and He expects it to likewise be a major characteristic of our lives as well:

Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith [Heb. ’emunah].  (Habakkuk 2:4; emphasis mine)

Just as ’emunah is a characteristic of God, it should characterize the lives of “the just” as well.  We should strive to be His children and disciples,  and to imitate Him.  This is why God wants us to operate on faith, so we can learn to be imitators of Him.  In fact, the latter part of this verse –  “the just shall live by faith” – is quoted by the Apostle Paul (Heb. Rav Sha’ul) in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11, as well as by the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 10:38. Interestingly, Martin Luther and others have credited this idea of “the just [living] by faith” to the Apostle Paul, even though, Paul (Rav Sha’ul) himself was, in fact, quoting the Jewish prophet Habakkuk.

Faith in the New Testament

The word translated “faith” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word pistis (#4102 in Strong’s Concordance), and literally means “to persuade” or “to be persuaded.” It is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word, ‘emunah (#530), and according to the concordance, as we’ve discussed, “This word has as its key idea of faithfulness or certainty.”  The term “faithfulness” refers to one’s actions or behavior, and it is easy to see why pistis “being persuaded” then would be seen to be an equivalent term to ’emunah or the idea of “certainty.”  In fact, according to the concordance, the Greek word pistis is derived from the Greek word peitho (Strong’s #3982), which means,

to entice or persuade; to seek to persuade or solicit the favor of; to prevail by persuasion;  to be persuaded.

So based on this definition, then, in order “to have faith,” one needs to be convinced or persuaded that something is true.  How does this happen if one does not have evidence? In fact, when one becomes so “fully persuaded” that it motivates that person into action, then that moment of action is what the Bible calls “faith” (Gk. pistis).   Let me give a couple of examples to illustrate this point.

The Roman Centurion

In the Gospels, a Roman Centurion comes to Yeshua/Jesus with a request, a servant of his is deathly ill and he wants Yeshua/Jesus to heal him.   It should be remembered that the relationship between the Jews and the Romans were much like Al Qaida and the United States: there were Jewish Zealots trying to kill as many Romans as possible, just as Al Qaida is trying to kill as many from the U.S. as possible.  Obviously, then, this Roman Centurion was not going to just stroll up to a group of Jews, unless he had been given guarantees from people he knew and trusted well and could assure him that Yeshua/Jesus was not a Zealot or a possible threat.

However, what amazed Yeshua/Jesus when He volunteered to go to this man’s house to heal his servant was this Centurion’s response (and it is his response we need to pay close attention to as well):

Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof: but just speak the word, and my servant shall be healed.  For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it.  When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” (Matthew 8:8-10)

Using analysis, let’s take this passage apart to understand his response, how does it illustrate what we’ve been saying about the biblical view of faith, and why did Yeshua/Jesus marvel at his response.

  • The Roman Centurion, like Yeshua/Jesus, was “a man under authority.”  Due to his position and experience as a Roman Centurion, he understood how authority operated.  The power of authority always flowed from the top down.  I am sure there were many times as a soldier, he operated under the command of Caesar, even though he never saw Caesar give that command personally.  And I am sure there are many soldiers today who have operated under the command given by a general that they never met.  In stating this, he was implying his understanding that Yeshua/Jesus was under, or in submission to, the authority of God.
  • The Roman Centurion, like Yeshua/Jesus, had authority over something.  As a Centurion, he not only operated under the authority of Caesar, but he, himself, had authority over a hundred men, plus slaves and servants.  He gives examples of his own experiences of telling people to “come” or to “go,” and they do it without him having to watch them do it.  Just as he operates under the authority of Caesar whom he has not seen, he also does not need to see his servant or one of his soldiers doing something to know that it will get done.  Why?  Because it was often a death sentence if it wasn’t done.  By him saying, “But only say the word, and my servant will be healed,” and then him following up with examples his experiences of his own authority over others, he is implying through this that Yeshua/Jesus himself has authority over sickness and disease.  What Yeshua/Jesus marvels at is the Centurion’s ability to make the connection between how authority operates and the healing ministry of Yeshua/Jesus since this was a connection that the Jews did not make; since they often needed to see Him come and place His hand on the person for them to believe the person was healed; whereas, this Roman Centurion did not.  He just needed the word spoken.
  • The Roman Centurion, like Yeshua/Jesus, expressed his authority by speaking.  Both the Roman Centurion and Yeshua/Jesus expressed their authority by speaking words.  The Centurion expressed this by saying, “I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it” (Matthew 8:9).   And like him, Yeshua/Jesus also expresses His authority by speaking when He told the Centurion, “Go.  As you have believed, let it be done for you” (Matthew 8:13).
  • The Roman Centurion, like Yeshua/Jesus, did not need to see it being done to know that it was done.

In comparing the two, we can see that the Roman Centurion’s faith was based on the evidence of the testimony of those he knew (which is why he went to Yeshua/Jesus) AND upon the evidence of his own personal experiences and observations as a Centurion within the Roman army.  Consequently, his faith was based upon two different forms of evidence.  Notice also that Yeshua/Jesus does not rebuke or correct him for basing his faith on that evidence, but instead, he praises him for it.  With that being the case, how can faith be as my student defined it: “Faith is believing in something where there is no reason or evidence for it.  If there was evidence, then it wouldn’t be faith.”  Apparently, this student, and those who believe this erroneous definition, need to reconsider their definition in the light of what the Bible actually teaches.

A Woman With An Issue

In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, there is a narrative about a woman who suffered from a twelve-year problem with her menstrual cycles; she kept bleeding.  Whether the bleeding was completely ongoing (non-stop) or it stopped for a few days and then restarted, the text does not specify.  However, this problem caused her great concern, so naturally, like many women today would do, she sought medical aid:

And the woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any. (Luke 8:43)

Unfortunately, medical science did not have an answer for her.  And because of the cultural practices of the time, this problem was not only an obvious health risk, but it kept her from having a relationship with her husband (if she had one), as well as kept her from attending any worship services at the Temple.  In essence, it kept her ostracized from both her family, friends, and even from participation in any religious services.

What I want to show by the following text is that the woman came to a logical deduction based on the evidence.  And she was so convinced, so fully persuaded, by the evidence that it propelled her to act.

And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem (lit. “twisted coil”) of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.  But Jesus turned around, and when he saw her, he said, “Daughter, be of good comfort; your faith has made you whole.”  And the woman was made whole from that hour.  (Matthew 9:20-22)

I’d like to point out a couple of things regarding this narrative.  First of all, it is evident from the text that this woman had either heard Yeshua/Jesus teach and saw him heal (a primary source; personal observation) or she had heard others discuss his teachings and healings (a secondary source).  She would not take the time or the energy to seek him out in her weakened condition if one (of both) of the two had not occurred.

Secondly, why did she believe, according to the text, that if she only “touched the hem” (literally “the twisted coil”) that hung on the corners of his clothing that “she would be healed”?  On what is she basing this conclusion?  She’s actually basing it on something from the Scriptures, a written text:

But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings;…. (Malachi 4:2)

Jewish men wear what is known as a “tallith” or “prayer shawl.” On the four corners of the prayer shawl are twisted coils with five knots (the knots representing the five books of Moses), and the corner where each of these twisted coils (or in Hebrew, tzitzit) are tied is called “the wing.”  The text states that when the “Sun of righteousness” shall “arise” (or appear), there would be “healing in his wings” or in the twisted coils that hung from the corners of his prayer shawl.  And as the Greek bears out, it is to this specific location on Yeshua’s/Jesus’ garment that she was reaching.  Consequently, it can be logically concluded that she was so fully convinced, so fully persuaded by what she saw or experienced (a primary source) or what she was told by friends and family (a secondary source), as well as what the Scriptures taught (a secondary textual source), that Yeshua/Jesus was the promised “Sun of righteousness” (a term for the Messiah) that she went out looking for Him to get healed as she logically concluded from the evidence.   And it was this resulting action based upon the given evidence that the Bible calls “faith.”

Faith = Action Based on Persuasive Evidence

I mention these two narratives to reiterate my point that the Bible does not teach that “faith is believing something where there is no evidence,” but what we see from these texts is that faith is being so “fully persuaded” or “so fully convinced” that the conclusion drawn from the available evidence is correct that it motivates us into action.  “Belief,” as it is understood in English, as mentioned earlier, is defined as “mental agreement” and does not necessarily include action, but in the Bible, faith that does not include action is invalid or “dead” (Remember James?)  So again, “faith” from a biblical perspective is an action that occurs as a result of being “fully persuaded” by the evidence presented.

In fact, one New Testament writer, the Apostle John, argues that his experience that he’s sharing is based on evidence that he was able to verify with his senses:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life;…. (I John 1:1)

John says it is something that he has heard, seen with his eyes, and handled with his hands.  So how is this “faith,” as John describes the basis of his testimony, “based on no evidence at all”?  Again, it is inconsistent to argue that personal observation and experience is not evidence when it is considered evidence in our American courtrooms. Interestingly, in fact, in the beginning of the book of Acts, which was written by Luke, a Greek medical physician, he makes the following statement:

To whom also he [Jesus] showed himself alive after his passion [crucifixion and burial] by many infallible proofs, being seen of them [his followers] forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.  (Acts 1:3; emphasis added)

What’s interesting about this verse is the phrase “infallible proofs,” which is the English translation of the Greek word tekmerion (#5039).  This Greek word means “demonstrative, infallible, or convincing proof.”  So again, if faith is not based on “any evidence,” then why does this Greek physician, who fully understood the idea of medical proof, or what we now call “forensic evidence,” use this term in reference to the Messiah’s bodily resurrection?  Or to put it another way, if faith is based on “no evidence,” then why the reason for “demonstrative, infallible, or convincing proof”?

Consequently, then, faith, as it is presented in the New Testament, is not based on “no reason or no evidence,” but is a logical conclusion drawn from some form(s) of persuasive evidence.

But I don’t Believe the Bible

I have heard some try to argue that since they don’t believe in God or that the Bible is the Word of God, it is not evidence since they don’t accept it.  However, their acceptance or rejection of it is not relevant to it being evidence.  For example, several years ago I was in a slight mishap in Tennessee during a bad snow storm.  The roads were badly iced over, and pulling out of a shopping center after buying some new windshield wipers at only 10 miles per hour, I hit an ice patch and slid into this white car.  We got out of our respective cars and expected them.  Her bumper was scratched and slighted dented, and her right tail light was broken.  We exchanged insurance information and then went our way.

The following year, I was given jury duty in a court trial dealing with a woman who was allegedly hit by a man driving a semi at 50 miles an hour.  The woman took the stand and gave her testimony (her experiential evidence), as well as her lawyer offering other corroborating evidence to support her testimony.  However, in examining her evidence, I discovered something rather interesting.  She was driving the exact same type of car I had accidentally slid into the year before.  According to her, the semi driver rammed into her at 50 miles per hour, yet there was absolutely no damage to her rear fender and tail lights.  I wondered, How could a semi, going 50 mph, do less damage than I did to a similar car going only 10 mph?  I had to conclude from my own experience and observation that she did not have the better argument.

But just because I rejected her testimony does not mean that her testimony was not evidence.  It had been given as evidence in a court of law, and it was recorded in a legal document for all to examine and read later.  Just because I chose to reject it does not change that fact that it was evidence.  In much the same way, the Bible’s testimony regarding God is evidence, and whether one accepts its testimony or not does not change the fact that it is evidence.  My only question is, What are you going to do with that evidence?  Are you going to honestly consider it, to weigh it, and to evaluate its truths?  Or are going to reject it?  The choice you make is entirely yours.

The New Testament – A Book of Arguments

Therefore, since one must be “fully persuaded” from the evidence in order for “faith” to occur, the New Testament is full of various forms of argumentation.  For example, consider the following types of arguments:

  • Narrative Essays. Matthew, Mark and Luke are narrative discourses with an explicit thesis. Matthew’s thesis is found at the beginning of the book, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1); Mark’s, like Matthew’s, is also located at the beginning of the text, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;…” (1:1).  Thus, both texts were written for audiences that would accept the intended message (or are “One-Sided Arguments”).  If these texts were used in schools or by those who home school, these texts could be used to discuss the role of the thesis and how these particular texts use narration as a means to back up and support the given thesis.
  • A Narrative Essay with a Delayed Thesis. The Gospel of John, like Matthew, Mark and Luke, is a narrative discourse but unlike their’s, it has a delayed thesis (found near the end of the book in John 20:31).

But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name. (NASB)

A delayed thesis implies that the designated audience was, in fact, in opposition to the intended thesis.  This is why it is “delayed,” so that by the time the audience hears it, it is too late to shut the argument down since the evidence or support for the argument would have already been presented.  In fact, historically, the Gospel of John and the epistle of I John was written in opposition to Gnostic believers and their teachings.

According to the online article in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Gnosticism was “a form of utter pessimism [that] bemoan[ed] the existence of the whole universe as a corruption and a calamity, with a feverish craving to be freed from the body of this death and a mad hope that, if we only knew, we could by some mystic words undo the cursed spell of this existence.”

These Gnostic groups, which predate Christianity by several hundred years (they were problematic for the Jewish community as well), associated itself with Christian thought and terminology and are the ones responsible for many writings that sought to displace the original movement, including the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and the Gospel of Judas.  These writings served as the basis for the novel and movie, The Da Vinci Code.  The Gnostics argued against a bodily resurrection since anything material to them was evil, so how could a holy God appear in a literal human body?  Consequently, Yeshua/Jesus only appeared to be human, they taught.  This is why the Apostle John makes the following arguments,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  (John 1:1-2)

The Gnostics would not have had a problem with this, until John got to verse 14.

And the Word became flesh and took up residence among us.  We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son of the Father.

This is why we find John continually pairing up the divinity of Messiah with His humanity.  John is presenting his argument of the Messiah being both fully God and fully a sensual man who lived, taught, and died in a real, physically material body.  This is not an argument that the Gnostics could accept.  Consequently, John continues his argument with them in his first epistle:

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed, and have touched with our hands (notice the sensual evidence) concerning the Word of life – that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us – what we have seen and heard we also declare to you,… (I John 1:1-3a)

From the very beginning here, John is connecting the humanness of Jesus with His divinity as the “Word of Life” and the “eternal life that was with the Father.”  He continues these pairings throughout, and then near the end, he also writes,

This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.  But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. (I John 4:2-3a)

Imagine the interesting research paper that could be written after examining these Gnostic writings, the movie The Da Vinci Code, as well as John’s two argumentative texts.

  • Definition Arguments.
    There is a definition argument presented in I Corinthians 13 regarding the nature of love that’s supported with a series of synonym phrases, and another well-known definition argument in Hebrews 11, regarding the essence of faith, that’s supported with a series of narrative examples. Both can be used to illustrate how definitions can be supported and elaborated upon within one’s research or writings.
  • Precedent Argument.
    In Acts 5:34-40, Gamaliel, a renowned teacher in Judaism, uses a precedent argument to persuade the Sanhedrin (like the Israeli Supreme Court) on how they should approach and handle the arrested followers of the Nazarene. In much the same way, President Bush used a precedent argument to persuade the congress and the American public on the approach that should be taken in response to the destruction of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, by Al Qaida terrorists.  An interesting activity would be to compare and contrast the two speeches in regard to their audiences, purpose, structure, and effectiveness.
  • “Other Forms of Argument”
    In addition to these forms of argument, there are other forms of argument that are used in the New Testament that are often not included in argumentative textbooks.  For example, one form of argument is called in Hebrew kal v’khomer (“light and heavy”; philosophers call this type of argument a fortiori, “with even greater strength”).  This form of argument states that “if X is true of Y, then how much more X must be true of Z (where Z is of greater weight than Y).”  Here are some examples:

What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?  Of how much more value then is a man more than a sheep?  Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.  (Matthew 12:11-12)

Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse or barn; and God feeds them: how much more are you better than the fowls? (Luke 12:24)

But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  [How] much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath through him.  (Romans 5:8-9)

As we can see in these examples, the argument presented is signaled by the phrase “how much more.”  And sometimes, like in the final example, the word “how” is there by implication.

The point is that there are many different types of arguments used throughout the writing of the New Testament.  If, in fact, as my student stated at the beginning of this series, that “faith is believing in something when there is no evidence,” then why are all of these various forms of argumentation being used?  It seems apparent that as far as the New Testament writers were concerned, faith indeed is a logical conclusion based on reason and requiring an evidential basis.

Where is the Evidence Today?

What many people today crave is to know that God is real, that He is not something that we, as human beings, have made up or created as Freud taught, to be a “mental crutch.”  Unfortunately, for far too many churches, the power of God is no longer there within it.  They don’t believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, or in a God that continues to speak to His people prophetically.  Instead, they have made God mute and have replaced the power of God with man-made social programs that attempt to draw people into their doors.  But a silent God and man-made social programs will not feed the hunger of people.  They want to experience the reality of God.  They want to know the miraculous, healing, dead raising and demon stomping God that they see and have read about in the Scriptures.

What does the Church need today?  It needs to rediscover the God of the Bible.  They need to rediscover the awe and wonder of being in the Presence of a Holy God, and they need to experience the majesty of His miraculous power.  But until the Church admits the fallacy of replacing the Biblical God with one of their own creation, this will not likely occur.

But what the world, those outside the church?  What do they need?  Faith?  I actually do not believe that the problem with the modern world is that they lack faith since in my opinion, it takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in creationism. Instead, I believe that they lack the evidence they need to build their faith in God and His Word.

And so I say to the modern Church, it’s time for you to rediscover the God of the Bible and to give the world the evidence they are so hungry for.  Because when that day happens, and the world finally sees the evidence of a real miracle-working God at work inside and outside a worshipping, Bible-believing congregation, then congregations around the world will be standing room only with people pressing in to hear the Word of God both in the sanctuary and outside around the building.  May that day come quickly.  Amen.

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Critical Thinking & Faith (Pt. 1): What “Biblical Faith” is NOT

[The picture above is a scene from the movie Jesus of Nazareth (1977) where Jesus (played by Robert Powell) is telling the Roman Centurion (played by Ernest Borgnine) that his servant is healed as he believed.]

by Chris L. Verschage

NOT Opposites?

Critical thinking, logic, reason and faith are not opposites.  This may surprise many people.  There is a dominant misconception that to have faith in God is to deny critical thinking, logic and reason.  And from the writings of many philosophers, we see this misconception perpetuated.  For example,

Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe. (Voltaire)

Faith: not wanting to know what is true. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

The way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason. (Benjamin Franklin)

We may define “faith” as the firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of “faith.” We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence. (Bertrand Russell)

Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence. (Richard Dawkins)

Many will argue that these men, including Richard Dawkins, are great geniuses, and they are experts in their fields of study, but not when it comes to understanding biblical faith.  As we will see in this study, these quotes demonstrate a poor perception of faith as it is presented and discussed within the Bible.  But not do only philosophers, scientists, and the general public have a poor concept of biblical faith, but the unfortunate truth is that many Christians past and present have also been equally mistaken about it as well.  For example, there are many churches that have placed on their signs in their front yard, “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has.”  One would like to think that Christians, at least, would have a clear concept of biblical faith, but the evidence, unfortunately, does not support that conclusion.  To illustrate this further, I’d like to use an experience I had in one of my college classes.

A Disturbing Discussion

I had just responded to student’s statement when a huge gasp was heard across the room.  You would’ve thought that I had just committed a heinous sin in front of everyone, rather than just question a belief statement made by a student in one of my English Composition courses. I wanted to know upon what evidence she was basing her statement.

“You can’t question her beliefs,”   I was told by several students.

“Why not?” I asked.  “Why can’t I question them?”  The look on their faces told me that they thought I had apparently lost my mind, because certainly someone of my age should know better than to do something like this.

One of the students responded, “Faith is believing in something where there is no reason or evidence for it.  If there was evidence, then it wouldn’t be faith.”   The rest of the class then nodded in agreement.

One can easily see that this student is perpetuating the historical misperception of biblical faith.  When I pressed the issue further to see where they had learned this definition of “faith,” many of them said, “At church.”  I was surprised.  Why?  Because this is not the view of faith taught by the Bible.  Consequently, then, there are churches today teaching their own definition of faith, rather than how the Bible defines and uses the term.  So in this article, I want to build on our discussion of critical thinking (see What is “Critical Thinking”? And Can We Do THAT In Church?”by examining the relationship between critical thinking and faith.  But before we can do that, we need to have a clear idea of what biblical faith is, so I’m going to define it by negation, first telling what it is not (here in part 1) and then what it is (part 2).

What “Biblical Faith” is NOT

Biblical faith is not what the world or American culture says that it is, it is not “blind” nor is it a “blind leap in the dark,” nor is it based on the absence of critical thinking, logic or reason.  In fact, it is the opposite of how it is usually described in American culture in both the Hebrew and the Greek.  So let’s begin this study by defining what biblical faith is NOT.

Biblical Faith is NOT merely the mental or verbal agreement or acknowledgment of a belief, a particular doctrine, or a set of doctrinal statements.

This might be the first step towards biblical faith, but this is not what the Bible means by the word “faith.”  For example, James writes, “You believe that God is one; You do well: the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19, NASB).

I’ve heard people say, “Well, I believe there is a God,” and think that is all that is needed to get them into heaven, but James writes here that “the demons also believe.” You see, merely acknowledging that there is a God is not enough.  Satan and every demon under his authority believe that there’s a God, and they’re still going to Hell.  People think Hell is where Satan rules, but that’s not true.  The Bible calls him “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), as well as “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).  Satan does not want to go to Hell any more than anyone else does; he just wants to make sure he takes as many people with him as he can.  In fact, I’ll go one step further, Satan and his demons don’t just believe there’s a God, they know for certain that there’s a God because they’re continually seeking to mess up what He does.  So, no, mental acknowledgment is not enough.

Biblical Faith is NOT merely Calling Yeshua/Jesus “Lord” and Doing Good Works.

There are people who think that biblical faith is all about calling Yeshua/Jesus “Lord” and then doing good works; however, in His renowned sermon, “The Sermon on the Mount,”  Yeshua/Jesus makes it quite clear to the crowd following Him that there is more to faith in Him than that:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name?  and in Your name have cast out demons?  And in Your name done many wonderful [miraculous] works?  And then I will profess [say] to them, I never knew you: depart from Me, you workers of iniquity.  (Matthew 7:21-23, NASB)

I remember the first time I realized what Yeshua/Jesus is saying here, and it shook me up because I knew that up until that point, I had been one of these people that He is addressing in this scene.  And if not for His love and grace, and the Spirit who revealed the truth of this passage to me, I would have been standing there among them in the future.  What I learned from this passage is that Yeshua/Jesus is pointing out the following important truths to the crowd:

Merely calling Yeshua/Jesus “Lord” is not enough to get you into the Kingdom; He must actually be your Lord.  To call Yeshua/Jesus “Lord” is where your journey with Him begins, it is not the full extent of what it means to have “faith” in Him.  To call Him “Lord” is to say that He’s your “Master” or “Owner.”  But you must not just say it, you must live in submission to His Lordship or “Ownership.”  This is what it means to give your life to Him, you are giving Him the control and ownership of your life.  It is no longer your life, but His.  For example, I am shocked when I hear a Christian say,

It’s my life, I’ll do what I want with it.

When Christians utter such statements, it is clear that they have no clue what it means to call Yeshua/Jesus “Lord.”  To call Him “Lord,” means, for example, if He asks you to speak to someone, you do it, or if He asks you to give someone money or something you own to help them out, you do it, or if He asks you to give up your job, your home, and all that you own to follow Him into another country, like He did my wife and I, you do it.  Even if He asks you to sacrifice your life as a martyr for His glory, you do it.  Once you have made Him the Lord of your life, it is no longer your life, but His.  You are now the steward (manager) of your life, but He is the owner.  We can see this idea repeated in different ways in the New Testament:

Do you not know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who  is in you, whom you have from God?  YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN, for you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. (I Corinthians 6:19-20; emphasis mine)

You were bought at a price;… (I Corinthians 7:23)

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.  They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even DENYING THE MASTER WHO BOUGHT THEM, and will bring swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.  In their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words.  Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep. (2 Peter 2:1-3; emphasis mine)

In all three of these references, we can see the same repeated idea: we have been bought with a price and, therefore, if we have made Yeshua/Jesus the Lord of our lives, we do not own ourselves any longer, but we now belong to God and to the Messiah Yeshua/Jesus.  Consequently, we cannot live any way that we choose, but we must die to self daily, sanctify ourselves in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, and we must live in a way that’s pleasing to God and in accordance with His Word.

I am crucified with Christ [Messiah]; nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but Christ [Messiah] lives in me, and the life that I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  (Galatians 2:2)

Obviously, if “I am crucified with Christ [or Messiah],” then this life no longer belongs to me; in fact, Paul writes, “yet not I, but Christ [Messiah] lives in me.”  My life, Paul is saying here, is no longer mine.  I don’t own it anymore.  I don’t have the right to determine what happens to it.  It has a new owner, Messiah.  It now belongs to Him. I now go or do where He wants me to go or do.   In fact, in Luke 6:46, Yeshua/Jesus even asks, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  If Yeshua/Jesus is your “Lord” (Master/Owner), then submission and obedience to His authority in your life should be clearly evident.  In fact, Yeshua/Jesus is the supreme model of one who lays down His life (His wants, needs, interests) to follow God’s plan for His life:

When you [the religious leaders] have lifted up the Son of man, then shall you know that I am He [the Messiah], and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father has taught Me, I speak these things.  And He that sent Me is with Me; the Father has not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him. (John 8:28-29)

Just as Yeshua/Jesus laid down His life, we are to lay down our lives daily, and just as He always did what was pleasing to His Father, we are to live our lives seeking to please Yeshua/Jesus and His Father in everything that we do.  To be His disciples means to live and imitate Him in how we live our own lives.  (NOTE: the use of “man,” “he,” and “him” are used in the generic sense.)

If any man will come after Me [or be My disciple], let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)

He that has My commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves Me; and he that loves Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him. (John 14:21)

If a man loves Me, he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  He who loves Me not keeps not My sayings: and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s which sent Me. (John 14:23-24)

As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you.  Remain [or continue] in My love.  If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.  I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. (John 15:9-11)

Notice, there is much more to salvation than simply saying “Yeshua” (or “Jesus is My Lord.”  There is an expected lifestyle standard that Yeshua/Jesus expects of all those that claim to be His disciples.  He expects His disciples to lovingly obey His teachings, not just to call Him “Lord” once or twice a week and then go off and live life the way that person wants without any regard to Yeshua/Jesus at all.

Some may say, “This is just your opinion.”  However, it is not.  The Lord has spoken to us through my wife, and He has made His view extremely clear:

Trust Me, says God, and know that all things will work out for Good to those who seek Me, My Torah, and has My words, says God Almighty, because My words, My Torah, are One and the same.  You take away My Torah, My Holy Scriptures, you have taken Me away.  You cannot pick and choose what you want to believe.  All of My words are yes and amen.  Not one of them is better than the next.  They all, I say, have an importance to them.  I say, Do not take anything from the beginning or the middle away, it is all valid and important for you today, My children.  The Old Testament is just as valid as the Newer Testament.

How can a people who say they have read My Word from beginning to end, say with all honesty, that they can believe all this hogwash that people have told them concerning My words.  How stupid.  Even a baby can understand better than all of you “more learned and sophisticated ones” that think you have Me and My Father all figured out.  You blaspheme My Holy Name every time you tell My children who are seeking Me and My Father lies about Me, God, changing My plans after My death and resurrection, NOT SO. (“Torah & the Spirit: What God Wants for His Children”)

What is the lie?  That some part (usually “God’s law”) or even the whole Old Testament is no longer valid for believers today.  Yeshua/Jesus did not die to do away with the law of God, but the law of sin and death.  Consequently, the teaching that God’s law ended at the cross is a horrendous error and deception that Christianity has perpetuated throughout the centuries.  God’s law was never given to “save” us, but to provide God’s expected standard of how “saved people” should live their lives.  Did you also note that in John 15:9-11, Yeshua/Jesus Himself teaches that the way we stay in His love is by our loving obedience to His commands (or teachings), yet I have never heard one minister ever teach this.    You see, Yeshua/ Jesus is our example.  Just as He remained in His Father’s love through His loving obedience to His Father, so we will remain in Messiah’s love by our loving obedience to all that He taught.

  • Doing miraculous things for God is not enough to get you into the kingdom.  Secondly, Yeshua/Jesus also notes in His teaching, known as “The Sermon on the Mount,” that these same people who are calling Him “Lord”  are prophesying, casting out demons, and doing many miraculous works in His name, and yet He still says to them, “depart from Me, you workers of iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23).  The problem is not what they are doing, it is that they don’t have a relationship with Yeshua/Jesus, or as He says, “I never knew you.”  It’s not that He didn’t know about them, the word “knew” here is in reference to an intimate relationship.  There wasn’t one between Him and these people.  And what’s mind-boggling to me is that even though they do not have an intimate relationship with Yeshua/Jesus, they are still able to do these things.  And in the Greek, this is even more mind-boggling.

Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied [declared truths through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit] in thy name [or delegated power and authority]?  and in thy name [delegated power and authority] cast out devils?  And in thy name [delegated power and authority] done many wonderful works?  (Matthew 7:22, explanations mine)

Notice these people are doing these things through His delegated power and authority and even through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and yet, they really do not have an ongoing intimate relationship with Him.  They may have started out well, but then somewhere along the line, that relationship was lost.

And what we need to realize is that God may choose to use someone who does not have a good relationship with Him in order to bless His people who are there in the congregation or to bring others into an intimate relationship with Him.  The person’s ability to prophesy, cast out devils, and do other miraculous acts is not evidence that this person has a good relationship with God himself (or herself).  There have been several modern examples of ministers who God used to minister to others, even though the minister himself (or herself) was living in sin.  Of course, the problem here is that most people make the false assumption that when they see these miraculous things happen, it automatically proves that this person is in a good relationship with God.  Obviously, then, these things are not evidence in of themselves.  Instead, when these things happen, what we should understand by them is that they are proof or evidence for the existence of God and His continuing rule and reign, and for His continuing mercy and grace to heal and deliver people today.

Biblical Faith is NOT “a Divine Force”

When I first heard this taught, it reminded me of the movie Star Wars, and the line, “May the force be with you.”   Obviously, those who teach this are confusing “faith” with the Holy Spirit.  It is not “faith” that makes things happen, but the Spirit of God; when we have faith in God, God then responds to our faith.  Let me give an example from the Gospels.  In Matthew 12, Yeshua/Jesus has just healed a blind and mute man by casting out a blind and mute spirit (or demon), something that the sages and Pharisees taught that only the Messiah could do when He came.

Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.  And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? (Matthew 12:22-23)

The crowds had been listening to the sages and Pharisees in their teaching of the Scriptures.  They saw the miracle and remembered the teachings they had received in the synagogue, and they came to the logical conclusion based on those teachings that Yeshua/Jesus must be the long-awaited promised Messiah, “the son of David.”  However, rather than the religious leaders maintaining their own teaching and admitting that Yeshua/Jesus had, in fact, fulfilled this Messianic expectation, they accused Him of healing by the power of “Beelzebub, the prince of the devils (or demons):”

But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow does not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils [demons].  (Matthew 12:24)

Their response was completely illogical since it violated what they themselves had long taught.  However, their hatred of Yeshua/Jesus and His teachings completely blinded them to the truth and their use of logic and reason.  Now am I saying that all Jews are filled with hatred and are blind to Yeshua/Jesus?  No, I am not.  We must remember that Yeshua/Jesus Himself is a Jew, His family is Jewish, His early disciples were Jewish, the Apostle Paul is Jewish, and those from the crowds that believed in Him were Jewish.  We must also remember that there are many Jews today who have put their faith and trust in Yeshua/Jesus as their Lord and Messiah.  It is also important to remember that the Jews are God’s covenant people, and just like in the first century, C.E., there are those that have believed, and there are those that have not.

However, in Yeshua’s/Jesus’ response to their irrational accusation, He uses logic and reason to demonstrate the truth of what had just happened:

Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city and house divided against itself shall not stand.  And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom stand?  And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children [disciples] cast them out?  therefore they shall be your judges.  But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.  (Matthew 12:25-28; emphasis mine)

Notice the Scriptures make it clear that it was not by “the force of faith” that Yeshua/Jesus cast out this blind and mute devil (spirit), but “by the Spirit of God.”  Yeshua/Jesus had faith in God His Father to deliver the man (John 5:19-20; John 10:25, 32, 37; John 14:10-11), His faith was there in the situation, but His faith was not some “force,” like you hear some evangelists and ministers teach today, that delivered the man from the blind and mute demon, but it was “the Spirit of God” that cast it out (Acts 10:38).  God responded to Yeshua’s/Jesus’ faith and by His Spirit, He drove out the demonic spirit and brought healing to the man.  And the same is true when people are healed today.  Our faith is not some “force” that heals and delivers us, or makes things miraculously happen, but it is God responding to our faith in Him, and it is He who heals and delivers and performs the miraculous.

So What Faith is NOT

In conclusion, then, we can see that —

  • Biblical Faith is NOT merely the mental or verbal agreement or acknowledgment of a belief, a particular doctrine, or a set of doctrinal statements;
  • Biblical Faith is NOT merely Calling Yeshua/Jesus “Lord” and Doing Good Works; and
  • Biblical Faith is not “a Divine Force”

So if these are not accurate descriptions of biblical faith, what is it?  In the next part of this two-part series, we will explore what faith is, according to the Bible.  Some may be surprised to discover that God does make use of critical thinking and logical reasoning.  The difference, of course, is that it is His logic and reasoning, as opposed to humanity’s.  For as the Scriptures teach,

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Although we will never understand God completely, this does not mean we cannot grasp at least some of His use of logic and reasoning evident within the Scriptures (as we will see in part 2 of this series).

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What is a “Messiah”? (Pt. 1): A Study of the Ancient Israeli Kings

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward.  So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.” (I Samuel 16:13)

What is a “Messiah”?

The word “Messiah” is the English equivalent of the Hebrew word mashiach, which means “anointed one.”  The term is derived from the Hebrew word mashach (pron. “mah-shock”), meaning “anointed.”  Consequently, when an individual was “anointed” (mashach), he became an “anointed one” (mashiach) or in English “messiah.”  The title “Messiah” (Heb. Moshiach) was given to an individual who had been chosen by God to occupy one of the three leadership positions — King, Prophet, or High Priest — over the nation and people of Israel.   After the kingdom divided, the ancient Israeli prophets foretold of One who would be a special descendant of David who would have the anointing of, not one of the national offices, but all three of them simultaneously.  In the Greek New Testament, the Greek word that’s used for this special promised  Messiah is the word Christos, or in English “Christ.”  So in actuality, the words “Messiah” and “Christ” are equivalent, synonymous terms.

Why is this Study Important?

Consequently, in order to understand what it means to call Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) “Messiah,” as well as to be His disciple, we need to trace the meaning of the word back to its origin and usage in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures).  By understanding how the word was used and understood in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures; “Old Testament”), we can properly understand it within its original context.

The Importance of Context

Proper context is extremely important in understanding any historical, cultural, or theological text, and the Bible is not any different.  If you remove any text from its original context, then it becomes a pretext to misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and/or error. Therefore, we will be examining this concept of “Messiah” by placing it back into its original context, examining and interpreting it within that context, and then to bring that meaning forward to see how we can apply that meaning today.

In applying the term “Messiah” (or “Christ” from the Greek) to Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus), it’s important to remember that He grew up and lived His life, as well as taught and ministered, as a Middle-Eastern, Israeli Jew of the 2nd Temple era, and how the term would have been used and understood by Him and His disciples (and others) would have been how it was used and understood within the Hebrew Scriptures, as well as within that culture, religion, and time.   To apply a meaning to the word “Messiah” apart from its original contexts is to open the door to misinterpretation, misunderstanding and error.

How Many “Anointed Ones” are there in the Hebrew Bible?

So in tracing the word “Messiah” back into the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures), how many individuals are given this title?  In researching its use, we discover that every prophet, priest, and king mentioned in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) were all “anointed ones.”  The first “anointed one” mentioned in the Bible was Aaron,  Moses’ brother, which we will discuss further in the second part of this study.

“Messiah” – A Political & Religious Term?

Most people within the church view the term “Messiah/Christ” as a spiritual term with a spiritual meaning; however, as we shall see in this part of the study, it is also a political term with a political meaning.  Interestingly, it is not the spiritual term/meaning that dominates the writings of the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures; Old Testament), but the political.  As a result, we are going to look at the political usage in this part of the study (since it is what dominates).  Consequently, if the term “Messiah/Christ” is indeed a political term, as well as a religious term, then the kingdom preached by Yeshua (Joshua/ Jesus) would likewise indicate a concept that was both political and spiritual.  And as modern day disciples of the Messiah who are part of that “kingdom,” then our identity in Messiah is likewise both political and spiritual.  You can see this perspective can raise some rather interesting questions.

But in continuing on with the study, have you ever wondered, “Who made someone an ‘anointed one’ (i.e., a national leader) or how was it done?  What was the process?  Was it by election, like in the U.S.?  Was it something one chose for himself or did someone else make the decision? To answer these (and many other) questions, I would like to examine the pattern which Scripture reveals in the lives of five of Israel’s ancient kings.

Why the Ancient Israeli Kings?

In speaking about those who lived and are discussed in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures; Old Testament ), Rav Sha’ul (Paul) writes in I Corinthians 10:11,

Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

What Paul is telling us, for the purpose of our study, is that we can look back at the lives of these kings as “an example” of how God interacted and treated them, and what were His expectations of those He chose to be “an anointed king.”  We can also look at their lives as “our instruction” in what “an anointed one” was and how he became one.

Ancient Israeli Kings – An Overview

In the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures), beginning with the book of I Samuel to the destruction of Solomon’s Temple by the ancient Babylonians in 586 B.C.E., there are recorded in the biblical text a total of forty-two kings.

The First Three kings (Saul, David, and Solomon) ruled and reigned over all the tribes of Israel in a United Kingdom; however, after the death of Solomon, when Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, takes the throne, the kingdom of Israel splits into two kingdoms:

  • The Northern Kingdom (called Israel; sometimes Ephraim), which had a total of nineteen kings until their captivity by the Assyrians that began in 740 B.C.E. (some sources though dated it around 733-732 B.C.E.) and was completed in 722 B.C.E. These ten tribes were scattered across the Assyrian empire and have become known as “The Lost Ten Tribes.”
  • The Southern Kingdom (called Judah), which had a total of twenty kings until their captivity by the Babylonians, which happened in 586 B.C.E. It was during their Babylonian captivity that the term “Judean” was shortened to form the word “Jew.”

Of these forty-two kings, the Scriptures mention only five of them being anointed for office: the first three kings (Saul, David, and Solomon), and then after the kingdom split, Jehu from the Northern Kingdom, and Joash (also called Jehoash) from the Southern Kingdom.

In the rest of the study, I would like to examine the experience of these five men had in becoming an “anointed one” or an “anointed king,” and to demonstrate through their experiences, that the Bible shows that there is a pattern – a specific process – that one went through in order to become an “anointed one” or a leader over the nation of Israel.

King Saul – Israel’s First King.

The story of Israel’s first king can be found in I Samuel.  The people of Israel up until this time had been under the leadership of the prophet Samuel, who was the last of the Judges (temporary military leaders), but like the High Priest Eli who had raised him (see I Samuel 1:25-2:11, 18-20; 3:1-4:1), Samuel did not discipline his sons.

Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice. (I Sam. 8:1-3)

Since Samuel’s sons were corrupt leaders and could not be trusted as judges, the people began to ask for a king, so that they could be like the other nations around them.

But what was the difference between a “Judge” and a “King”?

Usually, we think of the word “Judge” as someone in black robes who sit in a courtroom and who listens to both sides of the case and oversees the trial.  However, when the Bible states that someone was a judge, this is not what it means.  In fact, the book after “Joshua” is called “Judges.”

In the Bible, both judges and kings were people raised up to assume a position of authority over the nation of Israel; however, a judge’s position of authority was temporary.  A judge was usually raised to address a specific crisis that was going on at the time.  Throughout the book of Judges, for example, these individuals were called to address some form of oppression or attack that was being waged against the nation, so a judge (in the biblical sense) was a military leader who would lead the nation in a battle or war to free it from the attacks or domination by another country.  But then once the crisis was over, the judge then would go back to living life as usual. Consequently, there was no real “human government” (in a permanent sense) that was in place during a judge’s time of rule over the nation.

However, a king was a different story.  A king was a permanent position of authority over the nation, whose reign was then usually handed down to his son, and then his grandson, etc.  With a king, there was a form of government known as a “monarchy,” in which the king reigned supreme, whose word was law, and who owned everything within his kingdom.  Samuel tried to warn the people of Israel about what having a king would mean, and what they would be giving up.

And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.” (I Samuel 8:10-18)

But the people were still determined; they wanted a king.  Of course, this upset Samuel very much, because he viewed this as a rejection of him as the nation’s leader (even though his sons by this time were doing most of the judging).  However, God explains to him that it is not Samuel the people have rejected, but God:

And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day; with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods; so they are doing to you also.”  (I Samuel 8:7-8)

God had chosen and placed Samuel into his position of authority over the nation, so therefore, for the people to reject Samuel and his sons as their national leaders was, in effect, to reject God.

Samuel Anoints Saul as King

God then instructs Samuel to do as they requested.  God then showed Samuel who He wanted him to anoint as their new king; it was Saul (Heb. Sha’ul) from the tribe of Benjamin.  Through some interesting circumstances, God arranges for Saul to come to the city where Samuel was staying.

After Saul and his servant spend an evening with Samuel, Samuel requests that the servant go ahead, so that he could speak to Saul alone.  Then Samuel anoints (Heb. māshach) Saul with a vial of olive oil:

Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his [Saul’s] head, and kissed him, and said, “Is it not because the LORD has anointed [Heb. māshach] you to be captain over His inheritance?” (I Samuel 10:1)

After anointing him with oil, Saul then becomes the mashiach (lit. “anointed one” or “messiah”).  Samuel then goes on to give Saul instructions on what would happen to him until Samuel would meet with him again.  One of the things mentioned that would happen to him would be that the Spirit of the LORD would come upon Saul and that he would be “changed into another man”:

And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them [a group of prophets that Saul would meet], and shall be turned into another man. (I Samuel 10:6)

From this reference, we can note three things about the Messiah (or “Anointed One”):

  1. The term “Messiah” is a political title and is used to designate the king God had chosen to rule over the people and nation of Israel;
  2. The Messiah was designated as God’s chosen leader by the ritual of having oil poured over his head by a prophet (or a priest); and
  3. The Messiah was also designated as being “empowered” and “consecrated” (or set apart) by God when God’s Spirit came upon him.
  4. When the Spirit of God came upon Saul as the first “anointed king” (or “Messiah”), there was something new and different about Saul than what he was like before the Spirit came upon him since the text says, “he was changed into another man.”

For years, I have heard ministers argue that the act of anointing a king with oil was a symbol of the Holy Spirit; however, since the Spirit of God comes upon Saul in addition to him being anointed with oil, I would have to question this traditional interpretation. I would like to note here, though, that to question an interpretation is not the same thing as questioning Scripture.  The Scriptures are clear that they were “given by the inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16); however, when an interpretation, even a traditional one, seems to contradict or violate the writing of Scripture, then it should be called into question.

Saul was anointed with oil and he was anointed with the Holy Spirit.  He was anointed by both, not just with oil.  If he had only been anointed with oil, and not by the Spirit, then I believe the traditional interpretation would be valid, but since that’s not the case here, or even with David, as we shall see, I’d have to question the validity of the traditional interpretation.

What was the Purpose of Being Anointed with Oil?

The purpose of being anointed with oil was more than it being a symbol for the Spirit of God; it was part of the ceremony of making the individual a “Messiah” or an “Anointed One.”  Remember, the term “Messiah” (Heb. Mashiach), as it is used in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) is dominantly a political designation for a national leader, rather than a spiritual one.  Just like in the United States, a candidate can be elected to the presidency, but until he goes through the Inaugural Ceremony and is sworn into office by the U.S. Chief Justice, he does not possess the title of being “President.”  In much the same way, until the individual is anointed with oil by a prophet or a priest (which was Israel’s version of the “Inaugural Ceremony”), the individual cannot be called an “Anointed One”: in Hebrew a Mashiach, and in English, a “Messiah.”

In this inaugural ceremony, the anointing with oil, rather than symbolizing the Holy Spirit, seems to have functioned as a symbolic way of indicating that this person had been set apart by God for this national position, role, and authority.  As we shall see, these same three criteria are also repeated in the anointing of the next king, David.

David is Anointed King

When King Saul disobeys God several times, God says that He was sorry that He had ever made Saul king (I Samuel 15:11).  God then told Samuel to go to the city of Bethlehem and to anoint another king, one who would have an obedient heart:

And the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing that I have rejected him from reigning from over Israel?  Fill your horn with oil, and go, I will send you to Jesse the Bethlemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. (I Samuel 16:1)

In this scene, we should note that it is God who is actually the One ruling and reigning over the nation of Israel.  The human king functions more like a servant to God, in that he follows what God says He wants to be done.  Therefore, Saul really was more like what we may think of as an ambassador-type position, rather than as a king as we understand the term.

Since on more than one occasion, Saul did not follow the instructions that God, the actual king, had given to Saul, God’s representative, to carry out, God took the initiative to have Saul replaced.  If Saul had been a king, in the sense that we understand the term, meaning that he was in complete control of himself and everything in his kingdom, the anointing of David never would have occurred. Therefore, we learn from this account that it is not the national leader who holds the power and authority over a nation, but God.

When Samuel does arrive at Jesse’s home, he discovers that Jesse has eight sons, but only seven of them were there at the house to meet Samuel.  Each outwardly looked like he could assume the position of king; however, God did not choose any of them (I Samuel 16:11).

When Samuel asks if these were all his sons, Jesse tells him David, the youngest, was still out in the field watching the sheep (16:11).  Samuel then has him send for David.  When David comes, the LORD instructs Samuel to anoint him:

And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him: for this is he.”  Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward.  So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.  (I Samuel 16:13)

In this narrative, we see the following:

  1. It was God who decided that Saul needed to be replaced;
  2. It was God who decided who He wanted to be the next king over the nation of Israel;
  3. The prophet Samuel poured a horn of oil over David’s head as part of the ritual to inaugurate him as the new “anointed king” (or “messiah”); and
  4. God’s selection (or empowerment and “consecration”) of him was made evident by the Spirit of the LORD coming upon him.

However, unlike the narrative with King Saul, the Scriptures do not say that David “was changed into another man,” like they had with Saul.  Is this something we can assume happened since it happened the time before, or was David not “changed”?  And if so, why not?  (Something to think about since the Scriptures are silent on this point.)

In addition, David did not acquire the throne at the time that he was anointed.  David was only a teen at this time.  Some time later, he would begin a period of several years where he would be pursued by King Saul, who would repeatedly try to kill him.  During this time, there were several people who followed David.  If this narrative had been written in Greek (as the New Testament had been), David’s followers would have been described as the followers of the “Christ” (the “anointed one”), or we would say “Christians.”  So a “Christian” is one who is a follower of “the Christ” or “the Messiah” (the “Anointed One”), and in the case of this part of the study, the chosen leader of the people and nation of Israel.

However, Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) is unique in that God has made Him king, not just over the people and nation of Israel, but over all the nations of the world.  There’s a prophecy of this in Daniel 7:13-14,

I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven, One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.  And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away; and His kingdom is one which shall not be destroyed.

And Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) favorite term for Himself was “the Son of Man,” a reference to this passage in Daniel.  And Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus), like His ancestor David, will one day ascend the throne and rule and reign over Israel and all the nations of the earth from His capital city in Jerusalem.

And just like we are waiting for Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus) to ascend His promised throne, David, likewise, did not immediately ascend the throne, but it was years later when he was thirty years old and after Saul had been killed in battle.

And the men of Judah (the largest of the southern tribes) came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. (2 Samuel 2:4a)

Notice it is this second anointing ceremony that places him as king over the tribe of Judah.  Also, the text says that it was the “men of Judah” who anointed him as king.  There’s no mention of a prophet or a priest.  Consequently, there’s no way to know for certain whom the person was who actually anointed him at this time.

Also, an interesting question to ask here is, “Why was it necessary for David to be anointed again since Samuel had already anointed him as a teenager?”  The Scriptures are likewise silent on this point.  However, we do learn that after another 7½ years, David was finally anointed king over the whole house (or country) of Israel (i.e., a third anointing ceremony):

So all the elders of Israel came to the king in Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the LORD: and they anointed David king over Israel. (2 Samuel 5:3)

Here we learn from the text that it was the “elders of Israel” who anointed David to be their king over the whole kingdom of Israel; again, there’s no mention of a prophet or a priest.  Consequently, we cannot say for certain if these men were prophets, priests, or just the political elders (or representatives) of the twelve tribes.

According to the Scriptures, David then reigned over the whole kingdom of Israel for a period of 33 years, in addition to the 7½ years he reigned over Judah, so that he reigned for a total period of 40 years (2 Samuel 5:4-5).  Interestingly, again, there’s four things I’d like to point out:

  1. Like Saul, David was chosen by God to be king over the nation of Israel;
  2. Like Saul, David was anointed with olive oil as part of the ritual to make him king;
  3.  However, even though the prophet Samuel had anointed David as king when David was still a teenager, he was anointed king again each time he was made king, first of Judah and then of all of Israel; and
  4. Like Saul, the Spirit of the L-RD came on David during his initial anointing, but unlike Saul, the text does not say that David “was changed into another man,” and the Spirit remained on David during his lifetime. God’s Spirit did not need to repeatedly come on David each time he was anointed for office.

Solomon is Anointed King

The third example of a king being anointed is Solomon, David’s son, Israel’s third king.  Near the end of David’s life, God reveals to him that his son Solomon would be the one from among his many sons who would rule over the kingdom:

Then David the king stood upon his feet, and said, “Hear me, my brothers, and my people:  As for me, I had in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and for the footstool of our God, and had made ready for the building: but God said to me, You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war, and has shed blood.  However, of all my sons (for the LORD has given me many sons), He has chosen Solomon, my son, to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel.  (2 Chronicles 28: 2-3, 5)

An interesting side-note regarding the phrase “the kingdom of the LORD” (lit. “kingdom of YHVH”) in the final verse above is that after the Babylonian exile, the Jews started avoiding the use of God’s covenantal name and using evasive synonyms instead, such as the word “heaven,” therefore, instead of saying “kingdom of the LORD” (or lit. “kingdom of YHVH”), Jews would use the phrase “kingdom of heaven,” like we see Yeshua (Joshua/ Jesus) using throughout the Gospels.  The phrase “kingdom of God” was the Greek way of expressing the same phrase, or to put it another way, “the kingdom of the LORD,” “the kingdom of heaven” and “the kingdom of God” are just three different ways of saying the same thing.

Now because Adonijah, another of David’s sons, tries to steal the kingdom for himself, David ends up instructing Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet to take Solomon down to Gihon and anoint him there as king (I Kings 1:32-34).

So Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoida, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride upon king David’s mule, and brought him to Gihon.  And Zadok the priest took a horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon.  And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save King Solomon.  (I Kings 1:38-39)

Interestingly, like Saul’s anointing, Solomon’s anointing results in him acquiring the throne immediately; however, unlike Saul and David’s anointing, there is no mention of the Spirit of God coming upon Solomon after his anointing by Zadok and Nathan.

Also note, like Saul’s and David’s anointing, there was a prophet mentioned doing the anointing; however, unlike Saul’s and David’s anointing, there’s a priest present also.

Jehu is Anointed King

The fourth king that’s mentioned as being anointed in the Scriptures is Jehu, a commander of the Northern Kingdom’s troops.  This selection by God for king happens years after the united kingdom had divided into two separate kingdoms.

According to the Scriptures, the prophet Elisha calls for one of “the sons of the prophets” (a term used for the prophet’s disciples), and tells him to take a flask of oil and to go to Ramoth-gilead (2 Kings 9:1).  Once he gets there, he is to do the following:

When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi.  Go in, get him away from his colleagues, and take him to an inner room.  Then, take the flask of oil, pour it on his head, and say, “This is what the LORD says: ‘I anoint you king over Israel [i.e., the name of the Northern Kingdom was also Israel].’” (2 Kings 9:2-3)

Elisha’s disciple does this, and after he anoints Jehu king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, he passes on to Jehu the instructions that God had given to Elisha, who then passed on these same instructions to his disciple to tell Jehu:

To strike down the house of your master Ahab so that I may avenge the blood shed by the hand of Jezebel – the blood of My servants the prophets and of all the servants of the
   (2 Kings 9:7)

Jehu thus begins his reign over the Northern Kingdom as God’s chosen assassin to kill all those who belonged to the house of Ahab, including Ahab’s son, Joram, who was presently the reigning king over the Northern Kingdom; Ahab’s wife, Jezebel; Ahab’s seventy sons; Ahab’s entire household; as well as all his close friends and priests.

In addition to Ahab’s house, King Jehu killed Ahaziah, the king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, as well as all the Ba’al worshippers, servants, and priests that were in Israel, the Northern Kingdom.  King Jehu then destroyed Ba’al’s temple and turned it into a latrine (2 Kings 9:8 – 10:28).  Although Jehu carried out the instructions of God in all those that he was supposed to kill, the Scriptures state that he did not devote himself entirely to following God but continued in the “sins that Jeroboam son of Nebat had caused Israel to commit – worshipping the golden calves that were in Bethel and Dan” (2 Kings 10:29).  In spite of this, the LORD told Jehu,

Because you have done well in carrying out what is right in My sight and have done to the house of Ahab all that was in My heart, four generations of your sons will sit on the throne of Israel.  (2 Kings 10:30)

In examining Jehu’s anointing, we discover that,

  1. He was selected to be king of the Northern Kingdom by God; and
  2. like the first three kings (Saul, David, and Solomon), Jehu was also anointed with oil by a prophet, but unlike Solomon, a priest was not also present.
  3. However, unlike Saul and David, but like Solomon, there is no mention of the Spirit of God coming down upon Jehu.

Joash is Anointed King

The fifth and final king that’s specifically mentioned in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) to have been anointed king is seven-year-old Joash.

As a result of Jehu killing Ahaziah, the king over the Southern Kingdom of Judah, there was no one to assume the throne (2 Chronicles 22:9).  Athaliah, Ahaziah’s mother, wanted the throne for herself, so she went out to kill all her grandsons, anyone that might be a possible heir to her son’s throne.  In this way, she was very much like Herod the Great, an Edomite who ruled over Judea in the first century C.E., because like Athaliah, Herod did not want anyone to take his throne from him.  He is known in history for killing some of his own sons, whom he viewed as a threat to his reign, as well as him killing all the newborn sons, up to two years of age, in the town of Bethlehem (from the Gospel accounts), so that he might kill the newborn Messiah Yeshua (Joshua/Jesus), whose birth was signaled by an unusual star and who was visited by shepherds, and then a year or so later, some magi (wise men) from the east visited Him and his family who were living in a house (Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-12, 16-18).

Joash is Saved by His Aunt

However, rather than allowing Joash, one of Ahaziah’s sons to be killed, Jehoshabeath, Ahaziah’s sister and the wife of Jehoiada the priest, risks her own life to save Joash from his power-hungry grandmother, Athaliah.  (2 Chronicles 22:10).

Joash is Hidden in the Temple

Jehoshabeath, king Ahaziah’s daughter, somehow manages to smuggle the one-year-old Joash out of the palace and gets him to the Temple in safety, where she keeps him hidden in one of the bedchambers within the Temple complex for six years (2 Chronicles 22:11-12).

While hidden in the Temple, Joash was raised by his aunt and her husband Jehoiada the priest.  Once Joash reaches the age of seven, Jehoiada enters into a covenant with the Levitical priests of the Temple, the commanders of hundreds within the Judean military, and the heads of the families of Israel.  He brings them all to the Temple there in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 23:1-2).

Joash is Made King

Once they arrive, they enter into a covenant with seven-year-old Joash within the Temple.  The Levites are then assigned to protect the entry ways into the Temple, and the military commanders are assigned to stay as close to Joash and to protect him at all times (2 Chronicles 23:3-6).

Once everyone was in place, Joash is brought out of the Temple where he had been hidden for six years, and he is anointed king over the Southern Kingdom of Judah:

Then they brought out the king’s son [Joash], and put upon him the crown, and gave him the testimony, and made him king.  And Jehoiada and his sons anointed him, and said, “God save the king.”  (2 Chronicles 23:11)

However, when Joash’s grandmother, Athaliah, heard the noise of the people cheering and praising Joash as king, she went out to the Temple to see what was going on.  When she saw the people, the trumpet blowers, and the singers standing all around Joash, she “tore her clothes and screamed, ‘Treason, treason!’” (2 Chronicles 23:13).

Athaliah is then arrested by the guards, removed from the Temple complex, and then taken to the entrance of the Horses’ Gate (one of the gateways into the city of Jerusalem) where she is put to death (2 Chronicles 23:14-15).

What about the Other Kings?

Out of the forty-two ancient Israeli kings, only five kings are specifically said to have been anointed with oil as part of the process to make them king over the nation.  Does this mean that the other thirty-seven kings were never anointed for office?  No, they would have been anointed with olive oil, just like the five, since that was an important part of the ceremony that made them an “Anointed One” or “Messiah.”  But for whatever the reason that detail from their inaugural ceremony was not included in the biblical record.

A Summary of the Biblical Record

Now based on the Hebrew Scriptures, concerning the five kings that it specifically discusses as being anointed with oil, what pattern do we discover within the text?

  • It is God who selects and chooses who He wants to rule and reign over the people and nation of Israel;
  • The term “Messiah” [Heb. Mashiach] is a political term used to designate the king God had chosen to rule over His people.
  • The Messiah was designated as God’s chosen leader by the ritual of having olive oil poured over his head by a prophet or a priest. (even though this was only specified for five out of the forty-two kings of ancient Israel).
  • And only the first two kings (Saul and David) is it specified that the Spirit of God came upon the “Anointed One” or “Messiah” and empowered and consecrated him for his role as a national leader.


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