Category Archives: Biblical Studies

2 Things Most Christians Don’t Understand about God’s Law

There are two things about the commandments of God that most Christians don’t understand. First of all, obedience to the commandments is not about “being perfect,” but it’s about loving God enough to be obedient. Many Christians say they “cannot obey the commandments,” even though God says, “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach” (Deuteronomy 30:11, NIV). So is God wrong or are they? There is no where in all of the Old Testament where God says if you obey all the commandments, then you will be perfect. It simply is not there.

God knew the people He was giving His commandments to were not perfect. If He expected perfection, He would not have allowed for divorce, nor would He have allowed people to make up their observance of the Passover, if they could not make it to Jerusalem on time; nor would He have given them the “cities of refuge,” where people could go for safety if they had accidentally killed someone. And most definitely, He would not have given them the priesthood, the temple, and the various sacrifices for atonement. The fact that He did all of this means He did not expect people to be “perfect,” but He did expect them to love Him enough to be obedient.

For those who say that we cannot obey the commandments, please explain to me the lives of Zacherias and Elizabeth. In Luke 1:5-6.

“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacherias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and the ordinances of the Lord blameless.”

Did you see what Scripture says about them? “They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and the ordinances of the Lord blameless.” Were they perfect? No, but they both loved God and they kept His commandments. And it was their love for Him expressed through their obedience to His commandments, which is what what God wanted and expects of each of us. As a result of this, they were “righteous before God” and as far as the commandments go, they were “blameless.”

So for those Christians who say the commandments cannot be kept, explain Zacharias and Elizabeth. It seems to me the evidence is there that it can be done. Does this mean that God is only interested in us following a bunch of rules? Absolutely not! Just like your human parents, if you told them that you loved them, but then turned around and disobeyed everything they told you to do, then they would question whether or not you truly loved them. In the same way, we cannot tell God we love Him, and then turn around and diobey His commandments, and not expect Him to question our love for Him.

God says over and over again in His word, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” The commandments are not about being perfect, but about God giving us a way to express our love for Him. The real question is, Do we love God enough to obey His commandments, or is the real reason we’re following God is because we don’t want to go to Hell? Is our commitment to Him motivated out of love or out of fear?

Secondly, most Christians don’t seem to understand that obedience to the commandments has nothing to do about getting to heaven. There is not one promise anywhere in the Old Testament that says if we obey the commandments, then when we die, we get to go to heaven. Check all the blessings for obedience in Deuteronomy 28:1-14, for example, or Joshua 1:8 or Psalm 1:1-3, and there is not ONE single promise anywhere that deals with the afterlife. ALL of the promises deal with our lives here NOW during our lifetimes. So where do we get this ridiculous idea that if we keep all the commandments, then “God will have to take us to heaven”? I don’t know who came up with that one, but it sure is not based on the Bible.

In fact, we are told in the Bible,

“Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when the LORD said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me ALL THE DAYS THEY LIVE ON THE EARTH, and that they may teach their children.” (Deuteronomy 4:10; emphasis mine)

As this verse demonstrates, the commandments deal with our lives here on earth, not about what happens to us after we die.
Consequently, the commandments have NEVER EVER been about getting people to heaven, they were given to us by God, as a gift of His love and grace, to teach us about Him and His ways, so we could learn to imitate Him, as well as learn how to love one another, and to have a long and fulfilling life down here on earth. In teaching us about Him and His ways, He also taught us what are not His ways (i.e., sin), so we could avoid those things and learn to be more like Him and have a better life.

In the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus taught that,

“Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

Notice that both those who “annul” even “the least of these commandments” and “teaches others” to do the same, as well as those who keep “and teaches them” are in the kingdom of heaven. Our level of observance does not determine our entry into the kingdom, but it does determine our future status within His kingdom.

In light of all this, I believe it’s important for me to say, I don’t obey God because “I have to,” I do it because I love God, I love His Word, and I want to put a smile on His face. It doesn’t matter to me that I don’t need to obey the commandments to get saved (i.e., to go to heaven); the question of my salvation has already been settled for me. The only question I have is how do I put a smile on my Heavenly Father’s face? And the answer I have repeatedly found in the Bible is “Fear (reverance and love) God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

So we in the church need to quit using “we’re not perfect,” as an excuse for our disobedience, as well as dropping this erroneous idea that in the Old Testament they were “saved by the Law.” People have NEVER EVER been “saved” or entered into a relationship with God as a result of their obedience to the commandments. A relationship with God has ALWAYS been by faith through grace, from the garden of Eden to the end of time. So let’s start teaching what’s in the whole Bible, not just parts, and begin to walk in obedience to His commandments, as opposed to expecting God to look away every time we choose to live life our own way instead of doing things His way.

 

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God’s Law – Not About Perfection?

Over the past few weeks, I have been online discussing the Torah (usually trans. “Law”) and God’s commandments with a group of Christian ministers, but over and over again, there was this insistence that we cannot obey the commandments because we’re not “perfect.” This belief that we must be “perfect” to live in obedience to God’s commandments has been perpetuated throughout much of Christian history, but is this belief valid or is this an “unsupported tradition” that’s been handed down through history.

Are We Willing to Examine the Evidence? 

Unfortunately, because of the mainstream erroneous belief within Christendom that the Old Testament, or at least the Law, was done away with by Christ at His death, Christians are not being taught what the Old Testament Scriptures actually do teach in regard to the Scriptures themselves.  And this is sad.  There’s so much within the Old Testament (Heb. Tanakh), and particularly within the Torah (the first five books) that would really benefit Christians in their life and in their service to God, but many of them have been so indoctrinated by ministers and their denomination against the Torah that they are not even open to looking at the Scriptures to see if what they are being taught actually lines up with the Bible.

And as a Christian and as a college professor who taught argument, research, documentation, and writing for 25 years, I firmly believe that we have to research and learn if what we believe is supported by the evidence.  Some say that if you can point to evidence, then you don’t need faith.  This is just another example of an erroneous belief that people have (This will have to wait for another article; too much to discuss here).  There are different types of evidence that can be used to support any argument, and there are forms of evidence used within the Bible itself to support various forms of arguments and ideas.  So how can evidence be in opposition to “faith”?

Biblical Teaching vs. Christian Tradition?

For example, there are things taught by ministers that are not even mentioned in the Bible.  I’ve heard many ministers teach that it was an apple that Adam and Eve ate that resulted in the Fall, even though the Bible does not tell us what kind of fruit it was.  Also, there’s the tradition that three kings came to see Jesus at His birth at the manger, even though the Bible teaches that they were wise men (not kings) who came and saw Him as a young child (not a babe) and He and His parents were living in a house (not a manger). These things may be “fun tradition,” but shouldn’t we teach what the Bible actually says, rather than these unscriptural “traditions”?

Another “tradition” that Christians have held onto is this idea that the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) ended at the cross.  As one who has spent the past 25 years of my life examining arguments and their use of evidence, and then weighing that evidence to determine the validity of the argument, the argument for the Torah ending at the cross is not valid; in fact, the whole basis of the argument is superficial at best.  This is why we need to teach people how to critically examine texts and evidence, and to weigh the evidence of what’s being taught, so that they can examine and understand the truth of what all of the Bible teaches, from cover to cover, not just what some theologians think a small selection of verses mean.

Therefore, it is very important that we be like the ancient Bereans who “examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).  And when I follow this practice of examining the evidence provided within the Scriptures, and then weighing this evidence, I do not see any support for several ideas about the Torah that Christians have, including this idea that we have to be “perfect” to obey God.

Torah – Our Erroneous Perspective?

For instance, Christians have been brought up and taught several erroneous ideas and perspectives regarding the Torah, and there’s an abundance of evidence to support this.  To illustrate this, let’s look at the following textual passage.  In the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus teaches the following:

For truly I say to you, UNTIL HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS AWAY, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law [Torah], UNTIL ALL IS ACCOMPLISHED. (Matthew 5:18; Emphasis Mine)

These two lines, “UNTIL HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS AWAY” and “UNTIL ALL IS ACCOMPLISHED” are spoken and written in Hebrew parallel form.  This means that Jesus is equating these two lines in His teaching here, or in other words, He is telling His audience that when “HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS AWAY” is when “ALL” will be “ACCOMPLISHED,” and only then, at that time, will God allow “the smallest letter or stroke” to “pass away from the Law, not but until then.”  But why?

Very simply, “heaven and earth” were the two witnesses that God called to observe the covenant that He made with the children at Mt. Sinai.  For example, consider the following texts:

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 might live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him: for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.  (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)

Not only did God call “heaven and earth” to witness the covenant, but so did Moses:

Assemble to me all the elders of your tribes and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to witness against them. (Deuteronomy 31:28)

Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. (Deuteronomy 32:1)

In all three of the passages, the “heavens and the earth” are called to witness the covenant that God made with Israel, by God Himself and also by Moses.  Then in the New Testament, Jesus teaches us that as long as these two witnesses – “the heavens and the earth” – “live,” not the smallest letter or even stroke of a pen can be removed UNTIL the “death” (or “passing away”) of these two witnesses.  Have the witnesses “passed away”?  No, so not “the smallest letter or stroke of a pen” has “passed away” from the law (Torah) either.  And those who teach that it has are teaching in opposition to Christ, if not in opposition to God’s own word:

Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it. (Deuteronomy 12:32)

By teaching that God’s Torah, His “Law,” is not for believers today, they have deleted it, “taken away from it,” from their lives and the lives of those within their congregation.  Simply ask yourself, Has heaven and earth passed away?  No, obviously not, then therefore, not the smallest letter or stroke of the Torah has been done away with either.   But when will “ALL” be “ACCOMPLISHED“?  Jesus teaches us that it will be when “HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS AWAY” (i.e., Revelation 21-22).

Likewise, look at the very life of Jesus.  He embraced the Torah with love and devotion.  He did not violate it, nor did He view it as “bondage,” “legalism,” or as some form of hardship to do.  In fact, during his 40 days and nights of temptation out in the wilderness, He relied on the Torah to fight the Enemy, Satan.  As we all know, when we are being severely tested and tried, we go to those things are very dear to us.  And where did Jesus go?  The book of Deuteronomy (i.e., the Torah).  Each and every one of the statements that Jesus quotes to refute the Enemy Satan comes directly from the pages of the book of Deuteronomy.  The very source that Jesus embraced and used for comfort, we are taught by many Christian ministers and theologians to be “legalism,” “bondage,” and “spiritual chains.”  This Christian attitude towards the Torah is definitely not a reflection of the mind of Christ.

In Philippians 2:5, we are instructed, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”  Again, is this “mind” (or attitudes) seen in the Christian view of the Torah?  No, so then we must ask ourselves as modern day Bereans, “Why do we teach that the Torah ended at the cross when Jesus makes it quite clear that not one letter or stroke of it can be removed until the “passing away” of the two witnesses, the time period of the new heavens and new earth?”

Most ministers and Christians take Jesus’ final statement on the cross “It is finished!” to be the time when “all” will be “accomplished,” totally negating the statement made by Jesus that “all” will be “accomplished” at the time period of the “new heavens and the new earth.”  Jesus’ statement that “It is finished!” is actually part of the Passover liturgy that was spoken by the high priest when he killed the Passover lamb; it had nothing to do with the ending of the Torah at all.  What was “finished” at the cross was our slavery to sin, not the Torah.  I already know some of you out there are wondering about the renting of the Temple veil.  Wasn’t this a sign that God brought Torah (“the Law”) to an end at the cross since it rent from top to bottom when He died?

Actually, no, it was not.  I’ve heard many Christian ministers teach this, but it is not true. God had just watched the betrayal of His Son by some of the Jewish leaders at the time (not all the Jewish leaders and definitely not all the Jewish people as a whole), as well as the cruel torture and death of His Son by the Romans, so He did what any loving Jewish father would have done: He ripped the cloth over His heart from top to bottom, signifying His anguish and mourning over what had happened.   What was the cloth over the heart of God?  The Temple Veil.  So contrary to the teachings of many, this was NOT an act signifying that the Law and the Temple system had been brought to an end. Absolutely Not!  In fact, the Temple system in Jerusalem did not come to an end until the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E., almost 40 years later.

(Hint: If you read the book of Revelation, you will discover the heavenly Temple system, the original pattern for the Tabernacle in the Exodus and the Jerusalem Temple, is still going strong.  Ask yourself, “If Jesus brought this system to an end, why do we still see it in use by God Himself throughout most of the book of Revelation?”  And your questioning really intensifies when you study the writings of the Old Testament prophets and discover during the Messianic Kingdom that God is going to bring back the Levitical priesthood and Temple system.  It sure doesn’t sound like God thinks it’s done, does it?)

Well, What is “Torah”?

Torah is a Hebrew word that can be translated as “Teaching, Instruction, Guidance, and/or Directives.”  It does not mean “Law.”  As a result, it can be applied in a wide spectrum of scenarios.  For example, it can be applied to one verse, one chapter, one section of chapters, a whole book, several books, the first five books, the entire Old Testament [Heb. Tanakh], or even both the Old Testament and the New Testament together.  Yes, the whole Bible, the Old and New Testament, can be said to be Torah because all of it contains God’s teachings or instructions.   Therefore, the only way a Christian cannot be under Torah (usually trans. “Law”) is by not living in submission to any part of Scripture.  But that would put the individual in complete opposition to God and His Word, wouldn’t it?

In fact, the book of Hebrews teaches that the New Testament has been established as Law (Torah), in exactly the same sense as what Moses received on Mt. Sinai.   The verse that hides this is Hebrews 8:6.  The following is a from the King James Version:

But now hath he [Christ] obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

The verb phrase translated as “was established” is the Greek word nenomothetêtai, according to Dr. David H. Stern,  this compound word is made up of two Greek words: nomos [“law”] and the common Greek verb tithêmi [“to put, place”] (50).  Dr. Stern further explains that if the subject matter of this text had been Greek law, rather than Jewish law, “it would be appropriate to translate this word as ‘enacted, established, legislated'” (50).  Consequently, then, this verse could more accurately communicate the intended meaning of this verse if it had been written this way:

But now hath he [Christ] obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was [enacted, established, or legislated as law based] upon better promises.

When we understand the actual meaning of this compound Greek word, then we understand that ALL of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, are Torah.  You see in a covenant, you can reaffirm it, add to it, build upon it, improve and strengthen it, but the one thing you CANNOT do is TERMINATE IT.   And the book of Hebrews teaches that God has acted appropriately with His covenant that He made with Israel at Mt. Sinai: He has added to it, built upon it, and improve and strengthened it, but He did NOT TERMINATE it.

Think of the Old Testament as the original program given to us by God, and the New Testament as the update.  If you use only the original program, you miss the benefits of the Update, but if you try to use only the Update, well that doesn’t work either.  The only way to get the desired result that the Programmer (“God”) intends is to use both the original program AND the update together (i.e., a Whole Bible Approach).

I hope from these few examples, you can see that there is a major problem with our traditional view of the Torah.  It falls flat when you consider the teachings of the Old Testament, the teachings of the Gospels, Acts, the epistles by Peter, James, and John, Revelation, as well as what is taught in the Old Testament prophets regarding the upcoming Messianic Kingdom.  And believe it or not, Paul likewise do not teach against the Torah when you put his writings back into context.

Unfortunately, due to our Christian anti-Torah bias that’s been  traditionally taught by the mainstream ministers and denominations, translators today choose words that present the Torah in a negative manner, which again only reinforces this traditional anti-Torah presentation that people read and see within the New Testament.

Obedience to the Torah – NOT about “Perfection”? 

In discussing what we have, I think you will agree that the mainstream Christian view of the Torah is flawed.  You see, obedience to God’s commandments does not make one “perfect,” as I’ve heard repeatedly argued, it simply makes one obedient.  In fact, nowhere in the Old Testament [Heb. Tanakh] does it say or teach that if you keep all these commandments, then you will become a perfect human being.  It’s simply not there.   God promises blessings to those who are obedient, but nowhere does God say these commandments will make one perfect.   To illustrate this point, let’s consider some sample passages.

Deuteronomy 29:9.  So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.

So where in this verse does it say that by keeping the commandments that you would become a “perfect person”?  I don’t see it, but what I do see is that it says that we will “prosper in all that [we] do.”  Well, what about the next one?

Joshua 1:8.  This book of the law (Heb. Torah) shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success.

Again, where in this verse does it say that as a result of studying, meditating, and observing all that’s written here in the Torah that we will become “perfect human beings” or even that we will inherit eternal life?  No, it says, that by doing so, we will make our way (or way of life) “prosperous” and have “good success.”  I’m still not seeing it, so let’s look at another passage.

Psalms 1:1-3.  Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.  But his delight is in the law (Torah) of the LORD; and in His law (Torah) does he meditate day and night.  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper. 

Again, where does this passage say anything about us becoming “perfect” human beings if we make the Torah our “delight” and “meditate” on it both “day and night”?  It doesn’t. Instead, it promises that “whatsoever” we do “shall prosper.”  Obviously then, as we can see from these passages, obeying the commandments does not make us “perfect,” but obedient, and as we live our lives in obedience to God, He then begins to pour out His blessings upon us.

Well, what about in the New Testament?  James, the brother of Jesus, likewise teaches and holds to this view of the Torah.  In his epistle, James draws on the Psalms:

The law [Torah] of the LORD is perfect, converting [or restoring] the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)

This first Psalm is written in Hebrew parallel form, which means that the two lines are actually saying the same thing in two different ways.  For example,

The law [Torah] of the LORD” parallels “the testimony of the LORD.”  In addition, the word “perfect,” which means “whole” or “complete,” parallels the word “sure” (or “reliable”).

In the second part of each line, “converting the soul [or returning or restoring the person]” parallels “making wise the simple.”  But in what way does the Torahreturn or restore the person“?  The Torah teaches us what God expects of us and how we are supposed to live here on earth, so therefore, it restores (or returns) the person to living in conformity to God’s commands and expectations for our lives.  And in so doing, it “makes wise the simple,” since the Torah is our “wisdom and understanding” (see Deuteronomy 4:6).

So shall I keep Your law [Torah] continually forever and ever.  And I will walk in liberty: for I seek Your precepts.

In this passage, the Psalmist is committing to keep God’s Torah “forever and ever,” and as a result of him seeking to obey God’s Torah, His “precepts,” he will walk “in liberty” or “in freedom.”  James, draws on these two passages and refers to God’s Torah as “the perfect law” and “the law of liberty” within his epistle, but notice that what he says about God’s Torah is completely consistent with the three previous passages:

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he was looked at himself and gone away, he was immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.  But one who looks intently at the perfect law [Torah], the law [Torah] of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)

For James, looking into God’s Torah means looking to see who it is that God wants him to be and to strive to become that man.  There’s nowhere in the life or teachings of James where he ever even hints at the possibility of the idea that God’s Torah is in any way “legalism,” “bondage,” or that it has been “done away,” “annulled,” or “terminated,” as we hear Christians and ministers teach.

Also note that what the believer will experience in their life – not by just listening to the teachings of the Torah, but in actually doing them – is the same in Deuteronomy 29:9; Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:1-3, and here in James 1:25, “this man shall be blessed in what he does.”  So ask yourself, Why would anyone not want to enjoy the blessings of God?  Has God changed His mind about the Torah‘s purpose or about His desire to bless His people? Malachi 3:6 gives us God’s response to this question: “For I am the LORD, I change not.” God does not change, and because He does not change, His Word does not change.  I pray that the LORD will bless you as you consider the evidence of His Word.

 

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Easter vs. Firstfruits: It’s Time to Abandon Paganism and Return to the Bible

EASTER – A PROBLEM?

For centuries, Christianity has preached that Jesus rose again on Easter.  However, if anyone has read the Scriptures and studied the Old Testament [Heb. Tanakh], as well as researched this topic, one would come to the unfortunate realization that this message of the church is a deception, a lie, and it is not true.  Jesus did not bodily rise from the dead on Easter, but on the biblical feast of “Firstfruits.”  Before discussing “firstfruits,” though, I want to point out the problem with Easter.

THE BLINDNESS OF CHRISTIANITY

There are many people in Christian churches who are totally unaware or blind to Easter’s pagan roots.  I did not know about them either.  However, in doing some research about the resurrection, I came across the material.  I could not believe what I was reading.  No, not just from one or two sources, but from multiple credible sources, including Christian sources!  The history of this pagan celebration was clearly there, so why does the church continue to celebrate this vile unholy day?  I can think of only one reason – “Tradition!  Tradition!” (In my head, I hear Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof” singing these words.) But tradition, regardless of how “sacred” it may be, is not reason enough to connect the death and resurrection of our holy Savior with such an unholy vile day.

THE PAGAN ROOTS OF EASTER

ishtarHere is an ancient statue of Ishtar (another name and version of Easter).  This was a hand-sized statute that people would carry around with them.  Easter is the name of a fertilty goddess that was worshipped throughout ancient western Europe. She was known by many other names as well, like Ishtar, depending on the region.  According to W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr.’s Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words:

The term ‘Easter’ is not of Christian origin. It is another form of Astarte, one of the titles of the Chaldean goddess, the queen of heaven. The festival of Pasch [Passover and the Feast of Unleavens] was a continuation of the Jewish [that is, God’s] feast….from this Pasch the pagan festival of ‘Easter’ was quite distinct and was introduced into the apostate Western religion, as part of the attempt to adapt pagan festivals to Christianity.” (“Easter,” page 192)

As we can see, this pagan connection is also well known among this and other Christian sources.   Easter/Ishtar/Astarte/Ostara (another name for her) had her Temples and Temple prostitutes, who engaged in all types of immoral sexual practices with whoever paid them, male, female, or groups of people.  In the Middle East, this fertility goddess was also known by the name Astarte or Asherah, the wife of Baal.  That’s right, Astarte/Asherah, the wife of Ba’al and the biblical nemesis of Israel’s God, YHWH, throughout the Old Testament (Heb. Tanakh) is embraced and celebrated each Spring by Christians around the world. Easter/Ishtar/Asherah and God are brought together in one annual celebration in defiance of the clear teachings of the Bible.  For example,

You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the LORD your God, which you shall make for yourself. (Deuteronomy 16:21)

In the article “What is an Asherah pole?” on the Christian website, GotQuestions?org, the writer explains that,

An Asherah pole was a sacred tree or pole that stood near Canaanite religious locations to honor the pagan goddess Asherah, also known as Astarte. While the exact appearance of an Asherah pole is somewhat obscure, it is clear that the ancient Israelites, after entering the land of Canaan, were influenced by the pagan religion it represented.

In the Bible, Asherah poles were first mentioned in Exodus 34:13. God had just remade the Ten Commandment tablets, and Moses had requested God graciously forgive the Israelites for worshiping the golden calf. Verse 10 begins the covenant God made: if the Israelites obey Him, He will drive out the tribes living in Canaan. But they must cut down the Asherah poles. Deuteronomy 7:5 and 12:3 repeat the command nearly verbatim, while Deuteronomy 16:21 commands the Israelites not set up any wooden Asherah poles of their own. Two books later, In Judges 3:7, “The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.” (www.gotquestions.org/Asherah-pole.html)

The Asherah pole was a phallic symbol and, of course, named after Asherah, the goddess of fertility, and people went there to worship her and to engage in all types of sexual practices and orgies.  And yet, in spite of all of the commands and teachings of God for His people not to associate themselves with her, the ancient Israelites had trouble obeying these commands.  And for most of church history, Christians have likewise not separated themselves completely from her.

Although Christians do not engage in sexual practices and orgies in the church, her Western European name, Easter, and two images for her ancient practices, the bunny and the egg, are used and brought into the church once a year.  As a side interest, the modern churches are as full of people engaging in sexual immorality, homosexuality, lesbianism, orgies, etc., as the people who make no claim at all to have faith in God or the Bible.  Even though most ministers may not intend for this, I do believe there’s a pagan influence coming into the church through this connection.

I believe Satan is thrilled when Christians come together to celebrate Easter because although the death, burial, and resurrection is being discussed, Satan still has a foothold in the churches and in the lives of all those who attend, particularly in the lives of our children.   Considering the rampant sexual immorality in our churches today, it is something worth considering.

In looking back at the annual celebration of Easter/Ishtar/Asherah, people would give up something forty days before the day of Easter/Ishtar/Asherah in the preparation of her day.  This is the origin for Lent.  Then on her day of worship,  ten of the village’s most beautiful women would be chosen, stripped down, and then given a head start into the field.  The men in the village would then chase them down and raped them in the field, believing that one act of fertility would end result in the fertility of the crops.  And this practice was widespread in the ancient world.

However, in my research, I discovered that when Alexander the Great conquered the known world, establishing the Greek Empire,  that two images were then used in substitution for the rape and sexual abuse of women: the bunny, because they are the most fertile of all land animals, and the egg, because they believed by doing this every year, they were bringing eternal life to their crops.  I found a number of stories and myths at this time of the goddess coming down from heaven in a giant egg, coming out of the egg, and then transforming herself into a bunny and handing out food to children.  These stories were told in order to connect these two images, the bunny and egg, with the worship and celebration of the goddess Easter.  Yes, based on my research, I would say that Playboy and the Playboy “bunnies” have a much closer connection and tie to Easter than Jesus’ death and resurrection ever could.

HOW DID EASTER COME INTO THE CHURCH?

Easter started coming into the church in the 2nd century, C.E.  Christian missionaries went into Europe to spread the Gospel.  However, the people there told them that they could not convert to Christianity because if they stopped celebrating the national holidays, like Easter, they would be killed.  So the missionaries came up with a plan. They told the people that they would be allowed to keep the name of the feast, the name of this pagan fertility goddess, but that they would “Christianize” the meaning of it and its images (the bunny and the egg), so that as far as everyone else was concerned, they were still celebrating the national holiday, but they could also, then, convert and join the church.  This “plan” spread throughout western Europe until the 4th century, C.E., when Constantine, the last Roman emperor, made “Easter” the official worship day of the church, and it has been that way ever since.

Consequently, Easter did not begin with Jesus.  It had been going on for centuries and centuries before He was ever conceived.  Rather, in order to get people into the church (“to fill the pews”), they compromised the integrity and holiness of God and His word and brought a pagan celebration into the church under the guise of giving people a “Christian alternative.” Many churches are doing the same thing today with Halloween.  If you research the policies and actions of the Roman Catholic Church, you would find that this became “the standard practice” of the church and their religious leaders.  How could they do this?  Simple.  The belief of the Roman Catholic Church is that the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, etc., are of higher authority than the Bible so they can do whatever they wish, even if the Bible plainly teaches against it.

IT’S TIME TO RETURN TO SCRIPTURE

With all the historic information and facts, I believe it’s clear when one discovers the true origin of Lent and Easter, and you examine the teachings of Scripture, such as Deuteronomy 12:29-31a,

When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?”  You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods;…

God does not approve of us taking pagan practices and using them with Him, even if we “Christianize” them in the process.  Instead, we need to repent for our sins of idolatry, and return to the true worship of God, by returning to what God has taught us to do in His Word.

WHAT IS “FIRSTFRUITS”?

Firstfruits is the third biblical Spring feast that comes on the day (Sunday) after the Sabbath following Passover. It’s discussed in Leviticus 23:9-11.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, ‘When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.'”

The Israelites were to bring the firstfruits of their crops on this day, the 17th of Nisan,  to the High Priest who would wave them as an offering to the LORD. If the LORD accepted them, then His acceptance was a guarantee that God would be faithful to bring in the rest of the crop.  This is also confirmed by Grant R. Jeffrey, a renowned Christian prophecy teacher and writer, in his book “Armageddon: Appointment with Destiny” (1988).  Jeffrey writes,

The third of the seven feasts is celebrated on the seventeenth day of Nisan, the Feast of Firstfruits. This was the time for the harvesting of the early crops of spring. God wanted Israel to acknowledge that they owed Him not only the firstfruits, but that all they had was from God, a daily gift from His gracious hand” (60).

The point of this feast is to remind us, as His people, that all things that we receive are His gifts given to us, not something we earned (I can see a possible sermon on “Grace in the Old Testament,” do you?)

Some other references to Firstfruits can also be found in the book of Exodus:

You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God.  You are not to boil a kid in the milk of its mother. (Exodus 23:19)

You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God.  You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.  (Exodus 34:26)

In both of these commands, we see the same instructions: (1) We are to bring the choice (or very first of) first fruits of our soil into the house of the LORD; and (2) we are not to boil a kid in its mother’s milk.  Since this prohibition is connected to firstfruits in both cases, I would assume this was a pagan practice that the surrounding cultures did during the celebration of their crops.  But this only reaffirms my point that God hates it when we use any type of pagan practices with Him – regardless of the reason.

THE NOAH’S ARK CONNECTION?

Another thing that I found intriguing was that Noah’s Ark landed on Mount Ararat on the same day that would later become the feast of Firstfruits:

And on the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat.  (Genesis 8:4)

At this point, Israel’s secular calendar is being used since the religious calendar had not been formed yet (This would happen at the beginning of the Exodus).  So the seventh month from the New Moon in September (or Rosh Hashanah) would be the month of Nisan, and on Nisan 17, the ark safely landed on the mountains of Ararat.

This was likewise conformed in Jeffrey’s book.  In his book, he states that the theme of this day is “resurrection,” and that there were “four historically important anniversary events that happened on this day:”

  • Noah’s ark rests on Mt. Ararat;
  • Israel miraculously crosses over the Red Sea;
  • Israel eats the firstfruits of the Promised Land; and
  • The resurrection of Jesus Christ. (60)
Yes, all of these events happened on the same day, same feast, but of course, different years.  And when I saw all of these events listed together, I realized that there was so much more to this day than the bringing in of crops to the temple to be blessed by God. Included in this feast is a promise of “safety and security.”
  • Noah experienced “safety and security” when the ark finally rested on the mountains of Ararat;
  • Israel experienced “safety and security” when miraculously crossed the Red Sea and the Egyptian military was drowned in the Red Sea by God;
  • Israel again experienced “safety and security” when they miraculously crossed the Jordan and ate the first fruits of the Promised Land; and most of all,
  • As individuals, we are able to experience “safety and security” in our relationship with God as a result of Christ’s bodily resurrection on this day.

Paul refers to this in his first epistle to the congregation at Corinth.  In his epistle, he writes,

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the FIRST FRUITS of those who are asleep (I Corinthians 15:20; emphasis mine).

Jesus us our “safety and security” with God, because His resurrection on this day means that His sacrifice of His life on the cross for our sins was accepted by God.  And now as our firstfruits, He is our guarantee that God will raise us up (the rest of God’s “crop”) on the day of the resurrection.  There is so much here, so many connections that could be made with these four events.  And I find it sad that we forsake such depth of learning, simply because we are afraid of challenging “tradition.”

A SUGGESTION FOR TEACHING FIRSTFRUITS

I was thinking a cool way to teach this in the church is to have people bring fruits, vegetables, and grains to the church on that day, and place them on a table at the front where everyone can see them.  And then discuss the meaning of firstfruits, and then connect that feast and its meaning to Christ’s resurrection. Then afterwards, just to make the day more enjoyable, have a meal for the whole congregation that includes fruits, vegetables and grains. This would be a much “healthier” alternative, both physically and spiritually, to the traditionally approach, which connects the death of our holy Savior to the unholy pagan practices associated with the fertility goddess of Easter.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Please think about and consider the origin and truths connected to these two very different days.  As believers in Christ, we tell our children that we believe in the Bible and that we should observe its teachings, but then we turn around during Easter, Christmas, and Halloween, and we celebrate things and days which are directly opposed to God and to the teachings of the Scripture.  The rest of the world knows the hypocrisy of what we say and what we do.  The only ones who don’t seem to realize this are those in the church.  We’re not fooling anyone by not openly discussing this.
Instead, we should be consistent with our proclamation of basing our life and practices on the Scriptures.  We should celebrate our Lord’s resurrection on the biblical feast of Firstfruits and use biblical imagery, rather than pagan imagery, to do this. These pagan connections do not honor the Lord in any way; in fact, they upset Him greatly. So this year, let’s do things differently.  Let’s do things the biblical way and put a smile on God’s face, rather than following pagan traditions that were brought into the church centuries ago in violation of Scripture, and that makes God angry and perhaps cry due to our lack of consideration and love for Him.

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

REALLY?

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.

EGOS AND TITLES VS. LOVE

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 IS IMPORTANT

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?

WHAT I AM NOT SAYING

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.

KINGDOM VS. RELIGION

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.

THE PROBLEM – THE NEED FOR CONTROL?

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.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THAT?

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.

THE BIBLE – NOT SIMPLY A RELIGIOUS TEXT?

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.

SO IS YESHUA/JESUS IMPORTANT TO THE KINGDOM?

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.

WHAT IS “SALVATION”?

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.”

WHAT ABOUT THE TORAH?

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.

IT’S OUR DECISION

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)

WHAT IS YOUR DECISION?

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?

“BED BUGS” –

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!”

A FEW DAYS OF ROMANCE

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.

“INVASION!”

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.

A 15-MONTH WARFARE!

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.

A SECOND CALL

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.

BED BUGS –  WHY LORD?

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.

BED BUGS – A PICTURE OF SIN?

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.

INFESTED LIVES

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.

A COMPUTER ANALOGY

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.

WE CAN’T CHANGE OURSELVES

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.

“FORGIVEN SINNERS?”

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.

SLAVERY OR FREEDOM?

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.

WE NEED LIBERATION & TRANSFORMATION – NOT JUST FORGIVENESS

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.

A NEW HEART & A NEW SPIRIT

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 – OUR “SIN BUG TERMINATOR”

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.

THE SOLUTION: GOD’S THREE TREATMENT PROGRAM

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.

HAVE YOU BEEN LIBERATED?

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?

PRAYER

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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