Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 23

The Nicene Creed~ Part 9

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. This post continues to dig a little deeper into the actual articles of faith in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through Him, all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
He came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake, He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered death and was buried.
On the third day, He rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and His kingdom will have no end.

BEGOTTEN, NOT MADE

The insistence on the Son as begotten, not made is another particular aspect of the fourth-century Arian controversy that breaks its way into the creed text at this point. Insofar as the more powerful biblical analogy of the Son of God’s birth from the Father could be used to designate a wide range of modes of secretion from God (angels and saints could be in a sense spoken of as born of God), the Nicene Fathers were concerned with this additional clause to specify that the Son’s process of being begotten from the Father is uniquely different from all others. Adding on the qualification “begotten before all ages” is specifically meant to attack the central Arian premises that the Son was a creature whom God the Father brought into being at a specific time in the plan of salvation. The creedal affirmation elevates against such notion the twin insistence that the Son was born of God (not made or created or emitted in any less than personal sense) and that the birth of the Son takes place within eternity, that is, within the divine being, not as something irrelevant or alien to it. Both images of a natural birth and eternal birth describe and define the full divine status of the Son’s being as necessary additions to the ancient baptismal creed to meet the Arian problem head-on.

Several Arian theologians had begun to argue in the fourth century that the divine Sonship of Yeshua was an analogy for the sanctification of a creature and, therefore, the biblical references to the heavenly Son of God ought to be taken as references to God’s creation of His angelic helpers. They argued that this applied especially to the great angel, the Logos, who thought He was heavily involved in the salvation of the world, was still, nonetheless, the firstborn (that is, first created) of the supreme Monad [1] of the divinity and was a Son of God on the same terms as the rest of creation, only perhaps more impressively so. To teach the doctrine that Yeshua was the earthly Son of God, precisely because he was the incarnation of the eternal Son of God and that in His case alone birth means the antithesis of creation, this clause in the creed, begotten, not made, was added. Aren’t we glad the Nicene Fathers added that phrase?

OF ONE BEING WITH THE FATHER

By the time of the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, it had become apparent to many who had been debating the issues over the last few decades that the Arian party could use many biblical terms and concepts in a radically different sense from what they seemed to mean to the orthodox. The Son’s birth from the Father, for example, was read by Arians as a synonym for “being made.” The Word’s issuing from “before the creation” was read as meaning “as the first act of creation.” So, at the council of 325, the Nicene fathers were determined to make a statement within the series of clauses that could not be interpreted in a vague sense.

Into the series of descriptions of how the Son was born of God, as true God from true God, and as eternal from eternal and as Son from Father, they inserted this explanatory clause: born of the being of the Father. This affirmation of the Son’s birth from the very being of God was a highly abstract and shorthand way of summing up the generic biblical doctrine of the Son’s birth from the Father. The use of the philosophical concept of “birth from out of the divine essence” was meant to emphasize and underscore the potency of other biblical metaphors about the divine Sonship, rather than replace or supersede them.

Yeshua was to be confessed as truly God, without equivocation, and without mental reservation. To that extent, it has often been regarded as the epitome of the Nicene confession of orthodoxy. In its time, it was meant to be a brief synopsis of what the biblical confessions meant in condensed and straightforward form, not a replacement of them. [2]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the second article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ.

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[1] Supreme Being ~ “Monad | philosophy | Britannica.

[2] McGuckin, J. A., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ (Vol. 2, pp. 53–54).

2 Kefa 3:14-18

Kefa’s Final Words

In my last post, we unpacked Kefa’s prediction that The Day of the Lord Will Come ~ Part 2 in 3 Kefa 1:8-13. In this post, we examine Kefa’s Final Words in 2 Kefa 3:14-18.

14 Therefore, dear friends, as you look for these things, do everything you can to be found by Him without spot or defect and at peace. 15 And think of our Lord’s patience as deliverance, just as our dear brother Sha’ul also wrote you, following the wisdom God gave him. 16 Indeed, he speaks about these things in all his letters. They contain some things that are hard to understand, things which the uninstructed and unstable distort, to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

This final section recaps some of the themes highlighted elsewhere in the letter. In light of the imminent return of Yeshua, Believers are to make every effort to be holy and godly. As sacrificial animals in the Tanakh were to be without spot or defect.

Interestingly, verses 15-16 is the only place in the Brit Hadashah where one of its authors refers to another of its authors specifically by name. In fact, with the phrase, the other Scriptures, Kefa gives Sha’ul’s letters the status of Holy Writ.

Kefa commends Sha’ul as our dear brother; there is no conflict between them, some nineteenth-century scholars thought to the contrary. It is possible, says Kefa, to distort what Sha’ul writes. The most common distortion is in the direction of antinomianism [1] ; this happens mostly when Sha’ul’s letters are read apart from their Tanakh and Gospels-Acts background.

The Lord’s delay in coming is designed to give men and women time to repent of their sins and come to salvation. Therefore, we must take advantage of His patience by repenting, rather than presuming upon His patience and living for unrighteous purposes.

17 But you, dear friends, since you know this in advance, guard yourselves; so that you will not be led away by the errors of the wicked and fall from your own secure position. 18 And keep growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Deliverer, Yeshua the Messiah. To Him be the glory, both now and forever! Amen. ~ 2 Kefa 3:14-18 (CJB)

Since Kefa’s readers had now been warned about the false teachers in their midst, he instructed them to be on their guard and not be led away. He also encouraged them to grow in the grace and knowledge of Yeshua, the Messiah. Recall from our study of the Gospel accounts that Kefa was the first talmid (disciple) to acknowledge Yeshua as the Messiah. The theme of spiritual growth bookends the letter, recurring here after its introduction in 1:1-15. Believers should resist false teachers, focusing on growth and spiritual development in a way that glorifies God now and throughout eternity.

Closing Thoughts

We started our journey of Kefa in the Gospels-Acts way back on May 24, 2020, before examining his two letters to the saints. I pray that you have enjoyed the journey as much as I have. As I stated in that first post: “Kefa has always amazed me since I first learned about him. As we will see, he is quite the character.”

In my next post, we will…???? Well, I am not entirely sure. Although a few of my blogging friends have already posted on this topic, I have planned on doing a series on Ya’akov (James). Then I was recently reminded that I have also intended on writing on the early Creeds of the church. Not many modern Believers know they even exist. As finishing up our study of Kefa reminded me, his writings, especially in Second Kefa, have a lot in common with Y’hudah (Jude). So, you will have to check back to learn what the Lord has directed me to write on..

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[1] Relating to the view that Christians are released by grace from the obligation of observing the moral law.

2 Kefa 3:1-13

The Day of the Lord Will Come ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to unpack Kefa’s prediction that The Day of the Lord Will Come ~ Part 1 in 3 Kefa 1:1-8. In this post, we continue to examine The Day of the Lord Will Come ~ Part 2 in 3 Kefa 1:8-13.

Moreover, dear friends, do not ignore this: with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.

Kefa appeals to Psalm 90:4 to make his point, as did many other Jewish writers of his day (who often took “the day as a thousand years” literally and applied it to the days of creation). [1] What seems like a delay makes the Lord’s return no less sure. Kefa noted that God views time differently than humans. Yeshua will return following the divine timetable, not ours. Dear friends recalls the recipients of the letter (1:1).

The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some people think of slowness; on the contrary, He is patient with you; for it is not His purpose that anyone should be destroyed, but that everyone should turn from his sins.

The Lord has not yet returned, says Kefa, because He is patient with you. The Tanakh emphasized that God delayed judgment to allow an opportunity for the wicked to repent. His patience concerning the world’s end was further emphasized in later Jewish texts like 4 Ezra; in Jewish texts, one could no longer repent once the day of judgment had come.

10 However, the Day of the Lord will come “like a thief.” On that Day, the heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will melt and disintegrate, and the earth and everything in it will be burned up.

Even though the Second Coming appears to be delayed, the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, says Kefa. Like Sha’ul teaching on the same subject (see 1 Thess. 5:1–8) and Yochanan reporting his vision (Rev, 3:3, 16:15), he alludes to Yeshua’s own words about the suddenness of his reappearance (see Matt. 24:35–44, Luke 12:35–49). The cataclysmic picture of that Day which Kefa gives here and in vv. 7, 12 is founded in the Tanakh. (Take out your friendly concordance and see how many references you can find.)

 11 Since everything is going to be destroyed like this, what kind of people should you be? You should lead holy and Godly lives,

As usually in the Brit Hadashah, Kefa’s discussion of the future is practical and suggests how to live in the present. This focus corresponds with some apocalyptic writers’ motives but contrasts with what appear to be those of many others: impatient curiosity about the future. Those who suffered in the present order especially embraced apocalyptic hope, which gave them the strength to persevere amid seemingly insurmountable tests in this age. [2]

12 as you wait for the Day of God and work to hasten its coming. That Day will bring on the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt from the heat; 13 but we, following along with his promise, wait for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness will be at home. ~ 2 Kefa 3:8-13 (CJB)

Jewish Rabbis disagreed among themselves about whether God at a time fixed the end of the age or whether Isra’el’s repentance and obedience could hasten it. In this context, Believers hasten the coming of the end by missions and evangelism, thereby enabling the conversion of those for whose sake God has delayed the end (2 Kefa 3:9, 15).

Kefa insisted that the anticipation of the Lord’s return and its accompanying events of judgment should rouse Believers to holy living. Evil will be destroyed when Yeshua returns, and righteousness will dwell in new heavens and a new earth.

In my next post, we will complete our study of 2 Kefa by examining his Final  Words.

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[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament.

[2] Ibid.

3 Kefa 1:1-7

The Day of the Lord Will Come ~ Part 1

In my last post, we continued to unpack Kefa’s denunciation of False Prophets and Teachers ~ Part 2 in 2 Kefa 2:12-22. In this post, we move on to the last chapter of Kefa’s letter to the saints to learn that The Day of the Lord Will Come in 3 Kefa 1:1-7.

In this chapter, Kefa describes the coming of the Day of the Lord, the destruction of the world with fire, and the hope of a new heaven and earth.

Dear friends, I am writing you now this second letter; and in both letters, I am trying to arouse you to wholesome thinking by means of reminders; so that you will keep in mind the predictions of the holy prophets and the command given by the Lord and Deliverer through your emissaries.

First Kefa is obviously the first letter. Predictions of the holy prophets, either those of the Tanakh or recent Brit Hadashah prophets (Acts 11:27). The rest of the chapter suggests the latter, even though at 1:19, “the prophetic Word” refers to the Tanakh. Kefa regards the command given by the Lord and Deliverer through your emissaries as having as much authority over Believers’ lives as the predictions of the holy prophets, as is also clear from v. 15.

Your emissaries reference those who founded the church Kefa addresses, and perhaps more particularly some of the other 11 emissaries and Sha’ul. (Mark 3:13–19; Acts 1:12–14; 9:1–19; compare 2 Pet 3:14–16).

First, understand this: during the Last Days, scoffers will come, following their own desires and asking, “Where is this promised ‘coming’ of his? For our fathers have died, and everything goes on just as it has since the beginning of creation.”

The last days to which Kefa is referring to things happening in his day. This phrase describes the time between Yeshua’s ascension to heaven (shortly after His resurrection) and the time when Yeshua will return again (see Acts 2:17; Heb 1:2). Scoffers refer to people disputing the truth of Yeshua’s return (His second coming); this may be a reference to the false teachers. Following according to their own desires includes the false teachers and their followers who acted like they had a form of godliness, but they lacked the transformative power of Yeshua in their lives; their decision to repeatedly choose and condone sin showed that they did not understand Yeshua.

Where is this promised ‘coming’ of his? The scoffers point to the fact that Yeshua has not yet returned as evidence for their understanding of the world. In the scoffers’ view, God is not going to intervene and judge.

But, wanting so much to be right about this, they overlook the fact that it was by God’s Word that long ago there were heavens, and there was land which arose out of water and existed between the waters,

There was land which arose out of water, refers to Gen 1:9–10, where dry land emerges from the waters, which in the ancient worldview, now surround the land (with water above the sky, below the land, and beside the land). This description reflects common cosmological beliefs in the ancient world. [1]

 and that by means of these things the world of that time was flooded with water and destroyed. It is by that same Word that the present heavens and earth, having been preserved, are being kept for fire until the Day of Judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed. ~ 2 Kefa 3:1-7 (CJB)

Kefa uses the example of God sending the flood in response to humanity’s great wickedness to show that things have indeed changed since creation, contrary to the scoffers’ beliefs. By the same word that created the world and brought the flood, God will intervene in human history again by destroying the present heavens and earth with fire and bringing a Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly. So, don’t scoff, saying, “I don’t see God.” Those who do so have forgotten what He has done. When God is ready to invade your situation, He can reorganize reality and bring the solution to your problem.

In my next post, we will complete our study of The Day of the Lord Will Come ~ Part 2 in 2 Kefa 3:8-13.

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[1]  Faithlife Study Bible.

2 Kefa 2:12-22

False Prophets and Teachers ~ Part 2

In my last post, we examined False Prophets and Teachers ~ Part 1 in 2 Kefa 2:1-11. In this post, we continue to unpack Kefa’s denunciation of False Prophets and Teachers ~ Part 2 in 2 Kefa 2:12-22.

Kefa compared the false teachers to Bil’am Ben-B’or (Balaam Num 22-24). Like Bil’am, these false teachers had abandoned the straight path, were consumed by greed, and would receive the wages of their unrighteousness; Bil’am’s donkey showed more moral sense than Bil’am did.

12 But these people, acting without thinking, like animals without reason, born to be captured and destroyed, insulting things about which they have no knowledge. When they are destroyed, their destruction will be total –

Kefa ridicules the false teachers’ claim of superior spiritual knowledge, stating that they are actually irrational, like animals. The false teachers prided themselves on their wisdom, but they were blind to the truth.

In verses 13-15, Kefa uses the example of Bil’am’s error to describe the character of the false teachers (see Num 22-24 and Jude 11). In using this story, he presents another guideline for identifying false teachers. As modern-day Believers, this is a lesson that we need to learn as those false teachers are still among us.

13 they will be paid back harm as wages for the harm they are doing. Their idea of pleasure is carousing in broad daylight; they are spots and defects reveling in their deceptions as they share meals with you –

Unrepentant false teachers and prophets will receive their judgment, which will be their destruction. The false teachers are shameless in the sinful deeds – they do not just enjoy sinning but the idea of doing so. They also share about their sinful actions, encouraging others to follow their ways (v. 18).

Meals with you refer to meals eaten in connection with worship service or the Lord’s Supper. These “agape meals” were meant to enrich Believers’ fellowship and strengthen their sense of union with Yeshua. But the false teachers are using the meals to lead others astray – they are exploiting the teachings of Yeshua when others are supposed to be experiencing the meaning of Yeshua’s sacrifice and growing in their faith.

14 for they have eyes always on the lookout for a woman who will commit adultery, eyes that never stop sinning, and they have a heart that has exercised itself in greed; so that they seduce unstable people. What a cursed brood!

Such false teachers are not only evil at night when their deeds can be hidden. They are evil in broad daylight as well. In the end, they will be paid back for the harm they have caused.

15 These people have left the straightway and wandered off to follow the way of Bil‘am Ben-B‘or, who loved the wages of doing harm …

The way of Bil‘am believed he could curse what God had blessed; his later teaching led the Israelites to idolatry and immorality (Num 31:16; Rev2:14). Likewise, the false teachers compromise God’s truth by immorality and likely idolatry; they will perish like Bil’am (Num 31:8).

Unlike other uses and expansions of the material Second Kefa shares Jude, the following portion of Second Kefa succinctly summarizes the stormy imagery Jude uses (2 Kefa 2:17; see Jude 12-13). Second Kefa then breaks from the material it shares with Jude to articulate warnings about the dangers of false teachers and their presence within the Messianic community.

16 but was rebuked for his sin—a dumb beast of burden spoke out with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s insanity! 17 Waterless springs they are, mists driven by a gust of wind; for them has been reserved the blackest darkness.

Like springs without water and clouds without rain, the false teachers arrive with a pretense of offering refreshment but, in reality, offer nothing to sustain spiritual growth. Thus, they are destined for the gloom of darkness, eternal hell.

18 Mouthing grandiosities of nothingness, they play on the desires of the old nature in order to seduce with debaucheries people who have just begun to escape from those whose way of life is wrong. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for a person is a slave to whatever has defeated him.

Contrary to the way of spiritual growth, false teachers use their communication abilities to arouse the fleshly desires of recent converts to the Messiah – references hers as people who have just begun to escape – and drag them back into their old lifestyles rather than forward in righteousness. The false teachers promise freedom to those who follow their counsel. But they deliver, and experience, slavery to corruption. The false teachers cast off sexual restraint in the name of freedom, but they are actually enslaved to their sin without realizing it.

20 Indeed, if they have once escaped the pollutions of the world through knowing our Lord and Deliverer, Yeshua the Messiah, and then have again become entangled and defeated by them, their latter condition has become worse than their former.

Yeshua has offered these people the opportunity to escape – the sin which came at the price of His own life – and they have chosen to return to sin and indulge in it, and encouraged by the false teachers to do the same.

21 It would have been better for them not to have known the Way of righteousness than, fully knowing, to turn from the holy command delivered to them.

When false teachers trick Messianics into returning to their previous, unrighteous lifestyle, they will find themselves in a worse state since they know better. The false teachers have experienced Yeshua’s work enough to understand the basic principles of humanity’s behalf. As a result, the godliness expected is in direct contrast to the false teachers’ actions (see Kefa 2:9).

22 What has happened to them accords with the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit.” Yes, “The pig washed itself, only to wallow in the mud!” ~ 2 Kefa 2:12-22 (CJB)

A dog returns to its own vomit, is a quotation of Proverbs 26:11. It emphasizes that false teachers will never change and any attempt to reform is pointless. The origins of the “pig” proverb is unknown, but it must have been popular since Kefa evokes a pearl of common wisdom. [1]

In my next post, we will begin to unpack 3 Kefa 1-13 dealing with The Day of the Lord Will Come.

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[1] Faithlife Study Bible.

2 Kefa 2:1-11

False Prophets and Teachers ~ Part 1

In my last post, we examined Yeshua’s Glory and Prophetic Word in 2 Kefa 1:16-21. In this post, we begin to unpack Kefa’s denunciation of False Prophets and Teachers.

David Stern introduces this chapter by stating:

“This chapter is the first century’s picture of the “sleaze factor” at work. Then, just as now, immoral and greedy persons misled God’s people by assuming the role of teachers and had a devastating effect on the morale and reputation of the Messianic Community.[1]

But among the people, there were also false prophets, just as there will be false teachers among you. Under false pretenses, they will introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them and thus bring on themselves swift destruction.

But among the people, there were also false prophets. Kefa continues the parallel begun in 1:20 between the time when he was writing and the time of the Prophets in the Tanakh.

In the first century, heresy referred to a faction or a school of thought. Therefore, Kefa has to specify that destructive heresies are not just any teachings but destructive ones. We will see this again when we explore 2 Kefa 3:7, 16).

 Many will follow their debaucheries, and because of them, the true Way will be maligned. In their greed, they will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their punishment, decreed long ago, is not idle; their destruction is not asleep! For God did not spare the angels who sinned; on the contrary, He put them in gloomy dungeons lower than Sh’ol to be held for judgment.

Likely based on a false characterization of the freedom and grace Yeshua offers, the heretics taught a form of liberty that promoted Believers enjoying sexual debauchery. Kefa appeals to the Tanakh to explain how to deal with false teachers. He makes four of the same claims as Y’hudah (Jude) (see vv. 4–5) to emphasize that dangerous heretics will perish like the heretics of the wilderness wanderings (see Num 14:26–38; 16:1–35). In doing so, Kefa creates a practice for identifying heretical leaders.

The angels who sinned are the b’nei-ha’elohim (“sons of God” or “sons of angels”; Genesis 6:2), also called nefilim (“fallen ones”; Genesis 6:4), who fell from heaven, which was “their proper sphere” (Y’hudah 6), and “came into the daughters of men” (Genesis 6:2, 4). But now they are “imprisoned spirits” (1 Kefa 3:19), whom God has put … in gloomy dungeons lower than Sh’ol to be held for judgment, “in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for the Judgment of the Great Day” (Yd 6). In these descriptions, Kefa and Y’hudah are not using their imagination but drawing on elaborations of the Genesis narrative, which can be found in earlier Jewish writings, such as 1 Enoch. [2]

And he did not spare the ancient world; on the contrary, he preserved Noach, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, and brought the Flood upon a world of ungodly people. And he condemned the cities of S’dom and’ Amora, reducing them to ashes and ruin, as a warning to those in the future who would live ungodly lives; but he rescued Lot, a righteous man who was distressed by the debauchery of those unprincipled people; for the wicked deeds which that righteous man saw and heard, as he lived among them, tormented his righteous heart day after day. So the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and how to hold the wicked until the Day of Judgment while continuing to punish them, 10 especially those who follow their old natures in lust for filth and who despise authority.

In urging his hearers to be alert and ready for the Day of Judgment, Yeshua also used the cautionary examples of the Flood (Mt 24:37–39), S’dom and ‘Amora (Mt 10:15, 11:23–24; Lk 10:12), and both together (Lk 17:26–30). Kefa makes further use of the example of the Flood in chapter 3.

Kefa further assures his readers that despite the false teachers’ immorality, the unrighteous, especially those who followed the flesh’s polluting desires and despised authority, would not escape God’s sovereignty or punishment.

Presumptuous and self-willed, these false teachers do not tremble at insulting angelic beings; 11 whereas angels, though stronger and more powerful, do not bring before the Lord an insulting charge against them. ~ 2 Kefa 2:1-11 (CJB)

We will continue to unpack 2 Kefa 2:12-22 dealing with the False Prophets and Teachers, in my next post.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

[2] Ibid.

2 Kefa 1:16-21

Yeshua’s Glory and Prophetic Word

In my last post, we explored the subject of Confirming Your Calling and Election ~ Part 2 in 2 Kefa 1:8-15. In this post, we examine Yeshua’s Glory and Prophetic Word in 2 Kefa 1:16-21.

Kefa assures his audience that, in contrast to the lies of false teachers that he will discuss later in the letter, the teaching about Yeshua’s return he has passed on is authentic and reliable. Kefa’s preaching is not based on something he made up, but on both his firsthand experience of Yeshua and the truth of Scripture. Therefore, his readers can be confident of its accuracy.

16 For when we made known to you the power and the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, we did not rely on cunningly contrived myths. On the contrary, we saw his majesty with our own eyes. 17 For we were there when he received honor and glory from God the Father; and the voice came to him from the grandeur of the Sh’khinah, saying, “This is my son, whom I love; I am well pleased with him!” 18 We heard this voice come out of heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.

Like Moshe, Kefa encountered God on a holy mountain. Three of the four Gospel writers report this event, the Transfiguration of Yeshua, when Kefa, Ya’akov, and Yochanan personally saw the majesty of the Messiah made manifest (Mt 17:1–9, Mk 9:2–10, Lk 9:28–36). The words, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased,” were also heard when Yeshua was immersed by Yochanan the Immerser (Mt 3:17, Mk 1:11, Lk 3:22); and they allude to Psalm 2:7, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father,” itself quoted at Acts 13:33 and Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 1:5, 5:5.

Prophetic Word

Having explained his credentials above, Kefa now introduces his main topic in 2 Kefa 2, dealing with false prophets and teachers.

19 Yes, we have the prophetic Word made very certain. You will do well to pay attention to it as to a light shining in a dark, murky place until the Day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts. 20 First of all, understand this: no prophecy of Scripture is to be interpreted by an individual on his own; 21 for never has a prophecy come as a result of human willing – on the contrary, people moved by the Ruach HaKodesh spoke a message from God. ~ 2 Kefa 1:16-21 (CJB)

Kefa had the prophetic Word set forth by the Tanakh writers concerning God’s precious and very great promises (see v. 4) made very certain. First, his direct experience with Yeshua and his glory (vv. 16–18) made him confident. And second, since many of the words of the Prophets concerning the Messiah had already been fulfilled at Yeshua’s first coming, Kefa could be sure that the rest would be fulfilled at His second coming (this Kefa had known long before; see Acts 3:21).

The import of Kefa’s having the prophetic Word made very certain is that he, not the false teachers of Chapter 2, is the one whose prophecy interpretations should be trusted.

The Day refers to Yeshua’s second coming, but there is also an underlying hint at the Day of Judgment. As the Morning Star is Yeshua the Messiah. This seems to be a reference to Numbers 24:17, “There shall come a star out of Jacob,” taken in Judaism as pointing to the Messiah.

A prophecy of Scripture must be interpreted not based on thoughts rooted in a person’s old nature, such as those of the false prophets of Chapter 2, but based on what the Ruach makes clear about its meaning since Yeshua sent the Ruach to guide Believers into the truth.

But since He sent the Ruach to the Believers as a community, be cautious of those who offer “the true word” but avoid subjecting their opinions to other Believers’ scrutiny. Much false teaching both in Kefa’s Day and our own arises from people’s developing their own idiosyncratic interpretations, supposedly hearing the Ruach, but without examining other views or admitting that their own could be mistaken.

Never has a prophecy come as a result of human willing. This is why prophecy should not be interpreted based on one’s preconceptions, own willingness, and thinking. Just as people moved by the Ruach HaKodeshspoke a message from God, so people moved by the Ruach HaKodesh should interpret God’s message.

In my next post, we will begin to unpack 2 Kefa 2 dealing with False Prophets and Teachers. This is a timeless topic that is undoubtedly still very pertinent in our lifetimes.

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2 Kefa 1:8-15

Confirming Your Calling and Election ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to unpack Kefa’s second letter verse by verse. In this post, we continue to explore the subject of Confirming Your Calling and Election ~ Part 2 in 2 Kefa 1:8-15.

For context, let me include 2 Kefa 1:5-7 that we studied in my last post: For this very reason, try your hardest to furnish your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with perseverance, perseverance with Godliness, Godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

Knowing his death is quickly approaching (see verse 14 below), Kefa urges his audience to examine their faith so that they will remain established in the truth and indeed be part of Yeshua’s Kingdom.

For if you have these qualities in abundance, they keep you from being barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Indeed, whoever lacks them is blind, so shortsighted that he forgets that his past sins have been washed away.

Useful and fruitful Believers have an abundance of the qualities mentioned in vv. 5–7. On the other hand, those who lack them are barren and unfruitful because they have forgotten the cleansing from their past sins; they deliberately forget the background from which God delivered them. “Past sins” refers to sins committed before professing faith in Christ.

10 Therefore, brothers, try even harder to make your being called and chosen a certainty. For if you keep doing this, you will never stumble. 11 Thus, you will be generously supplied with everything you need to enter the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Deliverer, Yeshua the Messiah.

Try your hardest (v.5) and try even harder to add these qualities to your faith. Faith saves, but not if so-called “believers” are merely passive spectators of their salvation and fail to make their being called and chosen a certainty. Instead, they deceive themselves into thinking they are saved when they are not. The only way to be certain one will enter the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Deliverer Yeshua the Messiah, is by letting God act through you as you develop the qualities named in vv. 5–7.

If you do allow God to act through you two results, follow:

  1. You will never stumble.
  2. You will receive a glorious entry into the eternal Kingdom.

12 For this reason, I will always remind you about these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you already have. 13 And I consider it right to keep stirring you up with reminders, as long as I am in the tent of this body.

Based on the future hope of entry into the eternal Kingdom, Kefa determined always to remind his readers of teachings that they might otherwise lay aside despite his conviction that they were well-grounded in the truths they had been taught. Though they were established Believers, their lifestyles left much to be desired. As long as he was in the tent of this body (alive in the human body, a temporary dwelling place for this life), Kefa determined to continue stimulating his readers by way of reminder.

14 I know that I will soon lay aside this tent of mine, as our Lord Yeshua the Messiah has made clear to me. 15 And I will do my best to see that after my exodus, you will be able to remember these things at all times. ~ 2 Kefa 1:8-15 (CJB).

Kefa’s purpose in writing this letter was to remind Believer’s about these things, even though they knew them and were established in the truth (1:12). His urgency to issue the reminder stemmed not from any failure on the part of Believers but the impending reality of his own death, about which Yeshua made a clear prophecy (1:14; see John 21:18-19).

According to tradition, Kefa was crucified upside down, saying he did not deserve to be crucified right side up like his Lord. [1]

In my next post, we will move on to explore Yeshua’s Glory and Prophetic Word in 2 Kefa 1:16-21.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

2 Kefa 1-7

Confirming Your Calling and Election ~ Part 1

In my last post, we explored some background material on Kefa’s second letter to the saints. In this post, we start to unpack Kefa’s letter verse by verse. Although I quoted this letter’s opening in my last post, I want to return to verse 1 to remind who this letter is addressed.

Most letters in the Brit Hadashah are addressed to Believers in specific geographic areas similar to Sha’ul’s letters and Kefa’s first letter. Here, he is addressing a different audience not tied to a geographic area but rather Believers anywhere.

From: Shim’on Kefa, a slave and emissary of Yeshua the Messiah. To: Those who, through the righteousness of our God and of our Deliverer Yeshua the Messiah, have been given the same kind of trust as ours: May grace and shalom be yours in full measure, as you come to a full knowledge of God and Yeshua our Lord. ~ 2 Kefa 1-2 (CJB)

The To is, namely, Messianic Gentiles. “Ours,” in the plural, refers to Messianic Jews in general. Messianic Gentiles are considered righteous by God because of their trust, which is the same as that of Messianic Jews. Kefa had made this discovery earlier (Acts10:1–11:18) and made it part of his life (Acts 15:7–11), even though on at least one occasion he needed reminding about it (Ga 2:11–21).  [1]

Confirming Your Calling and Election

God’s power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowing the One who called us to His own glory and goodness. By these He has given us valuable and superlatively great promises so that through them you might come to share in God’s nature and escape the corruption which evil desires have brought into the world.

Kefa reminds his readers of the resources they had through knowing Yeshua. He provides believers everything they need for life and godliness. Life is eternal life, whereas godliness is godly living; the latter cannot be obtained without the former. The divine call of Believers served as a foundation for Kefa’s appeal for godly living. Yeshua calls to Himself those whom God has saved, and His own glory and goodness bring about this calling. By these (Yeshua’s glory and goodness), He has given us valuable and superlatively great promises.

Kefa asserts that Believers are fully equipped to live a life pleasing to God, overcome any obstacle they face, and persevere under trial. In summary, God is sufficient – a concept that Kefa will come back to later in this letter in chapter 3.

Yeshua offers the only way of escape from the rebellion of this evil world system that is opposed to and alienated from God.

For this very reason, try your hardest to furnish your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with perseverance, perseverance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. ~ 2 Kefa 3-7 (CJB)

Try your hardest to add these qualities to your faith. Faith saves, but not if so-called “Believers” are merely passive spectators of their salvation, for then they are barren and unfruitful (James 2:14–26) and fail to make their being called and chosen a certainty. Instead, they deceive themselves into thinking they are saved when they are not (see Hebrews 6:4–6). The only way to be certain one will enter the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Deliverer Yeshua the Messiah, is by letting God act through you as you develop the qualities named in vv. 5–7.

The idea of knowing about God is preceded by the principle of living a life of integrity, emphasizing that the disciplines of a faithful life lead to further understanding of God.

Faith is not just a matter of obtaining salvation; it is a matter of life transformation – overcoming sin demonstrates the power of Yeshua in a person’s life.

In my next post, we will conclude our exploration of Confirming Your Calling and Election ~ Part 2 in 2 Kefa 1:8-15.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

2 Kefa ~ An Introduction

In my last post, we completed our study of 1 Kefa. In this post, we begin our study of 2 Kefa. Before we start going verse by verse, let me share some background material from various commentaries to get us started, and then look at 2 Kefa 1:1-2.

Introduction to 2 Kefa

Second Kefa emphasizes practical Messianic living. As the Messianic movement gained steam, Messianic communities began to encounter more false teachers in their midst. Kefa cautioned Believers to beware of false teachers with their bogus doctrines and lascivious lifestyles. Against this view, 2 Kefa argues that the Day of the Lord is undoubtedly coming and that Believers should live in light of this truth.

The temptation to a sinful lifestyle so concerned Kefa that he followed up with this one shortly after his first letter. Kefa also warned against denials of Yeshua’s return with its accompanying judgment. He urged his readers to make every effort to grow in the Messianic faith’s knowledge and practice.

Authorship & Date

Regarding authorship, 2 Kefa is one of the most disputed letters in the Brit Hadashah. The style differs so much from 1 Kefa that the same person could not have written both unless he were purposely trying to alter his style. But Kefa could have given literary freedoms to a different scribe (1 Kefa 5:13) for each, with the second being more accustomed to a bombastic style. The attestation for 2 Kefa is weaker than that for most other Brit Hadashah books but more substantial than that of early Messianic books that did not become part of the canon for the Brit Hadashah.

The author of 2 Kefa plainly identified himself as the emissary Kefa:

From: Shim’on Kefa, a slave and emissary of Yeshua the Messiah. To: Those who, through the righteousness of our God and of our Deliverer Yeshua the Messiah, have been given the same kind of trust as ours: ~ 2 Kefa 1:1 (CJB)

The letter contains several personal allusions to Kefa’s life. He mentioned that his death was close (1:14), described himself as an eyewitness of the transfiguration of Yeshua (1:16–18), quoted the words of the voice from heaven at this event (1:17), indicated that he had previously written to the letter’s recipients (whom he called “dear friends” in 3:1), and also called Sha’ul “our dear brother” (3:15). This suggests that the author was close to Sha’ul. Such references point to Kefa as the author.

Many contemporary scholars, however, reject Kefa as the author of this letter. They argue the following:

  1. The personal references to Kefa’s life are a literary device used by someone who wrote under the emissary’s name to create the appearance of authenticity.
  2. The style of Greek in 2 Kefa is different from that of 1 Kefa.
  3. The reference to Sha’ul’s letters as a collection (3:15–16) points to a date later than Kefa’s lifetime.
  4. SecondKefa was dependent upon Jude. If this is true, Kefa’s authorship is problematic.

In response to these objections, one should consider the following:

  1. The early church soundly rejected the practice of writing under an apostolic pseudonym, regarding it as an outright forgery.
  2. Kefa may have had help in writing 1Kefa5:12 and not in writing 2 Kefa, a situation that would lead to different styles in his Greek.
  3. Rather than the whole collection, Kefa may have referred only to those Pauline letters that were known at the time of writing.
  4. Kefa may have borrowed some from Jude, or both may have used a common source of this evidence suggests that 2 Kefa should be accepted as authentic.  [1]

As for me, I am persuaded by those who originally compiled the canon as to its authenticity.

If Kefa authored 2 Kefa, it must have been composed by the mid-60s CE, when he was martyred in Rome.  [2]

Structure

To: Those who, through the righteousness of our God and of our Deliverer Yeshua the Messiah, have been given the same kind of trust as ours:

Second Kefa is a general letter with a typical salutation, main body, and farewell features. Its style is that of a pastoral letter, driven by the recipients’ needs, rather than some formal treatise.

After the greeting, Kefa reminds his audience of their Messianic identity – as those saved from their sins by Yeshua – and calls them to be godly people who live as if Yeshua’s return is a reality (1:3-21). Kefa then warns about false teachers motivated by greed and lust rather than by love for God (2:1-22). Much of this section and the start of the next section have strong similarities with the letter of Jude (compare 2 Kefa 2:1–18; 3:1–3 with Jude 4–18). There are several explanations for these overlaps: 2 Kefa relies on Jude, Jude relies on 2 Kefa, or both Jude and 2 Kefa rely on a common source (perhaps oral tradition).

Kefa then offers an additional argument against false teaching, assuring his readers that Yeshua will surely come again (2 Kefa 3:1–13). The letter closes with a final instruction for the Believers to depend on what they know to be true, refusing to be led astray by the false teachers (3:14–18).

In my next post, we will explore Confirming Your Calling and Election in 2 Kefa 3-15.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] CSB Study Bible: Notes.

[2] Faithlife Study Bible.