Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 10

The Apostles’ Creed ~ Part 9

This post will begin our closer look at the third article of faith contained in the Apostles’ Creed to learn more about what we affirm that we believe.

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT,

the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

This article of faith may be the hardest to wrap your mind around.

I know it was for me. The Father was not that hard even though He was not visible. I knew in my knower that something or someone must have created the universe and populated our small portion with the human race, along with the animals and vegetation. I was told that someone was God, and He was our spiritual Father.

Yeshua was not difficult for me to believe in. After all, He was divinely sent by the Father in human form to explain the coming of the Kingdom of God. There is just way too much evidence through His teachings and performance of miracles not to believe that He is the promised Messiah. He revealed to us more about the Father’s plan to redeem His creation.

Now, the Ruach was a different matter altogether. Who was He? There was not very much taught about who He was or what His function in the churches I had attended. However, as I mentioned in my About the Author page, I attended a Faith Alive weekend encounter at the Episcopal Church we were attending at the time. Several other Episcopalians from around Southern California came to share their experiences as Believers.

On Friday evening, the leader laid out the schedule for the weekend, and from two or three who shared their testimonies before we broke up into small groups to discuss the ups and downs of our own walk of faith. This was all new to me.

On Saturday morning, we met in the homes of parishioners to focus on prayer. The one I attended was led by one of the sweetest elderly ladies I had ever met. Her extemporaneous prayers were something that I had never experienced before. All the prayers I had ever heard were from the Book of Common Prayer used in the church.

At noon, the guys and the gals had separate lunches where the testimonies centered around personal ministries of caring for the widows, orphans, and prisoners. That also had a significant impact on me because I knew that ministry was mentioned in the Bible.

That evening, we met back at the church for some more testimonies and small group discussions. As the meeting ended, I went back into the church and knelt at the altar to pray. My prayer was simple, “Lord, I don’t know what these people have, but whatever it is, I want it.” Although I felt warm and fuzzy and at peace, there was no outward manifestation of an answer to my prayer, so I just went home to go to bed. I was scheduled to be the Lay Reader the following day.

On Sunday morning, as was my custom as a Lay Reader, I read the assigned Psalm for the day. I wanted to make sure that I could read it with dramatic emphasis as if I were an actor in a play. That is when the Ruach hit me; I actually understood what I was reading for the first time. He had opened my spiritual eyes.

From that point forward, I have experienced many manifestations of His presence in my life. Now, I can truthfully say that I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT.

In my next post, we will really begin to unpack the third article of our faith in the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) in the Apostle’s Creed.

Click here for the PDF version.

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 9

The Apostles’ Creed ~ Part 8

This post will continue our closer look at the Apostles’ Creed to learn more about what we affirm that we believe.

AND IN JESUS CHRIST, GOD’S ONLY SON, OUR LORD:

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day, he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

He Ascended into Heaven and Is Seated at The Right Hand of The Father

Early Believers proclaimed a Gospel of Yeshua’s bodily incarnation, bodily suffering, bodily death, bodily resurrection, and bodily ascension. The faith of the ancient Kehillah was not about spiritual escape but about the redemption and transfiguration of human life in its fullness, including the life of the body. As Irenaeus said in the second century, the Son of God“did not reject human nature or exalt himself above it,” but united Himself with our nature in order to unite us to God.

When the Brit Hadashah writers speak of the ascension, they are not describing Yeshua’s absence but his sovereign presence throughout creation. He has not gone away but has become even more fully present. His ascent to the right hand of the Father is His public enthronement over all worldly power. No scriptural passage is quoted so often in the Brit Hadashah as Adonai says to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” ~ Psalm 110:1 (CJB).

The earliest Believers proclaimed that Yeshua had been enthroned as the universal Lord and Messiah. The exalted Messiah has entered His glory (Luke 24:26; 1 Tim 3:16). From now on, all things are subject to His authority (Phil 3:21; Heb 2:8). Because He is ascended, His life is universally available. His loving authority extends over the whole creation and is present wherever Believers assemble (Eph 1:20-23). He has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him. (1 Pet 3:22).

So, the ascension is not meant to make us wonder where Yeshua has gone. Instead, it ought to elicit the psalmist’s question: Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? ~ Ps 139:7.

And through our union with Yeshua, we share also in His ascension. When Yeshua ascends to the Father, He takes our humanity with Him. To quote Irenaeus again, because Yeshua has ascended we also “ascend through the Spirit to the Son, and through the Son to the Father.” In Yeshua, our nature has taken up residence in the presence of God.

He Will Come Again to Judge the Living and The Dead

To judge is to discriminate, to separate one thing from another. The Gospel of John portrays Yeshua as the light of the world. The same light shines on everyone, but there are different ways of responding to it. Some walk gladly into the light while others screw their eyes shut and remain in darkness. Now, this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness rather than the light. Why? Because their actions were wicked. (John 3:19). That is what it means for Yeshua to bring judgment. It is not that He is gracious to some and angry toward others. Yeshua is full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

The judgment that Yeshua brings, moreover, is not just a division between two kinds of people. When Believer’s light shines into our lives, it creates a division within ourselves. None of us is entirely good or entirely bad. Each of us is a mixture. The bad grows up in our lives like weeds among the wheat, and the two are so closely entwined that in this life we cannot easily tell the difference (see Matt 13:24-30). Sometimes our worst mistakes turn out to produce good fruit. And sometimes we discover that our virtues have produced unforeseen collateral damage. Our lives are not transparent to ourselves. We cannot easily tell where the bad ends and the good begins.

So, it is a comfort to know that one day someone will come and lovingly separate the good from the bad in our lives. The confession that Yeshua will come as the judge is not an expression of terror and doom. It is part of the good news of the gospel. It is a joy to know that there is someone who understands all the complexities and ambiguities of our lives. It is a joy to know that this one – the only one who is truly competent to judge – is full of grace and truth (John 1:14). He comes to save, not to destroy, and He saves us by His judgment.

Yeshua will come to judge the living and the dead. That will be the best thing that ever happens to us. On that day, the weeds in each of us will be separated from the wheat. It will hurt – no doubt it will hurt – when our self-deceptions are burned away. But the pain of truth heals; it does not destroy. On our judgment day, we will be able for the first time to see the truth of our lives when we see ourselves as loved. [1]

In my next post, we will begin to unpack the third article of our faith in the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) in the Apostle’s Creed.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism.

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 8

The Apostles’ Creed ~ Part 7

This post will continue our closer look at the Apostles’ Creed to learn more about what we affirm that we believe.

AND IN JESUS CHRIST, GOD’S ONLY SON, OUR LORD:

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

HE DESCENDED INTO HELL. ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE AGAIN FROM THE DEAD

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there” ~ Psalm 139:8 (CJB). [1] The message of the Bible is that death is not the end. Death does not defeat God’s promise. Death is not separation from God. In Yeshua, God has dwelt among the dead. The Living has embraced the dead. Death has been incorporated into life.

Several of the Brit Hadashah authors describe Yeshua’s death as a descent into the world of the dead.

This is why it says, “After he went up into the heights, he led captivity captive, and he gave gifts to mankind.” Now this phrase, “he went up,” what can it mean if not that he first went down into the lower parts, that is, the earth?~ Ephesians. 4:8–9.

18 For the Messiah himself died for sins, once and for all, a righteous person on behalf of unrighteous people, so that he might bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh but brought to life by the Spirit; 19 and in this form, he went and made a proclamation to the imprisoned spirits. ~ 1 Kefa 3:18–19.

Therefore, God raised Him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name; 10 that in honor of the name given Yeshua, every knee will bow – in heaven, on earth, and under the earth11 and every tongue will acknowledge that Yeshua the Messiah is Adonai – to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2:9–11 (emphasis added).

The dead are not lost forever. They are not condemned to silence. In Yeshua, the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who listen will come to life. ~ John 5:25. Because of Him, the emptiness of death has been filled with God’s fullness.

The Son ofGod has taken our nature to Himself. He allows our fallen nature to drag Him down. He descends to the very abyss of the human condition. He traces our plight right back to the root and takes hold of us there. He embraces our humanity at the point of its total collapse into nothingness.

Because He shares our nature, He can fall with us into death; because He is the Son of God, he can fill death with his presence so that the grave becomes a source of life. In Yeshua, the dead are united to God and are alive in the strength of that union. The resurrection is not just an isolated miracle that happens to Yeshua. It happens to us – to Adam and Eve, to me, to the human family. As Yeshua rises, the whole of humanity rises with Him.

In the ancient church, the message of Yeshua’s triumph over death produced some peculiar attitudes toward the dead. Believers would assemble for prayer in tombs. They would worship Yeshua among the bones of the dead. Believers would raise the bodies of martyrs in the air and parade them through the streets like trophies. At funerals, they would gaze lovingly on the dead and sing psalms of praise over their bodies. Such behavior shocked their pagan neighbors. According to Roman law, the dead had to be buried miles away from the city not to be contaminated. But Believers placed the dead right at the center of their public gatherings. The earliest church buildings were just big mausoleums erected over the remains of the martyrs. In the words of John Chrysostom, “tombs with life, tombs that give voice.”

When new Believers were preparing for Baptism, they would gather in the presence of the dead, and there they would receive instruction in the ancient catechism. Even today, the Apostles’ Creed makes the most sense when you imagine the words echoing among the bones of the catacombs. The creed is marked everywhere by a courageous acceptance of the facts of human mortality, coupled with straightforward confidence in the ultimate triumph of life – a triumph that has already happened once and for all in the person of Yeshua.

Where others see only defeat, Yeshua’s followers see a paradoxical victory. Where others see only contamination, we see the sanctification of human nature. Where others see only darkness and despair, we see broken gates. Where others see an end, we see new beginnings. Death is serious: but not as severe as life. It has been placed in the broader context of meaning. We bury our dead under the sign of the cross. We lay our bones to rest not in horror but peace. The dominant sound at a Believer’s funeral is not mourning but the singing of praise.

Death is no longer the ultimate power in this world. In the ancient church, the martyrs were seen as extraordinary proof of that. In the death and resurrection of Yeshua, death itself was altered.

By nature, we are all on the way from birth to death. But by grace, we are traveling in the opposite direction. The Believer’s life is a mystery that moves from death to birth. In the beginning, we are baptized into Yeshua’s death; and at the end, we are born into the resurrection life. We are born as though dying; we die as those who are being born. [2]

Death, where is your victory?
Death, where is your sting?
~ 1 Cor. 15:55 (CJB)

In my next post, we will continue to unpack this second article of faith that Yeshua is Adonai in the Apostle’s Creed.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1]  All scripture quotations are from the Complete Jewish Bible.

[2]  The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism.

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 7

The Apostles’ Creed ~ Part 6

This post will continue our closer look at the Apostles’ Creed to learn more about what we affirm that we believe.

AND IN YESHUA CHRIST, GOD’S ONLY SON, OUR LORD:

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate
was crucified, died, and was buried
.

He descended into hell.
On the third day, he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the
Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Suffered Under Pontius Pilate

Until now, you would think the creed was describing a perfect world. It has spoken of the God who creates the world and then enters into that world through a woman’s womb. So far, there is no hint that anything is wrong. The Apostles’ Creed makes no mention of the fall or original sin. But now we hear ourselves confessing the word suffered, and with a painful jolt, we realize all is not well.

When God comes into the world in the person of Yeshua, God is met with violent resistance. The creatures have turned against their Creator. The loving Creator of the world has been pushed out. The judge of the earth has come among us: we have judged Him and put Him on the cross. He came to his own homeland, yet his own people did not receive him. ~ John 1:11 (CJB). There is room in our world, it seems, for everything – except God.

Among Messianic scholars today, one of the main criticisms of the Apostles’ Creed is that it contains no account of the life and ministry of Yeshua. The reading of the Gospel stories has always been central to the life of the Messianic community. The creed was never intended as a substitute for the four Gospels but only as a guide to the faithful reading of them. Whenever we read Yeshua’s story, we are to keep in mind that He was born of a woman, that He was a flesh-and-blood human being. And when we read His story, we are to keep in mind that He was not just another human being, but was God’s only Son, our Lord, the living self-expression of God’s will. That is what the creed offers: some general guidelines for the faithful reading of the Gospels. The creed does not include all the details but only to remind us of the larger narrative and focus our attention on Yeshua’s identity as divine and human, the Son of God and Miryam’s son.

It is so easy to forget what the Messianic faith is really about. We might slip into the assumption that it is a kind of philosophy, a comprehensive view of life and the world. Debates with atheists are often carried out on this level. We give the impression that our faith has to be cleverer than atheism if it is to be true. Or we might assume that the Messianic faith is essentially a religious doctrine, a set of accurate beliefs about God. Scholars and students are especially vulnerable to this assumption. We start out trying to get a clearer understanding of our beliefs. Before long, we have come to feel that those beliefs must be flawlessly integrated into a theological system if they are to be accurate.

The Apostles’ Creed is concerned with doctrine. The ancient catechism was meant to help Believers get a clear outline of the teaching of Scripture. There are some underlying doctrinal patterns in the creed: belief in God as Father, Son, and Ruach HaKodesh; and belief in creation’s goodness, its redemption, and its final glorification. Still, it is essential to notice that the creed isn’t a list of concepts and ideas. At the center of the creed is a story, or at least the summary of a story. We are meant to take our bearings not just from doctrine but from history: from a sequence of events that occurred in a particular time and place.

The baptismal confession centers on a name: the name of Yeshua. And in case we start to think that Yeshua HaMashiach is a theoretical concept, the creed adds a second name: Yeshuathe one who suffered under Pontius Pilate. Pontius Pilate is there to remind us that God has acted at a particular moment in human history. The salvation of the world can be dated. Certain people were there when it happened.

The heart of our belief is not an idea but a brute fact. Not a theory but a particular human life. Not a general principle but a person with a name: Yeshua, who suffered under Pontius Pilate.

Was Crucified, Died, And Was Buried

In the Roman Empire, crucifixion was not only about death. It was about public disgrace. The problem with getting yourself crucified was not just that it would kill you but that it would humiliate you at the same time. Modern readers of the Brit Hadashah might assume that the worst thing about crucifixion was the physical suffering. But in a culture of honor and shame, the pain of the soul – humiliation – can be even worse than the body’s pain.

The psalms of Isra’el often lament over the experience of humiliation. Psalm 79 describes the sack of Jerusalem by a neighboring army. Asaf writes in verse 4: We suffer the taunts of our neighbors, we are mocked and scorned by those around us. We are familiar with Yeshua quoting the first verse of Psalm 22: My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me? But verses 6-7 speak of humiliation. But I am a worm, not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me jeer at me; they sneer and shake their heads.

To be crucified was to be cast out of the human community, rejected by God and the world. It was a fate worse than death.

The humiliation of Yeshua’s death made a deep impression on His early followers. Quoting an early Messianic hymn, Sha’ul describes the whole life of Yeshua as a descent into humiliation and disgrace. He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…He humbled himself still more by becoming obedient even to death – death on a stake as a criminal! ~ Phil. 2:7–8 (CJB). Yeshua descended to the lowest rung on the social ladder. He became a slave and died a slave’s death. Though he possessed the highest honor, he embraced the worst disgrace. Yeshua’s shame saved the world: that is the scandalous message of the cross.

Yeshua’s followers were the first people in the history of the world to describe humility as a virtue. Sha’ul reminds the Philippian believers that they ought to have the same attitude as Yeshua (Phil. 2:5), renouncing honor and becoming like slaves in service to one another. In ancient Roman culture, the whole purpose of life was to acquire honor and shun whatever might diminish one’s reputation. To be humble was the worst thing that could happen to a person.

Yet, the earliest Messianics scorned pride and elevated humility. Sha’ul calls himself a slave of the Messiah Yeshua (Rom 1:1) as if such slavery were the highest honor in the world. The message of a humble Lord was a shocking thing to hear in the ancient world. Yet today, if anyone is asked whether it is better to devote one’s life to self-aggrandizement or service, most would admit that a life of service is better. The message of the cross has inverted the ancient values of honor and shame. Yeshua’s shocking claim that it is better to serve than to be served is accepted today as if it were plain common sense.

Because, today, the virtue of humility is taken for granted, we no longer feel the original scandal of the gospel.

In my next post, we will continue to unpack this second article of faith that Yeshua is Adonai in the Apostle’s Creed.

Click here for the PDF version.

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 6

The Apostles’ Creed ~ Part 5

This post will continue our closer look at the Apostles’ Creed to learn more about what we affirm that we believe.

AND IN JESUS CHRIST, GOD’S ONLY SON, OUR LORD:

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary
,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day, he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Who Was Conceived By The Holy Spirit

At the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, the angel visits Miryam and tells her that: The Ruach HaKodesh will come over you, the power of Ha‘Elyon will cover you. Therefore, the holy child born to you will be called the Son of God ~ Luke 1:35 (CJB). This opening act of Yeshua’s story is meant to remind us of the creation story in Genesis 1, which we reviewed in The Apostles’ Creed ~ Part 3.

So, when the Ruach covers Miryam, we see a picture of God’s creative work happening all over again. Yeshua is brought into being by the creative breath of God’s Ruach.

In the third century, the Origen of Alexandria, widely regarded as one of the most important Messianic theologians in the third century, came up with a striking image to illustrate how Yeshua’s humanity was united to the eternal Son of God. He pictured a piece of iron placed in a fire until it is glowing with heat. This iron, he says, has become wholly fire since nothing else is discerned in it except fire; and if anyone were to attempt to touch or handle it, he would feel the power of that fire. In this way, Yeshua’s human soul is like the iron in the fire.

Yeshua is genuinely human: nothing but iron. He is truly divine: nothing but fire. Yeshua is so permeated by the divine presence that every part of His humanity is filled with divine energy. He is born of a woman. The Ruach HaKodesh conceives Him. He is human: He is divine.

This way of thinking about Yeshua’s humanity and divinity is just an attempt to make sense of the complex things that are said about Yeshua in the Gospels. The Gospels portray Yeshua as someone whose life is drawn directly from the source of God’s creative energy. Even in His mother’s womb, He is already the bearer of the Ruach. In Luke’s Gospel, the same Ruach that brooded over Miryam’s womb is constantly flashing out and touching the lives of those who come into contact with Yeshua. When Miryam greets her cousin Elisheva, the baby in Elisheva’s womb leaps for joy, and Elisheva is filled with the Ruach (Luke 1:41).

The same Ruach who rested on Yeshua in His mother’s womb now rests on the whole company of Yeshua’s followers.

Born of the Virgin Mary

There are Believers that the idea of the virgin birth is a relic of bygone days when people were more straightforward and found it easier to believe in impossible things. They can handle the rest of the creed, but the virgin birth stretches credulity too far. To understand the virgin birth, we need to see how it fits into the whole story of Scripture – a story in which miraculous births play a starring role.

Isra’el’s story begins with a promise to Avraham and Sarah (Gen 12–17). A couple who cannot conceive are chosen by God and told that they would have a family. Sarah laughs at the promise. But later, when she has given birth in her old age, the child is named Laughter (Isaac ~ Hebrew: Yitz’chak) because of the astonished joy of his parents. Sarah can hardly believe her own body: and yet it is true. She has given birth to the promise.

The next great turning point in Isra’el’s story is the arrival of Moshe (Ex. 2:1–10). Although Moshe’s conception is not a miracle, his infancy is marked by a miraculous escape from danger. He is snatched away from the murdering hand of Pharaoh. He is placed in a basket and set adrift on the river, where he is found and adopted by a member of the royal household, an Egyptian princess. She then appoints the baby’s biological mother to be his nursing maid. The whole story portrays a unique providential design by which Moshe is spared and, as it were, smuggled right into the heart of Egyptian power. All this is meant to anticipate the great miracle to come when God delivers the people of Isra’el from slavery.

When Isra’el has come to the promised land, God raises up judges to lead the people before the establishment of the monarchy. The greatest of the judges is Shimshon (Samson), and his story begins with another miraculous birth (Judges 13:1–25). Shimshon’s mother is unable to conceive. But she is visited by an angel who tells her that she will give birth to a son who will triumph over the P’lishtim (Philistines).

That is how it goes in the Tanakh: at the great turning points of history, we find a woman, pregnant, and an infant child brought into the world by the powerful promise of God. Isra’el’s story is a story of miraculous births.

Later the people of Isra’el were taken from the promised land and led away into Babylonian captivity. It was the darkest hour of their history. Out of the depths of despair, the promise of God was heard again through the prophet Isaiah. The prophet compared the coming deliverance to the joy of a miraculous pregnancy in Isaiah 54:1–3, 13.

Against this backdrop, it should come as no surprise to find Isra’el’s Mashiach entering the world through a miraculous birth.

The confession that Yeshua was born of a virgin is not a random miracle story. It is a reminder that our faith has deep roots in Isra’el’s story and Isra’el’s Scriptures. The coming of the Savior was not just a new thing. It was the culmination of the whole incredible story of God’s loving faithfulness to the people of Isra’el. When we confess that Yeshua is born of the Virgin Mary,” we see Him silhouetted against the backdrop of God’s promise to Avraham, the exodus from Egypt, the rule of the judges, the coming of the prophets, and the promised deliverance from exile. [1]

In my next post, we will continue to unpack this second article of faith that Yeshua is Adonai in the Apostle’s Creed.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism.

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 5

The Apostles’ Creed ~ Part 4

This post will continue our closer look at the Apostles’ Creed to learn more about what we affirm that we believe.

AND IN JESUS CHRIST, GOD’S ONLY SON, OUR LORD:

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

AND IN JESUS CHRIST, GOD’S ONLY SON, OUR LORD

We tend to think of creeds as cold moralistic summaries of doctrine. But the real centerpiece of the Apostles’ Creed is not a doctrine but a name.

Even before the ancient baptismal confession had taken shape, perhaps the earliest Messianic confession consisted of just three words: Yeshua Is Adonai (Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3). That early statement remains the spiritual heartbeat of the baptismal creed. Everything else in the creed radiates like the spokes of a wheel from that hub: personal attachment to Yeshua; total allegiance to him.

At the center of the Messianic faith is not an idea or a theory or even a vision of life but the name of a person, Yeshua HaMashiach. Our faith centers on personal attachment to Him.

Attachment to Yeshua is personal, but that is not to say that it is a private matter. Sha’ul reminds the Philippians that one day all worldly powers and authorities will speak the name of Yeshua and will confess that Yeshua the Messiah is Adonai (Lord) (Phil 2:9–11). To confess Yeshua as Adonai means to acknowledge him as the one who shares the identity of Israel’s God. In the Tanakh, God is named YHWH, transliterated as Adonai (Lord); and in the Brit Hadashah, Yeshua is revealed as the one who bears that name. So, to confess Yeshua as Adonai is to set Him above all other loyalties. It is to make a universal claim. If Yeshua truly shares the identity of YHWH, then He is the hidden truth of creation, history, and every human life (Col 1:15–17).

I confess Him as my Adonai only because I recognize him as the Adonai.

Such a universal claim might sound insensitive or even oppressive to modern pluralistic ears. And Messianics have indeed at times used the universality of the gospel to justify oppression and injustice. Rightly understood, however, the message of Yeshua’s lordship is a word of comfort and hope for all people.

In the ancient church, the confession of Yeshua’s lordship began to change the way Messianics thought about slavery. Societies were rigidly stratified and hierarchical. There were marked distinctions between men and women, rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free. But the Messianic community did not accept that those social distinctions defined people. All came to the same baptismal waters and confessed the same Adonai. When they entered naked into the waters of baptism, no one could tell the difference between rich and poor, slave and free. So even when the Messianic movement had barely begun, we find Sha’ul urging a believer to regard his Messianic slave as no longer a slave … but a dear brother (Philemon 16).

Because Yeshua is the universal Adonai, all worldly power is limited and provisional. Because He is Adonai, social distinctions are relativized and will ultimately be set aside altogether. All people owe their allegiance, not to any other person but Yeshua. Before Him, they can recognize one another as sisters and brothers. And so, the logic of universal lordship gives rise to a classless society.

The ancient institution of slavery did not vanish all at once. But when slaves and free persons stood side by side and confessed that Yeshua is Adonai, the days of slavery were numbered. When early believers entered the waters and took the name of Yeshua on their lips, the tectonic plates shifted. The slow revolution had begun. [1]

In my next post, we will continue to unpack this second article of faith that Yeshua is Adonai in the Apostle’s Creed.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism.

Pesach and Hag HaMatzah ~ 20211

(Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread)
God’s Appointed Times

We return to God’s Appointed Times from the Tanakh.  Both Pesach (Passover) and Hag HaMatzah are tied to the remembrance of the exodus of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.  The principle Scriptural reference for Pesach is in B’midbar (Exodus) 12:1-13 and Hag HaMatzah in Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:5-8.  In 2021, Pesach starts on the eve of March 27th  and Hag HaMatzah on the eve of March 28th.   This eight-day remembrance ends at sundown on April 4th.

For Believers in Yeshua, this time can be a great time to reflect not only on the deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian bondage and death of the first-born by the shedding of the lamb’s blood on the doorpost; but also on the shed blood of Yeshua on the cross.  His death and resurrection paid for our sins and purchased for us eternal salvation.

I’ve included a great video from Friends of Israel which takes you through the Pesach Seder.

I have attached a PDF version of an explanation of the traditional Pesach Seder provided by Chosen People Ministries.  Click here.

However, for those of you who want to have a Scriptural-based observation of Pesach, I highly recommend Kevin Geoffrey’s “Behold the Lamb and Preparation Guide.”  Click here to order.

Y’hudah (Jude) ~ Call to Persevere and Blessing

In my last post, we explored the Judgment of False Teachers ~ Part 2. We conclude our study of Y’hudah by experiencing his Call to Persevere and His Blessing.

19 These are the people who cause divisions. They are controlled by their impulses because they don’t have the Spirit.

The people who cause divisions again refers to the false prophets and teachers who are dividing the community, seeking the values of society rather than God.

Y’hudah denounces the actions of the scoffers as devoid of God; they don’t have the Spirit. This seems to compare to the false teachers’ claims that they rely on visions, which they argued were from God (v. 8).

20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in union with the Ruach HaKodesh. 21 Thus, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for our Lord Yeshua the Messiah to give you the mercy that leads to eternal life.

Y’hudah contrasts you, dear friends, genuine Believers, with the ungodly free thinkers of vv. 4–19 and prescribes four things to do: keep the faith, pray in concert with the Ruach HaKodesh, keep yourselves immersed in God’s love, and wait for Yeshua to bless you with mercy.

22 Rebuke some who are disputing; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and to yet others, show mercy, but with fear, hating even the clothes stained by their vices.

There are three kinds of people who have left the most holy faith (v. 20):

  1. Those who are disputing have closed themselves off to the truth. One can neither teach nor save them, only rebuke them, praying that God will change them.
  2. Others, who have been swept along by the free thinkers, are relatively innocent but in grave danger of falling away. Save them first by snatching them out of the fire, then ground them in the principles of truth.
  3. Yet others have fallen into sin but have not lost their basic teachability so that they may be restored. To them, show mercy, but with fear, hating even the clothes stained by their vices – love the sinner, but hate the sin. Brothers, suppose someone is caught doing something wrong. You who have the Spirit should set him right, but in a spirit of humility, keeping an eye on yourselves so that you won’t be tempted too. ~ Galatians 6:1 (CJB).

Not only must we grow in a relationship with the Lord, but we must also consider our relationships with the rest of God’s family. We must have mercy on those who waver. Some Believers struggle in their faith and need compassion. Others need to be aggressively snatched from the fire, that is, redirected from behavior or relationship that will burn them. But helping the latter, be wise: hate even the garment defiled by the flesh. As sure as clothing contaminated by a leper’s skin could infect you, helping others overcome their sinful tendencies could drag you down with them. Reject the sin; help the sinner.

24 Now, to the One who can keep you from falling and set you without defect and full of joy in the presence of His Sh’khinah (glory)2to God alone, our Deliverer, through Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord – be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen. ~ Jude 19-25 (CJB).

In addressing God as the One who can keep you from falling, the closing prayer follows the theme of vv. 22–23. This passage is one of the greatest of the Brit Hadashah doxologies, comparable with Romans 11:33–36, 16:25–27; Rev. 4:10–11, 5:12–13, 15:3–4.

God keeps you from being fooled by the deceptions of false teachers. He can also keep you from being tripped up so that you stand before Him without blemish and with great joy. No one is sinless. To be blameless means that whatever your failures, they are sufficiently covered. When you stand before God, based on your commitment to the truth, He is going to declare that you look exactly right.

Y’hudah closes by saying that to Yeshua belongs all glory, majesty, power, and authority. It is a reminder that God has the attributes, the position, and the legitimate right to get you through whatever challenges confront and the moral decay in the world around you. [1]

In my next post, we will begin to explore the Creeds of the Kehillah.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The Tony Evans Bible Commentary.

Y’hudah (Jude) ~ Judgment of False Teachers ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to explore the Judgment of False Teachers ~ Part 1. This post will continue to explore the Judgment of False Teachers ~ Part 2.

Scripture instructs us to obey the legitimate authorities appointed over us. But false teachers reject authority. In this case, they were accountable to no one but themselves.

Likewise, these people, with their visions, defile their own flesh, despise godly authority, and insult angelic beings. When Mikha’el, one of the ruling angels, took issue with the Adversary, arguing over the body of Moshe, he did not dare bring against him an insulting charge but said, “May Adonai rebuke you.”

Mikha’el is one of two archangels mentioned in the Bible (the other is Gabriel; see Dan 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19; Rev 12:7). Others, such as Raphael and Phanuel, are mentioned in early Jewish texts (see 1 Enoch 40:9; 71:8–9). Daniel 12:1 portrays Mikha’el as a special guardian to Israel.

These people refer to the false teachers we encounter in my last post. Although modern Jewish popular ideology holds that angels are a Christian invention reflecting a departure from pure monotheism, the Tanakh speaks of them often, and post-Tanakh Judaism developed an intricate angelology that helps explain this verse. Moreover, the tantalizing brevity of the Tanakh’s account of Moshe’s death and the fact that he was buried in the valley across from Beit-P’or in the land of Mo’av, but to this day, no one knows where his grave is. ~ Deuteronomy 34:6).

Here Y’hudah reportedly alludes to a story included in the Testament of Moshe, a Jewish writing from the beginning of the first century CE. However, some portions of it have survived; the relevant ones have not. However, elements of the legend are found elsewhere. Mikha’el, who, based on Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1, is regarded in Jewish tradition as Israel’s defender and HaSatan’s opponent.

Instead, in keeping with the warning, Adonai says, ‘Vengeance is my responsibility; I will repay’ (Rom. 12:19); Mikha’el said only, May Adonai rebuke you, echoing God’s rebuke of HaSatan (Zechariah 3:1–2).

10 However, these people insult anything they don’t understand; and what they do understand naturally, without thinking, like animals – by these things they are destroyed! 11 Woe to them, in that they have walked the road of Kayin (Cain), they have given themselves over for money to the error of Bil’am, they have been destroyed in the rebellion of Korach.

The road of Kayin took him out from the presence of Adonai (Genesis 4:16) because he refused to accept God’s advice and did not take advantage of any of the five or six opportunities God gave him to repent (Genesis 4:1–16). Kayin’s road led him to murder his brother Hevel, but murder was not the road itself.

They have given themselves over for money to the error of Bil‛am (Balaam). Numbers 16 reports the rebellion of Korach (Korah) against God’s appointed leader Moshe as a significant threat to the community of Isra’el, eliminated only when God had the earth swallow up Korach and his 250 co-conspirators. Because the false prophets and teachers similarly wish to take on themselves the authority in the Body of the Messiah which God has given to others, Y’hudah says they have been destroyed.

12 These men are filthy spots at your festive gatherings meant to foster love; they share your meals without a qualm while caring only for themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; trees without fruit even in autumn, and doubly dead because they have been uprooted; 13 savage sea-waves heaving forth their shameful deeds like foam; wandering stars for whom the blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

In Jewish culture, meals have always been festive gatherings meant to foster love; among Believers in Yeshua, this is seen in Acts 2:42 and 1 Cor 11:21.

Waterless clouds carried along by the winds may be an allusion to Proverbs 25:14, Like clouds and wind that bring no rain, he who boasts of gifts he never gives.

14 Moreover, Hanokh (Enoch), in the seventh generation starting with Adam, also prophesied about these men, saying, “Look! Adonai came with his myriads of holy ones 15 to execute judgment against everyone, that is, to convict all the godless for their godless deeds which they have done in such a godless way, and for all the harsh words these godless sinners have spoken against him.”

Y’hudah quotes 1 Enoch 1:9. 1 Enoch, a compilation of writings by several authors who lived in the last two centuries BCE., is one of the Pseudepigrapha, Jewish books attributed to famous biblical figures, such as Hanokh (Genesis 5:18–24), in the seventh generation starting with Adam (Genesis 5:1). Such attribution was not deceptive but either honorific or a means of identifying the message of the actual author with the character and activity of the supposed one; compare the writer of a historical novel or documentary who puts words in the mouth of George Washington. Y’hudah’s quoting a non-canonical book does not make 1 Enoch inspired Scripture, nor does it disqualify Y’hudah’s letter. Sha’ul quoted pagan authors at Acts 17:28–29 and Titus 1:12, and no one supposes that their works should be included in Holy Writ or Sha’ul’s excluded. [1]

16 These people are grumblers and complainers; they follow their evil passions, their mouths speak grandiosities, and they flatter others to gain an advantage. 17 But you, dear friends, keep in mind the words spoken in advance by the emissaries of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. 18 They told you, “During the acharit-hayamim (end times), there will be scoffers following their own godless passions.” ~ Jude 1:8-18 (CJB)

The majority of scholars hold that Second Kefa is an expansion of Y’hudah’s letter. Still, these verses suggest that Y’hudah drew on Second Kefa since Y’hudah not only excludes himself from the emissaries of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah but in reciting what they told you, he seems to be quoting 2 Kefa 3:3. A third possibility is that both books partly depend on a common source.

In my next post, we will conclude our exploration of Y’hudah by looking at his Call to Persevere and His Blessing.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

Y’hudah (Jude) ~ Judgment of False Teachers ~ Part 1

In my last post, we began to explore this writing of Y’hudah (Jude). We looked at who he was when he wrote the letter, why he wrote the letter, and the conical history of its inclusion in the Bible. This post will continue to explore the letter in more detail beginning with Judgment of False Teachers ~ Part 1.

Y’hudah notes that while he intended to write about salvation, he felt compelled to address the danger confronting his audience – false teachers.

Dear friends, I was busily at work writing to you about the salvation we share when I found it necessary to write, urging you to keep contending earnestly for the faith which was once and for all passed on to God’s people. For certain individuals, the ones written about long ago as being meant for this condemnation, have wormed their way in – ungodly people who pervert God’s grace into a license for debauchery and disown our only Master and Lord, Yeshua the Messiah.

I was busily at work writing to you about the salvation we share. According to David Stern: “as with many books mentioned in the Tanakh that have not survived, our curiosity about Y’hudah’s soteriological [1] treatise cannot be satisfied. This salvation consists of freedom of enslavement, the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh, and the ability to live a pure life – all of which are offered freely because of Yeshua’s death and resurrection. Y’hudah is referring to the salvation that both he and his audience have experienced.

Keep contending earnestly for the faith which was once and for all passed on to God’s people. This suggests that the letter was written in the latter part of the first century when the faith had begun to crystallize. What the ungodly people do is not merely pass on erroneous information but pervert God’s grace into a license for debauchery and disown our only Master and Lord. They no longer recognize Yeshua’s right to command obedience but teach a perversion of Romans 3:28 and Ephesians 2:8–9 instead. A person is considered righteous by God on the ground of professing faith in Yeshua regardless of what sort of works he or she does. Such an attitude quickly results in debauchery and other kinds of antinomianism [2] since it removes the ethical and moral component of faith – faithfulness – trusting.

Written about long ago will be addressed when we look at vv. 14–15in a later post.

God’s condemnation for sin has already been decided. Since the false teachers mentioned here are intentionally and unrepentantly leading others astray, Y’hudah is sure of their fate.

In the following passage, Y’hudah recalls three examples from the Tanakh. Each of these examples highlights a particular aspect of the false teachers’ errors: They practiced the sin of unbelief (v. 5), sought authority they did not deserve (v. 6), and they engaged in immoral behavior (v. 7).

Since you already know all this, my purpose is only to remind you that Adonai, who once delivered the people from Egypt, later destroyed those who did not trust. And the angels that did not keep within their original authority but abandoned their proper sphere, he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for the Judgment of the Great Day. And S’dom, ‘Amora and the surrounding cities, following a pattern like theirs, committing sexual sins and perversions, lie exposed as a warning of the everlasting fire awaiting those who must undergo punishment. ~ Jude 1: 3-7 (CJB). [3]

Since you already know all this implies that Y’hudah’s audience is fully informed about the message of Yeshua and the events derived primarily from the Tanakh. All Jewish readers and even most recent Gentile converts knew the Exodus story. That people had experienced God’s redemption did not guarantee that they could not fall away and be destroyed.

In Genesis 6:1-3, the angels that did not keep within their original authority left their assigned place to have intercourse with women.

The transition to S’dom and Amora points to the similarity of the sin of homosexuality and what these angels did in Genesis 6. The destruction of these cities at the SE corner of the Dead Sea is used over 20 times in Scripture as an illustration of God’s judgment during the days of Avraham and Lot (cf. Ge 18:22–19:29).

In my next post, we will pick up our exploration of Judgment of False Teachers ~ Part 2.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Soteriology is the study of religious doctrines of salvation.

[2] The doctrine according to which Believers are freed by grace from the necessity of obeying the Mosaic Law.

[3] Even though Jude has only one chapter, it is customary to use the “1” nomenclature in front of the verse(s).