First Gentile Believers ~ Part 3

In my last post, we began to examine Kefa’s vision as he was napping before lunch. In this post, we will continue to examine the First Gentile Believers’ actual conversion.

17 Now while Kefa was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate 18 and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Kefa was lodging there. 19 And while Kefa was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” 21 And Kefa went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So he invited them in to be his guests. ~ Acts 10: 17-23a (CJB).

At this point, Kefa was still in the dark about the meaning of his vision. Kefa was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean… Kefa was pondering the vision. We began to explore the vision in my last post, but what else could it possibly mean? Would God, who established His covenant with the Jewish people and gave them an eternal Torah at Mount Sinai, and who is Himself unchangeable (Malachi 3:6), change His Torah to make unclean animals kosher? This is the apparent meaning, and many Christian commentators assert that this is the meaning. But they ignore the explicit statement a few verses later, which at last resolves Kefa’s puzzlement, “God has shown me not to call any person unclean or impure” (10:28). So, the vision is about people and not about food.

Now the Ruach spoke to him directly. With Cornelius, it had been an angel, with Kefa’s vision, a voice from heaven. The Ruach directed Kefa to the three messengers standing at the gate and identified them as men he had sent. Following the Ruach’s direction, Kefa descended the outside staircase that led from the roof to the courtyard below, identified himself, and eagerly inquired why they were seeking him. By now, he had a good notion that they were a key piece in his vision puzzle.

Notice that God works on both sides. He spoke to Cornelius through an angel and to Kefa through a vision. When these three men showed up at Kefa’s gate, it was confirmed that both Cornelius and Kefa had heard God correctly. The messengers informed Kefa that Cornelius wanted to hear what you have to say. Kefa began to see the ramifications of his vision. He was to witness to this centurion [1] whom God had directed to him. That Kefa was beginning to understand is exemplified by his inviting them to spend the evening as guests. Already he was beginning to have fellowship with Gentiles he formerly considered unclean.

P’rushim and other pietists were concerned about impure table fellowship, lodging Gentiles overnight, no matter how exhausted the guests may have been, contradicted strict Jewish piety. Eating with them was forbidden on the principle that they were an evil company. Perhaps Simon, being a tanner, is less concerned with strict rules; although most of his customers were probably Jewish, Yafo was a mixed town, and he was in a profession despised by strict pietists anyway. But Kefa’s vision probably has something to do with the treatment the guests receive.[2]

In my next post, we will continue to examine Kefa’s encounter with Cornelius in First Gentile Believers ~ Part 4.

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[1] I have always wondered if this is the same centurion who executed Yeshua and then declared that Truly this was the Son of God! ~ Matt. 27:54 (ESV).

[2] Bible Background Commentary.

First Gentile Believers ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to examine the actual conversion of the First Gentile Believers. In this post, we will pause for a moment to examine Kefa’s vision as he was napping before his lunch.

1He began to feel hungry and wanted something to eat; but while they were preparing the meal, he fell into a trance 11 in which he saw heaven opened, and something that looked like a large sheet being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals, crawling creatures, and wild birds. 13 Then a voice came to him, “Get up, Jewish, slaughter and eat!” 14 But Jewish said, “No, sir! Absolutely not! I have never eaten food that was unclean or treif.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time: “Stop treating as unclean what God has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and then the sheet was immediately taken back up into heaven. ~ Acts 10:10 –16 (CJB)

This passage, along with Mark 7:19, deals with Kashrut’s dietary laws in Leviticus 11:1-47.

19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and it passes out into the latrine.” (Thus, He declared all foods ritually clean.) ~ Mark 7:19 (CJB). Yeshua is responding to the question raised in Mark 7:15.

The P’rushim and the Torah-teachers asked him, “Why don’t your talmidim live in accordance with the Tradition of the Elders, but instead eat with ritually unclean hands?”

David H. Stern opines on this passage:

Thus, He declared all foods ritually clean, even if the meal participants have not washed their hands. But Yeshua did not, as many suppose, abolish the laws of Kashrut, and thus declare ham kosher! Since the beginning of the chapter, the subject has been ritual purity as taught by the Oral Torah concerning n’tilat-yadayim (ceremonial handwashing) and not Kashrut at all! There is not the slightest hint anywhere that foods in this verse can be anything other than what the Bible allows Jews to eat; in other words, kosher foods. [1]

Going back to Acts 10:12–14, Stern has this to say:

Leviticus 11 specifies that only those four-footed animals that chew the cud and have split hoofs are kosher (“fit”) for Jewish people to eat. No reptiles are allowed, and permitted birds are listed by name. In Kefa’s vision, all kinds of creatures appeared, including those that are non-kosher or treif. [2]

I would highly encourage you to read Leviticus 11:1-47 on your own as it will give you a better understanding of Kashrut’s issue. As we travel through Acts 10, we will run into this issue again as Kefa tries to figure out the meaning of his vision.

I have attached the sermon I gave many years ago on this issue.

Should We Be Kosher

In my next post, we continue to examine the First Gentile Believers’ actual conversion ~ Part 3.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary
[2]
Ibid.

First Gentile Believers ~ Part 1

In my last post, we learned about that Jewish Performs More Miracles. In this post, we will begin to examine the actual conversion of the First Gentile Believers. We are going to be spending some time on this topic. So, buckle up and dig as we into God’s Word.

There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a Roman army officer in what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man, a “God-fearer,” as was his whole household; he gave generously to help the Jewish poor and prayed regularly to God.

He gave generously to help the Jewish poor. The text does not say “the Jewish poor.” The Greek Laos is frequently a technical term referring to the Jewish people, the people of God, not people in general, hence this rendering.

And prayed regularly to God. Like in the Tanakh (Ruth 1:16), this God-fearing Gentile had accepted the two essentials of true worship:

  • “Your people shall be my people.” Although Cornelius did not officially join the Jewish people, he cared for them as his own.
  • “And your God shall be my God.” He prayed to the God of Isra’el.

 One afternoon around three o’clock, he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at the angel, terrified. “What is it, sir?” he asked. “Your prayers,” replied the angel, “and your acts of charity have gone up into God’s presence so that he has you on his mind. Now send some men to Yafo to bring back a man named Shim’ on, also called Jewish. He’s staying with Shim ‘on the leather-tanner, who has a house by the sea.” As the angel that had spoken to him went away, Cornelius called two of his household slaves and one of his military aides, who was a Godly man; he explained everything to them and sent them to Yafo. ~ Acts 10:1–8 (CJB)

The next day, about noon, while they were still on their way and approaching the city, Jewish went up onto the roof of the house to pray. 10 He began to feel hungry and wanted something to eat; but while they were preparing the meal, he fell into a trance 11 in which he saw heaven opened, and something that looked like a large sheet being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals, crawling creatures and wild birds. 13 Then a voice came to him, “Get up, Jewish, slaughter and eat!” 14 But Jewish said, “No, sir! Absolutely not! I have never eaten food that was unclean or treif.

Kefa was in Yafo (9:42), praying on the roof about noon. Hungry and waiting for lunch to be prepared, he fell into a trance. eaten food that was unclean or treif.”

Leviticus 11 specifies that only those four-footed animals that chew the cud and have split hoofs are Kosher or fit for Jewish people to eat. No reptiles are allowed, and permitted birds are listed by name. In Kefa’s vision, all kinds of creatures appeared, including those that are non-Jewish or treif. Treif means “torn” and refers to animals slain by predators and not slaughtered following Jewish practice.

When he heard a voice tell him to eat, he refused. Kefa was a good, faithful Jew who had always obeyed the Jewish food laws. But the voice said, What God has made clean, do not call impure. After seeing two reruns of this message (two or three witnesses are God’s divine confirmation), Kefa woke up.

15 The voice spoke to him a second time: “Stop treating as unclean what God has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and then the sheet was immediately taken back up into heaven. ~ Acts 10:9–16 (CJB)

Jewish people had preferred death to eating unclean (non-Jewish) food in the time of the Maccabees; thus, Jewish readers would be appalled that God would require anything so disgusting (from the perspective of cultural cuisine) and impious (from an Old Testament perspective). The vision that God can declare anything clean applies especially to the Gentiles Kefa is about to meet.

Kefa had been faithful to the dietary restrictions God had given Isra’el under the old covenant (see Lev 11:1-47). But during his ministry, Jesus had declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19).

In my next post, we continue to examine the First Gentile Believers’ actual conversion ~Part 2. In this next post, I will deal with Kashrut’s issue, as stated in Acts 10:15, Leviticus 11:1:47, and Mark 7:19.

Click here for the PDF version.

The Body of Believers Begin to Share Everything

In my last post, we learned that after being freed, Kefa and Yochanan Attend a Prayer Meeting. In this post, we pick up with Acts 4:32 to learn that The Body of Believers Begin to Share Everything. Although Kefa is not mentioned in this passage, I felt it essential to lay a firm foundation for when we next encounter him.

32 All the many believers were one in heart and soul, and no one claimed any of his possessions for himself, but everyone shared everything he had. 33 With great power, the emissaries continued testifying to the resurrection of the Lord Yeshua, and they were all held in high regard.

Notice how the early community of Believers is described: They were one in heart and soul. Unity among the people of God is critical for the revealing of the visible manifestation of His glory. It is what Yeshua prayed for (see John 17:23-23), and it what these first Believers demonstrated and what Sha’ul insisted on (see Eph. 4:3). When there is disunity, the Ruach does not work.

They were all held in high regard by the non-believing Jews, as at Acts 2:47. Nevertheless, thinking positively of Believers is not enough to save unbelievers. Or, saying the same thing in the words of Isra’el’s former Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, “There is a great difference between gathering a good impression and taking the correct view.” [1]

34 No one among them was poor, since those who owned lands or houses sold them and turned over the proceeds 35 to the emissaries to distribute to each according to his need.

As long as there was complete unanimity of purpose and intention among them, the early Believers shared the proceeds from their possessions freely to each according to his need. They were able to do this not because of their strength, but because great grace was on all of them. Therefore, the generosity was, above all, a work of God. Yet, we will learn that trouble is coming.

36 Thus Yosef, whom the emissaries called Bar-Nabba (which means “the Exhorter”), a Levi, and a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field which belonged to him and brought the money to the emissaries~ Acts 4:32-37 (CJB)

Yosef, whom the emissaries called Bar-Nabba. The Exhorter translates the Greek phrase, which can mean “son of counsel,” “son of exhortation,” or “son of encouragement.” Aramaic Bar (“son of”) often has the sense, “one who has the quality of.” The word Nabba is related to the Hebrew root meaning “prophet,” and a prophet is own who counsels, comforts, exhorts, and encourages. Yosef was always comforting and exhorting his fellow talmidim, so the emissaries gave him the nickname. He becomes a prominent figure in Acts 9-15.

Bar-Nabba’s generosity is set in stark contrast to the couple Luke describes next.

In my next post, we will learn that not all Believers were willing to share all that they had by looking at Kefa Confronts Hananyah and Shappirah.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary

Kefa and Yochanan Attend a Prayer Meeting

In my last post, we completed the mini-series of Kefa Heals a Disabled Beggar ~ Part 5. In this post, we pick up where we left off in our last series, where we learn that after being freed, Kefa and Yochanan Attend a Prayer Meeting.

23 Upon being released, they went back to their friends and reported what the head cohanim and elders had said to them. 24 When they heard it, they raised their voices to God with singleness of heart. “Master,” they prayed, “You made heaven, earth, the sea, and everything in them.

Why, at the beginning of their prayer, do these Messianic Jews remind God that He made heaven, earth, the sea, and everything in them? Not only because it is pointless for mere human beings to fight God (vv. 25-28 see below), but because the talmidim are praying that God will sovereignly give the Messiah’s slaves (see v. 29) power to speak [God’s] message with boldness (vv. 29-31).

25 By the Ruach HaKodesh, through the mouth of our father David, your servant, you said,

‘Why did the nations rage and the peoples devise useless plans? 26 The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers assembled together against Adonai and against his Messiah.’

The Book of Acts quotes the Greek of the Septuagint. The Hebrew for Psalm 2:1-2 reads:

Why are the nations in an uproar?
And why do the peoples mutter in vain?

The kings of the earth arise
And the rulers take counsel together
Against Adonai and against his Messiah.

Jewish writings often call attention to a text by citing its beginning; therefore, the reader should understand that the Believers’ prayer of vv. 24-30 is permeated by all of Psalm 2, not just its initial verses. Jewish as well as Christian expositors have seen Psalm 2 as Messianic.

27 “This has come true in this city, since Herod and Pontius Pilate, with Goyim and the peoples of Isra’el, all assembled against your holy servant Yeshua, whom you made Messiah, 28 to do what your power and plan had already determined beforehand should happen.

Goyim and the peoples of Isra’el had united in opposition to God’s holy Servant Yeshua and His followers. Then and now, Believers take comfort in knowing that Yeshua’s sufferings (as well as our own) are not by chance but are determined by God.

29 “So now, Lord, take note of their threats; and enable your slaves to speak your message with boldness!

The early Believers recognized that just as Yeshua had been promised trouble, they too would encounter persecution for proclaiming Him as Messiah. They asked God for the power to speak your message with boldness, even if the punishment should follow.

30 Stretch out your hand to heal and to do signs and miracles through the name of your holy servant Yeshua!”

Besides boldness in testifying, the early Believers expected to receive power from God to heal and to do signs and miracles through the name of your holy servant Yeshua!”

31 While they were still praying, the place where they were gathered was shaken. They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, and they spoke God’s message with boldness.

They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh. Some of them had been filled before (2:4), but Ephesians 5:18 instructs Believers to keep being filled with the Ruach. They spoke God’s message with boldness. This is a sure sign of being filled with the Ruach, and it is also the purpose of the filling (1:8). A word of caution: this verse should not be used as a proof text for speaking in tongues. That’s not the context.

32 All the many believers were one in heart and soul, and no one claimed any of his possessions for himself, but everyone shared everything he had. ~ Acts 4:23-32 (CJB)

In my next post, we will expand on verse 32 when we learn that sharing everything leads to trouble in the Body of Believers.

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Kefa Heals a Disabled Beggar ~ Part 4

In my last post, we continued with the aftermath of Kefa Heals a Disabled Beggar ~ Part 3. In this post, we Kefa and Yochanan Are Arrested.

1 Kefa and Yochanan were still speaking to the people when the cohanim, the captain in charge of the Temple police, and the Tz’dukim [1] came upon them, 2 very annoyed that they were teaching the people the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead and offering Yeshua as proof. 3 The Temple police arrested them, and since it was already evening, they put them in custody overnight.

No longer dealing with someone overturning tables in the Temple, the aristocracy is content to follow the law and wait till the next day to try them (night trials were illegal, and most businesses of any regular sort stopped by sundown).

4 However, many of those who heard the message trusted; the number of men alone was about five thousand.

Repeated attempts to suppress the Messianic message only caused it to spread more quickly. On Pesach morning, the Believers in Yerushalayim only numbered 120. In response to Kefa’s sermon that day, another 3,000 were added. Now, with the healing of the disabled man, Kefa’s sermon, and their arrest, the community grew to about 5,000.

5 The next day, the people’s rulers, elders, and Torah-teachers (the Sanhedrin)assembled in Yerushalayim, 6 along with ‘Anan the Cohen HaGadol, Kayafa, Yochanan, Alexander and the other men from the family of the cohen HaGadol. 7 They had the emissaries stand before them and asked, “By what power or in what name did you do this?”

The parties listed in verses 5-6 represent all the most influential players in the Jewish religious establishment. They made Kefa and Yochanan stand before them, two men against all the powers of Isra’el. Ironic, therefore, that they asked them by what power they had performed the miracle and preached the Gospel.

8 Then Kefa, filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people!

Kefa was filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, a necessary prelude to his successful confrontation with the Jewish religious establishment. We need to get plugged into that same power source whenever we share the Gospel.

9 If we are being examined today about a good deed done for a disabled person, if you want to know how he was restored to health, 10 then let it be known to you and to all the people of Isra’el that it is in the name of the Messiah, Yeshua from Natzeret, whom you had executed on a stake as a criminal but whom God has raised from the dead, that this man stands before you perfectly healed. 11 “This Yeshua is the stone rejected by you builders which has become the cornerstone. (see Psalm 118:22) 12 There is salvation in no one else! For there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by whom we must be saved!” ~ Acts 4:1-12 (CJB)

There is salvation in no one else! For there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by whom we must be saved! Kefa, here addressing Jews, not Gentiles, and speaking by inspiration of the Ruach HaKodesh, asserts that Yeshua is the only person by whom we (the Jewish people, both individually and collectively) must (there is no alternative) be saved (from eternal destruction and God’s fury due us for our sins). And if there is no other salvation for Jews, who already have wonderful promises from God, how much more is there no other salvation for Gentiles (see Acts 13:47-48; Romans 1:16).

In my next post, we continue with the aftermath of the healing of the man disabled since birth when Kefa and Yochanan Are Warned and Freed.

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[1] Tz’dukim (Sadducees) who denied resurrection from the dead.

Be Ministers of Reconciliation ~ Rosh Hashanah – 5781

In this post, we take a break from our series on Kefa to observe the first of the fall Jewish feasts of Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah: The key is Repentance, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation

Biblical References: B’midbar (Numbers) 29:1–6 and Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:23 – 25 ~ Yom Teruah (The Feast of Trumpets). In 2020, the appointed time begins at sundown on September 18th.

Rabbinic Change: Since this is a Shabbat of the Fall Appointed Times, it has been considered as the “spiritual” New Year. Hence, the name changed to Rosh Hashanah, “the head of the year.” It is also seen as the anniversary of creation; the sacrifice of Yitz’chak; the release of Yosef from Pharaoh’s prison; and, the birth of Sh’mu’el, the prophet.

The purpose and traditional observance of the Holy Day is summed up in one word – regathering. Since the Fall Appointed Times call us to regather to pure faith in Adonai, Rosh Hashanah has come to represent the Day of Repentance. It is the day when people of Isra’el take stock of their spiritual condition and make the necessary changes to ensure that the upcoming New Year will be pleasing to Adonai.

The shofar is sounded daily to alert the faithful that the time of repentance is near. The observance takes on a somber character, yet always with a hint of hope because of Adonai’s forgiveness.

The traditional challah is shaped in a circle to symbolize Adonai’s Kingship and the coming of the Messiah. Sweet honey cakes and apples dipped in honey are a real treat and express the hope of a new fresh year.

Tradition tells of three books that are opened in the heavenly courts during the feast of Rosh Hashanah; one for the thoroughly righteous, one for the thoroughly wicked, and one for the average person. The thoroughly righteous are immediately inscribed in the Book of Life. The completely wicked are directly written in the book of death. The average person is kept in suspension from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). If they deserve well, they are inscribed in the Book of Life; if they do not deserve well, they are written in the book of death. Consequently, the Ten Days of Awe are a time of solemn self-examination with time spent in seeking reconciliation and doing good works in the Jewish tradition.

Since the 15th Century, the ceremony of Tashlich is celebrated in the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah. The congregation meets at a river or stream. Special prayers of repentance are recited, and a portion of Micah is read. People then take breadcrumbs and cast them into the water symbolizing that our sins are carried away by the water.

Rosh Hashanah has profound Messianic significance! The rabbis have taught that one day the shofar would sound, and the Messiah would come. According to Rabbi Sha’ul, in the future, all true believers in Yeshua will be gathered to meet Him in the clouds. The dead in Messiah will rise first, to be followed immediately by those believers alive at the time. “For the Lord, Himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God’s shofar, those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we will always be with the Lord. So, encourage each other with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18) That day will indeed be characterized by joy, delight, and sweetness for those who are called home! As we observe Rosh Hashanah, we should anticipate the time of Yeshua’s return.

The traditional greeting during Rosh Hashanah is, “L’shanah tovah tikatevu!” May your name be inscribed in the book of life! As Messianic Believers, we can rightly say, “L’shanah tovah tikatevu b’shem Yeshua!” May your name be inscribed in the book of life, in the name of Yeshua!

Read 2 Corinthians 5:17 – 21. Rosh Hashanah: repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Rabbi Sha’ul wrote to the Corinthians about these key ingredients in our annual observation of this holy appointed time. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the new spiritual year, so it is that we become new creations when we are united with Yeshua as our Messiah.

The fundamental idea in this passage is reconciliation. Because of our rebellion, we are the enemy of Adonai and out of fellowship with Him. Through the work of the execution stake, Yeshua has brought Adonai and us together again. Adonai has been reconciled and has turned His face in love toward the lost world. The essential meaning of the word reconcile is “to change thoroughly.” It refers to a restored relationship with Adonai and the lost world. “And it is all from God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18a)

Adonai does not have to be reconciled to man because Yeshua accomplished that on the execution stake. It is the sinful man who must be reconciled to Adonai. “Religion” is man’s feeble effort to be reconciled to Adonai, efforts that are bound to fail. The Person who reconciles us to Adonai is Yeshua, and the place where He reconciles us is His execution stake. He not only reconciles us to Himself, but he gives us the task of reconciling other people to Him. We have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation.

Another fundamental idea in this paragraph is that Adonai does not count our sins against us. In the KJV, the term used is imputing. This is a word borrowed from banking; it just means, “to put to one’s account.” When you deposit money in the bank, the teller puts that amount into your account. When Yeshua died on the execution stake, all our sins were imputed to Him – put into His account. Adonai treated Him as though He had committed those sins.

What was the result? All those sins have been paid for, and Adonai no longer holds them against us, because we have trusted Yeshua as our Messiah. But even more: Adonai has put into our account the very righteousness of Yeshua! “God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in Gods’ righteousness.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Reconciliation is based on imputation: because the demands of Adonai’s Torah have been fully met on the execution stake, Adonai can be reconciled to sinners. Those who believe in Yeshua, as their Messiah will never have their sins imputed to them again (see Psalms 32:1-2; Romans. 4:1-8). As far as their records are concerned, they share the righteousness of Yeshua!

How does this beautiful doctrine of reconciliation motivate us to serve Yeshua? We are ambassadors with a message. Adonai has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Since we are the ambassadors of Yeshua, this means that the world is in rebellion against Adonai. He has sent His ambassadors into the world to declare peace, not war. “Be reconciled to God!” We represent Yeshua (see John 20:21; 2 Corinthians 4:5). If sinners reject our message and us, it is Yeshua who is rejected. What a great privilege it is to be heaven’s ambassadors to the rebellious sinners of this world!

Adonai has not declared war on the world; at the execution stake, He said peace. But one day, He will declare war; and then it will be too late for those who have rejected Yeshua (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10). Satan is seeking to tear everything apart in this world, but Yeshua and His Messianic community are involved in the ministry of reconciliation, bringing things back together again, and back to Adonai.

Ministry is not easy. If we are to succeed, we must be motivated by the fear of the Lord, the love of Yeshua, and the commission that He has given to us. It is indeed a privilege to serve Him!

During these next ten days before Yom Kippur, I encourage you to do some self-reflection. Is there any unconfessed sin in your life? Do you need to forgive someone who has hurt you? Are there any relationships that require reconciliation? As we enter the start of a new spiritual year, resolve to make a fresh start and be ambassadors of Yeshua HaMashiach, “so that in union with Him, we might fully share in God’s righteousness.”

In my next post, we will return to our study of Kefa.

Kefa Heals a Disabled Beggar ~ Part 3

In my last post, we continued with the aftermath of Kefa Heals a Crippled Beggar ~ Part 2. In this post, we hear Kefa Preach Repentance to those who marveled at the Beggar’s Healing.

17 “Now, brothers, I know that you did not understand the significance of what you were doing; neither did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what He had announced in advance when He spoke through all the prophets, namely, that His Messiah was to die.

After blaming his fellow Jews in vv. 13-15, Kefa again calls them brothers and mitigates his words by stating: you did not understand the significance of what you were doing. In the Torah, atonement avails only for unintended sins; for sins committed presumptuously, there is no atonement. Even the cohanim and P’rushim involved in the events leading up to Yeshua’s execution may be forgiven through trusting Yeshua, and some availed themselves of the opportunity (see Acts 6:7, 15:5). Kefa softened the message by stating this is how God fulfilled what he had announced in advance. The Messiah’s death does not end all hope; on the contrary, God intended Him to die, be resurrected, and return.

19 “Therefore, repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be erased;

Repent and turn to God means: Change your mind and turn. But to the modern reader, this suggests changing religions from Judaism to Christianity, which is not what Kefa meant. For at that time, “Christianity” as such did not exist; there was Judaism with Yeshua and Judaism without Him (the same choice, along with the possibility of rejecting both, faces Jews today).

20 so that times of refreshing may come from the Lord’s presence, and He may send the Messiah appointed in advance for you, that is, Yeshua.

The phrase times of refreshing means the Messianic Age. In these times of refreshing, self-rule will be restored to Isra’el, and the Messiah appointed in advance for you; namely, Yeshua, will return. Kefa’s audience, like today’s Orthodox Jews, expected the Messiah in the future. Kefa says that the very Messiah they expect is Yeshua goes on in the following verses to explain why He does not come at once.

21 He has to remain in heaven until the time comes for restoring everything, as God said long ago when He spoke through the holy prophets.

He has to remain in heaven at the right hand of God) until the time comes for restoring everything, both social and natural (see Isaiah 11:1-12, Romans 8:18-23) when Yeshua will come on the clouds of Heaven (see Daniel 7:13-14). Yeshua said the same thing at least twice quoting Daniel (see Mt 24:30, 26:64).

22 For Moshe, himself said, ‘Adonai will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You are to listen to everything He tells you. 23 Everyone who fails to listen to that prophet will be removed from the people and destroyed.’

This same passage from Deuteronomy 18:15-19 is also cited in Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7:37. The P’rushim asked Yochanan the Immerser if he was the prophet foreseen in this passage (John 1:21). The five thousand whom Yeshua fed wondered the same thing, as did some of the crowd to whom he offered living water (John 7:40). Evidently, this passage from the Torah was widely understood then as Messianic, and people were looking for its fulfillment.

You are to listen to everything He (Yeshua, the prophet like Moshe) tells you. Everyone who fails to listen to that prophet will be removed from the people and destroyed. But what if the nation as a whole fails to listen? Then this becomes the kind of Torah violation which leads to the curses of Deuteronomy 28:15-68. The destruction of the Temple (70 CE), the expulsion from Yerushalayim (135 CE) and the centuries of exile typify the punishments suffered by the Jewish people, not for deicide and not directly for rejecting Yeshua but for violating the Torah’s injunction to listen to the prophet like Moshe, who is Yeshua. But He can still be heard. He speaks through the Tanakh and the Brit Hadashah. Those who heed him become part of Isra’el’s remnant (see Romans 9-11) and are not removed from the people.

24 Indeed, all the prophets announced these days, starting with Sh’mu’el and continuing through all who followed. 25 “You are the sons of the prophets, and you are included in the covenant which God made with our fathers when He said to Avraham, ‘By your seed will all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 So it is to you first that God has sent His servant whom He has raised up so that He might bless you by turning each one of you from your evil ways.” Acts 3:17-26 (CJB)

You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant with… Avraham. The point is that for this very reason, it is to you first that God sent Yeshua the Messiah. The Gospel is to the Jew first (Romans 1:16). And it is with the Gospel of Yeshua that the promise of v. 25 is fulfilled, for that promise was made to Avraham and his son Yitzchak, and Yeshua is Himself the promised seed who brings the blessing. The blessing consists in turning each one of you from your evil ways.

Have you repented? Have you turned from your evil ways and put your trust in Yeshua as the Son of God? If not, the hour is drawing near when it will be too late. I believe that we are living at the beginning of the birth pangs of His soon return.

In my next post, we take a break from our series on Kefa to observe the first of the three fall feasts: Rosh Hashanah.

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Kefa Heals A Disabled Beggar ~ Part 2

In my last post, we learned about Kefa Heals A Disabled Beggar. In this post, we continue with the aftermath of the healing. We pick up the story in Acts 3:11.

11 While he clung to Kefa and Yochanan, all the people came running in astonishment toward them in Shlomo’s Colonnade. 12 Seeing this, Kefa addressed the people: “Men of Isra’el! Why are you amazed at this? Or why do you stare at us as if we had made this man walk through some power or godliness of our own?

Recognizing that the onlookers were amazed, Kefa seized the moment to testify about Yeshua HaMashiach. Signs of God’s power can point to the truth about Yeshua.

I love this comment from David Stern regarding Men of Isra’el!:

A personal reaction: the start of Kefa’s speech is so Jewish! The crowd had just witnessed an unbelievable miracle, and he asks, deadpan, “What are you all so surprised about?” [1]

13 The God of Avraham, Yitz’chak, and Ya‘akov, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Yeshua — the same Yeshua you handed over and disowned before Pilate, even after he had decided to release him.

The phrase the God of Avraham, Yitz’chak, and Ya‘akov, the God of our fathers, is not accidental in Kefa’s sermon. Its two parts are found in the first paragraph of the ‘Amidah, the central section of the Minchah prayer service, which begins: Praised be to You, Adonai our God and God of our fathers, God of Avraham. God of Yitzchak and God of Ya’akov… and which Kefa’s hearers would just then have been reciting in their minchah prayers in minyans (groups of ten men required for corporate worship) throughout the Temple grounds, much as is done today at the Western Wall.

Kefa’s point is the very God to whom they were just now praying in these words has glorified. His servant is identified in Isaiah 42-43 as God’s suffering servant, Yeshua.

14 You denied the holy and innocent one, and instead asked for the reprieve of a murderer!

Holy and innocent one applied, especially to God in Jewish literature. Because the healing did not occur during Pesach, most of Kefa’s audience are residents of Yerushalayim. Still, the corporate accusation against his audience is no stronger than denunciations of the Tanakh prophets (see Amos 2:6-3:8). Calling a revolutionary (Barabbas), a murderer starkly distinguishes the emissaries from the sort of people who had revolutionary sympathies. Gee that sounds like our calling some protesters as “peaceful” versus the “anarchists” many are. Yes, many are peaceful and have a constitutional right to do so.

15 You killed the author of life! “But God has raised him from the dead! Of this, we are witnesses.

Wow, what an indictment to the average listener in the crowd! The P’rushim would probably shrug it off, but not your average worshipper who may not have been in the crowd, yelling, Crucify Him!”

16 And it is through putting trust (faith) [2]  in his name that his name has given strength to this man whom you see and know. Yes, it is the trust that comes through Yeshua, which has given him this perfect healing in the presence of you all. ~ Acts 3:11-16 (CJB)

Kefa and Yochanan had a chance to claim credit for the miraculous healing of the disabled man but instead insisted it was trust in His name that had given strength to this man. The emissaries were merely God’s chosen instruments for conveying the miracle.

In my next post, we continue with the aftermath of the healing of the man disabled since birth when Kefa Preaches Repentance.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

[2] The Jewish New Testament generally uses the word “trust” instead of “faith” to translate the Greek “pistis” because “trust” more clearly signifies to English-speakers the confident reliance of God that generates holy deeds, as opposed to a mere mental acknowledgment of facts and ideas. I agree.

Kefa Heals a Disabled Beggar ~ Part 1

In my last post, we examined Kefa’s First Public Sermon. In this post, we learn the Kefa Heals a Disabled Beggar. As you can see by the title, this is a multipart series covering Acts 3:1 – 4:31.

1 One afternoon at three o’clock, the hour of minchah (afternoon) prayers, as Kefa and Yochanan were going up to the Temple,2 a man disabled [1] since birth was being carried in. Every day people used to put him at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple so that he could beg from those going into the Temple court.

This is the first healing miracle in the Book of Acts. The man was disabled since birth and was daily carried to the Beautiful Gate of the Temple so he could beg for money. We learn in Acts 4:22 that the man was 40 years old. In the era before governmental aid for needy persons, it was the kindness of strangers and loved ones that kept men such as this alive.

The Beautiful Gate may have been a popular title for what later sources call the Nicanor Gate, covered with bronze, which led from the Gentile Court to the Women’s Court of the Temple. It was accessible from Shlomo’s Colonnade. According to their state of being ceremonially unclean, beggars were not permitted to go into the Temple any further but could appeal to those entering.

3 When he saw Kefa and Yochanan about to enter, he asked them for some money. 4 But they stared straight at him, and Kefa said, “Look at us!” 5 The disabled man fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Kefa said, “I don’t have silver, and I don’t have gold, but what I do have I give to you: in the name of the Messiah, Yeshua of Natzeret, walk!”

It is good for the disabled man that Kefa and Yochanan had neither silver nor gold to hand out, for what they did have to offer was of far higher value – healing power through Messiah Yeshua. Rather than a temporary fix, the man was given a permanent remedy for his physical and spiritual problems. The disabled man asked for what he wanted; he was about to receive what he needed. Do not settle for what you want from God. When God meets your needs, He may not give you what you asked for, but what He provides will always be better than what you wanted.

7 And taking hold of him by his right hand, Kefa pulled him up. Instantly his feet and ankles became strong;

After pronouncing the man’s healing, Kefa took the initiative and pulled him up; therefore, the kehilah must both speak hope into a broken life and extend practical help.

The book of Acts recounts several healing miracles (see 9:32-34,36-42). During the Hellenistic period, knowledge of science and medicine was advanced enough that the bystanders recognized without a doubt that Kefa had enacted a miracle. The mention of the strengthening of the disabled man’s feet and ankles may provide indirect support for the traditional view that the author of the Book of Acts, Luke, was a physician.

8 so that he sprang up, stood a moment, and began walking. Then he entered the Temple court with them, walking and leaping and praising God! 9 Everyone saw him walking and praising God. 10 They recognized him as the same man who had formerly sat begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, and they were utterly amazed and confounded at what had happened to him. 11 While he clung to Kefa and Yochanan, all the people came running in astonishment toward them in Shlomo’s Colonnade. ~ Acts 3:1-11 (CJB)

When God does something amazing in an individual’s life, he usually has a higher purpose in mind than that individual’s benefit. He wants to do something even more amazing through that individual. The Ruach HaKodesh worked in this disabled man’s life and then worked through him so that the truth might be proclaimed to a large crowd of people (3:11-26) and the Jewish leaders (4:1-22). His transformation ultimately led to the salvation of many souls (see 4:4). All of this took place because God acted in the life of a simple beggar who responded with public praise.

In my next post, we continue with the aftermath of the healing of the man disabled since birth.

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[1] The actual text says “crippled.”