Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 33

 

The Nicene Creed~ Part 19

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith, keeping with the phrase the giver of life in the Nicene Creed.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son, He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

THE GIVER OF LIFE ~ Christ’s Life in Us Through the Spirit – Theosis [1]

The Nicene Creed~ Part 19

is the primary source for the kehillah’s teaching on Justification and its teaching of incorporation and union with Yeshua via the Ruach. Sha’ul often uses the phrase in Yeshua or in Yeshua Messiah to indicate a change in our relationship with God and a change in us through our incorporation into Yeshua. However, it is the apostle Kefa who has provided the kehillah with the clearest text concerning our participation in the divine nature. This concept has been found predominantly in the East, although the selections here will demonstrate that this was teaching in the West. In the first chapter of his second letter, Kefa writes:

3 God’s power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowing the One who called us to His own glory and goodness. By these He has given us valuable and superlatively great promises so that through them you might come to share in God’s nature and escape the corruption which evil desires have brought into the world. ~2 Kefa 1:3-4 (CJB)

Kefa and Sha’ul no doubt took this idea from Yeshua as inspired writers. But what did they have in mind when they spoke of Believers being in Yeshua and partakers of the divine nature? This teaches the kehillah of which many in the West, including evangelicals and some Roman Catholics, are unaware. What follows is an attempt to introduce what this teaching is about and to explore the significant place and influence this teaching exerted in the early kehillah’s understanding of the Ruach’s work in us.

The ancient writers believed that the apostles were speaking of deification. Their choice of such terminology was not cavalier. It was a bold and deliberate move meant to evoke and challenge the pagan language of exaltation. Human beings, especially heroes, sages, and ultimately emperors, advanced to the rank of deity. However, those writers avoided the term deification because it fundamentally transgressed on the divine prerogative, something that some present-day Believers believe occurs in the doctrine of Theosis, although such a transgression could not have been further from the patristic mind. Early Believers chose a polemical term and concept in a deliberate confrontation with the paganism of their day to differentiate what it truly meant to partake of the divine nature of the one true God. They were careful to note that it was not the polytheism of their pagan neighbors they were espousing. Instead, as Athanasius states, “it is as ‘sons,’ not as the Son”; as ‘gods,’ not as God himself that we partake of the divine nature. This is an important distinction since the Greek kehillah emphasized only one God by nature over classical religion with its deified men and women and its anthropomorphic gods and goddesses.

According to the orthodox, scriptural understanding of Theosis, we are given the right to become children of God by grace as we are born of God through the waters of baptism. We thus become sons and daughters of God at our baptism. What follows, then, is an ongoing process of sanctification by which we, through the indwelling of the Ruach, become more and more conformed to the image of our God and Father in which we were created. This conforming process ultimately realizes its full potential as the just receive their promised inheritance in heaven when their own glorious transfiguration takes place in the new heavenly kingdom. It is both a moral and ontological ascent toward the fullness of life and, ultimately, eternal life in communion with the divine, which was God’s original intention for humanity all along. [2]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the third article of the Nicene Creed: We Believe in The Holy Spirt.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Theosis is the belief, mostly found within the Eastern Orthodox Church, that a Believer can experience a union with God and become like Him so much that they participate in the divine nature. This concept is also known as “deification.” Theosis does not mean that they become Gods or merge with God but that they are deified. They participate in the “energies” of God with which He reveals Himself to us in creation.

[2] Elowsky, J. C., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in the Holy Spirit (Vol. 4, pp. 37–38).

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.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

2 Kefa 3:14-18

Kefa’s Final Words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing Thoughts

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

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

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

2 Kefa 3:1-13

The Day of the Lord Will Come ~ Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[2] Ibid.

3 Kefa 1:1-7

The Day of the Lord Will Come ~ Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the PDF version.

[1]  Faithlife Study Bible.

2 Kefa 2:12-22

False Prophets and Teachers ~ Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[1] Faithlife Study Bible.

2 Kefa 2:1-11

False Prophets and Teachers ~ Part 1

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

David Stern introduces this chapter by stating:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

[2] Ibid.

2 Kefa 1:16-21

Yeshua’s Glory and Prophetic Word

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

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

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

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

Prophetic Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2 Kefa 1:8-15

Confirming Your Calling and Election ~ Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

1 Kefa 5:8-13

Shepherds of the Flock ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began to explore the topic of Shepherds of the Flock ~ Part 1 in 1 Kefa 5:1-7. This post concludes our study of 1 Kefa by looking at the Conclusion and Final Greeting in 1 Kefa 5:8-13.

Conclusion

Stay sober, stay alert! Your enemy, the Adversary, stalks about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

The Adversary is HaSatan, who is real (Mat. 4:1ff) and should be resisted (see next verse and James 4:8). The Believer must transfer his anxieties to God and develop a constant watchfulness, particularly for the devices of his enemy HaSatan. In Jewish tradition, HaSatan accused God’s people before God’s throne day and night (except, in later accounts, on the Day of Atonement). [1]

Lions were viewed as the most ferocious and mighty beasts, and from Psalm 22:13, they came to be used as figures for enemies of God’s people. In the time of Nero, Believers were fed to some literal lions as well. The small, isolated Messianic communities could take heart that their other spiritual siblings – starting with the communities Kefa knew in Rome were experiencing the same trials until the end, as we see in verse 9.

Stand against him, firm in your trust, knowing that your brothers throughout the world are going through the same kinds of suffering. 10 You will have to suffer only a little while; after that, God, who is full of grace, the one who called you to His eternal glory in union with the Messiah, will Himself restore, establish, and strengthen you and make you firm. 11 To Him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

Kefa warned Believers to be aware of HaSatan’s deceitful practices and to resist him. Such behavior is fitting for temporary residents of this world.

God will restore, strengthen, and establish you. Kefa offers his audience a final word of comfort. He reminds them that God will empower and ultimately glorify those who remain steadfast in their faith under the weight of their present suffering.

Final Greetings

12 Through Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written you briefly, encouraging you and giving my witness that this is God’s true grace. Stand firm in it!

Silas (some translations use Silvanus, which is the full Roman name) served as a scribe. Most letters were written through the agency of scribes. As a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37), Silas presumably came from a reasonably well-to-do Jewish family that provided him an excellent literary and rhetorical education; Kefa may have given him some degree of freedom in wording the letter. [2]

13 Your sister congregation in Bavel, chosen along with you, sends greetings to you, as does my son Mark. 14 Greet each other with a kiss of love. “Shalom aleikhem!” to all who belong to the Messiah. ~ 1 Kefa 5:1-12 (CJB)

At one point, Yochanan Mark abandoned Sha’ul and Bar-Nabba (see Acts 13:5, 13), with the result that Sha’ul and Bar-Nabba split over whether to take him with them again, and Sha’ul took Silas instead.

Bavel was a common euphemism for Rome among Jewish writers seeking to avoid censorship and worse.

Shalom aleikhem means “Peace be upon you,” a standard Hebrew greeting then and now. Kisses were a common affectionate greeting for close friends and relatives.

In my next post, we will begin to explore Kefa’s Second Letter, which focuses on Messianic Gentiles.

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

[2] Ibid.​