Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 14

The Apostles’Creed~ Part 13

This post will complete 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.

AND THE LIFE EVERLASTING. AMEN.

You cannot make life better just by increasing its quantity. What matters most is quality. It is perhaps regrettable that our English version of the Creed speaks of “the life everlasting” – as if life just goes on and on for an indefinitely long time. A better translation would be “eternal life.” The Creed uses an expression frequently found in the Brit Hadashah, especially in the Gospel of John. For Yochanan, “eternal life” is about quality, not quantity. It is a quality of life that believers experience already when they attach themselves to Yeshua. Whoever trusts in the Son has eternal life. But whoever disobeys the Son will not see that life but remains subject to God’s wrath. (John 3:36). Yes, indeed! I tell you that whoever hears what I am saying and trusts the One who sent Me has eternal life – that is, he will not come up for judgment but has already crossed over from death to life! (John 5:24).

Yochanan does not define this unique quality of life, except by saying that it is identical with Yeshua Himself. The Son of God is the one who is truly and fully alive. All other living things are alive through Him (John 1:3–4). Eternal life can even be used as a title for Yeshua. He is called the eternal life that was with the Father (1 John 1:2). When we get close enough to this personal life source, we begin to share His quality of life. We, too, become truly and fully alive. And eternal life is this: to know you, the one true God, and him whom you sent, Yeshua the Messiah. (John 17:3).

When we confess that we believe in eternal life, we are not talking about the duration of life but a relationship. In the person of Yeshua, we find ourselves drawn into a quality of life that is so rich that it can only be described as eternal. Yeshua says, I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

When we experience life in its fullness, death is rendered obsolete. Yeshua says I am the Resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die (John 11:25–26). Yeshua is so truly and fully alive that even death is really another way of being alive to Him. When we find our way to the living source of life, to Yeshua Himself, we discover that death is not death anymore. Even in death, our relationship with Yeshua is not broken. Death becomes another place where we can go to find Him.

Yeshua often begins his sayings with the striking preface in the Gospels: Amen, amen, [1] I tell you. He alone has the authority to pronounce the amen. He says the amen not in agreement to anyone else’s word but as an expression of His authority. His word is truth, not because it meets any external criteria of truthfulness but because He is Himself the standard against which all other truth claims are measured. It is He who looks into the depths of God and tells us what He sees. His word is Yes and Amen. The book of Revelation goes so far as to name Him the Amen, the faithful and true witness (Rev 3:14). In Him, the amen to God has become personified.

And so, at the end of the Creed, we join our voices to His – what else can we do? – but allow ourselves to be caught up in Yeshua’s response to God. “I believe … Amen!” And all to the glory of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[2]

In my next post, we begin to unpack the Nicene Creed.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Frequently translated as Truly, Truly in English.

[2] 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.

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 3

The Apostles’ Creed ~ Part 2

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

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
“I”

The first word is perhaps the strangest part of the whole Apostles’ Creed: “I.” Who is this I? Whose voice is speaking in the creed. I remember in the late ‘60s, the Episcopal Church was in the process of updating the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. One of the changes that was proposed was changing the “I” to “We.” I did not like that idea at all! I knew what I believed, but I was not so certain about the others in the service.

In the past, one of the things that made a wedding special was the fact that you got to say exactly the same words that everybody else said. When a couple said their vows, they were not just expressing their own feelings. They did not use their own words; they used the same words that their parents and their ancestors had spoken, and they made those words their own.

But today we are skeptical about the past. We are skeptical about anything that is merely handed down to us. We assume that the truest thing we could ever say would be something we had made up ourselves.

In the same way, Believers today are often suspicious of creeds. Many churches are more comfortable with mission statements than with creeds. The thing about a Mission or What We Believe Statement is you always get to make it up for yourself. It is like writing your own wedding vows.

I believe. Who is the “I” that speaks when we make this confession? It is the body of the Messiah. It is a community stretched out across history. The whole company of Messiah’s followers go down into the waters of Baptism, crying out the threefold “I believe!” In Baptism nobody is invited to come up with their own personal statement of belief. All are invited to be immersed into a reality beyond themselves and to join their individual voices to a communal voice that transcends them all. The truest and most important things we can ever say are not individual words but communal words.

“Believe”

When politicians make promises, we do not really expect them to keep their word. We understand that promises are motivated by self-interest, that words are tactics to achieve other aims. And we are not just cynical about other people’s promises. We lack confidence in our own words too.

Nevertheless, when we say the Apostles’ Creed, we are reminded that life itself is founded on trust. Believers in the ancient church went naked to the waters of Baptism. The second birth is like the first. We are totally dependent. We bring nothing with us except life. The birth cry of Baptism is the threefold “I believe” of the Creed, a cry of total trust in the Triune God.

The creed is full of mysterious things. It speaks of things that I cannot immediately observe or verify for myself. I believe in God, the Creator. I believe in Yeshua HaMashiach, God incarnate. I believe in the Ruach HaKodesh, God invisibly transfiguring creation from within. How could I prove the truth of these statements? How could I know for sure? When I take the first step, I start to see the whole world through the eyes of God’s promise. I start to live in an environment of trust. And then I learn from experience that God is good.

“In God the Father”

What do we believe about God? Right away the creed uses the language of Scripture: God is Father. It is an echo of revelation when Christians use this word. It is not an idea based on speculation or philosophical reasoning. Yeshua reveals God as his Father. He relates to God as his own Father and invites his followers to share in the same relationship.

Yeshua’s relationship to God is unique but also inclusive. His followers stand on the inside of Yeshua’s unique relationship with God. Yeshua calls God “Abba, Father” (Mark 14:36), and His followers are empowered by the Ruach to pray in the same way (Rom 8:15–16). That is what it means to be baptized into the TriuneGod. By the Ruach, we are immersed into the life of Yeshua so that we come to share in His position before God.

We speak to God, and God listens to us as if we were Yeshua. Yeshua is God’s child by nature, and we become God’s children by grace. Yeshua is born of God; we are adopted. So, when we confess that God is Father,” it is not a theological idea but a confession of the defining relationship of our lives. We call God Father because that is what Yeshua calls God and because Yeshua has invited us to relate to God in the same way. In other words, we call GodFather because of revelation.

If the word Father refers to a relation of origin within God, then we can draw one important conclusion: God is not only Father but also Son. These words, Father and “Son,” are relational terms. Neither would make sense without the other. Writing in the second century, Tertullian was the first to develop this simple but important insight: Father makes son, and son makes father.… A father must have a son to be a father, and a son must have a father to be a son.” When we confess that God is eternally Father, we always have in mind as well the eternal reality of the Son.[1]

In my next post, we will continue to examine the Apostle’s Creed in detail.

Click here for the PDF version.

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

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.

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.

Click here for the PDF version.

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.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

1 Kefa 4:12-19

Suffering As A Believer 

In my last post, we examined the topic of Being Stewards of God’s Grace in 1 Yeshua 4:1-11. In this post, we explore Suffering As A Believer in 1 Kefa 4:12-19.

Kefa elaborates on what it means to share in the sufferings of Yeshuapicking up on his thoughts from 1 Kefa 3:12–22. Kefa again returns to the theme of suffering. No one looks forward to suffering. We want to reign with Yeshua, not suffer with Him. But to reign with Yeshua in glory, we must suffer with Him now. Whatever form of suffering God calls you to, do not be surprised but rejoice instead so that you may also rejoice with great joy when He returns.

12 Dear friends, do not regard as strange the fiery ordeal occurring among you to test you, as if something extraordinary were happening to you.

Kefa says do not regard as strange the fiery ordeal occurring among you to test you. Yeshua said that suffering would come to His followers (see Matt. 5:11–12; 10:24–25). We have already seen in 1 Kefa 1:6-7 that suffering and the refinement it brings to a Believer’s life.

13 Rather, to the extent that you share the fellowship of the Messiah’s sufferings, rejoice; so that you will rejoice even more when his Sh’khinah is revealed.

We share the fellowship of the Messiah’s sufferings as we identify with Yeshua. Believers learn what it means to be like Him in their anguish. They can have joy because they honor God through their suffering and know that God will vindicate their faithfulness one day (vv. 18–19).

Do not only brace for afflictions but rejoice in them, sharing the fellowship of the Messiah’s sufferings. For just as the Sh’khinah (God’s manifest glory) once rested on the Temple in Yerushalayim, now the Spirit of the Sh’khinah is resting on you, since “your body is a temple for the Ruach HaKodesh who lives inside you” (see 1 Cor. 6:19). The Sh’khinah was revealed as Yeshua’s at His first coming (John 1:14–15); it is the same as the glory to be revealed” (5:1) at His second coming (Titus 2:13).

14 If you are being insulted because you bear the name of the Messiah, how blessed you are! For the Spirit of the Sh’khinah, that is, the Spirit of God is resting on you!

In Matthew 5:11-12, Yeshua, preaching the Sermon on the Mount, warns against insults and persecution. In the first century, believers living throughout the Graeco-Roman world likely experienced discrimination and varying degrees of ostracism because of their faith. Many still do today. Yet, in Matthew’s passage, Yeshua says how blessed we are.

15 Let none of you suffer for being a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or a meddler in other people’s affairs.

Kefa identifies a wrong kind of suffering: suffering for the sake of evil criminal activity. He discourages this kind of suffering, which comes as a consequence of sin. Kefa mentions two sins (evildoer or a meddler) that can result in social persecution, but not necessarily criminal prosecution. Believers should avoid behavior that is dishonoring to other people in general.

16 But if anyone suffers for being Messianic, let him not be ashamed; but let him bring glory to God by the way he bears this name. 17 For the time has come for the judgment to begin. It begins with the household of God; and if it starts with us, what will the outcome be for those who are disobeying God’s Good News? –

For the time has come for the judgment to begin likely refers to future judgment at Yeshua’s return rather than present sufferings. Those who suffer for Yeshua’s sake can be confident that God’s judgment will validate their hardship. Kefa lives in the era between Yeshua’s resurrection and return. Thus, the judgment is imminent and has in many ways begun, since the time to choose Yeshua is now.

The household of God evokes the building metaphor from 1 Kefa 2:4–5 and refers to the family of Believers in Yeshua. Kefa maintains that God will judge all people impartially and stresses that He will begin with His people. All people will be held accountable for their actions, even though God will grant mercy to those who chose the path of faith in Yeshua.

18 “If the righteous is barely delivered,
where will the ungodly and sinful end up?”

Kefa draws on the Septuagint (ancient Greek Tanakh) version of Proverbs 11:31 to remind his audience of the high cost of following Yeshua in a world that condones sinful behavior and reviles the name of Yeshua. Just as Yeshua faced sufferingbeing mocked, beaten, and crucifiedto make the gift of salvation possible, Believers must faithfully follow their Lord until the end of their lives or Yeshua’s return. This is not because their salvation depends on itYeshua alone saves them (1 Kefa 1:3–12)but because others may come to Yeshua due to their model of faithfulness. Ungodly and sinful are those who do not walk the path of faith and experience the full ramifications of their sin when God judges all humanity.

19 So let those who are suffering according to God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator by continuing to do what is good. ~ 1 Kefa 4:12-19 (CJB)

We have our marching orders through troubling times: Remain Faithful!

In my next post, we conclude our study of 1 Kefa as he encourages the Shepherds of the Flock with some concluding remarks of his own.

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1 Kefa 1:13-25

Called to Be Holy

In my last post, we explored what Kefa describes as A Living Hope. In this post, we explore how Kefa says we are Called to Be Holy.

13 Therefore, get your minds ready for work, keep yourselves under control, and fix your hopes fully on the gift you will receive when Yeshua the Messiah is revealed. 14 As people who obey God, do not let yourselves be shaped by the evil desires you used to have when you were still ignorant. 15 On the contrary, following the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in your entire way of life; 16 since the Tanakh says,

“You are to be holy because I am holy.” (see Leviticus 11:44-45)

Get your minds ready for work. Be mentally prepared for opposition, distractions, temptations, and unexpected setbacks. Refusing to be shaped by the evil desires you used to have when you were still ignorant of Yeshua the Messiah are necessary in order to heed Kefa’s main exhortation, namely, to become holy yourselves in your entire way of life.

17 Also, if you are addressing as Father the one who judges impartially according to each person’s actions, you should live out your temporary stay on earth in fear.18 You should be aware that the ransom paid to free you from the worthless way of life which your fathers passed on to you did not consist of anything perishable like silver or gold;

The worthless way of life which your fathers passed on to you. This is neither pagan idolatry nor the Mosaic Law as set forth in the Tanakh, but the perversion of the Torah into an oppressive, legalistic way of life which your fathers, the Jewish establishment passed on to you Jews who have come to believe in Yeshua the Messiah. This interpretation assumes that Kefa is addressing Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles identifying with them, rather than Gentiles retaining a pagan mindset, whose former worthless way of life would have consisted of idol-worship and gross immorality.

Kefa is repeating what he said to the legalizers at the Jerusalem Conference, Why are you putting God to the test now by placing a yoke on the neck of the talmidim which neither our fathers nor we have had the strength to bear? (see Ac 15:10).

19 on the contrary, it was the costly bloody sacrificial death of the Messiah, as of a lamb without defect or spot.

A lamb without defect or spot. Starting with the lamb offered by each family at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 12:5), all sacrifices had to be without blemish. Yochanan the Immerser calls Yeshua“God’s lamb! The one who is taking away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Yeshua was a lamb offered as a sin offering to atone for our sins according to the Torah (Ro 3:25–26, 8:3–4); He was also the final Pesach lamb. In the past He died; in the present, we share His life; and, in the future, He will return as “the slaughtered Lamb” (see Rev 5:6; Isaiah 53:7, and Acts 8:32) who, because He was without, is worthy to open the scroll with seven seals and to rule the Kingdom of God as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Rev 5:5). In Him the Lamb and the Lion “lie down together” (Isaiah 11:6–7) by virtue of being one and the same person, Yeshua the Messiah.

20 God knew him before the founding of the universe but revealed him in the acharit-hayamim for your sakes.

God knew him, Yeshua the Messiah, before the founding of the universe. This corresponds to the Jewish teaching that God created the Messiah before He created the world.

But revealed him in the acharit-hayamim (“the end of days”) for your sakes, as Sha’ul said at Eph 1:8–10, 3:3–11.

21 Through him you trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory; so that your trust and hope are in God.

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth, so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love each other deeply, with all your heart. 23 You have been born again not from some seed that will decay, but from one that cannot decay, through the living Word of God that lasts forever. 24 For

all humanity is like grass,

all its glory is like a wildflower—

the grass withers and the flower falls off;

25 but the Word of Adonai lasts forever.

Moreover, this Word is the Good News which has been proclaimed to you.~ 1 Kefa 1:13-25 (CJB)

We will learn about The Living Stone and a Holy People in 2 Kefa 2:1-10 in my next post.

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Rabbi Sha’ul Mentions Kefa to the Galatians

In my last post, we learned about Herod Agrippa I’s Persecution of the Saints, including Kefa. In this post, we learn that Rabbi Sha’ul Mentions Kefa to the Galatians.

15 But when God, who picked me (Sha’ul) out before I was born and called me by His grace, chose 16 to reveal His Son to me so that I might announce Him to the Gentiles, I did not consult anyone; 17 and I did not go up to Yerushalayim to see those who were emissaries before me. Instead, I immediately went off to Arabia and afterwards returned to Dammesek. 18 Not until three years later did I go up to Yerushalayim to make Kefa’s acquaintance, and I stayed with him for two weeks, 19 but I did not see any of the other emissaries except Ya’akov the Lord’s brother. ~ Galatians 1:1519 (CJB).

2 Then after fourteen years I again went up to Yerushalayim, this time with Bar- abba; and I took with me Titus. – 6 Moreover, those who were the acknowledged leaders – what they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by outward appearances – these leaders added nothing to me. On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the Good News for the Uncircumcised, just as Kefa had been for the Circumcised; since the One working in Kefa to make him an emissary to the Circumcised had worked in me to make me an emissary to the Gentiles. So, having perceived what grace had been given to me, Ya’akov, Kefa and Yochanan, the acknowledged pillars of the community, extended to me and Bar-Nabba the right hand of fellowship; so that we might go to the Gentiles, and they to the Circumcised. 10 Their only request was that we should remember the poor – which very thing I have spared no pains to do. ~ Galatians 2:1,6-10. (CJB)

Sha’ul Rebukes Kefa

11 Furthermore, when Kefa came to Antioch, I opposed him publicly because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 For prior to the arrival of certain people from [the community headed by] Ya’akov, he had been eating with the Gentile Believers; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he was afraid of the Faction who favored circumcising Gentile believers. 13 And the other Jewish Believers became hypocrites along with him so that even Bar-Nabba was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not walking a straight path, keeping in line with the truth of the Good News, I said to Kefa, right in front of everyone, “If you, who are a Jew, live like a Goy and not like a Jew, why are you forcing the Goyim to live like Jews?  ~ Galatians 2:11-14. (CJB)

Sha’ul’s confrontation with Kefa in Antioch illustrates dramatically that Sha’ul ranked equally with the other emissaries, indeed with Kefa the leading emissary.

Before Ya’akov’s community had come, Kefa had been eating with the Gentile Believers. It is unlikely that Sha’ul aired his rebuke before un-Believers. This is important, for it is not to be thought that Kefa had abandoned Jewish tradition and now ignored keeping kosher. His loyalty to kashrut had been such that nothing treif had touched his lips before seeing Cornelius.

When they came, he (Kefa) withdrew and separated himself because he was afraid of the Faction. Why? What did the leading emissary have to be afraid of? Even though his explanation of Cornelius’ conversion satisfied those of the Circumcision Faction the issue had grown more troublesome.

Sha’ul’s rebuke of Kefa serves as one of the most dynamic statements in the Brit Hadashah on the absolute and unwavering necessity of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith. Kefa’s apparent repentance acknowledged Sha’ul’s apostolic authority and his own submission to the truth.[1]

In my next post, we will begin to unpack Kefa’s letters to the Messianic Community.

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[1] The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible.