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 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.

First Gentile Believers ~ Part 7

Kefa Returns to Yerushalayim to Brief the other Emissaries

In my last post, we learned that Cornelius, His Family, and Guests Are Baptized. In this post, we learn that Kefa Returns to Yerushalayim to Brief the other Emissaries.

The emissaries and the brothers throughout Y’hudah heard that the Goyim had received the word of God; but when Kefa went up to Yerushalayim, the members of the Circumcision Faction criticized him, saying, “You went into the homes of uncircumcised men and even ate with them!” (In case you missed it, we learned about the Circumcision Faction in my last post.)

In reply, Kefa began explaining in detail what had actually happened: “I was in the city of Yafo, praying; and in a trance, I had a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners from heaven, and it came down to me. I looked inside and saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, crawling creatures, and wild birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Kefa, slaughter and eat!’ I said, ‘No, sir! Absolutely not! Nothing unclean or treif has ever entered my mouth!’ But the voice spoke again from heaven: ‘Stop treating as unclean what God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then everything was pulled back up into heaven.

Nothing unclean or treif has ever entered my mouth! (see Acts 10:12–14). Kefa’s hearers, the strict Circumcision Faction, “zealots for the Torah (see Acts 21:20), are no more Torah-observant than Kefa himself. God chose Kefa as His instrument to bring Yeshua to the Gentiles precisely because he was an observant Jew; in this way, all would know that God’s hand was in it. Had a less Torah-observant Jew seen the vision, it would have been no less of God, but observant Jews might have dismissed him as self-serving.

11 “At that very moment, three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where I was staying; 12 and the Spirit told me to have no misgivings about going back with them. These six brothers also came with me, and we went into the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Yafo and bring back Shim’ on, known as Kefa. 14 He has a message for you which will enable you and your whole household to be saved.’ 15 “But I had hardly begun speaking when the Ruach HaKodesh fell on them, just as on us at the beginning! 16 And I remembered that the Lord had said, ‘Yochanan used to immerse people in the water, but you will be immersed in the Ruach HaKodesh.’ 17 Therefore, if God gave them the same gift as he gave us after we had come to put our trust in the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who was I to stand in God’s way?” 18 On hearing these things, they stopped objecting and began to praise God, saying, “This means that God has enabled the Goyim as well to do t’shuvah (repentance) and have life!” ~ Acts 11:1-18

The observant Jews in the Messianic Community were amazed that Gentiles could become part of God’s people, part of the Messiah’s Body, without first becoming Jews. To oppose something that so clearly had a divine stamp of approval on it would oppose God. Kefa’s explanation caused the other Jewish Believers to give God glory for granting repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles.

Today, the situation is precisely the opposite: many Gentile Believers are amazed at the movement of Messianic Jews that claims Jews can accept the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, without taking on the lifestyle of Gentiles. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

In my next post, we learn that Kefa gets caught up in Herod Agrippa I’s Persecution of the Saints.

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First Gentile Believers ~ Part 6

Cornelius, His Family, and Guests Are Baptized

In my last post, we learned that Cornelius Shares His Vision with Kefa, and Kefa Preached the Gospel. In this post, we learn that Cornelius, His Family, and Guests Are Baptized.

44 Kefa was still saying these things when the Ruach HaKodesh fell on all who were hearing the message. 45 All the believers from the Circumcision faction who had accompanied Kefa were amazed that the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh was also being poured out 46 on the Goyim, for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Kefa’s response was, 47 “Is anyone prepared to prohibit these people from being immersed in water? After all, they have received the Ruach HaKodesh, just as we did.” 48 And he ordered that they be immersed in the name of Yeshua, the Messiah. Then they asked Kefa to stay on with them for a few days. ~ Acts 10:44-48 (CJB)

Had Kefa and company not seen for themselves that the Ruach HaKodesh came on these non-Jews precisely as, on themselves, they would not have immersed them with the manifestation of speaking in other languages. As with Kefa (vv. 9–29), it took a supernatural act of God to dislodge their resistance to bringing Gentiles into the Body of the Messiah, accomplished and symbolized by immersion. Cornelius, his family, and his friends were the first Gentiles to enter the Messianic Community without becoming Jews first.

This was highly reminiscent of the Ethiopian eunuch’s request for baptism (Acts 8:36). As with the eunuch, there was now no barrier, no way anyone could hinder the baptism of these Gentiles and their full inclusion into the Messianic Community.

Verse 45 presents an interesting phrase that may have snuck by us, the believers from the Circumcision faction, or, more literally, “the believers from the Circumcision,” which could mean not a faction but all Jewish believers. Which is it? In his commentary on this passage, David Stern has this to say:

In Acts 15:5, 21:20; Galatians 2:12; and Titus 1:10, “the Circumcision Faction” refers to a subgroup of Messianic Jews, namely, those who insisted that Gentiles could not join the Messianic Community merely by trusting in God and His Messiah Yeshua; they had to become Jewish proselytes. This faction would have consisted of saved Jews who, in their former life as non-Messianic Jews, considered God-fearers fence-straddlers that ought to convert to Judaism. Faith in Yeshua would not have made them change their opinion because the possibility that Gentiles could be members of the Messianic Community without becoming Jews had never arisen.

But at Romans 4:9, 4:12, 15:8; Galatians 2:7–9 and Ephesians 2:11, “the Circumcision” is used merely to distinguish Jews from Gentiles.

Whether it means all Messianic Jews or the faction that wanted Gentile Believers to convert to Judaism is elucidated by what it was that bothered them. It is not reasonable to suppose that all Messianic Jews, or even a significant majority of them, would have both experienced amazement at God’s giving the Ruach HaKodesh to Gentiles (this verse) and criticized Kefa for entering Gentiles’ homes and eating with them (Acts 11:2–3). Only Jews (Messianic or non-Messianic) concerned with Gentiles would have had such reactions. Therefore, my rendering of the Circumcision faction. [1]

In my next post, we follow Kefa Back to Yerushalayim to Brief the other Emissaries.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary.

First Gentile Believers ~ Part 5

Cornelius Shares His Vision with Kefa

In my last post, we learned that Kefa Went to Cornelius. In this post, we learn that Cornelius Shares His Vision with Kefa, and Kefa Preaches the Gospel.

30 Cornelius answered, “Three days ago around this time, I was at minchah prayers [1] in my house, when suddenly a man in shining clothes stood in front of me 31 and said, ‘God has heard your prayer and remembered your acts of charity. 32 Now send to Yafo and ask for Shim ‘on, known as Kefa; he is staying in the house of Shim ‘on, a leather-tanner, by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now all of us are here in the presence of God to hear everything the Lord has ordered you to say.” 34 Then Kefa addressed them: “I now understand that God does not play favorites, 35 but that whoever fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him, no matter what people he belongs to.

God does not play favorites, but … whoever fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him, no matter what people he belongs to. The Judaism of the rabbis has comparable teaching that among the nations, there are righteous people “who have a share in the world to come,” where righteousness for Gentiles is often defined as keeping the seven Noachide laws (see Acts 15:20).

36 “Here is the message that he sent to the sons of Isra’el announcing shalom through Yeshua the Messiah, who is Lord of everything.

Jewish people, in general, would call God “Lord of all.” “Preaching peace” alludes to the concept of Isra’el’s redemption, found in Isaiah 52:7 and similar passages, although even God-fearing Gentiles might miss this allusion.

37 You know what has been going on throughout Y’hudah, starting from the Galil after the immersion that Yochanan proclaimed; 38 how God anointed Yeshua from Natzeret with the Ruach HaKodesh and with power; how Yeshua went about doing good and healing all the people oppressed by the Adversary because God was with Him.

Depending on how much Cornelius knows about Judaism, he may recognize that anyone anointed with the Ruach HaKodesh in his own time would be considered extraordinary by his Jewish contemporaries.

39 “As for us, we are witnesses of everything He did, both in the Judean countryside and in Yerushalayim. They did away with Him by hanging Him on a stake; 40 but God raised Him up on the third day and let Him be seen, 41 not by all the people, but by witnesses God had previously chosen, that is, by us, who ate and drank with Him after He had risen again from the dead. 42 “Then He commanded us to proclaim and attest to the Jewish people that this man has been appointed by God to judge the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets bear witness to Him, that everyone who puts his trust in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” ~ Acts 10:30-43.

Kefa’s sermon points to these God-fearing Gentiles: Yeshua is sent by God and is still alive. He will be the final judge of all human beings. The Tanakh points to Him. Those who trust in His mercy will be forgiven their sins through His name, that is, because of who He is and what He has done. What an excellent summation of the Gospel Message!

In my next post, we will continue to examine Kefa’s encounter with Cornelius in First Gentile Believers ~ Part 6 where Cornelius, His Family, and Guests Are Baptized.

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[1] Literally, “I was at the ninth hour praying in my house.”

First Gentile Believers ~ Part 4

Kefa Goes to Cornelius

In my last post, we learned that Kefa was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean. In this post, we learn that Kefa Goes to Cornelius.

23b The next day, he (Kefa) got up and went with them, accompanied by some of the brothers from Yafo; 24, and he arrived at Caesarea the day after that. Cornelius was expecting them—he had already called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Kefa entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell prostrate at his feet. 26 But Kefa pulled him to his feet and said, “Stand up! I myself am just a man.”

Fell prostrate at his feet to welcome him, also to honor him as God’s messenger, but not to “worship” him (as some English versions have it). As a God-fearer, Cornelius would have known better. However, Kefa’s response, Stand up! I myself am just a man, shows that Kefa misread what Cornelius did as an act of idolatry to be expected from a pagan. This had to be a very awkward moment for both of them.

27 As he talked with him, Kefa went inside and found many people gathered. 28 He said to them, “You are well aware that for a man who is a Jew to have a close association with someone who belongs to another people, or to come and visit him, is something that just isn’t done. But God has shown me not to call any person common or unclean; 29 so when I was summoned, I came without raising any questions. Tell me, then, why did you send for me?” ~ Acts 10:23b-29 (CJB) (Emphasis added).

You are well aware that for a man who is a Jew to have a close association with someone who belongs to another people or to come and visit him is something that just isn’t done. Before examining whether Jews did, in fact, keep themselves aloof from Gentiles, take note of Kefa’s careful word choices. He uses the Greek word “allophulos,” which means “someone who belongs to another tribe,” used only here in the New Testament. Also, the Greek word “athemitos,” used only twice in the New Testament, does not mean “unlawful, forbidden, against Jewish law,” as found in other English versions, but rather “taboo, out of the question, not considered right, against standard practice, contrary to cultural norms.”

Kefa Now Understands the Meaning of His Vision

But God has shown me not to call any person common or unclean. If Jewish law made Gentile products and practices unclean, it would have been only human, all too human, for people to have extended the description, unclean, to Gentiles themselves. Such attitudes would have been not so much taught as caught, absorbed from the whole milieu, and these attitudes’ influence would have quickly become pervasive. This is why it took direct intervention from God to shake Kefa loose from them.

As I explained in my last post, this verse proves that the meaning of Kefa’s vision had nothing to do with abolishing kashrut’s laws. With this statement and its expansion in vv. 34–35 Kefa puts his dealings with Cornelius and his friends on a new footing: a barrier that both sides might have thought insuperable, that would have made true spiritual communion impossible, is removed altogether.

In my next post, we will continue to examine Kefa’s encounter with Cornelius in First Gentile Believers ~ Part 5 where Cornelius Shares His Vision with Kefa.

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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.