The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 25

Sermon on the Mount ~ Part E

We continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount, beginning in Mattityahu 5:17.

Yeshua Came to Fulfill the Law ~ Part 1

17 “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete.

This is an essential verse for us to wrap our minds around. Briefly, Yeshua states that He wants to make the meaning of the Torah and the Prophets complete. David Stern provides some further insight for us:

The Hebrew word “Torah,” literally “teaching, doctrine,” is rendered in both the Septuagint and the Brit Hadashah by the Greek word “nomos,” which means “law.” Greek has had a more direct and pervasive influence on English and other modern languages than Hebrew has, and this is why in most languages, one speaks of the “Law of Moshe” rather than the “Teaching of Moshe”. It is also part of the reason why the Torah has mistakenly come to be thought of by Christians as legalistic (see Romans 3:20b, Galatians 3:23b).

In Judaism, the word Torah may mean:

  1. Chumash (the Pentateuch, the five books of Moshe); or
  2. That plus the Prophets and the Writings, i.e., the Tanakh (known by Christians as the Old Testament; see 4:4–10; or
  3. That plus the Oral Torah, which includes the Talmud and other legal materials; or
  4. That plus all religious instruction from the rabbis, including ethical and aggadic (homiletical) materials.

Here it means the first of these, since “the Prophets” are mentioned separately.

The word “Prophets,” capitalized, refers to the second of the three main parts of the Tanakh (both Major and Minor). When the Tanakh prophets as persons are referred to, the word is not capitalized; “prophet” in the singular is never capitalized. By mentioning both the Torah and the Prophets, Yeshua says that He has not come to modify or replace God’s Word, the Tanakh. Compare Luke 24:44–45.

The Greek word for “to complete” is plêrôsai,” literally, “to fill”; the usual rendering here, however, is “to fulfill.” Replacement theology, which wrongly teaches that the Church has replaced the Jews as God’s people, misunderstands this verse in two ways.

First, Yeshua’s “fulfilling” the Torah means that it is unnecessary for people to fulfill it now. But there is no logic to the proposition that Yeshua’s obeying the Torah does away with our need to obey it. In fact, Sha’ul, whose object in his letter to the Romans is to foster “the obedience that comes from trusting” in Yeshua, teaches that such trusting does not abolish Torah but confirms it (Romans 1:5, 3:31).

Second, with an identical lack of logic, Yeshua’s “fulfilling” the Prophets is thought to imply that no prophecies from the Tanakh remain for the Jews. But the Hebrew Bible’s promises to the Jews are not abolished in the name of being “fulfilled in Yeshua.” Instead, fulfillment in Yeshua is an added assurance that everything God has promised the Jews will yet come to pass (see 2 Corinthians 1:20).

It is true that Yeshua kept the Torah perfectly and fulfilled predictions of the Prophets, but that is not the point here. Yeshua did not come to abolish but “to make full” (plêrôsai) the meaning of what the Torah and the ethical demands of the Prophets require. Thus he came to complete our understanding of the Torah and the Prophets to try more effectively to be and do what they say to be and do.

We will learn in verses 18–20 three ways in which the Torah and the Prophets remain necessary, applicable, and in force. The remainder of chapter 5 gives six specific cases in which Yeshua explains the fuller spiritual meaning of points in the Jewish Law. In fact, this verse states the theme and plan of the entire Sermon on the Mount. Yeshua completes, makes fuller, the understanding of His talmidim concerning the Torah and the Prophets so that they can more fully express what being God’s people is all about. [1]

Well, we didn’t get very far in our study of this complete passage, but we’ll pick it up next time around.

18 Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah – not until everything that must happen has happened. 19 So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!  ~ Mattityahu 5:17-20.

In our next post, we continue to explore the Sermon on the Mount from Mattityahu’s Gospel.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 24

Sermon on the Mount ~ Part D

For those of whom may not have started at the beginning of this series, I stated in Part 1:

We will be looking at His words as best we can in chronological order using“The Narrated Bible in Chronological Order” by F. LaGard Smith. [1] While going through the Synoptic Gospels, I will focus more on Mattityahu’s version with appropriate references to Mark and Luke.

To date, we have covered the Beatitudes from Mattityahu 5 with reference to Luke’s version. As we saw in Part 21, Luke 6:24-26 includes the Woes immediately after the Beatitudes chronologically. Using a typical apocalyptic pattern, Yeshua declares that the present circumstances of the rich and poor will be reversed in the future.

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you, have already had all the comfort you will get!

Comfort was a blessing of the Messianic era (e.g., Isaiah 40:1; cf. Luke 16:25). Most of Yeshua’s hearers were poor, but Luke’s urban, Greco-Roman readership was probably better off (1:3–4); Luke pulls no punches for his audience. Laughter was often associated with scorn.

25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you will go hungry! “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and cry!

Woe to you who are full now continues describing the rich, who have no worldly cares but are not rich in faith (cf. 1:53; James 5:1). Woe to you who are laughing now is not a condemnation of all joy and laughter, only the condescending, boastful, or mocking laughter of the callous, complacent rich who care little for others or God. They shall mourn and weep when God’s judgment comes.

26 “Woe to you when people speak well of you, for that is just how their fathers treated the false prophets! ~ Luke 6:24-26

The fourth woe warns that, while true prophets were hated, excluded, reviled, scorned, beaten, tortured, and killed (cf. Heb. 11:32–38), false prophets were well spoken of, for they prophesied what people wanted to hear (or as we would say today “tickled their ears”). This is a warning against seeking the world’s approval rather than being faithful to God.

We now return to Mattityahu’s version of the Sermon on the Mount.

You Are Salt & Light

13 “You are salt for the Land. But if salt becomes tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except being thrown out for people to trample on. 14 “You are light for the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Likewise, when people light a lamp, they don’t cover it with a bowl but put it on a lampstand so that it shines for everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven. ~ Mattityahu 5:13-16

Jewish Believers are the salt, seasoning, and a preservative, for the Land of Isra’el, that is, for the Jewish people, and light for the world, for the Gentiles, as taught in Isaiah 49:6. God established a “covenant of salt” (Numbers 18:19), which is applied to King David and his descendants – that is, to the Messiah – in 2 Chronicles 13:5.

Then, the Jewish Believers in the Messiah are the righteous remnant (Romans 11), for whose sake God preserves Isra’el and the world. Sometimes Isra’eli Messianic Jews feel they are not part of the “real” Jewish community in the Land. But the reason Messianic Jews are there is to be the righteous remnant, for whose sake God preserves the nation of Isra’el. This motivates us to trust God, try to realize the Messianic Jewish vision, and proclaim Yeshua to her people.

In our next post, we continue to explore the Sermon on the Mount from Mattityahu’s Gospel.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Copyright 1984 by Harvest House Publishers. I highly recommend this edition as it tells the story of all 66-books of the Bible in the order they were written. It’s like reading a non-fiction novel from beginning to end. Citations are placed in the margins so as not to disrupt your reading.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 22

Sermon on the Mount ~ Part B

Before we move on to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, I want to go back to the first twelve verses of Chapter 5 and provide some commentary.

Seeing the crowds, Yeshua walked up the hill. After He sat down, His talmidim came to Him,

Talmidim (plural; singular talmid), “disciples.” The English word “disciple” fails to convey the richness of the relationship between a rabbi and his talmidim in the first century CE. Teachers, both itinerant like Yeshua and settled ones, attracted followers who wholeheartedly gave themselves over to their teachers (though not in a mindless way, as happens today in some cults). The essence of the relationship was one of trust in every area of living, and its goal was to make the talmid like his rabbi in knowledge, wisdom, and ethical behavior.

and He began to speak. This is what He taught them:

“How blessed are the poor in spirit! for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

How blessed. Greek Makarios corresponds to Hebrew Asher and means “blessed,” “happy,” and “fortunate” all at once so that no one English word is adequate.

Poor in spirit ~refers to those in Yeshua’s day who recognize and bear their desperate plight and who long for God’s restoration through the Messiah. Kingdom of heaven ~ the crowd was already familiar with this terminology through Yochanan the Immerser’s proclamation; they anticipated a time of restoration.

“How blessed are those who mourn! for they will be comforted.

The ones who mourn ~ could refer to those who mourn for Isra’el and for their plight within its then present conditions (e.g., Roman occupation, what seems like a lack of God’s presence, impoverishment, etc.). Alternatively, it could refer to those who mourn over their sin or are currently enduring difficult times. They will be comforted ~ those who mourn for the unfulfilled condition of Isra’el will be comforted when the Kingdom is fulfilled. In the new Kingdom, God’s new covenant will restore what had been lost due to violations of the Torah.

“How blessed are the meek! for they will inherit the Land! ~ Mattityahu 5:1-5.

The meek~ refers to someone humble or gentle. The meek do not seek gain for themselves; instead, they hope in the Lord. Will inherit the Land or will they, as other versions have it, “inherit the earth”? Non-Messianic Believers often think that since the Gospel is for all humanity, God is no longer interested in Isra’el as a nation (even though Mattityahu 23:37–39 proves the opposite). This error – known variously as Replacement, Dominion, Kingdom Now, Covenant, et cetera theology is so widespread that Brit Hadashah passages are even mistranslated in conformance with it. The present verse is one of those passages. While Believers will return to rule with the Messiah at his Second Coming (1 Thess. 4:13–18, Rev. 20), here Yeshua is quoting Psalm 37:11, where the context makes it clear that “the meek” refers to the meek of Isra’el, who, according to God’s promises, “will inherit the Land,” the Land of Isra’el, which Mattityahu has already mentioned explicitly (2:20–21).

Although Greek gê can mean either earth or land,” in Psalm 37, the Hebrew word Eretz means “Land” (and not “earth”) not less than six times: those of Isra’el who trust in Adonai will “dwell in the Land” (v. 3); and those of Isra’el who wait upon Adonai (v. 9), are meek (v. 11, cited here), are blessed by Adonai (v. 22), are righteous (v. 29) and keep his way (v. 34) will “inherit the Land.” The term “inherit” in the Tanakh refers to the Jewish people’s inheritance from God, which includes, in addition to spiritual elements, not the whole earth but a specific small territory on the east shore of the Mediterranean Sea.

Because the Gospel is universal, and because of the false theology teaching that God is no longer interested in the Jews as a nation, Non-Messianic Believers tend to suppose that the Brit Hadashah somehow cancels God’s promise of giving the Jewish people the Land of Isra’el. No small amount of opposition to the present-day State of Isra’el on the part of Non-Messianic Believers is based on this false assumption. To combat this error, it is crucial for Jews and Non-Messianic Believers alike to understand that the Brit Hadashah does not alter any of God’s promises to the Jewish people; God’s literal promises are not somehow spiritualized out of existence “in Christ.”

I pause here because I really would like to let the interpretation of verse 5 sink in.

In our next post, we continue to explore the Sermon on the Mount.

Click here for the PDF version.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 20

Plucking Grain on Shabbat

One Shabbat during that time, Yeshua was walking through some wheat fields. His talmidim were hungry, so they began picking heads of grain and eating them. On seeing this, the P’rushim said to him, “Look! Your talmidim are violating Shabbat!”

Violating Shabbat! Literally means in Greek, doing what is unlawful on Shabbat,” that is, doing something the P’rushim considered to be against the Torah. The argument was not over whether it was permitted to pick grain by hand from someone else’s field, for that is expressly allowed by Deuteronomy 23:25, but whether it could be done on Shabbat. At issue behind this seemingly minor matter is whether the Pharisaic tradition – which evolved into what rabbinic Judaism calls the Oral Torah, later committed to writing in the Mishna, Gemara, and other works – is God’s revelation to man and binding on all Jews.

But he said to them, “Haven’t you ever read what David did when he and those with him were hungry? He entered the House of God and ate the Bread of the Presence!”—which was prohibited, both to him and to his companions; it is permitted only to the cohanim.

Though Leviticus 24:5–9 allows only cohanim to eat the Bread of the Presence set aside for display before the Ark in the House of God (Tabernacle), 1 Samuel 21:2–7 recounts how King David and the priest Achimelekh violated this mitzvah of the Written Torah – which the P’rushim would accept as more authoritative than a rule in the Oral Torah.

“Or haven’t you read in the Torah that on Shabbat the cohanim profane Shabbat and yet are blameless?

The Torah itself specifies that some mitzvot are more critical than others (see Yochanan 5:22–23, Galatians 2:12). Keeping Shabbat is essential, but the animal sacrifices required by Numbers 28:1–10 are more so that the cohanim work on Shabbat to offer them.

I tell you, there is in this place something greater than the Temple! If you knew what ‘I want compassion rather than animal sacrifice meant, you would not condemn the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of Shabbat!” ~ Matthew 12:1-8

Healing A Man’s Shriveled Hand

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue. 10 A man there had a shriveled hand. Looking for a reason to accuse him of something, they asked him, “Is healing permitted on Shabbat?” 11 But he answered, “If you have a sheep that falls in a pit on Shabbat, which of you won’t take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore, what is permitted on Shabbat is to do good.” 13 Then to the man, He said, “Hold out your hand.” As he held it out, it became restored, as sound as the other one. 14 But the P’rushim went out and began plotting how they might do away with Yeshua. ~ Matthew 12:9-14

One should save an animal’s life on Shabbat, but whether lifting a sheep out of a pit would, in the first century, have been considered a violation of the rule against work (carrying) on Shabbat is not clear.

Yeshua Heals Others

15 Aware of this, He left that area. Many people followed Him, and He healed them all16 but warned them not to make Him known. 17 This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Yesha’yahu the prophet: (42:1-40)

1“Here is My servant, whom I have chosen,
My beloved, with whom I am well pleased;
I will put my Spirit on Him,
and He will announce justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not fight or shout
no one will hear His voice in the streets;
20 He will not snap off a broken reed
or snuff out a smoldering wick
until He has brought justice through to victory.
21 In Him the Gentiles will put their hope.”
~ Matthew 12:15-21

Yesha’yahu 42:1–4 is the first of several “suffering servant” passages in Yesha’yahu 42–53. Some parts of these passages seem to refer primarily to Israel’s people, others to the Messiah yet in Yesha’yahu’s future. This fact emphasizes the close identification of the Messiah Yeshua with the Jewish people.

Our next post will learn that Yeshua Appoints His Emissaries, Great Crowds Gather, and we begin to examine the Sermon of the Mount.

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The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 12

Yeshua Rejected in Natzeret

16 Now when He went to Natzeret, where He had been brought up, on Shabbat He went to the synagogue as usual. He stood up to read, 17 and He was given the scroll of the prophet Yesha‘yahu. Unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written (emphasis added)

He went to the synagogue as usual, like any good Jew. He stood up to read publicly from a scroll. The custom in the synagogue now is to read through the Torah each year, with portions of several chapters read on Monday, Thursday, and Shabbat mornings, ending and beginning over again on Simchat-Torah (“Rejoicing of the Torah”), which comes at the end of Sukkot (September 29th this year). At an earlier stage in Jewish history, three years were taken to read through the Torah.

There is a second reading called the haftarah (“conclusion”); it consists of portions from the Prophets and Writings related to the Parashat-hashavua’ (“[Torah] portion for the week”). While there is uncertainty over exactly what the first-century customs were, it seems clear that if Yeshua was given the scroll of the prophet Yesha‛yahu, He was being offered the haftarah reading. Since there is uncertainty about the practices of the time, it is not clear whether he found the place set by the lectionary for that Shabbat, or the place He himself chose, or the place where the scroll happened to open.

18 “The Spirit of Adonai is upon me
because He has anointed me
to announce Good News to the poor;
He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the imprisoned
and renewed sight for the blind,

to release those who have been crushed,
19 to proclaim a year of the favor of Adonai.

20 After closing the scroll and returning it to the shammash, He sat down, and the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 He started to speak to them: “Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled!” 22 Everyone was speaking well of Him and marveling that such appealing words were coming from His mouth. They were even asking, “Can this be Yosef’s son?”

Verses 18–19 quotes Isaiah 61:1–2a but do not include the immediately following words, “ … and the day of vengeance of our God.” Although usually, a citation of Scripture implies the surrounding context, here Yeshua may have stopped short so that he could say, Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh (up to but not including the “day of vengeance”) was fulfilled.

STOP!!!

Take a few moments to digest what He just said: “Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled!” Remember the setting. He was early in His ministry and speaking to His family and neighbors. No wonder C.S. Lewis opined that Yeshua was either a liar, lunatic, or the Lord.

For at His first coming, He healed and brought Good News of the Kingdom and salvation (Mt 4:17); it was not His time to take vengeance or judge (Yochanan 8:15, 12:47).

Shammash in Hebrew or shammes in Yiddish. A synagogue attendant or caretaker, the “servant” of the congregation (the word literally means). The Greek word here is upêretês (“attendant, servant”).

23 Then Yeshua said to them, “No doubt you will quote to me this proverb: “Doctor, cure yourself!” We’ve heard about all the things that have been going on over in K’far-Nachum; now do them here in your hometown!’ 24 Yes!” He said, “I tell you that no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 It’s true, I’m telling you – when Eliyahu was in Isra’el, and the sky was sealed off for three-and-a-half years, so that all the Land suffered a severe famine, there were many widows; 26 but Eliyahu was sent to none of them, only to a widow in Tzarfat in the Land of Tzidon. 27 Also, there were many people with tzara’at in Isra’el during the time of the prophet Elisha; but not one of them was healed, only Na‘aman the Syrian.”

28 On hearing this, everyone in the synagogue was filled with fury. 29 They rose up, drove him out of town, and dragged him to the edge of the cliff on which their town was built, intending to throw him off. 30 But he walked right through the middle of the crowd and went away. ~ Luke 4: 16-30

Everyone was filled with fury since Yeshua was implying that God’s grace would be withheld from them and given to the Gentiles. They drove him out of town and intended to kill Him by tossing Him off a cliff (4:29). Yet, He miraculously escaped what would have been a premature death (4:30). It was not yet His time. His death would be at the time and place of His choosing.

Our next post will examine a Great Catch of Fish and the calling of Shim’on, Ya’akov, Yochanan, and Andrew.

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The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 11

Yeshua Begins His Galilean Ministry

Yeshua had spent two days with the Samaritans, and many had become Believers because of His words before He returned to Galilee.

But when He arrived in the Galil, the people there welcomed Him because they had seen all He had done at the festival in Yerushalayim since they had been there too. 46 He went again to Kanah in the Galil, where He had turned the water into wine. An officer in the royal service was there; His son was ill in K’far-Nachum (Capernaum).

The Greek term used here could denote a member of the royal family of Herod, but it more likely refers to a Roman official serving Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee, on behalf of Rome.

47 This man, on hearing that Yeshua had come from Y’hudah to the Galil, went and asked Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Yeshua answered, “Unless you people see signs and miracles, you simply will not trust!” 49 The officer said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Yeshua replied, “You may go; your son is alive.” The man believed what Yeshua said and left.

The boy’s healing is connected to the father’s belief in Yeshua’s ability to heal.

51 As he was going down, his servants met him with the news that his son was alive 52 So he asked them at what time he had gotten better; and they said, “The fever left him yesterday at one o’clock in the afternoon.” 53 The father knew that that was the very hour when Yeshua had told him, “Your son is alive,” and he and all his household trusted. 54 This was a second sign that Yeshua did; He did it after He had come from Y’hudah into the Galil. ~ Yochanan 4:45-55

We will be shifting our focus away from Yochanan for several posts and looking at the other Gospel accounts of Yeshua’s ministry. We will learn that Yeshua does not come as a religious leader in the traditional sense. Instead, He takes His ministry to the city streets and country roads, homes and fields, and wherever else the ordinary people might be found. He is particularly fond of attending the Jewish Synagogues, where the commoner is permitted to discuss the meaning of the Scriptures.

Coming of the Kingdom Preached

Yeshua takes His ministry primarily to the Galil. He was using the city of K’far-Nachum as His base of operation. Mattityahu begins his account of that portion of Yeshua’s ministry by quoting from Yeshayahu (Isaiah).

12When Yeshua heard that Yochanan had been put in prison, he returned to the Galil; 13 but he left Natzeret and came to live in K’far-Nachum, a lakeshore town near the boundary between Z’vulun and Naftali. 14 This happened in order to fulfill what Yeshayahu the prophet had said,

15 “Land of Z’vulun and land of Naftali, toward the lake, beyond the Yarden, Galil-of-the-Goyim 16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; upon those living in the region, in the shadow of death, light has dawned.” [1]

17 From that time on, Yeshua began proclaiming, “Turn from your sins to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!” [2] 14 Reports about Him spread throughout the countryside. 15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone respected Him. [3]

Our next post will examine Yeshua Rejected in Natzeret.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Yeshayahu 8:23-9:1.

[2] Mat., 4:12–17.

[3] Luke 4:14–15).

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 10

Yeshua Meets the Women at the Well ~ Part 3

We conclude the story of Yeshua’s ministry in Shomron.

27 Just then, His talmidim arrived. They were amazed that He was talking with a woman, but none of them said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”

It would have been unusual for a rabbi (like Yeshua) or any Jewish man to converse publicly with a woman. Jewish teaching warned against spending too much time talking with women because of temptation and the appearance of impropriety. Through this interaction, Yeshua is showing care for the lowliest of people in the eyes of Jews.

28 So the woman left her water-jar, went back to the town and said to the people there, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done. Could it be that this is the Messiah?” 

The woman’s question implies hesitation and doubt. The Greek text indicates that a negative response is expected: “This cannot be the Messiah, can it?”

30 They left the town and began coming toward Him. 31 Meanwhile, the talmidim were urging Yeshua, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But He answered, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”

Just as with the Samaritan woman and the metaphor of living water, Yeshua uses tangible physical things to teach intangible spiritual truths.

33 At this, the talmidim asked one another, “Could someone have brought Him food?” 34 Yeshua said to them, “My food is to do what the one who sent me wants and to bring His work to completion. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘Four more months and then the harvest’? Well, what I say to you is: open your eyes and look at the fields! They’re already ripe for harvest!

Harvest imagery has overtones of end-time abundance (compare Joel 2:18–27). Yeshua draws on a common proverb about a lack of urgency to emphasize the immediacy of His work. (See Matthew 9:37–38).

36 The one who reaps receives his wages and gathers fruit for eternal life, so that the reaper and the sower may be glad together –

The sowing was the expectation of the prophet laid out in Deuteronomy 18:18. The reaping will be the belief of the Samaritans. Yeshua emphasizes that it’s not always the one who first tells someone about salvation (as the prophets had done for the Samaritans) who brings them to believe, but often it’s those who come later. No matter who reaps, God alone deserves the credit.

37 for in this matter, the proverb, ‘One sows and another reaps,’ holds true. 38 I sent you to reap what you haven’t worked for. Others have done the hard labor, and you have benefited from their work…” 43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. ~ Yochanan 4:27-43

Our next post will begin to examine that Yeshua’s Great Galilean Ministry.

Click here for the PDF version.

The Red-Letter Words of Yeshua ~ Part 9

Yeshua Meets the Women at the Well ~ Part 2

We continue our story of Yeshua’s ministry in Shomron as He Meets the Women at the Well.

15 “Sir, give me this water,” the woman said to Him, “so that I won’t have to be thirsty and keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 She answered, “I don’t have a husband.” Yeshua said to her, “You’re right; you don’t have a husband! 18 You’ve had five husbands in the past, and you’re not married to the man you’re living with now! You’ve spoken the truth!”

If the woman had five previous husbands who either died or divorced her, she would have exceeded the traditional limit of three husbands in Jewish law.

19 “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet,” the woman replied.

I can see that you are a prophet because you supernaturally knew about my sin. The Tanakh prophets spoke forth God’sWord concerning the sins of Isra’el and other nations; the prophecy was a secondary aspect of their ministry.

20 “Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you people say that the place where one has to worship is in Yerushalayim.”

This mountain refers to Mount Gerizim, the holy mountain for the Samaritan community. The mountain was visible from the well where Yeshua and the woman were speaking.

21 Yeshua said, “Lady, believe me, the time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Yerushalayim. 22 You people don’t know what you are worshipping; we worship what we do know because salvation comes from the Jews.

Yeshua does not take up the debate over legitimate holy places. Instead, He points to a future time of salvation when worship will not be limited to any local sacred site, neither Mount Gerizim nor Jerusalem. How one worships is more important than where one worships.

Salvation comes from the Jews. Messianic Believers should acknowledge the Jewish roots of their faith and present close involvement with the Jewish people (Ephesians 2:13). Jews should acknowledge more specifically that only through Yeshua comes yeshu’ah, “salvation.”

 23 But the time is coming – indeed, it’s here now – when the true worshippers will worship the Father spiritually and truly, for these are the kind of people the Father wants worshipping Him. 24 God is spirit, and worshippers must worship Him spiritually and truly.”

Verse 24 is sometimes misappropriated to support the mistaken idea that the Torah is inferior or is no longer in force, having been replaced by worship “in spirit and in truth” (the literal rendering of spiritually and truly). But spiritual and genuine worship is not to be set alongside or compared with the Torah. Instead, authentic, spiritual worship is God’s universal standard, which He also commands in the Torah itself. The Torah opposes legalism and the mere performance of acts and routines without genuine, spiritual involvement.

25 The woman replied, “I know that Mashiach (Messiah) is coming” (that is, “the one who has been anointed”). “When he comes, he will tell us everything.” 26 Yeshua said to her, “I, the person speaking to you, am He.”  ~ Yochanan 4:15-25

I, the person speaking to you, am He, literally, “I am, the one speaking to you.” Thus, He answers everyone who questions whether Yeshua proclaimed his own Messiahship. The declaration, “I am,” echoes Adonai’s self-revelation, I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). Yeshua says this “I am” nine times in Yochanan’s Gospel (here; 6:20; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:9; 18:5, 6, 8), implying a claim even more significant than being the Messiah.

Our next post will continue to examine that YeshuaMeets the Women at the Well ~ Part 3.

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Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 30

The Nicene Creed~ Part 16

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. In this post, we continue to dig into the third article of faith 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 ~ In Creation

When it came time to formulate the Ruach’s role in the Trinity and its interaction with the world, the ancient Kehillah chose to emphasize the Ruach’s role as the Giver of Life. They viewed the work of the Ruach as bringing to completion the work of the Father and the Son. This is especially true when contemplating the Genesis account. On its most basic level among the ancient Messianic writers, the phrase Giver of Life evokes the Ruach’s presence with the other persons of the Trinity at creation, brooding over the waters, bringing life to them and through them, animating all living creatures with the breath of life.

Even though the Hebrew and Greek words for Ruach in Genesis 1:2 and Genesis 2:7 are different words, this did not stop the Fathers from understanding the same Ruach as the breath breathed ultimately into Adam, which brought life to him and his descendants.

Passages that connected the breath and the Ruach of God with creation, such as Genesis 1:2, as well as Psalm 33:6, figured prominently in the ancient Kehillah’s understanding of the third person of the Trinity’s involvement in creation. Other passages, such as Proverbs 8:22 and Wisdom 1:7, spoke of the Wisdom of God present at creation, which was often identified from the second century with the Ruach just as John had identified the Word (Logos) with the Son. Thus, in writers such as Irenaeus, there arose the conception of the two hands of God operative in creation: The Word and Wisdom, that is, the Son and the Ruach. This later evolved into the Son is referred to as the right hand of the Father and the Ruach as the finger of God. Either of these conceptions has as its preconception the source of creative power in the Father. The creative work originated in the Father and was exercised through the Son and perfected in Ruach. Thus, the peculiar work of the Ruach was to actuate and bring to fulfillment the creative work of Father and Son. The Ruach is the vitalizer and perfecter of the Trinity’s work in creation, and it was to Him, along with the Word, that God said, Let us make man in our image. Thus, the spiritual nature of humanity also became the unique purview of the Ruach, whose work is to bring fallen humanity back to the image that was lost. The ancient Kehillah did not confine the Ruach’s work to the original creation. The same Ruach present at creation enlivened the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision and will revitalize our dry bones at the Resurrection. The Fathers also spoke of the Ruach’s role in the Son’s conception, memorializing it in the creedal statement and was incarnate by the Ruach of the Virgin Mary. They realized that just as human and divine were joined together in the incarnation through the power of the Ruach, so the Ruach also joins the divine to created things, bringing life through them too when His presence and power is invoked in consecration and blessing as the giver of Life. [1]

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

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

Creeds of the Kehillah ~ Part 19

The Nicene Creed~ Part 5

In our last post, we continued to explore the Nicene Creed. This post digs a little deeper into the actual articles of faith in the Nicene Creed.

THE ALMIGHTY

Centuries of Creedal repetition have made it seem natural to associate the words Father and Almighty, and it now takes special effort to realize that this was not so in the early days of the church. The title Almighty is used many times in the Tanakh and the book of Revelation, but it occurs only once elsewhere in the Brit Hadashah, and in no instance is it ever coupled with the word Father. No doubt, the early Believers were happy to make this identification. However, although they did so almost unconsciously, a case can still be made for saying that there should be a comma between the two words in the first article of the Creed to emphasize that the terms are of independent origin.

The word Almighty is not an adjective describing a divine attribute, but a title given to the God of Israel, which is unfortunately obscured in translation. In our English Bibles, Almighty is used to translate the Hebrew name El-Shaddai every time it occurs, and its apparent Greek equivalent, Pantocrator. However, the Greek word is used more than 150 times in the Tanakh, where it sometimes translates El-Shaddai but more often Yahweh Sabaoth or the Lord of Hosts. Unfortunately, neither Latin nor English has exact equivalents of these names.

Initially, the word emphasized that God was the ruler of all things, a status that belonged to him because He had created them. The early Believers needed to maintain this essentially Jewish idea. Without it, the door was open to belief in an independent evil deity that could compete with the true God for power and influence. As time went on, the question arose as to whether God’s universal rule implied that He could do anything and everything, and at first, Believers like Origen were inclined to say that it did. This view was modified somewhat later on, as other theologians (like Augustine) realized that God could not do things that contradicted His nature. This was not because He was not omnipotent but because it made no sense to say that God could do such things. They were no more than verbal constructs, with no reality behind them. For example, to ask whether God could commit suicide or do evil was to fall into absurdity since such concepts could not be applied to His being.

The fact that the Brit Hadashah presents Yeshua as the co-creator of the universe quickly led the early Believers to recognize that the Son must also be Almighty God. As the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was developed in the fourth century, the term was naturally extended to Him as well. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that this theological development, which was greatly assisted by the need to react against the claims of Arius, did not find its way into the Nicene Creed.

Maker

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was unformed and void, darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water. ~ Genesis 1:1-2 (CJB)

The doctrine of creation is one that the early church inherited from Judaism, and it is fundamental to any understanding of the Tanakh. Like Jews, Believers have always believed that the world was created by a good God, who is a personal being who cares for His creatures. He governs the universe by His providential care, and nothing can happen in it without His permission. Because of this belief, Believers have always had to face the problems of what theologians call theodicy. These can be stated as the problem of the existence of evil, and second, the degree to which evil can affect those who believe in God.

The early Believers did not have to defend their doctrine of creation against Jews, except insofar as to say that it was the work of all three persons of the Trinity and not of the Father only. This issue became critical in the fourth century after Arius tried to maintain that the Son and the Holy Spirit were the highest of the creatures. [1] Until that time, the bigger problem for the church was explaining and defending its doctrine against the many forms of paganism, including the most sophisticated pagan philosophies, which could not reconcile their understanding of evil with that of a world created by a good and omnipotent God.

As the implications of a divine ordering of the universe sank in, it became clear that God had to be understood as being in complete control of His creation, even when the latter appeared to go against His wishes. This led to an elaborate defense of divine foreknowledge, which included Adam’s (future) sin and eventually to a refined doctrine of predestination, which is associated above all with Augustine. The Church Fathers were determined to avoid saying that God created evil or made it impossible for some people to be saved on the ground that they were not predestined. Still, the logical implications of predestination were hard to escape, and the fundamental dilemma remained for future generations to ponder and attempt to resolve in their own fashion.

Another issue that engaged the Fathers was the distinction between a world fashioned by God (out of preexisting matter) and a world created by Him out of nothing. The Bible emphasizes the former without denying the latter, but things were not so clear to the Greek mind, which was often dualistic in this respect. The Fathers argued that the word make implied that God had created matter out of nothing since it had to come from somewhere. The fact that God had ultimately created it meant that matter must be good, not evil, and it was here that Messianic teaching confronted the most widespread pagan beliefs of the time. At the same time, the Fathers did not deny that it was the fashioning of matter into what the Greeks called the cosmos, which was the true glory of creation, and they often went into this in great detail. Creedal usage oscillated between maker and “creator,” with the latter word emphasizing the origin of matter ex nihilo. Still, it is clear from the comments made on it that both words are meant to convey the same belief in a God who has made everything according to the purpose of His mind and the intention of His will. [2]

In my next post, we continue to dig into the first article of the Nicene Creed.

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[1] This is the controversy that spurred the Council at Nicea.

[2] Bray, G. L., & Oden, T. C. (Eds.). (2009). We Believe in One God (Vol. 1, pp. 93–94).