Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 2a

Messianic Jews 11:1-3
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we continue in our mini-series Exhortation to Hold Firm by examining The Future Reward for Those Who Endure in Messianic Jews 10:32-39. In this post, we start a new mini-series on our topic of Faith: The Better Way by exploring the Definition and Illustration of Trusting. Let’s start by defining Trust (Faith) in Messianic Jews 11:1-3.

1 Trusting is being confident of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see. 2 It was for this that Scripture attested the merit of the people of old. 3 By trusting, we understand that the universe was created through a spoken word of God so that what is seen did not come into being out of existing phenomena.” ~ Messianic Jews 11:1-3 (CJB)

To the author of Messianic Jews, trust is the absolute certainty that what is believed is accurate and that what is expected will happen. It is not the hope which looks forward with wistful longing; it is the hope which looks forward with absolute conviction.

As I have frequently noted before, Stern generally translates “faith” as “trust.” Well, here is why: [1]

“Trust: Greek pistis, “belief, trust, firm reliance, firm conviction, faith,” corresponding to Hebrew emunah. The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, though he honored Yeshua his “elder brother,” tried in his book, Two Types of Faith, to demonstrate that the pistis of the New Testament and the emunah of the Tanakh are different. He claimed that pistis is primarily mental assent to doctrines and facts, while emunah is a heart attitude of trust that expresses itself in righteous acts. In fact, however, the latter is the only kind of faith God honors, in both the Old Testament and the New. True Messianic faith is not different in character from that of the Tanakh; it means acknowledging who God is and what He has done, believing His promises, relying on Him for power to live a holy life, and then living that life.

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

Being confident, Greek upostasis (literally, “that which stands under”), is what gives present reality to what we hope for.

The importance of trusting is that Scripture(here the word stands for God Himself) regards it as the sole basis for human merit, that is, for righteousness and thus for pleasing God (vv. 5-6). “Avraham put his trust in God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6, quoted at Romans 4:3).

In contrast to the rest of the chapter, which analyzes various “heroes of faith” chronicled in the Tanakh, this verse sets forth an essential function of trusting, namely, that by trusting we understand. Those who refuse to take the tiny step necessary to trust in God cannot understand the most fundamental truths: the benevolent consequences of faith are not only emotional but affect the realm of the mind.

What is seen did not come into being out of existing phenomena but was created through a spoken word of God. In Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 26, we read that God said and it was! Space and time keep me from postulating on creationism versus evolution.

In my next post, we will continue in our topic of the Definition and Illustration of Trusting by examining the Trust of the Early Patriarchs in Messianic Jews 11:4-7.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.

Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 1b

Messianic Jews 10:26-31
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we were going through the topic of Faith: The Better Way. We started by examining an Exhortation to Hold Firm by looking at Our Access to God in Messianic Jews 10:19-25. In this post, we continue in our mini-series Exhortation to Hold Firm by examining The Judgment for Failure to Hold Firm in Messianic Jews 10:26-31.

“26 For if we deliberately continue to sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but only the terrifying prospect of Judgment, of raging fire that will consume the enemies. 28 Someone who disregards the Torah of Moshe is put to death without mercy on the word of two or three witnesses. 29 Think how much worse will be the punishment deserved by someone who has trampled underfoot the Son of God; who has treated as something common the blood of the covenant which made him holy; and who has insulted the Spirit, giver of God’s grace! 30 For the One we know is the One who said, “Vengeance is my responsibility; I will repay,” and then said, “Adonai will judge his people.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” ~ Messianic Jews 10:26-31 (CJB)

Every now and again the author of Messianic Jews speaks with a sternness that is almost without parallel in the Brit Hadashah. Few authors have such a sense of the sheer horror of sin. In this passage, his thoughts are going back to the grim instruction in Deuteronomy 17:2-7. There, if any person shall be proved to have gone after strange gods and to have worshipped them, “you are to bring the man or woman who has done this wicked thing to your city gates, and stone that man or woman to death. The death sentence is to be carried out only if there was testimony from two or three witnesses; he may not be sentenced to death on the testimony of only one witness. The witnesses are to be the first to stone him to death; afterward, all the people are to stone him. Thus you will put an end to this wickedness among you.”

These verses recap, in even stronger language, the exhortation of Messianic Jews 6:4-8, with emphasis on fearing God. There is a tendency to modernize the “fear of God” into “reverence for God” or minimize it by exalting the love of God as a higher motivation for right behavior than fear of Him. But doing so blunts the impact which the prospect of judgment ought to make (vv. 27, 30-31). There is a right reason for fearing God; there is such a thing as “holy fear” (Messianic Jews 11:7). “The fear of Adonai is the beginning of wisdom” ~ Proverbs 9:10. And, as we will later discover: Our God is a consuming fire!” ~ Messianic Jews 12:29.

Those who deliberately continue to sin (v. 26) are doing what the Torah calls sinning “with a high hand,” and for such sins, the Levitical system of sacrifices prescribed in the Torah does not atone (see Ya’akov (James) 2:10-11). Think how much worse it will be for those who highhandedly ignore Yeshua’s atoning sacrificial death (v. 29)! This is the whole point of this passage.

However, in addition, v. 26 by its very position in the overall text emphasizes the seriousness of neglecting congregational meetings (v. 25), even though the specific sin actually referred to, as clarified by v. 29, is that of disregarding the Messiah’s once-for-all sacrifice for sin and trusting in the Levitical system which only foreshadowed it.

Note: Since I also covered this passage in my series on Eternal Security, I won’t be further examining this passage as to how it relates to the topic of Apostasy.

According to Barclay, the author gives three definitions of sin. [1]

  1. Sin is to trample Yeshua It is not mere rebelliousness against the law; it is the wounding of love. Once Yeshua had come, the awfulness of sin lay not in its breaking of the law but its trampling of the love of Yeshua underfoot.
  1. Sin is the failure to see the sacredness of sacred things. Nothing produces a shudder like sacrilege. The author of Messianic Jews says in effect: “Look at what has been done for you; look at the shed blood and the broken body of Yeshua; look at what your new relationship to God cost; can you treat it as if it did not matter? Don’t you see what a sacred thing it is?” Sin is the failure to realize the sacredness of that sacrifice upon the Cross.
  1. Sin is an insult to the Ruach. The Ruach speaks within us, telling us what is right and wrong, seeking to check us when we are about to sin and to urge us on when we are drifting into apathy. To disregard these voices is to insult the Ruach and to grieve the heart of God.

Sin is not disobedience to an impersonal law; it is the wrecking of a personal relationship and the wounding of the heart of the God whose name is Abba.

We have been and continue to be redeemed once for all by His Blood.

In my next post, we complete our mini-series dealing of Exhortation to Hold Firm in the topic of Faith: The Better Way by exploring The Future Reward for Those Who Endure beginning with Messianic Jews 10:32-39.

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[1] Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT) by William Barclay.