The Torah of Yahweh (Part 2)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This one was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and apart from him not one thing came into being that has come into being. In him was life, and the life was the light of humanity. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:1–5, LEB)

In the book of John we start with a beautiful expression of “the Word”. The faithlife study bible comments on it this way…

The “word of Yahweh” evokes associations with creation, divine revelation, personified wisdom, and the law of Moses. The “word of Yahweh” and the law had already been closely related in prophetic poetry (see Isa 2:3). The “word” is the agent of creation in Psa 33:6, but divine wisdom is personified and depicted in that role in Prov 8:22–31. In the deuterocanonical book Sirach 24:23, this personified divine wisdom is connected to the law of Moses, similarly given preexistent eternal status in Jewish tradition (see the rabbinic text Genesis Rabbah 1.1). Jesus is connected with divine wisdom also in 1 Cor 1:30. By choosing this language, John makes Jesus the very power and essence of God.[1]

John ends his opening thoughts with this statement…

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17, ESV)

Many Bibles insert the word “but” between Moses and grace. It is not there in the original text. Careful study of this verse reveals that instruction was given to Moses, how to live it correctly comes through Jesus. Put another way – the instruction is the Grace of God, revealing to us how we are to live, and Jesus is the one who demonstrates it to us and enables us to carry it out by His Spirit.

Recently I have been listening to some old sermons from the late Rev Billy Graham. The more I listened that more I realized that he provided solutions to many of our greatest problems through the word of God and the saving grace of Jesus the Christ. He literally lived out and preached 2 Tim 3:16 –

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV)

Do we believe what Paul wrote in this verse; I mean do we really believe it? The unfortunate thing today is that we have turned so many verses into short pithy quotes and out of context promises that we throw at people without first demonstrating the compassion and mercy that Jesus showed.

Scripture should be used, yes, but done so through prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit who is the one who brings those words to life in us. It needs to be kept in the full context of what is written and not just popped out and used like a pill.

I think back on Psalm 1 and ask myself, do I delight in the Torah of Yahweh, if so, how do I show it? Do I spend quality time meditating on His words or do I fill my mind and life with unfruitful junk food.

Listen carefully to your prayer life, what is you main focus. A life filled with God’s word should be more upward focused, seeking His will and not our own. God already knows our needs and desires before we even ask. Is your prayer life guided and driven by His Word and the Spirit or do you find yourself continually praying a laundry list of what you want God to do? Try this exercise – allow scripture to guide your prayer life. Develop a discipline of spending a rich amount of time in God’s word and not filling your mind with junk. (Facebook, Netflix, games, social media, Instagram etc.) These are ok when we limit our time with them, but the greater amount of our time should be reading and praying in God’s Word.

[1]Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Jn 1:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Because we did not seek him…

Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule.” So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord.” (1 Chronicles 15:12–15, ESV)

Today I was doing my daily readings of scripture and came across this verse that caught my attention. But before we dig into it, we need to look at the background of this story.

In 1 Sam 4, the Philistines captured the Ark of God, but everywhere they took it disaster happened, for scripture tells us that the Lord was heavy against the cities where they took the Ark. The Philistines returned the Ark to Israel where it ends up at Beth-shemesh. Here it is ministered to by the Levites. Then the men of Kriiath-jearim came and took the ark to the house of Abinadab and consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord where it stayed for over 20 years. In that period Saul rises to become King, followed by David.

In 2 Sam 5, David defeats the Philistines through inquiry of the Lord. But now he hastily decides to go and bring up the Ark of God from its current location to the city of David. So David gathers all the chosen men of Israel, builds a new cart, then places the ark on the cart which is driven by Aminadab’s sons Uzzah and Ahio.

Nowhere do we see David inquiring the Lord regarding the movement of the Ark, but he just decides to do this. There is no preparation mentioned to sanctify those who would minister to the ark, which is considered the place of God’s presence. A God who describes himself as a consuming fire. To enter God’s presence in the tabernacle required great preparation to ensure that the person entering in was sanctified less God’s holy presence consume them.

The result is that when the ox stumbles Uzzah reaches out and touches the ark and dies. Uzzah had not consecrated himself in preparation for the movement of the ark, and God’s holiness consumes Uzzah for he is most likely unclean in God’s presence.

So, the second time they decide to move the ark, David understands his failure and the people consecrate themselves for the movement of the ark according to the word of the Lord recorded by Moses. This time it is successfully brought to Jerusalem.

I pondered, what can we understand from this story? In Isaiah 55 it says:

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:6–9, ESV)

We do not know God’s thoughts; we certainly don’t know His ways, so how do we seek Him out so He can be found? Only through the study of God’s words, and prayer! The big problem, do we ever really slow down and seek the Lord in genuine deep prayer, or spend quality time reading and meditating on His words?

For the preacher or teacher of God’s word, do we really seek him out to know what he desires us to teach? One thing that I have noticed in the study of scripture is that God usually does not reveal details about His purposes very far in advance. So how are we to believe that he gives us details for a whole year when we are to seek Him daily? He may, but I would be wondering if this is the Spirit or my flesh?

How about in our personal lives? Do we start the day asking the Lord to guide us through the day and that His will be done? If we are Christ’s workmanship as described in Ephesians 2:10, how are we to walk in them if we don’t ask Him what we are to be doing? Seems to me when David did not inquire of the Lord disaster followed.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV)

 If Jesus, God in the flesh, spent every morning seeking the fathers will, how much more should we be seeking the Lord in prayer? Seriously reflecting on what Jesus taught to His disciples, passed down to us in the gospels:

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:7–10, ESV)

All of this, a complete upward focus on the father should be reflected on before we ever get to the second part of the prayer:

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:11–13, ESV)

By the way, did you catch all the plural pronouns in this prayer? This is not about me, its about us as the body of Christ. It is God’s provision, God’s forgiveness, and God’s protection of the community that we are to seek.

The Father knows what you need before you even ask. So I believe an outward focus is what he truly desires. I feel that we spend to much time with a laundry list of requests (my desires) for God that we never really turn our gaze upward. Think about that the next time you pray – do you start with a quick hi to God then jump into your list, or do you bathe yourself in His presence and at the end place your requests (he already knows) at His feet.

I like the way Augustine put it in his exposition of the psalms:

“It is one thing to seek some favor from the Lord, quite another to seek the Lord himself.… Do not seek any extraneous thing from the Lord, but seek the Lord himself. He will hearken to you, and even while you are still speaking he will say, “Here I am.” Expositions of the Psalms 34.9.[1]

So, I leave you with this selection from psalm 105 to meditate on this day:

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones!” (Psalm 105:1–6, ESV)


[1] Blaising, C. A., & Hardin, C. S. (Eds.). (2008). Psalms 1–50 (p. 260). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

And these words…

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7, ESV)

I was reading through a course activity on the Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus and at the end of the session the author challenges his audience by asking a simple question. Do you practice this teaching? What does it look like?

The passage here is part of the Shema which is recited morning and evening as the centerpiece of a Jewish prayer service. In the world of the Christian church we also have part of this prayer as a central idea behind how we should live and that is this:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, ESV)

As I pondered this verse I had to stop and really think about what it was saying. Do I talk of them when I walk by the way, or when I lie down, or even when I rise? How much does the word of God permeate my life every day?

Some may argue, well, that is the Old Testament, that does not really apply today. But then you would have to consider the words Paul give to Timothy in the New Testament:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV)

What does this really mean for me as a follower of Jesus our Lord? In the end I believe that the Word of God should fill every part of our daily routines. We should be challenging each other with what we are learning from the scriptures and through the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Every day we should be encouraging one another with God’s words and allowing them to sink deep into our soul.

One thing that really made me think about this even more is that fact that this part of the Shema comes right after the section about loving the Lord with all your heart. To me this is important because it suggest that part of loving the Lord your God is tied to God’s word and its impact on our lives every day.

The challenge today is how to do this amid a distracted world, and with so many things pulling us in so many different directions? Paul understood this even in the early days of Christianity and gives these good words to Timothy which are still good for us to hear today:

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:11–16, ESV)

The Lord is going to appear, he will return, and what will we be doing when he does? Will we be distracted by the desires of the world, or will we be fighting the good fight and holding fast to the eternal life in which we are called?

Wanderer

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

In todays crazy world and the isolation we face everyday the greatest threat I feel to my Christian walk is the danger of wandering from God’s word. There are so many distractions and temptations when we are isolated, and yet truly we are not really alone. In todays world we have many ways to connect with people and encourage one another, but still those are but a moment and what must we do to keep moving forward in our relationship with the Lord in the alone times.

Psalm 119 is such a rich and powerful Psalm and really draws our focus into what is truly important in our daily struggle – Gods Words!

If I where to just take each of the sections which follow the Hebrew alphabet and just think on the beginning of each section. What can you take away from it? This is also an amazing Psalm because it was structured in the original Hebrew for easy memorization using each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

  • Aleph – Blessed are those whose way is blameless
  • Beth – How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
  • Gimmel – Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word.
  • Daleth – My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!
  • He – Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
  • Vav – Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise; then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word.

The word of God is so rich for our lives, each day we must spend time in His word and seek the many ways it enriches our lives.

Prayer is the other important element of our lives that is truly needed. I am not just talking about a quick passing prayer but a devoted time of communing with the King of the Universe.

In Psalm 46:8 and 10, both have elements that we can get from spending quality time with the Lord.

Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth.……“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

The original Hebrew word for “Be Stil”l is harpu and is from the verb RFH רפה meaning “to let go, to release”. A more literal translation of harpu would be “cause yourselves to let go”.

This is a time to release and let go of all you are holding onto and allow God to wash over you and bring renewal into your life.

Billy Graham in his Answers blog said this on Jan 5 2012:

Make prayer part of your daily life. When problems arise — pray. When doubts come — pray. When people say things that hurt you — pray. When you feel yourself getting down — pray. When you’re tempted — pray. When you are burdened for others — pray. And pray with joy in your heart, and with thanksgiving. The Bible says, “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

When we are isolated we also have a great deal more time, so get into His Word, and spend time communing with the one who is never away and always present, it is then that we can find our firm foundation and not wander from His commands.

 

 

Repent!

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”” (Acts 17:30–31, ESV)

I write this blog on the first day of Passover 2020. There is so much going on in the world and still fear has its grips on so many. The Plagues of the bible where to bring humility to the people of Egypt and bring about the redemption of God’s people. The unfortunate thing for the people in Egypt is that they continued to refuse to turn to the God of Israel and sought out their own Gods. The result was the plague of death. But in the end the people of God where led out of Egypt and saw God’s mighty act of redemption. Israel has continued to celebrate the deliverance of the Israelite people from the last plague – death. I continue to ponder what God is doing in all of this, but one thing is sure, we are not in control and we must turn to him, finding our faith in the redemption that His Son has borne for us on the cross again at Passover.

I started the day doing a chapter in a course I am taking called Jesus as Rabbi, The Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus. (Offered through Logos Bible Software). The chapter that I was looking at today was on Sin and salvation, which also means that repentance comes into the picture.

Early in this section I was covering the idea of Sacrifice. This again takes us back to Egypt and the many sacrifices that were being performed by the Egyptians to their Gods. The author of the course then made this comment:

But when they were taken into the wilderness, God changed that and He reduced their sacrifices to a bare minimum. If God wanted to teach them about a single sacrifice—once for all time—this was a good way of doing it. He said, “Well, just have one morning sacrifice, one evening sacrifice.” There [were] a few others, but they were mainly food, and it’s just once a year you have the annual Day of Atonement—the one sacrifice that takes away sin. They’re starting to learn there’s going to be one sacrifice for sin.”[1]

Early on God was teaching His people that there was eventually going to be one sacrifice for sin. The Hebrews had a good deal of baggage when they came out of Egypt, and maybe that included how they viewed sin. But in the rest of the story God is trying to bring them to a more perfect understanding which unfolds in the New Covenant writings.

At the very beginning of the Gospel of John it records John the Baptist seeing Jesus and declaring  “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world![2]So sin is addressed right at the beginning with another message that we get from the other gospels – Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven has come.

Dr. Brewer pointed out that it was not the Passover lamb that took away sin, that was a celebration of God delivering his people from death and then their redemption from Egypt. It was the goat on the day of atonement that took away the sin of all the people. A young goat is also called a lamb. So, sin is addressed right in the beginning of Jesus ministry, so what where people to do?

People are told to repent. But even on the day of Atonement sins where not just automatically cleared because the sacrifice happened, there were two other things that needed to be part of the process – repentance and the forgiving of others.

In the Yoma, which is the fifth tractate of the “Order of Festivals” and is mostly concerned with Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is says this:

“He who says, ‘I will sin and I’ll repent, [then] I’ll sin again and I’ll repent [again]’—he is not enabled to repent. [If he says:] ‘I will sin and the Day of Atonement will atone’—the Day of Atonement will not atone.”[3]

If you set out to sin knowing that the day of atonement is coming then it’s not real repentance. I would say that the same applies today – If we sin with the idea that the blood of Jesus will just cover it, then have we truly repented? True repentance comes when we truly want to avoid sin in the first place. That does not mean we won’t sin, but it becomes a matter of where the heart is.

The second part of the idea is the forgiveness of others. This fits well with the great commands of Christ – Love God and Love others. The Jewish people understood this well, as also in the Yoma it says:

“Transgressions between a man and God—the Day of Atonement atones. Transgressions between a man and his fellow—the Day of Atonement does not atone until he seeks pardon from his fellow.”[4]

In these troubled days, let us truly seek God to grant us repentance that leads to life, and if we have anyone that we need to seek forgiveness from then seek them out (Virtually right now) because God desires all people everywhere to repent!


[1] Instone-Brewer, D. (2016). NT390 Jesus as Rabbi: The Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 1:29). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Instone-Brewer, D. (2016). NT390 Jesus as Rabbi: The Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Instone-Brewer, D. (2016). NT390 Jesus as Rabbi: The Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Quenching the Spirit – Part 3

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–19, ESV)

One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to teach us. (Jn 14:26) Are we allowing Him to teach us or do we ignore spending time with Him. Do we spend time in prayer and rejoice always in His work in our lives? The Spirit bears witness to the life of Jesus (Jn 15:26) Our lives therefore should be that light on the hill to bear witness to the life of Jesus.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church the things that are not of the Spirit and the things that are of the Spirit. If we walk in those dark places we are quenching the light of the Spirit in our lives.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:16–26, ESV)

The only really effective way to be able to walk by the Spirit is to quite our flesh, and listen to the Spirit in our lives through prayer and the Word of God.

In Ephesians Paul teaches us that we are to be filled with the Spirit, this really is the opposite of quenching the Spirit, it is allowing him to flow out from our lives…

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18–21, ESV)

What occupies us when we come together? Do we spend more time talking of all that God is doing in our lives, speaking of what God is revealing to us in His word, rejoicing and making melody in our hearts? What occupies our conversations, is it the Lord, or is it the world? What do we glorify in our lives?

The Apostles passed on instruction to other disciples all the things that they had received and their greatest desire was to be faithful in imparting those instructions to us. So, Paul’s words to the Church of Thessalonica still hold true today…

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1–8, ESV)

The Spirit wants to work in our lives, but we must listen to the things that have been passed on to us, and seeking His wisdom through Prayer, the word of God, and the People of God. Let’s learn from what Paul imparted to Timothy…

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” (2 Timothy 1:6–10, ESV)

Fan the flame, share the good news of Christ, keep the Temple of God Holy and allow the Spirit to shine brightly through our lives in the unity of the whole body. We are to be the city on the hill that cannot be dimmed. Our lives must be lived so we do not prevent the spirit from working through us to accomplish the works he has prepared beforehand in Christ that we should walk in them.

Quenching the Spirit – Part 1

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–22, ESV)

Have you ever considered what it truly means to “quench the Spirit”? As I was reading through 1 Thessalonians, I came across this verse again and had to stop and think about it. What does it mean to quench the Spirit, or better what do we do to not quench the Spirit? If we do quench the Spirit how does that impact our lives in Christ?

To really answer this question, we must first look at how the Spirit works in the body of believers.

The testimony of the Scriptures shows us God’s spirit at work in the lives of His people, and with the resurrection of our Lord, the actions of the Spirit of God have been made new in the people that God is calling back to himself. What are those things that we see of the Spirit in Scripture?

First, as in Genesis, He gives life. Jesus expressed this in the passage that we quote so often – “Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”” (John 3:3–8, ESV) Being born of the Spirit is considered the new life of every believer called by God.

Then what happens after that? The spirit (whom we are told is sent forth from the father and son – another expression for our benefit) will teach us (Jn 14:26), bear witness to the life of Jesus (Jn 15:26), guide us in all truth (Jn 16:13), represent the power of God in the lives of his people (Acts 1:8, Rom 8:26, 15:13), bears witness to our spirit that we are His children (Rom 8:16, Gal 4:6), instill in us the qualities of God’s character (Gal 5:22), and as it is in Genesis, the Spirit Speaks. (Rev 2:29, 3:6, 3:22)

A very important role of the Spirit in our lives is to give manifestations of Himself through the people of God. The Greek word for this word found in 1 Cor 12:7 is phanerosis and essentially means acts in which the Spirit manifests himself.[1] Paul speaking to the Corinthians discusses with them the Spiritual gifts of the body. There are all kinds of gifts given by the Holy Spirit which are to be used for that common good of the body. What I find interesting is that it says to each is given the manifestation, but if we are all given this, then why do we not see His power moving that well in the body today?

 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:4–11, ESV)

So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:12, ESV)

Are we living lives that allow the Spirit to manifest his presence through us, or are we doing things that hinders the Spirit in our lives?


[1] [2] [3] Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (p. 1245). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

Listen to Him!

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (John 15:10, ESV)

I was reading through the book of John and stopped on this verse. As I pondered over it, it struck me that it had a very subtle idea in the text. We are to obey Jesus’s commandments just as Jesus kept His Fathers commandments. In the past I usually tossed this verse up to the fact that Jesus is God, so therefore he is referring to God’s commandments. Lately I am not as sure of this. I asked myself, what are the commands of the Christ? What kind of things do we see in the gospels? Then we have Acts and the rest of the apostolic writings, what do they reveal to us?

Let’s first dive into Acts 15, this is a pivotal point in the book of Acts in regards to how the early assemblies of believers would deal with the gentile issue and the law.

When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”” (Acts 15:4–5, ESV)

The problem then was that Jewish believers in the Christ were trying to insist that gentiles convert Judaism by getting circumcised and then keeping the Law of Moses. But in the end, it was decided through a quote from Amos that gentiles were to adhere to 4 things so that it would be well. Not to save them, but to allow them to have fellowship with the circumcised. But was that just a starting point, and then they would follow the law of Moses? I am not so sure of this anymore. After reading and praying carefully through the writings of Paul, keeping in mind the context of second temple writings, I am not fully convinced.

But before I get to Paul, are there other subtle clues in the gospels to consider? What about the transfiguration of Jesus that James, John, and Peter witnessed? What can we take away from that encounter that impacted Peter so much that he would later write about it in his own letter?

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Matthew 17:1–5, ESV)

Jesus is with Moses and Elijah who represent both the Law and the Prophets in the Scriptures. They hear a voice from heaven say that this is my beloved son…LISTEN TO HIM. They fall on their face and when they look up Jesus is alone. Later the writer of Hebrews would tell us that in the past God spoke to us through the prophets but now He is speaking to us through His Son. He would then go on to show that Jesus is greater than the angels, and then the Jesus is greater than Moses.

I also noticed something else that is very subtle in the gospels. Jesus changes one of the foundational laws given in the law of Moses. To get the full impact of this let’s first take a look at what Jesus teaches a certain lawyer that had come to Jesus to put Him to the test.

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” (Matthew 22:35–40, ESV)

So, Jesus tells the Lawyer that the great commandment is to Love the Lord your God…and then to love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commands depend all the law and prophets. Now look at what Jesus is teaching his disciples in John 15, part of a long teaching that Jesus gave before he went to the cross.

““This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:12–14, ESV)

Instead of loving your neighbor as yourself, which is very man focused, Jesus tells them that this is His commandment to love one another as I have loved you. This changes the whole focus of the command from man to Jesus. He is now the center of this command. He is the focus and our love should reflect to others the way has loved us…sacrificially. What is even more compelling is the fact that Jesus changed the command. That is definitely something to think about. It is also important to note that it ends with “You are my Friends IF you do what I command you”

Before I could move on though, I had to then think about what Jesus meant in Matthew…

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished……For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17–18, 20, ESV)

Let’s get some context here. Jesus is speaking to his disciples with crowds also gathered around as he teaches what we would label the sermon on the mount. Right before he dives in to give us principles that take the law and drive it down to our heart, he tells them that he has come to fulfill them. He also notes that until heaven and earth pass away not one iota or dot will change until all things are accomplished. That is interesting considering that he changes one of those commands in the writings of John.

Let’s first look at that word fulfill. Many have tried to use this to support going one direction or another. I really like the Theological Dictionary of the NT’s definition:

In Mt. 5:17 (b) the idea is not simply that of validating the law as distinct from abolishing it. The goal of Jesus’ mission is fulfilment. He does not simply affirm the law and the prophets but actualizes the will of God that is declared in them from the standpoint of both promise and demand.(1)

When you join this with what Jesus taught on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection:

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25–27, ESV)

They all point to Him; He is the focus of it all. So, could the words on the cross that Jesus spoke right before He died be what He meant on the mount when He said “until all things are accomplished? John, the only disciple that was at the cross when Jesus died records it as such:

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:28–30, ESV)

There are arguments on both sides of the fence on this, but the idea behind the Greek word used for finished is tetelestai. In the LXX this word has such senses as goal, result, conclusion, or accomplished.(1) So if all the law and the prophets point to him and he has accomplished all the demands and requirements of the law, I would think that finished is related to “until all is accomplished”.

After Jesus rose from the grave and ascended into heaven, the disciples began to meet together daily with many of those coming to believe in the Christ, one of the things that occupied their time was that they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching. I would have loved to be around then. Can you imagine the excitement, the passion, the loyalty that they had to following Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit? Why did Luke tell us the apostles teaching and not the teaching of the law, or the study of the Scripture which all Jewish people of the time held in the highest esteem.

Moving through the book of Acts there are things we could dive into but we eventually come to Acts 15 and to the ministry that Paul has to the gentiles. As I discussed earlier in this post the problem that was in view was that Jewish believers were wanting the gentile believers to convert to Judaism and follow the law of Moses on top of believing in the Christ.

So, I have looked at and pondered a fair amount of text, there is so much more that can be said but I don’t want to write a book. I don’t want to leave though without saying that the principles found in the law of Moses are still of value. But that value must be found in the light of the Christ and the teachings of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

I finish with this idea from Romans with collaborates that love, as Christ loved, is ultimately part of the primary commands that we are to obey today. Paul uses a familiar phrase, but we know that ultimately Jesus moves it’s focus to him. He is the focal point of all things.

 “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:8–10, ESV)

As I ponder all these things, I am sure I will revisit this subject in the near future.

Shalom

[1] Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1985). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (p. 869). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

The Triune Nature of God

Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:11, ESV)

When Jesus was giving one of his most beautiful prayers before his crucifixion. Jesus was praying for us to have unity, just as he and the Father where one. Just a few minutes on the web looking at Christian blogs, articles, and various group specific writings I would say that we are far from being one.

One such area where this is most obvious is arguments over the word Trinity. Yes, it is a word that is not found in the scripture, yes, at times the political agenda of some ancient church organizations have abused the term, but does that mean it is wrong?

It is believed that Tertullian was the first to use the trinity sometime between 160-225 AD, but this is just a term, a definition that allows him to explain the concept in a way to try and help someone understand his position. But, do we see evidence of the triune nature of God before this term was used? (Update – Turns out someone used the term earlier than him, Theophilis of Antioch. He used the term in a way that sounds like people already had heard it before)

The verse that I quoted above from John 17 hints at Jesus and the Father being one. Let’s examine some other passages that we can find in the writings of the apostles and early church leaders.

But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:4–15, ESV)

This first verse is long, but it is very important. This is Jesus teaching through a long discourse with his disciples. In the previous section Philip asked for Jesus to show them the father and Jesus responds by saying that if you have seen Him, you have seen the Father. In John 16:4-15 Jesus is explaining what is going to happen after He leaves. He tells them that if He does not leave then the Helper will not come. Jesus is going to send Him, and he is going to convict the world concerning sin. The word “he” in this translation comes from the Greek word “ekeinos” and is a pronoun that refers to distant persons or things, or persons or things that have already been mentioned.1

Jesus continues and says:

  • I will send Him
  • When He comes He will convict
  • He hears and He will speak
  • He will glorify Jesus

We should also note that the word for Him in this passage is the Greek word “Autos” which is a reference to a specific person or persons spoken or written about.

Later in the text Jesus says this:

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25–26, ESV)

In the previous section Jesus tells them that He is going to send the Helper, in this section He tells them that the Helper, The Holy Spirit (“ho hagion pneuma”) will be sent by the Father and will bring remembrance of the teachings of Jesus. This section alludes to a triune nature of God but very subtly. It definitely suggests a very personal interaction between all three.

Take a look at a few more verses:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26–27, ESV)

Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34, ESV)

Here the Spirit is interceding for us, but just a few verses later we have Jesus interceding for us, I find this very interesting.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14, ESV)

The word used here for fellowship is the Greek word “koinonia” and is a word that means to have close mutual relationship or involvement and is very relational. Not sure you can have a relational experience if the Holy Spirit is just God’s power. We must also ask this question, Paul a Pharisee, a Jew of Jews brings the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and fellowship of the Spirit together in the closing remark. Paul, one who would believe in the ONE God brings all three together and seems to give them all equal position.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2–5, ESV)

The verses above are full of 3 separate descriptions of how God is representing himself to us His creation. They are all described with personable characteristics. I know that it is harder for someone who may be Jewish to understand a term like trinity, but it is our job to just preach the good news. I may not use that word if I were ministering to that culture but that does not mean it is a horrible creation of the church and thus cause the amazing amount of arguments that separate people from being one. I still am wondering whose agenda we want to follow. Ours or that of the Christ.

What did some of the earliest Church fathers write about this? Let’s take a look:

Irenaeus: Know thou that every man is either empty or full. For if he has not the Holy Spirit, he has no knowledge of the Creator; he has not received Jesus Christ the Life; he knows not the Father who is in heaven;2

Methetes: We wish you, brethren, all happiness, while you walk according to the doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; with whom be glory to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, for the salvation of His holy elect, after whose example the blessed Polycarp suffered, following in whose steps may we too be found in the kingdom of Jesus Christ!3

Justin Martyr: Melchizedek was described by Moses as the priest of the Most High, and he was a priest of those who were in uncircumcision, and blessed the circumcised Abraham who brought him tithes, so God has shown that His everlasting Priest, called also by the Holy Spirit Lord, would be Priest of those in uncircumcision.4

These are just a few selections from these early writers, there are a lot more. In the end though the concept of the triune nature of God has existed through the apostolic writings and even the early church leaders. When it really comes down to it, are we just quibbling over words? Is it just so we can show that we are right and they are not? Do you really think this is what loving as Christ loved us means?

I have written about this once before in this blog, but I keep coming across it. People that have great influence over people, who have books published, who go around and speak to many people, are teaching things that seem to divide the body, not unify. I stand by my final statement in my previous post…

“None of the groups out there have all the right answers, even God has told us that every inclination of our hearts is evil. That includes me and you. So before we criticize, lets figure out how to lift each other up, encourage, equip, and edify the body. If someone does not agree with you, have productive discussions on the subject and pray for one another. Then maybe we can be ONE like the Father, Spirit and Son Are One.”

Original Article – fttps://rcannata7.wordpress.com/2016/06/28/dis-unity/

 1Balz, H. R., & Schneider, G. (1990–). Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

2 Irenaeus of Lyons. (1885). Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenæus. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Vol. 1, p. 572). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

3 Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (Eds.). (1885). The Encyclical Epistle of the Church at Smyrna. In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Vol. 1, p. 43). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

4 Justin Martyr. (1885). Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Vol. 1, p. 211). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

 

Enlightening the Eyes

“the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;” (Psalm 19:8b, ESV)

The day that I am writing this is in the time of the counting of the Omer and in just a short while, we will have arrived at Shavuot, the day that it is believed that God gave the commandments from Mt Sinai to the people of Israel.

It is wonderful that the part of Psalm 19 that I am looking at today is focused on “the commandment of the Lord”.

What does this word commandment really convey to us? What does it mean that it is pure, and how does it enlighten the eyes?

The Hebrew word for commandment here is “mitzvah” and if we were to look at a handful of verses where the word is used, you should get a fairly good idea of what it conveys….

“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.” (Deuteronomy 6:1–2, ESV)

Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.” (Deuteronomy 8:5–6, ESV)

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” (Deuteronomy 30:11–14, ESV)

Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so.” (Judges 2:17, ESV)

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;” (Proverbs 2:1–2, ESV)

My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,” (Proverbs 6:20–23, ESV)

At a top level, the word seems to be pretty strait forward. It is used in the sense of a father’s instruction to his son, or a king to his servants, and when we put it in perspective of the words of Jesus, that the Kingdom of God is at hand, then we see a structure for a culture where we are ruled by God’s instruction and in that, he desires that we walk in obedience to those instructions. What is very important to see, especially in light of Deut 30:11-14 is that they are not very difficult for us, and it would seem that the Lord provides all the means and ability to accomplish His instruction. If you continue to pour through the many verses that contain this word you will also notice that God desires to bless those who walk in obedience to His commands, and yet as in the Garden of Eden, rebellion against his instruction brings forth discipline. Again, the perfect model of a father-son relationship.[1]

So, what does it mean that God’s instructions are pure? The Hebrew word here is “bar” and at it’s root has the sense of being pure, radiant, bright, and clean. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament speaks of the Arabic variation of the word having the sense of reverent, dutiful, devoted, kind, charitable, virtuous, and good. It also mentions that in Akkadian the verb form has the meaning of “to glitter” and as an adjective, the word means pure, as in a pure metal with no contaminates. Looking through the Psalms and Proverbs the adjective also has the sense of something pure or a quality of moral purity.[1]

The next word to consider is the word “enlightening” which has at its root the Hebrew word “or” which is the same word used for light. This word has variations that are translated as shine, give light, brighten, Glorious, shining brighter and brighter, and simply give light. The word can also mean “to become light”.

Finally, we must think about the word for “eyes”. It is the Hebrew word “ayin” and I really like what the Theological Wordbook provides as an opening to its explanation of this word…

More than the eye itself is implied by this word. Occasionally it represents the whole process of seeing and by extension, of understanding and obedience (Jer 5:21). However, in the ot it is the ear which is generally used in this figurative way. The eye is used to express knowledge, character, attitude, inclination, opinion, passion, and response. The eye is a good barometer of the inner thoughts of man.[1]

So, a good way to think about this verse is that God’s instruction is so perfect and pure that as we gaze upon its beauty, it will give us understanding, help us walk a life of obedience, it has an impact on our character, attitude, inclination, passions and ultimately, if the eye is a good barometer of the inner thoughts of a man, then God’s instructions should reveal when our thoughts are not where they need to be and bring us to a place of repentance.

Let us gaze diligently at the beauty of God’s instruction and let it transform our lives into lives that are full of understanding, and a desire to walk in humble obedience to our God.

[1] Schultz, C. (1999). 1612 עִין. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 662). Chicago: Moody Press.