Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Get Back to the First Century: Difficult Passages

Acts 2: Pentecost

This chapter in the Renewed Covenant is touted to be the documentation of the birth of the church. However the church was birthed at Mount Sinai.

Acts 7:38
This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sinai, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:

Yes, it’s Pentecost, the event when the Holy Spirit showed up in a mighty way and kicked off a revival for the Nazarene Jewish Believers. Many forget that Pentecost wasn’t an invention of the early church, but has its roots in Torah and Judaism. The Disciples of Yeshua were keeping the “Old Testament” Law by celebrating this Feast! Clearly, if the Law had been done away with and Yeshua taught His Disciples so, then they wouldn’t have met to observe this Biblical Festival.

Let me give you a little bit of background regarding Shavu’ot (Pentecost)

And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the Lord. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the firstfruits unto the Lord. And ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of the first year, and one young bullock, and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat offering, and their drink offerings, even an offering made by fire, of sweet savour unto the Lord. Then ye shall sacrifice one kid of the goats for a sin offering, and two lambs of the first year for a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. – Lev. 23:15-21

Biblical Month: Sivan

Secular Month: May/June

Shavu’ot (Pentecost) also known as the Feast of Weeks. It is a High Holy Day, but it doesn’t seem to be as well-known or as popular as Passover or Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), but it is in some ways the central Feast, because without Shavu’ot, there would be no Sabbath, or Passover, or Yom Kippur, because Shavu’ot is first and foremost the commemoration of the giving of the Torah which tells us about and commands us to celebrate the High Holy Days as recorded in Leviticus 23. It also commemorates the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) who shows us how to live out the Torah (Law) correctly. 

Pesach (Passover) through Shavuot (including the Feast of First Fruits) should be seen as a continuous process. If you have accepted the true Passover Lamb (Jn. 1:29; 1 Cor. 5:7), you are promised resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20-23) because He, Yeshua, is the first fruits of the greater resurrection harvest, and you are part of the body of the Messiah (Acts 2;1 ; 1 Cor. 12:13).

Lev 23:15 And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 

 16Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. 

 20And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits for a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. 

 21And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. 

 22And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God. 

 Num. 19:10 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes, 

 11And be ready against the third day: for the third day the LORD will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. 

 12And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: 

 13There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet soundeth long, they shall come up to the mount. 

 14And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes. 

 15And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives. 

 16And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. 

 17And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. 

 18And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. 

 19And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. 

 20And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up. 

Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 

 3And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 

 4And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 

 5And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 

 6Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 

 7And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? 

 8And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? 

 9Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, 

 10Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, 

 11Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. 

It is traditional to hear the reading of the 10 Commandments, and it is also traditional to read the Book of Ruth which is all about harvest, but also hints about Acts, when Gentiles would be welcomed into the Body of Messiah because Ruth was a Gentile, who converted to Judaism, and married Boaz, a Jew, and is also in the linage of Messiah Yeshua (Matt. 1:5).

Because Torah is seen as our spiritual food that was given to the fledgling nation of Israel in the Wilderness, it is seen as milk given to a baby and so it is traditional to consume dairy products on this day as well, in commemoration of the Torah.

Since it’s about first fruits, it is also traditional to decorate the home and synagogue with flowers and harvest-y type things.

Three days prior to Shavuot, it is traditional to abstain from sexual relations and carries some of the restrictions of Yom Kippur, because God commanded the Israelites to purify themselves 3 days before He came and gave the Torah (Law) at Sinai. The night before, it is traditional to stay up all night and study the Torah with friends, since the Holiday is focused on the giving of the Torah.

Yeshua Messiah is the first fruit of the resurrection; He is also the Living Manifestation of the Written Torah. These are some ways Shavuot teaches us a little more about the Messiah. 

You see, Pentecost is a Harvest Festival, but also the celebration of the Giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. So what happened at Sinai? In Exodus 19 we see a mighty blast of the shofar (rams horn/trumpet) which represents the mighty wind in Acts. We also see the Mount blaze with fire, and did not fire rest on the people in Acts 2? And finally, Rabbinic tradition states that Israel and the mixed multitude (a representative of the 70 root nations of the world) with them heard the Torah in their own language and in like manner the Jews/Israelites from all over the world, speaking all different kinds of languages heard God’s Holy Spirit inspired Words from the people in their own language!

41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:41-47

Notice here that the people gladly received the word that Yeshua was the Divine Promised Messiah that as to come (v.41). They continued in the Apostle’s doctrine, which as we have already established was the correct way according to Messiah Himself, how to live out the Torah and signs confirmed this (v.42-43). They continued worshiping at the Temple in Jerusalem where sacrifices were being offered (v.46). This means if they even though the Law had been done away with and the Temple and its services obsolete, why would they even be there!? Secondly, they still mingled with, and were accepted by mainstream Judaism, if not they would have been ban from the Temple area. They met in their homes for fellowship and Jews were coming to Messiah daily (v.46-47)!

So we see, The Apostle and the Jewish Believers in Acts 2 continued observing the Law.

Acts 10: Peter’s Vision

Here’s a passage that practically all of modern day Christianity believes it is dealing with the Divine renunciation of the Levitical Dietary Laws when in fact the passages has nothing to do with food.

On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.
15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven. – Acts 10:9-16

First off, Peter’s time of prayer, the sixth hour, which is around noon, which would be the tradition time for Jewish Afternoon (Mincha) prayers. Here we see Peter being and living as a traditional Jew and as such, not believing the Torah, especially the dietary laws, in any way had been abolished by Messiah.

Secondly, the sheet, lowered down by four corners resembles a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl worn by Jews during Morning, Afternoon and Evening prayers. Just another indication that Jewish custom and tradition was being follow and observed by Peter.

Third, it shocked Peter that God would say to kill and eat the unclean, the unkosher animals within the tallit, seeing as Peter declared he had never ate anything that the Torah prohibits as a food source. If Yeshua came to do away with the Law why would Peter, years later still be eating kosher if Yeshua “freed” us from that!? The vision bewildered (Acts 2:17) Peter in much the same way I’m sure it shocked Abraham when God told him to perform a human sacrifice and kill Isaac. Both, eating unclean animals and human sacrifice is prohibited by God. It was a test of faithfulness, trust and obedience. Also, it was a shock value lesson to bring across a very important point that God didn’t want Abraham or Peter to forget. In Abraham’s place, that God keeps His promises and provides and in Peter’s case we will soon see.

The vision Peter had, had nothing to do with his diet, but with how one viewed Gentile’s, either non-Jews or Hellenized Jews who lived as Gentiles. Note that the vision was given three times and three Gentile men showed up at the door looking for Peter. For issues regarding ritual cleanness Jews and Gentiles didn’t chum around and never kept company at each other’s houses. This was not a Torah command but a Pharisaical tradition to separate and not have relations with Gentiles. But, because of the vision, when the three Gentiles showed up at the door wanting him to come with them to Cornelius’ house, he went. Why? Because it clicked for Peter what the vision meant and he declared such when he was speaking in Cornelius’ home. Peter never mentions the Levitical dietary Laws being done away with as being the meaning of the vision, such an interpretation isn’t found anywhere in the Scriptures. This interpretation has been made by people outside the context of Scripture based on their assumption and bias that the Torah has been done away with by the advent of Messiah Yeshua.

28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me (in the vision) that I should not call any man common or unclean. – Acts 10:28 – (italics mine)

Peter then is questioned by the Jewish brethren regarding his excursion to the house of a Gentile, and Peter recounts the vision and AGAIN confirms the interpretation of the vision to be dealing with people and not food.

And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.
But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.
But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. – Acts 11:7-9

This shows not only Peter continued to eat kosher years after Yeshua ascended into heaven but the other Jewish brothers did also!

The Jewish brethren confirmed and also concluded that Peter’s vision was about people and not food.

18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. – Acts 11:18

This cannot be any clearer and definitive that Peter’s vision was not a Divine changing of the dietary Laws.

This vision is not unique to Peter. Hosea prophetically had a similar vision symbolically identifying Gentiles as unclean animals and that one day they will lie down peacefully together with God’s chosen people, symbolized by clean animals, symbolizing fellowship and inclusion.

18 And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely.
19 And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.
20 I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord
23 And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. – Hosea 2:18-20, 23

Acts 15: The Jerusalem Council

This chapter in Acts is often used to declare that the Law has been done away with and is not applicable to the Gentiles coming to the Faith. We will see this is not true.

The argument is based on the false notion that one has to be circumcised in order to be saved. These were unbelievers from outside the Jerusalem Council who believed in a salvation based on works. This issue was taken by Paul and Barnabas to the Jerusalem Council to be discussed and hashed out.

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. – Acts 15:1

Again, circumcision as a means of salvation and keeping Rabbinic customs are the issue here, not keeping the Law itself. There were some Pharisees a part of the Jerusalem Council, (yes, Pharisees who accepted Yeshua as the Divine Promised Messiah) they were the ones who agreed that circumcision was a necessary requirement in obedience to the Law, but not as a means of salvation. The Pharisees also mentioned the necessity to teach Gentiles to obey the Torah, again, not for the purpose of salvation, but for the purpose of obedience to God`s Laws.

But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. – Acts 15:5

Peter pipes up and agrees that the Gentiles are to be included and welcomed and are saved into the Faith by faith and not works and refers back to the vision God gave him in Acts 10.

And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. – Acts 15:7-9

James, the leader of this council confirms Peter’s vision regarding the inclusion of the Gentiles and uses Scripture to back this up.

13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.
19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: - Acts 15:13-19

So, what of this “yoke” that is mentioned in verse 10? And what of, the troubling of the Gentiles in verse 19?

 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? - Acts 15:10

Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: - Acts 15:19

Peter was making the point and implied that despite our fallen human nature we can obey the Law out of love and obedience, as we should, because it is doable and not a heavy burden (Deut. 30:11-16, I John 4:23), but not keep it perfectly without ever breaking it, and so circumcision would be pointless and is an invalid means of salvation. Because after you become circumcised and sin, as Paul states later in Romans, your circumcision would be like uncircumcision (Rom. 2:25). Circumcision (faith) of the heart is what counts. And so the unreasonable “burdensome yoke” Peter is referring to is the doctrine that circumcision saves you as well as obedience to the Oral Torah, the Rabbinic additions to the Law in the guise of customs and traditions based on the Law. Because who and or what sect you were circumcised under, you were expected to keep the Torah and its Rabbinic customs and traditions the way that particular group did, and not deviate from it one iota. Salvation via the Law is impossible, that’s why Grace is necessary.

So this “unbearable yoke” in Acts 15:10 is the same as, “…your tradition which you had handed down to you…” in Mark 7:13, again speaking of the Oral Torah and Rabbinic Jewish interpretation on how to live out the Torah. Yeshua said His yoke, His way for people to obey Torah was “easy” and “light” (Matt.11:30).

For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?
27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?
28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
29 But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God. – Romans 2:25-29

Now what of James’ words?

Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: - Acts 15:19

Again, James agrees that the Law has not been done away with but that no one is to trouble the Gentiles with the false doctrine regarding salvation by circumcision and the adherence to the Oral Torah of the Rabbinic sects.

As confirmation, here is the follow up verse to what James brought up in verse 19.

Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: - Acts 15:24

So the verdict of this debate was that no one is to bother the Gentiles by falsely teaching that one has to be circumcised and keep Rabbinic edicts to be saved but that obedience to the Law would be taught as the Torah is read every Sabbath in synagogues and so they will eventually learn how to correctly obey the Torah. Because it is simply unreasonable to expect new believers to automatically know and keep all the Commandments. But in the meantime, because these Gentiles are come out of paganism and idolatry and need to make a clean break with such a past, they should immediately keep these four laws from what the Rabbi’s call, “the Heart of the Torah” so that there will be no conflict with Jews and Gentiles fellowshipping together at the table over a meal.

20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. – Acts 15:20-21

Because all of these things were related to pagan worship; strangling a sacrifice, temple prostitution, drinking blood and worshiping idols.

We see John the Revelator address this very issue in Thyatira in Rev. 2:18-29.

Also, prior to Rabbinic Judaism, in Pre-Maccabean Judaism, conversion simply consisted of a Gentile simply attaching themselves to Israel through the People and the Land. Nowhere in God’s Word is there a ceremony for Gentiles to convert to Judaism. Rather the Torah states that all a Gentile has to do is attach him/herself to Israel and her God, meaning obeying the Commands of this God. Num. 15:16 states that there is to be ONE LAW for Israel and the foreigner that attaches themselves to Israel. Thus, no ritual is outlined to become a proselyte.

The Greek word “proselutos” where we get the word proselyte, came to mean, a Gentile who converted to Judaism during the Greco-Roman diaspora and not before. And so we see this Greek word used in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Tanak/Old Testament) referring to Gentiles who were not converts in Exd. 3:9, 22:21, Lev. 19:34, and Lev. 25:23.

This Hebrew word “ger” was translated with the Greek word “proselutos” and we see a Rabbinic translation bias emerge in Leviticus 19:34

“But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

The first and second half of the verse uses the word “ger” which is Hebrew for “stranger” and or synonym of the term, “gentile” and the first usage in the Greek they use, “proselutos” in an attempt to imply a Gentile convert to Judaism and in the second half they use the Greek word “avens,” to imply a simple foreigner, when in fact in the Hebrew they are one and the same word, “ger” stranger or foreigner, not convert.

However, in Isaiah 56:3:

Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.

The Hebrew word for “son of the stranger,” is, “ben haneichar,” they use the Greek word, “allogenes” and not “prosolutos” when clearly the passage speaks of foreigners that are Torah obedient, but not converted through ritual circumcision.

So you see, one does not have to be circumcised to obey Torah.
For more information on difficult and seemingly antinomian (against the Law) passages of the Renewed Covenant (New Testament) please see Appendix C.