Category Archives: Apostolic Writings

John 15:25–16:11: Tag-team Comforters of Israel

Apostle Yokhanan frequently describes Yeshua’s role as Advocate and the Spirit’s role as Helper, particularly in John 14–16. The gospels of Mark and Matthew use the term a couple of times. 

The Helper not only will remind believers of Yeshua’s words but also fully bring prepare them to  comfort. 

The Greek word for helper in Jn. 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7 (cf. Mt. 10:19f; Mk. 13:11; Lk. 12:11f) is παράκλητος paraklētos (G3875), derived from the word παρακαλέω parakaleō (G3870).

God’s Parakletos for Israel foretold

In the Septuagint (Greek translation of the “Old Testament”), parakletos is used for the Hebrew word נחַם nocham (H5164, repentance) and its verb root נָחַם nacham (H5162, to breathe deeply or to sigh out of a deep sorrow). This is the kind of deep sorrow, a sorrow too deep for words that the Holy Spirit translates for us and lifts up to the Father. 

In the intertestamental literature (between the time of the writing of Malachi and Matthew), the name Menakhem, or “instrument of nacham,” is another name for the Mashiakh (Messiah, Christ). The Menakhem would be the consolation of Israel. The prophets promised return from exile(s) and foretold the coming of the Mashiakh. This idea of the Menakhem was not just someone who would come in on a horse but also one who would take away one’s distress and bring comfort. 

The Comforter is also an Advocate who speaks to us before the Father and the Messiah also is an advocate who brings comfort to His people. You see this mirrored in Revelation, when the Menakhem will take away the sorrow and there will be no more distress or anguish. 

Just as God breathed into man to become living being and to become a “reborn” person in the Kingdom of God, God “sighs” over the agony of those who suffer.

According to Scripture, both the Mashiakh and the Spirit of God act as “the consolation of Israel.”

Hated without a cause

Yeshua returned to the message of God’s Helper ― παράκλητος / מְנַחֵם. 

“They hated me without a cause.” (Jn. 15:25)

Those who persecute Yeshua and His disciples hate God, Who sent the Messiah.

The power of God displayed through Yeshua’s words, miracles and actions were in line with Messianic prophecy testify, and the Spirit confirms these by reminding us of them and putting them into the context of the plan of the Kingdom of God. The Jewish leadership were well-versed in Torah and had memorized large portions of Scripture so knowledgeable speakers could quote just a small snipped of Scripture and the hearers who were very learned would understand the entire context of the snipped quote. 

Yeshua is warning His Apostles that just as people hated Him, they will hate them too. 

This is a quotation from Psalm 35:

“Do not let those who are wrongfully my enemies rejoice over me; Nor let those who hate me without cause wink maliciously. For they do not speak peace, But they devise deceitful words against those who are quiet in the land. They opened their mouth wide against me; They said, ‘Aha, aha, our eyes have seen it!'”(Psa. 35:19–21; cf. 69:4)

What is “winking maliciously”? This is “narrowing the eyes” or pinching your eyes together. There’s a lot of angst and anger in the expression. It’s an outward sign of aggression. The Hebrew euphemism is שֹׂנְאַי חִנָּם sheyn’ai khinnam = hating graciously, i.e., freely, without cost. 

What is “hating graciously”? The Talmud gives us an insight into that phrase. Sages reflecting on the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 also noted how “free hate” was a big problem for that generation. This hatred was like an illness eating away at the heart of the people of Israel:

“Why was the Second Sanctuary destroyed, seeing that in its time they occupied themselves with studying Torah, obeying mitzvot and practicing charity? Because in it prevailed hatred without a cause. That fact serves to teach you: gratuitous hatred weighs in the balance against the three cardinal sins of idolatry, fornication, and murder.” (Yoma 1.3.5.R–S (9b))

Yeshua touched on this issue when He rebuked them saying: 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23 NASB)

You see this in the kangaroo court nature of the proceedings against Yeshua, Stephen and later the Apostle Paul. The Jewish court was not concerned about justice and doing what was right. They did not protect their fellow Jew but threw them to the Roman wolves.

You see this also in the story of King Saul and David. Saul knew that he had sinned so egregiously that his crown and anointing was given to David. Saul had been chosen as the leader but he was deviating from God’s instructions. God stopped talking to Saul and that pain of that silence was devastating to Saul but he took it out on David. He even tried to break into God’s back door by speaking with mediums. 

David wrote Ps. 35 during this period of turmoil. 

Israel had stopped listening to God during the Maccabean period moving into the First Century. There was a revival when the people returned to the Land after exile in Babylon but they quickly devolved after that. The people stopped listening so God stopped talking. The prophets who were heralding the consolation of Israel, the Messiah, were ignored. 

The Sages shifted their views in what the Messiah was supposed to be to the point where today there are many different views of Messiah but none of them match the truth. 

You can understand why Yeshua is quoting Psalm 35 here. The majority of the leaders thought they were doing the will of God by helping Saul chasing down David. 

Spirit convicts on sin, righteousness, judgment

The three convictions by the Spirit upon the world will be “sin and righteousness and judgment” (Jn. 16:8). 

They didn’t want to listen to God or ask for God’s help to understand what was coming. They didn’t want clarity from God. There were a few who reached out to Yeshua such as Nicodemus. There were also a group of priests we read about in the Book of Acts reached out too, but they were not the majority. 

Most of the Jewish leadership heard the words of God about the coming Menakhem–Mashiakh, but they didn’t want to listen or ask for God’s help ― Helper ― to discover and recognize God at work. They were more concerned about the Romans taking away their position than they were about knowing their Messiah. They hated Messiah Yeshua without cause. 

“and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me;” (John 16:10 NAS95)

Dependence on visual signs of God’s power at work can be a roadblock to trust in God.

Yeshua said to a royal official from Capernaum who asked Him to come heal his sick son: “ ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.’ ” (John 4:48) He trusted Yeshua’s word without Yeshua being physically present with his son. That fait was rare. 

You also see that Yeshua had “breathed ― passed along ― the Spirit to 10 closest students, Thomas the Twin came in but wanted lots of physical evidence of Yeshua’s resurrection. On Yeshua’s visit to them eight days later, Thomas confesses not only the truth of Yeshua’s resurrection but Yeshua’s identity as God. Thomas didn’t even touch Yeshua to confirm. Yeshua told him: 

“Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.'” (Jn. 20:29)

This is the reason that Yeshua, the Parakletos had to leave and the other Parakletos had to come. They needed more boldness and more power now that Yeshua would not be physically present on the earth. 

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1Pet. 1:6–9)

This is why Yeshua had to leave. We see the immense, horrific trials that people who hate God freely do to those who trust in God, yet they trust God with their lives. For example, the martyrs who have been butchered by ISIS in Syria, Libya and Iraq are not throwing their lives away but are making a proclamation of God’s greatness. 

It is not random that the Apostle Yokhanan uses the same word to describe both Yeshua and the Holy Spirit. The people kept demanding a sign and Yeshua said the only sign you will get is the sign of Jonah. The people of Nineveh were told that 40 days and you will be dead. They repented so much that they even made their animals repent. This foreign nation had more trust in God than the nation the prophet Jonah came from.

They had a prophet Yokhanan the Baptist, they had Yeshua, they had the Apostles going two-by-two throughout the land. They had a chance to repent and did not take it. 

Everyone has a bias. There is no such thing as objectivity and detached. But you can test and see if your bias is valid or not. You can have a hypothesis but as the experiment goes, do you skew your readings to fit your hypothesis or can you acknowledge the hypothesis is wrong? 

Even those who have no fleshly connection to Yeshua can put their trust in God because of the Holy Spirit. 

“concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (Jn. 16:11) Light had come, so darkness (places unlit) must run:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (Jn. 1:1–5; cf. spiritual things being spiritually discerned, 1Cor. 2:14)

The English word translated as comprehend is καταλαμβάνω katalambanō in Greek (G2638), which means to lay hold of so as to make one’s own or to seize. That’s why some translations use overcome or overpower.

People shrink from the light because they don’t want their deeds to be exposed. The ruler of this world brings darkness and confusion but in the light, it goes away because of the tag-team of Messiah Yeshua and the Holy Spirit. 

You become a new person with a new heart. It’s not a matter of a list of do’s and don’ts but God changes your inclinations so that you don’t want to do what is wrong. Yeshua and the Holy Spirit knows our deepest anguish. Yeshua lived it Himself and the Holy Spirit experiences it in us. That is why the Holy Spirit can translate our deepest groaning to God for us. 

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Jeff and Tammy. 

John 15:16-24: Bear ‘fruit’ via agape love for one another

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another.” (John 15:16–17 NASB; cf. Luke 12:51-53; 1 Cor. 1:10-13, 11:17-19, 12:24-26; Jude 1:17-21)

This phrase, “whatever you ask of the Father in My name … that you love one another” is a very important phrase to consider. We’ve encountered Yeshua’s phrase “whatever you ask” a couple times before in the Farewell Discourse (Jn. 14:13–14; 15:7) and we will once again before it’s complete (Jn. 16:23).

This points back to the parable of the vine and branches from the beginning of John 15. You know you have healthy vines and they are growing well, and the fruit is good when the members of the congregation chose to esteem each other higher than themselves. 

Sometimes you don’t know if you really esteem someone higher than yourself until you are put to the test. We are commanded to do this, though. It’s not optional but the good new is that it can get easier to highly esteem others as we practice it. We have the Helper to help us because we really need His help to love this way. This is hard and God knows that. 

One way that people can see that God is at work in our assembly is when they can see all of us speaking to each other and about each other in higher esteem than we speak of ourselves. 

One of the greatest “works,” “fruits” or “signs” of the origin of the trust and hope the followers of Yeshua the Mashiakh held would be their and our agapao love ― the choice to consider someone important ― for each other.

True followers agapao each other because they agapao Yeshua and Yeshua them. This is the heart of Yeshua’s command, “… love one another, even as I have loved you…” (John. 13:34; 15:12, 17; 1 John. 2:7; 3:11, 23; 2 John. 5).

We’ll see Yeshua take this command to a deeper level in John 17:

“Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.” (John. 17:11 NASB)

Not only are believers to esteem each other as important the way Yeshua did them ― selflessly ― believers were to do so the way the Father does the Son.

So, believers must be able to work out disagreements in ways that build up the assembly, rather than create divisions.

Yeshua’s rules for conflict resolution in Matthew 18:

  1. Try to settle the matter privately.
  2. Bring a trustworthy and mature witness, and try to settle it privately.
  3. Take it to the assembly, presumably where the leaders will guide the resolution. (Acts 15)

Apostle Paul advises us to never take our matter into the public eye or secular court.

Why? Because we nullify God’s testimony when we fail to get along, when we prefer to take our disagreements to a secular court rather than to each other. We don’t want the hard hammer of the law in our assembly. 

After all, didn’t Yeshua promise that He would bring division? People seem to think that offending people on purpose is to be expected when we follow Yeshua’s command but that is not necessarily the case. 

“Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:51–53 NASB)

The word division in this passage is translated from διαμερισμός diamerismos (G1267), which means disunion or dissension.

Other uses of division in the NT are the Greek word σχίσμα schisma (G4978). This the source of our word schism. It literally means a cleft, rip;  metaphorically, a division, dissension (John 7:43; 9:16; 10:19; 1Cor. 1:10; 11:18; 12:25). Heresy creates schisma

There are several texts where the Greek word schisma shows up, many of them are in Paul’s letter of 1Corinthians. There were several sources of schisma in the community. 

“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1Cor. 1:10–13)

We still have this type of schism in the Messianic community today. Everyone listens to a different teacher on the Internet and they argue with each other over which teacher is more educated and superior to the other and whose system for determining or counting this or that is more original to the text. The idea that you can’t be under the same roof with someone who prefers one teacher over another is not in Scripture. That is not  agape love, esteeming others higher than ourselves. 

“But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.” (1Cor. 11:17–19)

Bringing disparate factions together is part of God’s work.

“But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” (1Cor. 12:24–26)

This goes back to one of the key points of this letter to the Corinthians. They were going out of their way to accept a member who was indulging in a very wicked relationship but they were arguing with each other which teacher was the better teacher. 

“But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, ‘In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’ These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” (Jude 1:17–21)

Those who cause divisions are “worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.” When you assume that you are smarter, more holy than others in the community, you are separating yourself from that community. 

Rather, Spirit-minded believers are to be אחד ekhad — one — with each other and with God. We’ll see that in Yeshua’s prayer in John 17.

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Jeff and Tammy.

John 1:17 and Rom. 3:28: Two-faced scriptures on law and grace?

Some say that the Torah or “Old Testament” is irrelevant, obsolete (or whatever adjective to use) for believers in Yeshua (Jesus) as Savior and often cite certain Bible passages to bolster that claim: The Old Testament was then, the “New Testament” is now. 

A recent video teaching in Sean Hilton’s Be a Berean video series — “Mystery of Double-Minded Scriptures on Grace and Law” — compared about two dozen such passages with even more passages from the New Testament that seem to say the opposite. 

This session we are looking at these passages in particular: John 1:17 and Rom. 3:28. One of the purposes of this series is to spark conversation with family, friends to find out what the Bible is really tell us. Has the Bible been skewed to say what it doesn’t?

John 1:17: law of Moses vs. grace and truth of Yeshua

“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17 KJV)
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17 NIV, ESV)
“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17 NASB)

Some take this to mean there is a tension between the continued relevance and importance of the Torah to the live of a believer in Yeshua as God’s Messiah. But people are looking a this verse out of context. 

To get the context, let’s look at John 1:16: 

“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” (John 1:16 NASB)

Different English translations have different versions of this verse. Why? As scholar J.K. McKee explains it:

In v. 16, the Greek phrase χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος charin anti charitos ― “grace for grace” (KJV), “grace in place of grace already given” (NIV), “grace upon grace” (ESV, NASB) ― has set the stage for diverging views on v. 17: “a selection of interpreters conclud[e] that one revelation of God’s grace has been replaced by a further revelation.”

Charin is the Greek word for grace, it’s the root of our English word charity. The preposition after charin is anti. Anti is used in English as meaning against something, such as anti-Christ, anti-establishment. But in ancient common Greek, it is commonly seen as an exchange of one thing for another, one thing succeeding another or instead of something. So, to be superliteral, the phrase charin anti charitos, means “grace instead of grace.”

There’s grace from God before Yeshua arrived and grace with His arrival. So those who take a low view of Torah for Yeshua believers go to John 1:17 and see that the first act of grace God gave the world was His Law and then the grace and truth, embodied in Yeshua, came later. The argument goes that one is a replacement or an “instead of” for the other: Yeshua instead of Torah; Torah left, and grace and truth through Yeshua came. 

In the first century B.C. writings of Jewish philosopher Philo, he talks about how God’s mercy came down. He uses the Greek phrases charin and anti charitos, but Philo talks about it as a succession: God gave a first gift and then a second gift. That is why more modern English translations interpret John 1:17 as “grace upon grace.” God gave us good stuff  then more good stuff. 

There is a chiasm in John 1. That is a structure of poetry, in which the entire passage in which the first part matches the last part. You have a pairing of ideas that go from the top down and the bottom up until they reach a unique point in the middle. There are a number of chiasms in the gospel of John. John 1:1-18 are a chaiastic structure. 

In the chiasmus of John 1:16–18 are linked to John 1:1–5: God has been removing darkness from the  world since the beginning, and the full removal of the darkness on the character of God has been removed with the arrival of Yeshua and the Spirit of God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:1–5 NASB)

Instead of instead of or opposition between law and grace, you have a progression of God’s mercy. 

Another challenge comes from the KJV/NKJV addition of the contrasting conjunction but in John 1:17. The Greek language has several words that could be translated into English as either, and or but, such as the Greek words de, kai, or alla. None of these Greek words is in the original Greek text. The word but has been stricken from modern English translations of John 1:17 because it is not the original text.

Rom. 3:28: ‘works of the law’

The next verse we will consider is Rom. 3:28:

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Rom 3:28  KJV)

“For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Rom 3:28  NIV)

“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Rom 3:28 ESV)

The word the is added by English translators, because the Greek phrase literally is “works of law.” (The only Apostolic use of the Greek phrase with the equivalent of the in English is Rom. 2:15.) The question is works of what law? 

The English word justification means “not guilty” or “declared not guilty.” How is one declared not guilty? You will see in the Torah and the writings of the Apostles that this comes through trust in God, i.e. faith. That is the message of the entire scripture, going all the way back to Abraham, when God declared Abraham righteous because he trusted God’s promise of a son, who would be a blessing to all the nations. That trust was tested.  Abraham’s trust in God brought him to the point where his promise was taken away from him and then restored. 

 If it’s clear that we are justified by trust in God, faith in God, when what are the works of law? We know much more about this phrase thanks to recent translations of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which started coming out in the 1990s. It is in the document called 4QMMT. It is the Dead Sea Scrolls’ “righteousness document” written in Hebrew. The Hebrew phrase מעשי התורה ma’asei haTorah is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek phrase ἔργων νόμου ergon nomou, or “works of law.”

In the first century A.D., there were certain “works of law” that were Jewish badges of community inclusion (separation from goyim (gentiles), methods for Shabbat observance, circumcision). Many of these “works of law” were very nit-picking and were used to discern insiders vs. outsiders. 

Document 4QMMT gave biblical scholars a new perspective on Paul’s writings because this was an independent source using similar terminology to Paul that can help us understand Paul’s worldview better. 

Paul uses the phrase “works of [the] law” eight times in his writings (Gal. 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10; Rom. 3:20, 28). 

There were communities throughout the Jewish world trying to work out their own “works of law.” The book of Galatians discusses the issue of circumcision very deeply, for example. During the time of the Maccabees, the Greeks forbade any “works of law” such as celebrating Shabbat, circumcision, etc. After the Greeks were thrown out, these works of law were a profound source of Jewish identity. You see later in the time of Roman occupation, these works of law could also land you in serious jeopardy. 

Whether it’s the Essenes, the Pharisees, or the Sadducees, they all had their own ma’asei haTorah. You even see it show up in the Gospels. For example, there were those who fasted twice a week, but some fasted on Tuesdays and Thursdays and some fasted on Mondays and Wednesday and each group would look down on the other. 

There’s a subtext that you have to understand what was happening when these letters were written. You are looking at someone else’s mail, and you only see one side of the story. 

You are justified by your trust in God and His Messiah, not by your denomination’s ma’asei haTorah.

These different Jewish sects condemned other sects to damnation if they differed in this small matters. 

When you speak to other believers, these are not “trump cards” to beat them over the head with or use them as a “gotcha”? If you are dealing with people who are weaker in faith, don’t use your knowledge as a weapon to make them feel bad or oppress them. We are not to condemn someone, not to “win an argument” but to show them what God is doing. 

What God is doing here is grace upon grace. God gave us a profound gift to humanity in the Torah, showing us what is right and wrong. He kept revealing Himself to us through the prophets. He also gave us life lessons through the exiles and culminated in His Son. 

The point of this ma’asei haTorah discussion is to ask what is God going to respond to? God responds to your heart and your walk. He doesn’t respond to those who treat Him and His Torah like a lucky charm. What is your approach to God? 

Circumcision is only helpful if it’s a part of your heart connection to God. If you think it’s a magic charm, you are kidding yourself and mutilating your flesh. You are getting an operation for no good reason. 

If keeping the Shabbat is not connecting you to God and your neighbor and helping you connect God to the world, you are just wasting 24 hours you can use doing something else. 

If you think that using God like a magic charm is going to get His attention, you are wasting your time. The starting point is to trust in God. Once you have been declared “not guilty” what do you do from there? That is where the ma’asei haTorah can step in to help you walk with God. 

Acts 15 is an outgrowth of Acts 10. The question of what hurdles believers from the nations had to clear before joining the Body of Christ was answered in Acts 15: Four basic rules followed by a lifetime of Spirit-filled learning from God’s Word (Acts 15:21).

When you read Paul’s letters, you read about one group using ma’asei haTorah as a tool of oppression and using them to decide who is in the Kingdom and who is not.   

If you perform a ma’asei haTorah because someone else commands you to do so, that is a problem. They can be beneficial but if you are using them as a way to separate yourself from others, using them as a hammer to hit others on the head, that is a problem. 

Another thing to keep in mind, when people bring up verses from Corinthians, Colossians, Ephesians, Galatians, etc., the culmination of Paul’s teaching ministry is the book of Romans. It was one of the last letters he wrote and he takes the time to complete all his thoughts and teachings that were in different pieces of his other letters. 

Note that Paul repeatedly clarifies his position related to the Torah for believers in Yeshua:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1–2 ESV)

“What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Rom. 6:15 ESV)

“What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” (Rom. 7:7 ESV)

“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Rom. 7:25 ESV)

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” (Rom. 8:7 ESV)

He had to respond to the repeated false accusations that he was teaching his students that they didn’t have to listen to Moses anymore. He not only had to defend himself against his accusation when he appeared before the brethren in Acts 21, but he also confronted the issue when he appeared before the Roman governors Felix and Festus. 

And this confirms that Paul was a devoted emissary of Yeshua, Who at the beginning of the “Sermon of the Mount” emphatically clarified His corrections of the teachings of the day:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:17–20) 

The word that is translated as “fulfill” is the Greek word πληρόω plēroō (G4137) which means “to make full” or “to fill up.” It can also mean “to render full” or “to complete. We think making something complete to mean that it’s over, but the Hebrew understanding of the term is to make something perfect. Some assert from the meaning to complete that Yeshua didn’t abolish the Law but just render it obsolete. Yet, this doesn’t fit with other uses of the word. 

“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill [πληρόω] all righteousness.’ ” (Matt. 3:13–15)

If pleroo means to end something, then in Matt. 3:15, Yokhanan and Yeshua were bringing the rite of baptism to an end. Did Yeshua make righteousness obsolete? Did Yeshua make the symbol of baptism irrelevant? No. What it really means that the rite of baptism has a more complete meaning. 

One of the ma’asei haTorah that the Pharisees brought into the world is to bring many of the rituals the priests performed in the temple were brought into the homes. Yeshua says that He is the one who makes the mikvah, the baptism and the washing complete. He is the one who washes sin and impurity away. 

A good lesson about the ma’asei haTorah is that if they are getting between you and God or between you and your fellow believers, you need to examine yourself and see if you are preaching a different gospel. We don’t want to ask “Did God really say?” as the serpent asked Eve in the Garden (Gen. 3:1)?

There is no longer old vs. new. The entire Bible is a witness of God, who He is. It’s not Fearsome Father vs. Gentle Jesus. Rather, the entire testament is a witness of God’s character. 

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy. 

John 15:12-25: Friends with God

Keep Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard (Isa. 5:1-14) in the back of your mind as we take a look at John 15:12-25. This parable has a lot of symbolism embedded in it. Let’s define the symbols in this parable. 

  • Well-beloved: YHVH of hosts
  • Vineyard: Israel, men of Yehudah
  • Tower: Safety and Security
  • Grapes: Behavior of the people
  • Wine: Outcome of the people’s behavior
  • Viticulture: Word and Spirit of YHVH
  • Hedge: Protection against invasion
  • Punchline: Conquest will renew Israel’s thirst for YHVH

Israel didn’t want to obey and respect the one who created their nation and took them into the Land, cleared it out and protected it. Since they were not interested in obeying and respecting God, God took His protection away. They were left to protect themselves but there were larger powers in the area: Assyria and Babylon. 

Israel were given over to an insatiable thirst. Israel were to be a nation of priest and a light to the nations but when they didn’t want to do that job anymore, God had to give them a reboot and remind them of why they were called out in the first place. 

In Isaiah, justice was contrasted with murder, righteousness contrasted with oppression, contentment with greed. When they no longer wanted to pursue knowledge of God, the pursued partying, entertainment and drunkenness instead. All they wanted was a good time all the time. This is what dragged them down. If the partying, entertainment and drink are taken away, what are you? When the Israelites were hauled away, what did they have left? Who were they? 

The prophet Daniel also asked the question: Are you going to assimilate with the nations or remain separate? 

When you look at this, you see how Yeshua sets this up. The “reset button” is coming to Israel again and very soon. 

John 15 talks a lot about love, loving others as Yeshua loves us. It’s in the golden rule. John 15:12 and John 15:17 are the book ends to the core of our discussion. 

We first encountered Yeshua’s making personal the “second-greatest commandment” in Jn. 13:34 at the beginning of His “farewell discourse.”

There are four main types of love in the Greek: 

  • ἀγαπάω agapaō (Strong’s lexicon No. G25): it’s a veneration type of love, holding in high esteem. It’s translated as “charity” in some English because you are thinking of the recipient of that love as someone to be lifted up. 
  • φιλέω fileō (G5368): brotherly love
  • στέργω stergo: This is the mutual love of parents and children, love of subjects for a ruler. It’s a master/servant love.
  • ἔρως erōs: This is not word that is used in the Scriptures at all. There’s a reason for that. It is the love between a man and a woman, it’s a craving, a desire, it’s sensual. It is also the type of love that some Greeks had for their deities that is a spiritual love above the physical. This comes from Greek dualism in which the physical was inherently evil and the spiritual was inherently good. The pursuit of the physical became a pursuit of the spiritual. This is why do you not see the word eros in Scripture. 

The only two Greek concepts of love used in Scripture are agape and fileo. Agape is the primary type of love described in scripture, while fileo is more rare. Agape is the type of love that God has for His creation. 

Matthew 5:44 says, “love your enemies.” This is an agape love, esteeming your enemies higher than yourself. Agape is a type of love that you have to consciously do while fileo love is a more emotional response. 1Corinthians 13 is only about the agape love. This is a love that is chosen. 

This is what the people were facing in Isaiah 5. Were the people going to pursue an agape love for their God who brought them into the land and nurtured them into it or were they going to party all the time and pursue physical pleasure? 

“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)

Friends of God

Agapeo love is a choice to esteem someone higher than yourself. There are a couple of people who are called “Friends of God” which are Abraham and Moses. Let’s explore why they were given that title. 

The account in Genesis 18 of the LORD appearing the Abraham and having lunch with him doesn’t use the Hebrew word most often used for friend, רֵעַ or רֵיעַ  reʿa (H7453). Yet the LORD did meet with him in person, face to face. God revealed His plans for Sodom and Gomorrah. God didn’t keep this secret from Him.  

“‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.'” (Gen. 18:17–19)

God spoke to Abraham so plainly that Abraham urged the LORD to consider through mercy by asking Him to reconsider for the sake of 10 people. The prophets and the Apostles saw Abraham as God’s friend

King Yehoshafat (Jehoshaphat) speaks prophetically after prayer and fasting following a rebuke through God’s Spirit: 

“‘Did You not, O our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and give it to the descendants of Abraham Your friend forever?” (2Chr. 20:7)

We also see Isaiah repeat this as God loving Abraham in the present tense and into the future. 

“‘But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, Descendant of Abraham My friend….’” (Isa. 41:8)

The Apostle James also affirms this:

You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “and Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (Jas. 2:22–24)

The Septuagint referred to Abraham as the one God had agapeo for but James uses the fileo word for love. It’s the trust that Abraham had in God’s promises. This is why God was fond of Abraham. James’ message ties this fondness to Abraham’s imputed righteousness through trust in God’s promises.

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” (John 15:16)

The vineyard in Isaiah 5 was supposed to produce fruit and be a blessing but it did not produce fruit and did not produce blessings so God had to hit the “reset button” which He did through the Apostles. 

From the vineyard parable of Isaiah 5, we can see that the 12 are being commissioned to continue the task the LORD originally gave Israel: to be a nation of priests and a light to the world about the agape the Creator wants to have with mankind.

We see how God related to Moses. 

“Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” (Ex. 33:11)

“ ‘If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. 7 Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, Even openly, and not in dark sayings, And he beholds the form of the LORD.’ ” (Num. 12:6–8)

“… no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face …” (Dt. 34:10)

The friends of God are those who trust the promises and testimony of God and want to communicate with God face to face, despite knowing how disastrous that could be for one’s casual observance of God.

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.

John 15:1-11: Face to face with the Vine

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”  (John 15:1–2 NASB)

If a branch is not productive, the vineyard owner sends out workers to prune away any branches that are sickly or unproductive. When one prunes a branch, it is removed. It can no longer get nutrients, water, etc. When it no longer abides in the vine, it dies. To live, the branch must remain attached to its source. 

Before we dive into John 15:1-11, let’s read through prophet Isaiah’s parallel parable of the vineyard (Isa. 5:1-5, 7, 13). The “beloved” is the owner of the vineyard, and the vines are the tribe of Judah. The vineyard owner does everything He can so the vines will produce good grapes to make good wine but the fruit is lacking. How are they lacking? 

“Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge;…” (Isaiah 5:13 NASB)

Let’s read Psalm 80, which is a psalm of Asaph. Here the people of Israel are compared to a vine that God removed from Egypt and transplanted in a new land. There’s a refrain that is repeated three time and is amplified and intensified throughout the Psalm. 

“Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.” (Psalms 80:3 KJV)

When the heart turns to God, God’s face turns towards the repentant person. When God shines He face, he is showing His favor and salvation. Vines thrive with sunlight and need the sunlight to grow. 

“It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him…the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.” (Exodus 34:29–30, 35 NASB)

Moses was speaking to God face to face and God’s glorious residue remained on Moses’ face even when he left God’s direct presence. The Hebrew word here is קָרַן qaran (Strong’s lexicon No. H7160), which literally means “to display horns.” The mechanical translation of qaran as to have horns in the Latin Vulgate translation led Michaelangelo to depict Moshe has having two horns in the famous statue. Fortunately, the KJV followed the Septuagint and rendered qaran as glory in Exodus 34. Think of it as the light shooting out like rays of light. 

The other important word here is face, which in Hebrew is פָּנִים panim (H6440). The continual petition for God’s “faceshine” on the commonwealth of Israel is embodied in the Aaronic blessing (Nu. 6:24–26). When God’s face is not there, there is no knowledge, no connection anymore.

Have you lost a connection with a high school or elementary school friend and then met them again many years later? The reconnection might have been very awkward because you have grown so far apart over the years that you don’t really know each other anymore. 

This is what happened to the northern tribes of Israel and the southern tribes of Judah. The northern and southern kingdoms had drifted so far away from God that they were estranged to each other and from God, too. 

But amid the long devotional prayer of Psalm 119 is the connection of God’s faceshine bringing understanding of God’s statutes:

“Make Your face shine upon Your servant, And teach me Your statutes.” (Psalms 119:135 NASB)

God wants to have the same connection with you that you have with your children, that you teach your children about the world and He wants to teach us about Him. God’s face shining is not about getting money or material blessings from God about learning God’s ways and longing to live the way God wants us to live. 

When Ezra and Nehemiah returned from Babylon, they had very little knowledge of God and they were thirsty to know Him. That is how revival came to the Jewish exiles returning from Babylon. 

The reason the children of Israel had been sent into exile is because they didn’t acknowledge God. They didn’t care to be with Him at all. The Prophet Daniel’s prayer for the end of the exile and restoration of God’s embassy in Yerushalayim included an appeal to “let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary.” It was desolate because when the people would come there, they worshipped Him with their tokens and their lips but not with their hearts and minds. 

The Tabernacle without the Panim, the “face” or “Presence” of God, is just an elaborate tent, and the Temple without the Panim is just a beautiful building. 

Yeshua said several times in John 6 that He was the “bread that came down from heaven,” which was referring to the “daily bread” God provided Israel between the Exodus and entering the Land. Yeshua was the face of God. 

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John. 1:14 NASB)

The connection between Yeshua and the faceshine of God for Israel is pictured again in the vision of the “Mount of Transfiguration,” where Moshe also was shown (Mt. 17:12–13), and the introduction to the “Revelation of Yeshua the Messiah” (Rev. 1:16).

Did the Jews in the first century know more about God than the people who were exiled to Babylon? Not really. The literalist Sadducee’s were specifically rebuked by Yeshua for their lack of knowledge of God’s word, but the charismatic Pharisees didn’t really know God well either. They were more concerned about the forms and rituals and separating themselves from “contamination” than about showing love, mercy and justice to their fellow man. 

What is the veil? What is the real issue we see in 2Cor. 3:1-4:6?:

“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2. Cor. 4:6, NASB) 

Moses’s face shown, not because he had the tablets but because he was in God’s presence. With Christ, there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1), so there’s no reason to consider being in God’s presence something to fear but something to look forward to (Heb 10:19–20, 34–36; 1 John 2:28–3:1; 3:19–22; 4:15–19). This is the great hope of all the prophets is that no one would be scared to be in the presence of God but would long for it. 

Part of remaining in the vine is wanting to be connected to the vine, wanting to be connected to God and being in His presence. That is our great hope: to know God and be known by Him. It’s a return to Eden and no longer being ashamed.

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy. 

John 14:25-31: Comforting is a Team effort

One of the main jobs of a friend or a BFF is to give comfort. Comfort is consolation, interceding, being an advocate. We have a limited understanding of this, in the concept of the best friend.

When Yeshua (Jesus) was preparing for Golgatha, He repeatedly encouraged and admonished His disciples to comfort each other. Yeshua said we are no longer servants, but friends. A master cares little about his servant’s groanings but a friend deeply cares about our sufferings and comes along side and shares them. He also promised to send the Holy Spirit, as the ultimate Comforter. The Holy Spirit’s job isn’t just there to give us a hug but to advocate for us, to speak up for us to the Father. He is also there to help us comfort and support each other.

Continue reading John 14:25-31: Comforting is a Team effort

Symbols of Passover: Original, Messianic, today and Day of the LORD

The “Law of liberty” mentioned by the Apostle Ya’akob (James 1:25; 2:12) is connected to entering into God’s “rest” (Hebrews 3-4) and “walking in liberty” (Psa. 119:45). And the symbols of פסח Pesakh (Passover) show how God planned for this to work originally, at the time of Yeshua Mashiakh (Jesus Christ), today and at the future Day of the LORD.

We are looking at a few of the symbols you encounter in Passover, specifically what they were originally, what they were in the time of Messiah, what they are in the present and what they are in the future. You may have heard that the Appointed Times were only to celebrate agricultural cycles but not that we don’t live in an agricultural society, these Appointed Times don’t have any importance anymore. The Law of Liberty presented by the Apostle Paul in the Book of Hebrews is directly connected to entering into God’s Rest and walking in liberty.

Continue reading Symbols of Passover: Original, Messianic, today and Day of the LORD