Even As Christ?

Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself as the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

A husband is to love his wife, being willing to give up his life if necessary to allow her to become more “holy and without blemish.” What if she doesn’t want to become unblemished? What if she wants him to give up his life so that she can be more comfortable or more “appreciated?”

Although the answer can be found in Paul’s writings, we have something better. In Revelation 2 and 3 Yeshua told us exactly what he would do in such a case:

Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and will remove your lampstand out of its place unless you repent….

Repent! But if not I will come to you quickly, and will fight with them by the sword of My mouth….

But I have a few things against you because you allow that woman Jezebel to teach, she saying herself to be a prophetess, and to cause My servants to go astray, and to commit fornication, and to eat idol-sacrifices. And I gave her time that she might repent of her fornication, and she did not repent. Behold, I am throwing her into a bed, and those who commit adultery* with her into great affliction, unless they repent of their deeds….I will give to every one of you according to your works….

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I would that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth….

That doesn’t sound like the eternal, all-enduring love I’ve always heard preached in our churches. God is patient and forgiving, but only to a point, and only with those who are truly repentant.

*Adultery? Then the woman is married, but to whom? I say she was married to Yeshua. In Biblical usage, adultery can only be committed between a married woman and a man who is not her husband. Those who commit adultery “with” her are not the male perpetrator, but co-adulteresses with Jezebel. Yeshua would not be so harsh with her if he was not claiming the place of her husband. Therefore, this Jezebel was an accepted member of his corporate bride, and Yeshua is threatening to divorce her with all her co-conspirators.

Seventh Day or First?

Yeshua said that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. We don’t live in order to keep the Sabbath. Instead we are commanded to keep the Sabbath in order to live more fulfilling lives. Some have taken Yeshua’s statement to mean that we are free to alter the Sabbath as we see fit, even to disregard it if we choose.

If a command is given for our benefit, does that mean we have the authority to disregard it as if to refuse a gift or favor that we don’t want? Of course, not. If that were so, it wouldn’t be a command anymore. They aren’t called the Ten Suggestions.

Think of it this way: The Sabbath was made for man as paved roads are made for cars. In many cases, cars are required by law (i.e. commanded) to remain on roads. Certainly a car can drive off the roads, but they’ll last longer and stay in better shape if they don’t. What would happen if drivers just decided that since roads were made for cars and not cars for roads, then he is free to reject the roads whenever it suits him? There’d be a lot of really upset property owners, with mud tracks and ruts cut through their fields and lawns. Cars would get stuck, would wear out faster, and get more flat tires. Everyone would be more unhappy.

The Sabbath is the same way. God set the Sabbath on the seventh day and commanded us to keep it for a reason. If we all choose our own sabbath or do it our own way, we will lose most of the benefit that God intended for us. Everyone will be more unhappy. The Sabbath was made for you, but it wasn’t made for you to break it however & whenever you want.

Circumcision and Blood

Regarding circumcision, someone recently asked me,

If God is so loving, why base his entire covenant with His Chosen on violence especially against the most helpless? The whole point of Jesus’ ministry was to replace that law with a new standard of gentleness and forgiveness, so why seal it with still more violence? It just doesn’t add up to me.

His covenant was (and is) based on redemption and restoration. Circumcision is only a sign of that covenant. There is a lot of blood involved in God’s interaction with mankind. I don’t completely understand that, but I recognize a few hints. First, for whatever reason Adam chose death over life, and that decision has affected everything. The violence is already there by the actions of people, and the controlled violence of blood covenants serves in part to restrain the uncontrolled violence of mankind’s natural tendencies. Second, blood has some kind of cleansing property in a spiritual sense in that it allows God to interact with people who would otherwise be too repulsive to him. Third, blood symbolizes the life-and-death nature and permanency of covenants. It’s a solemnizer.

Yeshua fulfilled God's Law in three ways.I can understand your confusion regarding the apparent disparity between Jesus’ message of love and the necessity of his violent death. It never added up for me either. However, the problem is in our perceptions of Jesus’ ministry and purpose. He didn’t come to replace the law with a new standard. In fact, he said the exact opposite: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy [kataluo: to tear down], but to fulfil [pleroo: to build up or to carry into effect]. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” If fulfilling the law is the same as annulling it for everyone else, then Jesus’ statement here was meaningless: “I am not come to destroy, but to abolish.”

Jesus mission in regards to fulfilling the Law was three-fold. First, he completed or built up our understanding of it through his teachings on the two central commands of Torah: love God and love your neighbor. Second, he fulfilled (and will fulfill) various prophecies embedded in the Law. Third, he fulfilled the requirement of blood to allow us to approach God (or God to approach us) despite our spiritual stench. This is a physical manifestation of a spiritual law that we don’t have to understand in order to take advantage of. Something like quantum theory. The laws that govern the interactions of subatomic particles are incomprehensible to most of us, but still necessary for life. The thing that we have to acknowledge is that nothing other than the mercy shown through his blood (and no other action, inaction, or attitude) would be entirely sufficient to restore us to a right relationship with God.

For what it’s worth, you’re in good company. Moses’ wife was none too happy about circumcision, either. “Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.” Blood is a mysterious thing that science can never quite understand, and violence does solve some problems.

More info:

Blood Draws Near by Jon Behrens
Circumcision and Cutting a Covenant by Walter Snyder

Torah vs Yeshua?

Luke wrote:
Luk 16:29-31 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Although that conversation was ostensibly about being generous and kind, it was also a roundabout reference to eternal salvation and the resurrection of the Messiah. Through this parable, Yeshua was hinting that those who reject the testimony of Moses will also reject the Messiah and his testimony.

John wrote:
Joh 5:42-47 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

Yeshua was accusing the Jewish elite of not having the love of God, and he referred them to the writings of Moses (the Torah) as evidence. They were trusting in the Torah for their salvation, but they never obeyed (John 7:19) or even believed what was in it. The spirit of the Law is love of God and mankind, and its primary aim is the redemption of mankind by the Messiah as the ultimate embodiment of that love. Therefore, if your life is in line with the Torah, then you are aiming at the Messiah. The converse is also true. If your life is not in line with the Torah, then you are not aiming at the Messiah.

Paul, or someone very like him, wrote:
Heb 10:28-29 He that despised [does away with, sets aside, disregards, nullifies, rejects, refuses -Thayer’s Greek Definitions] Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

In other words, if anyone who rejects the Torah deserves to die without mercy, how much more does anyone who rejects the sacrifice of Yeshua deserve to die? This is a light and heavy argument which requires that the first premise be true before the second can be true. If rejection of the Torah does not call for death, then the second premise is meaningless. Zero multiplied by anything is still zero.

I’m not saying you have to obey–or even try to obey–the Torah to be saved. I’m saying that it’s very difficult to hit a target if you don’t know what it looks like. I’m also saying that if you really are aiming at the right target, Yeshua, then you are already obeying Torah, and your life will show it.

A Husband and A Leader

Excerpted and adapted from on-line discussions in February and March, 2005. My apologies if it’s a little hard to follow. You’re only getting one side of several conversations.

I coasted through the first ten years of my marriage, pretty much just trying to be my wife’s boyfriend, but God says that I am responsible for the spiritual well-being of my house, and that he will hold me accountable for them. So about five years ago I decided that I was through being a boyfriend, and it was time to become a husband. Things are frequently difficult, uncomfortable, or downright heated–the price I pay for developing habits based on the standards of our hedonistic culture. Now my family is no longer stagnant and spiritually dead. I am learning to lead instead of to drift with the emotional current of the day. My son is growing up in a scripture-based home instead of a feelings-based home..

A rudder, under the command of a helmsman, serves a ship by controlling its direction. A viceroy, under the command of a king, serves his people by creating and enforcing laws. A sergeant, under the command of an officer, serves his men by instilling purpose and discipline. A husband, under the command of God, serves his family by leading and teaching them….

A leader does what is necessary. He takes action and accepts responsibility. He promotes the well-being of his charges. A follower follows the leader’s lead. In the context of marriage, a wife subjects her own will to her husband’s. She supports his calling–whatever that may be–working to encourage and strengthen him. She may have a separate calling of her own, but that is subordinate to her role as wife and mother….

A leader doesn’t wait around for everyone else to line up behind him before taking action. He just starts moving. His moral justification doesn’t come from behind, but from ahead, because he is also a follower of Christ. God’s created order is for men to be the leaders of their families. If they are not following that order, then they are not following Christ’s example, because he was obedient to the Father above all else….

Shouldn’t all government be after the pattern of Christ and the church? Shouldn’t all kings rule as servant leaders? What is the difference between David ruling over Israel and a father/husband ruling over his family? A king rules in order to serve his people, but he never relinquishes his authority as king. Without that authority and all of the power that comes with it he could not serve his people effectively as a servant leader. Although Yeshua does not usually force us (my apologies to Calvin) to do his will–at least not in the present–but he demands our obedience none-the-less. There are more parallels:

  1. Mankind was created to serve God and the woman was created to serve the man. (Gen 1-3, 1 Cor 11:9)
  2. God (the Word made flesh) gave men laws to order and protect his people, and a man governs his own family to order and protect his house. (Gen-Deut, 1 Tim 3:4-5, 1 Tim 5:8)
  3. Yeshua gave up his own life in order to return the Church to a state of perfection and obedience, and then serves her by ruling over her, and a man serves his family by protecting and guiding them even to the point of giving up his own life for them so that together they can serve God in obedience to their calling, which is firstly his calling. (Rom 1:5, 1 Pet 1:2, Rev 2-3, Gen 1-3, 1 Cor 11-9)

… Never does Yeshua submit himself to the Church. Never. He is a servant to the Church (and all of mankind) as its ruler, provider, and kinsman-redeemer. He grants the petitions of believers only at his own discretion.

It was never my goal to get my wife to submit to my leadership. It was always my goal to become a better leader. It just took me a little while to learn that you can’t force people to act as if you already are a good leader. It is the husband’s job to lead and the wife’s job to follow. If the husband is leading, then it’s not his responsibility if the wife refuses to follow. If the wife is following, then it’s not her responsibility if the husband refuses to lead. They each need to do their part regardless of what the other does.

I told my wife that I’m not drifting anymore. This is where I am going, and if you want to be a part of my family, you’ll have to go with me. Of course, there are many things on which my wife and I have come to disagree, but I don’t think that level of detail is necessary here. We discussed our respective roles before we married and were in basic agreement at that time. Our current differences are the result of allowing my family to drift instead of taking an active role at the helm from the very beginning. My values have changed, and my wife’s values have changed. Unfortunately, they have drifted in opposite directions…

I quit accepting my wife’s feelings and opinions as equally authoritative as my own. Not because my opinions are any better than hers, but because I have to make the final decisions. I will consult my wife and I will value her feelings and opinions, but God put authority over the wife onto the husband, and not the other way around. He created us. He knows how we will best live. I decided that I will set the tone and direction of our activities and the moral standards of my house. I quit being afraid of making a wrong decision when I realized that making no decision was even worse. I do not like the prospect of facing God having made wrong decisions for my family, but I am terrified of facing him after having given up my family to whimsy and deception. I will not be the worthless servant who buried his master’s gold in the ground.

You can’t change your spouse; you can only change yourself. As I wrote earlier, my job is to love and to lead my family, and my wife’s job is to support me. I can’t force her to do that, and I wouldn’t even want her “support” if it had to be forced…. Whatever the outcome, I know that through the exercise of love, patience, and faith, I will be a better man on the other side.

The Two Kingdoms of Heaven

There are at least three parts to every kingdom: the government, the nation, and the country. The government is the king and his agents, the nation is the people under the king’s authority, and the country is the physical land under the king’s control. Yeshua often spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven in seemingly contradictory ways: the Kingdom existed before he came, he brought the Kingdom with him, and the Kingdom was still to come.

Can all of these be true or was Yeshua just talking in riddles? The answer is “Yes!” All of these are true, and Yeshua was speaking in riddles.

The Kingdom of Heaven has always existed, exists wherever true believers are, and will be finally established some day with Yeshua as King. The key to understanding the New Testament references to the Kingdom of Heaven (or Kingdom of God) is to understand the three parts of a kingdom and how they can sometimes exist independently of each other.

The Kingdom of Heaven has always existed, exists wherever true believers are, and will be finally established some day with Yeshua as King.The Kingdom of Heaven, as all other kingdoms, ultimately belongs to the King of Kings. It is his to give and take away as he sees fit.

Yeshua prayed, “Our Father in Heaven…deliver us from evil, for the Kingdom is yours…”1 In other words, the Kingdom is a meritocracy and God can remove unworthy leaders in favor of the worthy. Yeshua, having more merit than anyone who has ever lived or ever will live, has been given the kingship forever.2 His viceroys and regents, however, are still elected and rejected by the Father as necessary, based on their merits3 and the needs of the Kingdom.4

The first dominion of Heaven is the nation of Israel. I don’t mean the secular State of Israel, which is another government altogether. Firstly, the nation is made up of a remnant of physical Israel, genetic descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob.5 Secondly, the nation is made up of the mixed multitude of believers who have been grafted into the tree of natural Israel.6 So everyone who calls on the name of God and believes on the name of Yeshua7 is a citizen of the nation of Israel regardless of where or when they live.

The second dominion of Heaven are the places of the Kingdom, both here on Earth and in Heaven itself. It includes the Promised Land in the Messianic Era, which Yeshua will rule from Jerusalem,8 as well as the Heavens in which the angels live and which Yeshua rules from the Crystal Sea.9 Anyone who is a citizen of those lands is also a citizen of Israel under the authority of Yeshua. (Which is not to say that anyone who is physically located in those places at any particular moment must be a citizen.)

The practical outgrowth of citizenship in the true nation of Israel is both responsibility and reward: obedience to the king’s laws10 and healing from the curses of disobedience. Fortunately, his yoke is easy, his burden is light,11 and his rewards are beyond your imagination.12 The only things you have to lose by submitting to his rule are not worth keeping.

1 Matthew 6:8-13.
2 John 1:49, John 12:12, & Acts 2:36.
3 The qualities that God seems to hold highest are selflessness, mercy, justice, and generosity.
4 Matthew 11:11-13, 13:44-46, 16:17-19, 20:20-28, 21:43, 23:1-37, & Luke 22:28-30.
5 Jeremiah 31:31-37, Ezekiel 37:15-28, Matthew 10:5-7, 15:22-28, 19:28, & Romans 9:1-11:11.
6 Exodus 12:37-38, Luke 2:32, Romans 11:12-32, Ephesians 2:8-18, & Revelation 5:8-10.
7 The name of God and the name of Yeshua are not the vocalizations and symbols by which we reference them in conversation and print, but the nature of who they are. When we call on the name of God, we are calling on his nature as just, merciful, and all powerful. When we believe on the name of Yeshua, we are believing in his ability and sufficiency to save us from the penalty of our sins.
8 Psalms 2:6-7, 53:6, 78:67-70, 110:1-7, 132:10-14, Isaiah 2:2-4, 18:7, Micah 5:2, Revelation 3:12, 21:10-22:5, & etc.
9 Revelation 4:6.
10 Matthew 5:19, 19:17, John 14:15, 14:21, 15:10, & 1 John 2:2-6.
11 Matthew 11:28-30
12 Revelation 21-22.

Why I Keep Torah

Over the last decade, as I have delved deeper into the Scriptures and spiritual things, I have become more and more convicted that I need to keep Torah, the laws of God as delivered through Moses. But even as I have obeyed God’s voice and laws, I have had to defend myself against ever increasing accusations of legalism, judaizing, and whatnot.

The most important thing to understand is that Judaizing really has very little to do with the keeping of God’s laws and everything to do with the keeping of man’s laws. Judaism teaches that the rabbis have the authority to change the Torah, and elevates the oral tradition of the Pharisees above the written laws of God. Some of the teachings of the Pharisees have value, but all of them should be regarded with skepticism and weighed carefully against actual Scripture. I do not teach that anyone need (or even should) obey the Jewish rabbis or the mountains of man-made law that they have heaped upon the Torah. I teach that we should obey God’s laws, because “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

Paul wrote that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) He defined “all scripture” as the scriptures that Timothy had learned as a child, in other words, the Greek Septuagint, including the Torah. If Paul did not mean that the Torah is still valid for doctrine, then why did he say it? In fact, Paul often explicitly based doctrine on Torah:

  • Romans 7:1-6 and 1 Corinthians 7:39 are based on the law of the levirate (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) among others.
  • Romans 7:7 is based on Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:1-14 is based on Deuteronomy 25:4 and other laws regarding the Temple services.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:34 is based on Genesis 3:16.
  • Galatians 4:22-31 is based on Genesis 16-17.

He taught other doctrines based on the Torah and the Prophets besides these, as did Yeshua. Obviously neither of them thought or taught anyone to abandon the Torah as a valid source of doctrine.

The New Covenant does not replace the old so much as it overlays it. Abraham’s covenant did not overturn Noah’s covenant, which did not overturn Adam’s covenant. Hebrews says that the high priesthood was transferred (the Greek word translated as “changed” in the King James Version is closer to “transferred” in today’s English) to Yeshua and that there was a transfer of the law also. This transfer isn’t a change in the requirements of the law, but a transfer of our allegiance. Like Paul, we are under the law for Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21) rather than under the law for the law itself. We are not to be lawless, but to continue to keep Torah as a sign of our allegiance to our Messiah. Yeshua said that he did not come to abolish the law, and Paul continued in that same vein when he wrote that we do not make the law void through faith, rather we establish it.

The Torah is an expression of God’s character in that it defines his standards of behavior. If God never changes (Malachi 3:6), then neither do his standards. The Torah says that no one can add or remove anything from its rules. (Deuteronomy 4:2 & 12:32) If any prophet were to preach against the Torah, leading people away from the proper worship of God, then the Torah commands that he be stoned. If Yeshua taught against Torah, then he was a sinner and ineligible as the Messiah. If Paul taught against Torah, then he too must be disqualified as a prophet of God. If Stephen taught against Torah, as only false witnesses were able to testify, then his punishment was just. (Acts 6:13-14) Since no true witnesses could be found to testify either against Stephen or Yeshua, the only logical explanation is that they never did teach against Torah. Even the Temple sacrifices only appear to have been suspended and not forever done away with. Ezekiel prophesied that the daily sacrifices will resume under the direct supervision of Yeshua our Messiah. (Ezekiel 40:41-43, 46:20) We are not made whole or justified by such sacrifices, but we never were, because Yeshua’s death was sufficient for all human rebellion from the beginning of time. (Hebrews 11, Revelation 13:8)

Jeremiah prophesied specifically that the Torah would carry over into the New Covenant, only transferred from tablets of stone to hearts of flesh. (Jeremiah 31:31-34) In that prophecy, God based the continuity of his covenant with the nation of Israel on the heavens and the earth. As Yeshua said, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Well, heaven and earth are still here, and all has not been fulfilled. The Messiah has not yet returned the second time, Israel and Judah have not yet been reunited in the land, and men still have to teach each other about God.

All scripture is inspired of God and profitable for doctrine. None of it has been annulled. Obedience to God’s laws is required under both the old and the new covenant. Through faith I will continue to establish the Law (Romans 3:31) and repudiate lawlessness. Through faith in Yeshua and through the power of the Holy Spirit, I will continue to try to live closer to God’s standards of perfections every day that I am able. So long as one man tells another to know God, so long as the earth continues to move through the heavens, I will continue to put my faith in God and his eternal standards rather than in the love of transient men.