God – YHWH Elohim, Creator of heaven and earth, is the Lawgiver, the final judge and authority over all people, places, and creatures. Although He is ultimately beyond our comprehension, YHWH presents many faces to the world to help us relate to and understand Him. There is only one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is not Allah or Krishna or any of the many false, pagan deities. He loves us and desires us to have close relationships with him, personally and corporately. He is the primary object of our prayers and worship.
Yeshua – Also known as Jesus, Yeshua is God in the flesh. He is the Word, the Firstborn Son, and the right hand of God, an extension of the Father into the world of men. Through Him the world was created, was redeemed, and will be judged. Although He existed before time, His physical body was conceived in a virgin through divine intervention. He grew from a boy to a man as the son and heir of Joseph and Mary in the house of David. He lived a perfectly sinless life, never deviating from obedience to Torah. He healed the sick and crippled, raised the dead, and cast out demons. He was crucified by both Jews and Gentiles according to the Father’s will and rose from the grave on the third day. He fulfilled many prophecies concerning the Messiah of Israel and will someday fulfill them all. He is the only mechanism by which a person can attain eternal life with the Father.
Holy Spirit – God the Holy Spirit, the Ruach Hakodesh, is the teacher, comforter, counselor, and nurturer of God’s people. He acts in the hearts and minds of His people to transform them into new creations suitable for receiving and walking out God’s Law. He enables us to hear and act on God’s will, to speak God’s words, and to be a light to the world around us.
The Trinity – The Trinity is not explicitly taught anywhere in Scripture, but it is not entirely incorrect. God is One, yet he interacts with humanity as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in a manner that we perceive as three separate and independent entities. God is a spirit, yet he came in the flesh. God is both the Father and the Son. There is one Holy Spirit, yet there are seven Spirits of God. We have a weak and incomplete conception of a mysterious and infinite being because it is all we are capable of in our present existence. Describing God as three persons in one is simplistic and probably inaccurate, but it is a reasonable attempt at describing the manifestations of an incomprehensible God in human terms.
Names – God’s true name is not Yahweh, Jehovah, Yehuah, Yeshua, Yahshua, Yehoshua, Ruach HaKodesh, Elohim, or any other collection of sounds by which He has been addressed over the ages. Rather, the name of God is the sum total of His character. He Is Who He Is and no mere man may label Him. The various names used for God in Scripture all have profound meaning, they are important, but they are not God. They are incomplete descriptors of aspects of who He is. Although the Hebrew names carry more inherent meaning, there is nothing especially wrong with using names that have been transliterated (or mis-transliterated) into other languages. “Jesus” might be an inferior substitute for “Yeshua,” but it is not an unacceptable one. In some contexts, it is preferable for the sake of effective communication. American Torah will use a variety of names for Father, Son, and Spirit as the individual author deems appropriate in context.
Scripture – The sixty-six books of the Bible are all inspired by God and a reliable record of His interactions with Israel and mankind. Millennia of transcribers and translators have introduced some minor errors, but their fundamental truths have been preserved intact. The Torah (first five books of the Bible) itself is virtually unchanged from the originals recorded by Moses. There might be other inspired scriptures and prophetic works, but they must all be measured against the Canon of the Bible. God does not change or contradict himself. Genesis is the foundation for all later scripture, laying out the basics of God’s identity, His covenants, and our relationship to Him. The remaining four books of the Torah build on Genesis, expanding on its themes and codifying God’s promises, His relationship with Israel, and the nature of the Messiah and the redemption He would bring. The Writings and Prophets are history, instruction, and divine commentary on Torah and God’s covenants as they are worked out in the context of His unfolding relationship with the world and Israel. The Apostolic scriptures are further history, instruction, and commentary on the Torah, Writings, and Prophets within the context of the revealed Messiah and the accomplished redemption.
Torah – The Torah (aka the Pentateuch, the Law of Moses, the first five books of the Bible) contains God’s written standards of behavior for His people. The Hebrew word torah more properly means “instruction,” and the rules it contains are simple and easy to understand. However, Torah is multi-dimensional. Through allegory, example, and literary devices, it describes Yeshua’s role in our redemption as the Messiah, Highest Priest, and King of Kings. It is both life and death, blessing and cursing. We find life through obedience and death through disobedience or through attempted obedience with a wrong heart. If we are in a right relationship with God, the Torah is a tool that the Holy Spirit uses to help set us free from bondage to sin. If we are not in a right relationship with God, the Torah witnesses against us and we are under condemnation by it. When we place our faith in Yeshua for salvation, the Torah no longer holds authority over us to condemn us, but it still contains His standard of behavior. Although the Torah was ostensibly given by the Father, Yeshua said “I and my Father are one.” He also said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” We are free to obey God’s Torah out of love for our Creator and King instead of fear of condemnation.
Tolerance – No one person has a perfect understanding of truth. We are all wrong about some things, and we must be willing to fellowship with people who hold different opinions than ours on important topics. Disfellowshipping (excommunicating) a brother because he sincerely interprets a verse or a book differently than we do is unscriptural and anti-Christ. We are one people, Christ’s only body, and we must not allow man to separate what God has joined together. The rule of thumb at American Torah is this: If a passage can be reasonably interpreted in a particular manner or if respected theologians have interpreted it in different ways, then we ought to be willing to discuss it and to disagree without hatred and name-calling.
Sin – Sin is the violation of God’s Law as defined by Torah (which is the Hebrew word usually translated into English as “law”), and all people have sinned. We are sinners by inheritance and inclination. Death, disease, and evil are the temporal consequences of sin. Separation from God and eventual destruction or banishment in an unquenchable fire are the eternal consequences of sin.
Salvation – Only blood can atone for (cover over) sin, and, while the blood of animals can provide a transient atonement, only God’s grace made manifest in the blood of a perfectly sinless man can permanently remove our sin from us. There has only ever been one such man. No one in any age of man was ever saved from the eternal damnation brought by sin through the sacrificing of bulls and goats. Nor can we earn salvation through any other action of our own or adherence to any set of rules. Yeshua’s death provided a true atonement for sin for all people in all times, those who lived and died in millenia before the cross as well as those who have not yet been born. Anyone in any age and in any nation can gain salvation by acknowledging their need for a savior and appealing to God’s mercy and forgiveness. It is only by that divine Grace, enabled by the blood of Yeshua, that we can be saved. (Video: If We’re Still supposed to Keep the Law, Why Do We Need Jesus?)
The Messianic Kingdom – Yeshua will return to fulfill all remaining prophecies of the Messiah and will physically rule his people from Jerusalem. The nations will serve Him and be judged by Him.
Israel – All those who have joined in covenant with God, made possible through the blood of Yeshua, are grafted into Israel. We are made children of the King and citizens of His kingdom by His grace, no longer foreigners or temporary sojourners in Israel, but true Israelites and children of Abraham. All laws, all blessings, and all curses apply equally to all of God’s people. The physical descendants of Jacob require salvation just like anyone else. They have the benefit of having been given the Torah and having been born into Israel, but if they do not produce good fruit they will be cut off. (Video playlist: Who Is Israel?)
Jews – The Jewish people today are descendants of the southern kingdom of Judah (comprised primarily of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, & Simeon, but also individuals from the other tribes) as well as many converts and adoptees to Judaism. As the physical descendants of Israel, they are recipients of irrevocable promises from God. They should be honored as His chosen people and respected for their role in history and God’s plan. For millennia, they have heard mainly lies about the identity and teachings of Yeshua. So far as they trust in God and His promised Messiah for their salvation and not in obedience to rules, God might save them by the blood of Yeshua whether they know his name and see through those inherited lies or not. I would like all people everywhere to know Yeshua, but I have no special drive to convert Jews to Christianity. My mission lies in another direction entirely.
Two House – The northern kingdom of Israel (aka Ephraim) was scattered across much of the known world by the Assyrian empire in the 8th century BC. Most of their descendants were assimilated into the nations to which they were scattered and forgot their identity. They did not become distinct nations such as various Germanic and Celtic tribes, but were absorbed those and many other nations all over the world. When God regathers all of His people to the land, a remnant of both Ephraim and Judah will be called out of the nations and each will bring a mixed multitude with them. Ephraim and his companions will be joined with Judah and his companions under the banner of Messiah Yeshua. It doesn’t matter today whether anyone is a member of this or that tribe or an Ephraimite or a Jew. Such things are needlessly divisive and distracting. What matters is faith in Yeshua and obedience to Torah. (Video playlist: Who Is Israel?)
Marriage – “Marriage” is an English word, and there is no direct equivalent in the Hebrew scriptures. However, the concept that the word represents is solidly founded in the very first chapters of Genesis and reinforced throughout all the other books in the Bible. Marriage is a shadow of our relationship with God, and it is vital to the continued health of civilization. No government of man has authority to approve, disapprove, make, or unmake any marriage that meets God’s standards. Marriage licenses are an attempt to take authority where none is possible. They are meaningless before God except as a statement of rebellion against Him. A marriage is between one man and one woman. “Gay marriage” is nothing but a self-indulgent, self-destructive fantasy in which two people and their associates engage in activity for which God has said they should be killed and then pretend it’s perfectly normal and God-approved.
Polygamy – In a perfect world, polygamy would likely not exist or be extremely rare, but we don’t live in a perfect world. God allows a man to have multiple wives simultaneously. It is not a sin, and it is sometimes even necessary. Like death and divorce, it can be a part of a remedy for situations that are not well resolved in any other way. However, I strongly advise against it for most men in most circumstances. Most men in most times will have only one wife by mathematical inevitability, and most men, including me, are not capable of being an adequate husband to multiple women. God does not allow a woman to have multiple husbands.
Still Learning – There are many things that I don’t know or about which I am uncertain. I might have opinions or theories, but I readily acknowledge that I could be mistaken. I am certain to teach error at times and likely to change my opinions over time.
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