Friday, May 18, 2018

Is Baptism Essential to Salvation? (Q&A)

Q:  Jeff, I chanced upon the website while surfing the internet. For the past few months, I have been trying to understand whether a person needs to be baptized to be saved. I would like to consult you on the relation between baptism and salvation, as understood by the early church (made up of mainly Jews). I have read what was written in your Q&A question “The Jewish Roots of Baptism,” and it seems like baptism is (and was) seen as a cleansing.

Did the early church (or maybe present day Jewish Christians) believe/teach that baptism is necessary for salvation? --BK

A:  Christian baptism is a rite of initiation adopted from immersion in the Jewish mikveh bath.  The mikveh bath was used for ritual cleansing from many different kinds of uncleanness, most of them found in Lev. 15.  But the use that most strongly influenced Christian baptism was the conversion of a Gentile to Judaism, for which ritual immersion was required.  In Christianity, this became an important part of the overall cleansing—both inner and outer—that marked coming to faith in Jesus (Yeshua) as the Messiah and Son of God.

A Jewish Mikveh Bath
In the early church, and already in the New Testament, baptism was considered an indispensable part of the process of salvation.  It was an outward, public declaration of the inner decision and conviction of the heart to follow Jesus as Messiah and Lord.  Both the inner conviction and the outer act of baptism were considered necessary for salvation (Mark 16:16). 

In an early church manual from Syria (the Didache), it was considered so important that if insufficient water for immersion was available, then pouring or sprinkling water would suffice.  In other words, it was more important to do it right away, even if under less than perfect conditions, than to wait.   

There were also times, though, when baptism was not possible, as when someone became a believer shortly before being martyred for his faith.  In this case, the advice of the early church leaders was not to fear, but that their shed blood would accomplish their baptism for them.  So although baptism was considered necessary to salvation, there was leeway for exceptional circumstances.

Among modern Jewish believers in Israel (as with converts from Islam), baptism is an especially significant dividing line in expressing commitment to Yeshua (Jesus).  This is because it is seen, both by Christians and non-Christians, as expressing a definitive break with one's former religious beliefs.  This is the point at which severe persecution has often begun at the hands of relatives and neighbors who reject the Christian message.  

Please pray for brothers and sisters in Messiah in the Middle East who are suffering right now for their decision to believe in Jesus and be baptized.

The Tav Mark (Q&A)

Q:  I have read your message, "When did the 'Tav' mark start to look like a cross"?  I`d be very thankful, if you can answer some questions.

How do you know that the mark mentioned in Ezekiel 9:4 is the letter tav?  In the Bible it reads only "...and set a mark upon the forehead of the men."  Where is it mentioned in the Hebrew Bible that the mark was the letter "tav"?

You say, that the Essenes marked Messianic prophecies in their Bible scrolls with a cross mark. Can you give me some example of that, how they use the cross? Is there no doubt that the crosses were placed there with some definitive purpose and not only to mark the messianic passages out of the others?

I`ve read some article about ossuaries with crosses, found on the Mount of Olives. Yet many modern scholars say, that these crosses are only mason marks or marks, showing how to close the lid and the cross did not come into use as a Christian symbol until the early part of the 4th century. Also Amos Klosner says that. I`m very confused about that. I don`t know, but I think that only ossuaries with inner ledges on the sides and sliding lids need a mark, showing how to position the lid and that there should then also be a mark on the lid on the same side opposite the crossmark and inscription. Is there any evidence that the crossmarks could be only such marks or masons’ marks? Can you also tell me how I can get the exact description of the ossuaries with crosses found by Charles Clermont-Ganneau, Bagatti, and Sukenik?

In 1980 there was a family tomb discovered in East Talpiot in Jerusalem with 9 ossuaries. Six of them were inscribed with the names Joseph, Mary, Jesus son of Joseph, Judah son of Jesus, Matthew, and Mary. There was also a cross mark on the ossuary with Jesus son of Joseph. What could this cross mark mean?

Can you take some time to answer my questions? Thanks in advance.  --Maritta

A:  In Ezekiel 9:4, the word often translated "mark" is tav in the original Hebrew language.  The word tav is also the name of the final letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which at the time was made in the shape of a cross, or sometimes tilted over like an "x." (This is different than the way tavs are made today.)  

In certain Essene Biblical scrolls, a tav mark appears in the margin beside verses that apply to the Messiah (see cross #1 below).  The purpose seems to have been to indicate which verses concern the Messiah, just as some modern translations have stars or other symbols or colored marks beside Messianic verses.

I, too, am not convinced by the usual scholarly interpretation of the cross marks found on ossuaries on the Mt. of Olives and elsewhere in Jerusalem from the 1st cent. AD (see crosses #2-4).*  Some are quite large, much larger than would be necessary for a mason's mark.  I believe that most of these are either Jewish Christian symbols indicating Messianic beliefs, or perhaps Jewish symbols pointing to the end-times, just like the crosses on the Essene scrolls.  

The use of the tav symbol by the Essenes to refer to the Messiah means that this symbol was being used within Jewish society at the time of Jesus with a meaning very close to that which it later had in Christianity.  That this symbol was picked up early by Christians is indicated by the great diversity of cross-shaped symbols in Jewish-Christian contexts that have been found in the archaeological excavations at Nazareth, Capernaum, and elsewhere. 

* Crosses 2 and 4 are from early Jewish Christian burials near Jerusalem (Talpioth) and on the Mt. of Olives (Silwan) dating from the 1st or early 2nd centuries AD.  The Hebrew name over a cross (#3) is from a group of Jewish Christian burials on the Mt. of Olives (Dominus Flevit).  The name, Shlomzion, means “peace of Zion.”  Cross #5 is Byzantine from Capernaum.  The symbolic “fruit” hanging from its crossbeam shows it to be the “tree of life,” a common early Jewish Christian teaching.

One of the few accessible books that contains a description and photos of these ossuaries is Jack Finegan's The Archeology of the New Testament.  He also has an excellent discussion of the evidence for the cross as a Christian symbol.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Is Jesus God? (Q&A)

This set of questions is clearly from a Muslim, and is quite interesting in that it provides insight into Muslim concerns in thinking about Jesus as the Son of God.  Parts of the original e-mail have been edited for clarity.  

Q1:  [The first e-mail began with many Bible verses indicating that Jesus is different than the Father, or stating that he is a servant of the Father or less than the Father, such as:]

John - Chapter 14
28:  …for my Father is greater than I.

John - Chapter 13
16: Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.  20: Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.

John - Chapter 17
3: And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

John - Chapter 12
44: Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. 45: And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.

[Others include John 7:28,29; Luke 21:41-43; Luke 6:12; John 17:23; John 15:1-5; John 14:1-7.  The writer then continues:]

If the "Son" [was] created by the "Father" then he would not be "God," because he is created (or limited).

If the "Son" has not [been] created, then he is not a son, but the "Father" or the same as the Father.  <Or say both "are" one person! >

If the "Son" is separated ("begotten") from the "Father," then it means the "Father" is divided in two and "changed" (neither of them would be unlimited anymore ... ).

Surely you cannot both believe in the first to the third commandments of the Ten Commandments and believe that Christ is God simultaneously (else, you deceive yourself!)…

[Other verses follow under the topic,] "Christ," "Word of God" [including Psa. 33:6, Luke 24:19, 1 Pet. 1:23, John 17:17, John 1:14, etc.  This is then followed by quotes from the Quran, the holy book of the Muslims:]

Sura 4 : 171
O people of the book! do not transgress the limits of your religion and do not say about God except the truth. The Messiah Jesus the son of Mary was a messenger of God and His word that He had sent to Mary and a spirit from Him. Therefore you shall believe in God and His messengers. You shall not say Trinity. You shall refrain from this for your own good. God is the only god. Be He glorified; He is much too glorious to have a son. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth. God suffices as Lord and Master.

Sura 3 : 45
The angels said O Mary God gives you good news: a Word from Him whose name is The Messiah Jesus the son of Mary. He will be prominent in this life and in the Hereafter  and one of those closest to Me.

Sura 5 : 17
Certainly disbelievers indeed are those who say that God is the Messiah the son of Mary. Say Who then could control anything as against God if He will to destroy the Messiah son of Mary  and his mother and everyone on earth? To God belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and everything between them. He creates whatever He will. God has power over all things. 

--Mohammad I.

A1:  Thank you for your e-mail.  It seems that you have done a lot of research into the teachings of the Bible. 

From the verses you quote, it is easy to see why the Christian teaching about Jesus being God can seem confusing if not false.  How can Jesus be God, yet be different from the Father, since there is only one God?  How can Jesus be God when he says that he is a servant or messenger of God and is less than the Father? 

The answer to this mystery requires us first to establish one point.  How can we know anything about God?  Is God what man imagines him to be, or is he what he is inside of himself?  And if God is what he is inside of himself, how can any man know what this is?  The answer is surely that man cannot know what God is inside of himself unless God reveals that to us, because as the Bible says, no man has seen God (John 1:18).  Man can know nothing about God except what God reveals to us.   

For example, when we say that God is one, how do we know this?  We know this because God has revealed himself to Abraham and many others in the Bible as one God, and has revealed that the many gods of the pagans are false.  But what do we mean when we say that God is one?  We mean that he is not many.  Does this mean that we now know what God is inside of himself?  No, we only know what God has revealed to us, that he is one.  I believe that every Muslim can agree with me on this point. 

So has God ever revealed what he is inside of himself?  The prophets sometimes use curious language to tell us about God.  For example, the prophet Isaiah often speaks about the "arm" of the Lord:  "Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, with his arm ruling for him. Behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him" (Isa. 40:10). 

What is this arm of God, and how can it rule for him?  Surely God does not have a physical arm, since God is Spirit, and is not physical (John 4:24).  So some imagine that the "arm" of God is simply a way to talk about God's strength or power. 

But then, what is the meaning of these verses:  "Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; he has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to him.  He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, he was despised, and we did not esteem him" (Isa. 53:1-3).

If the "arm" of God simply refers to God's strength or power, how can it grow up before him?  How can it have an appearance that we can see?  How can it be referred to as a man?

Or what about this verse?  "The LORD has bared his holy arm In the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God" (Isa. 52:10).  How has God revealed his "holy arm" in such a way that all nations have seen it?  And how does this show us his salvation?  What is the salvation of God that is revealed by his "holy arm"? 

The Christian belief is that through many prophecies of this kind, God is revealing to us who he is inside of himself, and how he communicates with us.  It seems that he, who cannot be seen directly, communicates with us through a spiritual extension of himself that is sometimes called the “arm” of the Lord, and sometimes the “word” of God, as well as by many other mysterious names in the Bible.  Through this "arm" of the Lord, the God who is beyond space and time is able to reach into space and time in a way we can see and hear to communicate with us and do his will.

Some deny that God could have a spiritual extension of himself in this way.  But should man tell God how he may or may not be?  Is not God the all powerful, the almighty, who is able to do whatever he wants according to his own will? 

Some object that this extension of God (sometimes called the "word" or "speaking ability" of God [the Greek word logos in the New Testament means both “word” and “speaking ability”]) is separate from God himself.  But is the word or speaking ability of an ordinary person separate from that person?  Is my word or speaking ability separate from me?  But if God has a word/speaking ability, it is obvious that this is part of who God is.  Just as in the image of Isaiah, the arm of God is obviously a part of God.  But if, on the other hand, the word/speaking ability of God is outside of God, then God has no word or speaking ability and has become a mere object like a stone or piece of wood that cannot think or speak.  

Many have misunderstood the Christian teaching about the Word of God.  For example, they imagine that Mohammed is speaking against our belief when he says that God has no son.  But actually, Christians agree that Jesus is not the carnal offspring (walad in Arabic) of the Father.  When we say that Jesus is God's Son, we are referring to the spiritual extension of the Father (the “arm” of God), who was joined to human flesh in Jesus.  The flesh of Jesus is created by God and is a son of God in very much the same way that all men are sons of God.  So in this sense, Jesus is a servant and a creature of God.  Yet because this flesh was joined to the "arm" or "word" of God, Jesus is a Son of God in a very special way: he is a unity of God (the "arm" of God; his divine nature) and man (his human nature).  

To many people, this joining of God and man in one person seems like a strange idea.  It may even seem to violate the created order of God.  Yet Jesus taught that God's will is for all who believe in him to be joined together with God in a similar way:  "That they may all be one, even as you, Father, are one with me, and I am one with you, that they also may be one with us; that the world may believe that you did send me" (John 17:21).  In other words, Jesus came to reveal this incredible plan of God to the world:  that God created us so that we could be one with him in much the same way that Jesus himself is one with the Father. 

We fail in this created purpose when we sin, and cut off our relationship with the Father.  But through Jesus we can be restored to our true calling to be sons of God. 

Q2:  [A second, follow-up e-mail was entitled, “Why is the blood of Christ clean?”]

"Christ" = "Messiah" = "Massih" in Arabic.  The origin of "Massih" is "Ma sa ha" = "anoint" (clean). "Massih" means "one who is anoint[ed]."  Sometimes it is translated as "anointed," but this is wrong!  "Massih" had no sin from the beginning that needs to be "anointed" from it!  But how!?

A2:  In your second e-mail, you mentioned the word "Messiah," which is related to the word "to anoint." Anointing in the Bible was not used for sin.  Oil was poured out to prepare for ministry, as when priests were anointed for ministry (Ex. 28:41).  It is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  The anointing of Jesus took place at his baptism, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on him (Luke 3:22).  This publicly prepared him for ministry.  Jesus did not do any miracles or healings until after he was anointed in this way.

Q3:  [A third e-mail was entitled:] Birth of "Christ"

Although Christ became human, he is a "Word of God" and a "Spirit" from him, too (Quran sura 4:171).  When was he born, really!?  What does "Word of God" mean!?  First there should be somebody in order to say something (a word).  In John 1:1 [it says:] "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

I think something here was misunderstood and mistranslated in the past. I think it was [that the] "Word was (from) God." It said "in the beginning" (at first - talking about TIME) which refers to the beginning of the "creation" (through God's Word), because God has no beginning for he has "always been"!)...

God is both "creator" and "not created" (--> God is unlimited --> "One").
So, making any "image" or "idol" (= flesh) of God is not correct.
As in [sura 5:11], Christ is the creator but he is also created. (A word is created by the one who is speaking.)

If I want to be honest about what the "Word of God" means exactly, then I should say: "I CANNOT understand"!

--------- About Jesus’ first coming:  [Here follow Luke 24:19, Quran sura 3:59, and Luke 21:41]

-------- About the "blood":

[sura 4:157]
And for claiming that they killed the Messiah Jesus son of Mary the messenger of God. In fact  they never killed him they never crucified him-they were made to think that they did. All factions who are disputing in this matter are full of doubt concerning this issue. They possess no knowledge; they only conjecture. For certain they never killed him.

[Here follow Quran sura 3:55, 19:29,33; and Luke 24:7]

Although [Jesus] died and resurrected, if he was not crucified, then what does the "blood" refer to (in the scripture, especially in prophecy)? When did it happen?  I think it refers to his "blood" (on his last night) mentioned in the Bible itself, which dropped on the "stone" [in the Garden of Gethsemane].

There is no mention about the event and what happened in the Qura'n.  Maybe it was somebody else who was crucified, as when God provided a substitute to Abraham for his son - perhaps an angel in human flesh (?)  (I am astonished why the Vatican is so loyal to the story of the crucifixion and its symbolism!!!)
[Here follow Luke 22:42-45, Quran sura 5:110, and Mark 14:34-42, and John 7:33-34.]

A3:  In John 1:1, "the beginning" can refer both to the beginning of the creation and to the time before creation.  As I mentioned above, the "Word" mentioned here in the original Greek is logos, which means word and speaking ability.  In the beginning, the word/speaking ability of God was both with God and was God.  This word/speaking ability is therefore not created.  But later, the word/speaking ability of God was projected or extended out or sent from the Father to communicate with man, both in the prophets (1 Pet. 1:11), and later to be joined to flesh in Jesus. 

You are correct that making any image or idol of God is wrong.  Unfortunately, some Christian groups have allowed themselves to be misled into doing this. 

It is not clear whether Mohammed himself believed that Jesus was crucified.  It's important to remember that in the time of Mohammed, there was a debate in the Christian world, in which many had begun to accuse the Jews of killing Jesus, and to persecute them, even though the New Testament clearly teaches that it was the Romans who killed Jesus.  So there was a debate between different Christian and Jewish groups as to whether the Jews killed Jesus.  These are the "factions" in the sura you mention (sura 4:157). In the original context, Mohammed is clearly referring to the claim that the Jews killed Jesus.  But since, as I said, it is actually the Romans that killed Jesus, and not the Jews, Mohammed is correct to say, "For certain they [the Jews] never killed him." 

If we say that Mohammed means that Jesus was never crucified at all, who were the "factions who are disputing in this matter" and "full of doubt concerning this issue?"  In the time of Mohammed, the entire world, which was largely a Christian world, was in agreement that Jesus had been crucified.  There were no large factions debating this topic.  So this interpretation, which is very common in the Muslim world today, does not match the time in which Mohammed was living. 

The death of Jesus on the cross is extremely important to the Christian faith, because Jesus died as an atonement (a sacrifice) for sin.  This is how we receive forgiveness for our sins.  If Jesus did not die, then there is no forgiveness for sins.  But because of his death for us, we can be forgiven. 

Even in this horrible experience of crucifixion, Jesus was protected by God, because he was raised from the dead.  In the same way we, even if we suffer for him, will be raised from the dead.  Jesus said that not even a hair of our heads will perish (Luke 21:18). 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Is Right Standing with God the Result of Perfect Obedience? (Q&A)

Q:  My name is Troy T.  I am a Black American (non-Jewish) believer in Yeshua of Nazareth as the Holy One anointed by G-D to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven.  While I lived in Washington, D.C., I attended a Messianic Jewish Congregation because G-D, in a dream, told me to.  Before the dream, I did not even realize that, except for a few exceptions, that Jews existed who believed in Yeshua as the Anointed One.  However, now I come across them all the time.  Well, I loved the congregation but I have also come across many Messianic Jewish groups who teach salvation by faith and observance to the Law given to Moses.  However, I love your website because it is fair, balanced, and Scriptural.

I teach, according to the Scriptures, that right standing before and with G-D is only the result of perfect obedience to the Law of G-D.  In the beginning, G-D gave all humans a conscience that contains the Law of G-D, which is composed of His eternal law (love Him will all your being and love your fellow human) and natural law (do not murder, steal, commit adultery, commit sodomy, rape, lie, etc.).  Yet, due to the transgression of the one man (Adam), all humans acquired a predisposition to do that which G-D said do not do and to not do that which G-D said do.  Even though until the giving of the written Law of G-D, disobeyed G-D like Adam by breaking a direct command of G-D but only by violating the dictates of the conscience.  This predisposition is only inherited through the father (not the mother) since the sins of the father are transferred and Adam is the father of us all.  

This predisposition adversely affected our conscience and, thus, all humans have a faulty conscience and some humans even have a seared conscience.  Because of this, no human can fully obey the Law of G-D in his conscience and, thus, cannot acquire right standing before and with G-D by perfect obedience to the Law of G-D contained in our conscience.  Because of growing disobedience in the world, G-D eventually chose a remnant people (the descendants of Israel) to serve as a positive example to the world of G-D’s fidelity, love, mercy, blessings, etc.  As a result, He gave to Israel’s descendants His written Law via the intermediary Moses that reflect His Eternal Law and Natural Law (though the written law contained also special provisions relating to the situation of the Jews).  This created a people subject to faulty consciences (Gentiles) and a people subject to the perfect written Law of G-D (Jews).  Yet, Jews cannot fully obey the written Law of G-D because they, like all humans, have a predisposition to disobey G-D and, thus, right standing before and with G-D cannot be acquired by perfect obedience to the written Law of G-D.  Therefore, no human can perfectly keep the Law of G-D whether it is contained in the conscience or written and, thus, right standing cannot be acquired by perfectly obeying either because we would just fail.  

As a result, all humans, Gentile or Jew, are guilty before G-D as lawbreakers and are the children of His wrath.  In His mercy, G-D promised One who would deliver all of us from the wrath of G-D and through whom He would fulfill all His promises to Israel (restore land, blessings, spiritual relationship, etc.).  Yeshua of Nazareth is this Promised One Anointed to establish and order the Kingdom of Heaven.  Yet, in order to satisfy G-D’s requirement of perfect obedience that leads to righteousness, the Promised One had to be a son of mankind as a representative of mankind but He also had to be a son of Deity because no man can perfectly obey the Law of G-D.  Therefore, the Word of G-D took on flesh.  

Yeshua of Nazareth inherited His humanity from a mortal human woman but maintained His Deity because He did not have a mortal human father and, thus, could not inherit a predisposition of disobedience but His Father was Elohim and, thus, had a predisposition of obedience.  As a result, Yeshua of Nazareth obeyed all the written Law of G-D and fulfilled the Law and Prophets who foretold of Him and what He would do.  Now, the purpose of the Law of G-D (whether in the conscience or written) was, theoretically, to bring righteousness but, ultimately, to bring us to the revelation that we are breakers of the Law of G-D, need salvation from the wrath of G-D due us, that salvation would not come as a result of our obedience to the Law of G-D since we cannot, and that we need another way to salvation.  

Additionally, the Jews had an advantage in this revelation in that (1) they had the written Law of G-D which is not subject to defilement like the conscience since it is external to the person and thus knew the perfect will of G-D and (2) the written Law of G-D pointed to the other way to salvation via prophecies of the Anointed One whereas the conscience does not.  Those of us who follow the other Way are subject to the Eternal Law of G-D, Natural Law, and the Law of Messiah (which reflects these anyway).  The Law of Messiah is a new covenant separate from the Law given to Moses though they both may contain some same provisions but they also contain similar provisions and different provisions.  Yet, because the Law of G-D given to Moses does reflect His Eternal Law and Natural Law and contains special provisions relating to the Jewish situation, Jewish followers of the Way may still choose to observe the Law of G-D given to Moses but this Law does not save nor binds them.  Similarly, the Law of Messiah does not save but it does bind all followers of the Way.  It is the followers of the Way who are the true Jews and the true children of Abraham.

What do you think?

A:  Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  It sounds like we are in agreement about quite a lot of what you have mentioned.  Thanks, too, for your encouraging feedback on our website.  May God bless you as you seek him and share his word.

I have the following initial thoughts to share about your teaching, and only wish that I had more time to go into more depth: 

1)  Natural Law.  It's interesting that you chose the term Natural Law to describe the requirements that I usually refer to on my website as the Laws of Noah.  Gentile Christians in the early years of Christianity often used this same name ("Natural Law") for the same set of laws that you do.  It's true that Paul does mention our conscience in mediating the law written on our hearts (Rom. 2:15), but Biblically this inner awareness is ultimately based on the commandments of God in the early chapters of Genesis.  That's why I have chosen to refer to them as the Laws of Noah to emphasize their connection with the Old Testament as well as with the Jewish people.  But Natural Law is another valid name for them.  This Natural Law, which preceded the time of Moses, is also included in the Law of Moses and in the Law of the Messiah (the New Testament).    

2)  Predisposition to sin inherited from the father.  Theologically, I have a problem with this position, since both men and women are equally prone to sin, not to mention that this belief (of inheriting a predisposition to sin from the father) is taught nowhere in the Bible.  The idea that sin is inherited from the father has been used to try to explain how Jesus could be without sin.  But the simple fact is that Jesus was without sin because he was (and is) God the Son.  The way in which divinity and ordinary humanity were joined in him is a model and a picture of God's will for all of us: to be joined together with God in an intimate unity.  But this union cannot be achieved by our own perfect obedience, since we are not able to perfectly fulfill the greater demands of the Law ot the Messiah.  This unity can only be established through the ministry of Jesus himself and his crucifixion and resurrection.  But in that unity, we are growing into greater and greater obedience to God's will through the presence of God in our lives. 

3)  No human can fully obey the Law of Moses.  This common Christian idea is directly contradicted by the New Testament itself.  See for example Luke 1:6, which says that Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, were "both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord."  The apostle Paul, in Phil. 3:6, also claims that he was "as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless."  The common Christian teaching that perfect obedience to the Law of Moses is impossible is therefore false.  

However, perfect obedience to the Law of Moses cannot and never could bring salvation (Gal. 3:11,21; Heb. 10:1,4).  Nor could it bring about perfect obedience to the fullness of God's will (as revealed in the New Covenant), but only a partial or limited obedience.  Man still continued to have a disposition to sin and continued to sin in ways not covered in the Law of Moses.  Rather, spiritual salvation is available only through faith in Messiah Jesus.  This was true both in Old and New Testament times: 1 Peter 1:11 mentions the "Spirit of Messiah" operating within the Old Testament prophets.  Right standing with God has only therefore ever been possible by faith, and by faith in the Messiah.  One who is in a faith relationship with God will sin less and less because of the power and presence of God's Spirit in their lives, bringing us into obedience to the Law of Messiah (1 John 3:9, the "Law of the Spirit" in Rom. 8:2, the Law written in the heart by the Holy Spirit in Heb. 10:15,16).  

So why was the Law of Moses given?  The Law was originally given to Israel to limit sin in Israel in preparation for the coming of the Messiah (Gal. 3:19,24; Heb. 10:3).  And it still continues to function today as a signpost pointing to Messiah for those who do not yet know him.  But the Law was never a means of spiritual salvation.  God's desire from the very beginning was for man to be in an intimate faith relationship with him.  Messiah is both the model and means for that faith relationship to come about.    

Friday, February 24, 2017

Bethlehem in the Time of Jesus (Video)

Here's a video of another part of our Jesus of Nazareth Seminar (3c).  Continue below to see the video.

Thursday, December 29, 2016