Not long ago, while discussing the book of Acts with friends, one man in our circle remarked that it would be nice to have the text of the sermons Paul delivered in the synagogues where he spoke so we could know what evidence he presented to the Jews that Yeshua is Messiah. Well, we do have the texts Paul used. They are called the Torah and the Prophets. As Yeshua said,
For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? (John 5:46-47 NASB)
All it takes is a little study of the Tanakh (Old Testament) to understand who Messiah is and what He is supposed to do. Moses, of course, provides the first clues:
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 13:1-6 NASB)
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, “Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.” The Lord said to me, “They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15-19 NASB)
From this we see that any prophet sent by God will speak nothing that contradicts the things that God commanded, and that Messiah will confirm the commandments of the Lord. Then there’s the breathtaking prophecy of Isaiah 53 which explains Messiah’s mission of redemption as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. No wonder Yeshua said He had not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to teach their correct meaning. And no wonder Paul was commissioned as the Apostle to the Gentiles. Who else but the star pupil of the greatest Torah teacher of the age would be qualified to explain to Gentiles why they should believe on Yeshua, and how to live once they did?
With that as an introduction, let me commend to your attention a new series by John and Sue Wyatt, Torah in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. This is a straightforward investigation of the book of Acts from the perspective that Yeshua and His apostles remained Torah-observant all their lives, just as God commanded through Moses and the Prophets. The first post, covering Acts 1-5, is reblogged below. The most compelling portion of this post is the Wyatt’s comparison of the traditional Christian interpretation of Acts 5 with a Hebraic perspective. Did the Apostles preach something that contradicted what Moses and the Prophets taught, or did their proclamation of Yeshua’s Messianic claims uphold the Torah? The answer to that question helps us understand exactly what Paul preached in the synagogues of Asia and Europe.
© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2015. Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
The Strange Career of Saul of Tarsus
Would it be a great surprise to learn that people started lying about the Apostle Paul almost as soon as he became a believer in Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus)? The story of his dramatic change on the road to Damascus is in Acts 9. It is a tale that should be familiar to all Christians. This man, Saul of Tarsus, star pupil of the sage Gamaliel, had made a name for himself by persecuting believers in Yeshua even to the point of death. His mission in Damascus was to continue the work of hunting down these people and eliminating the threat they posed to the established religious and political order.
This is the final part of a series comparing the words of Yeshua and Paul regarding the Law (Torah) of God.
Salvation: The Great Question
What especially upset the Jewish establishment was the message Yeshua and His followers preached that salvation comes by grace through faith, not by works. In keeping with the division of the world between Jews and Gentiles, the prevailing understanding of the day was that anyone who wanted to be reconciled to God and learn His ways needed to convert to Judaism. Formal, legal conversion required circumcision, mikvah (baptism), and presentation of a sacrifice at the Temple (when possible). Gentiles who went through that process were called “proselytes”. Sadly, the conversion process also involved complete immersion in the Jewish traditions to the point that the proselytes adhered more to the doctrines of the men who had instructed them than the Torah itself. That is why Yeshua included an indictment of this process in His confrontation with the Pharisees:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:15 NKJV)
This is the third in a series comparing the words of Yeshua and Paul regarding the Law (Torah) of God.
The Very Jewish Paul
Was Paul hopelessly confused on the question of the Law of God? No, not at all. The confusion comes when we attempt to view him as a man who walked away from Judaism after he met Yeshua on the road to Damascus. That is not true. Paul remained an observant Jew until the end of his life, as we know from his own words:
But Paul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.” (Acts 21:39 NKJV, emphasis added)
But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!” (Acts 23:6 NKJV, emphasis added)
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6 NKJV)
It goes well with this verse:
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18 KJV)
There are many reasons Christians hold the Law (Torah) of God at arm’s length, but I think the greatest reasons are fear and ignorance. The fear is from a misperception that the Torah loads us down with an unbearable burden and inescapable bondage. This misperception has grown from of a lack of understanding (e.g., ignorance) of the Scriptures. All too often we study “the back of the book” (the New Testament) and ignore “the front of the book” (the Old Testament). The Old Testament (Tanakh in Hebrew) is the foundation on which the Apostles built when they wrote the New Testament. If we do not study that foundation, our knowledge is imperfect and our vision or revelation is incomplete. The result is a tremendous loss of the blessing which comes from obeying the Lord’s commandments. One might say we believers in Yeshua have a veil over our faces that keep us from seeing this simple truth!
This brings us to a subject addressed in Which Veil?, a new teaching from 119 Ministries. Here is the introduction to the teaching from their website:
“We have heard many times over from people how the law is no longer for believers today. And many of those refer to 2 Corinthians chapter 3 for their support in claiming how the law is a veil and we are to no longer have that veil since it is removed in Christ. Join us in this brief teaching as we examine just which veil Paul was really talking about.”
Take 15 minutes and review this teaching. You will be surprised at how we have missed the simple understanding of Paul’s writing just because we have skimmed over the Torah passage he references and missed the proper connection!
© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2014. Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
This is the second of a series comparing the words of Yeshua and Paul regarding the Law (Torah) of God.
There is a story about a man who had an interesting way of structuring his day. Every morning he would close his eyes and flip through his Bible, letting his fingers choose a verse at random. Whatever the verse said would be his guiding principle for the day. That worked well until one day when his finger fell on this verse:
“And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:5 KJV)
This was not what the man expected and certainly not an example he wanted to follow. After much contemplation, he decided that it would be acceptable to choose another verse at random. After going through the process again, his finger came down at this place:
Then said Jesus unto him, “Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10:37b KJV)
This story illustrates a common shortcoming: the practice of “verse plucking”. Those who employ this method latch onto a passage, a verse, or a piece of a verse to prove a point, but they neglect the context of the Scripture and thus miss the full meaning. “Verse plucking” is the method by which the Bible can be twisted to say anything the interpreter desires – even if it is the exact opposite of what the Scripture actually means. That is why Peter issued his warning regarding the words of Paul:
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. (II Peter 3:14-16 NKJV, emphasis added)
This is the first of a series comparing the words of Yeshua and Paul regarding the Law (Torah) of God.
Should God Have The Last Word?
A very strange thing happens when I encounter others who share with me a testimony of faith in Jesus Christ (Messiah Yeshua), but do not share the same regard for all the commandments of the Lord. These brothers and sisters do have regard for His commandments, but draw a line at things like observing Sabbath on the day God specified, keeping the Feasts of the Lord, and eating only the foods God placed on the menu. The strange thing is the reactions that come with the understanding that we have disagreement on these points. Sometimes the reaction is silence, as if some of the brethren just want to make the issue go away by ignoring it. Sometimes they react in disbelief, wondering how I can be “bound up” in all that old Law. This perception of the Law, or Torah, as bondage comes from what people think they know of Judaism and of the Jewish practices Yeshua and the Apostles addressed in the Scriptures. For example, one person indicated she considered it bondage to legalism when a Jewish friend of hers had to cut short a phone conversation to prepare for Sabbath. There is a vast difference between what God commanded about Sabbath and the excessive regulations added by Rabbinical Judaism, but I wonder if by the standard of this particular example it is also legalism to cut short a phone conversation to prepare for church on Sunday.
One of the things we Christians have missed in our spiritual education is the meanings of the various sacrifices God prescribed in the Temple service. Each type of sacrifice teaches us about an attribute of God and about our relationship with Him. Unfortunately, in most Christian teaching, the sacrifices are lumped together and dismissed under the assumption that the sacrifice of Yeshua on the cross did away with them all. And yet that is not entirely true. Yeshua was the Lamb of God, the one sacrifice that God Himself provided to take away the sin of the world according to the promise given through Abraham (Genesis 22:6-8) and announced by John the Baptist (John 1:29). All the other sacrifices were those brought by man as acts of worship and other transactions with the Most High God. According to what the Lord explained to the prophets, those sacrifices will be in operation during the Messianic age, and our King Yeshua Himself will be presiding over them (see Ezekiel 40-46, especially 45:18-46:18. See also Isaiah 19:19-22, 56:4-8, Jeremiah 33:14-18; Zechariah 14:16-21).