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Ax – False Brothers slipped in to Spy Out our Freedom in Messiah 2: 3-5

False Brothers slipped in
to Spy Out our Freedom in Messiah
2: 3-5

DIG: How does Paul confront those who believe Gentiles had to first become Jewish to be really believers? How did the decision about Titus confirm Paul’s message? Give the charges against him (1:10), why was this a critical issue for Paul? Given the position of Peter, James, and John, how would their approval of Paul’s message validate his claim in 1:11-12? How does caring for the poor relate to preaching the gospel (Galatians 2:10; Acts 11:25-30)?

REFLECT: How do you feel when your beliefs run counter to popular opinion? What would you have done in Paul’s position? What would it matter to you if Paul’s argument had lost out? What forms of legalism have you had to confront today? Have there been times in your life when you have begun to think that your performance counts toward salvation? What caused you to think this way? ADONAI sent Peter to take the gospel mainly to his fellow Jews, and He sent Paul to take the gospel mainly to Gentiles. To whom has God sent you? Are you ready to share your testimony in a couple of minutes?

Paul brought Titus with him to a meeting with the apostles to seek their endorsement for his gospel to the Gentiles. Had Paul been unwilling to wage this spiritual warfare, the Church might have become nothing more than a Jewish sect, preaching a mixture of Torah observance and grace. But because of Paul’s courage, the gospel was carried to the Gentiles with great blessing.

48 BC

Galatians 2:1-10 would appear to refer to an earlier private meeting between Paul, Barnabus, James, Peter, and John at which an already-determined decision to let Peter concentrate on Jewish and Paul on Gentile evangelism was ratified. Behind this decision would seem to lie the conviction that the Gentiles were not required to be circumcised – a fact that Peter’s initial behavior supports.

It was because of a revelation from God Himself that Paul went up and presented to them the Good News that he proclaimed among the Gentiles. It is possible that the Ruach ha-Kodesh spoke to the leaders of the Antioch church, along with Paul, just as He had done when Paul and Barnabas were commissioned for their First Missionary Journey (see the commentary on Acts Bs – Paul’s First Missionary Journey). In any case, the matter was resolved when Paul, divinely appointed to go up to Jerusalem, was obedient, and the Antioch church affirmed that command by giving their blessing.

There were two councils; there was a public council and a private council. The private one is spelled out here with the three key elders of the Messianic community in Jerusalem, James, Peter and John. But I did so privately to those who seemed to be influential (2:2). Paul was received in brotherly fellowship, and had been accorded full recognition as the apostle to the Gentiles. Thus, he again demonstrated his entire independence of any human authority. After the private meeting, it must have been agreed among all the parties that a larger public meeting among the other apostles, elders and members of the Messianic congregation at Jerusalem, other local Messianic congregations, as well as the elders of the Antioch church needed to be included in the decision to gain a larger consensus. The word went out, and after a time, the public council took place.

Paul took Titus with him and probably asked him to share his testimony before the whole council. Can you share your story before others? Every believer should be able to tell their story of salvation. Yet not even Titus who was with me, a Greek, was forced to be circumcised. Now this issue came up because of false brothers who secretly slipped in to spy out our freedom in Messiah (also see Acts 15:1), in order to bring us into utter bondage, the slavery of obedience to the 613 commandments of Moshe (2:3-4). The people who Paul is talking about were Judaizers (see Ag – Who Were the Judaizers), or false brothers (Greek: pseudadelphos), who had been claiming apostolic approval of their perverted gospel. Although the Judaizers did not proclaim the same gospel as taught by the Twelve, they knew they needed apostolic confirmation in order to be taken seriously. They therefore made-up a lie that their message was approved by the apostles in Jerusalem and that they were among the apostles’ acknowledged representatives.47

Those Judaizers were like spies who were determined to discover weak points in the enemies’ military position. They claimed to be believers, but when Paul would start a new church in a new city, after he left those Jewish unbelievers would swoop in to try to confuse the baby believers into thinking they had to be circumcised, follow the 613 commandments of the Torah and the Oral Law (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Ei – The Oral Law). They are the ones who are cursed in Galatians 1:8. Peter basically told Simon the sorcerer: May your silver go to ruin, and you with it (J. B. Phillips’ rendering, “To hell with you and your money!” conveys the actual sense of Peter’s words) because he was a false brother (see the commentary on Acts Ba – Simon the Sorcerer).

The Judaizers stood up and declared: Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved (see the commentary on Acts Bs – The Counsel at Jerusalem). Believers are never cursed in the Scriptures. At worst, if a believer teaches false doctrine or continually drags ADONAI’s name through the mud, the Bible tells us to turn him over to Satan for the destruction of his fleshly nature, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Yeshua (First Corinthians 5:5). And Paul was beyond aggravated (see 3:1, 3:3, 4:19-20, 5:12).

But we did not give in to the Judaizers even for a moment, so that the truth of the Good News might be preserved for you (2:5). Paul stood his ground. How important were Paul’s actions? The entire status of Gentile believers was involved in the case of Titus. The question as to whether the Church was to be merely a modified form of Judaism or a system of pure grace, was at stake. Salvation equaling faith-plus-nothing was on trial. Circumcision would have set it aside. The phrase be preserved is from the Greek word diameno. The idea of firm possession is present in the compound verb. For you is from pros humas. The idea is not that of simple rest. The preposition expresses the relation of an active bearing on life. One could translate for you, and paraphrase it: with a view to your welfare.48

Not only did the Jerusalem council approve Paul’s gospel of salvation equals faith-plus-nothing, and oppose the Judaizers, but they also encouraged Paul’s ministry and recognized that ADONAI had committed Gentile evangelism into Paul’s hands. They could add nothing to Paul’s message or ministry, and they dared not take anything away from it. They were in agreement. There was only one gospel to preach to Jews and Gentiles alike. Therefore, James, the leader of the Messianic community in Jerusalem, wrote a letter to be circulated to all the other churches (see the commentary on Acts Bt – The Council’s Letter to the Gentile Believers).

We need to recognize the fact that God calls people to different ministries in different places, yet we all preach/teach the same gospel and are seeking to work together to build Messiah’s Church made up of Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14). Among those who know and love Yeshua, there can be no such thing as competition. Peter was a great man, the leading apostle, yet he gladly yielded to Paul – the newcomer – and permitted him to carry on with his ministry as the Lord led him. In Galatians 1, Paul explained his independence from the apostles; now in Galatians 2, he points out his interdependence with the apostles. He was free, and yet he was willingly in fellowship with them in the ministry of the gospel.49


2020-01-22T22:39:36+00:00 0 Comments

Aw – Circumcision from a Jewish Perspective

Circumcision from a Jewish Perspective

Circumcision is the sign of the Jewish people’s covenant with God (see the commentary on Genesis El – God’s Covenant of Circumcision with Abraham). Its centrality within Judaism is signified – among other things – by its inclusion in the list of acts for which a Jew must suffer martyrdom rather than violate the commandment: For even if an enemy decrees that [Isra’el] should desecrate the Sabbath, abolish circumcision, or serve idols, they suffer martyrdom rather than be assimilated with them (Exodus Rabbah 15:7).

Genesis 7:1-14 requires circumcision of every male, whether born in Abraham’s house (which would be Abraham’s own sons and the sons of his servant and maidservants) or bought with money (which would be any foreigner brought into Abraham’s household). This is a clear and specific commandment. An uncircumcised male in Abraham’s household was to be cut of (Hebrew: karath) from his people. The rabbis differentiate between being cut off by the hands of men and being cut off by the hands of heaven. Cut off by the hands of men means excommunication from the community, or capital punishment, depending on the crime and situation (as seen in the stoning of Achan in Joshua 7). Cut off by the hands of heaven means a death sentence by God. The Torah presents an example of the latter in the case of Moshe, who had not circumcised his son Gershon. The Angel of the LORD (the preincarnate Messiah) appeared to him and his wife Tzipporah and was going to put Moshe to death. The Angel would have cut Moshe off with the hands of heaven if not for the quick intervention of Tzipporah, who circumcised the child (Gershon was no longer eight days old, but the mitzvah to circumcise the child still stood.45

Both Jews and Gentiles recognize circumcision as a distinguishing mark of Judaism. The Oral Law lists some of circumcision’s greatest attributes. Rabbi Ishmael says, “Great is circumcision, whereby the covenant was made thirteen times” (Genesis 17). Rabbi Jose says, “Great is circumcision which overrides even the rigor of the Sabbath.” Rabbi Joshua Karha says, “Great is circumcision, which even for the sake of Mosh, the righteous, was not suspended so much as an hour” (Exodus 4:24). Rabbi Nehemiah says, “Great is circumcision, which overrides the commandments regarding leprosy” (Negaim 7:5). Rabbi says, “Great is circumcision, for despite all the religious duties that our father Abraham fulfilled, he was not called “blameless” until he circumcised himself, as it is written, “Walk before Me and you will be blameless.” After another fashion [it is said], great is circumcision; but for it, the Holy One, blessed be He, had not created the world, as it is written in Jeremiah 33:25, “But for My covenant day and night, I had not fixed the patterns ordering the heavens and the earth” (Nedarim 3:11).

While circumcision can be applied to the heart (Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4, 9:25ff; Romans 2:25ff), the physical act can never be abolished: Rabbi Elazar of Modim said, “One who profanes things sacred, and one who slights the festivals, and one who causes his fellowman’s face to blanch in public, and one who nullifies the covenant of our father Abraham [i.e. removes his circumcision], peace be upon him, and he who exhibits imprudence towards the Torah, even though he has to his credit [knowledge of] the Torah and good deeds, he does not have a share in the world to come” (Pirkei Avot).

This attitude also demonstrates how central the covenant is to the Jewish community’s identity in the purity of its descent – and thus to God’s promises of redemption: At that time your people will be delivered (Dani’el 12:1). Through who’s merit? Rabbi Samuel bar Nahmani said, “Through the merit of their lineage, for it is said, ‘Bring My Sons from far and My daughters from the ends of the earth. Everyone who is called by My Name’ (Isaiah 43:6b-7a).” Rabbi Levi said Joshua 5:2 declares, “Through the merit of circumcision. For the verse of this comment says: Make yourselves flint knives and circumcise . . . the sons of Isra’el (Midrash Psalms 20:3).

The claim made of Gentile believers by the Judaizers who arrived for the Jerusalem Council (see Ax – False Brothers slipped in to Spy Out our Freedom in Messiah) that unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved (Acts 15:1), fits the attitude of those zealous for the Torah for whom “the Godfearer versus the proselyte” debate was decided in favor of the latter (for the difference between Godfearers and proselytes see the commentary on Acts Bb – The Ethiopian Asks about Isaiah 53). In this context the verb be saved (Greek: sothenai) appears to refer to the “righteousness” through which a person merits in the world to come, both Godfearers and proselytes being judged according to their righteousness.

The acceptance of proselytes was a subject of debate between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel (Aboth D’Rabbi Nathan, version A 15:3; Soncino, version B 29;Shabbat 31a). The dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Joshua directly relates to the necessity of circumcision: Our rabbis teach that if a proselyte was circumcised but had not performed the prescribed Mikveh (ceremonial cleansing), Rabbi Eliezer said, “Behold, he is a proper proselyte; for so our forefathers were circumcised and had not performed the prescribed Mikveh.” But Rabbi Joshua said, “If he performed the prescribed Mikveh but had not been circumcised, behold, he is a proper proselyte (Yebamoth 46a).

When interpreted in the context of Beit Shammai’s zealous tendencies, this dispute may be read as emphasizing the fact that the Gentile is unclean by nature. He is forbidden to study the Torah until he has been circumcised, since circumcision is not merely a commandment by symbolizes entry into the covenant people. Only full conversion – as seen in the blood drawn through circumcision – makes a person fit to study what God gave to Isra’el alone. Significantly, those responsible for the statements prohibiting Gentiles from studying Torah (Exodus Rabbah 33:7; Hagigah [Festal Offering] 13a; Sanhedrin 59a) also seem to have been those who insisted that they become full proselytes (Ben-Shalom 164f).46


2020-01-22T22:30:56+00:00 0 Comments

Av – Running the Race in Vain 2: 2b

Running the Race in Vain
2: 2b

DIG: Why was Paul’s salvation equals faith plus nothing so radical in Paul’s day? How did Peter use his “keys to the Kingdom?” What did “binding and loosing” mean for the apostles? Why was Paul uneasy going up to Jerusalem? How did Paul show great wisdom in the way he dealt with the leaders of the Messianic community in Jerusalem? Why was it important that James, Peter and John endorse Paul’s gospel?

REFLECT: Who are you accountable to in your ministry? Have you ever had to change what you were doing? How did you handle that discipline? What race have you run in vain in your life? What did you learn from that experience? How have you helped others not get off in the wrong direction in their life?

Paul went up to Jerusalem to submit his gospel of Gentile inclusion to the authority of the James, the other apostles and the Messianic community.

48 AD

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus with me. Because of a revelation, I went up and presented to them the Good News that I proclaim among the Gentiles (2:1-2a).

Paul’s salvation equals faith, plus nothing gospel does not sound too controversial today, but he had a sinking feeling in his stomach as he, Barnabas, and Titus approached Jerusalem. He knew that he was teaching something outside the apostolic norm. Special revelations from heaven are good, but Paul had not yet cleared that teaching with the authority in Jerusalem. He had never submitted his gospel (Romans 2:16 and 25; Second Timothy 2:8) to the apostles. Up until then, he was the only one teaching salvation equals faith plus nothing. But he had been teaching on his own initiative, without authority and without sanction from those to whom our Master gave the power to bind and loose and to govern the Body.

Yeshua had said to Peter: I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19). Whenever the words key or keys is used symbolically in the Bible, it always symbolizes the authority to open or close doors (Judges 3:25; First Chronicles 9:27; Isaiah 22:20-24; Matt 16:19a; Revelation 1:18, 3:7, 9:1 and 20:1). Peter will be responsible to open the doors of the Church. He will have a special role in the book of Acts. In the Dispensation of the Torah, humanity was divided into two groups, Jews and Gentiles. But in the Dispensation of Grace, because of what went on in the intertestamental period, there were three groups of people, Jews, Gentiles and Samaritans (Matthew 10:5-6). Peter would be the key person (pun intended) in bringing in the Jews in 30 AD (Acts 2), the Samaritans in 34 AD (Acts 8), and the Gentiles in 38 AD (Acts 10) into the Church by receiving the Holy Spirit. Once he opened the door it stayed open.

Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Mattityahu 16:19b). The perfect tense is used here, meaning that whatever is already God’s decision in heaven will be revealed to the apostles on earth. It literally says: Whatever you prohibit on earth will have already been prohibited in heaven. The terms binding and loosing were common in the rabbinic writing of that day. From the Jewish frame of reference, the terms binding and loosing were used by the rabbis in two ways: judicially and legislatively. Judicially, to bind meant to punish, and to loose meant to release from punishment. Legislatively, to bind meant to forbid something, and to loose meant to permit it. In fact, the Pharisees claimed binding and loosing for themselves, but God really never gave it to them. At that time, Yeshua gave this special authority to Peter alone. After His resurrection Messiah gave the unique authority to bind and loose in legislative matters and in judicial punishment to the other apostles. Once the talmidim died, however, that authority died with them.

As the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul’s three years (35-37 AD) in Arabia (see An – Arabia during the Time of Paul) came after salvation to the Jews and the Samaritans, but before salvation came to the Gentiles in 38 AD (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Fx – On This Rock I Will Build My Church). Therefore, Paul was preaching his gospel of salvation equals faith plus nothing before Peter opened the keys to the Kingdom to the Gentiles. But that also meant that for more than ten years Paul had been preaching his gospel without the official approval of the apostles in Jerusalem.

That is why Paul probably felt uneasy as he went up to Yerushalayim, because he knew that he had not confirmed his calling, his ministry, or his gospel had not been confirmed by those in authority. So, Paul took advantage of the famine-relief trip to Jerusalem (see Au – Famine Relief for Jerusalem) to seek a private audience with James, Yeshua’s half-brother, Peter, the first of the Twelve, and John, the son of Zebedee, the disciple whom Yeshua loved. He sought confirmation of those three pillars, and whoever of the other apostles might be available. He said: I did so privately to those who seemed to be influential, to make sure I would not run – or had not run – in vain (2:2b). The private meeting set the stage for the public council that followed (see Ax – False Brothers slipped in to Spy Out our Freedom in Messiah). It was of the greatest importance that the believers in Galatia, and everywhere else, understand that Paul’s gospel of grace was identical to that of the other apostles and that it was the Satanic message of the Judaizers that was the counterfeit of God’s saving truth.43

What does Paul mean by, I might be running, or had run, in vain? Paul uses his favorite metaphor, borrowed from Greek athletics, the stadium foot race, in speaking of his missionary career. He had been taking his salvation of faith plus nothing to God-fearing Gentiles for more than ten years. Suppose he came to Yerushalayim and said, “Shalom, I have good news. Multitudes of Gentiles had embraced the faith, and I told them that they don’t even have to become Jewish to enter the Kingdom of heaven, to merit the resurrection, the world to come, and a right standing within the people of God. In fact, I’ve been telling them they don’t even need to be circumcised or follow the six-hundred-and-thirteen commandments of Moshe. Isn’t that great?” And suppose James and the apostles replied, “Paul, are you out of your mind? That’s heretical and contradicts the teachings of Messiah entrusted to us. You cannot do that!”

If they said that, Paul would have been running his race in vain. It’s like a runner in a footrace who takes off from the starting line, running as hard as he can to win the race. He runs for miles. He sees no one around and assumes he must be in the lead. But then someone tells him, “Hey, you are off the race route. You’ve been running in the wrong direction.” It has happened to me before.

Paul did not want to run his race in vain. He once wrote to the God-fearing Gentile believers in the city of Philippi, beseeching them to prove their faith and commitment in Yeshua so that I may boast in the day of Messiah that I did not run or labor in vain (Philippians 2:16). He regarded the Gentile believers as proof that he had not run, or labored, in vain. They were the first-fruits of his gospel message.44


2020-01-22T21:59:13+00:00 0 Comments

Au – After Fourteen Years, Paul went up to Jerusalem, and took Titus and Barnabas with Him 2: 1-2a

After Fourteen Years,
Paul went up to Jerusalem,
and took Titus and Barnabas with Him
2: 1-2a

DIG: Why would Paul take Barnabas with him to Jerusalem? What history did they have together? Why did the believers cherish Jerusalem? Why does the Bible say “Go up to Jerusalem,” or “Go down from Jerusalem?” What was this revelation that Paul had? How would this form of communication from God continue throughout his ministry? Who was Agabus? What did he prophesy? What was significant about the famine relief being sent to the elders of the Messianic community and not to the apostles?

REFLECT: In Paul’s day, the question was, “Can these Gentiles really be believers?” Today the question, by far too many Gentiles, is, “Can these Jews really be believers?” Paul saw to it that relief was sent to the suffering Jews by Gentiles, what are Gentiles doing today to send relief, either physically or spiritually, to suffering Jews? After all, Paul would later write, “To the Jew first and then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16 NIV).

After an absence of more than a decade, Paul journeys to Jerusalem in the company of Barnabas and Titus with a collection for famine relief.

48 AD

Then, fourteen years after his encounter on the Damascus Road (see Ai – A Harmony of Acts 9 and Galatians 1), Paul went up again to Jerusalem (2:1a). Try to understand the significance of Yerushalayim for the believers. They cherished the Holy City, not only as the place of the Temple, as the place of the Master’s tomb, and as the capital of the future Messianic Kingdom, but also as the home of the apostles. The City of David was where the elders and the original apostles could be found. No doubt that they had a synagogue of their own in Tziyon. They had an academy of learning, I am sure. They had their own beit din (court of judgment), and they had James (Ya’akov) the just, half-brother of Yeshua.

Paul took with Barnabas, the one who had vouched for him on his last visit, and Titus with him (2:1b). Barnabas was a Jewish believer who had good credentials among the Gentiles. He was a veteran apostle and had been very influential since the years of Messiah’s death and resurrection. Titus represented the opposite: a proselyte at the Gate (see the commentary on Acts Bb – An Ethiopian Asks about Isaiah 53) from Antioch. He was uncircumcised and seemingly had no plans to do so. He was one of Paul’s Gentile disciples.

I went up to Jerusalem: No matter where one is coming from in their travels, it is always up to Yerushalayim. It may not always be physically up if you were coming from Nepal, for example. But it is certainly up in the sense of a spiritual pilgrimage, and drawing close to God’s presence. Leaving the Holy City is always referred to as going down from Tziyon.

Because of a revelation (2:2a). A revelation is something revealed from heaven. After the first encounter on the Damascus road (Acts 9), revelations like that directed Paul’s life. The Master appeared to Him in the Temple (Acts 22:17-21); a vision in prison (Acts 23:11); and the Ruach Ha-Kodesh prevented him from entering Bithynia, but wanted him to go to Macedonia instead (Acts 16:6-10).

Now at the end of the first year of the co-ministry of Barnabas and Sha’ul, prophets came down from Jerusalem to Syrian Antioch (Acts 11:27). Now a prophet was one who received direct revelation from God. The early Messianic Community had prophets, like Judah and Silas (15:32), and the church at Antioch had prophets like Lucius the Cyrenian, Simeon called Niger, Manaen (13:1). For one to be a prophet one had to give a near historical prophecy. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and predicted through the Ruach that there was going to be a great famine over all the Roman world. The Greek word for world used here is oikouméne, which means the inhabited world, or the Roman world. Indeed, this took place during the reign of Claudius (Acts 11:28), who was emperor from 41 AD to 54 AD.

Contemporary records demonstrate that a series of famines affected Mediterranean agriculture during his reign. In the winter of 40/41 AD Rome experienced such a lack of food that stores were only stocked for a week. This crisis continued at least into Claudius’ second year 41/42 AD. Yerushalayim’s status as the “navel of the earth” unfortunately does not include the advantages of a city endowed with natural resources or trading materials. The mountains yield only stone in large quantities and most raw materials are lacking. More significantly, Jerusalem naturally possesses only one real water source, the spring of Siloam (Second Kings 20:20; Second Chronicles 32:2-4; Nehemiah 3:15; Isaiah 8:6, 22:8-11; John 9:7ff).

In times of famine grain supplies were the first to be affected, and here too Tziyon is ill-served by its geographical location, the soil in the surrounding area is notoriously poor in quality. The City’s chief requirements had to be imported from Galilee, Samaria and the Transjordan. However, the capital produced fruits and vegetables, such as olives, dates, vines and honey. While Jerusalem enjoyed a high standard of living, her citizens also suffered from a higher cost of living than the rest of the country. In times of drought and famine, these prices soared and the City experienced special hardships. Any severe disturbance to the wheat and barley production and/or transport could cause the price to escalate more than sixteen times. Only a few exceptional urban centers in the ancient world depended upon foreign imports for their food. Unfortunately, Jerusalem was one of them. In time of need, aid from the diaspora provided a vital source of sustenance, and the Diaspora communities felt a strong sense of responsibility to the believers in Judea.42

The prophesied famine came to Judea in 44 AD and lasted for three years until the end of 46 AD. The Talmud refers to it as “the years of scarcity.” Josephus reports that food was scarce, extremely expensive, and many people died as a result. The poor in Jerusalem were especially hard hit. Sharing all things in common, selling their property and possessions and sharing them with all, as any had need (Acts 2:44-45) had taken its toll. The impoverished community did not have the means to lay up provisions for themselves. In keeping with our Lord’s teachings about giving one’s wealth to the poor, the early Jewish believers came to be known as the evyonim, meaning the poor ones. They would be the hardest hit by the coming famine.

So, following Joseph’s example of preparing for a seven-year famine (see the commentary on Genesis Kq – Joseph and the Famine), the disciples of Antioch decided to send relief to those kedoshim (brothers and sisters) living in Judea, each according to his ability. The Talmud preserves several similar instances of collections for charity in the Diaspora. So the Messianic community in Yerushalayim sent Barnabas a teacher in Antioch, and the church at Antioch sent the Messianic community in Jerusalem relief from the famine. This is in keeping with Romans 15:25-27, when the Gentiles receive spiritual blessings from the Jews, they are obligated to share their material blessings with them. This they did, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Sha’ul (Acts 11:29-30). This is the first use of the word elders. They did not send relief to the apostles, but to the elders. This shows that Acts is a transitional book, and the leadership in Jerusalem was being transformed from apostles, which ended with the death of John around 98 AD, to elders, which is a permanent office.

After Paul’s First Missionary Journey (see the commentary on Acts Bm – Paul’s First Missionary Journey), Paul and Barnabas collected funds from the church in Antioch for their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. The gift served a two-fold purpose. On the one hand, it provided for the Jerusalem brothers and sisters much as the careful preparations of Joseph had provided for his brothers (see the commentary on Genesis Lt – Joseph Reassures His Brothers); on the other hand, the collection was a dose of spiritual reality to the Jews in Jerusalem that the Gentiles were actually their spiritual brothers and sisters.


2020-01-22T21:44:30+00:00 0 Comments

At – Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement

Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement

Luke introduces Barnabas, born Joseph, as a Levite and native of Cyprus (Acts 4:36). Joseph being the second most popular Jewish name of the Second Temple period, his nickname may have been necessary to distinguish him from the numerous others bearing the same name. Luke interprets the Aramaic “Barnabba” as meaning Son of Encouragement.

While it is difficult to determine the exact biblical relation between Levites and prophets (Second Chronicles 20:14ff), the fact that the B’rit Chadashah places Barnabas among the prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1), and implies that he as a gifted evangelist (Acts 11:24, 14:12, 15:2) may reflect his education as a Levite. His freedom to travel may likewise support the suggestion that Levitical service at the Temple was not compulsory (Jeremias, Jerusalem: 213) and that some (many?) Levites could be town teachers. Despite the social standing of craftsmen, the profession of a scribe was not considered lucrative, most scribes beginning their apprenticeship at a comparatively late age when the families could afford to forgo their potentially decreased income. Since ordinary priests appear to have been considered rich, it seems reasonable to conclude that the scribal class came almost exclusively from wealthy, distinguished families – including Levites.

The fact that Barnabas owned property (Acts 4:37, 12:12) possibly reflected the wealth of his family. Despite the biblical limitations on Levitical sale of land (Numbers 35:1ff), both Jeremiah and Josephus – both from priestly families – apparently owned land (Jeremiah 32:6ff; Josephus Life 422). Whether such limitations applied in the Diaspora is not easy to tell, although it is declared: Be careful that you do not neglect the Levite as long as you live . . . in your Land (Deuteronomy 12:19). This would not include the Diaspora, meaning that a Levite would have been no different than any other poor person and need not be supported (as a Levite).

It cannot be conclusively determined whether Barnabas’ estate was in Cyprus of Jerusalem. Some of his relatives apparently lived in the Eretz (Land of) Isra’el, his cousin’s mother (Miriam, John Mark’s mother) owned a house in Yerushalayim (Acts 12:12; Colossians 4:10) and Barnabas evidently lived, at least semi-permanently, in the City. If this family was also of Levitical ancestry, it is possible that they lived in the priestly quarters of the Upper City. Mnason, one of the early disciples, was also a Cypriot living in Zion (Acts 21:15-16).

According to Luke, Barnabas served as Paul’s first “mentor” on returning to Jerusalem as a follower of Yeshua after spending three-and-a-half years in Arabia, introducing him to Peter and James and witnessing to the authenticity of his calling (see Ai – Harmony of Acts 9 and Galatians 1). Having been sent by the Messianic community in Jerusalem to Syrian Antioch, he, in turn, sought Paul out in Tarsus in order to have Paul join him in encouraging [the new Gentile believers] to remain true to the Lord with heartfelt devotion (Acts 11:22-23). Having taught together in the church at Syrian Antioch (see the commentary on Acts Bj – The Church in Syrian Antioch), the elders commissioned both Paul and Barnabas to send relief to those brothers and sisters living in Judea, each according to their ability (Acts 11:29).


2020-01-22T19:14:01+00:00 0 Comments

As – Paul Meets Peter and James in Jerusalem 1: 18-24

Paul Meets Peter and James in Jerusalem
1: 18-24

DIG: What proof does Paul offer to show that he was an independent missionary and preached extensively without formal approval or supervision by the apostles in Jerusalem. How does that relate to Paul’s major point here? Why did Paul mention the fifteen days? Why were the other apostles initially afraid to meet Paul? Who broke down that barrier? How many years did Paul spend in the regions of Syria and Cilicia?

REFLECT: Who is your mentor? Who holds you accountable? Who asks you the hard questions? Who are you mentoring? Don’t waste your sorrows. If someone came to you with what he or she said was a message from God, not from man, how would you determine whether their message was true or false? Whom do you know who was once very hostile to Messiah, but is now a believer? What brought about that change?

Paul went up to Jerusalem to visit with Peter and James. But because of his reputation, they were afraid to meet with him. However, Barnabas interceded on his behalf and convinced them that Paul’s conversion was genuine. After preaching his gospel in Zion, [unbelieving] Hellenists, tried to kill him. Then Paul escaped to the regions of Syria and Cilicia for the next ten years before returning for the Jerusalem Council.

37 AD

After escaping from Damascus after the Jews there had plotted to kill him (Acts 9:23-25), Paul went up to Jerusalem to visit with Peter, going in and out, staying with him fifteen days (1:18). All the other Messianic communities in Judea knew that Paul, who had previously created havoc in the Church was now a believer, and preached the very gospel he once disdained. Nevertheless, the people in those churches never saw him in person or had any opportunity to influence his doctrine because he had left so abruptly when he went to Arabia for three years (see Ai – A Harmony of Acts 9 and Galatians 1).

Paul mentions fifteen days to show what a brief period of time he stayed with Peter. On the one hand, it was too short a time to get his theology from Peter; on the other hand, it was long enough to show if Paul was preaching a false gospel, Peter would have been able to expose him.36 When Paul came to Jerusalem he tried to meet with the apostles, but they were all afraid of him because they did not believe that he was truly saved. But, Barnabas took Paul and brought him to Peter and James, describing to them how Paul had spoken boldly in the name of Yeshua. So, Paul was with them, going in and out in Jerusalem for fifteen days, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord (Acts 9:26-30). He saw none of the other apostles, however, who may have been too afraid to see him, or may have been away from Jerusalem at the time (1:19).37

James was the Lord’s half-brother (Mark 6:3; Galatians 2:9 and 12; First Corinthians 15:7; Acts 15:13 and 21:18), the one who was head of the Jerusalem council (see the commentary on Acts Bs – The Council at Jerusalem), but also one of the apostles, as were Barnabas and Paul himself (Acts 14:4 and 14; First Corinthians 9:5-6). This means that there were more than twelve apostles (see Romans 16:7), even though the role of the Twelve is unique (Matthew 19:28; Revelation 21:14); indeed Ephesians 4:11 suggests that the office of apostle continues to be a gift to the Messianic Community.38 Paul considered these facts so important in his demonstration of his apostolic independence that he added these words: In what I’m writing you, before God, I do not lie (1:19-20).

Paul spoke boldly to the Jews in Yerushalayim in the name of the Lord, arguing with the [unbelieving] Hellenists, but they were trying to kill him (Acts 9:28-29). Fearing for his life, a protected escort helped him travel to the port of Caesarea where he sailed to Tarsus (Acts 9:30). ADONAI sent Paul there so that other aspects of his spiritual life could grow to match his zeal. During that time, however, he was far from idle (Second Corinthians 12:1-4). Between this time and the time Barnabas found him in the seaport of Tarsus and brought him to Antioch (see the commentary on Acts Bj – The Church at Syrian Antioch), he was aggressively doing what ADONAI had called him to do.

Then Paul went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia (see Aq – Syria and Cilicia during the Time of Paul), the latter of which included his home town of Tarsus. With a population of perhaps around 500,000, Tarsus apparently possessed a sizeable Jewish population by the first century – one which was still vibrant in the fourth century when the patriarch sent an envoy there to collect contributions from the Jewish community. As a free city under Augustus – who confirmed the privileges won by its citizens’ pro-Caesarean sympathies – it enjoyed self-government and tax-exempt status (Pliny, Natural History 5.22.92).39

Here we have ten years of Paul’s life passed over in silence, between his flight from Jerusalem to Tarsus in 38 AD and his return to Tziyon for the Jerusalem council in 48 AD. As a result, the Messiah’s communities outside of Jerusalem, in the larger area of Judea, didn’t even know what Paul looked like; they only kept on hearing, “The one who once persecuted us now proclaims the Good News he once tried to destroy” (1:21-23 CJB)! He left Jerusalem for Cilicia and Tarsus so abruptly that the Messianic communities in Judea had no opportunity to become acquainted with him. Had he been a disciple of the other twelve apostles, his ministry would have been in Judea, but because it was not, that showed that he was an independent missionary, and that he was not operating under the supervision of the Messianic community in Yerushalayim or the Twelve.40

So, they kept on praising God because of me (1:24). The verb is imperfect and presents continuous action. Paul means that his example was the cause of the Messianic communities in Judea glorifying God. Paul shows the cordial attitude of the Messianic communities of Judea towards himself, contrasting the hatred which the Judaizers displayed in their antagonism against him.

Modern-day Judaizers like their ancient counterparts, reject the authority of Paul and try to undermine the gospel he preached. In Paul’s day, their message was, “the gospel plus Torah.” In our day it is, “the gospel plus any number of religious leaders, religious books, or religious organizations.” You cannot be saved unless (you fill in the blank), is their message (Acts 15:1). And that unless usually includes joining their group and obeying their rules. If you dare mention the gospel of grace as preached by Yeshua, Paul, and the other apostles, they reply, “But God has given us a new revelation!”

Paul and Messiah have the answer for them. Paul stated: If anyone proclaims a gospel to you other than what you have received, let that person be under a curse (Galatians 1:9)! And Yeshua declares: If anyone adds to the prophecy of this book [Revelation], God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book (Revelation 22:18).

When a sinner trusts Messiah and is born again (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Bv – Jesus Teaches Nicodemus), he or she is set free – no longer a slave to sin, the Adversary, or to human religious systems (see Bo – When the Fullness of Time Came, God Sent Out His Son). So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36)!41


2020-01-22T19:10:11+00:00 0 Comments

Ar – Judea during the Time of Paul

Judea during the Time of Paul

The Roman province of Judea was established in 6 AD when Agustus removed Archelaus from his position as ethnarch of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea (Joseph Antiquity of the Jews 17,31ff, Jewish War 2.90ff). Since Archelaus’ territories were too small to warrant the creation of an independent province they were annexed to the neighboring province of Syria, whose governors had supervised Judean affairs even during Herod’s reign. Like Egypt, it belonged to a class of imperial provinces noted for their rulers’ equestrian ranking. Such provinces normally hosted no legionary forces and were considered unworthy, as it were, of a senatorial governor, either because of their special character or for economic reasons. They frequently appear to have been a function either of a “tenacious and individual culture” or a semi-barbarous population – both of which caused serious difficulties in the implementation of normal, ordinary regulations.

The governor of Judea was directly appointed by the Emperor. The length of his office was affected by various factors, including a given Emperor’s general policy with regard to terms of service and his interest in promoting favorites in the administrative hierarchy outside Judea, the governor’s personal connections at court, and his ability in maintaining peace and security in his territory without unreasonable tyranny and cruelty. Generally speaking, the average term of service appears to be about two years.

At the same time, the province’s administrative division continued to follow the Herodian system. Judea proper was divided into eleven toparchies which Josephus enumerates as Jerusalem, Gophna, Acrabeta, Thamna, Lydda, Emmaus, Pella, Idumaea (excluding Gaza), Engedi, Herodium, and Jericho, plus Jamnia and Joppa (Jewish War 3.54ff). The toparchies appear to have followed the division of the country according to the twenty-four priestly courses (see the commentary on the Life of David Ev – The Divisions of Priests), although the latter were not confined to Judea but covered the whole Land of Isra’el (Antiquities of the Jews 7.363ff, Life 2, Taanith (fast days) 3.6 and 4.2, Sanhedrin 11:2). While most of the priests apparently lived in Judea they did not by any means all reside in Jerusalem. Zechariah lived in the hill country of Judah (Luke 1:39), Mattathias dwelt in Modi’in (First Maccabees 2:1), and the Oral Law (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Ei – The Oral Law) rules wherever a priest resides he must receive the heave-offering (Terumoth [Heave offerings] 2:4).

Although Jerusalem served as Judea’s permanent administrative capital as well as that of Idumaea, its control over the whole country ceased when it became a Roman province, at which point the governor’s seat was transferred to Caesarea. Jerusalem nevertheless remained the province’s largest city and the main focus of its political, social, and religious life, due to the presence of both the Temple and the Sanhedrin (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Lg – The Great Sanhedrin).35


2020-01-22T19:02:49+00:00 0 Comments

Aq – Syria and Cilicia during the Time of Paul

Syria and Cilicia during the Time of Paul

Together with Phoenicia, Syria was a major Jewish center in the Second Temple period. Its proximity to the Land of Isra’el meant that Jewish life there closely resembled that in the Land, the Syrian Jewish community acting as good allies and partners. Jewish settlement in Syria in general was very ancient and was probably augmented by further immigration following the Seleucid conquest of Judea shortly after 200 BC (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 12.119, Jewish War 2.463, 7.43). The book of Obediah, verse 20, witnesses the colonization of Jews as military settlers in Syria, possibly subsequent to the annexation of Judaea by Antiochus III in 187 BC. Josephus asserts that Syria possessed the largest percentage of Jewish inhabitants in the diaspora and that both Jews and Judaizers (see Ag – Who Were the Judaizers?) were to be found in every city (Jewish War 2.463, 7.43). Rabbinic literature records the existence of Jewish tenants, the mortgaging of land to Jews by Gentiles (Tosefta Terumoth 2:10-11), and various types of tenures on Jewish land – suggesting that some Jews might have held large estates (Tosefta Terumoth 2:13).

Cilicia consisted of two major regions on the southeast Anatolian coast: Cilicia Trachea (or Aspera) in the mountainous region west of the Lamus River reaching to Pamphylia, and Cilicia Campestris (or Pedias) the fertile plain south of the Taurus and west of the Amanus range. The province is mentioned in the book of Judith (a deuterocanonical book, included in the Septuagint and the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, but excluded from the Jewish Apocrypha), where Nebuchadnezzar dispatched Holofernes, the head of his army, to punish the inhabitants of Cilicia for insubordination (Judith 1:12, 2:21-25). A further rebellion is recorded in First Maccabees 11:14.

The region having become so infested with bandits that “Cilicia” became a virtual synonym for “pirate,” Pompey was forced to action against those bandits. The defeat of the “Cilician pirates” resulted in Cilicia Trachea being incorporated into the Roman Empire, both Cilician districts being joined to the already-existing province, which consisted of Pamphylia and Isauria. Tarsus became the capital of Cilicia under Pompey in 66 BC, the provincial territory initially extending from the Chelidonian Isles to the Gulf of Issus, with Cyprus being added in 58 BC. While constituting a district administrative unit, Cilicia Pedias constituted a dependency of the Legate of Syria, while Cilicia Aspera was joined to the province of Lycaonia.34


2020-01-22T18:58:15+00:00 0 Comments

Ap – James (Jacob or Ya’akov)

James (Jacob or Ya’akov)

James (Jacob, or Ya’akov) is named as Yeshua’s half-brother in the gospels, along with Joseph (Joses), Simon and Judah, all popular Hebrew names in Eretz (Land of) Isra’el during this period, and an unspecified number of unnamed sisters (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3; First Corinthians 9:5). The exact manner in which Jacob became the leader in the Messianic community in Jerusalem is hard to trace. Many identify Acts 12:17 as the significant turning point when Peter left Jerusalem and went to another place after being delivered from prison by an angel of the Lord (Acts 12:1-19). It seems that the leadership void was filled – in an unspecified fashion – by Ya’akov’s rise to prominence. Being Yeshua’s brother, his personal qualities, his Davidic descent and the prompting of the Ruach ha-Kodesh all played a part in his rise to leadership in the Jerusalem community.

Christian tradition has long held that James represented the “Torah-observant” stream of early Christianity in contrast to Paul’s “Torah-free” gospel. The certain men of James (2:12) were not Judaizers (see Ag – Who Were the Judaizers?), for Ya’akov would not send such men, but Jewish believers, who, like Jacob, were still most scrupulous in their obedience to the 613 commandments of the Torah. Even after the decision by the Jerusalem council (see the commentary on Acts Bt – The Council’s Letter to the Gentile Believers) regarding the relation of Torah observance to Gentile believers, still held to the view that Jewish believers still needed to be “Torah-observant.”

Even the Church Father Eusebius’ description of James – based on Hegesippus – supplies no definite certification of James’ pharisaic status, his most outstanding characteristic – his Nazirite existence – being a commitment made by many different people, as also his ascetic lifestyle and dedication to prayer, “The leadership of the Church passed to James the brother of the Lord, together with the Apostles. He was called “the Just” by all men from the Lord’s time to ours, since many are called Jacob, but he was [a Nazirite] from his mother’s womb. He drank no wine or strong drink, nor did he eat [animal] flesh; no razor went upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil. He alone was allowed to enter alone into the sanctuary, for he did not wear wool, but linen, and he had a habit of entering the Temple alone and could be found kneeling and praying for forgiveness for the people. So that from his excessive righteousness he was called “the Just,” and Oblias, which in Greek means, protection of the people and righteousness, as the prophets declare concerning him.31

Jacob remained the leader of the Messianic community in Jerusalem until his death around 62 AD. While he lived, his influence was so great that even some of the leading citizens of the City believed that Yeshua was the long-awaited Messiah. This horrified the members of the Sanhedrin (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Ei – The Great Sanhedrin). Somehow, because he was known to be “Torah observant,” the Pharisees thought that they could get James to discourage the people from believing in Messiah. So, they asked him to stand on the highest point of the Temple Mount.

The dizzying vantage point in the southeast corner of the Temple Mount was specifically from the Royal Stoa seen below.

Both Mattityahu and Luke use the same Greek word pterygion, which is a diminutive form of pteryx or wing. In B’rit Chadashah times, pterygion generally described the outermost part of something. Therefore, this expression can be translated tower, pinnacle, apex, peak or extreme point, seen in the lower left-hand corner of the picture below.

Both Matthew 4:5 and Luke 4:9a have the definite article coming before pterygion, which indicates that a specific, well known highest point is being dealt with. Not only that, but both authors use the word hieron or Temple Mount, and not naos or Sanctuary, for the expression the highest point of the Temple. Once this is understood, the spot is easy to identify. The most imposing vantage point in the entire Temple Mount is described by the Jewish historian Josephus. He wrote: The Royal Stoa was a structure more noteworthy than any under the sun. The depth of the ravine [below] was so great, when combined with the height of the Stoa, that no one [would dare] bend over [the ledge] because he would become so dizzy he wouldn’t be able to see the end of the measureless depth (paraphrased for readability).32 Josephus also reported that the drop to the valley floor was some 450 feet.

This is exactly where the ancient Serpent took Yeshua, and tempted Him saying: If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. To make the temptation more persuasive, the great dragon quoted Scripture. Quoting Psalm 91:11-12, he said: For it is written, “He will command His angels concerning You to guard you carefully; and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone” (Matthew 4:6; Luke 9b-10).

With that subtle and clever twist of quoting Psalm 91:11-12, the deceiver thought he had backed Messiah into a corner. It’s as if Satan was saying, “You claim to be God’s Son and trust His Word, so why don’t you demonstrate your Sonship and prove the truth of His Word by putting Him to a test – a scriptural test? If you won’t use your own divine power to help yourself, let your Father use His divine power to help You.” For Yeshua to have followed the devil’s suggestion to be saved by heavenly angels would have been, in the eyes of many Jews, a sure proof that He was the Messiah. But, Yeshua would not yield to the deceiver, and neither would James.

The Pharisees and Sadducees asked Ya’alov to stand at the highest point of the Temple Mount on Pesach and speak to the people below. Apparently James agreed. They brought him to the wing of the Temple Mount and shouted so that the people could hear, “Oh, righteous one, in whom we are able to place great confidence; the people are led astray after Yeshua, the crucified one. So declare to us, what is this way, Yeshua?”

Obviously, this wasn’t a very wise thing for them to do. Jacob was ready to defend his faith at any cost. His words are memorable, “Why do you ask me about Yeshua, the Son of Man? He sits in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and He will soon come on the clouds of heaven!” The Pharisees and Sadducees, realizing their terrible mistake, threw him off the highest point of the Temple Mount to his death because he would not renounce his faith.33


2020-01-22T18:28:19+00:00 0 Comments

Ao – God Set Me Apart from Birth and Called Me Through His Grace 1: 11-17

God Set Me Apart from Birth
and Called Me Through His Grace
1: 11-17

DIG: Why does it matter to us that the gospel is not of human origin? In light of 1:6-7, why does Paul stress where his message came from in verses 11 and 12? Skim Acts 9:1-31: What do Paul’s comments here add to his conversion story? Why is it so important that he is not just passing on second-hand information to them? How does this validate his claim to be an apostle in 1:1? Paul says he received his gospel not from the apostles who had known Yeshua during His earthly ministry, but directly by revelation from Messiah Himself. What reasons does he give the Galatians to believe in something extraordinary?

REFLECT: Do you ever find yourself thinking you deserve God’s grace? What prompts you to think this way? If you had to argue for the reality of the gospel by giving one example of how you have changed by faith, what would you share? What is your story? How is your personal experience of Messiah an important part of your witness to others? Paul’s experience of conversion was by grace alone through faith in the Messiah. In your own process of coming to faith in Messiah, where was (and is) grace a work? How does the gospel of grace free you from pride and guilt?

Paul summarizes his autobiography, describes his persecution of the Church, his revelation from heaven, and his divine commission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.

34 AD

The nature of Paul’s gospel was not the kind of gospel men tend to preach. No other religion, including Judaism, has a concept of salvation of faith plus nothing. Every other religion has a concept of good works attached to it. You must do something to be accepted by God! Even believers have had a difficult time accepting salvation by faith alone, wanting to do something to gain salvation. It is hard for mankind to fathom the fact that salvation is totally free by the grace of God and all the work that is necessary has already been accomplished by YHVH by sending His Son to die for our sins on the cross.

Now I want you to know (Greek: gnorizo, meaning to know with certainty), brothers and sisters, that the Good News proclaimed by me is not man’s gospel (1:11). Mankind does not come up with a gospel that is based purely on the basis of faith. Mankind has a tendency to add things to it. In fact, this statement was particularly directed at the Judaizers, who received their religious instruction primarily from the Oral Law (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Ei – The Oral Law) by means of rote memorization. Paul goes on: I did not receive it from any human, or the first Adam in all his transgression and mortality, nor was I taught it, but it came through special revelation of the Second Adam, Yeshua the Messiah (Galatians 1:12; First Corinthians 15:22). The word revelation is from the Greek word apokalupto, meaning an uncovering to an individual. Yeshua Messiah is best understood as the object of that very revelation. This revelation was the act of the Ruach ha-Kodesh uncovering truth incapable of being discovered by the natural mind of mankind.

Just as Yeshua was discipled by His Father, “ADONAI Elohim has given me the tongue of the learned, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning. He opens My understanding to His will” (Isaiah 50:4), Yeshua discipled Paul. Morning by morning the Lord woke Paul up and opened his understanding to the simple gospel of salvation equals faith plus nothing.

Paul began with his past conduct as an unbelieving Jewish rabbi. In this historical flashback, he contends that nothing in his past life predisposed him to the gospel. For you have heard of my earlier behavior in traditional Judaism – how I persecuted God’s Messianic Community (Greek: ekklesia, meaning the universal (total) body of believers whom God calls out from the world into His eternal Kingdom) beyond measure and tried to destroy it (see the commentary on Acts Cy – Paul’s Witness before Agrippa). The words persecuted and destroy are in the imperfect tense which speaks of continuous action, right up to the time of Paul’s conversion. The Gamaliel of Acts 5 would not have approved of the stoning of Stephen. He would never have dreamed of riding off to Damascus to haul believers into prison and to death. Compared to Paul’s teacher, who adopted a “live-and-let-live” policy toward Messianic believers (Acts 5:34-40), Paul’s position of wanting to exterminate the early Messianic Community was very extreme.26

It is one thing to claim direct revelation from ADONAI, but quite another to prove it. Throughout the history of the Church many people have falsely claimed such revelation, as many do today. But Paul was not content to merely make the claim. Nor did he expect his readers to believe him simply on the basis of his claims. Therefore, he proceeds to substantiate his claim by presenting irrefutable evidence of that divine revelation and of his apostolic credentials.27

Steeped in Jewish tradition, young Sha’ul of Tarsus championed his faith. His reputation as a zealous persecutor of the kedoshim became known to everyone (Acts 9:13-14). One occasionally finds the same kind of zeal among non-Messianic Jews today. The words persecuted and destroy are in the perfect tense which speaks on continuous action. The reason why Paul mentions his attempt to destroy the Church is that he might show that such bitter hostility proved that he was not among those whose association with believers had led him to receive the gospel (1:13).

Paul’s use of the phrase God’s Messianic Community is significant. In his very first book that he wrote (see Ae – Dates of Books in the B’rit Chadashah), it shows that Paul had not only formed the concept as churches as local congregations, but had already gathered those local congregations in his mind into one entity, the universal Church. It also shows that he saw at that time, that the nation of Isra’el had been temporarily set aside and the universal Church made up of both Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14), had been brought in. In other words, the Dispensation of Torah had ended and the Dispensation of Grace had begun to establish a channel through which ADONAI was to work for the time being.28

Not only was Sha’ul against grace before being saved, he was for the Oral Law. I was even advancing (Greek: prokopto, meaning a trail blazer) within Judaism beyond many my own age among my people, being a more extreme observer of my fathers’ traditions (1:14). Sha’ul had far surpassed his contemporaries in his zeal and activity in Judaism. Everyone knew that this brilliant student of Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) was well on his way to becoming an influential leader in Judaism. He pioneered in his studies, cutting new paths ahead of his fellow-students. In those days, various rabbis gathered together in certain rabbinical courts. The purpose of those gatherings was to add many new traditions to build a fence around the Torah to keep it from being broken (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Ei – The Oral Law). He was well on his way to being the most respected young rabbi of his day.29 Therefore, nothing in his past life predisposed him to the gospel. Only a supernatural revelation could have changed him so thoroughly. Therefore, proof is established that neither Paul’s office as an apostle, nor his gospel of grace came by way of anyone other than directly from ADONAI Himself.

So how did Paul receive the gospel of grace? Paul presents himself as having been predestined for servanthood, on the model of the long line of biblical prophets. Reflecting on his previous behavior as one who persecuted the Messianic Community, Paul indicates God, who set me apart from birth, and called me through His grace (1:15a). He described his calling in this way to likely associate himself with those who had been specifically called out by the Lord before him – specifically the Servant Messiah and the prophet Jeremiah:

Listen to Me, islands! Pay attention, peoples far away. ADONAI called Me from the womb, from My mother’s belly He named Me (Isaiah 49:1).

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I set you apart – I appointed you a prophet to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5).

As Paul will later describe his calling to the church in Rome: Paul, a bond-slave of Messiah Yeshua, called to be an apostle and set apart for the Good News of God (Romans 1:1). This means, before he was ever born, God had His eye on Paul and set him apart for his apostolic ministry. In that way, Paul’s mission was similar to that of the prophets.

Here again, Paul declares that ADONAI was pleased (Greek: eudokesen) to reveal His Son to me (Acts 9:5) so I would proclaim Him among the Gentiles many years later (Galatians 1:15b-16a; Acts 9:15, 22:21, 26:18-23; Romans 1:5, 11:13, 15:16). In the context of Yeshua’s immersion, Paul adopts the same verb eudokesen, pleased, that God the Father applied to God the Son: You are My Son, whom I love, with You I am well pleased (Mark 1:11; Isaiah 42:1).30

Beginning with the Damascus Road encounter, Paul sat at the feet of Messiah as a talmid (the student of a Jewish scholar). It was essential for ADONAI to establish Paul’s independence as an apostle. He was not taught by the other apostles, but was fully equal to them. Therefore, to defend his apostleship, Paul declared: I did not immediately go up to Jerusalem or talk with those who were apostles before me, either. When Paul first arrived in Jerusalem, the Messianic community and the apostles refused to welcome their persecutor; they did not trust him. They assumed he wanted to get inside information. Finally, Barnabas brought him before the apostles and vouched for his sincerity (Acts 9:26-27). Immediately after Paul’s experience on the Damascus road (see Am – Damascus during the Time of Paul), he went away to Arabia where for three years he was taught the gospel of grace by Messiah (see An – Arabia during the Time of Paul). Only after his apprenticeship under the Master did he return again to Damascus (1:16b-17). Consequently, Paul asserts that his commission and gospel message came to him directly from ADONAI, independent of any human teaching.


2020-01-22T18:02:29+00:00 0 Comments

An – Arabia during the Time of Paul

Arabia during the Time of Paul

As a noun, the biblical Arabia refers to the Bedouin peoples of North Arabia, Syria, and Sinai (Isaiah 13:20; Jeremiah 3:2 and 25:24). From Herodotus onwards Arabia was applied by Greek writers to the peninsula between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, extending to the ocean on the southeast and including the Sinaitic peninsula of the northwest.

Whether or not an actual Arab tribe ever existed is unknown, the word “Arabia” itself being a Greek coinage. The earliest reference to Arabs alludes to a certain Gindibu’ who supplied a thousand camel riders to Ahab’s coalition forces. The Oral Law (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Ei – The Oral Law) mentions Jewish women from Arabia (Shabbat 6:6). The walled city of Taima and the kingdom of Dedan were regarded in biblical times as part of Edom (Isaiah 21:13; Ezeki’el 25:13, 27:20). The latter was apparently followed by the Lihyan, a people unknown in the TaNaKh although many foreigners, including Nabateans, Taimanites, Greeks, and Jews resided in al-‘Ula, the capital of the former kingdom of Dedan.

Despite their relatively late appearance, the Nabateans are well documented in the later biblical books and by Josephus, the assertion of their Arab identity being supported by the Arabic names carried by many of the peoples and gods. During the third century and the first half of the second century BC, the nomadic Nabatean tribes spread from Petra to the Gulf of Aqaba, where they took to piracy, and established themselves in the south Transjordan and the Negev. They eventually became an organized kingdom at the end of the second century BC during the Seleucid struggle between Egypt and Syria, and broke out into open war with Judea over disputed territory when Alexander Jannai (Jannaeus 103-76 BC) was looking to expand his kingdom. Josephus speaks of the Nabatean kings as “kings of the Arabs” (Antiquities of the Jews 13.360). The strained relations continued into the Herodian period, war erupting again in Agustus’ reign. While Agustus appointed Aretas IV king (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 16.355), who enjoyed a highly prosperous reign, the Nabatean kingdom finally lost its independence to Rome in the early second century AD. While Jewish communities are attested to in Arabia (Shabbat 6:6), there is no other mention of Arabian congregations in the B’rit Chadashah. Likewise, nothing is known of any communities in the region of Petra prior to the reign of Constantine, although some suggest that Nabatean as a language was fairly well known among the Jews.25

Paul’s chronological itinerary during this period appear to be as follows. He encountered Yeshua on the road to Damascus (see Al – Damascus); after a brief period of ministry in that city (Acts 9:20-23) he went to Arabia for three years, being taught the gospel of grace directly from Messiah. There, isolated from all human contact, alone with ADONAI, the great apostle restudied the TaNaKh, not with the Oral Law corrupting his thinking, but, led by the Ruach ha-Kodesh, focusing on the cross of our Lord Yeshua Messiah. Out of all his meditations emerged the doctrine written in the book of Romans.

35 AD (see the commentary on Acts Bc – Sha’ul Turns from Murderer to Messiah).

35-37 AD Three years in Arabia

Only after his apprenticeship under the Master did he return again to Damascus (1:17) and began preaching which thoroughly frustrated the [non-believing] Jews who plotted to kill him. This was the first of many conspiracies against Paul (Second Corinthians 11:21b-27). But their plot became known to Paul. The [non-believing] Jews in Damascus, the mayor under King Aretas was guarding the city in order to seize Sha’ul. Apparently, during his three years in Arabia, he had thoroughly preached the gospel and had worn out his welcome there also. They were so united in their effort that they were secretly watching the gates day and night, to kill him (Acts 9:23-24). A wall surrounded the city and the only escape was through the gates, but the disciples took Paul by night and let him down over the wall, lowering him in a large basket made of reeds (Second Corinthians 11:32-33). After escaping Damascus, Paul went up to Jerusalem (see As – Paul Meets Peter and James in Jerusalem).

38 AD (see the commentary on Acts Bg – Peter Goes to the House of Cornelius)

42 AD (see the commentary on Acts Bh – Peter’s Report to Jerusalem)

48 AD (see the commentary on Acts Bs – The Council at Jerusalem)

48 AD Galatians written


2020-01-22T17:39:43+00:00 0 Comments

Am – Damascus during the Time of Paul

Damascus during the Time of Paul

Damascus is one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities of the world. First serving as the capital of the Persian satrapy, the Seleucids later transferred this seat to Antioch. Although Damascus fell under Roman rule with Pompey’s conquest of the region in 64 BC, Pompey allowed the ruling Nabatean kingdom to continue to govern until Antony gave the city to Cleopatra in 34 BC. It apparently remained in Roman hands until 34 BC, when scholars conclude on the basis of Second Corinthians 11:32-33 that it numbered among the cities of the east side of the Jordan, being given by Gauis Caligula to the Nabatean king Aretas IV (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 13.392, 414). As the northernmost city of the Decapolis it nevertheless enjoyed municipal freedom within the latter’s loose federation. The city lay on two great ancient highways: The Via Maris – the coastal highway running through the Jezreel Valley down to Ashkelon and Gaza and continuing to Egypt through the Sinai desert – and the King’s Highway which ran southwards across Trachonitis, Batanaea, and Bostra and then across to Rabbat Ammon through the cities of Mo’ab and Edom until it crossed over the Negev and Sinai from Eilat into Egypt. It was also connected to the trade routes southwards to Mecca and east to Bagdad.

Although lesser in importance than Antioch, the Jewish community in Damascus apparently numbered in the thousands. Luke indicates that there were several synagogues in the city (Acts 9:20) and, despite the dubious historical accuracy of the figures, Josephus reports that 10,500 (or 18,000) were massacred during the outbreaks leading up to the Revolt in 66 AD (Josephus Jewish War 2.561, 7.368). He also indicates that the women of Damascus were so drawn to Judaism that when their husbands were plotting to massacre the Jews in 66 AD that they had to hide their plans from their wives (Josephus Jewish War 2.561).

It is also possible that members of the Dead Sea Scrolls community at Qumran sought refuge from the high priestly persecution in “the land of Damascus.” The messianic/eschatological convictions held by such communities may have created fertile ground for faithfulness in Yeshua as the Messiah. Luke’s description of Ananias as a devout man according to the Torah (Acts 22:12) possibly suggests that Ananias was connected to the righteous of the TaNaKh at Qumran – an idea perhaps corroborated by his laying on of hands to heal Paul (Acts 9:17-18), a practice known from Qumran.

The Messianic community in Damascus may have been established by pilgrims who had come to Yerushalayim for Shavu’ot and, having heard the proclamation of the gospel (see the commentary on Acts An – Peter Speaks to the Shavu’ot Crowd), returned to Damascus. Although list in Acts 2:9 does not specifically mention Syria, Pontus and Asia Minor are included, and the reference to the scattering of the believers throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria in Acts 8:1 may not exclude further reaches, as Acts 11:19 indicates. Once those new believers had returned home from Tziyon, together with those who may have later fled from the Holy City, they may have well established their own community to which others were then attracted. A network of communication was already operating between Jerusalem and Damascus since the believers in Damascus had heard of Paul’s persecution of the Messianic community in the City of David. Ananias indicates that many people had brought reports about Paul’s activities to Damascus (Acts 9:13 and 21; Galatians 1:22ff) – although it is difficult to determine whether or not these were believers.24


2020-01-22T14:15:55+00:00 0 Comments

Al – Personal Argument: An Independent Revelation 1:11 to 2:21

Personal Argument:
An Independent Revelation
1:11 to 2:21

Paul went back to certain things about his past as he made his main point that he received an independent revelation through Yeshua Messiah. Paul declared: (a) he was appointed an apostle by Yeshua before he met the other apostles; (b) when he did meet them he was received as an equal; (c) and he even found it necessary to rebuke Peter, the chief apostle.


2020-01-22T14:13:29+00:00 0 Comments

Ak – The Hebrew Roots Movement: A Different Gospel

The Hebrew Roots Movement
A Different Gospel

I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from the One who called you by the grace of Messiah, to a different gospel. Not that there is another, but only some who are confusing you and want to distort the Good News of Messiah. But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should announce any gospel to you other than what we have proclaimed to you, let that person be cursed! As we have said before, so I now repeat: if anyone proclaims a gospel to you other than what you have received, let that person be under a curse (Galatians 1:6-9)! The Hebrew Roots Movement is a different gospel.

1. They are lone wolves: The leaders of this organization are all alike. Either you can’t find out much about them, or if you do, their training/education is very, very shady. They are lone wolves because they are not in association with other Jewish believers. There are two messianic Jewish associations in America; the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) and the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues (IMACS). These organizations join together for common goals, missions, fellowship. Some things you can accomplish with an association that you can’t accomplish individually. But these guys are never in association with other believers. Why don’t they associate with other messianic associations? They left us, but they didn’t really belong to us. If they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But they left us so it became clear that none of them belonged to us (First John 2:19).

2. They are accountable to no one: Because they are not in any messianic Jewish associations, or rabbi of a messianic synagogue, they are not held accountable for the things they say or do. This leads to abuse, bad doctrine or worse. If they have a board of directors, they are hand-picked by the lone wolf. Instead of being servant leaders, they become dictators. Nobody around them wants to challenge them. They develop feelings of superiority, arrogance, and invincibility.

3. They teach false doctrine: As a result of their inadequate training, they don’t have a well-rounded view of the Scriptures. Yeshua said it this way: You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures (Matthew 22:29). For example, they deny the Trinity and seem to know Yeshua only in the flesh. They usually have a one major hobbyhorse doctrine that dominates their teaching. Many times, they try to build an entire doctrine around one verse of Scripture that they misinterpret.

For example, they teach that it is possible to follow the Torah perfectly for salvation by using this scripture: Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so that we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). On the basis of this one scripture he claims it is possible to perfectly follow the 613 prohibitions and commandments of the Torah.

But what this passage is actually saying it that the Torah was not incomprehensible (too difficult) or inaccessible (beyond your reach). Though the Torah had a heavenly origin God clearly revealed it to Isra’el so there was no need for anyone to ascend into heaven to get it nor did anyone need to travel across the ocean to get it. Nor did Isra’el need a special interpreter of the Torah before they understood what to do. The Torah was already written down and Isra’el had been familiar with its demands in the wilderness. So, Moses could say that the word is very near you. They could speak it (it is in your mouth) and they knew it (it is in your heart).

Paul’s use of Deuteronomy 30:14 in Romans 10:6-8 was based on the fact that Messiah fulfilled the Torah and is the only Person to have lived perfectly by it (Romans 10:4-5). Just as the Torah was a gracious revelation of God’s righteousness, so Messiah, who perfectly embodied all that is in the Torah, was graciously given by the Father. This word about Messiah is therefore readily available (near you in Romans 10:8) so no one needs bring Messiah from heaven or bring Him back from the dead for He has already become incarnate and ascended back to heaven.

Christ is the culmination of the Torah so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes (Romans 10:4).

Now if the ministry that brought death [the Torah], which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, temporary though it was, will not the ministry of the [Holy] Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation [the Torah] was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious [the Torah] has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory [of Messiah]. And if the transitory [Torah] came with glory, how much greater is the glory [of Messiah] which lasts (Second Corinthians 3:7-11).

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness [the Torah], which stood against us and condemned us (see 5. The Torah as a Guardian below); He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-13).

As far as “returning” to the Torah as a means of salvation, “return” to what? Condemnation? Death? Yeshua said: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). For salvation, there is rest in Messiah and only condemnation and death in the Torah. If salvation could be found in the Torah why did God say that He would make a new covenant with the people of Isra’el and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors. I will put My Torah in their minds and write it on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34). The new Covenant is faith in Messiah, His death and resurrection, not faith in the Torah. Yeshua has completed the Torah (see the commentary on Exodus Du – Do Not Think That I Have Come to Abolish the Torah).

4. They preach a different gospel: When Paul started churches in Galatia, Corinth, etc. he usually stayed a couple of years and then left to start another church. But as soon as he left, Jews called Judaizers swooped in and tried to pervert the gospel (see Ag – Who Were the Judaizers?). They wanted to add the impossible burden of following the 613 commandments (365 prohibitions and 248 commandments) to faith in Christ, as if His shed blood isn’t enough to save us! Galatians 1:6-9 sums up what Paul said about adding Torah observance for salvation. They appear to be sincere, but they are sincerely wrong.

5. The Torah as a guardian: Therefore, the Torah [became] our guardian to lead us to Messiah, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that [Messiah] faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian (Galatians 3:24-25). In the ancient world a guardian was a slave himself and given authority over the son of his master to guard him from evil, both physical and moral. He had total authority over the son until the son reached adulthood. He was responsible for disciplining and training the son. So, the authority of the guardian lasted only as long as the child was a minor. Once the child reached adulthood, his authority ceased to exist.

What does he teach? What was the Torah supposed to teach? The standard of being able to follow the 613 prohibitions and commandments perfectly is impossible. Futile. Out of the question. But because the Torah was an impossible standard, the Pharisees pulled God’s high holy standard down into the mud and came up with the Oral Law (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Ei – The Oral Law), things that they could do. Thus, when Messiah came offering salvation by faith alone, Isra’el missed Him. Isra’el rejected Messiah because of His rejection of the Oral Law. For that they killed Him. What should the Israelites have learned from their guardian, the Torah? If the Torah can save you, why was Christ’s death necessary? If Yeshua said: No one comes to the Father but through Me (John 14:5-14), how can the Torah save anyone?

6. The Torah is important today, but not for salvation (see my commentary on  Dg – The Completion of the Torah): Salvation = faith + (nothing). Before the cross and after the cross salvation only comes through faith (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Bw – What God Does for Us at the Moment of Faith): The Torah gives us wisdom, insight into godly living, practical advice of our personal, family and professional lives. The Israelites left Egypt by faith, THEN they received instruction on how to live at Mount Sinai. The 613 commandments of Moshe are our blueprint for living (see the commentary on Exodus Dh – Moses and the Torah). It is truly a lamp to our feet (Psalm 119:105) . . . but it is not for salvation. How did the righteous of the TaNaKh deal with their sin before Messiah? How are they supposed to deal with their sin today (First John 1:9)?

7. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing and hypocrites. The Jews view Torah as a unit. You break one of the 613 commandments of Moses; you break them all. If they are going to be Torah observant then they need to obey Leviticus 1:1 to 7:38 and offer the proper sacrifices for sin (see my commentary on Exodus Fb – The Five Offerings of the Tabernacle: Christ, Our Sacrificial Offering). So, in reality, they’re just big hypocrites because they don’t really follow the Torah completely either, they cherry-pick, which cannot do because the Torah is a complete unit.

About Michael Root: In this video he comes out dressed like, I don’t know what, a Sadducee? A Pharisee? He is not a rabbi. Yet he passes himself off as one, like Lex Meyer. Hebrew Roots movement means going back to slavery. As far as Christmas, Halloween, the fourth of July, or Groundhog Day, the Bible doesn’t mention any of them. The Torah doesn’t mention any of them. Now the Torah does mention sorcery. So, if you’re practicing sorcery on Halloween, yeah, you shouldn’t do that. As far as Christmas being a pagan holiday, you know, you could probably pick any day of the year and it was probably a pagan holiday at some point in history. So if you want to live in your closet I wouldn’t press the issue. I will say this, parents who don’t let their kids participate (within reason of course) in things that other kids are having fun with GROW UP RESENTING GOD. It doesn’t draw them closer to God – it drives them away from Him. It accomplishes the very thing they are trying to avoid.

About Lex Meyer: Why isn’t he a rabbi? Why doesn’t he lead a messianic congregation? Why can’t you find out anything about him? The Hebrew roots movement is a back to bondage movement. Look up the Gnostics. They believed there were two groups of people. The “in crowd” and the “ignorant.” The Gnostics were, of course, the smart ones, the ones with all the knowledge. The special ones. The especially blessed ones. In short, they were arrogant. Lex Meyer seems to be of that ilk. “Sure, I have no formal training, I went into my basement and studied really hard for four months and God gave me special insight. I am so smart that no Christians will debate me. Why? Because I have superior knowledge” (stop me if this sounds familiar)!

Stay away.

Dear Awesome Father, Praise you that You have given us Your Word so we can know the truth and stay away from those who preach another gospel. Praise You that we do not have to worry about have we done enough good works to get into heaven. The answer is no, we have not done enough good deeds – because no amount of good works could get us into a holy perfect heaven. Only by being “in Messiah” (Ephesians 1:3,4,6-7,9,11 NIV) by having His righteousness, can we be holy enough to enter heaven.

Praise you that You conquered death! The founder of ALL other religions is dead. But as believers in Yeshua, we have the full assurance that death has been defeated! “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (First Corinthians 15: 54c, 57 NIV).

Praise You that having believed we are marked in Him with a seal, the promised Ruach ha-Kodesh, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13c-14 NIV).We love You and want to bless and serve You! In the name of Your Son and the power of His resurrection, Amen


2020-01-22T14:11:32+00:00 0 Comments

Aj – No Other Gospel 1: 6-10

No Other Gospel
1: 6-10

DIG: What were the believers in Galatia doing that caused Paul to write this letter? Why would a person who was set free from slavery want to go back to slavery? What does it mean to “fall from grace?” What is a God-fearer? How is a God-fearer different than a Proselyte at the Gate, or a Proselyte of the Covenant (see the commentary on Acts Bb – An Ethiopian Asks about Isaiah 53)? Why did Paul assert his authority? What happened to those churches that Paul himself had begun (Acts 13-14)? What elements of the gospel does Paul stress? Why? Otherwise, what might happen due to the distorted gospel (4:8-11 and 17, 6:12-13)? What accusation is Paul refuting in verse 10? How might Paul be labeled as a “pleasure-pleaser?” With this opening gauntlet thrown down, what do you expect to find in this red-hot letter?

REFLECT: Grace is God’s unearned favor and activity in our lives. How have you seen His unearned favor and activity in your life? What “distorted gospel” upsets you most? Why? How can the Galatians help you refute it? There are those today who would add baptism, or immersion, to faith; others add speaking in tongues; others add certain ceremonies; others add church membership and repentance. Yes, the Bible commands us to be baptized, but immersion itself is never said to be added for salvation. Have you encountered any of this false teaching? What did you do? How did you react? How can you help others avoid such a trap? How would you explain the gospel to someone who asked you today what you believe?

An introduction to the Judaizers and their different gospel.

After Paul’s salutation, the urgency and severity of the matter at hand prohibited him from commending his readers, which was his normal custom. Not wasting any time, he declared: I am amazed that you are so quickly (Exodus 32:8; Judges 2:17) turning away from the simple gospel (Greek: heteros) of faith in Messiah, the One who called you by grace, to a different gospel (Greek: allos). In 1:6 Paul used two Greek words, both of which mean another, but have a distinct meaning of their own. He was not surprised by what the false teachers were doing but was shocked by the favorable response they received from the believers in Galatia. Heteros means another of a different kind, and allos means another of the same kind. Heteros sometimes refers however, not only to difference in kind, but it can also speak to difference in character. And since Paul’s doctrine of grace through faith is God’s truth (Ephesians 2:8), anything that differs from it must be false. Anytime works are added to the simple gospel of salvation = faith + nothing, it is a different gospel.

When Paul speaks of the Galatians turning to a heteros gospel, he means that they are turning to a gospel that is false in its doctrine. It is not only different in character from the gospel he preached to the Galatians, but it was different in a bad way. It was, and is, essentially evil. A salvation-by-works is not Good News to a lost sinner, it is bad news, capable of drawing to sh’ol people who began on the road to salvation. Thus, Paul stamps the message of the Judaizers (see Ag – Who Were the Judaizers) as a false doctrine. Then he says that it is not an allos gospel. It is not only a different kind, it is no gospel at all.17

This different gospel reminds us of the strange fire whose offering before Ha’Shem led to the deaths of Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3; Numbers 3:4 and 26:61). The penalty for declaring a message not from God – one of the signs of a false prophet – was death (Deuteronomy 13:6a, 18:20; Jeremiah 23:9-40, 28:1-17). As believers, we don’t execute false teachers, but the principle in the TaNaKh is still valid today as it was in Paul’s day: You will purge the evil [one] from your midst (Deuteronomy 13:6b, also see 7:26).

There is no modern substitute for the gospel. Some today may speak about a “social gospel,” a “new gospel,” or some other kind of “gospel,” but there is only one gospel and it is a timeless message of Good News to proclaim to those who dwell upon the earth (Revelation 14:6). The idea that there is an absolute truth that matters absolutely is the constant basis for both the TaNaKh and the B’rit Chadashah. Any other view relegates the Word of God to the category of “great literature” or “valuable historical evidence” or “wise sayings of great men and women.” It is all of these, but, more than that, it is YHVH’s unique Word to humanity, containing the only completely reliable guide toward everlasting life and away from everlasting death.

It becomes clear in what follows that the particular bad news to which the Galatians had been exposed is works righteousness, which is the false principle that Ha’Shem grants acceptance to people, considers them righteous and worthy of being in His presence, on the ground of their obedience to a set of rules, apart from putting their trust and faith in Yeshua Messiah, relying on Him, loving Him, and accepting His love for them.18

It is important to understand, however, that if a Messianic believer desires to eat kosher food, celebrate the feasts of Isra’el, or any other of the 613 commandments of the Torah. They have the freedom in Messiah to do so just as long as those actions are viewed as merely following ADONAI’s blueprint for living (see the commentary on Exodus Dh – Moses and the Torah), and have nothing to do with salvation.

Not that there is another, but only some who are confusing you and want to distort the Good News of Messiah (1:7). What were some of these things that were of a different gospel that we will explore later in the book? The first was perfection in the flesh (3:3); the second was adding the observance of special days and months and seasons and years to the gospel (4:10); thirdly, the Judaizers added circumcision to the gospel for Gentiles (5:2); they felt that they were justified by means of Torah, which is a different gospel (5:4).

Then Paul reiterated the principle of Deuteronomy 13:1-5 when he said: But even if we (or an angel from heaven) (1:8a). The rabbis teach that angels were instrumental in the giving of the Torah. Paul would later write to the Corinthians that even satan masquerades as an angel of light (Second Corinthians 11:14), and he probably had such thoughts in mind here. Likewise, there is a flood of literature in Ancient Judaism indicating that angels delivered important messages to people, and the Judaizers may have said that their message was received from an angel from heaven.19

Should announce any gospel to you other than what we have proclaimed to you, let that person be cursed, or in the Greek, anathema (1:8b)! The biblical incident that this most obviously refers to is Achan, the troubler of Isra’el who unfaithfully (Hebrew: ma’al) violated the ban of devoted things (First Chronicles 2:7). The Greek word anathema comes from the Hebrew concept of cherem, meaning untouchable and devoted for destruction.

The cherem judgment was the ban that Ha’Shem placed upon the city of Jericho in the days of Joshua. While the Israelites were allowed to take the spoils of war from other cities, YHVH told Joshua that nothing was to be taken from Jericho because it was under the cherem judgment. But when Achan decided to take a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels and buried them in the ground in the middle of his tent, he and his whole family became cherem because they had touched that which was devoted to destruction. As a result, Isra’el lost a second battle at Ai (Joshua 7:4-5). Furthermore, there was no way Isra’el could win any more wars until they found out who was cursed. Then God directed Joshua to the guilty tribe, the guilty clan, the guilty family, and finally the guilty man (Joshua 7:16-23).

Then Joshua, and all Isra’el with him, took Achan, his wife, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, and his sheep to the Valley of Achor and stoned them all to death, burned them with fire, and buried them along with the silver, the Babylonian robe, and the wedge of gold under a great heap of stones that stands to this day. Then ADONAI turned from the fierceness of His anger (Joshua 7:24). The family, having touched the untouchable, then became devoted to destruction. Now, Paul used very strong language here, and he must use very strong language because he was not addressing small theological differences, or denominational differences, he was dealing with something that touches the essence of the gospel. Either we are saved by faith alone, or we are not saved by faith alone. There is no middle ground. The addition of anything in the gospel other than faith is to be declared cherem, untouchable, and devoted to destruction because it touches the very essence of the gospel.

But what are the “other gospels” that we face today? There are primarily three of them. First, there is the “prosperity gospel.” This “gospel” says that if you just believe enough, it is not God’s will for anyone to have a physical or financial need. If you have a problem with your heart, it will go away; if you have a problem with your finances, it will go away if you just have enough faith. And if it doesn’t go away, the problem is you. You don’t have enough faith. That is a different gospel. God is not anyone’s spiritual vending machine. You can’t play God and determine your own destiny. He is sovereign and holy, controlling the events in our lives.

Secondly, there is the “bargaining gospel.” This is the “quid-pro-quo gospel.” God, “if” You’ll get me out of this mess, “then” I’ll serve You. God, “if” You heal me of this disease “then” I’ll attend services more regularly. God, “if” You fix my financial problem, “then” I’ll tithe. “If” You do this, “then” I’ll do that. But let me tell you something. You don’t have anything that God needs. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). You have no chips at the poker table of life. You have nothing to bargain with when it comes to God. But more than that, you need everything that God has, and everything He offers you. People who use the “bargaining gospel” wash their hands of God when they feel like He hasn’t lived up to His end of the deal. This is merely a different gospel.

Thirdly, there is “gospel light.” Some people will tell you part of the gospel, part of the truth, but not the whole gospel, and that makes it a different gospel. They love to say, “God loves you.” And He does (John 16:27). And they will say, “God has a plan for you.” And He does (Jeremiah 29:11). So, while the whole truth is that God loves you just as you are, He loves you too much to leave you just as you are. At the moment of faith (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Bw – What God Does For Us at the Moment of Faith), He begins a process of conforming you into His image. He begins to sanctify you. We need to accept that we are sinners, repent of our sin, turn around and go in a different direction, believing that Yeshua is the Messiah, who died on the cross for us, and rose on the third day (John 3:16). That is the only gospel. There is only one way to God the Father and that is through Yeshua Messiah His Son. These other “gospels” are untouchable and devoted to destruction.

Whether as restrictive legalism, permissive liberalism, or cultic perversion, any teaching that adds to, or takes away from ADONAI’s revealed truth is a distortion of the simple gospel and perverts the nature and work of Messiah.20 Paul then applied the ban which Achan violated to those who were confusing (5:10b) his disciples: As we have said before, so I now repeat: if anyone proclaims a gospel to you other than what you have received, let that person be under a curse (Greek: anathema) (1:9)!

From the very beginning, the battle between good and evil has been a battle for truth. The serpent, in the Garden of Eden, began his temptation by questioning the truthfulness of God’s previous instructions (Genesis 3:1, 4-5). Casting doubt on the straightforward revelation of ADONAI has been the Adversary’s tactic ever since (John 8:44; Second Corinthians 11:44). With eternity at stake, it is no wonder Scripture reserves its harshest word of condemnation for those who would put lies in the mouth of God. Consider Ha’Shem’s attitude toward those who would exchange His true Word for a counterfeit (Isaiah 30:9-13; Jeremiah 5:29-31, 14:14-16; Ezeki’el 13:3-9). YHVH hates those who misrepresent His Word or speak lies in His name. It is an offense that He takes personally, and His retribution is swift and deadly. To sabotage biblical truth in any way – by adding to it, subtracting from it, or mixing it with error, is to invite divine wrath.21 So the Ruach ha-Kodesh inspired Paul to write: If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be anathema, or cursed! Come, Lord (First Corinthians 16:22)!

The Judaizers accused Paul of trying to win people’s approval, in this case Gentile approval, by preaching an “easy” gospel that did not demand that the Gentiles become Jews and thus be required to be circumcised and observe all 613 commandments of the Torah. But Paul responded to them by asking: Am I now trying to win people’s approval, or God’s? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Messiah (1:10)? It was as if Paul were saying, “Hey, I am not doing this to make friends. I am not preaching to please other people. I am preaching the message that Messiah gave me to preach.” In this statement, he was answering certain critics that we know from the book of Acts. Paul was criticized because he was a zealous keeper of the Torah (see the commentary on Acts Cy – Paul’s Witness before Agrippa), while continuing to believe in the Way. So, his enemies would criticize him by saying that to the Jews he claimed to be Torah observant, but he told the Gentiles not to be Torah observant. They accused him of the means justifying the ends for his own ministry. To win Jews he kept the Torah, to win Gentiles he set aside the Torah. But they misunderstood Paul’s position. While Paul was Torah observant, he never made it mandatory for others to do so.22

Believers are to have nothing to do with false teachers, no matter what their credentials. It is both naïve and unscriptural to believe, for instance, that staying anywhere that denies the Bible and distorts the gospel gives a believer the opportunity to be a positive influence for the Lord. Even a leader like Timothy, well trained in divine truth, was warned to stay away from error and to concentrate on the pure truth of God (First Timothy 4:6-7 and 13; Second Timothy 2:15-17). To subject oneself to false teaching, no matter how orthodox one’s own convictions may be, is to disobey YHVH and to compromise and weaken one’s testimony and to tolerate distortion of the grace of ADONAI in Messiah.23

Dear Father God, How much we love and worship You! We praise you that we can trust the gospel which you have given us as the absolute truth! We do not need to run to any other book, person or country, for Your Word is Truth! What wonderful truth it is – that You paid the full price for our sins on the cross. Then You rose victorious from the grave, conquering death and opening the door for us to enter heaven. Thank You that the gift is living and not something which can perish, spoil or fade (First Peter 1:3-5). Fantastic! That the gift is an awesome relationship-to be “in Messiah” (Ephesians 1:3,4,6-7,9,11 NIV) and that both Jew and Gentile are included when they hear the word of truth and then believe (Ephesians 1:12-13 NIV).

Praise Your wisdom that You see each heart and you know which sheep are Yours (John 10:27). You know if someone claims to be a believer, but follows their own heart. No one can fool you- for you say even if someone says: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and preform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:22-23 NIV).

Praise You for the truth and greatness of Your love – offered so graciously. We desire to respond by loving you back and giving You all of ourselves- our time, thoughts, money and affection. We joyfully wish to present ourselves to You as a gift (Romans 12:1). You are the best! In the name of Your Son and the power of His resurrection. Amen


2020-01-22T14:02:43+00:00 0 Comments

Ai – Harmony of Acts 9 and Galatians 1

Harmony of Acts 9 and Galatians 1

Paul was called and saved (Acts 9:1-9; Galatians 1:15-16a) in 34 AD. He spent several days in Damascus and immediately began proclaiming Yeshua in the synagogues (Acts 9:20). When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him. But the disciples took Sha’ul by night and let him down over the wall, lowering him in a basket (Acts 9:23-25).

But, Paul did not go immediately up to Jerusalem (Galatians 1:17a); instead, he went away to Arabia (Galatians 1:17b-18a) for three years (see Ah- Arabia during the Time of Paul) 34-36 AD

After three years, Paul returned to Damascus (Galatians 1:17b), preaching the gospel again in the synagogues. After many days the Jews plotted to kill him, but the disciples saved his life by lowering him over the wall of Damascus in a basket (Acts 9:23-25). Quite naturally, he found his way back to Jerusalem. 37 AD

When Paul came to Jerusalem he tried to meet with the apostles, but they were all afraid of him because they did not believe that he was truly saved. Barnabas took Paul and brought him to Peter and James, describing to them how Paul had spoken boldly in the name of Yeshua. So, Paul was with them, going in and out in Jerusalem for fifteen days, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord (Acts 9:26-30). He saw none of the other apostles, however, who may have been too afraid or may have been away from Jerusalem at the time (Galatians 1:19a). 37 AD16

During that same time, he was speaking and arguing with the Hellenists, but they were trying to kill him. When the brothers found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus (Acts 9:27-30). 37 AD

Then Paul spent six years in Tarsus, and the regions of Syria and Cilicia (Acts 9:30; Galatians 1:21). 38-43 AD

After six years, Barnabas found Paul in Tarsus, and brought him back to Syrian Antioch where he stayed as a teacher until the Ruach ha-Kodesh sent him and Barnabas out on their First Missionary Journey (see the commentary on Acts Bm – Paul’s First Missionary Journey). 44-48 AD

When they returned, Paul took Barnabas and Titus with him to the Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-21; Galatians 2:1-10), where it was determined that the Gentiles did not have to observe the 613 commandments of the Torah or be circumcised to be saved. 48 AD


2020-01-22T13:55:49+00:00 0 Comments

Ah – To the Churches in Galatia 1: 1-5

To the Churches in Galatia
1: 1-5

DIG: Why does Sha’ul-Paul have two names? How did Paul assert his authority? How was Sha’ul commissioned as an apostle? How were the other twelve apostles commissioned? Why did Paul include the items mentioned in his greeting? Who were the brothers? Why did the phrase, “Grace and shalom,” have a special significance to the Galatians? What was the purpose of Paul adding, “Who gave Himself for our sins?” Why no word of commendation?

REFLECT: Paul’s tone reminds us that our faith is a matter of heart, as well as head – feelings, as well as intellect. How does this encourage you? How does it challenge you? Do you know anyone who finds it hard to accept the authority of apostolic teaching in the B’rit Chadashah teaching? How does that challenge you? How would you explain the gospel to someone who asked you today what you believe?

An introduction of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, identifying the author, addressees, and the situation for the composition.

One way to deny the truthfulness of a message is to deny the authority of the one who gives it. The Galatian church had received the true gospel of grace from Paul and had believed it until some false teachers called Judaizers came in after he was gone. They not only attacked the validity of the message, but also that of the messenger. Apparently the Judaizers had convinced some of the Galatian church members that Paul was a self-appointed apostle with no divine commission.6 Paul started his letter the way all letters were started in those days: from person A to person B, to the greeting. But as he goes along the way he decides to throw in various points that he will deal with later. These points need our attention.

From: Sha’ul (see the commentary on Acts Bm – The First Missionary Journey: Paul is Sha’ul and Sha’ul is Paul), an apostle. Paul’s miraculous conversion and call to ministry created some problems. Right from the very beginning, he was separated from the original apostles. His enemies said that he was not a true apostle for this reason. So, he immediately calls himself an apostle and begins to defend his apostolic authority. Where did this authority come from, he said: I received my commission not from human beings or through human mediation, but through Yeshua the Messiah and God the Father (1:10 to 2:14, 5:11, 6:12-14). Then he points out the most important part of the book, the gospel, “God the Father who raised Him from the dead” (1:1) By adding this qualifying phrase, Paul emphasizes that fact that whereas the other apostles were commissioned by Yeshua while He was present in the flesh during His incarnation, he himself was given his commission by the resurrected and glorified Messiah.

Having satisfactorily established his credentials – at least temporarily – Paul introduces all the brothers who were with him (1:2a). Who were the brothers with Paul? Paul based his ministry in the city of Antioch (see the commentary on Acts Bj – The Church in Syrian Antioch), a large ancient city with a substantial Jewish community and more than a dozen synagogues. In Syrian Antioch, the believers were first called Christianoi (Acts 11:26), which became the Greek name for the sect. “Christians” was not a derogatory name; rather, that was simply a Greek name of their particular sect of Judaism.

In those days each synagogue had a name, like “the synagogue of the Hebrews,” or, “the synagogue of the Freedmen,” or something to denote their particular sect. Originally, the synagogue in Antioch was probably called “the synagogue of the Christianoi,” in other words, “the synagogue of the Christians,” serving as a meeting place for both Jewish and Gentile believers. The men who met with Paul in Antioch included Barnabas, one of the missionaries from the earliest days of the Yeshua movement; Manaen, once a member of Herod Antipas’ court and someone who had perhaps known Yeshua personally; and also Luke the physician, Paul’s traveling companion and the author of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts (Acts 13:1-3). These were a few of the men with Paul when he said: all the brothers with me.7

Paul and Barnabas left Syrian Antioch on the eastern Mediterranean seaboard and spent some time ministering on the island of Cyprus. Then they set sail for the mainland and their ship entered the mouth of the Cestrus River. They sailed seven miles upstream to the river-harbor city of Perga. They went from Perga and came to Pisidian Antioch, and entering the synagogue on Shabbat, the two weary travelers sat down (Acts 13:14). After reading from the Torah and the haftarah (the reading from the Prophets), the elders of the synagogue, as was the custom, offered the visitors to say a few words of teaching, a derashah. Brothers, if you have any word of encouragement for the people, speak (Acts 13:15).

As Paul began a synopsis of the gospel, he said: Brothers, sons of Abraham and those among you who are God-fearers, it is to us the message of this salvation has been sent (Acts 13:26). The threefold address refers to the three types of people one might find in any Diaspora synagogue of the first century. First, Paul’s brothers were his fellow Jews, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through a Jewish mother. Secondly, there were sons of Abraham, or proselytes. There were two types of proselytes: proselytes of the Gate and proselytes of the Covenant. Proselytes of the Gate adopted many Jewish practices like celebrating Shabbat and the feasts of Isra’el, but did not become a full proselyte. Most of these were men because circumcision was not required. But proselytes of the Covenant entered the Covenant of Sinai as a full Jew, so to speak. Most of these were women because this level required circumcision. Thirdly, there were God-fearers. These were Gentiles who became convinced that ADONAI was the only true God, they abandoned their paganism and idolatry, but they did not choose to become a proselyte in any form, and hence there was no adoption of Jewish customs or practices (see the commentary on Acts Be – The Centurion’s Vision).

As Paul preached the gospel, he included all three groups of people in his message. The synagogue received his message with enthusiasm and asked Paul and Barnabas to return and speak more on the following Sabbath. When the synagogue meeting broke up, many of the Jewish people and God-fearing inquirers followed Paul and Barnabas. They kept begging them to speak these things to them again at the next Shabbat. The following Shabbat, almost the entire city, both Jews and Gentiles, came together to hear the word of the Lord. They came to hear the Word of God and the synagogue was overflowing with people standing outside. Since the town’s citizens had the opportunity to hear the Torah read every Shabbat, they were presumably drawn to Paul’s preaching of the Word in regard to Jesus.8

The teaching of the Torah, requiring circumcision, attracted only a few Gentiles, but the preaching of grace, attracted a multitude of Gentiles who had heard Paul’s sermon the previous Shabbat and understood that the salvation he proclaimed in Messiah included them! The word had spread like wildfire through the Gentile community and they were there in masses. But when the unbelieving Jewish leaders saw the Gentile crowd, they were filled with zealousness (Greek: zelos), as the Great Sanhedrin had been previously (Acts 5:17). Their zealousness was over the presence of all those Gentiles. It was one thing to proclaim the coming Messiah to the Jews. It was quite another to maintain that the Messiah God accepted the Gentiles on an equal basis. To them this was a little short of blasphemy,9 and they tried to contradict Paul’s interpretation of Scripture by continually revealing him. 

The message of the gospel itself raised no objections from the Jewish community. On the contrary, the Jewish people of Galatia listened eagerly and wanted to hear more. The message of Messiah’s death, burial, and resurrection, and the justification and salvation available through Him, sounded good to their ears. They found no offense in the cross. Those were the days before Christian arguments had galvanized Jewish objection to the gospel. They didn’t raise any objections until they saw the overwhelming response of the Gentiles. To the Galatian Jewish community of Pisidian Antioch, the offense of the cross was the inclusion of the Gentiles.

Paul and Barnabas shrugged off the concern and continued to teach the new believers. However, both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said: It was necessary for the word of God to be spoken to you first (Romans 1:16). Since you reject it and judge yourselves unfit for eternal life – behold, we are turning to the Gentiles (13:43-46). Paul cited Isaiah 49:6 as evidence that the salvation of the Gentiles had been ADONAI’s plan all along. In the prophecy, God addresses His chosen Servant and tells Messiah to bring salvation to the Gentile nations, “It is too small a thing for you to be My Servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Isra’el I have kept; I will also make You a light for the Gentiles, that My salvation (My Yeshua) may reach to the ends of the earth.” Eventually, pressure from the Jewish community forced Paul and Barnabas out of Pisidian Antioch. Recovered enough to travel deeper into Galatia, they set out for another Galatian city: Iconium. They shook the dust from their feet as they left.

Paul saw that pattern repeated over and over again in city after city. Popular success at the synagogue was typically followed by the conversion of a large number of God-fearing Greeks and no small number of the leading women. But the Jewish people became jealous (Acts 17:4-5). Everywhere Paul went, Gentiles seemed to flock to the synagogue to hear him speak. All over Asia Minor, he found Gentiles eager to hear the message of the gospel and Jewish people eager to rid themselves of that same message, not because of theological objections about Yeshua, but because they objected to the intrusion of Gentiles into their faith on an equal basis. Nevertheless, Paul was able to establish a Gentile church in Galatia.

Paul eventually worked his way back to his home base (see the commentary on Acts Br – Paul’s Return to Syrian Antioch). After completing his First Missionary Journey, Paul received word that the Gentle believers that he had established in Galatia were being bewitched (see Bf – Bewitched) by a group of Judaizers (see Ag – Who Were the Judaizers?), who had infiltrated the city after he had left. When Paul heard about this, under the influence of the Ruach ha-Kodesh, Paul sat down and wrote a letter to the Gentile believers in Galatia.10

To: The Messianic communities in Galatia. Unlike Paul’s other letters this was not written to one specific city, but to a region in what is today central Turkey where Paul established the congregations of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (Acts 13:51 to 14:23) and later returned to strengthen them (Acts 15:36, 16:1-6, 18:23) (1:2b):

Grace and shalom to you from God our Father and from the Lord Yeshua the Messiah (1:3). Grace and shalom is a combination of traditional First Century Greco-Roman and Jewish greetings. The salutation proper given here is the uniform one found in all of Paul’s letters, but it has special significance in this letter since the recipients were turning away from the doctrine of grace toward the legalistic teachings of the Judaizers.

Who gave Himself for our sins (1:4a). Here Paul brings to the attention of the Galatians, who were ignoring the substitutionary nature of Messiah’s atoning death, which is the true ground of acceptance for all believers (4:21 and 5:4). This was purposely added because the Galatians were falling back on good deeds as the basis for their acceptance and relationship with ADONAI. Therefore, Paul counters the bloodless religion of the Judaizers with the doctrine of substitution, which teaches that the Lord Yeshua took our place on the cross, and for those of faith, substituted our sins for His righteousness, which perfectly satisfies every demand of a holy God.

So that he might deliver us from the present evil, transitory world-system (1:4b). The word deliver (Greek: exaireo carries the idea of rescuing from danger) is the big idea of the letter. The Good News is a rescue, an emancipation, as it were, from a state of slavery. The word evil is not from kakos here, but poneros. In the latter word, the intent of the evil can be seen as far more sinister than in the former. The kakos man may be content to perish in his own corruption, but the poneros man is not content unless he is corrupting others as well, and drawing them into the same destruction as he himself will suffer. The Adversary is not called the kakos one, but the poneros one. The present evil world-system is described by Paul as poneros. We might best translate this Greek word as pernicious.

It is important that Paul candidly states that Yeshua gave Himself for our sins . . . so that he might deliver us from the present evil world-system. Believers being rescued from sin is something that is to be affected by the work of Yeshua, not something that occurs via human effort. In too many cases throughout religious history, both before and after Paul’s letter to the Galatians, untold multitudes have thought that their own actions in association with obeying the 613 commandments of Moses is what will rescue them from evil and bring them to Abraham’s side. Those who think like this have forgotten that it was not the Torah that delivered Ancient Isra’el from Egyptian bondage, it was ADONAI who delivered her.11

The Scrolls understand that this present evil world-system is under the dominion of Belial, of the Angel of Darkness. “And the hand of the Angel of Darkness is total dominion over the sons of deceit; they walk on paths of darkness. From the Angel of darkness stems corruption of all the sons of justice, and all their sins, their iniquities, their guilts and their offensive deeds are under his dominion in compliance with the mysteries of God, until his moment; and all their afflictions and their periods of grief are caused by the dominion of his enemy; and all the spirits of his lot cause the sons of light to fall” (Rule of the Community 3:20-24).12

In obedience to the will of God, our Father (1:4c). But Paul is quick to add that the act of Messiah rescuing us is not according to our plan, or in proportion to our obedience to a set of rules, or because of any good quality in us, but according to the Father’s sovereign will. Therefore, this rescue is according to His plan, not ours. All of which means that the salvation secured on the cross for us by our Lord is to be received by faith, apart from any merit of our own. We cannot earn what Messiah has secured for us. Salvation is a free gift. For grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not from yourselves – it is the gift of God. It is not based on deeds, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Paul concludes his introduction with a doxology fitting for such a saving God. His motive for writing to the Galatian churches was that he might acknowledge that ADONAI is worthy of glory forever and ever (1:5a)! The apostle’s supreme purpose was to glorify his Lord, and he calls all believers to do everything to the glory of God (First Corinthians 10:31). In these five opening verses Paul covers the four stages of our salvation. The first stage was the sovereign decree of YHVH to save, the second was the death of Messiah for our sins, the third was the appointment of apostles to testify to the gospel, and the fourth was the gift of His grace to those who would believe in Yeshua Messiah. In each of these stages the Trinity is at work, because Their will and Their work are always one. Together They planned salvation, together They provide salvation, together They announce salvation, and together They grant salvation to everyone who comes to Them in faith.13

The abruptness of the language is remarkable. In Paul’s other letters, he always has a word of commendation for the churches to which he is writing, even in the case of the church at Corinth which he was taking severely to task because of serious disorders within its membership. He does not even address them as those trusting in Messiah Yeshua, or the kedoshim, the holy ones, although they were. This shows the extent and seriousness of their defection, also the troubled state of the apostle’s mind mingled with his indignation at the actions of his converts.14

Amen (1:5b). This implies oath, acceptance of words, and confirmation or words. It implies oath, as it is written: The woman is to say, “Amen, amen” (Numbers 5:22). It implies acceptance of words, as it is written: Cursed is the one who does not uphold the words of this Torah by doing them. Then all the people are to say, “Amen” (Deuteronomy 27:26). And it implies confirmation of words, as it is written: So the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May ADONAI do so! May ADONAI fulfill your words that you have prophesied” (Jeremiah 28:6a).15

Therefore, Paul had already drawn the lines of battle by touching on two vital concerns. He had affirmed his own apostleship and had declared that the basis of mankind’s salvation is based solely on the work of Messiah and not any human deeds.

Dear Father God, We praise and thank you that you sent the message of your great love/gospel out to all so that you might deliver us from the present evil, world-system (1:4b NIV). The gift of Your love was at such a great sacrifice for you! Though You give your gift freely to all who believe, yet it cost you such pain and sorrow. We bow in worship and adoration of You! Please give us opportunities and the right words to use to share your gift with others, and may go ahead of us to soften their hearts to be willing to follow you as their Lord and Savior. We love you Father! In your holy Son’s name and power of resurrection, Amen


2020-01-22T13:52:45+00:00 0 Comments

Ag – Who Were the Judaizers?

Who Were the Judaizers?

Millennia before Yeshua Messiah came into the world and died for our sin, ADONAI foreshadowed His perfect sacrifice through the offering of slain animals. He apparently began by instructing Adam to offer blood sacrifices as symbols pointing the true and effective shedding of the Lamb of God’s perfect blood on the cross. The sacrifice of a goat, lamb, ram, or other animal never had the power to forgive and cleanse sin – nor was it ever meant to. Such sacrifices were only outward, symbolic acts of obedience that, unless accompanied by a humble and contrite heart, were not acceptable to Ha’Shem. Without belief, trust and faith in the God to whom the sacrifice was offered, the whole exercise was merely a meaningless ritual. These people come near Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me (Isaiah 29:13).

When Cain offered his sacrifice of grain to the LORD, he sinned both by disobediently bringing the wrong kind of offering and by offering it in the wrong spirit. Rather than bringing an animal sacrifice as YHVH had obviously commanded, he brought the fruit of his own labor, proudly supposing that his act of disobedience was just as acceptable to God as the one He had demanded. His was the first act of works righteousness, the forerunner of every such act since his time. Every person of every era who has tried to come to ADONAI on the basis of their own merits and works, or by some humanly designed religious ceremony, has followed in the unbelieving, grace-rejecting steps of Cain. By rejecting Ha’Shem’s required animal sacrifice, Cain rejected God’s provision for substitutionary salvation in His Son toward which that blood offering pointed.

Abel, on the other hand, had obediently offering the blood sacrifice that God required, and in faith, it leaped across centuries and touched the cross (see the commentary on Genesis Bi – Cain and Abel). ADONAI accepted his offering, not because it had any spiritual benefit in itself, but because it was presented in trust and obedience.

Since the time of Cain and Abel, two divergent lines of works and faith had characterized religious life in all of humanity. Whoever follows the way of Cain, follows the Adversary’s lie; and whoever follows the way of Abel, follows God’s way of grace and forgiveness.

These two ways of approaching YHVH can be traced throughout the TaNaKh. The builders of the tower of Babel (see the commentary on Genesis Dm – Let Us Build a City and Make a Name For Ourselves), followed the unbelieving and rebellious way of Cain, whereas Noah and his family followed the believing and obedient way of Abel (see the commentary on Genesis Ce – The Ark is a Type of Christ). The vast majority of the ancient world followed the ungodly way of Gain (see the commentary on Jude Aq – They Have Taken the Way of Cain, Rushed into Balaam’s Error), whereas Abraham and his household followed the godly way of Abel (see the commentary on Genesis Ef – Abram Believed the LORD and He Credited It to Him as Righteousness). Within the nation of Isra’el there were always the same two lines of human achievement and divine accomplishment, of trusting in what mankind can do for God, or of trusting in what God has done for mankind. Those who follow the narrow gate of faith are always a minority (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Dw – The Narrow and Wide Gates), but for the faithful remnant, the blessings of ADONAI never cease and His promises never fail.

At the time Yeshua was born the righteous of the TaNaKh included Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zacharias, Anna, Simeon, and many others whose names are unknown to us. They placed their trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for their salvation and unconditionally believed in the Torah as His divinely-revealed Word. They faithfully and willingly conformed their behavior to God’s prescribed ceremonies and standards, all the while demonstrating that their faith was in ADONAI Himself, not in the keeping of those ceremonies and standards, as important as they were in the Dispensation of Torah.

But by the time Yeshua was born the vast majority of Israelites had perverted the Torah and to put their trust and faith in themselves, looking to their own goodness and accomplishments to make themselves acceptable to Ha’Shem. The Oral Law was grounded in works righteousness (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Ei – The Oral Law). They believed in the idea of attaining merit before God through the strict observance of an almost endless list of man-made regulations and ceremonies. Most Jewish leaders, epitomized by the self-righteous Pharisees and Sadducees, proudly believed their religious works placed them in YHVH’s special favor and gained them forgiveness for their sins.

It was from this vast group of legalistic Jews that the Judaizers arose, claiming to follow Messiah, but teaching that a Gentile had to be circumcised and follow the 613 commandments of the Torah in order to be saved; and that all believers, Jew and Gentile alike, had to continue to follow those 613 commandments in order to maintain their relationship with ADONAI. Their teaching not only corrupted the gospel, but also the teaching of the Torah, in which a right standing before ADONAI had always been only by obedient faith. At no time in history as anyone been saved by their own merit. Both before and during the Dispensation of Torah, people were saved by faith alone. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, the godly judges, kings, prophets, and all the righteous of the TaNaKh were saved only on the basis of faith. All of these people, whether man or woman, Jew or Gentile, pleased God because of their faith (see the commentary on Hebrews Cl – The Hall of Faith).

The Galatian opponents of Paul were Judaizers who made proselyte circumcision and Torah observance required for a right standing before God. They perverted the simplicity of the gospel by adding requirements to it (Revelation 22:18). Judaizers were therefore not teaching godly doctrine, but the lie of from the pit of sh’ol, that a people, by their own goodness and works, can gain favor with YHVH. This is why Paul referred to the Judaizers as dogs . . . evil workers . . . the false circumcision (Philippians 3:2 NASB). False circumcision translates the Greek word katatome, which is used there in the B’rit Chadashah and refers to pagan sexual mutilation.

The Judaizers recognized Yeshua as the Messiah intellectually. But they had not crossed over the line from knowledge to faith (see the commentary on Hebrews Al – How Shall We Escape If We Ignore So Great a Salvation). Therefore, because their view of the Messiah was corrupt, so was their view of Yeshua. They did not look at Christ as the Lamb of God who would take away their sin, because they didn’t believe they had sin that demanded such a sacrifice in order to be forgiven. As circumcised, ceremonial Jews, they were convinced they already had the full favor of ADONAI and were spiritually and morally acceptable to Him as they were. That common Jewish view is reflected in the argument in the book of Hebrews, in which the writer goes to great lengths to persuade his Jewish readers that the Messiah is superior to the prophets, to the angels, and to Moshe (Hebrews 1:1 to 3:6). Jesus was not simply another great Jewish teacher. He was completely different than any anyone else who had ever lived, the very Son of God and Savior of the world, whose saving sacrifice was necessary for anyone to be right with the Father.4

There are many groups today with beliefs/practices very similar to those of the Judaizers of the New Testament. The two most prominent would be the Hebrew Roots Movement (see Aj – The Hebrew Roots Movement: Another Gospel) and the Roman Catholic Church. The teachings of the Hebrew Roots Movement are virtually identical to those of the Judaizers whom Paul rebuked in Galatians. A primary focus of the Hebrew Roots Movement is to put followers of Messiah back under the bondage of the Torah of Moses for salvation.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches a doctrine similar to that of the Judaizers of the New Testament in this way: its doctrine is a mixture of works and grace. At the Council of Trent in the 16th century, the Catholic Church explicitly denied the idea of salvation by faith alone. Catholics have always held that certain sacraments are necessary for salvation. The issues for the first-century Judaizers were circumcision and Sabbath-keeping. The issues for modern-day Catholics are baptism, confession, etc. The works considered necessary may have changed, but both Judaizers and Catholics attempt to merit God’s grace through the performance of ritualistic acts.

First Timothy 4:3 says that, in later times, false teachers will forbid people to marry; they will command people to abstain from foods that God created for the faithful to share with thanksgiving, having come to know the truth. This sounds suspiciously close to some of the teachings of Roman Catholicism, which requires priests to be celibate (forbidding people to marry) and proclaims some food to be off-limits during Lent (abstaining from foods). The Judaizers upheld the Torah of Moses as necessary for salvation; Catholics uphold man-made tradition as necessary; both view Messiah’s death as being insufficient without the active and continued cooperation of the one being saved.

The Bible is clear that the attempt to add human works to God’s grace overlooks the very meaning of grace, which is “undeserved blessing.” As Paul said himself: But if it is by grace, it is no longer by works; otherwise grace would no longer by grace (Romans 11:6). Praise ADONAI, Messiah has set us free – so stand firm, and do not be burdened by a yoke of slavery again (Galatians 5:1).5


2020-01-22T13:34:52+00:00 0 Comments

Af – The Torah of Righteousness

The Torah of Righteousness

In general, I will not be using the word “law” in this commentary. That is a word for people who don’t love and honor the Torah (Psalm 1:1-6). The law is a negative phrase. That is why I don’t use the phrase “the Old Testament” in my commentaries, but use TaNaKh instead. Something old seems like it isn’t worth anything anymore and needs to be thrown out and replaced by something “new.”

However, I will use the word “law” in a very limited basis (as does the TLV) in two files: (Bd) Through the Law I Died to the Law, and (Bi) All Who Rely on the Deeds of the Law are Under a Curse, as a reference to something negative: legalism, or the attempt to gain salvation through obedience to the 613 commandments of Moshe, for which the Torah was never intended. In this sense the word “law” is a perversion of the Torah. Sometimes I will refer to the word “law” when referring to the Oral Law (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Ei – The Oral Law).

The Torah is perfect and eternal. It is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). In every Messianic Synagogue all over the world, believing Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 3:14) participate in the “Torah procession.” The Torah scroll is brought out of the ark and taken up and down the aisles to honor God’s Word. Psalm 2:12 instructs us to: Kiss the Son . . . and happy is everyone taking refuge in Him! So, people kiss their Bible or Sedur, reach out, and touch the Torah scroll as it goes by, so as to kiss the Son, the Word of God who became flesh and tabernacled among us (John 1:1 and 14).

The reason it will last forever is because God’s Word will last forever. Yeshua said: Do not think I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish, but to complete (see the commentary on The Life of Christ Dg – The Completion of the Torah). There are 613 commandments in the Five Books of Moshe; 365 negative commandments and 248 positive commandments. These 613 commandments are viewed by Judaism as a unit – if you break one, you break them all. So, besides teaching much needed doctrine stories that offer great examples of Godly living, it is an impossible standard to live by. And because it is an impossible standard to live by, ADONAI gave the Jews a Levitical sacrificial system. The Jews were continually sinning, so they were continually offering sacrifices to temporarily cover their sins. This was done throughout their lifetime. It was a long, bloody, never-ending trail of sin.

Now, salvation has always been by faith, even during the Dispensation of Torah. When an Israelite felt the pain of sin, he or she would bring a sacrifice to the Tabernacle or Temple as a substitute for their sin. But merely placing a sacrifice on the bronze altar didn’t mean the sacrifice was accepted by Ha’Shem. Only those who were humble and contrite of heart for their sin would be forgiven. Just like today, however, there were those who just went through the motions. And God rejected their sacrifice (see the commentary on Jeremiah Cc – False Religion is Worthless).

The Bible teaches that the Torah became our guardian to lead us to Messiah, so that we might be made right based upon faith (Galatians 3:24). The Torah was supposed to teach the Israelites that the 613 commandments were, in fact, an impossible standard to live by and they could not do it! If they learned that lesson, when Yeshua Messiah came, then they would have eagerly accepted his offer of salvation, free from works of righteousness. But that didn’t happen because of the Oral Law. Over the four hundred year Intertestamental Period the Jews came to believe that the Oral Law was equal to, if not a little bit superior to, the Torah. As a result, they took God’s high holy impossible standard, and pulled it down into the mud of works righteousness. Things they could actually do. So, when Messiah came offering His salvation of grace through faith it was rejected. But many believers today confuse the Pharisaic Judaism that they see being practiced in the B’rit Chadashah with the righteous Torah. All, I repeat, all of the conflicts that Yeshua had with the Pharisees and Sadducees in the B’rit Chadashah were over the Oral Law, not the Torah. This is why many Christians refer to “the Law” as a negative thing to be avoided, equating it to legalism, not the righteous Torah.

Galatians has been historically interpreted by Christianity as delivering believers a stark choice between God’s “Law” and God’s grace. Those who choose any obedience to “the Law,” according to this faulty view of Paul, are unfaithful to the Messiah and the saving power of the gospel. But nothing could be further from the truth. Paul was referring to the corrupt man-made Oral Law, not to the Torah of righteousness.

So after that which is perfect, Yeshua Messiah, has come (First Corinthians 13:10), and the Dispensation of Grace (see the commentary on Hebrews Bp – The Dispensation of Grace) has been ushered in, what use is the Torah to us today? I am glad you asked! Today, Torah is important, not for salvation, but as a blueprint for living (see the commentary on Exodus Dh – Moses and the Torah). Therefore, the Torah gives us wisdom, insight into godly living, practical advice of our personal, family and professional lives.



2020-01-22T13:28:14+00:00 0 Comments

Ae – Dates of Books in the B’rit Chadashah

Dates of Books in the B’rit Chadashah

James written between 45 and 48

First Missionary Journey:
Galatians written in 48 from Antioch

Second Missionary Journey:
First Thessalonians
written in 50 from Corinth

Second Thessalonians written in 50 from Corinth

Third Missionary Journey:
First Corinthians written in 55 from Ephesus

Second Corinthians written in 56 from Macedonia

Romans written in 57 from Corinth

Mark was written around 58-59 from Rome

Paul’s Journey to Rome: Prison Letters
written in 60 from Rome

Colossians written in 60 from Rome

Philemon written in 60 from Rome

Luke written in the early 60s either 60 or 61

First John written between 60 and 65

Second John written between 60 and 65

Third John written between 60 and 65

Philippians written in 61 from Rome

Acts written around 62 from Rome

Fourth Missionary Journey: Pastoral Letters
First Timothy written in 64 from Macedonia

Titus written in 64 from Macedonia

First Peter written late 64 or early 65

Hebrews written 64-65

Matthew written around 65 from Palestine or Syrian Antioch

Jude written around 66

Second Timothy written in 67 from Rome

Second Peter written around 67-68

John written around 80

Revelation was written around 95-96

As long as the apostles were alive, all the gifts of the Spirit were used. But eventually all the apostles were martyred except for John who wrote Revelation, and the canon of Scripture was closed, and the necessity for the gifts authenticating the apostles also ended. John would write in the last chapter of the last book in the Bible: I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll (Revelation 22:18-19). At that time, the Church was established and some of the spiritual gifts ceased to be needed or used.

Determining when the Bible was written poses challenges because it isn’t a single book. It’s a collection of 66 books written by more than 40 authors over more than 2,000 years. Therefore, there are two ways to answer the question, “When was the Bible written?” The first is to identify the original dates for each of the Bible’s 66 books. The second, the focus here is to describe how and when all 66 books were collected in a single volume.

We can say with some certainty that the first widespread edition of the Bible was assembled by Jerome around 400 AD. This manuscript included all 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament in the same language: Latin. This edition of the Bible is commonly referred to as the Latin Vulgate. Jerome wasn’t the first to select all 66 books we know today as the Bible. He was the first to translate and compile everything into a single volume.

The first step in assembling the Bible involves the 39 books of the Old Testament, also referred to as the TaNaKh. Beginning with Moses, who wrote the first five books of the Bible, these books were written over the centuries by prophets and leaders. By the time of Jesus and his disciples, the Hebrew Bible had already been established as 39 books. This was what Jesus meant when he referred to “the Scriptures.”

After the early church was established, people such as Matthew started writing historical records of Jesus’ life and ministry, which became known as the gospels. Church leaders such as Paul and Peter wanted to provide direction for the churches they established, so they wrote letters that were circulated throughout congregations in different regions. We call these the epistles.

A century after the launch of the Church, hundreds of letters and books explained who Jesus was and what he did and how to live as his follower. It became clear that some of these writings weren’t authentic. Church members began to ask which books should be followed and which should be ignored.​

Eventually, Christian church leaders worldwide gathered to answer major questions, including which books should be regarded as “Scripture.” These gatherings included the Council of Nicea in 325 AD and the First Council of Constantinople in 381 AD, which decided a book should be included in the Bible if it was:

  • Written by one of Jesus’ apostles, someone who was a witness to Jesus’ ministry, such as Peter, or someone who interviewed an apostle, like Luke.
  • Written in the first century AD, meaning that books written long after the events of Jesus’ life and the first decades of the church weren’t included.
  • Consistent with other portions of the Bible known to be valid, meaning the book couldn’t contradict a trusted element of Scripture.

After a few decades of debate, these councils largely settled which books should be included in the Bible. A few years later, all were published by Jerome in a single volume. By the time the first century AD ended, most of the church had agreed on which books should be considered Scripture. The earliest church members took guidance from the writings of Peter, Paul, Matthew, John, and others. The later councils and debates were largely useful in weeding out inferior books that claimed the same authority.


2020-01-22T12:52:25+00:00 0 Comments
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