Monday, February 15, 2021

Letter from Jerusalem #7

We need a return to Jerusalem, a fresh look at the teaching and unity that Jesus called for in His prayer, John 17.  We need a letter from Jerusalem calling us back to the unity that is in Yeshua, the Messiah.


The Apostles are no longer physically living in Jerusalem, but we still have their teaching recorded in scripture. And God has sent His Holy Spirit to encourage His children, all who have been born again through the gospel of Jesus Christ, Yeshua Messiah.

This information age provides more access for knowing and communicating with each other. Can we use it to encourage each other to go back to Jerusalem, to look afresh at the unity that is in Jesus?

If we could consult the Apostles today, what would they write as practical advice to help us escape division and return to the unity that is in Jesus.

Perhaps they would remind us of what it was like when the Kingdom of God was first established at Jerusalem.

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

The Fellowship of the Believers

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[d] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. 

So the believers had great fellowship and unity at the beginning, helping and sharing with each other as needed.  The ekklesia is described as all in every place who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

1 Cor 1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

But as the fellowship spread beyond Jerusalem to the other areas of the world, problems developed.  Believers began to make distinctions based upon their Bible teacher.

Divisions in the Church

1 Cor 1: 10 I appeal to you, brothers,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 

11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 

Christ is not meant to be divided.  We believers are to be many members in one body. We are baptized into one body and made to drink of one spirit, the Holy Spirit.

One Body with Many Members

1 Cor 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[d] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

What happened?  There are so many divisions and groups, within the proclaimed believer community today, that it is impossible to keep up with all the names and issues.  There was a falling away from true faith in Jesus that began  in the time of the Apostles.



The Man of Lawlessness

2 Thes 2 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers,[a] 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness[b] is revealed, the son of destruction,[c] 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

One of the early divisions among believers developed over different teaching about the nature of Jesus Christ. Some denied the humanity of Jesus, and taught that He is a created divine being.  This was countered by those who emphasized the humanity of Jesus, as Son of David, promised Messiah, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born to Mary.

Walking in Truth and Love

2 John 4 I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. 5 And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. 6 And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we[a] have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

So some teaching is critical to unity.  It does matter what we believe and teach. We must abide in the teaching of Christ. But how can we define the teaching of Christ?

This is a link to a basic short course on understanding God's word. 


We must return to Jerusalem, and understand the scriptures in their Jewish context.   Greek logic and proof text arguments based on texts taken out  of context must be subjected to the overwhelming revelation of texts in context, all the narratives of scripture put side by side and compared.   Jesus taught in parables.  Parallel study, comparing things side by side, and reviewing related teaching, will help establish the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles.

The actual, factual teaching of the Bible is our source of unity in teaching.  Do not follow great teachers, but put our faith completely in Jesus and what He taught.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Letter from Jerusalem #6

We need a return to Jerusalem, a fresh look at the teaching and unity that Jesus called for in His prayer, John 17.  We need a letter from Jerusalem calling us back to the unity that is in Yeshua, the Messiah.


The Apostles are no longer physically living in Jerusalem, but we still have their teaching recorded in scripture. And God has sent His Holy Spirit to encourage His children, all who have been born again through the gospel of Jesus Christ, Yeshua Messiah.

This information age provides more access for knowing and communicating with each other. Can we use it to encourage each other to go back to Jerusalem, to look afresh at the unity that is in Jesus?


If we could consult the Apostles today, what would they write as practical advice to help us  know the role of immersion in water by the authority of Jesus for our salvation?

Perhaps they would first remind us of the washings for ritual cleansing required under the Law of Moses, and ask us to understand that the water did not remove the uncleanness, but that it was  a person's respect for the command of the Law that caused God to accept the person as clean.

From Jewish Virtual Library

ABLUTION (Heb. טְבִילָה; "immersion"), act of washing performed to correct a condition of ritual impurity and restore the impure to a state of ritual purity. The ritually impure (or unclean) person is prohibited from performing certain functions and participating in certain rites. Ablution, following a withdrawal period and, in some cases, other special rituals, renders him again "clean" and permitted to perform those acts which his impurity had prevented. Ablution must not be confused with washing for the sake of cleanliness. This is evident from the requirement that the body be entirely clean before ablution (Maim., Yad, Mikva'ot 11:16), but there may nevertheless be some symbolic connection. The ablutions, as well as the impurities which they were deemed to remove, were decreed by biblical law, and understood by the rabbis in religious and not in hygienic or magical terms. This is shown by R. Johanan b. Zakkai's retort to his disciples who had questioned an explanation he gave to a non-Jew about ritual purity: "'The dead do not contaminate and the water does not purify.' It is a command (gezeirah) of God and we have no right to question it" (Num. R. 19:4).

Because of the immersion required under the Law of Moses, the people of Israel were familiar with immersion being connected with ritual cleanness.  Therefore, when John the Baptist came preaching repentance in preparation for the coming Kingdom of God, he immersed those who believed his message in the Jordan River.

He also immersed Jesus, who is the King of the Kingdom. Jesus was showing His submission to His Father, and He was acknowledged by His Father at the time of His immersion.

The Baptism of Jesus

Mat 3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[c] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[d] with whom I am well pleased.”

The disciples of Jesus also practiced the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins in preparation for the then coming Kingdom. 
 
John 4 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.

But the baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins in preparation for the coming Kingdom is different from the baptism preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost. Baptism in the name of Jesus, (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), is part of obeying the gospel, as Paul taught clearly.

Rom 10:11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[c] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.


Paul had written earlier in chapter six about the relationship between the gospel and immersion.  A penitent sinner who has repented, died to sin, is buried with Jesus by baptism into death, and raised from the death by the glory of the Father.  

Dead to Sin, Alive to God

Rom 6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free[b] from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

So we bury a person who has died in his relationship to God because of the sin that separates one from God.  God grants forgiveness of sins and gives new life because the recipient has put his/her trust in Him, through faith in the blood shed by Jesus on the cross.

Perhaps part of the reason for putting off water immersion until a convenient time is because it takes some planning and effort to immerse the believer in water.  It is easier to have them pray a prayer for which there is no commandment in scripture, and arrange the baptism for a convenient time.  So an assumption is made that justification is by faith without water baptism, and the immersion becomes a symbol of something that already happened. Yes, baptism is a symbol of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  But the converting sinner is to have his/her place in that burial.  We bury dead people.

How were three thousand people immersed on the Day of Pentecost following their response  to Peter preaching the gospel? 

The sermon took place in the morning.  After the response to Peter's preaching, likely the responders went with Peter, the Apostles, and other disciples down to the Pool of Siloam.


The pool was 225 ft long with hewn stone steps on three sides.  Seventy disciples of Jesus and the Apostles had been practicing immersion of preparation for the coming kingdom.  Now they were to immerse penitent believers who had confessed that Jesus is the Christ in His name, by the authority of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

There was ample room in the pool for eighty people to do the immersing, as believers waded out to them in the pool.. So each baptizer would have helped about forty people with their immersion. Three thousand could have easily been baptized within three hours.  

As we study the book of Acts, we find that when people confirmed their faith that Jesus is the Son of God, arrangements were made for their immersion that same day.  Why was the timing important?  Because you bury dead people, and you want them to have life as soon as possible. 

No, the water does not take away the sins.  The scriptures do not teach ritual baptismal regeneration.  But Jesus and the Apostles commanded immersion in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so the one who has faith does it. 

God keeps His promises.  

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Letter from Jerusalem #5

We need a return to Jerusalem, a fresh look at the teaching and unity that Jesus called for in His prayer, John 17.  We need a letter from Jerusalem calling us back to the unity that is in Yeshua, the Messiah.


The Apostles are no longer physically living in Jerusalem, but we still have their teaching recorded in scripture. And God has sent His Holy Spirit to encourage His children, all who have been born again through the gospel of Jesus Christ, Yeshua Messiah.

This information age provides more access for knowing and communicating with each other. Can we use it to encourage each other to go back to Jerusalem, to look afresh at the unity that is in Jesus?

If we could consult the Apostles today, what would they write as practical advice to help us  know the place of the great confession in our salvation?

Perhaps they would remind us of the time when Jesus asked His disciples about what others were saying about Him, and then asked Peter about what he thought.

Matt 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[b] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[d] in heaven.”

Yes, Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  Upon this confession, upon this cornerstone, God built His house. Upon the fact of Jesus being the Christ, the Son of God, He built His called out people.  The Greek word Ekklesia is translated assembly or congregation.  It refers to God's people who have been called out from the world into fellowship in the Body of Jesus.

https://www.gotquestions.org/definition-ekklesia.html

Our personal confession before witnesses that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is a central part in our being called by the gospel for salvation.

Rom 10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”


14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[c] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

"if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." 

"If" sounds conditional.  As Paul explains, "they have not all obeyed the gospel."

How can Paul be talking about obeying the gospel?  The gospel is the good news that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and raised the third day, winning the victory over sin and death.

The Resurrection of Christ

1 Cor 15 Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

But Paul says we are being saved if we hold fast to the word preached by Jesus and the Apostles.  Salvation is conditional upon fidelity.  

Matt 10:32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Letter from Jerusalem #4

We need a return to Jerusalem, a fresh look at the teaching and unity that Jesus called for in His prayer, John 17.  We need a letter from Jerusalem calling us back to the unity that is in Yeshua, the Messiah.


The Apostles are no longer physically living in Jerusalem, but we still have their teaching recorded in scripture. And God has sent His Holy Spirit to encourage His children, all who have been born again through the gospel of Jesus Christ, Yeshua Messiah.

This information age provides more access for knowing and communicating with each other. Can we use it to encourage each other to go back to Jerusalem, to look afresh at the unity that is in Jesus?

If we could consult the Apostles today, what would they write as practical advice to help us understand the role of repentance in our salvation?

They would remind us that Jesus taught repentance as a personal responsibility.  Neither our sins nor Adam's sin removes us from personal responsibility before God, but our sin separates us from God and calls out the need for our return to Him.  Repentance is returning to trust in God.

Repent or Perish

Luke 13 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Yes, Jesus taught repentance for those who want salvation.  This is at the heart of the message of the gospel, which calls all who want salvation to change their direction, stop moving away from God, and move back toward God.  Thus Jesus emphasized repentance in the gospel message, repentance for the forgiveness of sins.   

Luke 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for[c] the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Remember the words of Peter in Acts 2, after the Holy Spirit had come on him?  When asked by believers "What shall we do?" he told them to repent and be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

Repentance brings us to Jesus for salvation through the new birth, and repentance must be a constant part of our lives as we follow Jesus.  We are promised that if we confess our sins and pray for forgiveness, we will be continually cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  


James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.[b] 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Walking with Him requires a constant desire to please Him rather than pleasing our human tendencies.  When we find ourselves making wrong choices or thinking wrong thoughts, repent and pray.

Walking in the Light

1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Letter from Jerusalem #3

 We need a return to Jerusalem, a fresh look at the teaching and unity that Jesus called for in His prayer, John 17.  We need a letter from Jerusalem calling us back to the unity that is in Yeshua, the Messiah.


The Apostles are no longer physically living in Jerusalem, but we still have their teaching recorded in scripture. And God has sent His Holy Spirit to encourage His children, all who have been born again through the gospel of Jesus Christ, Yeshua Messiah.

This information age provides more access for knowing and communicating with each other. Can we use it to encourage each other to go back to Jerusalem, to look afresh at the unity that is in Jesus?

If we could consult the Apostles today, what would they write as practical advice to solve the divisions about understanding the role of faith in salvation? 

Yes, they would likely say that we are saved by grace through faith, not of works. so that we cannot boast that we earned salvation. But they would want us to understand what faith is.  For that understanding, they would send us back to the Scriptures for stories about faith, as the author did in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 11.


By Faith

Heb 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king's edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

The word in Greek (fid) that is translated faith means trust, loyalty, and fidelity.  The word focuses more on action than it does on thought. Just thinking in our minds that something is true is not faith.  Faith involves putting our trust in the thing we believe.

Thus James, brother of Jesus, wrote this about faith.  

Faith Without Works Is Dead

James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Fidelity and trust involve action.  This is why there is no live faith separate from works.  But the works do not earn salvation.  Faith produces work, because when we trust, we respect what He teaches. Jesus says that we should go and make disciples, immersing them and teaching them to observe all that Jesus taught.

The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The Apostles never taught a believer to say the "Sinner's Prayer" as the response of faith to hearing and believing the gospel.  The Apostles never taught that one is hindered by "original sin" from hearing and responding to the gospel. 


As Mark wrote, Mark 16:15 And he (Jesus) said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.







  

Friday, January 29, 2021

Letter from Jerusalem #2

 We need a return to Jerusalem, a fresh look at the teaching and unity that Jesus called for in His prayer, John 17.  We need a letter from Jerusalem calling us back to the unity that is in Yeshua, the Messiah.


The Apostles are no longer physically living in Jerusalem, but we still have their teaching recorded in scripture. And God has sent His Holy Spirit to encourage His children, all who have been born again through the gospel of Jesus Christ, Yeshua Messiah.

This information age provides more access for knowing and communicating with each other. Can we use it to encourage each other to go back to Jerusalem, to look afresh at the unity that is in Jesus?

If we could consult the Apostles today, what would they write as practical advice to solve the divisions about understanding the Kingdom of God?

Perhaps they would remind us of what Jesus said about the Kingdom, John 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

And the Apostles might remind us that the prophet Daniel predicted the time that the kingdom would be established, 
Dan 2:44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”

In the days of the Roman Empire kings, God will set up His kingdom.  We know the history, how Augustus became the first Caesar of the Roman Empire,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustus
during the time that Jesus was born.  

Tiberius was the second Roman Emperor,
and ruled at the time the Kingdom was established on the Day of Pentecost,  AD 30.

The Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem would want us to remember that Jesus taught that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand when He began His ministry.  

Jesus Begins His Ministry

Matt 4:12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”[a]

Also they might remind us of what Jesus told Peter upon the occasion of Peter making the great confession.  

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

Matt 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[b] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[c] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[d] in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Peter used the keys to the kingdom on the day of Pentecost, after the promised Holy Spirit had come on the Apostles who were gathered at the Temple in Jerusalem.  


The Coming of the Holy Spirit


Acts 2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Peter's Sermon at Pentecost

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.[b] 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:


17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[c] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,


“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,


“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
The Fellowship of the Believers


42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[d] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Letter from Jerusalem


Acts 15:23 “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers[c] who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you[d] with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”


This letter, sent from the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem, to the Gentile churches, gave practical advice about how Gentile believers should behave with regard to the influence of idolatry in their culture. While Gentile believers were not required to keep the Law of Moses, they were to respect God’s teaching for righteous conduct.


Apostle Paul teaches about this in his letter to the Roman believers, Rom 14, teaching that we should be concerned about how others believe regarding dietary rules, and be careful that we do not offend others for the sake of food and drink. Our concern for each other should be more important than what is lawful for us.



So from the beginning the peace and unity of the believer community (those who believe and follow Yeshua, Son of God, and Messiah) has been threatened by arguments about what is lawful.


Jesus prayed for unity among those who believe in Him. John 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Jesus’ prayer for unity focused on faith and love. From the beginning, the unity of believers has been disrupted by teachers focusing on what they know from a human perspective. Pride in human reasoning which led to division and apostasy violated the unity pleas of Jesus.

We need a return to Jerusalem, a fresh look at the teaching and unity that Jesus called for in His prayer. We need a letter from Jerusalem calling us back to the unity that is in Yeshua, the Messiah.

The Apostles are no longer physically living in Jerusalem, but we still have their teaching recorded in scripture. And God has sent His Holy Spirit to encourage His children, all who have been born again through the gospel of Jesus Christ, Yeshua Messiah.

This information age provides more access for knowing and communicating with each other. Can we use it to encourage each other to go back to Jerusalem, to look afresh at the unity that is in Jesus?