August 18th, 2012
The fifth message I have shared with my mishpocha, we continue to look at Paul's preaching within Romans, continueing on from his point regarding being under grace and not under the condemnation of the law in Romans 6. Grace empowers us to overcome, and Messiah's death has set us free from the bondage of sin and death. How then are we to walk? Paul tells us clearly within Romans 7...
7 Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? 2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. 3 So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.So what does this mean? Does this mean forget the Torah and just go wherever the "spirit" is leading you? That's not very safe, because how are you going to know it's the right spirit, right? But Paul actually uses this contrast elsewhere, so let's turn to 2 Corinthians chapter 3 for a moment
4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law [that is, dead to consequences of breaking the Law] through the body of Messiah [as it said before, we are crucified with Him], so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead [so in other words, we're raised in His righteousness, born again from the beginning, from a time when there was no sin], in order that we might bear fruit for G-d. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. [this is talking about before we were born again; when we were spiritually dead because we were in union with sin as opposed to Messiah] 6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:1-6 NASB, emphasis added)
1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you?2 You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men;3 being manifested that you are a letter of Messiah, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living G-d, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts [contrast between material and spiritual; temporal and eternal].So, does the letter of the Torah kill? Because that's what it's saying, right? And my answer to you is: yes, absolutely! But then you might say to me "but the Torah itself says 'this is your life and the length of your days"" and that's also very true. And if you don't think like a Hebrew yet these two seemingly contradicting statements may be very annoying for you, but let me give some explanation here. The Torah defines for us right and wrong... the Torah defines what sin actually is. And so in the face of Torah as Paul says very strongly in Romans, we have our sinful nature revealed or made plain. There is no hiding from our sinful nature when we look at Torah because the Torah will convict us of everything we do wrong. And if we were to stand before a righteous judge and it is clearly laid out that we have broken all these laws, guess what? We're guilty. And if the punishment is death, guess what else? We're dead. Only if someone were to come and pay that fine and take the punishment for us would we be off the hook, and praise G-d that that's exactly what happened. We sure didn't deserve it, but that's what grace is: unmerited favor, getting what you don't deserve, and for us that's eternal life.
4 Such confidence we have through Messiah toward G-d. 5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from G-d, 6 who also made us adequate [in other words, we’re inadequate on our own, but when we have G-d, then He makes us adequate] as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:1-6)
11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘ Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)So it's in our heart so that we can do it. Now isn't that interesting, especially considering this was said long before Jeremiah proclaimed that the heart is deceitful, and long before Yeshua came rebuking saying that out of the heart comes all those not-so-wonderful things that defile a man. So right at the beginning we read that Torah is in our hearts that we may observe it. This of course is speaking to those living inside the covenant. To those outside, those nations that we are to preach the gospel to, what is the stereotypical thing that is usually done when bringing someone to Messiah? There is the sinners prayer, and you invite Jesus into your heart, right?
"The second rich youth said to him, “Rabbi, what good thing can I do and live?” Yeshua replied, “Fulfill the law and the prophets.” “I have,” was the response. Yeshua said, “Go, sell all that you have and distribute to the poor; and come, follow me.” The youth began to fidget, for it did not please him. And the Lord said, “How can you say, I have fulfilled the law and the prophets, when it is written in the law: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' and many of your brothers, sons of Abraham, are covered with filth, dying of hunger, and your house is full of many good things, none of which goes out to them?” -Gospel According to the Hebrews (as quoted by Origen in his Commentary on Matthew 15:14)Now praise Adonai that our congregation doesn't struggle with this one, and we have 150 orphans that are very grateful because of it. But when we read further in the text of this story within the Gospel of Matthew, we read something interesting. Messiah comments on how difficult it is for a rich man to enter heaven, and the Apostles remark "who then can be saved?" Messiah replies - "with man this is impossible. But not with G-d! With G-d, all things are possible." So, it is impossible for us to do it in our own strength without G-d. When it says in the text that "it would be easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle then for a rich man to enter heaven" the word for camel in Aramaic can also mean a thick rope. And some people think that this was the original reading to the text, and that the imagery is supposed to be that as HaShem works in your life, he unravels the rope until it is humbled down to a single thread which can then be passed through the eye of a needle. And that unraveling process is the stripping away of our old self, that old man, all so that we can pass through on the narrow path and inherit eternal life. But notice how we don't do it, but He does it. This is very important, because there is a tension here between HaShem's work in our life and our compliance to that work, our willingness to submit to Him.
Praised are you O Lord our G-d, Ruler over the universe, Who set us apart through Your commandments and instructed us to place these words around our arms, close to our hearts, to symbolize our desire to serve you; and around our heads, so that we may remember to keep Your Word and sanctify Your name.You see, the commandment of tefillin, although many view it as a very literal interpretation, actually goes far beyond its outward act and MUST if we are to actually fulfill the commandment. And this is also what Yeshua taught, didn’t He? Don’t clean the outside of the cup but clean the inside? It’s not about merely an outward appearance but an inward change, right? But don't think that this is teaching a “New testament” only concept, because that is actually pure Torah Judaism. Let’s go to Deuteronomy 6:17-18,
"You should diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your G-d, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you. 18 You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you."Did you get that? On the one hand we are to diligently keep the commandments, His testimonies and statutes, but then we are also to do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD. The Rabbi's in the midrash teach that this is talking about the letter of the law and the spirit of the law (ah, see, it's not just a new testament concept!). And they say that one is not to just simply walk in an outward appearance of following the Torah but rather that they are to go beyond the simple outward observance to truly do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD. That everything within Torah should be helping you to do just that. And this is exactly the point. Yeshua gives an interesting rebuke in Matthew 23:23 when He says,
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.Notice how He says without neglecting the others. So following even the smallest, simplest precepts of Torah is by no means a bad thing, but when it is done at the expense of the weightier matters of Torah, then you know something is amiss and that you're not actually fulfilling the commandments. People sit there arguing about calendar issues, two house theology, sacred names, and so on and so forth, when none of that debate actually results in the bearing of any fruit. And if it were not for the fact that those debates take people away from the weightier matters of Torah, the real fruit bearing that our Messiah emphasized, then I would say, okay no problem. But it does draw people away. It did for me, and I’ve seen it happen to other people as well. Messiah said you shall know them by their fruits... and we can be as theologically accurate as we want and still miss the mark if our theology isn't bearing us any fruit. That's part of why Paul says walk in the newness of the Spirit, that is, the renewal of yourself according to His Spirit, and not according to our old nature which stumbles as soon as it is faced with a Torah precept. Because our fallen nature is sinful where as the Torah is righteous!! And sin and righteousness, they don't mix! It's impossible!
"The son of a king was sick and the doctors said that in order to be healed he must travel extensively from one climate to the other. So the king traveled with him from one place to the other to find the climate that would be best for him and finally he left the son in a particular place and the son was healed. When returning home they retraced their steps and the father kept saying, ‘this was where we stopped once but the weather was bad and we could not sleep. Here my son’s illness became worse. There we became cold, etc. In much the same way, when the children of Israel came out of Egypt they were very sick and HaShem took them from place to place until they journeyed for 40 years in the desert and were healed" (this is what Judaism teaches; in Me’am Loez; Yalkut Sh’moni)Now, the Rabbi's, who I should mention, interpret the Scripture a little differently than evangelicals, they say that this journey represents the beginning and the ending of Torah. And at the end of this journey, what happens? The children of Israel are now refined and cleansed, or, healed from their sickness you could say, and it is then that they are ready to enter into the Promised Land - their inheritance, which prophetically speaking, represents the Kingdom, right? And in Judaism, who is there to defeat your enemies and usher in the Kingdom of everlasting peace in the Promised Land? Messiah! Therefore when you finish the refining journey and reach the end of Torah, you reach Messiah. Therefore Messiah is the end of the Torah. This isn't Christianity folks, this is Judaism I'm teaching! And Paul, an expert in Judaism, writes that Messiah is the end or the goal of Torah, why? If we continue to read in that verse it says “For righteousness to everyone who believes.”
"We give thanks to G-d always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our G-d and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Master Yeshua the Mashiyach"And Paul goes on to say,
"And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in G-d has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything."In other words, they had world famous faith!
"we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith".So while their faith was indeed great, it was not perfect, and as such Paul commissions them at the end of his 1st epistle by saying,
"Now may the G-d of peace Himself sanctify you entirely".When we say sanctify, we mean to be made holy, and holy means to be separate or set apart for His sake. And not only for His sake but for our sake because Hebrews 12:14 says "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness (or sanctification) without which no one will see the Lord!" Now how does this sanctification come? Well it comes by the very concept I'm talking about, perfect faith. Paul in Acts 26:18 recalls that when Messiah appeared to him on the Damascus road that he informed Him that sanctification comes by way of faith in Him; in Messiah Yeshua.
"but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works." (Romans 9:31-32)Without faith we do not even arrive at the Torah. See, we are Holy when we follow Torah, but following Torah is not what makes us Holy. FAITH makes us Holy and then our faith allows the Spirit of G-d to work in our life and He causes us to walk in His statutes and His commandments, which is proof that the Word is indeed very near to us, in our mouths and in our hearts that we may observe it (Deuteronomy 30) and this is how we thus serve in the newness of life, the renewal of ourselves in the Spirit, in His Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter - that is, according to our carnal nature that knows what is wrong and thus wants to do it; because it feels good, right? We wouldn't want to sin otherwise, so let's be honest and say that there is some sort of satisfaction, no matter how temporary, from sinning. Therefore, the letter of the Law is a stumbling block to that carnal nature as it shows it all the things that it actually WANTS to do. The fallen nature wants to sin, right? But when we talk about faith, faith means trust, and we have to trust that there is a better way, an eternally joyful and forever rewarding way. We may not be able to see or comprehend it quite the way we want to, but that is what faith is. However, we can logically understand that in our carnal nature no good thing dwells as Paul will go on to say, and if we can understand that, we can perhaps figure out that the only way to be saved is to thus give ourselves over to HaShem completely. The pertinent question then is do we trust Him enough to give ourselves over to Him completely? To sanctify or separate ourselves to Him? To give our lives over to Him and be renewed in the very core of our being? Our carnal nature is what we metaphorically call the old man or the old nature which we often see referred to in Scripture as "the flesh" - this is our disobedience to the Torah, and this is what is "becoming old and decaying and is near to disappearing"... that's what the book of Hebrews says. Some people think that's talking about Torah, but there is nothing wrong with Torah, Torah defines sin, and it is sin that we must get rid of. But it's not completely gone yet; as it says in Hebrews 8:13 it is near to disappearing. And this is why at the end of Romans 7 Paul writes about the conflict of this old nature with that of the spiritual nature which comes from being born again by faith.
Or do you not know, brethren (for I am speaking to those who know the law), that the law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives? For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.So whether we sow to the flesh, which reaps corruption, or we sow to the Spirit, which reaps eternal life, it all comes down to our faith. How much we're willing to trust Him and let Him renew us so that we can walk in that newness of life. You know, the Israelites when they went to go possess the land with Joshua at the head, and in case you don't know, Joshua's name in Hebrew is Yeshua (Y'hoshua), and that's prophetically no coincidence - but when they went to go possess the land HaShem says to them "go in and possess the land which I have given you". The land was given to them, it was already theirs. All they had to do was go in and possess what was already theirs and simply TRUST... have FAITH that it was theirs and therefore walk in the victory that HaShem had for them. So Scripture says we are redeemed by His blood; washed, cleansed, and sanctified by Messiah and that we are commissioned to walk in a newness of life, have a renewal of our mind and know what the perfect will of G-d is by having the Torah written upon our heart so that we may know and obey it. This is the victory that's been won and the freedom we have been given. The question is, are we going to accept that? Are we going to trust His work, have faith in His work, and simply walk in that sanctified victory? And you know something; this doesn't actually have to be a long process. Some people say that we spend our lifetimes being sanctified, but I say we can spend a lifetime walking sanctified; all we have to do is make the cognitive choice to trust Him and just start walking. That oldness of the letter revealed who our weak carnal man is, but there is victory over that in Messiah and we can walk in freedom according to the renewal of the Spirit if we would simply surrender to Him. Yes, it's a battle, yes we may stumble here and there, and Paul makes that clear when he talks about the warring state between two natures, but as the Spirit of the living G-d comes inside and changes our hearts and makes us holy, we will despise all of those carnal behaviors. We will not want to lie or steal or lust or try and get away with anything, no matter how small, that is contrary to the Spirit of our G-d, that nature of righteousness. All we have to do is surrender. Like Messiah said in the garden, "not my will be done Father, but may Your will be done".
Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Messiah, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for G-d. For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of G-d in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to G-d through Yeshua Messiah our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of G-d, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7::1-12, emphasis added, personal commentary in bracketed italics)