The Blasphemy of a Messiah

At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.   Acts 9:20.

How much significance should be placed on this point that Paul immediately began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

First, consider the evidence that came out at the trial of Jesus Christ.

Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate said unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.

Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.  

The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.           John 19:5-7.

At a public trial, the testimony of His accusers was that Jesus must die for claiming to be the Son of God. Now the man who was previously persecuting the church, one of high esteem among the religious leadership, was preaching this very thing! This is an extraordinary turn of events, that the one who was identified and accepted by the original disciples as the “apostle to the gentiles”, would first boldly preach in the synagogues of every place he visited.

For many have come before and after claiming to be a messiah, a fact of which is much attested. For messianic Jews to simply proclaim Yeshua haMashiach in Israel or anywhere in the world in nothing new under the sun.  If you want to stir up the status quo, preach the Son of God. 

Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.  For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.                                 Acts 5:34-39.

It is noteworthy that this same Gamaliel was the headmaster of the school of the Pharisees where Saul trained. (Acts 22:3). And who was the one man that disregarded this advice and set off on a murderous rampage against the church?  Irony!

Before appearing at the judgment seat of Pilate, Jesus was examined by the High Priest, along with the scribes and elders. Many false witnesses came forward to accuse Jesus, but none of the charges held. Then the High Priest played his trump card:

But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.                                  Matthew 26:63-66.

And so the religious authorities found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and worthy of death for claiming to be the Son of God. Then Saul, upon his conversion immediately preached this in the synagogues, thereby, bringing the same charge against himself. Then he gave this testimony of himself before his conversion..

Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.                                                 1 Tim 1:13.

This is his conversion, to embrace what was called blasphemy, and reject what was before:

I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.                                Acts 22:3.

The Lord Jesus Christ expects us to preach His Blasphemy, for this is the most excellent glory that He received:

For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.              2 Peter 1:17.

Do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?                John 10:36.

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A Lover of Hospitality

Be a lover of hospitality.        Titus 1:8.

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.          1 Peter 4:9.

For many people the mention of hospitality calls to mind Martha Stewart more than the Gospels. While it is worthy to mention the value of opening your home to others, there is a bit more being conveyed in these words.

The word being translated hospitality actually means loving kindness to strangers. And the word strangers refers to resident aliens, minorities, and sojourners in the land. In other words, these scriptures are dealing with the age old problem of ethnicity, prejudice and racism. Do you really think that will ever be properly dealt with outside of Christ?

To demonstrate this truth, let’s start with a narrative from Luke 17 where Jesus is met by ten lepers seeking their healing. He orders them to go show themselves to the priests. As they departed they discover that they have been cleansed and one of them returns to glorify God in giving thanks before the Lord’s feet, and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus comments “there are none found that returned to give glory to God, besides this stranger.”                                                 Luke 17:18.

The Samaritans were the despised people living among the most despised people in history, and are enshrined in the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ by the words  “Good Samaritan”.

These strangers stand out among the members of society by whose treatment the Lord will judge the nations.                  Matthew 25:31-46.

So what does the Law and the Prophets have to say about this thorny topic? Let’s consider this survey:

You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.                                           Exodus 22:21.

Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.                          Exodus 23:9.

The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.                                                Leviticus 19:34.

One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.                                 Numbers 15:14, 15.

He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.                                                    Deuteronomy 10:18, 19.

Do not let the son of the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord speak saying “The Lord has utterly separated me from His people”. Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants. Even them I will bring to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer. For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him others besides those who are gathered to him.”              Isaiah 56:1-8.

Thus says the Lord: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.       Jeremiah 22:3.

The people of the land have used oppression, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger.             Ezekiel 22:29.

And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.        Malachi 3:5.

So we see beyond the prophets condemning society’s injustice, a Law given to Moses that was acutely concerned for the rights of strangers. How then did this wall of separation come to exist that Paul speaks of in his letter to the Ephesians?

At that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.                                                  Ephesians 2:12.

How could this be true when the Law of Moses had made every accommodation for the foreigner who desired to seek the Lord?  In verse fifteen he says that the enmity was created by the law of commandments in ordinances: nomos entole en dogma. This expression refers to what Jesus referred to as the traditions and rules of men undermining the Word of God.

Because of the mutual hatred and distrust that existed between the Jew and all of the neighboring societies, no Jew would even sit at a table and eat a meal with a gentile. This is something that even the apostle Peter was called out on by Paul, the apostle of the gentiles. In contrast, Jesus always ate with publicans and sinners.

Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.  And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?”                             Galatians 2:11-14.

Even though he had fully embraced the gentile as a fellow believer when the Lord had given him a vision that corrected his views in Acts 10, his fear of men resulted in hypocrisy.

Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful (Pharisee) it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.                     Acts 10:28.

And finally he concludes: Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears Him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him.        Acts 10:34, 35.

As an elder of the first church in Jerusalem, Peter was very familiar with the complications of a Jewish/gentile fellowship. When he wrote in his letter to show hospitality without grumbling, the word used is more often translated murmuring. This grumbling or murmuring began early on in the church.

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.                             Acts 6:1.

Note the clear racial overtones to the situation at hand. The solution the apostles came up with to deal with the problem was to have the congregation choose for themselves seven men to appoint over the administrative duties.

The apostle Paul recalls for us in 1 Corinthians 10 how murmuring and complaining was the “original sin” of the congregation in the wilderness. The people had just passed through the Red Sea and witnessed a great deliverance when they soon were murmuring against God and Moses.

And the people murmured against Moses, saying, what should we drink?    Exodus 15:24.

And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:               Exodus 16:2.

Now in their defense I would point out that they had traveled three days in the wilderness and not found any fresh water. Most Christians have murmured and complained about far less. The point is that this is far more serious than most give consideration.

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.      1  Corinthians 10:11.

When Paul says that this issue is where the ends of the ages meet, he was ushering in the end of the age of justification by works of the Law and bringing in the age of justification by grace.

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.                                                  John 1:17.

But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.                   1 Corinthians 10:5, 6.

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end; While it is said, today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? Was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom He swore that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.                              Hebrews 3:14-19.

In other words, regardless of the covenant, grumbling and complaining are an offense to God and will be considered an act of unbelief. And now we can look to Abram to complete the picture and find the purpose.

Paul taught that Abram was the father of justification by faith, for when he was told his offspring would be as the stars of heaven, he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

James pointed out that Abraham later proved his faith by offering his son Isaac in obedience to God. But in Hebrews we are reminded that the first great act of faith, without which nothing else would have followed, was his departure from his home land.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went… he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country…for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God… and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.                                      Hebrews 11:8-16  (highlights.)

James wrote that true religion is to care for widows and orphans and to keep ourselves unspotted by the world.                         James 1:27

Why then does he not mention strangers along with widows and orphans as the Law of Moses and the prophets do so often? Because we are called to be the stranger, the pilgrim, the sojourner in this world. We cannot conform to this world and expect to be translated into a heavenly homeland.

A community church may compromise to be inoffensive and socially acceptable, but any individual who hopes to go from the called to the chosen, or elect; must be willing to step outside that comfort zone. To set hands on the plow and not look back until you have completed your course and remain faithful.

Here is how: Do all things without murmuring and disputing, That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.                                                          Philippians 2:14-16.

 

Two Words, One Root

When we consider the words believe and faith, we sense intuitively that a relationship exists between them. For a belief to operate in the power of faith there must be trust, without doubt.
And whatever things you ask in prayer believing, you will receive.
Matthew 21:22.

The very thing that you put your trust in will in the end stand in judgement of you.

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuses you, even Moses in whom you trust.
John 5:45.

Where you place your trust defines your hope for the future and eternity. The Greek translated trust is also almost equally translated as hope.

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For
who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we
wait with endurance.
Romans 8:24 & 25.

To express this from a negative form, faith is belief without doubt.

For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.
Mark 11:23.

In this is our blessing:
Jesus said to him, Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.
John 20:29.

So then what is the common root for both faith and believing? The answer is the primary verb “to persuade”. This word appears 17 times in the book of Acts alone.

Here are two examples of Paul converting souls by the faith of Jesus Christ.

And he was debating every Shabbat in the synagogue, trying to persuade
both Jewish and Greek people.
Acts 18:4, (TLV).

He entered the synagogue, and for three months debated boldly with
persuasive arguments about the kingdom of God.
Acts 19:8, (NAB).

This is why the Gospel must be presented in the pure, original form, that those who hear are persuaded by Grace from the God of Love, as expressed through His Son Jesus Christ.

Paul expressed his intentions clearly:
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5.

There are many other ways to persuade someone, such as this first time the word appears in the Gospel.

The chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas, but to destroy Jesus.
Matthew 27:20.

This persuasion was probably accomplished through intimidation, as the people would not want to oppose the leaders who accused the Lord before Pilate. Barabbas was a thief, a murderer, and an insurrectionist who was set free on the occasion of Christ’s trial before a Gentile. This is to say that a common way for people to be persuaded is through some claim to authority. The Apostolic teachings were constantly being opposed by false teachers who claimed to have authority from Jerusalem.

In Galatia and many other Greek locations, new believers were being told that they must be circumcised and follow the Law of Moses.

Here Paul opposes this doctrine in his letter to the Galatians.

Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
Galatians 5:7-9.

After insisting that they not be persuaded by these instructions from those
who claim authority to add to the Message, he uses the analogy of leaven.
Even as Jesus warned His disciples to beware of “the leaven of the Pharisees”.              Paul instructs us using the same imagery.

Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore
purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are
unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore
let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and
wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
1 Corinthians 5:6-8.

To walk by faith is to trust exclusively in the Grace of God, without the need
for the leaven of scientific proof.

And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are
sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as from ourselves, but our
sufficiency from God.
2 Corinthians 3:5.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you always
having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8.

Spiritual Principles of Memorial And Remembrance

There is some confusion of meaning between the words memorial and remembrance as they are used in the Old and New Testaments. This confusion is magnified by an inconsistency of translation for the Hebrew words that are used in the Old Testament to convey these two ideas.

Let’s start with an easy example from the New Testament to further illustrate before attempting a deeper study in the Old Testament, while also clearing up some discrepancies in translation. In Acts chapter ten, we read an important event in the life of a gentile and Roman named Cornelius. He received in a vision the message of an angel who informs him that “your prayers and your almsgiving have come up before God for a Memorial.”  Acts 10:4.

In accordance with the angel’s instructions, he calls for Peter to hear his words. Peter has already been informed by the Holy Spirit to respond to his request and go to him. After preaching the message, everyone present at his home receives the Holy Spirit. Cornelius testifies that his prayer was heard and his alms have been “had in remembrance in the sight of God”           Acts 10:31.

In other words, God has acted on his behalf and his entire household. A Memorial before God has resulted in a Remembrance in His sight.

In Exodus chapter 17, we read of the event where the children of Israel are attacked by a hostile people called the Amalekites. Joshua leads his warriors out to confront them, while Moses intercedes from a mount overlooking the battle. After Joshua prevails, the Lord commands Moses: write this for a memorial in a book and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua, for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.                        Exodus 17:14.

We can clearly see that words recorded in a book are kept as a memorial on earth for man. In Acts 10, the memorial was before God in heaven. The perspective is very important for a right understanding.  The use of the word remembrance in the same verse implies that Amalek has no expectation to ever call upon the Lord and be acknowledged. In other words, Amalek has no memorial in heaven.

The Hebrew word used in the first instance is zikrown (H2146), derived from the root zakar (H2142) -to remember and is translated in the KJV 17 times as memorial. On six other occasions however, it is translated remembrance, showing an inconsistency in translation and a source of confusion.

In the second instance of Exodus 17:14, the Hebrew word used is zeker (H2143) and is also derived from the same root word zakar. This word is translated 11 times as remembrance, but on five occasions is translated memorial, showing the same inconsistency and confusion.

Having introduced the Hebrew for memorial and remembrance, we can now look at an instance where this inconsistency of translation distorts the implications of the passage.

In the prophet Malachi we received this word from the Lord:

then they that feared the Lord spoke often one to another and the Lord hearkened and heard and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon His name.                                                       Malachi 3:16.

In this verse the Hebrew word zikrown is used and should have been translated memorial for consistency. The choice also reflects the idea of words recorded in a book as a memorial.

In Acts Ten we read that Cornelius had established a memorial before God for his righteous prayers and alms-giving. We can now add to that the godly conversation of believers to what Jesus referred to as treasure kept in heaven. This is why Christian fellowship is so valuable and righteous conversation stands in clear distinction from common socializing.

For our conversation is in Heaven, from where we also look for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.                                                                                              Philippians 3:20.

As He who has called you is holy, so be you also holy in all manner of conversation.                                                                                                                     1 Peter 1:15

Jesus is much stricter: but I say unto you that every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you shall be justified and by your words you shall be condemned.                      Matthew 12:36 & 37.

Jesus also stresses the importance of the books written in Heaven:                   notwithstanding in this rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto you, but rather rejoice because you names are written in Heaven.                                                                              Luke 10:20.

Whoever offers praise glorifies me, and to whomever orders their conversation aright I will show the salvation of God.                                                                     Psalm 50:23.

We find the dynamics of memorial and remembrance in this same Psalm:  Offer unto God thanksgiving and pay your vows unto the Most High, then call upon me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.                                                                                                        Psalm 50:14&15.