Monday, May 21, 2012

Under Law?

Letter 183 (under law)                                                                            25/05/03

At the end of last week’s letter I quoted a scripture from Galatians which included the following: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).  As I was reviewing the letter before sending it out, the little phrase at the end “against such there is no law”, captivated my attention.  I’m sure all of us are acquainted with the overused idiom “being under the law”.   As I was contemplating it, I had come to the realization that I better study this out and discover for myself what this really means. I have heard this expression used many times in different contexts. One time, for example, I was invited for breakfast in a Jerusalem hotel with a pastor of a very large church, who also had satellite churches, and with some of his elders. Being with this man was very special, as I could see that he really had a father’s heart for the people whom he was serving.  In the course of discussing different matters I happened to mention, quite innocently and inadvertently, the word “Torah”. Suddenly the pleasant atmosphere took a turn; it became charged…  The pastor turned beet red, picked up his plate with half of the scrambled egg shaking like jelly upon its surface, and glared down at me as if I were the devil in disguise. With a shrill voice he said: “We are not under the law!”  I was surprised and shocked at the reaction that one such little word could produce.  I found myself putting my hand on his arm, and suggesting that perhaps we needed to define our terminology.  Things settled down a little, but I knew that our fellowship had been disrupted, and that we were on two sides of a fence. 

For those of us who have returned to Torah for instruction and for learning more about the kingdom of YHVH, these reactions from fellow believers is a much too common occurrence.  However, what does it mean to be “under the law”?  The Apostle Paul, using himself as the example, says something very interesting: “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Messiah,) that I might gain them that are without law (1 Cor. 9:20-21)I have a feeling that if Paul were to walk around today, as he did then, dressed like a Rabbi, he would immediately be accused of being “under the law” and would not be allowed in most “churches”. As a matter of fact, it is most likely that in such places he and his writings would be considered heretical.  Paul enjoyed the freedom of identifying with the various groups, because he understood what it meant to be “under the law of God”, in Messiah.  He knew that justification and righteousness were through faith and personal identity with the death, burial and resurrected life of his Messiah. “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Torah and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Yeshua the Messiah, to all and on all who believe” (Rom. 3:21-22). 

From the above scripture we can deduce that Rav Shaul was referring to two separate and distinct “laws”, if you will – the law of liberty in Messiah, and the law of sin and death, the latter being augmented and explained upon Israel’s sin and rebellion at Mount Sinai.  Through the commandments YHVH gave a complete picture of the law of sin and death from His perspective, and what His requirements were for the redemption and restoration of Israel, and all mankind, from the consequences of the rebellion against His Word: “For all have sinned an fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). That is, after eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, man came under the power of the kingdom of darkness and was subject to the law (sin and death) that governs it.  “And YHVH commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16-17). However, up until the time of Moses and the giving of the Law, man seemed to be blind to, or ignorant of the law of sin and death, which is the broken relationship with the Creator and the effect thereof. Thus the Apostle explains to us the mystery that “apart from the law [of Moses] sin was dead and I was alive once without the law but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died” (Rom. 7:9).  “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire” (Rom. 7:7-8).

This is a very radical statement, one which we need to understand so that we can be totally and completely set free and transformed into the image and likeness of the new creation man, through revelation knowledge of Yeshua the Son.  What we were while being unbelievers, was simply an expression of the nature and power of sin.  Sin was being personified in and through us as sons of disobedience.   We must come to realize that what is still in us, which is not of the nature of our heavenly Father, is actually ‘not of us’ either.  If we continue to allow the power of sin to actively live in us, we will still be subject to, or be under, the law of sin, death and disease (the curse).  Paul points this out in his testimony: “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:22-23).  But if we yield to the Spirit, we will personify Yeshua in and through our very being.  We will manifest His nature in the freedom, or liberty, of the law of life in Messiah, which is not the law that states, “thou shall not…eat of the tree… or steal… or covet” etc.  It is a law that works through faith and brings us to the knowledge of the Son of YHVH.  It works by grace through faith and revelation knowledge of who He is.  Peter states it this way: “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Yeshua our Lord as His divine power [the Spirit of Holiness] has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and moral excellence, [purity]…through which He has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust [the power of sin]… For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord [shepherd- king] Yeshua Ha Mashiach” (2 Pet. 1:2-4,8).

What are the “things” that reveal to us the divine nature, or the knowledge of our Father and Yeshua?  Peter lists these “things” in this order: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly love, and unconditional love”.  Paul defines them as fruit of the divine nature: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23).   Personifying these “things” manifests the person of Yeshua, and when we see Him we know who we are as sons of YHVH: “For when He appears [is revealed to us through revelation knowledge] then we also appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4).  In other words, because we have died and our spirit man, or life, is hidden in Him, He now becomes our spirit man (or life). But in order for the nature of that life to be made evident through us our soul must be yielded in obedience and depend totally dependant on Him, who is the epitome of the “things” mentioned above.  Let us not try to pursue or strive to gain them as if they were virtues, as they are the very person of Yeshua Himself.  I have heard many teachers and preachers say, “You must become Christ like”.  Little do they know that they are echoing Satan’s words to Eve, as she stood before the tree of knowledge of good [virtues] and evil: “You can become like God” (Gen 3:5).  

Adam was created in the Creator’s image and likeness, so how could he become something that he already was?    So it is again with our new life in the Second Adam.  We ought to recognize ourselves as an expression of the divine nature through revelation knowledge of who Yeshua is, and not by trying to be “like” Him. When you know Him to be your life and nature, it is “foolishness having begun by the Spirit, to try now to be perfected by the flesh” (Gal. 3:3).

Abundant grace and peace are given so that this metamorphosis may come to full completion.


“We pray that Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is [His] the width, length, depth and height; and to know the love of Messiah which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19), Amen.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Letter 182 (meekness) 23/05/03

Soon after the outpouring of the Spirit of Holiness, Peter and John, apostles of Yeshua and former disciples, were making their way, through the Beautiful Gate of the Temple to pray. A forty-year old lame man, who had been crippled from birth, was sitting there begging for alms. The two apostles did not have silver or gold to hand him, but what they did have was the power of YHVH’s kingdom that was resident in them. (Please note that there was no faith displayed or any required from the man). After the man was healed, Peter had to explain to the people who witnessed this miracle that this remarkable thing was not of their own doing. He shared: “Why are you looking so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, was glorifying His Servant Yeshua” …(Acts 3:12-13). Peter and John both knew that this New Covenant fulfillment was not about themselves, but about the resurrected life of the Son of YHVH, “Yeshua”, in them. The Word was again being made flesh, just as John wrote later: “Greater is He [Yeshua] in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Peter and John were simply manifesting the natural expression of the Body of Messiah, the Body of YHVH’s Servant. They were experiencing and expressing the life of YHVH’s kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven”. Later on Peter would write to the believers (or should I say the ‘receivers’): “But sanctify YHVH - God in your hearts, and always [be] ready to [give] a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with all meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).

I believe that Peter’s words, “sanctify YHVH in your hearts…with meekness and fear [reverence]” is a key to understanding what took place at the Beautiful Gate that early morning. YHVH had two servants walking in the Spirit, who were already worshiping in Spirit and in Truth as they went along the way for the traditional Morning Prayer. They were abiding in Yeshua’s presence within them. They were one in this fellowship of Messiah’s life and love. Thus, when the Father decided to glorify His Son, He knew that their hearts would remain right before Him. He knew that if He would heal this crippled man, pride, self-aggrandizement and personal kingdom building would not interfere with His intent.

That day, two bondservants walking with Yeshua in meekness and fear caused one man to be healed, and five thousand to become believers. Yes, they were given free room and board at the local prison for the night, but the following day, during their hearing, the religious leaders (of the high-priestly descent) made a very interesting observation. They were amazed at the confidence that these men had in proclaiming the Gospel and giving glory to God. But even more so… they “recognize that they had been with Yeshua”. I’m sure that in saying this they were referring to the time when they had seen them with Yeshua (before His crucifixion). But what I felt tugging at my heart was Yeshua’s desire for us to be so intimate with him, that when others see us they would recognize that we too had just been with Him.

Peter and John both had the indelible markings of those who walk in the Spirit. Meekness and deep reverence were evident on their countenances. They were being prepared for apostolic leadership, to be ‘fathers’ who would nurture in love; to become under-shepherds who could lead, correct and disciple the newly growing Body of Messiah. Anyone who knew Peter could not help but recognize a man who had been changed from the inside out. These two followers of Yeshua were truly clothed in Messiah’s nature; His meekness was being seen through the cracks in their clay vessels. The sweet fragrance of His presence was all around them. These were the pillars of the apostolic body and bondservants of Yeshua Ha Mashiach.

The nature of the “one new man” is the same throughout the Body, as the head is Yeshua; the life is that of the Father, and the fruit (nature) - which is of the Spirit - is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).


Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Enemies of the cross

A few days ago we received a bulletin penned by some Charismatic leaders who were expressing a deep concern over what they believe is happening in Messianic circles. According to this report, some ‘Messianics’ have espoused teachings of righteousness via keeping the dietary laws (which unfortunately could be the case for some), and not according to faith in Messiah. The other heretical and (quote) “deceptive and dangerous teaching had to do with (supposedly) assigning natural Israelite heritage to African Americans”. The writers concluded that because of the gravity of these matters, they needed to be addressed and made public. One of their pronouncements concerning Messianics-so-engaged was that they are “enemies of the cross” (execution tree). This is not the first time I have heard this statement used. Some of you, who have been involved in the Charismatic movement, probably remember that in the early days of the revival, the main line churches were saying the same thing about speaking in tongues.

After reading this article, I started to ponder the above-mentioned assertion and asked myself, who or what makes one “an enemy of the cross”? What was most intriguing to me was, that the statement was taken from the same chapter that I had used in last week’s letter: “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Messiah whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame----who set their mind on earthly things” (Phil 3:17-18).

Why is the Apostle pointing specifically to the execution tree of Messiah? Was it just because these teachers from the circumcision party were teaching aspects of Judaism, specifically righteousness through keeping laws of Torah, (see Phil 3:1-2), or was he alluding to something more fundamental about Messiah’s cross? I believe that he was addressing the issue of living in, walking by and putting confidence in the “flesh”, rather than glorying in the Messiah by walking in the Spirit. “For we are the circumcision, who worship YHVH in the Spirit, and rejoice in Messiah Yeshua, and have no confidence in the flesh…” (Philip. 3:3-4, see also last week’s letter). Paul writes extensively about “walking”, but it is mostly in reference to the flesh or, conversely, to the Spirit. “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Messiah Yeshua, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit…that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:1,4).

It seems that the party of the circumcision was also challenging the brethren in Galatia (Gal. 2:12). However, this time the issue was not “righteousness”, but “justification” through the works of the flesh and not through faith. “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of YHVH is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith’" (Gal. 3:3,11). Rav Shaul uses himself as the example to illustrate the problem with the flesh in his letter to the believers at Rome: “For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death…For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find” (Rom. 7:5,18).

Romans chapter seven is very central to the understanding of the New Covenant revelation. If the Spirit of Truth (Yeshua), who now is our teacher, doesn’t reveal to our understanding what the Apostle is presenting to us, we will definitely become “enemies of the cross of Messiah”. What did YHVH accomplish on the cross? Yes, He reconciled the world (of man) to Himself, but He did it by forgiving man of his sin (rebellion – unbelief). How did He do that? He put the ‘man of flesh’ to death. “For the love of Messiah constrains us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then we are all dead” (2Cor. 5:14). “Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Messiah, we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Rom. 6:6-8). Please notice that the Apostle does not use the word “believing”, but “knowing”, which connotes an experiential reality of our death. If we “know” this but continue to “walk after the flesh”, I’m afraid that we are participating with the enemies of the cross of Messiah. Therefore, “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Messiah in YHVH” (Col. 3:2-3). Here again Paul says that “you died” or “you have died”, emphasizing the past tense as a truth that is complete, finished and has been accomplished for us in Yeshua’s death.

"I have been crucified with Messiah; it is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). If our life is rooted in this aspect of the Gospel of the Kingdom, uncircumcision is just as useless as circumcision, as some think that being uncircumcised is a sign of a true Christian.
A number of years ago we were visiting some believers who wanted to find out if we were really ‘free from the Law’. They made pork sandwiches, the eating of which was to be the acid test to determine whether we were truly ‘brothers’ or perhaps posed a danger to their ‘freedom’. Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s Yeshua ‘came’ to a remnant of Christians from varying denominations, filled them with His holy presence and brought them together in fellowship. One of the traditions that they all had in common was the “sacrament of holy communion”. But guess what? The Catholics brought wine, and some of the Protestant brethren became very indignant over the alcoholic content, and so strife and contention arose in their midst. The Apostle had an answer for this kind of behavior: “For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like [unregenerate] men?” (1 Cor.3: 3). Paul clearly defines the relationship between the flesh and the Spirit; they are aggressively opposed one to the other (see Gal. chapters 4 & 5).

As believers and ‘knowers’ of the “cross of Messiah” we must go back, look and listen carefully to Rav Shaul’s personal testimony recorded in Romans chapter 7. Even though he willed to do ‘good’, there was something at work in him even as a believer and an apostle. And even though this ‘something’ was not easy to deal with, we ourselves would do well to respond as he did: “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Rom 7:17, 20). Paul twice repeats, “It is no longer I”! Here is faith actively looking at the “death of the Messiah”. Shaul-Paul is saying, ‘it can’t be me, as I have died, therefore it is the power of sin working in the various components of my person.’ Personally I think that this was Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”, “lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure” (2 Cor 12:7). “But how shall I be delivered from this body of death? Thanks be to YHVH through Messiah Yeshua… therefore there is now no condemnation…!” (Rom 7:24-25; 8:1).

So who is really an enemy of the cross? “We judge thusly, that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Messiah according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer” (2 Cor. 5:14-16). There are three enemies of the cross, the devil, the flesh and the world. Let us therefore wage war against our real enemies, and not against one another, nor against any man, otherwise we will be found collaborating with those who are the real enemies of the cross of Messiah. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 6:12).

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in MessiahYeshua, and in the power of his might.
Put on the whole armour of YHVH, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:10-11).