Friday, 29 June 2012

Who is the 'one new man' of Ephesians 2.15? Part4


What can be done to resist the cultural attractions of Tradition in both Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism…..which, by their very nature, contribute to and reinforce the barriers that keep Jewish and Gentile believers apart….and therefore prevent any progress in Jewish and Gentile believers becoming the ‘one new man’ of Ephesians 2.15?

There are at least two possible routes to follow that could make progress:

The First Route:

When Jesus began His public ministry in the first century, the only method by which He could be assessed by people on whether He was the Messiah…or not, was the written evidence of the prophecies about Messiah in the Tanach, the Old Testament.

The Rabbis had examined these prophecies in considerable detail over many years, and concluded that Messiah must establish His identity with three specific proofs:

1. Messiah must be a member of the Tribe of Judah as noted in Isaiah 11:

Isaiah 11.1 & 10 ‘There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots…..and in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.’

In these verses Jesse is clearly of the Tribe of Judah.

2.  Messiah must perform a series of Miracles that are listed in Isaiah
chapters 29, 35, 42, and 61. For example:

Isaiah 61.1:
The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me:
to preach good tidings to the poor; …
to heal the broken hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and
the opening of the prison to those who are bound…

3. Messiah must reveal Himself as the S’kinah Glory. The S’kinah Glory is a Rabbinic phrase that describes the visible manifestation of God Himself which was seen by Abraham in Genesis 18:

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day.

It was on the authority of the written evidence of these three specific proofs that Jesus was to be judged as Messiah.  The written Old Testament was the authority in the first century, as it should be today, with the addition of the New Testament.

This is The First Route to follow in order to make progress in the task of Jewish and Gentile believers becoming ‘one new man’. 

There must be an agreed starting point….and what better starting point than that used in the time of Jesus….the Messiah Himself!! 

So, if we are to accept the authority of the Bible, where does that leave the authority of Tradition?  The answer must be that the authority of Tradition is accepted ONLY on the basis that it agrees with, and is consistent with, the authority of the Bible.

That is The First Route to enabling Jewish and Gentile believers to become the ‘one new man’ of Ephesians 2.15.

Until the next bog….and The Second Route…

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Who is the 'one new man' of Ephesians 2.15? Part3

 
The ‘one new man… being joined together, grows into a Holy Temple in the LORD, BUT it can only grow into a Holy Temple in the LORD when the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers in Christ Jesus join together.

On what basis of belief and behaviour can the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers in Christ Jesus join together?

There is only one standard basis of belief and behaviour the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers in Christ Jesus join together....and that standard basis is the Bible.

BUT….the problem is that there is strong resistance and opposition to to using the Bible as THE standard of belief and behaviour.  This resistance and opposition takes the form of TRADITION!

Why is so much authority given to Tradition?  The simple answer is that if the authority of Tradition is raised to the same level, or higher than, the authority of the Bible, then the result is that the Rabbis and the   leaders of the Church can control the people.  The power of the authority of Tradition sets up a situation in which it is claimed that God has delegated access to Himself, and the interpretation of His Word, the Bible, to the leaders. 

The Roman Catholic Church argues that the Bible was given to men by the Church, and therefore the Church has equal or greater authority to it.  It sees Christian truth as contained in the Bible and Tradition, and the Church’s developing understanding of both is promulgated infallibly as doctrines binding on Catholics through Councils and the Papacy.

For example, the Council of Trent, 1545-63, decreed that the Bible and tradition were to be received as of equal authority.  The Second Vatican Council, 1962-65, taught on Tradition and Scripture:
Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the Word of God, committed to the Church. ...It is clear, therefore, that Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way, under the action of the one Holy Spirit, contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.

Protestantism originally appealed to the Bible alone for authority, interpreted by individuals under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. However, Confessions of Faith and Church authority soon provided a fresh ‘Tradition’.  Christians have often claimed that reason can by itself discover some religious truths as well as interpret revelation. In the West, since the 18th century, reason has sometimes seemed to overshadow Church authority.   

Rabbinic Judaism decrees the authority of Tradition today  for exactly the same reason that the Christian Church decrees the authority of Tradition.  The reason is control.  If the Rabbis and the Church can establish their authority, they can exercise control over the people.  The battleground is over the issue of who is in control, God or Man, and the two cannot walk together unless they are agreed.

The famous Rabbinic doctrine of Lo Bashmayim Hi, ‘It is not in Heaven’, was promulgated by the Rabbis at least as early as the first century. 

The Rabbis taught that God delegated all His earthly jurisdiction to them, and this teaching was derived from Deuteronomy 30.12:
It is not in Heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into Heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’

The Rabbis taught that it is forbidden to annul what they teach, and furthermore, their teaching can only be improved on by a court of Rabbis that is ‘greater in wisdom and numerical strength’.  In addition, anyone who gave an opinion contrary to Tradition, even if he was one of the Biblical Prophets, is to be ignored.  To illustrate this teaching, and to establish its authority, Maimonides, wrote in the 12th century:
If there are 1000 prophets, all of them of the stature of Elijah and Elisha, giving a certain interpretation, and 1001 Rabbis giving the opposite interpretation, you shall ‘incline after the majority’ and the Law is according to the 1001 Rabbis, not according to the 1000   venerable prophets. And thus our Sages said, ‘By God, if we heard the matter directly from the mouth of Joshua the son of Nun, we would not obey him, nor would we listen to him!’….Thus God did not permit us to learn from the Prophets, but only from the Rabbis who are men of logic and reason.3

The Rabbis deliberately misinterpreted this verse for the sole purpose of establishing a proof text for the authority of their Tradition.

So….what can be done to resist the cultural attractions of Tradition in both Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism?

Until the next blog.... 

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Who is the 'one new man' of Ephesians 2.15? Part2


Ephesians 2: 

Who is the ‘one new man’ in Ephesians 2.15?

The assumptions of the past 2000 years suggest that we might not have identified Paul’s ‘one new man’ correctly…

Paul refers to ‘you’, ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘our’, ‘both’, and ‘the two in Ephesians 2. 

The question is to whom is Paul referring in each reference?
Here are the answers that indicate that Paul’s ‘one new man’ is created from the two Jew and Gentile:

1    And you Gentiles He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
2    in which you Gentiles once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
3    among whom also we Jews and Gentiles all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our Jewish and Gentile flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
4    But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us Jews and Gentiles,
5    even when we Jews and Gentiles were dead in trespasses, made us Jews and Gentiles alive together with Christ (by grace you Gentiles have been saved),
6    and raised us Jews and Gentiles up together, and made us Jews and Gentiles sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7    that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us Jews and Gentiles in Christ Jesus
8    For by grace you Gentiles have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9    not of works, lest anyone should boast.
10  For we Jews and Gentiles are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we Jews and Gentiles should walk in them.
11  Therefore remember that you Gentiles, once Gentiles in the flesh;  who are called  Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands;
12  that at that time you Gentiles 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.
13  But now in Christ Jesus you Gentiles who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14   For He Himself is our Jewish and Gentile peace, who has made both Jew and Gentile one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
15  having abolished in His flesh the enmity, (which was brought about by the fence of  additional commandments contained in Rabbinical ordinances,)  so as to create in Himself one new man from the two Jew and Gentile, thus making peace,
16  and that He might reconcile them both Jew and Gentile to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
17  And He came and preached peace to you Gentiles who were afar off and to those Jews who were near.
18  For through Him we Jews and Gentiles both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
19  Now, therefore, you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the Jewish saints and members of the Jewish and Gentile household of God,
20  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
21  in Whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a Holy Temple in the LORD,
22  in whom you Gentiles also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.


Therefore, the ‘one new man… being joined together, grows into a Holy Temple in the LORD, BUT it can only grow into a Holy Temple in the LORD when the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers in Christ Jesus join together.

On what basis of belief and behaviour can the Jewish believers and the Gentile believers in Christ Jesus join together?

The next blog will address this problem….

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Who is the 'one new man' of Ephesians 2.15? Part1


Ephesians 2:

Who is the ‘one new man’ in Ephesians 2.15?

The assumptions of the past 2000 years suggest that we might not have identified Paul’s ‘one new man’ correctly…

Paul refers to ‘you’, ‘we’, ‘us’, ‘our’, ‘both’, and ‘the two in Ephesians 2. 

The question is to whom is Paul referring in each reference?

Is Paul referring to?:
1.  Gentiles  or  2. Jews and Gentiles  or 3. Jews

In the following exercise insert on the dotted lines Gentiles or Jews and Gentiles or Jews.  Your answers will indicate the real identity of Paul’s ‘one new man’!

Ephesians 2.1 And you ................He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
       
2    in which you………………… once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,

3    among whom also we ………………………..all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our ……………………….flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

4    But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us …………………….,

5    even when we ……………… …were dead in trespasses, made us……………………. ………alive together with Christ (by grace you ………………. have been saved),

6  and raised us ………………………. up together, and made us ……………………….. sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

7  that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us ……………………………… in Christ Jesus.

8 For by grace you ………………………. have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

9    not of works, lest anyone should boast.

10  For we …………………… are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we ……………… should walk in them.

11  Therefore remember that you ………..., once Gentiles in the flesh——who are called  Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—

12  that 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.

13  But now in Christ Jesus you …………………… who once were far off have been brought near by the Blood of Christ.

14   For He Himself is our …………………………….. peace, who has made both …………………….….. one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,

15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, (which was brought about by the fence of additional commandments contained in Rabbinical ordinances,) so as to create in Himself one new man from the two ……………………………, thus making peace,

16  and that He might reconcile them both…………………………………….. to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

17  And He came and preached peace to you ……………………... who were afar off and to those ………………... who were near.

18  For through Him we ……………………. both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

19  Now, therefore, you …………….. are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the ……………. saints and members of the ……………………. household of God,

20  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,

21  in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a Holy Temple in the LORD,

22 in Whom you…………………….. also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

I will post my answers in the next blog…on Sunday.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Who can this be?


Matthew 8.27

In Matthew 8.27 we read that the disciples asked a question, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’ 

If the disciples needed to ask questions, then it is likely that we need to as well.  There is a story of a Jewish mother who used to ask her children each day when they came home from school, ‘Did you ask some good questions today?’   If we are to learn more about Jesus, we need to ask ‘some good questions today’, and where better to start than to ask,’ Why did the disciples ask the question, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’ 
         
Why did the disciples ask this question? 
Matthew 8.27       ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’ 

The incident in which the disciples asked this question was immediately after Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, and He gave a command to depart to the other side (of the Sea of Galilee):

Matthew 8.23-27:
23  When He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.
24  And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves.
      But He was asleep.
25  Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘LORD, save us! We are perishing!’
26  But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’
      Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
27  So the men marvelled, saying, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’

The disciples knew their Scriptures very well.  Many of them knew most of it by heart.  We sometimes assume that they were ignorant fishermen.  This is far from the truth. Peter, James, John, Andrew, and Philip, all came from Bethsaida.  Bethsaida in the first century was a particularly religious place, to the extent that there is a record that there were no Gentiles living there.  Evidence in the Gospels suggests that John the Apostle was a priest, and ‘ as we shall see, they all knew their Scriptures well.

There is a well attested story of a Rabbi who was being interviewed by a panel of his peers for possible selection as the Chief Rabbi of Poland in about 1920.  The panel asked him to give them his Bible. They then drove a nail through the book and removed the nail.  They showed the candidate Rabbi the word through which the nail passed on page one, and invited him to tell them the word through the nail passed on all the subsequent pages….without looking.  The Rabbi passed the test because not only did he know his Bible by heart, but also he knew the position of all the words on every page!!   
Many of the disciples in the first century were similarly conversant with their Scriptures, and when Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee that day, the disciples would have connected the miracle with Psalm 107:

Psalm 107.23-30:
23  Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters,
24  They see the Works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep.
25  For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea.
26  They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble.
27  They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end.
28  Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses.
29  He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.
30  Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven.

When we compare Matthew 8.23-27 with Psalm 107.23-30, it is as if Jesus deliberately set out to do exactly as the Psalm suggested:

1. Compare Matthew 8.25 and Psalm 107.26-28:

8.25  Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘LORD, save us! We are perishing!’

107.26-28  Their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble….

2.  Compare Matthew 8.26 and Psalm 107.28-29:

8.26        …Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm…

107.28-29   He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.

The connections are almost verbatim.

The disciples made the connection between the miracle that Jesus did and Psalm 107, but why did they ask the question, or perhaps, what was the real question that they asked?

Was the emphasis in their question 1, 2, or 3?:
1.      Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’ 
2.    Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’ 
3.    Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’ 

Or, perhaps, was their real question:
‘He has just rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. Therefore, it is clear that even the winds and the sea obey Him.  It was God Himself in Psalm 107 Who calms the storm, so that its waves are still.
Therefore, Who can this be?  It is clear that He must be God Himself.

Jesus calmed the storm to show His disciples that He was God Himself in Whom they could trust, believe, have faith in, and walk with in newness of life and experience in God.