The Obedience of Faith

The Obedience of Faith

“…We have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles…” (Rom.1:5)

The book of Romans is considered by many to be, next to the gospels themselves, the most important book of the New Testament. It contains, supposedly, the famous “Romans Road of Salvation”, which can be found easily in the text of the epistle, particularly if one completely ignores many of the things that are actually written in it.

Wait. What??

That’s right. A funny thing happens when we read the text of the Bible for what it really says, instead of simply what we are told it says. There seems to be a whole lot of “works” being suggested in the “works-free” gospel of Paul. Yes. Could our understanding of righteousness and redemption need tweaking? Let’s walk through the first five verses of Romans and see what we might find:

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus…” (Rom.1:1)

It should be noted that, as a “bond-servant” of Christ, Paul certainly will not be teaching or presenting “another gospel” than what has been entrusted to him. Particularly not one which stands at odds with those in authority over him. I’m speaking of course of Christ Himself, but also of the Jerusalem Council and specifically James, the head of that Council, who has often been assumed to be at odds with Paul’s message of “free grace” in the famous exhortation we find in chapter 2 of the epistle credited to him. Ditto for the Sermon on the Mount, in which the Lord states that “whoever keeps and teaches (the commandments) shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt.5:19)

So much for the idea of a “law-free gospel”. So much for “Haven’t you read Galatians?”. No. Such ignorance of the sacred texts must be dispensed with now. Because if Paul were to teach contrary to Yeshua and of the Jerusalem Council (a Council that Paul was not on, and was subservient to), he would be a heretic and we would not have the ability to read his letters, since they would have been destroyed. Continue reading

The Twinkling of an Eye

The Twinkling of an Eye

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”(1 Cor.15:52)

This verse, as well as a few others, is used to explain the Rapture Theory. You’ve seen the Left Behind movies, right? One moment, it’s business as usual, and the next, driver-less cars are crashing into each other, clothing is found on the floor (minus the wearer) phone calls are dropped, etc. Sounds like science fiction.

That’s because, largely, it is.

Is the Tim LaHaye dramatization of pre-millenial rapture a fair representation of what Paul is referencing here? What type of change could represent this idea in Jewish thought of the Second Temple period?  Continue reading

Burning Your Neighbor’s Field

Burning Your Neighbor’s Field

Boundaries are healthy. We all have a plot of ground in which God is planting us, and growing a field of grace which forms our contribution to the greater “land” of God’s people. If we fail to respect those boundaries, we violate our brother’s “field”. Learn how the rulings of the sages in the Talmud concerning these laws in the Torah can affect our view of our ministry and the responsibilities we have regarding it.

Unity in Diversty

Unity in Diversty

“….by revelation there was made known to me the mystery…” (Eph.3:3)

It is tempting, yes, inevitable, that we will gravitate to the folks who champion our opinions.

Much is made about the fragmentation of the body of Messiah, sometimes too much.

It is not necessarily a bad thing to have groups who gather together to discuss, argue and even celebrate their distinctiveness from others. The trouble lies not in distinction, but in separation.

How do I cultivate a spirit of acceptance towards others who look, sound, and even think much different than I? Perhaps one place to start is by being thankful for their existence.

Yes. We do, in fact, need each other. Even when we disagree.

The Talmud has within its pages a curious passage in the tractate called Berakhot (meaning “Blessings”):

“The sages taught in a Tosefta: One who sees multitudes o Israel recites: Blessed…Who knows all secrets. Why is this? He sees a whole nation whose minds are unlike each other and whose faces are unlike each other, and He Who knows all secrets, God, knows what is in each of their hearts. The Gemara relates: Ben Zoma once saw a multitude of Israel while standing on a stair on the Temple Mount. He immediately recited: Blessed…Who knows all secrets and Blessed…Who created all these to serve me.

Explaining his custom, he would say: How much effort did Adam the first man exert before he found bread to eat: He plowed, sowed, reaped, sheaved, threshed, winnowed in the wind, separated the grain from the chaff, ground the grain into flour, sifted, kneaded, and baked and only thereafter he ate. And I, on the other hand, wake up and find all of these prepared for me. Human society employs a division of labor, and each individual benefits from the service of the entire world. Similarly, how much effort did Adam the first man exert before he found a garment to wear? He sheared, laundered, combed, spun and wove, and only thereafter he found a garment to wear. And I, on the other hand, wake up and find all of these prepared for me. Members of all nations, merchants and craftsmen, diligently come to the entrance of my home, and I wake up and find all of these before me” (Talmud, Berakhot 58a, Koren Steinsaltz edition, emphasis mine).

In a day of political and religious tension, it is important to remember that the man or woman whom you are tempted to denigrate or criticize (often for good reason) is someone who serves a vital, though perhaps unrecognized, role in our lives.

This week is the traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving. It celebrates an event in which two people groups so very different from one another, the Native Americans and the European settlers, came together in the bond of peace for a common cause: celebrating life and, as it were, survival.

Despite the shameful future of the white man’s dealings with the Indians, (it should be remembered also, in today’s culture of revisionist history, that most Indians were not as gracious as the group at Plymouth Plantation), a legacy which is impossible to defend, we would do well to remember that it is entirely possible to put such racial memory aside for the sake of peace.

In this season of thanksgiving, perhaps we should remember to be thankful for our enemies. And to pray for them, even.

After all, we share the same soil.