It is so important to understand what Yahweh thinks about things based from the 5 books of Moses, to the prophets, to the writings so that we can transition into the gospels (messianic writings) with a good foundation. Most of us did not grow up with this foundation of how the old is connected to the new so in a matter of speaking we are unlearning certain things so we can relearn them in the proper context. This post is going to be written in a questions and answer format for your reading enjoyment. Please feel free to use this information for conversations and discussions in your own circles.
Question: “Paul also called the group called The Circumcision “mutilators of flesh”, even though God said circumcision was to be a lasting covenant.” What did he mean by this?
Answer: There not only has to be biblical context but also historical context in order to understand what they were dealing with back then. Circumcision is not just cut and dry (no pun intended). There were those who were embarrassed of their Jewish heritage or those who wanted to convert to following Yahweh, but because of the Greco-Roman worship of male genitalia at the time, circumcision was looked down upon. Some were only having a tiny little bit of the foreskin cut off so it became hard to tell if they had been circumcised. Then there were some that believed that the more you cut off—the more holy you were. Therefore, we can see how this could be taken to the extreme and lead to mutilation. Yahweh does not specify how much to take off which is a representation of the Talmudic influence of their time regarding adding details to God’s instruction, which resulted in the law (torah) becoming a burden. This is what Yeshuah and ultimately Paul who was an ex-Pharisee were preaching against. Again we see a heart issue at hand. Those who don’t take very much off because they were embarrassed and those who take too much off because they thought it made them more holy (pride). We still deal with this today throughout Christianity and Judaism. The issue of not being judged regarding circumcision has nothing to do with whether or not you should be circumcised which is an everlasting covenant of Yahweh, but rather, not letting anyone judge us to how much is taken off. Today we find many non-Jewish families who feel that God still wants them to circumcise their boys, however, they cannot get a rabbi to approve a Jewish circumcision because they have not converted to Judaism. Therefore the rabbis believe that they are not legitimate circumcisions because they are not done to rabbinic (pharisaical) standards. Paul was talking about the group who was choosing to make a specification about how much should be taken off or who could do it (the ones who took to much off out of pride) and not condemning circumcision in and of itself. Otherwise he would be going against an eternal covenant of God and that would make Paul a heretic.
Question: “He also said that all food is clean, and that the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking. He said one man’s faith allows him to eat anything and that one man considers each day alike and does so to the Lord. If we are really required to keep the law, why didn’t he condemn considering each day alike?”
Answer: Yahweh gives us a list of the animals that are clean and unclean by nature. It is important to understand that the Jewish community only regards these creatures as food, however, Yahweh shows us throughout the torah ways in which things He established as being clean can become unclean because of contamination. The Talmud added laws on top of or above and beyond the specifications that Yahweh instituted in the torah. This is why Yahweh makes it clear throughout the scriptures that “nothing should be added to or taken away from” lest we stumble (bring confusion upon ourselves). These are some of the things Paul is addressing (i.e.. If you do not wash your hands before you eat in a special manner specified by the Talmud, the food is no longer clean, or if a priest does not bless it or rabbi does not bless it, is not clean to eat. These things are Talmud and not Torah). When Paul was writing these letters, the churches knew what God had made clean and unclean from the conversion process. These were basic principles. Gentiles (new Christian converts) were required to go to the synagogue on Sabbaths in order to learn these things. Paul’s letters were more of a rebuke because of their stubbornness to either follow the Talmudic suggestions out of pressure or to return to their pagan roots because of their worldly appeal. Paul is reminding them that they should “not tear down the work of God for the sake of food.” During this time, there were also some who went from eating meat to being vegetarians because there were gentiles who lived outside of Jerusalem amongst pagan societies who started to eat clean after choosing to follow Yeshuah and therefore the commandments of the torah. Depending on where they lived, it was hard to find food that was not contaminated or offered to idols; therefore, they were trying to obey Torah, not Talmud. This is why Paul says that some eat some things and some do not. He was referring to the Jews and converted gentiles who were trying to keep the Torah in non-torah observant countries and city (outside Jerusalem). During that time they were dealing with the judgment of the Pharisees within Jerusalem and the criticism/social pressure of the pagans surrounding Jerusalem. This is very similar to what we are dealing with in today’s society as well. This is a great example of why scripture says we need to “be in the world and not of it”. We have to remember that when Paul is writing his letters, he is addressing Jews and Gentiles who were trying to keep torah and follow Yeshuah.
Question: “He also criticized the Galatians for observing special days, months, seasons and years, and said that in the last days people would follow teachings of demons and order people to abstain from certain foods.”
Answer: Again we have to look at the context. Paul is addressing gentile converts who are turning back to their pagan ways and festivals. This could be compared to how the Israelites returned to their pagan worship while Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the ten commandments by building a golden calf. Let us break it down.
Galatians 4 says, 10 However at that time, when you did not know God (they were still pagans), you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods (pagan deities and false gods). 9 But now that you have come to know God (Yahweh), or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things (pagan holidays, Christmas, Easter, winter solstice, summer solstice, lent, etc) to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years (which are not the days, months, seasons and years that Yahweh set in place). 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain (having to say things over and over without them changing their ways).
Logistically speaking it is impossible for Paul to be talking about the feasts of Yahweh and his sabbaths due to his own admission in Acts 18:21 (NKJV) Paul took leave of them, saying, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, Yahweh (LORD) willing.” And he sailed from Ephesus. This in and of itself cements the fact that Paul was keeping the holy festivals of Yahweh and teaching others to do the same. It is important that we understand which days, months and seasons he is talking about.
Real quick…this brings us back to when Isaiah prophesied in 16:19 “O LORD (YHWH), my strength and my fortress, My refuge in the day of affliction (End Days), The Gentiles shall come to You from the ends of the earth and say, “Surely our fathers have inherited lies, Worthlessness and unprofitable things.” Will man make gods for himself, which are not gods?” If we were to look at this in modern day context, what lies and worthlessness could he be talking about? He is talking about the same lies and worthlessness that Paul is talking about in his letters to the church. The church in Paul’s time was dealing with the same issues we are dealing with today (Paganism/worldliness). You need to do a study on the origins of what we call holiday’s today in order to understand this better. Here is a good video to watch regarding this.
Before we get back to Paul’s writings we need to talk about one more important thing. Have you ever wondered what Yeshuah meant when he said in Matthew chapter 7 where he states, “21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father (Yahweh) who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day (judgment day), ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I (Yeshuah) will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS (TORAHLESSNESS).’ This is a big one and many Christians need to take a long hard look at this one.
Lets get back to Paul! Again, if He was condemning the days, months and seasons of the torah, he would be contradicting himself and he would have been considered a false teacher. Let us look at an instance where Paul was talking about the feasts of Yahweh. It shows how easy it can be confused if you do not know the torah. Paul goes on to say, Colossians 2:16 (NKJV) “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the body of the Messiah (Here he is addressing the commandments of Yahweh which are good. He was telling them to not let their family and friends who were still pagan judge them for keeping Yahweh’s commandments). Paul later goes on to say why this is important. 20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world (not Yahweh), why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 —in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men (not the commandments of Yahweh.)? 23 These are matters, which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion (Talmud) and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body (worldliness/paganism), but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. It can be easy to confuse what Paul is referencing if we put the commandments of Yahweh in the same category as the commandments of men.
Question: “Paul also said to the Galatians, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor circumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Jesus said, “A NEW command I give you. Love one another.” John says, “And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” Romans 7:6 says, “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” and the other in Romans 13:10: “…love is the fulfillment of the law…”
Answer: “Again we have to remember what law we were released from. As mentioned earlier, Yeshuah became the high priest eternally which released us from having to be bound by going through the traditional ceremonial steps in order to be forgiven for sin by the Levitical priest who were not doing their job (Which was to keep torah). Yeshuah has now completed that which could not be completed by the priests therefore ensuring forgiveness for sins for all that believe in what he did. The prophets support all this. The statement, “love is the fulfillment of the law” is more or les Paul condensing the ten commandments into one word because the gentiles he was dealing with were actually quite stubborn and prone to their wicked ways (much like todays society). This does not mean that love is the replacement for the torah or gods instructions because if love was the end, it would be open to each of our interpretation of what love is. We need to know the definition of sin and its practical outworking’s and the only way to do that is to know the definition of the law (God’s law). No one can refute that. If then, love is the fulfillment of the law, then that should mean that the law is good because it is represented by love. If we “love” our neighbor, we will not do harm to them, therefore, if we “love” Yahweh, we will keep commandments.
Deuteronomy chapter 30 says, “6 “Moreover the LORD (Yahweh) your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. 7 The LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you. 8 And you shall again (referencing future tense) obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments, which I command you today. 9 Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; 10 if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law (torah), if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul. 11 “For this commandment, which I command you today is not too difficult (Yahweh is telling them it is not to difficult and therefore was admitting that he did not make a mistake that he would later need to correct) for you, nor is it out of reach.
The only reason that Christians today view the law (torah) of Yahweh as to difficult and out of reach is because they are putting it into the same category as the additions that both Jews and Christians have added to it. This was the whole message that Yeshuah was preaching. In Matthew 23 Yeshuah confirms this by saying, “23:2 “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe (he was telling them to keep the torah in the way that Moses commanded….the original covenant), but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. 4 They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders (the Talmudic additions), but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. 5 But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments (this is referencing the tzit tzit which are the blue threads that Yahweh commands us to where as a reminder of the commandments. Some Rabbis would make them really long as if they were showing off kind of like the ones who would take off more flesh during the circumcision that we discussed earlier). 6 They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7 and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven (He is talking about Yahweh here). 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ (Yeshuah).
Question: Regarding the “Sabbath rest” in Hebrews, I don’t believe the author is referring to the seventh day of a literal week, but maybe to rest from works of the law by resting in faith in what Christ has done. “For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.”(the author also said, “how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” so I think the disobedience he is referring to may be forsaking the grace of God and relying on observance of the law.)
Answer: Ultimately no matter what it appears they were talking about in Hebrews or if they were talking about the Sabbath rest allegorically, we have to find out if Yeshuah honored the Sabbath in the first place. By doing this we will know how to interpret these sections of Hebrews.
Yeshuah did not observe “the Jewish Sabbath.” He observed the LORD’s (Yahweh’s) Sabbath – that existed right from the time of Creation. He observed the LORD’s Sabbath, with the people of Judah, throughout His life at Nazareth. Again this confirms what Paul was trying to get through to the followers of Yeshuah and the new converts. How do we know this?
Luke 4:16-30 says, “16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom (that means he did it every week), He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, 19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.”
After the people of Nazareth rejected the Truth that Yeshuah taught, He moved to Capernaum where He continued to obey God’s Fourth Commandment.
31 And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath; 32 and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority.
Some have issue in these accounts and say that Yeshuah was breaking the Sabbath continually so therefore he was telling us we don’t have to honor it. To understand what is at issue in these accounts, it is helpful to understand something of the rabbinical tradition that lay behind the Sabbath-breaking charges leveled against Yeshuah and His disciples. The Pharisaic tradition, by Yeshuah’s day, had developed into an array of petty rules having to do with the minutiae of the law. It focused on physical works that had little to do with the spirit and intent of the law—and which, in fact, often violated the law (Matthew 15:1–9; Mark 7:1–13; John 7:19; Galatians 6:13).
The scribes among the Pharisees created and transmitted the Pharisaic rabbinical traditions. The body of traditional law that they formulated, called the Halakah (preserved in the Mishnah), is extra-biblical. Although authoritative for Jews who follow Pharisaic tradition, much of the Halakah is not directly supported by Scripture, but is intended as a “hedge” about the law, to prevent any possibility of its being broken.
Ironically, in an attempt to ensure their law-keeping by putting a “hedge” about the law, the Pharisees were breaking the law, for God had said: “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2; also 12:32). By adding the weight of their tradition to the law of God, they bound “heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders” (Matthew 23:4).
In closing it is important to understand that Paul’s writings do not give us a good idea of when he is transitioning from talking to new gentile converts and to Jews who had chosen to follow Yeshuah as the messiah. This is a big deal for a lot of Christians and believers today, which has left a lot of confusion. Most of this is due in part to the fact that the gospels that we find in our modern day bibles are not in chronological order. This means that we have read the whole thing in context to get a better picture of whom Paul was talking to, when he was talking to them, and why he was talking to them. The reality is that if Paul was writing the letters today he was would rebuking the Christian church for going back to their pagan traditions and neglecting the law of God which is perfect and eternal. It is imperative that we separate the law of God from the law of the Pharisees and the priestly duties, which now belong to Yeshuah when he became the high priest. Please remember that in order for Yeshuah to become the eternal high priest, he had to keep the law of God, which was the torah and the ultimate definition of sin. Yeshuah conquered sin because he kept the Torah. It is that simple. Shalom!
- Mr. Joel Osteen and the Fall of Today’s Mega Ministers! (bereanreport.wordpress.com)
- Nitzvaim-Vayelech: The Torah of Paul (mymorningmeditations.com)
- The New Perspective on Paul: Works of Righteousness (readingacts.wordpress.com)
- The Name of the Creator (simplylivingforyah.wordpress.com)
- Understanding the term “Works of the Law” (messianicway.wordpress.com)