Thursday, December 26, 2013

Faith Works!

I'd like to address the claims some people make, who say that being saved by grace through faith in Christ means we don't need to do anything.  They say that God does not require any outward or external changes, and it is only the heart that He is looking at.

They claim it is legalism to preach on the need for godly attire, as I have done in Garments of Godliness and Godly Attire and Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations.  They also say it is legalism to preach that anyone who refuses to be conformed to the image of Christ this way will miss heaven and not see God's face.   They charge that it is "another gospel" any time we say obedience is required in any area, such as I have written about in my articles Is Tithing Required?, Keeping Sundays Holy, and The Lord's Day

Although I have already refuted such claims in many other blogs already, such as the ones above and others that I will list below near the end of this post, I would like to make it clear once again that faith works.  If you have true, saving faith, it will be evidenced by your works.  It must show on the outside, and if it doesn't, then it's not saving faith.  Yes, grace works!

Circumcision was the Main Heresy Paul Refuted
Although the word "legalism" or "legalistic" is not even in the Bible, people use the apostle Paul's epistle to the Galatians as the basis for their claims of legalism.  Yet in order to properly understand Paul's letter, we have to read it in context.  That letter was correcting a specific error, namely the false teaching (heresy) that says you must seek to obtain justification through the law by circumcision, in addition to your faith in Christ.

He specifically addressed the practice of Judaizing, which means to compel Gentiles to live like Jews. That is what he rebuked Peter for doing (Gal 2:14). The Greek word "Ioudaizo" in that verse means "to live like Jews."  In other words, Peter was compelling or forcing Gentiles Christians to adopt the Jewish customs or way of life. He did so by by beginning to draw back and separate himself from the Gentile Christians who had not been circumcised.

Yet Paul specifically and primarily addressed circumcision as one thing that Gentile Christians must never be forced to do, which would be a sign that they had converted to Judaism. In fact, the word "circumcision" occurs six times in that epistle and "uncircumcision" occurs twice (Gal. 2:12; 5:2,3,6,11; 6:15). He also alluded to circumcision indirectly in another instance by suggesting that the proponents of it should emasculate (castrate) themselves (Gal 5:12).

Paul's main point in this epistle was: "Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace." (Gal 5:2-4)

We are free from ritual or ceremonial laws, such as circumcision. We are free from Jewish customs, such as observing days and months and seasons and years (Gal 4:10).  We are free from all mixtures of Judaism.  In fact we are dead to the Law and cannot be justified by observing it.  We are not trying to attain our goal by human effort (Gal 3:3). We are not endeavoring to keep up the law of Moses in conjunction with the gospel of Christ.  We are justified by faith in Christ alone.  But we must not receive the grace of God in vain. It is not a license to sin -- to do what God has commanded we must not do or to neglect what God has commanded we must do.  I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.

Paul says elsewhere, "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God." (1Co 7:19; cf., Ro 2:13 and 2:26).  What matters is the keeping of God's commandments.  Paul never said we are excused from keeping God's commandments.  He and the other apostles like John and James taught this in their epistles, as Jesus also taught in the gospels.

We Must Preach the Whole Counsel of God
We must preach the whole counsel of God, not just the popular topics.  In Paul's final meeting with the Ephesian elders, he told them, "For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God." (Act 20:27). 

Preach Against Sin
We must preach against sin, just as Jesus and the apostles did (Mat. 12:31; 18:21; Mark 3:29; John 1:29; 5:14; 8:7,11,21,34,46; 9:41; 15:22,24; 16:8,9; 19:11; Acts 7:60; Rom. 3:9,20; 4:8; 5:12,13,20,21; 6:1,2,6,7,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,20,22,23; 7:7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14, 17, 20, 23, 25; 8:2,3,10; 14:23; 1Co. 6:18; 7:36; 8:12; 15:56; 2Co. 5:21; 11:7,29; Gal. 2:17; 3:22; Eph. 4:26; 1Ti. 5:20,22; Heb. 3:13; 4:15; 9:26,28; 10:6,8,18; 11:25; 12:1,4; 13:11; Jas. 1:15; 2:9; 4:17; 1Pe. 2:20,22,24; 4:1; 2Pe. 2:14; 1Jn. 1:7,8; 2:1; 3:4,5,8,9; 5:16,17; Mat. 7:23; 13:41; 23:28; 24:12; Rom. 6:19; 2Co. 6:14; 2Th. 2:3,7; Heb. 1:9; 1Jn. 3:4).

Preach Repentance
We must preach repentance, even as they did (Mat. 3:2, 8,11; 4:17; 11:20, 21; 12:41; Mark 1:4,15; 6:12; Luke 3:3,8; 5:32; 10:13; 11:32; 13:3,5; 15:7; 16:30; 17:4; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 8:22; 11:18; 13:24; 17:30; 19:4; 20:21; 26:20; Rom. 2:4; 2Co. 7:9,10; 12:21; 2Ti. 2:25; Heb. 6:1,6; 12:17; 2Pe. 3:9; Rev. 2:5,16,21,22; 3:3,19; 9:20,21; 16:9,11).

Preach on Hell
We must preach on hell, even as Jesus and the apostles did (Mat. 5:22,29,30; 7:19, 21-27; 8:12; 10:28; 13:42,50; 18:9; 22:13; 23:15,33; 24:51; 25:30, 41-46; Mark 9:43,45,47; Luke 12:5; 13:28; John 15:6; Jas. 3:6; 2Pe. 2:4, 17; Jud 1:11-13).

Preach on Righteousness, Self-control, and the Coming Judgment
We must preach on righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment as they did (Acts 24:25; also see Mat. 5:20; 7:2, 12; 10:15; 11:22,24; 12:36,41,42; Luke 6:37; 10:14; 11:31,32; John 3:19; 5:22, 24, 27, 29, 30; 8:16; 9:39; 12:31; 16:8,11; Ro 1:18; 2:1-8, 12; 3:4; 11:22; 1 Cor 11:31-32; Eph 5:6; Col 3:6; 2 The 2:12; 5:9; Heb 6:1-2; 10:26-31; Rev 11:18; 16:5; 19:2; 20:12-13).

Preach Holiness
We must preach on the need to pursue holiness, without which no man will see God (Heb 12:10, 14; Rom 1:4; 12:1; 2 Cor 7:1; Eph 1:4; 2:21; 4:24; 5:27; Col 1:22; 1 Tim 2:8; 1 Pet 2:5,9; 3:5; and 2 Pet 3:11).

Name Specific Sins
We must name sins that will land people in hell, as they did (Mat 5:22, 27-48; 7:1; Rev. 2:4,14,20). And Paul gave a partial list when he wrote in Galatians 5:

"Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Gal 5:19-21). Also see my article, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven.

Your Body Matters
To those who say that what a woman wears externally does not matter, and that jewelry, makeup, and other artificial adornments are not a problem for Christians to put on their bodies, this is what the Lord says.  He says the "property of Jezebel" that the daughters of God are wearing just like the world are not pure.  They are not of God.  Jezebel "painted her eyes and adorned her head" to make herself sexually attractive, in order to deceive and seduce men, probably in the hope that Jehu would not kill her (1 King 9:30b).  That is impurity.   It is also sensuality, since it lends itself to exciting sexual desires.  And it can also be idolatry, since they love those things of the world that they wear, just as the men likewise love them.  They do not want to part with them.  And it also causes men to idolize women, as if they were goddesses, because of the way they are artificially adorned with worldly things.  It also leads to lust and envy, as well as carousing, and "things like these."  Paul clearly forewarned us that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God; they will miss heaven.

To those who insist that the property of Jezebel is not impure, sensual, or idolatrous, I say that you are badly mistaken.  Don't you know where all those worldly things originally came from? Do the research as far back as you can go, and see for yourself. Those things were introduced into the world by satan through his angels.

The apostle Paul wrote:

"May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." (1 Thes 5:23-24)

"And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." (Rom 6:13)

"Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." (Rom 12:1)

"Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience." (Col 3:5-6)

"Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body...Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." (1Co 6:13,18-20)

Paul explicitly taught that we must keep our bodies holy and pure.  These days it is popular to eat things that are considered "natural" and "pure".  There's nothing wrong with that.  But we must not neglect the more important matters in the sight of God, and that includes keeping our bodies holy and pure.

The Spirit of Truth Guides Us Into All Truth
The problem is that the Church has become so worldly that it is no longer able to correctly recognize as sin the worldly practices it has embraced.  Now when most people read the Word of God, they read it through a filter.  Some of the filters we use are the opinions of men, such as a commentary or our pastor. Other filters include our neighbor.  We look to our left and right and see that everyone else is doing it, so it must not be a sin.  Yet we must never read the Word of God through any filter, but let it speak for itself.  Open your Bible, shut out all the other voices, bind every lying spirit in Jesus' name, and ask the Holy Spirit to show you the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth.  I assure you that He will do so, because He is the Spirit of Truth, Who guides us into all Truth. The Lord always leads His sons and daughters into all Truth, just as He has done for those to whom He has given revelations by the Spirit, calling us back to sound biblical doctrines that have been lost or abandoned by the Church.

Obedience is Essential for Disciples
Here are just some of the other blogs I have written, which provide a clear and biblical response to the concerns that my obedience doctrine is legalism, especially the first two in the left-hand column:

Is Obedience Optional?
The Law of Christ 
The Law Fulfilled in Us
The Law Established Through Faith
The Cost of Discipleship
The New Covenant
Costly Grace
Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?
Did Jesus Nail the Law to the Cross?
The Obedience of Faith
Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?
The Law is Good if Used Lawfully     
Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God
Aim for Perfection
Righteous Deeds and White Robes
Doing What is Right
Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice
Partaking of the Divine Nature
Walking in the Perfect Will of God
Pressing on Toward the Goal
Obedience by the Spirit
What Then Must We Observe?

Putting it All Together
Dear friend, we are saved by grace through faith, not by works, but obedience is required of every disciple who claims to follow Christ.  We must preach the Word of God as it is written.  We must not dissect it into little pieces and give people what their itching ears want to hear.  We must preach the whole counsel of God, not just the popular topics.  That means that in addition to preaching the true gospel of salvation by grace through faith, we must preach against sin, which includes preaching repentance. It is always, "Repent and believe the gospel!" We must preach the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and not only that He is our Savior.  We must preach on hell. We must preach on righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment.  We must preach holiness.  We must name sins that will land people in hell.

The devil hates it when we preach like this, because it destroys his works, and keeps people from being deceived into hell.  It brings Light into the darkness, and the Light dispels the darkness. It's the heart of Jesus, and it brings true salvation to mankind.

Since the devil hates all of this, his strategy is to lie and call this "legalism" or "another gospel" of works. He will try to say that this will not be popular, and nobody will ever want to get saved this way. But Jesus never preached what was popular.  He always preached the Truth, and warned that it is a narrow Way, which few will find (Mt 7:14).

If you struggle with what I have just presented, and you are still not sure about things like tithing, keeping Sundays holy, or godly attire and adornment, then you need to seek the Lord about it with all your heart.  Ask Him to show you these things in His Word.  Ask the Spirit of Truth to guide you into all Truth, and He will. If you really want to know the Truth at any cost, you will find it.  If you have never been baptized with the Holy Spirit, then you need to pray for that and receive it.  He will give the Holy Spirit to His true children who ask believing.

Remember that faith without deeds is useless (Js 2:26).  Grace really does work, and faith works, too!

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. "Faith Works" image courtesy Media Machine.

Author's note:  If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Godly Attire and Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations, Garments of GodlinessIs Tithing Required?, Keeping Sundays Holy, and The Lord's Day, Is Practical Righteousness a Lost Truth?  Practicing Your Righteousness, The Ways of Life, Sins That Will Keep You From Heaven, Abominations in the Sight of GodPleasing the Lord, Holding Fast the Faithful Word, Led by the Spirit, No Flesh Will Be Justified by Works and the other posts available through the links on the Home page.  You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." 
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Him.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.


Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

God Has Not Rejected His Jewish People, Has He?

The Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest, Hungary
Some of you may be aware that Hungary has a large population of Jews.  Today, the estimated population of Jews living in Hungary is around 120,000,with 110,000 mostly concentrated in Budapest.  In fact, the Jewish synagogue in Budapest, known as the Dohány Street Synagogue, is Europe's largest.

Since I have lived in Hungary for nearly five years as a missionary to Eastern Europe, in June of 2012 I had the privilege of visiting that synagogue in Budapest, as well as the Jewish Heritage Museum, and the Jewish sector of Budapest. You can read more about that tour of mine in my Hungarian Jewish Heritage article. Next to the nation of Israel itself, the countries with the highest population of Jews are first and foremost the United States, then France, Canada, Russia, Argentina, Germany, Brazil, Australia, and Ukraine.  Hungary is fairly high in the ranking beneath those countries.

We know from Scripture that the apostle Paul always preached the gospel first to the Jew's when he entered a city.  And he wrote, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile."  So it seems that we should also have that same heart!

However, I have discovered that Jews are accustomed to antisemitism from Gentile people, which is racial prejudice against them.  In fact, I was surprised to learn that antisemitism is quite common among Christians! Jews often seem surprised when Christians treat them with love and respect.  Yet that should not be! God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew, so why should we?  As the apostle Paul said, "For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen." (Rom 9:3-5).  The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Hebrew patriarchs. And of course, Jesus Himself is a Jew!  He loves the precious Jewish people and wants to save them, too.  For Paul also said, "This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus." (Eph 3:6). 

At The Dohány Street Synagogue, June 2012
I have developed a blog called Yeshua the Messiah.  On this blog, I share my testimony, Why I Trust in Yeshua, and I write various evangelistic articles that help to show from Scripture that Jesus Christ is the Jewish Messiah.  Some examples are Yeshua Ha'Maschiah in the Tanakh, The Brit Chadashah is Jewish, YHWH as Both Father and Husband to the Hebrews, Is the Trinity Originally a Hebrew or Christian Concept?, Yeshua is Yahweh, HaShem - The Name, and The Amazing Sign of Yonah. Although I have tried to develop the blog in a way that is somewhat culturally relevant for Jews, using some of their linguistic expressions and preferred ways of writing the name of God, we would like to clarify that we ourselves have not become Messianic Jews.

As the psalmist said, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May those who love you be secure.'" (Ps 122:6)

Please Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the salvation of the Jewish people.  And please use the Yeshua the Messiah blog yourself, as you share Jesus with your Jewish friends and loved ones.

Attribution notice:Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted.

Author's note I invite you to see these related articles of mine: Why Paul Lived Like a Jew Among the Jews, Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?, Keeping Sundays Holy, and The Law Established Through Faith. You can access the Main Directory of this blog at the Home page for Working God's Way, and you will find my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus Christ personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what the God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.


Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_______________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Partaking of the Divine Nature

I'd like to discuss the subject of partaking of the divine nature, which is one that is misunderstood by some people. There are those who think it means we become little gods when we follow Jesus.  Others may incorrectly believe that this is all automatic, and happens without any participation on our part.  So let's see what the Scriptures say.

He Has Granted Us Everything
Paul said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” (Eph 1:3).  Paul was clear that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.  We know that's a gift from Him that we cannot earn.

Peter also said, “Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2Pe 1:3).  This is similar to what Paul said, in that by God's power's, He has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness.  All of this comes through the the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence, which is our Lord Jesus Christ. 

It's so amazing to realize that He has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, and everything pertaining to life and godliness!  All of this is by His glorious grace, and was paid for by the precious blood of Jesus Christ that He shed for us on the cross. It's one more reason to rejoice in the Lord and be thankful! 

Becoming Partakers of the Divine Nature
Not only has God done all of that for us, but He has also granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature.  Peter said, “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (2Pe 1:4)

What did Peter mean when he said we become partakers of the divine nature?  Here is the divine nature Peter meant:  moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.

“Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2Pe 1:5-8)

Participation of the Disciple is Required
These qualities or virtues don’t just happen in your life automatically. Peter said that God has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature.  Therefore, it is by His precious and magnificent promises that you may become partakers of the divine nature.  You must claim those promises and apply them, which requires diligence and practice on your part. Peter said you must "make every effort" to add these virtues into your life. 

It is up to you to be diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you, which means you must confirm it.  Peter said,  “… be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you …” (2 Pe 1:10). This diligence requires participation on your part.  You may be called and chosen well enough, but you have to make certain about His calling and choosing you. You have a choice to practice these divine virtues or not. That’s why Peter said, “…as long as you practice these things…”  He also said, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,” (2Pe 3:14).

You've got to grow in godliness.  You’ve got to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.  As Peter said, “…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2Pe 3:18).  The verb “grow” requires participation and action on your part.

Rewards and Punishment
There are either going to be rewards or loss, depending on whether or not you participate with the Lord and practice these virtues.

Rewards to those who do practice these things diligently and grow
Peter said, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” (2Pe 1:10-11)

He said you will be useful and fruitful: “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2Pe 1:8)

Peter said you would be in peace, spotless and blameless: “…be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,” (2Pe 3:14).  That's how the Lord will find you during your life and at the end of your life.

Loss and punishment to those who do NOT practice these qualities or lack them
Now I'd like to talk about what happens if you lack these qualities in your own life or do not practice these virtues.

Peter said, “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.” (2Pe 1:9)

This means that you are spiritually blind and near-sighted.  You are not walking correctly anymore when you are blind. And as a result of that,  by implication, you fail to "make certain about His calling and choosing you." (2Pe 1:10). 

The Greek word for “certain” is “bebaios, which means stable (literally or figuratively): - firm, of force, steadfast, sure.” (Strongs)

So if you lack these qualities, you have failed to make your calling and election sure, stable, firm, and steadfast.  Therefore your calling and election is actually uncertain.  You may have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, but if you again become entangled in those defilements, your last state is worse than before. 

“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.” (2Pe 2:20-21)

If you lack these qualities, you are headed back into being entangled by the world’s defilements.  And for anyone who ends up like that, it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.  The punishment will be far worse than for those who never knew the way of righteousness.

Be careful you are not led away by the error of wicked, lawless men and fall from your own safe position: “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,” (2Pe 3:17).  Are your spiritual leaders teaching you this?  Are the preachers you listen to on the radio and TV preaching this?  What about the authors whose books, blogs, and articles you read?  And the videos you watch?  Beware of error, especially in this regard.

Putting it All Together
So we know that God has indeed given us everything we need for life and godliness, and that through His very great and precious promises, we may become partakers of His divine nature.  That means we can think like God, talk like God, and act like Him in moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.

But this requires participation on our part.  It doesn't happen automatically.  You have to be diligent to make your calling and election sure.  You've got to make every effort to confirm it, by developing these virtues in your life. Then you'll be useful and fruitful.  You'll be found by the Lord in peace, spotless and blameless, and you will receive an abundant entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

You participation is necessary in order to avoid falling from your safe position. If you lack these qualities, you develop spiritual blindness and near-sightedness. You can no longer see the long-range rewards awaiting those who endure to the end.  You must be careful that after you have escaped the defilements of the world that you don't become entangled in them once again, or else your final condition will be worse than the first.  Beware of who you follow, because there are many wicked and lawless men teaching their own errors to others, and leading them down to destruction.  Don't be deceived into hell.  If you gave your life to Jesus at one time, and then drift away, it would be better for you not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to you.

That's why you need to repent of every sin, to the extent that you lack these qualities, and ask the Lord to forgive you.  Ask Him to cleanse you, making you spotless and blameless.  Ask Him to apply the cross to your earthly sin nature, and begin to apply His very great and precious promises of holiness, righteousness, and truth to your life, so that you may live in a way that is pleasing to Him.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. "Grow in Godliness" image courtesy of Act Like a Man.

Author's note:  This message has been beautifully expressed in a couple of poems my young daughters have written, called Perfect for the King and Reward of the Overcomer.  I encourage you to take a moment to read those.  And if you enjoyed this post, you may also like Godly Attire and Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations and the other posts available through the links on the Home page.  You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."  Some related articles I recommend are:

Doing What is Right Righteous Deeds and White Robes. Godly Attire and Adornment -- Seven Divine Revelations
Is Obedience Optional? The Cost of Discipleship Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice
The Law Fulfilled in Us The New Covenant Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Him.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.


Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice

In my previous post, Doing What is Right, I showed from Scripture that the righteous do what is right, and the recompense given at the eternal judgment is based on each person's own deeds.

Today I would like to expand on that theme from Jesus' own teaching:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds." (Mat 16:24-27)

In this passage, the Lord said He is going to come back in His Father's glory with His angels, and He will pay back every person based on his deeds.  The word for "deeds" here in the Greek is "praxis", which means here a "practice, act, deed, or work" (Strongs).  According to Thayer, it may mean "1) a doing, a mode of acting, a deal, a transaction, such as the doings of the apostles, or in a bad sense, wicked deed, crime, wicked doings (our practices, i.e. trickery).  It may also mean 2) a thing to be done, business."

According to Walter Bauer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the word "praxis" as it is used in this passage in Mat 16:27 means, "acting, activity, or function."  As the NIV Bible translation puts it, "For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done."

This word "praxis" was also used by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans.  He wrote, "So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds (praxis) of the body, you will live." (Rom 8:12-13).  Paul said that if you are putting to death the "praxis" or "deeds of the flesh," you will live. 

This explains why Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." (Mt 16:24)  The only way to put to death the praxis, or deeds, of the flesh is to deny yourself daily, take up your cross and follow Jesus.  You've got to lose your life for Jesus, in order to find it.

If you do so, then your praxis will be His praxis.  Your practice will be what He practices. You will do the deeds that Jesus did, and even greater deeds.

Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father." (Joh 14:12)

God will reward each person according to what he has done.  Anyone who says that is not true shows that he does not know what the Bible says.

King David said, "Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done." (Ps 62:12)

King Solomon said, "Will He not repay everyone according to what they have done?" (Pr 24:12b, NIV)

Jesus said, "Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done." (Rev 22:12).  The Greek word for "what he has done" in this verse is "ergon", meaning "toil, deed, labor, work." (Strongs).

Paul said, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." (2Co 5:10).  The word for "done" here in this verse is "prasso," meaning to “practice”, that is, "perform repeatedly or habitually." (Strongs)

The Scripture is clear that if you practice evil, you will be recompensed for it at the judgment.  Jesus said you would lose your life. "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it..."  (Mt 16:25).  Paul said, "for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die..." (Rom 8:13a).  Don't forfeit your own soul for the brief and passing pleasures of this world!  As I've said before, when you are judged before God, if your deeds were evil, you will be punished eternally.

However, if your deeds were righteous, you will inherit eternal life.  The only ones who will inherit eternal life are those who repent from evil practices, and through faith in Christ practice righteousness.  They live according to the pattern of God's and do His will. You must walk by the Spirit to do so.  This is the way to enter the eternal kingdom.  This is how you are fit for heaven.  If you are righteous, you must continue to practice righteousness. Heaven is the home of only those who practice righteousness.

Please take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to shine the floodlight of illumination on your heart.  Ask Him to show you if there is anything hidden in your life that must go.  Are you habitually committing evil deeds?  Are you doing certain other things unworthy of God?  Are you actions unpraiseworthy?  Or are you doing deeds consistent with repentance? Are you acting in a manner consistent with the gospel?  If you are a believer, but the Lord shows you a few things in your life that you need to give up yet, then you go and give them up, and follow Jesus.  Make His practice your practice.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted. The Good Samaritan by Dan Burr of Dan Burr Illustration copyright 2013 used by permission.
 
Author's note: The message I've just taught in this article has been beautifully expressed in a couple of poems my young daughters have written, called Perfect for the King and Reward of the Overcomer.  I encourage you to take a moment to read those.  And if you enjoyed this post, you may also like the other posts in this blog available through the links on the Home page, such as Doing What is Right, Faith Works!,   Righteous Deeds and White Robes, and Practicing Your Righteousness. Remember to   Some other related articles are:


Law of Love in the New Testament

The Law Established Through Faith
Costly Grace
Is Obedience Optional? The Cost of Discipleship Obedience by the Spirit
 The Law Fulfilled in Us The New Covenant Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?

You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Him.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.


Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Origin of the Sabbath

Some people who read my articles about keeping the Sabbath holy might incorrectly assume is something we do out of legalism, in an attempt to earn justification in God's sight through our own works.  But that is not correct.  We do it in obedience, because we love God.

You cannot rely on your obedience to the Law to save you, because it is only by grace that you are saved through faith (Eph 2:8-10).  Always remember that we can do nothing apart from the Lord Jesus (Jn 15:5), and if you keep His commandments, you will abide in His love (Jn 15:10). 

While the Lord commanded us to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy, as recorded in the fourth commandment (and we are instructed by Jesus to keep His commandments), the Sabbath was sanctified by God long before He gave the Law to Moses.  The Lord sanctified the seventh day in the very beginning, after the six days of creation.  “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” (Gen 2:3).

The Sabbath is not just something that was part of the Mosaic covenant, which has now become obsolete.  If you want to follow the Lord, you have to walk in His ways and do His will.  It was God’s will to sanctify the Sabbath before the Law was put into effect.  Later He simply commanded Moses and the Israelites to keep it holy, but He Himself had already made it holy.  So this is not a legalistic thing, it’s the will of God and one of God’s ways. 

If you want to follow God, you have to walk in His ways.  If you want to please God, you have to do His will.  "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light." (Col 1:9-12)

Pray and ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects.  This is my prayer for you today.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.

Author's Note: If you enjoyed this message, I also recommend reading David Wilkerson's message, Honoring the Sabbath, as well as Zipporah Mushala’s Second Testimony of Hell, in which she saw a man of God in hell for relying on His obedience to the Law to save him. You may also be interested in the other posts of mine on the Home page, especially Resting from Work, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, Keeping Sundays Holy, Keeping Sundays Holy - Part II, and The Lord's Day. I also invite you to visit my collection of blogs at Writing for the Master
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Why Paul Lived Like a Jew Among the Jews

The apostle Paul writing his epistles
When we read the epistles of the apostle Paul, we can clearly see where he stood in relationship to the Law.  Prior to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ, he had been a Jewish Pharisee of Pharisees, faultless as far as legalistic righteousness was concerned.

After he came to Christ, he said he was no longer under Law, but under grace (see Rom 6:14).  Many people think they understand what the apostle Paul believed, and they consider themselves true preachers of his gospel of grace.  But I want to show another side of Paul that may cause some people to wonder whether they really understood him after all.  It should cause many to rethink their understanding of his beliefs.

I've been reading Acts 21 for twenty-seven years.  And I always thought Paul must have made a big mistake when he followed the advice of James and the Jerusalem elders, by participating in purification rites.  I assumed that mistake was what got him arrested, so that was proof to me it was not Spirit-led, since it did not bear good fruit. But that was faulty reasoning.  Paul said that all who seek to live godly in Christ will be persecuted, so we shouldn't assume that persecution is evidence that someone is in the wrong.  It may actually be evidence that they are living a godly life.  So now I see more clearly why Paul did what he did in the temple that week, and what he really believed.

Why not have a look with me!

Paul Participated in the Rite of Purification
Luke writes: After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come." (Act 21:17-22)

James and the elders of the Church in Jerusalem were concerned about whether the Jewish Christians would receive the apostle Paul or be offended by him.  He had earned a reputation among them that was not favorable, and the elders had a plan to address that.

They told Paul: "Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law." (Act 21:23-24) [emphasis added]

The plan was for Paul to join with four men who had taken a vow, by purifying himself ceremonially with them, and paying the expense for them to shave their heads. The goal was so that the Jewish Christians could see Paul's actions and conclude that he kept the Law, living an orderly life.

The elders acknowledged that they had previously written to Gentile believers about the matter of circumcision, telling them that they did not need to be circumcised.  There had been an issue, where a Jewish believer from Jerusalem began teaching the Gentile believers that they must be circumcised.  And the elders had convened to resolve it, as documented in Acts 15.  Their solution had been to write a letter, which James alluded to, in his statement to Paul:

"But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication." (Act 21:25)

So James and the elders clearly agreed with Paul that there is no need for Gentiles to be circumcised.  But they were concerned, because the believing Jews of Jerusalem had been informed that Paul was teaching the Jews who lived among the Gentiles to turn away from the Law and not to circumcise their children or follow Jewish customs.  Their main concern was to correct that misinformation about Paul’s teaching.  That’s why they made this proposal to Paul that he should participate with four Jewish men in their purification rites.

Amazingly Paul did not disagree with the plan the elders proposed.  He did not debate whether Jewish believers should be circumcised or zealous for the Law, nor deny that he himself continued to keep the Law.  He did not refuse to participate in this vow of ceremonial purification.

"Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them." (Act 21:26)

Paul did everything the elders asked him to do. He purified himself ceremonially, along with these four men, which would have included shaving his head.  This was known as a purification rite, which is a solemn act or customary practice. It required Paul to go into the temple and notify the priests when this seven-day rite would end.  And at the end of that period, he had to offer a sacrifice. 

When the Jews saw him in the temple, they had him arrested, because they had seen him walking around Jerusalem with a Gentile, named Trophimus the Ephesian. Trophimus was a disciple of Christ, who was cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and was himself a part of the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Yet Paul did not dare to take Trophimus into the temple with him, because he was not a Jew or Jewish proselyte (see Ac 21:27-29).

Later in his defense before governor Felix, Paul stated, "But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets." (Act 24:14)

Paul also told Felix, “After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings. I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts doing this. There was no crowd with me, nor was I involved in any disturbance." (Acts 24:17-18).  So he testified that he was ceremonially pure at the time of his arrest, and that he was in the temple to present offerings. 

Again at another time, in his defense before King Herod Agrippa, "Paul defended himself: 'I have done nothing wrong against the Law of the Jews or against the Temple or against the Roman Emperor.'" (Act 25:8)
 
Several Questions about Paul's Actions
As we read in Luke's account, called the Acts of the Apostles, about Paul's actions in the temple, we can't help but ask some questions.  Why did Paul do the following?

1. Join with the four Jewish men in their purification rites, even paying their expenses, so they could have their heads shaved? (Ac 21:20-25)
2. Go to the temple and notify the priests when their period of purification would end? (Ac 21:26)
3. Give an offering at the temple for himself and probably also for the other men? (Ac 21:26)
4. Not take a Gentile believer into the temple?  (Ac 21:27-29)
5. Say that "according to the Way (i.e., as a disciple of Christ), he served God, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets"? (Ac 24:14)
6. Say he had done nothing wrong against the Law of the Jews or against the Temple? (Ac 25:8)

Responses to the Questions
I think the answer may be found in his epistle to the Corinthians.  He said, "I am a free man, nobody's slave; but I make myself everybody's slave in order to win as many people as possible. While working with the Jews, I live like a Jew in order to win them; and even though I myself am not subject to the Law of Moses, I live as though I were when working with those who are, in order to win them. In the same way, when working with Gentiles, I live like a Gentile, outside the Jewish Law, in order to win Gentiles. This does not mean that I don't obey God's law; I am really under Christ's law. Among the weak in faith I become weak like one of them, in order to win them. So I become all things to all people, that I may save some of them by whatever means are possible." (1Co 9:19-22)

To the Jews he became a Jew, in order to win them to Christ. It was for the sake of the gospel.  But in this passage, the Jews for whom he was doing this ceremonial rite of purification were already believers in Christ!  Yet he was still doing it for the sake of the gospel!

If he were doing all of this in order to obtain or maintain right standing with God, he would have been out of line with the gospel.  If he had done these things out of fear concerning what the Jews would think about how we are put in right standing with God by faith in Christ, rather than by doing what the Law requires, then he would be doing the same thing for which he had once rebuked the apostle Peter.  Here is his account of that confrontation, as he wrote it in his epistle to the Galatians:

But when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him in public, because he was clearly wrong. Before some men who had been sent by James arrived there, Peter had been eating with the Gentile believers. But after these men arrived, he drew back and would not eat with the Gentiles, because he was afraid of those who were in favor of circumcising them. The other Jewish believers also started acting like cowards along with Peter; and even Barnabas was swept along by their cowardly action. When I saw that they were not walking a straight path in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you have been living like a Gentile, not like a Jew. How, then, can you try to force Gentiles to live like Jews?" Indeed, we are Jews by birth and not "Gentile sinners," as they are called. Yet we know that a person is put right with God only through faith in Jesus Christ, never by doing what the Law requires. We, too, have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be put right with God through our faith in Christ, and not by doing what the Law requires. For no one is put right with God by doing what the Law requires. (Gal 2:11-16)

Peter had been eating with Gentiles, which is not lawful for a Jew to do.  But that was before some men were sent by James, who were in favor of circumcising the Gentile believers.  When those men came from James, Peter withdrew himself from the Gentile believers.  He did this out of fear of what others would think, and it caused other Jewish believers like Barnabas to also act like cowards.

Paul rebuked Peter for implying, by his withdrawal from the Gentiles, that they must act like Jews by being circumcised. Paul reminded Peter that we are put right with God only through faith in Christ, never by doing what the Law requires.  That applies to Gentiles and Jews alike.

So based on all this, we know that Paul's participation in the rite of purification was neither to seek righteousness through the Law, nor to imply through his actions that others should do so.  And we know that he was not doing so out of fear for what the Jewish believers would think of him or his gospel. Paul did not do this for himself, but for the sake of the gospel, in order to reach others. We also know that his leaving his Gentile brother in Christ -- Trophimus the Ephesian -- outside the temple was not an act of withdrawing himself from Trophimus, but was an act of respect for the Jews in the temple, who did not know Christ. Paul did nothing to violate temple rules or to dishonor the temple. Nor did he violate his own teachings.

Paul Circumcised Timothy
We must not forget that Paul himself circumcised Timothy.  Luke recorded the incident in Acts:

“Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” (Act 16:1-3)

Yet in this matter, as with the time he participated with the four Jewish men in Jerusalem in their purification rites, I do not believe Paul violated his own teachings.  Timothy was half Jewish and half Greek.  All the Jews in those parts knew that his father was a Greek, so they would assume he was uncircumcised.  It seems that in order to avoid any offense to the Jews, Paul circumcised him.  But had he been a full-blooded Gentile, I am certain Paul would not have done so.  Paul taught vehemently against Gentile circumcision.  This incident was the only one ever recorded in which Paul circumcised anyone.

Certainly Paul taught the Gentile churches that the observance of the rites (customary observances and ceremonies) of the Jewish law was truly slavery or bondage.

To the Gentile believers in Galatia, who were deceived into thinking they must be circumcised, Paul said, “So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world…But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?” (Gal 4:3,9).

He referred to the ceremonial law and Jewish rites as weak and worthless elemental things.  He was not saying the Law itself was bad, because he himself taught that “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Rom 7:12).  The expression he used in his epistle to the Galatians, which is translated in English as “weak and worthless elemental things,” comes from the Greek expression “ta asthenē kai ptōcha stoicheia.” The word “asthenē” is an adjective, meaning “weak” or “sick.” This word is used also in Matthew 25:44 and 1 Cor 1:27.  The other adjective is “ptōcha,” meaning “worthless,” “beggarly,” or “poor” like a pauper, and it only occurs here in Gal 4:9.   Both these adjectives modify the noun “stoicheia.”  It is also used in Gal 4:3, Col 2:8, and Heb 5:12 to mean “elemental things,”  “elemental principles,” or “rudiments.”  According to Webster’s Dictionary, a rudiment is “A first principle or element; that which is to be first learnt; as the rudiments of learning or science. Articulate sounds are the rudiments of language; letters or characters are the rudiments of written language; the primary rules of any art or science are its rudiments. Hence instruction in the rudiments of any art or science, constitutes the beginning of education in that art or science.”

Paul was saying that ceremonial laws like circumcision were first principles used to provide religious instruction to Jews.  As such, ceremonial laws and rituals were like a tutor.  They were weak and poor rudiments, not because God is weak or because his Law is poor, but because they were weakened by the sinful human nature.  They could only lead one to Christ, the One in Whom is found the reality that those types and shadows represent.  Once you come to know Christ, or are rather known by Him, then there is no more need to return to the elemental principles than there would be for a professional scientist to return to studying the alphabet, or for an accomplished artist to return to learning the primary colors.  Therefore, when you come to Christ, you must die to those elemental principles (see Col 2:20).

To the Gentile believers in Colossae, who were also being taken captive by philosophy and empty deception, Paul wrote: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ…If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees…” (Col 2:8,20)

Through these passages, Paul taught that in Christ we now have the substance of all the shadows of the ceremonial law, so we no longer need those thingsThe only reason he circumcised Timothy was for the sake of other men, not for God's sake.  I can just imagine Paul praying as he knelt before Timothy with a knife, circumcising him.  He might have prayed something like, "Lord, you gave us the covenant of circumcision (the "brit-milah") through Abraham, who received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them. Now through Timothy's faith in Christ, he has followed in the steps of Abraham.  And in Christ, Timothy was also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which Timothy was also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. Lord, we know that circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of Your commandments.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love in a new creation. Timothy has become a new creation in Christ. And he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. We do this today, Lord, in order to become all things to all men, so that by all possible means we might save some of them."

Paul Recognized the Jewish Feast of Pentecost
Paul taught that Jewish festivals were merely shadows of what is to come, whereas the substance belongs to Christ (see Col 2:16-17). He taught that observing days and months and seasons and years is a weak and worthless thing that enslaves people (Gal 4:9-10). Yet he seemed to at least acknowledge the day of Pentecost each year. 

In one recorded instance, Paul was hurrying to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. “For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.” (Act 20:16)

In another recorded incident, Paul indicated to the Gentile church in Corinth that he intended to stay in Ephesus until the feast of Pentecost: “But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost;” (1Co 16:8)

We know that the fulfillment of this feast occurred in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the early Church (see Acts 2).  While it is not clear whether Paul celebrated the Jewish feast of Pentecost, he certainly recognized it, even in his correspondence with the Gentiles.  

Paul Recognized the Feast of Unleavened Bread
It seems that Paul also recognized the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which occurs immediately after Passover and before the Feast of Pentecost.  In the book of Acts, Luke records an event in his journey with the apostle Paul saying, "We sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days." (Act 20:6).  The fact that Paul did not travel with his team until after the Feast of Unleavened Bread is significant.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasts seven days (Leviticus 23:6-8; Exodus 12:17-18).  During this time the only kind of bread that may be eaten is matzo (unleavened bread, or flat bread).  The yeast represents malice, wickedness and sin.  So during the days of this feast, no yeast is used in baking bread.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church with instructions about celebrating this feast according to the new way of the spirit and not the old way of the written code. He said, "Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1Co 5:7-8)

Insights into Paul's Way of Life
In Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he gives us further insight into his way of life, which helps us to better understand why he did things like participate in the purification rites with the four Jewish men.   He said, "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved." (1Co 10:31-33)

Based on his own instructions to the Corinthians, we can be sure that the reason he participated in the Jewish purification rites with the four men was to the glory of God.  It was certainly not for his own benefit that he did this. His aim was to glorify God!  He sought to avoid offending the Jews, the Greeks, and the Church of God, except by the offense of the cross.  He sought to please all me in all things, so that they may be saved.

Interesting Paradoxes
Notwithstanding these facts that I have cited above, there are still some interesting paradoxes in this story:

1. Paul did not deny the statement James made that Paul kept the Law. So at least James and the elders of the Church in Jerusalem thought Paul kept the Law, and they saw that as a very godly thing.  In fact, Paul himself stated publicly that he believed everything that is in accordance with the Law, and he had done no wrong to the law of the Jews or the temple.
2. When the elders mentioned that many Jewish believers remained zealous for the Law, Paul did not correct them.
3. Paul seemed to imply to the Jewish believers in Christ by his actions that it was acceptable for them as disciples to practice ceremonial rites, such as purification and circumcision. One might even make a case that he condoned it for Jewish believers.
4. Paul circumcised a half-Jewish man, named Timothy, when he joined Paul in his gospel ministry, in order to avoid offending the Jews.
5. Paul cited the Law in his own epistles to the Gentiles, as the basis for his doctrines, including those regarding remuneration of elders, tongues, and the orderly behavior of women in worship meetings (Rom 3:31; 7:7; 1 Cor 9:8-9; 14:21,34; Heb 9:22; 10:28; cf. Ac 28:23).
6. Paul at least recognized the Jewish feasts of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost and may have planned his travels around them. However, we do not have any evidence that he celebrated these feasts, and it is unlikely he did so according to the old way of the written code, since he taught against it.

The Scriptures record these incidents just as they occurred, leaving the tension in place and not seeking to smooth out the paradoxes.  I think many believers today would consider Paul legalistic for such actions, if it were not for his own teachings about grace and faith in Christ.

What I am Not Saying
Let me be clear that I am not suggesting you come under the Law of Moses. As followers of Christ, we are not seeking to keep up the Law of Moses in conjunction with the gospel. I am not suggesting that disciples of Christ practice circumcision for spiritual reasons or seek to obey the ceremonial, ritual, and dietary laws of Moses. Paul was a Jew, and as he sought to reach Jews for Christ, he would live like a Jew among them. He was doing this, so that by all means he might win some of them. But among the Gentiles, he lived like a Gentile. Therefore, unless you are a Jew living among Jews, then there is no value in you doing those things. Such things do not matter if you are a Gentile believer living among Gentiles, or a Gentile believer living among Jews. In fact, these things don't even matter if you are a Jewish believer living among Gentiles. The apostle Peter was a Jew who lived like a Gentile, and not like a Jew (Gal 2:14). The apostle Paul was a Jew who through the law had died to the law, so that he might live for God (Gal 2:19). Paul became like one without the law in order to win those without the law (1 Cor 9:21; Gal 4:12).

As Paul said, “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified." (Gal 2:15-16). "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." (Rom 3:28). "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." (Gal 5:6, NIV). "Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation." (Gal 6:15, NIV). "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts." (1 Cor 7:19, NIV). "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom 14:17, NIV).

For those who have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ and gone back to observing the Law, I say with Paul, "Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?...For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.' Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because 'the righteous will live by faith.' The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, 'The person who does these things will live by them.'” (Gal 3:3,10-12, NIV).

Putting it All Together
James and the other elders of the Jerusalem Church understood that Paul kept the Law and didn't have a problem with that.  In fact, they wanted to reassure other Jewish believers that Paul kept the Law.  Paul never denied their claim that he did so.  In fact, he later stated that he did no wrong to the Law, and he even cited the Law sometimes, as a basis for his teachings.  According to the Way, as an apostle of Christ, he served the God of the Hebrew patriarchs, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets.

It's easy to be critical of others for their teachings and say that they do not agree with the Scriptures written by the apostle Paul.  But let's make sure we first understand what Paul really believed, and taught and lived, before we rush to judgment of others.

Are you doing all things for the glory of God?  You should be.  And if not, then don't be critical of those who are seeking to do so, just because you don't agree.  Are you all things to all men, seeking to please all men in all things, so that they may be saved?  Do you serve God, according to Christ, believing all that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets? That's the way Paul lived, and he instructed us to follow his example, as he followed Christ.

I'm not suggesting you come under the Law and try to earn your salvation. But your aim should be to glorify God in all things, including things many people today consider to be part of the Old Testament, incorrectly assuming they are not applicable to the disciples of Christ, like tithing and keeping the Christian Sabbath holy.  Certainly we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, not by works. You cannot rely on your obedience to the Law to save you, because it is only by grace that you are saved through faith (Eph 2:8-10). 

However, we still learn what pleases the Lord through all Scripture, including the Law.  What matters is keeping of the commandments of God. Always remember that we can do nothing apart from the Lord Jesus (Jn 15:5), and if you keep His commandments, you will abide in His love (Jn 15:10). Your faith must be actively working through love in a new creation, or else it is useless.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, where noted. The painting of Saint Paul Writing His Epistles is probably by Valentin de Boulogne (1591 - 1632) (French).  This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.

Author's note:  If you enjoyed this post, you may also like Faith Works! and The Law of Christ. And don't miss Righteousness by Faith not Law.  Please see the other posts in this blog available through the Home page. You may also access my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."  Some other related articles are:

Law of Love in the New Testament The Law Established Through Faith Is Tithing Required? 
Is Obedience Optional? The Cost of Discipleship Obedience by the Spirit
 The Law Fulfilled in Us Resting from Work Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Him.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.


Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.