To the Jew First and Then the Gentile

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1: 16).  How often do we quote the first part of this verse and leave out the rest?  (I’ll be the first to plead guilty.)

Paul uses the phrase “to the Jew first and then the Gentile” frequently.  Why?  His explanation is spelled out  in Romans 11: 1-36.  Here are some of the key verses:

I say then, Hath God cast away his people?  God forbid.  For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin (verse 1).

I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall?  God Forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy (verse 11)!

Are Gentiles believers provoking Jews to jealously or simply provoking them?

Now if the fall of them [the Jewish people] be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?  For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.  For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead (verse 12-15).

When will the dead come to life?  When Jesus returns to earth.  And what will prompt His return?  Consider Matthew 23: 39 (NASB).  Speaking of Jerusalem, Jesus said, “For I tell you, you will never see Me again until you say, ‘Baruch ha-ba b’shem ADONAI.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'” 

So the return of Christ  is linked to his recognition by the nation of Israel.  “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, * ‘THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.  AND THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS” (Romans 11: 25-27, NASB.  See Isaiah 59: 20 also.)

 

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How many times is “the law” mentioned in the Bible?

Thanks to THE STRONGEST NASB EXHAUSTIVE CONCORDANCE, I counted 420 references to the law in the Bible. (I counted twice, just to be sure.) I do not know how many of these references are related to the term “law” in general or to the “Law of Moses” in particular.  I suspect a mixture of both.

Either way, I’m intrigued by the number 420 because it is a multiple of 7.  I see 7’s throughout the Bible.  I call it God’s signature.  The number 6 is associated with man, who, according to Genesis 1: 26-31, was created on the sixth day.  The number 7 is associated with God, who created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

Grace and the Law

English: the beginning of the 1. Epistle to th...
English: the beginning of the 1. Epistle to the Corinthians (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you think that my musings on “Grace and the Law” (and similar posts) sound convoluted, you’re on to something.  I have more questions than answers.  Paul is an enigma to me.  Just when I think I’ve figured him out, I read something he wrote that throws a wrench in my theories.

To begin with, I love Paul.  God used his writings (namely, I Corinthians 1: 25) to lead me to Christ.  I believe that the entire Bible is the Word of God.  What Paul says is true.  The problem is that I don’t always know what Paul means.  And I’m not alone.  Peter wrote that Paul’s letters are difficult to understand.

1)  What does Paul mean by “the law?”  Is he talking about the Law of Moses,  the Torah, the Ten Commandments, “the law of sin and death,” “the commandments and teaching of men” (Colossians 2: 22)?  Context is everything.  (For example, when he talks about women wearing head-coverings in a service, he is talking about complying with a Greek custom, not the Law of Moses, according to the Key Word Study Bible (NASB), page 1519).

2) What does Paul mean by “self-made religion” (Colossians 2: 23), “philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elemental things of this world”  (Colossians 2: 8)?

3)  What are “the elemental things of this world” (Galations 4: 3, 9; Colossians 2: 8)?

4)  What does Jesus mean by “the doctrines and tradition of men” (Mark 7: 6-13)?  Are He and Paul talking about the same thing?

5)  Was the Law of Moses nailed to the cross, or were our sins nailed to the cross (Colossians 2: 13-14)?

6)  If the Law of Moses has been done away with, why not remove the Torah (the first five books of the Bible, which includes Genesis) and Psalm 119 from the Word of God?

7)  Were Jesus and Paul both Torah-abiding Jews?

8)  What does Paul mean by “liberty” in Christ?  Are we free to sin?  (Paul’s response is “God forbid!”  But I don’t recall the book, chapter, and verse.)

9)  What did Christ say about the Law of Moses?  Has he fulfilled it–all of it?

To be continued.

Pentecost (Shavuot) and the Law

What comes to mind when you think of Pentecost: the birthday of the church, speaking in tongues, the baptism of the Holy Spirit–or the Law of Moses?  Yesterday was Pentecost, the 50th day after the Passover (although many churches set a different date based on Easter).  Pentecost began at sundown Tuesday. Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai during the first Pentecost.  So Pentecost is about the Law of Moses as well as the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Since 33 A.D. when God poured out His Spirit upon Jews and  proselytes celebrating Pentecost in Jerusalem, multitudes have been saved.  To put Pentecost into perspective, we must begin with “God’s Appointed Times” or the “Feasts of the LORD” outlined in Leviticus 23.

The LORD’s Passover is Nisan 14 on the Hebrew calendar.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread begins on Nisan 15, which is followed by First Fruits (Leviticus 23: 4-11), the day after the Sabbath.  Christ rose from the dead on First Fruits.  (According to Acts 1: 3, Jesus appeared to his disciples forty days between First Fruits and Pentecost.)

Paul makes reference to First Fruits in I Corinthians 15: 20-23: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.  For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  But each in is own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His Coming.”

Compare the first Pentecost, which took place about 5000 years ago, with the one recorded in the second chapter of Acts.  Look for references to fire, noise, and the number three thousand.

EXODUS 19: 18-20, KJV:  And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the  whole mount quaked greatly.  And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.  And the LORD came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the LORD called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up.  In Chapter 20: 1-18, God spoke the Ten Commandments and “all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.”  (Notice that God spoke the Ten Commandments before He wrote them in stone.)

Moses stayed on the mountaintop a long time.  In his absence, the Hebrews made a golden calf, and they were having an orgy worshiping it.  When Moses saw what they were doing, he broke the stone tablets, which God eventually replaced.  But punishment was swift and severe.  Three thousand people died for worshiping the golden calf. (EXODUS 32: 16-19 and 26-28; EXODUS 34: 1-4.)

Fast forward to 33 A.D. and read Acts 2: 1-11.  And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all [Jesus’ disciples, His mother, and his brothers] with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.  And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.  Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded because that every man heard them speak in his own language.  And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?  And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?  Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

Peter addressed the crowd telling them to “repent, and be baptized . . . in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,” and they would “receive the gift of the Holly Ghost” (Acts 2: 38). Then they that gladly received his [Peter’s] word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls (Acts 2: 41).

On Mount Sinai, the Ten Commandments were written on tablets of stone with the finger of God.  In 33 A.D. the Ten Commandments were engraved on the hearts of all that repented and made Jesus Christ Savior and Lord.

Behold the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I  took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD.  But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jeremiah 31: 31-33, KJV.  See 2 Corinthians 3: 3; Hebrews 8: 8-9 also.)  A covenant requires blood.  At the Last Supper, Jesus took the cup, gave thanks, and gave it to his disciples saying, “Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the New Testament [Covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26: 27-28).

NOTE:  Jesus fulfilled the Spring Feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost) with His First Coming.  He has not fulfilled the Fall Feasts (Trumpets, Yom Kipper, and Tabernacles).  He will fulfill the Fall Feasts when He returns for His Bride.

Cropped screenshot of Charlton Heston from the...

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Pentecost, Shavout, Mother’s Day

The Holy Spirit descending at Pentecost by Ant...
The Holy Spirit descending at Pentecost by Anthony van Dyck, circa 1618. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shavout, a.k.a. Pentecost, begins May 14 (Tuesday at sundown).  Whether you acknowledged Pentecost last Sunday (as most churches did) or plan to acknowledge it on Tuesday, you can’t help but notice its proximity to Mother’s Day. I heard a sermon  last night that noted that Mary, the mother of Christ, was present along with her other sons at Pentecost. That means that she and her family spoke in tongues–languages unknown to them–when the Holy Spirit descended with tongues of fire. Rest assured, I’m not going to start a debate about tongues (although I believe that all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are in effect until Christ returns and we see Him face to face–I Cor. 13: 12).

Instead, I’d like to highlight two mothers: Mary in the New Testament and Hannah in the Old Testament. The angel Gabriel told Mary that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her, and she would conceive the Son of God (Luke 1: 26). When Jesus was an infant, the Holy Spirit led a man named Simeon into the temple. He told Mary prophetic things about Christ’s ministry and ended with these words: “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thought of many hearts may be revealed.” Mary watched Jesus grow up. She worried about His safely (Luke 2: 40-51). She prodded (or rather, pushed) Him into performing his first miracle (John 2: 1-11).  Three years later, she saw Him suffer and die on the cross (John 19: 25-27).  So it’s no surprise to find her with His disciples in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.

Mary reminds me of Hannah in the Old Testament.  Hannah was barren and desperately wanted a child.  She went to the temple and prayed that if God would grant her a son, she would give her son to God.  God answered her prayer, and Hannah gave birth to Samuel.  After she weaned him, Hannah took Samuel to the house of God in Shiloh.  Samuel served God all of his life.  He was the last of the judges.  He anointed and counseled King Saul and King David.

Mary and Hannah obeyed God.  When the time came, they were willing to give up their sons for God’s glory.  Compare Mary’s prayer with Hannah’s.

According to Luke 1: 46-55 (KJV),  And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.  And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.  He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.  He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.  He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.  He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

Hannah Giving Her Son Samuel to the Priest
Hannah Giving Her Son Samuel to the Priest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to I Samuel 2: 1-10 (KJV), And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in he LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.  There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.  Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.  The bows of the mighty men are broken, and they that stumbled are girded with strength.  They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; and they that were hungry ceased: so that the barren hath born seven; and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.  The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.  The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.  He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and he hath set the world upon them.  He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.  The adversaries of the LORD shall be broken to pieces; out  of heaven shall he thunder upon them: the  LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of  his anointed.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I Samuel 15 and16: A Lesson in Obedience

English: Saul Rejected as King; as in 1 Samuel...
English: Saul Rejected as King; as in 1 Samuel 15:13-23; illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Samuel anoints David, Dura Europos, Syria, Dat...
Samuel anoints David, Dura Europos, Syria, Date: 3rd c. AD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today as I was reading I Samuel 15 and 16, several verses leapt off the page. The following phrases, which are familiar to many, are just as applicable today as they were in Samuel’s day:

“To obey is better than sacrifice . . . .” (I Samuel 15: 22b KJV).  Saul’s explanation for sparing the best of the Amalekites’ sheep and oxen was that he wanted to sacrifice them to the LORD, despite the fact that God (through the prophet Samuel) had told him to destroy them. A close examination of the passage reveals Saul’s real reason for sparing the animals. “I feared the people, and obeyed their voice” (I Samuel 15: 24b KJV).

This begs the question: Are we man pleasers or God pleasers?  God’s Word is timeless.  It takes courage, faith, and discipline to be a God pleaser.

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft . . . .” (I Samuel 15: 23a).  To disobey God is to rebel against Him.  Equating rebellion to witchcraft is sobering.  We are all guilty of rebelling against God.  (Praise God for his saving grace through Jesus Christ!)

“[God] is not a man that He should change His mind” (I Samuel 15: 29b).  This is one of God’s attributes.  He is unchangeable–“the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

“For the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (I Samuel 16: 7b KJV).  Since Saul was rebellious, God directed Samuel to anoint someone else as king.  God sent him to the house of Jesse (grandson of Ruth and Boaz).  Jesse paraded seven of his sons before Samuel, and Samuel was amazed that God did not choose any of these impressive young men.  Finally, Samuel asked Jesse if he had other children.  Jesse fetched his youngest son, David, and the rest is history.

Samuel anointed David with oil, and “the spirit of the LORD came upon David” (I Samuel 16: 13 KJV).  “But the spirit of the LORD departed from Saul . . . .” (I Samuel 16: 14 KJV).  This is one of many instances in the Bible that reveals the triune nature of God.

To put these verses into context, read all of I Samuel 15 and 16  (NOTE:  Samuel was the last of the judges.  God had ruled Israel through judges, but the people were not satisfied.  They wanted a king like other nations.  So God gave them what they wanted, and just as God predicted, their kings imposed taxes among other demands.  (Read I Samuel 8: 7-22.)

 

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