Posts Tagged ‘Apostle Paul’

“Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear, but your sins have separated you from your God and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59: 1-2)

There are many Christians today that excuse their sin by claiming that because we are human, we do not have the capacity to stop sinning. Isn’t that the reason that Jesus died and was resurrected? “We are no longer under Law but under grace.” they say. There are some in AA circles who have even referred to sin as “character flaws” or “allergies”. But it is the power of Jesus in us that REMOVES our character flaws! And even when one has an allergy to something, they CHOOSE to partake of it or refuse it. It’s not that it is impossible for us to NOT sin, it’s that we CHOOSE to sin.

But to have victory over sin will involve a total daily surrender of Self, (Our own desires, will, and selfish nature) to God. Surrender to God simply means acknowledging to Him that all things you desire; personal as well as spiritual, good as well as bad, by His grace and by the power of His spirit, you agree to give up in order that He might be glorified. You also have to acknowledge that in your flesh, (that is, in your own strength) this is impossible to accomplish.

Self is an impossible force to deal with on our own. It is the foundation of all sin and all the problems that have plagued societies and civilizations since the fall of man. Everything from lust, to murder, to war are all sins derived from Self. Wars are being waged simply because someone has something that the other wants and cannot have. Neither side will compromise, so they go to war. (James 4:5-6)

Sam Shoemaker, (December 27, 1893 – October 31, 1963) is considered one of the best preachers of his era, whose sermons were syndicated for distribution by tape and radio networks for decades, Shoemaker served as the rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in New York City, the United States headquarters of the Oxford Group during the 1930s, and was a significant influence for the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. http://aa-history.com/samshoemaker.html Shoemaker wrote over thirty books, about half of which were circulating before A A’s 12 Steps were first published in the Big Book in 1939.

A year after his death, Shoemaker’s daughter, Helen Shoemaker-Rea, compiled a collection of Shoemaker’s writings for the book, “Sam Shoemaker-at his best EXTRAORDINARY LIVING FOR THE ORDINARY MAN”. They first appeared in, Faith At Work Magazine, New York, N.Y.

The following are excerpts from the chapter called, “Victory Over Self” of that book:

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“We are at war today as surely as we were in the ‘40s and are in the midst of making the same mistakes again… We fight with force against the enemy without because we have not learned to fight with faith against the enemy within. The real war is within. What we need today, more than anything else, more than victory in the war against aggression, are weapons, manpower, and strategy to win the war against selfishness. We need, and must have, victory over ourselves, before any outward victory will mean anything more than a temporary cessation of human conflict….”

“Let us face at the outset how many Christians are not victorious, but defeated. Defeated by circumstances, defeated by other peoples’ natures and wrong-doings, defeated by the down-drag of the flesh, defeated by loss, by pain, by suffering, by worry. Instead of saying with confidence, “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,” they have to say in honesty, “This is the defeat that has been caused by the world, even our self-centeredness.” That is the opposite of faith. Unbelief is not the opposite of faith; self-centeredness is—being centered in self rather than in God.”

“Victory over sin. This victory begins in the life and death of our Lord himself—in his life, because “he was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin”—in his death, because there he took upon himself the sin of the world, suffered in our stead, made redemption possible for us. We need to be redeemed from sin first, to have salvation put in its place by our Savior. Then we need to claim his power over our sins, one by one. Most of us fight a dreary battle for character, or else give it up entirely, and just give in to the desires that assail us—desires to coddle and indulge the body, to please and amuse the mind, to fritter away the life with trivial pursuits, to win out over somebody else, to “get ours.” The way to deal with sin is not to try to hate sin more, but to love Christ more.”

“All the victory of which we have been speaking is a derived victory. We can win the victory only because Christ won it long ago. We participate in his victory by faith.Faith is like a wire, along which he sends the power, the love, the guidance, that enable us to share in his victory. Faith is not just a belief of the mind; faith is the set of the whole personality God-ward. It doesn’t begin with beliefs, but obedience.”

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If only people could realize that by surrendering Self to God and living by principles taught through the Holy Scriptures wars would cease, crime rates would go down and divorce would be all but non-existent. But as long as people refuse to surrender Self to God, all of these things will continue to plague the world and will increase in its intensity over time. That’s why we must rely on God to give us the grace we need that will allow us to surrender Self to Him. God promises in his Word that if we’re honest, admit that we’re powerless in our own nature to surrender, and humble ourselves before him, he’ll give us the grace we need to do it.

There are some who will still be convinced that it is impossible for one not to sin. But listen to what God says:

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.“ (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) [Emphasis mine]

The apostle John wrote in 1 John 5:3, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” (Burdensome)

But it is only by God’s grace that we can accomplish this. To some surrendering Self to God will become as easy as shedding a winter coat in Spring, while others will struggle daily to accomplish it.

The apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 how he struggled with what he calls his “thorn in the flesh”. Some have suggested that Paul struggled with some physical malady, while others are convinced that it was spiritual in nature. We may never know until the resurrection what it was, but we do know that God gave Paul the grace to endure it.

Grace is not a replacement or an excuse for sin. Paul himself said, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2)

Before becoming Navy SEALs, candidates are put through some of the most mentally challenging and physically demanding training in the world, commonly referred to as “hell week.” Very few candidates successfully complete the training. I recall hearing a story about the last day of training. Just after completing a rigorous exercise, the instructor told the candidates to complete another 1000-yard swim with fins in 20 minutes or under. Two of the candidates staggered over and rang the bell, signifying that they could not physically complete the task. The remainder of the candidates immediately received their SEAL Trident, designating them as Navy SEALs. You see, the instructor wanted to see who was WILLING to go the extra mile.

We too, need to be willing to do what it takes to have victory over sin. So with the help of God’s grace, we must decide to die to self and follow Christ no matter what.

“Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 50:7)

I have heard many men and women complain about how hard it is to find a good spouse. Many of these people become impatient and settle for someone less than ideal for them, while others are so overly cautious, that they miss the very one that God has chosen for them. (Myself included)

What many people don’t realize is that the Bible gives us much wisdom—Not just on spiritual decisions, but on common sense decisions as well.

To know if a woman should be involved with a man, refer to 1 Timothy 3:1-13 where the apostle Paul writes about the qualifications of bishops and deacons in the Church.

So look for someone who is:

  • Sensible
  • Hospitable,
  • An apt teacher,
  • Not a drunkard,
  • Not violent or quarrelsome
  • Not a lover of money
  • Not conceited
  • Well thought of by others
  • Not double-tongued
  • Not addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • Faithful to God with a clear conscience

Now, no man is going to be perfect, but if he adheres to these character traits most of the time, then you know he is safe to be with. (And remember it also says to let them be tested!)

Men are also given advice about the women they should seek out in verse 11:

  • They must be respected
  • They must not slander others
  • They must exercise self-control
  • Be faithful in everything they do

You probably notice that there are more qualifications for men than for women. That’s because men are to be the leader. Therefore, more responsibility rests on him.

Many men have obsessed over finding a “Proverbs 31 Woman” as a wife. This hypothetical woman in Proverbs 31 is skillful in a lot of different things—And she’s skillful in all of them. News flash guys: SHE DOES NOT EXIST!

According to the chapter, she wakes up super early, has great biceps, buys property, is always dressed elegantly, keeps her home warm at night and keeps herself looking great all the time, and still has time to care for the poor!

Many women would read this passage and think, “Sheesh! How am I supposed to try and fit into this mold?”

What if she can’t sew or cook? What if she’s not a great housekeeper? Does that mean she’s not living up to her God-given potential as a female? Of course not!

Many Bible scholars believe that the “Proverbs 31 Woman” is not really a woman at all, but rather a personification of wisdom. If you read the whole book of Proverbs, you’ll realize that wisdom is consistently referred to as “she.” In the final chapter, I believe that the analogy of a woman here is used to depict a tangible example of wisdom in action.

Notice that the only instruction in the chapter that is given to men concerning a woman is in the last verse: “Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

In Jewish culture, men memorize this chapter as a song of praise to the women in their lives. But in Western culture, it is instead often used as a shopping list to be fulfilled in a future wife.

There’s a common Acronym that is written, K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) Men should focus more Proverbs 31 verses 1 through 10.

It first warns of the dangers of wasting time on loose women and drunkenness, encourages us to ensure justice for the poor and downtrodden. And then verse 10 tells us, “Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies.”

So get rid of your “Wife Qualification List” and focus more on how you can better be qualified as a husband.

My Final thoughts

I don’t think God is as concerned about WHO we marry as much as he is concerned about how we treat the one we’re married to.

Wives, your primary goal is to help make your husband the very best he can be. Not by nagging or being demanding, but by trusting God to direct his steps. If your husband is a godly man who prays and listens to God, then all you have to do is pray and trust God. And even if you are married to an unbeliever, your goal is the same. Because your unbelieving husband might be saved because of you. (1 Corinthians 7:16)

Husbands, your primary goal is to help make your wife the very best she can be. Not by lording over her and demanding that she submit to your every whim, but by praising her for all the good she does for you and supporting her in all she does.

And most importantly, pray for each other.

To those who are still waiting for God to choose that special person for you, remember that Psalms 27:14 teaches us to, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart.”

Living in our “fast food society” we can sometimes feel that God has let us down because He does not provide an immediate answer to a prayer. But waiting for the Lord can transform us into a people of growing faith.

King David spent many years waiting to be crowned king and fleeing from Saul’s wrath. It was probably during that time that David wrote those encouraging words in Psalms 27.

So just keep waiting on the Lord and he SHALL strengthen your heart. Delight yourself in Him and He WILL give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37)

The early Church in the Book of Acts were making people angry by preaching the truth. Some of them were martyred, willing to die for the cause of Christ. After hearing the gospel message many who had been involved with the occult brought their “curious arts” and burned them in a bonfire. (Acts 19:19) The worth of the books and items were 50,000 pieces of silver. (hundreds of thousands of dollars in today’s value) The local idol makers were so enraged at Paul, that the other believers had to keep him from the angry mob waiting to tear him to pieces. (Acts 19:30)

This is what happens when people begin to live according to the truth of the Bible. Because it reduces the profits of beer companies and taverns, drug dealers, godless Hollywood film makers, strip clubs, pornography and prostitution. It causes women to keep their babies instead of murdering them and therefore decreases the profits of the abortion clinics and its providers. Praise God, when Jesus returns he will put all these evil people out of business for good!

Please notice that the early believers didn’t just preach a salvation message. They also spent much time speaking against sin and warning of being deceived by it. (James 4:17, Romans 6:23, 1 John 1:8-10, 1 John 3:4, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

But most preachers today only preach a “feel good” salvation message. They don’t preach against sexual immorality, idolatry, drunkards, or swindlers. They don’t expose the corruption and lies of the world and rarely preach about spiritual zeal and fervor. Most of what is taught in churches today is an “I’m okay, you’re okay, because we’re covered in the blood of Jesus gospel”.

I remember soon after I was saved, going to renew my driver’s license. It took me several minutes to convince the woman at the DMV that the photo on my old license was really me. You see, my countenance had completely changed so much that my “old self” didn’t even resemble who I had become! I was literally a new person!

And yet many Christians today are taught that they are “just sinners saved by grace”. But is that what the early Church taught?

A scripture that would appear to agree on this point is from the Apostle Paul: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16)

Because of Paul’s present tense use of the phrase, “worst of sinners” he makes it sound as if it were applicable to him at the time he wrote it. But if we look at this anomaly more closely, I’m sure you’ll see that the unusual use of verbs is Paul’s writing style and is/was a common Hebrew way of writing.

In the Preface to Youngs Literal Translation of the Holy Bible, the translator tells us of two principles to understand about Hebrew writers. (even though they may be writing in the Greek language)

  1. That the Hebrews were in the habit of using the past tense to express the certainty of an action taking place, even though the action might not really be performed for some time.
  2. That the Hebrews, in referring to events which might be either past or future were accustomed to act on the principle of transferring themselves mentally to the period and place of the events themselves, and were not content with coldly viewing them as those of a bygone or still coming time; hence the very frequent use of the present tense.

Apparently, that is what Paul did. He placed himself in the past as though it were the present. Similar to what Daniel did as he confessed his sins and the sins of his country to God in Daniel chapter nine.

Are Christians Called Sinners In Scripture? 

The first scripture that comes to mind is Romans 5:6, 8:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us. (All emphasis added is mine and is not in Scripture)

First please note that Christ died for the ungodly (vs. 6) and then Christ died for sinners. (vs. 8) Paul equates the ungodly with sinners. Christians are never characterized as ungodly. Next note that the past tense is used  while we were still sinners. That clearly implies a change of status. While we were still sinners is a prior status of being sinners, different from what the recipients of the letter were as Paul wrote to them. Who were the recipients of the letter? Paul described them: To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints. (Romans 1:7) Paul did not address his letter to sinners saved by grace, but to those called to be saints!

There are 28 uses of the word sinners and 13 of the word sinner in the New Testament Scripture. None refer to people who have come to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus.

Jesus also made a distinction between sinners and the righteous:

Jesus revealed that the purpose of his coming was to save sinners:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17 — See also Luke 15:7,10 and Matthew 9:12-13)

Many are taught that we all sin hundreds of times every day, and all we have to do is confess our sins and God is faithful and just to forgive us. But if we read 1 John we discover what the Apostle said about the relationship to God and the people who continue in sin:

No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:6) “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.” (1 John 5:18)

According to the Apostle John, if someone is sinning hundreds of times each day he is not living in Christ Jesus and does not have a true saving faith. Twice John says Christians do NOT continue to sin.

The writer to the Hebrews addressed the issue of deliberately continuing in sin. His warning is frightening:

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Hebrews 10:26)

It would appear that those who have received the knowledge of the truth but thereafter deliberately continue in sin are in a terrible position. They are called enemies of God.

But in our 21st century, it is politically correct to have a tolerant attitude toward almost everything. That seems to include sin. There is not an abhorrence of sin, of seeing it through Gods eyes, nor a recognition that continuing in sin will prevent a person from inheriting the kingdom of God. Not concerned about being politically correct, Paul wrote:

“But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

Paul warns that a person who continues to habitually sin (a sinner) but who calls himself a Christian brother, is dangerous to the health of the body and should be shunned. From Johns’ writings we know that such a person is not a true believer even though he may profess to be a Christian.

None of us who are Christians with a saving faith should ever call ourselves a sinner. It is not appropriate to try to claim common ground with unbelievers by saying that you also are a sinner. Scripture says otherwise. Christians are not sinners. If you are a sinner, one who habitually sins, you are not a true believer. In that case you can properly call yourself a sinner. Please note the distinction: Christians do occasionally sin. A sinner habitually sins. The Christian (should) immediately repent and seek Gods forgiveness. The sinner does not.

A Christian can properly say, I was a sinner, but I have been saved by grace.

Sinners hate to have their sin exposed. It was true in the days of the early Church and is still true today. When you tell someone who likes to party and get drunk that what they are doing is a sin, they will become angry and belligerent. If you try to explain why abortion is a sin to someone who supports a woman’s right to an abortion, they may become combative toward you. And if you point out the sin of homosexuality, people will accuse you of hate speech and may even physically attack you. (Which has happened often lately) So much for tolerance.

But this is how it has always been. And we are warned that as our days in this world are numbered, it will only get worse.

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 )

Until Christ returns, we are responsible to stand against the evils of our day. (Psalm 94:16) The truth will make some people angry. But the truth will cause others to come to God in repentance. The truth is emotional. The truth demands an answer. The truth cannot be ignored forever. The truth is the truth!

Why am I so adamant about standing against sin? Because Jesus was beaten, humiliated and crucified because of sin! God hates sin. And so I too must hate sin. (Psalms 5:4, Psalms 45:6, Hebrews 1:8)

I know that there are many who wish that I would just tone down my rhetoric. That I would talk more about the good things. I don’t like to talk about bad things, but people need to know the truth. So I must speak the truth!

But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:9)

So I will not go quietly into the night, I will continue to fight the good fight until my life is done or until Jesus returns.

The Bible says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2)

But is judging the same as condemning? Judging is used in more than one sense in the New Testament writings. The Greek word ‘krinō’ (or a form of it) is used for judge and judgment.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthian church said: “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. (1 Cor. 5:1-3)

The Apostle concluded by telling them that they had to ‘judge’ this man by the word of God and then act on it! “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you.” (v.12-13)

“For judgment, (krima- condemnation of wrong) I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (John 9:39)

Jesus said, “As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not ‘judge’ (krinō) him, for I did not come to ‘judge’ the world, but to save it. (John 12:47)

It seems that Jesus contradicts himself until we see how John uses two different Greek words for the word ‘judge’ and examine the context in which they are used.  The judgment in John 9:39 speak of final judgment. In John 12:47 the judgment Jesus said that he came to bring is krinō; i.e.; making a distinction between right and wrong. As in John 7:24: “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” And Luke 12:57: “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?”

What kind of judging does God not forbid?

God does not forbid the judgments of the civil courts, (Rom. 13:1-7) or the judgment of the church upon disorderly members. (1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Thes. 3:6)

Matt. 7:6 tells us: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”  So we must be able to recognize, (make a judgment) who the dogs and pigs are so we will know who not to give that which is sacred to.

And in Matt. 7:15-20 Jesus tells us to: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”  But how can we fulfill this command if we are not able to judge who is a false teacher and who is not?

James exhort us to help restore those who have wandered from the truth and have been led into sin: Jas. 5:19-20- “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” But unless we can determine (through an examination of the word of God) that a person is in sin (thus making a judgment), we cannot not turn him from the error of his way.

What is the wrong kind of judging?

  • Any judging that is neither positive nor conclusive or anything that is from insufficient evidence or from ill will is prohibited.

Romans 14:1 – “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Jas. 4:11-12: “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.”

Sadly, I have experienced this more in group prayers than anywhere else. When asked who needs prayer someone will say something like, “Please pray for ‘Joe Christian’ because he is no longer walking with God and is using drugs again. He has also been seen with underage girls.” This is nothing more than ‘prayer gossip’ and is slander against someone who is not present to defend themselves.

  • Judging others while doing the same thing yourself.

Romans 2:1 –“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

Matt. 7:1-5 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

According to Matt. 7:1-5 we have the responsibility to remove the plank out of our own eye first so we will be able to see (judge) clearly another who needs our help to remove the splinter out of his eye. And sometimes it is a matter of perspective. It is easy to see others’ flaws at a distance; for example, a small speck of dirt in someone’s eye. But place that same speck close to our own eye and it becomes a plank; blocking our view. God did not commission us to be speck inspectors!

Judgment is forbidden when it is harsh, unfounded, hypercritical, malicious, slanderous, or ill-natured because its aim is to hurt, defame, and damage, rather than to encourage and build up. Judgment is only encouraged to settle matters in civil courts, to correct and restore a believer who has wandered from the truth, and to identify false teachers and evil people.

We must remember that forbidden judgment will almost always result in hurt, but godly judgment will almost always result in building up and restoration.

We would do well to live by the words of the Apostle Paul who said, “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:10-14)

There are many reasons why Christians should study TORAH, the first five books of the Bible, as well as the Talmud, a set of writings by Jewish rabbis collected two hundred years after Yeshua (Jesus) lived. You may ask, “Why would a Bible believing Christian care about the insights and comments from Jewish rabbis, scholars, and sages?” You may be worried that your Christian friends might think it strange if you began studying Jewish writings, or your Jewish friends might be offended if they learned you were studying “their stuff.”

There are four reasons why the study of TORAH and Talmud can be valuable for Bible believing Christians:

1. To Better Understand the Entire Bible

The Old Testament is divided into three groups:

• The Law—the five Books of Moses called TORAH

• The Prophets—the prophetic books, such as the writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah and the other prophets

• The Writings—the books of poetry, such as the Psalms and Ecclesiastes

The word TORAH comes from a root the word which is an ancient Hebrew archery term meaning to shoot an arrow straight to the mark. It also means to teach or bring instruction. So in a truly biblical sense, TORAH refers to instructions from a loving God on how to live a life that ‘hits the mark.’ To sin means to ‘miss the mark.’ However, TORAH is most frequently translated ‘The Law’ by Christians. A much better translation for ‘The Law’ is teaching. Perhaps many of the verses that contain the English word ‘law,’ should be thought of differently than the way we have traditionally interpreted its meaning. For example, look at these two verses:  “How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD” (Ps. 119:1). “He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Prov. 28:9). In each of these passages, as in many others throughout the Bible, the word we read in English as ‘law’ is actually TORAH in Hebrew and refers to the full teaching found in the Books of Moses, rather than a select group of commands or commandments.

So, when Yeshua (Jesus) makes His statement in Matthew that He did not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets, He is using Hebrew shorthand to say that He did not come to destroy or contradict any of the Hebrew Scriptures. Therefore, our first reason to study TORAH is to better understand the entire Bible, both the Old and the New Testaments.

2. To Better Understand Yeshua (Jesus) and His Disciples

Our second reason to study TORAH is to better understand Yeshua and His disciples. The Scripture which they studied and quoted was from the Old Testament. They referred to it as the Tanakh, an acrostic for TORAH—the Law, Nevaim—the Prophets, and Khetuvim—the Writings.

In both ancient and modern Judaism, the TORAH is seen as the most important and widely studied section of the Tanakh. For example, each of Yeshua’s answers to the devil when He was tempted in the wilderness (Luke 4:4) comes from TORAH in the book of Deuteronomy. (Compare Luke 4:4 to Deut. 8:3)

When the devil tempted Messiah he answered: “It is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” (Luke 4:8). Yeshua was quoting from TORAH.  “You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name” (Deut. 6:13).

At the time of Yeshua, the Sadducees accepted only TORAH as Scripture, a doctrine that set them apart from the Pharisees, who accepted the totality of the Tanakh. Jewish boys at the time of Yeshua were taught to memorize the Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Typically, they memorized all, or at least large portions, of each of these books.

Obviously, by studying the Bible Yeshua studied, memorized, and quoted will help us to know Him on a deeper and more meaningful level. However, this same concept of studying the Old Testament is crucial for understanding the life and words of Yeshua, and also the rest of the New Testament as well. God used the Apostle Paul to write more pages of the New Testament writings than any other person. Here’s how Paul described himself and his background: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city [Jerusalem], educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today” (Acts 22:3).

To best understand Paul’s writings, we need to understand his training, and the many references to the Old Testament and to Jewish learning that he makes throughout his writings. Paul is often thought of as one who speaks against the law, but look at these quotes from the book of Romans:

“Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law” (3:31).

“What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, you shall not covet.” (7:7)

“So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (7:12)

“But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.” (7:16)

Can we really understand Paul’s epistles if we do not understand his context and what he means when he refers to the Law? Until the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, most Jewish teaching and commentary was passed on orally. One teacher would disciple another, who in turn passed on the teachings through memorized and repeated conversation. However, in the years following the destruction of the Temple, centuries of teaching, debate, and discussion were written down in what today we call the Talmud, a word which comes from the Hebrew root lamad. Interestingly, it means both to teach and to learn. The Talmud then is much like a commentary of the TORAH.

Although the actual recording of the oral tradition happened over a period from roughly AD 100 to AD 500, the Talmud undoubtedly contains many of the teachings and discussions about the meaning of Scripture that were prevalent at the time of Yeshua. For example, two famous rabbis who lived in the century before Yeshua were Hillel and Shammai. The Talmud preserves some of the debates between the followers (or school) of Hillel and the school of Shammai. These debates were well known and the basis of regular discussion at the time of Yeshua. Generally, Hillel was more liberal and Shammai more conservative.

Yeshua held opinions that sometimes agreed with one and sometimes the other. For example, in Matthew chapter 19, when Yeshua is asked about divorce, his listeners were probably eager to see if He sided with the more liberal school of Hillel, who allowed divorce for any reason, or with the more conservative Shammai, who was very restrictive on the subject. Here Yeshua comes closer to the school of Shammai in His answer. Later, in Matthew chapter 22, Yeshua is asked, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” He gives an answer almost identical to that recorded in the Talmud by Rabbi Hillel. Reading these debates and commentaries in the Talmud help us understand Yeshua’s words much closer to how His followers first heard them.

The New Testament is rife with references to this body of rabbinic teaching and debate. For example, “And all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). Have you ever wondered what rock Paul was referring to? The Talmud says that from the time that Moses struck the rock at Horeb and brought forth water (Exod. 17:6) until the death of Miriam (Exod. 20:1), that water-giving rock “followed the Children of Israel through the desert and provided water for them each day” (Taanis, 9a and Bava Metizia, 86b). It seems clear that the Apostle Paul is referring to this story recorded in the Talmud. If we remain ignorant of the Talmud, we remain ignorant of many of the references and concepts mentioned in the New Testament.

If you give it a chance, you will be blessed to learn from the insights of these Jewish teachers, who deeply love the Word and seek to understand its most profound meaning. As you begin to study these resources, you’ll find that you will sometimes agree and sometimes disagree, but you will always be challenged to think more deeply about the Word of God, as you study to rightly interpret His instructions for living a life that hits the mark.

3. To Help Know What We Believe

Our third reason is simply to know what we believe in the whole Bible, the Old and the New Testaments. Many Christians proclaim the authority of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. The two of the largest Protestant denominations regarding the authority of Scripture write in their Statement of Faith:

“The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” – Southern Baptist –

“WE BELIEVE…The Scriptures are inspired by God and declare His design and plan for mankind.” – Assembly of God –

Most books written on the Christian faith spend a large amount of time discussing the Genesis account of creation and its logical defense. Yet, for many of us, the first 39 books of our Bibles are seen as of little use. If we say that the Bible is the Word of God then let’s take some time to study the whole Bible. Not only will you be blessed, but you will begin to live the life of scriptural authority in a deeper way. You will enrich your understanding of Yeshua and His first followers, and you will drink deeply of the fountain of God’s revealed truth.

4. To Help Establish an Honest Dialogue with Jews

The fourth and final reason I encourage Christians to study Torah and Talmud is to prepare for a meaningful relationship and dialogue with our Jewish friends and neighbors. The misunderstandings and false assumptions we have about Judaism leaves us open to the lies and bigotry of anti-Semitism. It is hard to have a dialogue, let alone develop a meaningful friendship, with someone you know little about, and if most of what you know is based on misinformation. The Church owes a great debt to Judaism. Many of our practices from hymn-singing to public reading of the Bible, from baptism, to teaching our children about God, come to us from traditions that were first practiced in Judaism. (I’ll post more about this later) In addition, our Bible, our spiritual heritage, our Messiah Yeshua, the disciples and apostles were all Jewish. Nearly every one of the Apostle Paul’s letters were addressed to Jewish followers of Messiah. Isn’t it about time we begin to explore our roots and appreciate those who cultivated them?