To Circumcise Or Not To Circumcise

Galatians 2 can be a confusing passage. There are several topics that are discussed. I argue that unless you understand what was going on in that time period you miss the true understanding. In verses 3 and 4 lots of spirited debate occurs. Does anyone need to follow the Torah anymore? Do Gentiles need to follow Torah? Maybe not all of Torah, but circumcision? Titus was not compelled being a Greek so that settles that right? Words are thrown around without truly knowing the context behind the words. Like bondage and liberty. Let’s take a look and see what is going on.

People today, notably Americans, view everything from their own standpoint. We have trouble seeing events in their original context and instead inject our context into the picture. Unfortunately, many have had a picture painted for them about Jews. The picture is many believe Jews work for their salvation. Another picture that is painted is Torah is bondage. It is a yoke that is unbearable. No one can hold up to the yoke of Torah. Torah is opposite of liberty. If you follow Torah you then Christ is of no benefit to you. All of these are misconceptions. They are all false. These pictures come about due to ignorance. For there is not one verse that states Torah is bondage or the Torah is a yoke that no one can bear. In fact, Scripture states just the opposite. Judaism has always been a faith based system. Are there some within Judaism that believe it is a works based system? Yes. Just because someone believes something does not make it true. Some believe in Amillennialism, but that does not make it true. Many believe in Pre-Tribulation, but that does not make it true. Let’s look at Galatians 2 in the context of when it was written.

Many believe that circumcision is required to convert to Judaism. Today, that is what is taught in Orthodox Judaism. This was not always the case. There was a long standing debate between the different schools of thought at one time. Shammai and Hillel debated this very topic. In Yevamot 46a the viewpoint presented is “A male convert who has been immersed but not circumcised or circumcised but not immersed, is a convert.” Note that immersed is basically a baptism. Paul, who was from the school of Hillel, was taught why a Gentile did not have to undergo circumcision to convert to Judaism. Shammai on the other hand believed a convert must be circumcised to convert. Yeshua’s remarks on how to carry out Torah seem to go along with Hillel’s viewpoint over Shammai most of the time. The one opinion Yeshua did agree with Shammai was on the subject of divorce.

Paul, already versed on why a Gentile did not have to undergo circumcision to be a convert to Judasim, writes in Romans 4 how Avraham converted. He converted through faith, while he was uncircumcised. Avraham later received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith. This very thought is what Paul is trying to get through to the Galatians. Circumcision is not a means to convert. Faith is and always will be the true way.

Let’s look at verse four and into the bondage issue. Does following Torah bring bondage? King David said in Psalms 119:45 and I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts (laws). King David, says because he sought after G-d’s Torah he walks at liberty. James calls the Torah the perfect law of liberty and whoever looks into it he being not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work shall be blessed. In James 2:12 he states as they shall be judged by the law of liberty. Everyone is going to be judged according to the Torah per Paul in Romans 2:12.   In 1 John 5:3 we are told for this is the love of G-d, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not burdensome. Yeshua said “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Are we told the same thing in the Tanakh? Yes, in Deuteronomy 30:11 it says “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.” So Torah is not bondage or too hard. What is the bondage that Paul is speaking about in Galatians 2?

Paul speaks several times about sin being bondage. Per Colossians 2:14, believers are released from the death sentence as a result of sin. Yet some of the Pharisees and teachers of the Torah taught something different than Torah. They taught traditions of man and sometimes these traditions would cause them to break Torah. Some of these teachers and Pharisees held their traditions above Torah. You cannot do this. Traditions are fine, but when you hold them equal to or above Torah then there is a problem. This is what Yeshua contended with during His ministry.

Paul did not have a problem with circumcision. He had a problem with using circumcision as a matter of conversion. This is what the Jerusalem Council was all about in Acts 15. Verse 1 says “Some men came down from Judea and bean teaching the brethren, ‘unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’”. As I mentioned at first, this was a long debated topic and was not new at the time of Paul’s ministry. Include this info along with the idea that Torah is not too difficult or brings one into bondage and that it is actually freedom or life, then you have a whole new perspective to consider.

Until next time…kadosh, kadosh, kadosh is HaShem!

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Should Gentiles Keep The Torah?

The article written by Ron Cantor titled Should Gentiles Keep the Torah is well written. It specifically takes verses and uses them to support his viewpoint. He does exactly what he charges those of us who as he calls us the ‘One Law’ movement. I am going to go through the verses he cites for his support and show the other side of the story. Before I do that though, the one thing the author does not do is see things from a bigger perspective. That is what I want to look at first.

The author wants people to believe the (blood) Jews are separate from everyone else. They have different instructions on how to live than any other person who has cleaved to HaShem. So if you are Jewish you follow Torah, but if you are any other designation then you have a different set of rules. I can think of issues with this. Can you imagine a parent having different set of rules for each kid? Or how about a company having different set of rules for each person. That does not work out so well. What if someone is part Jew? Which side do they fall into? Are they more Gentile than Jew and therefore they don’t follow Torah? Or since they have a little bit of Jew they belong in the Jewish group. Should everyone go and take a blood test to determine if they have any amount of Jew DNA? So, there becomes this issue in the beginning if you believe there are different rules for different people.

What happens in a congregation with both Jews and non-Jews when it comes time to eat? In Israel, it is not a big deal about finding kosher food. Kosher food is also not more expensive than non-kosher food as it is elsewhere. In a majority of America kosher meat is not on every corner. In Dallas, I have to drive over 30 minutes to a market that offers a selection of kosher meat. Many congregations have oneg – eating lunch together after service at the synagogue. So a Gentile believer can bring pork and sit next to a Jewish believer who cannot eat pork. That is an issue. What if someone of the pork while being cut flips over to the Jewish person’s plate? Oh man, the ordeal. The Jewish person just lost their lunch. What about if the Gentile person invited the Jewish person over for a meal? What are they to do about meat? The Gentile can’t serve pork or shrimp. How orthodox is the Jew? Should the Gentile be concerned about the plate having had dairy served on it? There are many issues that arise when one considers just the food issue when there are two set of rules.

The covenant spoken of in Jeremiah is a renewal covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. Just like the renewal covenant spoken to Joshua where G-d renewed his covenant with Israel. Is there any difference in this renewal covenant? Yes, the Torah will be placed in one’s inward parts and written on the heart. Why? For this has always been the issue with the Jews. They may follow Torah, but their hearts were uncircumcised. They were following Torah thinking this was their salvation. This never was the case. The Torah does not provide salvation.

With this renewal covenant, just like the previous covenants, Gentiles are grafted into it. Gentiles do not have a birth right into the covenant, like the Jew, but they are still part of this covenant. Assuming the covenant in Jeremiah has started. We know it is not complete based on Jeremiah 31:34. We also know the House of Israel and the House of Judah have not been reconciled. That is a whole other discussion so I digress. Another whole teaching is why Yeshua had to die, to remarry the House of Israel, but that is also another topic.
No matter the covenant that the Gentiles are grafted into they are still children of Avraham. The Gentiles do not have their own covenant. They must graft a covenant to become part of G-d’s people. For that is the promise the Gentiles hold so dear to. Most state the covenant with Avraham is unconditional. I wholeheartedly disagree. For in Genesis 17:1-14 we are told about this covenant. The L-rd said to Avraham “Walk before Me, and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.” In v9 “G-d said further to Avraham, Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. If the covenant between Avraham and G-d was unconditional, nothing Avraham had to do, then why does G-d say walk before Me and be blameless and you shall keep my covenant? Doesn’t sound so unconditional does it? Then HaShem continues by stating that circumcision is a sign that we are in covenant. Not only his physical descendants, but even his servants. Yeshua was a Jew and He is our master. We are His servants and therefore, we are to be circumcised as well. Not as a factor for salvation, but a sign that one was in covenant with G-d. It was previously established in Genesis that Avraham had faith. According to The Book of Jasher, Avraham lived with Noach many many years. Avraham knew of G-d. He had faith in G-d or he would not have done what G-d had told him to do.

Throughout the Tanakh there are over 300 prophecies about the Messiah. There are many prophecies about the nations coming into Israel and worshipping the One True G-d. There is not one mention of different rules for different people. Not one. In fact, there are several verses that speak of the Gentiles becoming one with Israel. Some will be made into Levites and serve in the Temple even!

I have more to say on this topic, but will wait to address it on one of the passages the author quotes for his support. With that, let’s get into the piece that Mr. Cantor authored.
The first passage that is used as support for different rules for Gentiles and Jews is Acts 15 and the Jerusalem Council. He claims verse 21 which says “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath”, does not teach Gentiles should grow in their Jewishness over time. Instead he believes the intention was to show the four things that were forbidden to do, were universally immoral ways to worship the one true G-d and says the Torah would back this up.

The author states the four prohibitions addressed how the newcomers could worship. In this I agree. The author continues though and says that obviously they (newcomers) would adhere to other universal laws found in the Old Covenant (Thou shalt not lie, steal, etc). One other point the author states is the letter that went out and is read in v23-29 says the apostles did not state the Gentiles needed to attend the synagogue every week to learn Torah.

The author writes as if certain commandments are universal and others are not universal. Though this distinction is never made anywhere in Torah nor in the Brit Chadasha. Anyone who resided with Israel was required to follow one Torah. Numbers 15:15 – One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. Again in Numbers 15:16 –  One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you.

Regarding verse 21 which says “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day” the author states this was given to affirm these four prohibitions. Then says “The Torah, which is read weekly, would affirm this, hence v. 21.” So, the entire Torah is read by Gentiles so they could understand about these four prohibitions that the author contends are all in 2 chapters of the Torah. That does not make a lot of sense. For one the verse reads every Sabbath Moses is read, so it is expected for the Gentiles to be in the synagogue each Sabbath to hear the reading of Moses. The author never addresses why this council was even meeting in the first place which is given to us in the very first verse and says “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.”. The entire council meeting was regarding does a Gentile have to be circumcised to be saved. The answer is NO! We cannot earn our way to salvation. A Jew cannot earn his way to salvation. This council is a result of things going on which are written in Galatians. Certain men were teaching works save. The whole book of Galatians is to counter this position. It is and always has been faith. If you do not have faith then no matter what you do there is no salvation. Peter gets up and speaks and talks about the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles. The Holy Spirit is to cause one to follow G-d’s commandments (Ezekiel 11:19-20 & 36:26-27). Not “universal” ones as the author contends. James (Or Jacob which is his real name) then speaks and quotes from the Tanakh about rebuilding the Tabernacle of David and allowing the Gentiles who are called by His Name. Are we to go to the Tabernacle of G-d and be eating pork? If eating something is an abomination to G-d, it is an abomination. It is that simple.

James continues by giving the four prohibitions. I contend, which cannot be proven, that the four prohibitions were so the pagan coming into relationship with the Jews could associate with each other. There was no way a Jew was going to associate with a Gentile who was doing these four things. So to start the Gentiles off James gives the four prohibitions. Then in v21 starts off with For, which is a continuation word Moses is read in every city who preach him, is read in the synagogue every Sabbath. I contend that James meant for the Gentiles to continue going to synagogue and listen to Moses. Why? To hear what all Moses commanded to the Israelites from G-d. No one needs to listen to the entire Torah to understand what is said in two chapters. Also, if this is Paul’s understanding why is it throughout the rest of Acts and his own epistles does it state each Sabbath and for three Sabbaths in a row, etc. Why wasn’t he teaching the Gentiles on different days? Instead he explicitly shows Gentiles coming every Sabbath. Where else were they going to know who G-d is than hearing the Torah in the synagogue? It is not like a Gentile was able to go and purchase a Torah scroll in that day.

Regarding the letter, the author points out the Gentiles were not told to follow the Sabbath in the letter. Therefore they should not have to attend the synagogue each Sabbath. The Gentiles were not told to love G-d either or to follow any of the other so-called universal laws, so does that mean they do not have to follow them either? Using the author’s logic, you don’t even have to love or have faith in G-d to enter into covenant. This is simply faulty logic.

As if I needed to add to that, Gentiles are told to imitate the MaShiach and Paul says you should imitate him b/c he imitates the MaShiach! Ephesians 5:1 – Therefore be imitators of G-d, as beloved children.         1 Peter 2:21 – For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 1 Corinthians 11:1 – Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 1 John 2:6 – Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 Corinthians 4:16 – I urge you, then, be imitators of me. 1 Thessalonians 1:6 – And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit.

So if Gentiles are to be imitators of the MaShiach, how can they do so without following Torah?

The author’s next point of contention is G-d has called Israel to be a separate nation. They are to be a light to the rest of the world. One of the verses he uses for support is Exodus 19:4-5. Which reading it without any other context certainly paints a picture that Israel was to be G-d’s own possession. The issue with this is who all was in front of Mount Sinai at this time? There were many who came from Egypt and who are camped in front of the mountain. They were together with Israel. G-d did not state for them there are different rules. G-d did not state to them they were not called and are not His own possession. Again, in the Millennial Reign we are told Gentiles will be serving as priests and Levites (Isaiah 66:21). Gentiles will be given land in Israel as an inheritance as well (Hebrews 11:8-16, Ezekiel 47-48, Leviticus 25:44-46, Isaiah 13:19-14:2). Jews, whether believers or not, have this same issue of being separate. G-d never said don’t bring others in. In fact, He says the opposite. That is why Avraham tried to bring so many into covenant. This is why he setup his tents along busy intersections. To bring people into covenant with G-d. One covenant for all.

The author’s next point is Paul’s words to the Gentiles. Brings up Ephesians 2:8 which says faith alone, through grace that we are saved. The author says this could not be any clearer regarding the Gentiles being required to keep the law of Moses and quotes Galatians 3:1-3, 5 & 3:10-11. While I absolutely agree that it is faith alone through grace in which we are saved, these verses do not state Gentiles are called to follow Torah. These verses state about faith and faith alone. That is how one obtains salvation, through faith. If you rely upon your works to be saved then you will be cursed. Why? Because you will sin and therefore the penalty for not following Torah is cursing. The point about following Torah is not about salvation, but about obedience. This is why Moses tells the Jews about being circumcised in the heart.   A couple of prophets state the same thing…be circumcised of the heart.   This means accept G-d with faith. Only G-d can circumcise your heart.

If the author would have read a little further in Ephesians it states in v19 – So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household. Paul is telling the Ephesians you are in the same household as the Jews. We are all one. One tree. One sheep pen.

The next section about why then are Jewish believers commanded to keep the Torah I am going to ignore for now. Little is said and it is not pertinent to this discussion in my opinion.

An analysis of Part 2 will come next week, so stay tuned.

Link to the author’s work:  Ron Cantor – Should Gentiles Keep The Torah

Nullify the Torah?

Last time we looked at Romans 3:20-21 and the Law of Righteousness apart from the Torah.  As Sha’ul continues in Romans 3 he makes it clear again that justification (salvation) is apart from the Torah.  It is through grace, which has existed from the beginning of time, that we have salvation.  Therefore Sha’ul asks where is the boasting?  No one can boast, whether you have the Torah or not, again reemphasizing the comments he made in chapter two that we went over a few weeks ago.  This brings us down to verses 30 and 31 which says:

since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.  Romans 3:31

Many will say this verse says we do not need to be circumcised because we are all in faith together.  I will agree all are in faith together, yet I will also contend as does Sha’ul that we do not nullify the Torah through faith.  Sha’ul says may it never be!  It is through faith that we establish the Torah.

One can perform the works of Torah with and without faith.  The Torah is spiritual (Romans 7:14), so if you are following it through your own efforts it is meaningless and yoke I would not want to bear.  If, through Yeshua, we have faith then we can overcome this fleshly desire to sin and follow G-d in His commandments.  Yeshua said His yoke was easy and His burden light.  1 John 5:3 tells us His commandments are not burdensome for those who have faith.  Moshe in His addressing the Israelites before they enter the Promise Land says “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.”  Why?  Because their hearts will be circumcised….emunah (faith/faithfulness).

Yeshua’s yoke is not any different than G-d’s.  Yeshua came to speak only what the Father told Him.  Why some believe Yeshua came to speak a different message I don’t know.  May HaShem give them wisdom and to see the truth!  The truth…I have a whole drash on that as well.  Maybe soon.

Until next time…kadosh, kadosh, kadosh is HaShem!

What Is The Advantage Of The Jew?

Starting in Romans 1:18, Paul discusses the gentile and how they have no excuse and will be judged by the Torah.  In Romans 2:12 through near the end Paul is telling the Jew their physical election of being a Jew nor their physical circumcision is nothing without circumcision of the heart and they will be judged according to the Torah.  Next we find out who is a Jew, at least according to Paul.  Paul then goes into the benefit of the Jew.

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?  Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of G-d.  What if some were unfaithful?  Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of G-d?  May it never be! Rather, let G-d be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written,

That You may be justified in Your words,
And prevail when You are judged.”     Romans 3:1-4

So being a Jew, being circumcised has an advantage.  Why?  They were given the oracles of G-d.  What are the oracles of G-d?  The Torah!  The Torah was given to the them.  Why is this an advantage?  Think about what was the topic of Romans 1:18 through the end of chapter 2.  The Torah and being held to the standards of Torah whether you knew the Torah or not.  Remember Romans 2:12 – For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.  So why the advantage?  The Jews have the Torah…they know what will be used to judge them.  Even if the Jew is unfaithful to the Torah it does not nullify the faithfulness of G-d to go through with what He said He would do.

Thus, Paul then quotes King David in Psalm 51:4.  Words and judgement both refer to the Torah.  G-d’s faifhfulness means that He will always act according to His Word, which here means Torah or commandments.  He will always do what He says He will do.  Why?  Because He is faithful.

Wow, may you be blessed by HaShem’s word and truth!

Until next time…kadosh, kadosh, kadosh is HaShem!

Who Is A Jew?

Who is a Jew?  Another way to ask the question is who are the elect or who is a child of G-d?  Paul makes it very clear who is a Jew at the end of Romans 2.  Why is this important?  Why is Paul making this claim in Romans?  We do not know for sure.  We only have Paul’s response to whatever the issue(s) were.  We can make an educated guess based on the letter though.

For 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 G-d. Romans 2:28-29

We have already gone through the previous verses in Romans 2 and seen from verse 12 through now that Paul was basically speaking to the Jews in this congregation.  Previously, in Romans 1 through verse 12 in chapter 2, Pauls address’ the gentiles.  Paul’s argument is about following Torah.  Whether you have it and follow it or don’t have it, but still do what is in the Torah, it does not matter.  The Torah must be on their hearts.  Paul was telling the Jews that they cannot depend on their birth, physically being a Jew, or on their external signs, circumcision.  He tells them their external circumcision can become uncircumcision in the sight of G-d if their heart is not circumcised.

Now Paul goes into who is a Jew and says the same thing he has been saying throughout this chapter.  One is a Jew, not by flesh, but by heart.  If you are uncircumcised in the heart your election does not matter.

Just to make sure that you are aware, the circumcision of the heart is nothing new.  Moshe and Jeremiah both told the people they must be circumcised in the heart.  Right after the rewriting of the tablets Moshe says:

 So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. Deut 10:16.

Near the end of Moshe’s life he tells them again:

Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. Deut 30:6

Right after this in verse 8 he tells them they will again obey the Lord and all His commandments.

Jeremiah is a little more descriptive…

“Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, And remove the foreskins of your heart, Jeremiah 4:4

So you can see that circumcision of the heart is nothing new and has always been taught.  It is with this circumcision of the heart that one becomes a member of the household, a child of G-d’s.

Paul’s focus is not whether one should be physically circumcised.  His intent is to show that one must become circumcised in the heart to receive salvation.  Following the commandments without the internal circumcision will benefit you none.

Until next time….kadosh, kadosh, kadosh is HaShem!

Reliance On The External Sign

Paul continues in Romans 2, to challenging those who believe they can depend on who they are or what they have done for salvation.  The last couple of posts we looked at where Paul challenged those Jews who were relying on being Jews for their salvation.  Now Paul is showing you cannot depend on your actions either…

For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice Torah; but if you are a transgressor of Torah, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.  So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of Torah, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?  And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Torah, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Torah and circumcision are a transgressor of the Torah?  Romans 2:25-27

Paul stresses just as possession of the Torah is not enough, neither is circumcision enough if you do not obey Torah.  Again, I want to stress that Paul is not saying you have to keep the Torah for salvation.  No, Paul is merely repeating the basic premise of what he said in verses 14:15 – For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.

Paul is not arguing if circumcision is necessary or unnecessary.  He is arguing that just as possession of the Torah does not give you any special privileges neither does an external sign of the covenant.  If you want the blessings of the Torah then follow Torah.

Now that we know that possessing the Torah nor external signs of the Torah matter not if you are not following the Torah, next we will find out who is a Jew.

Until next time…kadosh, kadosh, kadosh is HaShem!

A New Creation

A couple of weeks ago we finished Galatians 5 and now we are ready for chapter 6.  Chapter 6 is a short chapter with only one disputed passage in it.  You might be able to guess, based on the rest of Galatians what it is about…circumcision.  Yes, again.  We have taken a look at what Paul is saying in the various other chapters of Galatians and this time is no different.

See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.  Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh.  But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Yeshua, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.   Galatians 6:11-15

Clearly, Paul is teaching that circumcision is not required for salvation.  I 100% agree!  Some though will use this passage to state that you should not become circumcised even in obedience to G-d.  In my opinion, Paul emphasizes his large writing to emphasize the importance of this topic.  There were those who were pushing salvation by adherence to the Torah…starting off with circumcision.  Yet, this group did not keep the Torah themselves.  Paul then states whether you are circumcised or not what matters is to become a new creation.  We become a new creation once we are circumcised in the heart.  We then and only then can walk the Torah out in obedience.  Trying to perform Torah without G-d is a heavy burden.  Loving others without G-d is difficult.  Our father Avraham followed the same process.  He believed first, then obeyed.  The Israelites were first redeemed from Egypt then given the Torah.  Without a true circumcision of the heart nothing else matters.

All throughout Galatians Paul was stressing having emunah (faith).  Others were stressing performing works in order to be saved.  I believe I have shown in discussing the other chapters of Galatians that Paul stresses salvation first then obedience.  Paul has not forgotten nor dismissed the Torah.  He was Torah obedient his entire life according to his own testimony in Acts.  He had Timothy circumcised.  If circumcision was truly nothing, then why have someone circumcised?

One can read a lot into Galatians.  It is a difficult book, the most difficult book in the Brit Chadasha (New Testament) in my opinion.  If one would just take a step back and look at the author, look at his life, look at what all he really said then Galatians becomes a little easier to understand.

With that we are finished with Galatians!  Up next….Romans.

Until next time….kadosh, kadosh, kadosh is Hashem!

Circumcision and the Law

Is the sign of the Avraham Covenant important?  The sign of circumcision.  Avraham is told at 99 years of age to become circumcised as a sign of the covenant with G-d.  He is told this covenant is between Me and you and your descendants.  All his servants were also to be circumcised.  Many Christians believe they are a spiritual descendants of Avraham based on Galatians 3:28-29.  So one must ask is circumcision important?  In Galatians 5, circumcision comes up again.  Remember circumcision was an issue in Galatians 2, which I address here, and was the subject of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.  Circumcision is a sign that one belongs to the covenant of promise with G-d.  Let’s look at what Paul is telling us now.

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.  For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. Galatians 5:2-6

Verses 2 & 3 have been used for many years to state that one should not become circumcised for if you do you are under obligation to keep the whole law.  That is you have to keep it perfectly.  If not, you have been severed from Christ and He is of no benefit to you.  Wow.  Just reading those two verses alone, I would agree that circumcision seems to have passed by the way side.  But, I have to take all of Scripture and view these verses in context.  Did Avraham have to be circumcised to receive salvation?  No.  He had emunah (faith) and then was circumcised.  Why?  G-d said it was the sign of the covenant between them and future generations.  So just like Avraham, you must have emunah first.  For if you think getting circumcised does anything for you then you are sadly mistaken.  If you believe that verses 2 & 3 say not to get circumcised then an issue arises when Timothy gets circumcised and Paul is right there with him.

Paul clears up the message if one would continue reading and not form their thoughts before reading the whole passage.  Verse 4 tells us this is for those seeking to be justified by the law.  In other words, receive salvation by works.  Paul has stated this throughout this epistle.  Salvation is not by works, but by having emunah.  Circumcision of the flesh is a sign of the circumcision of the heart.  Throughout Scripture David, the Prophets, and Yeshua all were saying repent of the heart, come back to Him.  You can make sacrifices all day, but if you heart is not right it does not matter.  You can give all the money you want, but if your heart is not in the right place it does matter.   This is what Paul is saying in v6, circumcision does not mean anything towards salvation.  If you do not have emunah, whatever you do does not matter.

We must remember to read the entire passage.  Sometimes this means reading a few verses, sometimes a previous chapter or two, or sometimes going back into the Tanak to obtain the proper perspective.  We must always have the Torah as our foundation and all other writings are pointing back to the Torah.

Now, I ask you again, is the sign still important?

Until next time…kadosh, kadosh, kadosh is HaShem!

Galatians 2:3 – Is Circumcision Required?

Wow, it has been a while since I posted on this series of problem verses.  Next we are going to get into Galatians.  This is a problematic book in that a lot of people use many of the verses out of context.  The point Paul is stressing in this entire book is salvation comes by grace and not through works of the law.  Yet, many want to say that Paul throws out Torah.  If Paul threw out Torah then why was he taking a Nazarite vow in Acts 21, which includes sacrificing animals?  Why when he defended himself in Acts 23-25 did he state he followed Torah, he was a Pharisee?  Hmmm, things to consider.

On to Galatians.  Most do not bring up anything in chapter 1 so let’s move on and revisit if we need to unless someone brings it up.  V3. begins our first confusing statement.

v3 – But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.

Everyone automatically assumes, this means we do not have to obey Torah and get circumcised.  That is not what the text says though.  He was not compelled to do it. Compelled means driven or forced into action.  Who was trying to force Titus to be circumcised?  We are told in the next verse.

v4 – But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage.

Some came in wanting to put them in bondage.  Ok.  What is the first thing you thought of when the passage says “bring us into bondage”?  Come on now, admit it.  You thought of Torah or law.  Is that how the disciples or King David thought of Torah?  Let’s see:

Psalms 119:45 – And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.

James 1:25 – But one who looks intently at the perfect LAW, the LAW of LIBERTY, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.

Reread what James says.  Perfect law, law of liberty.  If you abide by it….be an effectual doer, then you will be blessed.  This does not sound like bondage to me.

1 John 5:3 – For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

First James now John?  John tells us His commandments are not burdensome. I know, we were always told that following the commandments are burdensome and bondage.

Did Paul have anything good to say about the Torah or commandments?  Sure he did….Romans 7:12 – So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

If the Law (Torah) is holy, the commandments are holy righteous and good, shouldn’t we do them?

I am not going to list everything King David said b/c it would be long.  But here are a few things from Psalm 119…ways are blameless if you walk in the ways of the Lord, I shall delight in your statutes, make me walk in the path of your commandments for I delight in it.

I want to be like King David, as you know was called a man after G-d’s own heart.

I digress, but you get the picture.  The Torah, the commandments are not burdensome.  Scripture tells us over and over again.

Back to v4.  What were false brethren doing to bring them in bondage?  They were trying to get those in Galatia to submit to the Torah for salvation.  They were saying you must be circumcised to be saved.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Our father Avraham was brought into covenant with G-d 24 years before he was circumcised.  While circumcision of the flesh is a commandment, one needs to be circumcised in the heart before you are saved.  If you are not circumcised at the heart, following the commandments (unless perfect) will not do you any good.  So Titus did not need to become circumcised to be in covenant with G-d (what you might call saved).  As the Acts 15:21 meeting said, start out with these 4 things and the rest you will hear each Sabbath when the Torah is read.  Meaning the rest will come in time.

What do you think?  I hope this helps you or at least intrigues you.  Tell me what you think!

Until next time kadosh, kadosh, kadosh, is HaShem!

Acts 15 – Does James Really Say….?

Acts 15.  This is a hotly debated chapter of Acts.  Many believe this chapter shows the Torah is no longer binding.  Many believe they only have to do the four things stated in v20.  Yet, there is a lot missing in those four things, namely love.  Most believers who know something about this chapter also conveniently do not mention v21.  So let’s take a look into what is going on.  Also, this passage does have to do with food, which is why I chose it next.

v1 – Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Some were teaching you cannot be saved unless you are circumcised.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Judaism does not teach this.  Judaism is not about works salvation.  While some may believe this, it does not make it true.

On the next couple of verses, it speaks of the debate among them and Paul and Barnabas going to Jerusalem.  We know they were coming from the Galatia area from the epistle of Galatians.

v5 – But some of the sect of the Pharisees who had believed stood up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to direct them to observe the Law of Moses.”

A couple of things about this verse.  One, notice it is a sect of the Pharisees and not all of them.  Since the collection of Pharisees belonged to several different schools they would have believed differently.  Second, this is a continuation from verse 1.  These Pharisees are saying in order for the gentiles to be saved it is necessary to circumcise and to observe the Law.  It is the same argument and the same with whom Paul and Barnabas were debating back in Galatia.  Circumcision had become a conversion ritual by the Pharisees just as baptism is often misused today as a means of joining a particular church.  This sect of Pharisees wanted to make these gentiles proselyte’s.  Yeshua warned them in Matthew 23:15 – “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”  This sect of Pharisees were heaping not just the Torah, but all these other rules/commandments on them called fences.  These fences were built to protect people from violating Torah.  The unfortunate thing is they started following more the fences and not the Torah.  They were requiring people to follow the fences, raising the fences above Torah.  So when the term Law of Moses is mentioned above, I do not believe Luke meant Torah.  In few verses I will show you why.

In the next few verses there is a debate and then Peter gets up to speak.

v10 – Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?

Many believe Peter is speaking about the Torah when he says by placing on the neck a yoke no one has been able to bear.  As we just finished discussing the yoke is not Torah.  We are told in 1 John 5:3 that His commandments are not burdensome.  The yoke is the extra rules this sect of Pharisees were requiring.  Yeshua said this in Matthew 23:2-4 – “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”

After this James gets up to speak.  He quotes verses from the Tanak and then provides the 4 things (I say 5) the gentiles should abstain from.  They are:
1.  things contaminated by idols
2.  fornication
3.  things strangled
4.  from blood
5.  ?

Before I provide the 5th item, let’s get into the 4 items.

The first 2 items are interesting, b/c they are 2 issues that are held against 2 of the assemblies in Revelation 2:14 & 20.  Things contaminated by idols means anything associated with idols including food.  For instance, we you go to certain Asian restaurants and you see a little statue with food at it, all the food served that day has been dedicated to that god and we are forbidden to eat at that restaurant.

Fornication.  Many believe this has to do with sexual sins, but I do not think so.  It being placed next to things contaminated by idols is a clue.  The word in Greek is porneia can also mean associating pagan items with the things of G-d.  This was an issue with the Galatians, for Paul warned them in Galatians 4:9-11 – 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?  You observe days and months and seasons and years.  I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.

Things strangled and from blood.  Improperly killed animals.  The Greek word used is pniktos and means an animal deprived of life without the shedding of blood.  The Torah says we shall not eat blood (Deut 15:23 & Lev. 17:10).  Yet many will eat meat not properly killed and blood is all in the meat.  Some even go out of there way to eat “bloody sausage” and things like it.

Please notice these 4 items do not tell us to love G-d, our neighbor, we should not murder, etc.  this means this list was not meant to be complete.  Since loving G-d is the greatest commandment. These 4 prohibitions are things the gentiles were coming from and needed to be addressed as they came to worship the true G-d.  The gentiles could not be bringing these pagan practices into the synagogue.

The next verse is the 5th item.  v21- For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

Do you see it?  The Sabbath.  The 4 prohibitions was the beginning of having a relationship with G-d.  The rest of the Torah will be heard as they attend the synagogue each Sabbath.  In case you did not know, a portion of the Torah is read every Sabbath in every synagogue across the world.  A majority (if not all) of them read the exact same passage across the world on the very same day.   James was not saying they only have to do these 4 things.  No. That does not even make sense.  They start by removing these pagan practices out of there lives and the rest they will hear and start following throughout the year.

If, James and the other leaders, proposed doing away with the Torah, there would have been an uproar of major proportions.  The whole city would have went mad.  Yet, there is nothing said about this.  Also, Paul would not have taken the Nazarite Vow in Acts 21 to prove that he still followed and taught Torah.

After going through Acts 15, do you really think it is saying no circumcision?  Do you really think it is saying you do not have to follow Torah?

Next time, we will dig into didn’t Paul say we could eat foods sacrificed to idols and declare all foods clean.

Do you disagree with anything written above?  Do you agree?  If you believe differently, stand up and discuss.