Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Financial Support of Gospel-Ministers

How should ministers of the Gospel be supported financially?

Paul said the Lord ordained that those who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel. 

As a general rule, a minister's support should come from the people to whom he is ministering at the time - just like a tradesman has the right to be paid by the person for whom he has done some trades work: he wouldn't ordinarily expect to be paid from any different source.

The Law of Moses also illustrated that principle (illustrated by the Law which stated that the ox that treads the corn should not be muzzled; and by the Law which instituted that a portion of the meats offered on the altar should be for the priests who serve around the altar to eat). 

So a pastor can expect to be supported by his church, because he's serving his church. 

An Apostle, prophet, evangelist or teacher may also accept support from the local church in which he is ministering, while he is ministering in it. 

A prophet's support sometimes comes from extraordinary sources too - and sometimes supernatural sources -  because a prophet is often sent on extraordinary errands to people who might not support him financially. 

Any minister can also accept support from a different source besides the group he is ministering to at the time. Paul mentioned a church's partnership in the Gospel with him. He mentioned giving and receiving from a church. He accepted it joyfully. However all such offerings were accepted as a gracious gift, not as a right to expect. In fact, Paul described accepting such offerings in this way, "...I robbed other churches to do you service".

It wasn't literally robbery, for the givers had offered it voluntarily. Paul was merely pointing out that the church he had been ministering in at the time were really the ones whose duty it was to support him while he had been there, it wasn't some other church's duty.

Aside from supporting a minister while he was ministering to them, churches did well to also pay a minister's needs and travel to his next location. Not support him the whole time he's in his next location - but support him enough to get there comfortably.

Sometimes Paul even worked to support himself and his team, rather than accept support from the people he was ministering amongst. But he said he would have been within his rights to forego working and to accept support. It was just that he wanted to go beyond the call of duty, so as to further enhance the acceptability of his message.


1. Step out with assurance that it's okay...
2. ...for you to accept support offered by the people amongst whom you shall be ministering...
3. ...once you get there...
4. ...and for as long as you are still ministering there.
5. When the time comes to leave, if they offer you something to help you arrive comfortably at your next ministry-destination, good.
6. While you're still there you may also accept voluntary partnership and gifts from others elsewhere.
7. Should the need arise, you might receive extraordinary and even supernatural support which God Himself may arrange...
8. ...but if not, you know that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, whether that means being hungry or full.
9. Sometimes it may be possible for you to be self-supporting through doing non-ministry work while also fulfilling your ministry-work, but even when it is possible it is not a requirement that you do so. You have the right to be supported from your ministry-work.

Daniel's Four Kings

Daniel saw a vision of four kings. If the fourth is yet to come, it would be curious that no mention was made of the intervening rulers over the land of Israel: such as the Byzantine rule, the Crusader and Ayyubib rule, the Mamluk rule, Napoleon's rule, the Ottoman rule and the British rule.

But if the fourth king followed the third king without a gap, then Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy all happened consecutively without needing to add an unnatural gap of thousands of years between the first and second half of the final week as some do.

The Messiah indeed came at the time of the fourth king (during Roman rule over the land of Israel), after the 69th week, as prophesied by Daniel.

Knowing Daniel's prophecy, Jesus was able to preach saying, "The time is fulfilled..."

He expected the Jewish leaders to be able to discern the time too, and rebuked them for failing to do so.

And Messiah was cut off, but not for Himself, just as Daniel prophesied.

Daniel was also shown that the sacrifice and oblation would be ended, and that the people of the prince who was to come would destroy the Temple and city. The causes that led to these events all happened within 70 weeks.

But Daniel was not given a timeframe for anything that would happen after that. He was told only that many would be converted to righteousness; and that after it's all said and done, he himself shall be resurrected to his inheritance.

This is the Gospel which John the Baptist, the Lord Jesus and the Apostles announced and which is still being preached all over the world. And then the end shall come.

If the fourth king is yet to come, and if the second coming is meant to happen while the fourth king is reigning, and if that is all meant to take place within a three-and-a-half year period (if the final half of the final week of Daniel's 70 weeks is still in the future) then we would be able to calculate when the second coming is going to happen.

But of that day, Jesus said no-one knows, neither Daniel, nor the angel who had been revealing things to Daniel, nor even the Son of Man - only the Father in heaven knows.

It is therefore likely that the prophecies about the fourth king and the 70th week were both fulfilled without a gap of thousands of years.

This interpretation proves Jesus to be the Messiah, for He came at the appointed time. 

The Higher Purpose of Old Testament Scripture

God had a higher purpose for writing Old Testament Scripture. It was for our learning.

Whose learning? We upon whom the end of the age has come.

For our what? Our learning. Not for us to literally do - but for us to learn from what was done.

It confirms our faith in Christ.

The Law Was Temporary

Ezekiel 20:5-32

Moses' Law was almost like an after-thought. Of course nothing is really an after-thought to God Who knows the end from the beginning.

But Moses' Law did not exist when the promises were given to Abraham. The promise was that in Abraham's seed (singular, which is Christ) all nations (without distinction between Jew and Gentile) would be blessed (justified).

The captivity in Egypt was a dark interlude that had nothing to do with the promise. While in Egypt, Moses' Law did not exist.

When God chose the seed of Jacob while they were in Egypt, He still did not give them the Law - He only asked them to put away the idols of Egypt. But they disobeyed. Therefore God was ready to destroy them even in the midst of Egypt. God could have destroyed them without breaking the meaning of His promise to Abraham.

Instead of destroying them in the midst of Egypt, He brought them out into the wilderness, and gave them the Law. The Law was not given for the righteous, but for the unrighteous (I Timothy 20:1:9). It was given to them as an alternative to destroying them in the midst of Egypt.

The Law had relevance only to the seed of Jacob that was chosen in Egypt and spared judgment for their idolatry. It doesn't have relevance to anyone for whom the deliverance from Egypt and the rebellion that accompanied it does not have relevance.

The Law was a works-covenant. If you do, you shall live (verses 11,13,21). But Israel could not do.

God gave them sabbaths, plural. The Law of the sabbaths was about all the sabbaths, not just one. Therefore if anyone today is not keeping all the sabbaths, he's not keeping Moses' Law.

The sabbaths were a sign of their relationship to God. In the New Covenant we instead have the seal of the Spirit, the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption. Therefore the need to observe the sabbaths (plural) is eclipsed by the New Covenant. Observing the sabbaths was peculiarly for that rebellious house, spared from judgment, brought up from Egypt.

They rebelled against His Law to the point of being led again into captivity.

God promised to bring the obedient back into the land, which happened soon afterwards. But we know their seed soon became rebellious again.

They filled up the measure of their fathers' iniquity. All things ended-up being required of the generation that rejected the Son. And so it came to pass.

Nevertheless the seed are beloved for the fathers' sakes.

But see that the Law was not part of God's original relationship, nor part of God's ultimate relationship, with His promised people. It was a temporary inclusion, and relevant only to a select group, a group which could have been destroyed - but God gave them the Law instead.

The Law was never going to achieve in men's hearts what men's hearts needed. But the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. The Law allowed the exceeding sinfulness of sin to appear. But the New Covenant gives us a new heart and causes us to keep His law. Not Moses' Law - but God's law. God's law is not always Moses' Law, in Scripture (for example, the law written in the hearts of the Gentiles, not having the Law, was not Moses' Law, but God's law nonetheless. So also we have the Law of Christ.)

Moses' Law is not intended to part of God's relationship with the people of His promise - Christians - whether Jew or Gentile.

(Then in verses 33-44, God promises to restore them to the land again from captivity - which was fulfilled soon afterwards. The same principle of excluding the good from the bad is seen in the New Covenant, in Luke 13:27).

The promise is to those who believe. The Law was only for those who were spared after they came out from Egypt.

The Council at Jerusalem

The council at Jerusalem wrote to the Gentile churches, telling them to avoid blood, food offered to idols, things strangled and fornication.

Beyond this they decided to put no other burden on them.

"Why should we put a burden on them which neither we nor our fathers were able to keep," said the Jewish Christians.

What burden was that? Moses' Law. Not the extra traditions of the elders. But Moses' Law.

Some say they decided not to write to the Gentile believers that they should keep Moses' Law only because Moses' Law was already read weekly. They assume that the Jews still intended the Gentiles to keep Moses' Law.

But when Paul went to Jerusalem, before being deported to Rome, the Jewish Christians clarified what they'd meant. After talking about Moses' Law, they said they had decided to require no such thing of the Gentiles. That's pretty clear. They didn't require the Gentiles to keep Moses' Law. The only thing they had required of the Gentiles was those four things.

But it's obvious that there was an effort being made by Jewish Christians in Jerusalem not to offend the Jews' expectation that Jews should be keeping Moses' Law. They didn't expect it of Gentile believers however. Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were zealous of the law, in fact.

Paul himself even acted like someone under the Law, in order to win someone under the Law.  But he also was willing to act as someone not under the Law in order to win those not under the Law - but he was able to do so without himself breaking Moses' Law.

But Paul taught that the Law was about to vanish away.

Jesus had implied that it would, when He said that true worshippers would no longer worship in Jerusalem but in spirit and in truth. And when He said, "This is the new testament in my blood..."

And it did. After the Temple was destroyed, and the Levitical records lost, it was no longer possible even for Jews, to keep Moses' Law.

This fulfilled prophecy, for example Daniel's prophecy.

Christians today - neither Jews nor Gentiles - don't have to keep Moses' Law.

Did Paul Keep the Law?

Paul was able to live the Christian life without breaking Moses' Law, without offending Gentiles and without breaking Roman law.

And he encouraged all believers to avoid needlessly offending anyone.

The Jews didn't really expect Gentiles to keep Moses' Law.

The Church didn't expect Gentiles to keep Moses' Law either.

But Paul himself, being a Jew, didn't break Moses' Law.

He became all things to all men, that he might win some.

He became as under the law to those who were under the Law, and as without law to those who were without the Law.

He believed that the Levitical priesthood and everything related to it, was passing away.

And it did pass away.

Jesus had implied that it would, when He said that the true worshippers would no longer worship in Jerusalem, but in spirit and in truth.

So although Paul didn't offend against Moses' Law, he didn't expect Gentile believers to keep it, and he also foresaw a time when even Jews would no longer keep it.

And today no Jews keep Moses' Law.

It's impossible to today, since the destruction of the Temple and of the Levitical records.

Modern Judaism is not Moses' Law.  It's a poor substitute for it, seeing the Jews did not embrace what the Law promised, which is Christ.

Modern Jews and Gentiles can't and don't need to keep the Law.

But we can still try not to offend modern Jewish customs and laws, just like we can try not to needlessly offend any Gentile nation's customs and laws - so that by any means we might win some.

But keeping modern Jewish customs and laws is not the same as keeping Moses' Law, no matter how much it looks like Moses' Law.

Monday, 30 December 2013

No Plan B for Israel

God doesn't have a Plan B up His sleeve for Israel, after the Gospel.

His plan for Israel is the Gospel.

Take it or leave it.

Blessing or consequences to follow.


Christ is All and in All

The Mosaic calendar was Jerusalem-centric. It can't be observed in the southern hemisphere.

Their beginning of the year was in spring. It commemorated the Hebrew's deliverance from Egypt.

For us in the southern hemisphere, it would be autumn at that time.

Their feasts of harvest would for us not be harvest time at all.

That's one reason why Jerusalem was the exclusive place of worship for all nations in those days.

But Jesus came for all nations.

That's one reason why He said the time has come when we would no longer worship in Jerusalem, but in spirit and in truth.

He fulfilled the feasts.

His resurrection created one new man in Christ Jesus where there is no longer any distinction between one place and another, between Jew and Gentile, male and female, bond and free, between any calendar days, and between any foods.

Christ is all and in all.

Worship God in spirit and in truth - you don't need to add any external observances to your worship in order to be fully acceptable to God.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Putting Zechariah in Perspective

Zechariah 14:1-3 was probably fulfilled around about the time of Israel's carrying away into Babylon and its return to the land of Israel.

4-11 is probably largely symbolic, and was probably fulfilled before Christ. The language was dramatic because it needed to be - Israel had long been in captivity in Babylon and needed great courage to return to the land of Israel.

12-15 was probably fulfilled before Christ.

16-21 was fulfilled during the Old Covenant, before Christ.

Christ as the Prophesied David

Ezekiel 34:11-31 was fulfilled before Christ. Then Christ the son of David was sent and became king among them. He confirmed the covenant with them. It's not that that part of the promise failed, but the remnant has obtained it.

The re-etablishment of the State of Israel in 1948 can't be directly explained by this Scripture, unless accompanied with some disclaimer or further explanation:

Firstly, because all modern Israelis are not Jesus' sheep, and the prophecy said that it would be only God's sheep whom He would regather into the land (verse 12).

Secondly, because the regathering was to take place before Christ came (verse 23).

It's our experience now in our spirit as believers. And it shall be openly at His coming and kingdom.

Prophecy Confirms our Faith

Jesus confirmed that Elias had to come before the Saviour, and then He said that John was the fulfilment of that prophecy (Matthew 17:10-12).

Similarly, Christ was the fulfilment of the prophecy that David their king would again rule over them.

Jesus' explanation places the fulfilment of the prophecy not in Israel's future but in His own generation.

The fulfilled prophecy now serves not to inform our distant future but to confirm our present faith.

Correctly Applying the Old Testament

Things written in the Old Testament were written for our learning - not for prophesying our future (Romans 15:4).

The direct historical fulfilment of the Old Testament has by-and-large already come to pass. But we can still learn ethical lessons and still draw encouragement from that.

The correct use of the Old Testament assures our Christian faith. It isn't meant to be a basis for mixing Judaism with Christianity either in our present or in our eschatological forecast.

It shows that the message of Jesus, of the cross, of the grace of God, is it. It reassures our confidence and our outlook.

Fulfilled Prophecy

The promises in Zechariah 8 were fulfilled soon after they were spoken.

This is known for three reasons: the text itself, the rest of Scripture, and history.

Verses 9, 15, 23 mention "these days" and "those days". The promises were designed to encourage immediate action by an immediate audience for an almost immediate outcome.

Furthermore, the terminology includes things which were relevant only under the Old Covenant. Going to Jerusalem to worship is mentioned (verses 20-23). But Jesus said that would not be the manner nor the place of worship under the New Covenant (John 4:21). Therefore the promises must have been fulfilled during Old Covenant times.

History records that Jerusalem was indeed settled again, after the Babylonian captivity.

It would therefore be inadequate to explain current events or future events or current or future requirements of Christians or of Jews on the basis of this chapter - unless we accompany it with some disclaimer and further explanation.

All Scripture is written for our learning, upon whom the ends of the world are come. But even though the ethics of fulfilled prophecy may be applied more broadly, still the direct historical fulfilment and purpose of much of Old Testament prophecy has already been fulfilled. There's a difference between the direct historical fulfilment and the broader ethical application of Old Testament Scripture.

If we don't understand this difference, we'll come up with wrong predictions about the future, wrong explanations of the present, and wrong ideas about what Christians should now be doing or of what Israel should be doing in the future.

But if we navigate Bible prophecy properly, it will equip our faith with the greatest assurances that Christ is all in all.

Through Jesus

Through faith in Jesus Christ and the working of the Spirit of Christ in hearts, God has multiplied the nation of them that believe, and they rejoice before Him like those rejoicing in harvest. (Isaiah 9)

Spiritually, bodily, economically, and in hope of the resurrection. 

The prophecy is best fulfilled through Christ in the Church. 

And I saw the effects of it today in Muli Muli.

Friday, 27 December 2013

What Were The Signs of the Times?

Jesus said the Jewish leaders ought to have been able to discern the signs of the times.

That was in the first century.

The signs already existed in the first century.

The times to which Jesus referred included His own time - in the first century.

One of the signs was Daniel's prophecy about the 70 weeks.

Discern This Time

Jesus said the Jewish teachers ought to have been able to discern "this time".

They ought to have been able to discern it based on the prophecy of Daniel’s 70 weeks.

Restoration of David's Tabernacle

"Restoring the house of David and raising up his fallen tents" was a prophecy that was sufficiently fulfilled in Christ the Son of David. All who are in Christ - including Gentiles - are part of the house of David. And Christ sat upon the throne of David. Therefore through the Church, David's house and fallen tents have been built up.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

The Lord's Table Fulfilled the Passover

"This do as often as ye drink it".

It = not the Passover cup but the fruit of the vine.

As often = not on a set Feast day.

Ye = inclusive, without distinction

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

New Testament Interpretation of Old Testament Prophecy

A good exercise to do is to look at every Old Testament verse of Scripture which the Apostles quote in the New Testament. Take note of how the Apostles applied the verse. Then consider the verses around it in that light.

I find that many passages which are often today thought to be about end-times, were actually shown to be about Christ. I see the Apostles using such passages not to make a point about the end-times, but to explain Gospel truths which were already relevant in the first century.

The Apostolic interpretation of Old Testament Scripture supports the Gospel they preached that Christ fulfilled prophecy and vision and promise, that the Law of Moses was annulled, and that the Church's  task now is to continue preaching the Gospel among all nations - and then the end shall come.

The Apostles, rather than awaiting a future fulfilment of many such prophetic passages in Israel in the end-times, seem instead to explain the manner in which such passages had already found their fulfilment through Christ and the Gospel and the Church.

This is a different way of applying such Scriptures to the way many modern so-called Jewish-roots believers and end-times teachers are applying them. And it's an important difference - just as a different diet is going to be felt in the body after a while.

But you can come to your own conclusions as you do this exercise yourself.

Monday, 23 December 2013

All Meats Are Clean

Nothing (no food) is unclean of itself.

It's only unclean if you think it's unclean.

Food that has been declared to have been offered to an idol should be refused, not for our own conscience' sake (for an idol is nothing and cannot make food unclean) - but in order not to offend the weaker conscience of others who may see it.

We also shouldn't willingly participate in idolatrous rituals, including food. Because the overall activity really is tantamount to involvement with demons.

But if people know you didn't know, then it can't hurt their conscience. That's why it's better not to ask questions about food sometimes - not for our own sake, but for the sake of the weaker consciences of others who may be offended if they see us eating food which they know had been offered to idols.

But we know the food itself is not unclean in and of itself.

When God created animals, it was all good. Nothing was unclean.

After the fall, some animals came to be recognised as unclean.

But not unclean in the sense that they were unsuitable or forbidden to be eaten - for after the flood God gave to them everything that moves as food. Everything. That moves. Including the 'unclean' animals.

It was mainly for purposes of sacrifice to God that some meats were considered unsuitable.

Later when Moses gave the Law, in order to reinforce the ethic of distinguishing holy from spiritual unsuitability, Moses forbade Israel from even eating such meats - not because the meats were in and of themselves unsuitable for human consumption or sinful. It was just a further way of driving home a spiritual ethic - about holy v. profane.

But in the fulness of time, on the cross Christ removed our sins by becoming the sacrifice for our sins, making us holy. Therefore the goal of Moses' food laws is now fulfilled. Our consciences are cleared in the cross, not by obeying food prohibitions. The issue of distinguishing holy from unholy, and making and keeping ourselves holy, is resolved in Christ.

Therefore nothing is unsuitable for human consumption.

But although we're free to eat, eating might not serve a useful purpose - in the weaker consciences of others around us.

Some animals still seem hideous. Creation itself is affected by the fall, and awaits the redemption at the second coming.

However the sentence of their being unclean - either ceremonially or for human consumption - was nailed to the cross.

The need for bringing animal sacrifices is eliminated. And we can eat anything with a clear conscience.

The only remaining consideration is, How is my eating going to affect the weaker conscience of someone standing by.

So the rule is love. Seek to edify your brother. Do what's best for him not only for yourself.

North Head from Balmoral - Oil on Board

North Head, NSW
from Balmoral
oil on board

For Freedom

Gentile Christianity isn't an appendage of Judaism.

God planned Christianity before Moses gave the Law, before Israel ever was a nation.

Christianity is the promise God gave to Abraham. It's the plan God made before the world even began.

Moses' Law was only a temporary thing.

Zero distinction between Jew and Gentile is something God was always planning.

The kingdom of God is not in prohibitions of meat and drink, and observing calendars - it's righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Modern Judaism was never meant to be.

The whole world are meant to be Christians. 

Nothing less, nothing more, and nothing else - ever. 

So get with it - and enjoy!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Bible Timeline

--> Christ crucified before the foundation of the world - we are chosen in Him before the world began

              --> Creation

                        --> Fall
                               (Clean and unclean animals instinctively distinguished for ceremonial purposes)
                                   (Clean animals sometimes sacrificed)
                              --> Flood
                                     (All animals including unclean animals given for food)
                                         (Clean animals sometimes sacrificed)

--> Promise to Abraham of Christ saving all nations
                      --> Sign of circumcision to the earthly descendants of Abraham
                           (Sometimes sacrifices and tithing were done)

               --> Deliverance of Hebrews from Egypt
                         --> Moses gave the Law to the Hebrews
                                 (including the passover and other feasts, sabbaths, sacrifice)
                                 --> Joshua led them into a kind of rest in Canaan
                                    --> David spoke of a rest that still remained for God's people
                                       --> Prophets warned of 70 years captivity followed by restoration to the land

                                      --> Babylonian Captivity
                                                (Prophecies of rebuilt temple and regathered Israel)

                                           --> Four kingdoms:

                                           -->Head of gold kingdom
                                                     (Prophecy of 70 weeks)
                                            --> Chest and arms of silver kingdom
                                                      --> Decree to rebuild Temple
                                                                   (70 weeks prophetic period begins)
                                                                   (Prophecies of regathering and rebuilding fulfilled)
                                           --> Belly and Thighs kingdom
                                           --> Legs kingdom
                                                     (69th week - Christ)

--> The Promised Christ
              (In the fulness of time - when the time was fulfilled - when the time of the promise drew nigh -        
               in the 69th week)

              --> Christ cut off, but not for Himself
                              (New Covenant inaugurated - Moses' Law fulfilled)
                                              --> After the Day of Pentecost the Gospel preached exclusively in
                                                           (until Stephen's martyrdom, a great persecution arose, church
                                                           scattered, except the Apostles)
                                              --> Gospel expelled from Jerusalem - accepted instead by Samaria,
                                                    preached in Judaea and among the nations of the Gentiles
                                                   (no-one required to keep Moses' Law - Jew nor Gentile - sabbaths,
                                                   feasts, food laws, circumcision discontinued - neither Jew nor Gentile
                                                   in Christ - all one - the Gospel of the grace of God)
                                (Finish the transgression, make reconciliation for iniquity, bring in everlasting
                                righteousness, to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy,
                                make an end of sacrifice and oblation)
                                (70th week complete)

                                                         --> Consequently - after the signs of earthquakes, pestilence,
                                                               famine, antichrists, apostasy - Jerusalem besieged - abomination
                                                               causing desolation standing in the Holy Place of the Temple -
                                                               great tribulation - days of vengeance - days shortened for the
                                                               elect's sake - Jerusalem trodden under foot by Gentiles - city
                                                               and Temple destroyed - all things that were
                                                               written fulfilled - Jews deported around the world
                                                                       --> continuing signs of earthquakes, famines, pestilences,
                                                                            persecutions, and distress upon nations (including the
                                                                            eventual demise of the fourth kingdom - the feet
                                                                            kingdom - Rome

                                                                      --> Gospel continued to be preached among all nations  
                                                                                --> many purified, turned to righteousness
                                                                                     (nobody knows how long this period of time will 
                                                                                      last, only the Father in heaven)

           --> And then the end shall come
                        --> Resurrection
                              --> Eternal Judgment
                                   --> New heavens and earth

Friday, 20 December 2013

Must We Use Hebrew?

The original text of many of the Ruach ha Kodesh inspired Gospels and Epistles expressed the name of the Son of God in common Greek. The Ruach ha Kodesh didn't feel it was necessary to write His Name in Hebrew. 

Using Hebrew?

"The Common Greek was good enough for the Ruach ha 

Kodesh to use in writing the New Testament and I'm sure

English is acceptable to God today also. Using Hebrew

doesn't make you closer to God" - Michael Fackerell

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Understanding Jesus

Can Matthew 5:17-18 be used as a basis for insisting on keeping Jewish feasts, sabbaths and food laws?

With any Bible verse I try to ascertain: 

1) the intended meaning in the original setting, to the original audience; and 

2) any possible application to us today.

Often the two are not the same.

Like when I was a primary school student, my teacher told us to keep all the school rules. As a pupil, I had no doubt she meant every word of it literally!

Decades later I discovered my teacher on Facebook, and I messaged her thanking her for insisting that I follow the school rules wholeheartedly while I was a student. 

And you know - she never asked me whether I'm still keeping the school rules! 

Likewise Jesus meant every word of Matt.5:17-19 literally, to them at that time. It was an appropriate attitude towards the Law to expect from His Jewish audience at the time, none of them Gentiles, all still under Moses' Law, waiting for the New Covenant. 

But that wasn't intended to mean that they - nor we - would be required to keep all of Moses' laws into the New Covenant and for all time.

Jesus was also known to say the scheme of things was to change in the near future.

An Analogy On Matthew 5:18

A primary school gets a new teacher. The new teacher turns out to be quite easy-going with the pupils - not stroppy like other teachers. He's a real hit with the kids - they love him!

"But don't think I'm here to change the school rules. I'm doing the rules," he explains to his class one day. 

"If anyone has an attitude of breaking one of the rules," he continues, "I can assure you that attitude won't help him very much when he grows up and goes out into the real world..."

"...but anyone who develops the character trait of obeying all the school rules, I'm telling you - you'll end up going a long way in life one day!" 

Years later, after becoming a great success in life, one of the students comes and thanks his old school teacher, now retired, for having taught him to obey all the school rules when he was young. All of the lessons he'd learned at school had prepared him well for entering adult life.

It didn't mean the student was continuing to obey the school rules or program throughout his adult life. That was never his teacher's intention, even though his teacher had told him he must keep all the school rules - and meant every word of it literally at the time.

Many of the school rules, curriculum, tests, protocols, ceremonies, the school calendar, program, prohibited items, the required uniform, elected offices like prefects, out of bounds areas, even the school canteen menu, and the school's system of rewards or detentions - were suitable only for children, suitable only for students, and had relevance only inside the school campus, not to adult life. 

Plus by this time all the school buildings were eventually demolished, and the grounds were no longer in use as a school campus. So once the student became an adult, he understood that the time for keeping all of the old school rules was over. 

Obeying the school program was important to his education and development at the time - but continuing to keep the school rules into adult life was not what his teacher intended.

The teacher always knew the time would come when his students would reach adulthood and go out into the real world, and then they would no longer continue to keep the school rules. But until that time came, their teacher knew it was appropriate that he prepare his students by teaching them to follow the school program.

Before the student went to thank his old teacher, he'd noticed that many of his peers who had a habit during their school days of not handing in assignments, and breaking rules, ended up unprepared for the opportunities that came to them in adulthood and many of them still had not found their career even after so many years.

Furthermore, he read in the newspaper that many of the other teachers who'd always seemed so sullen while he was at school, had been found rorting the system. So they weren't offered any new position, after the old school campus was demolished.

Everything his teacher told him about the importance of keeping the school rules had literally come true. Just as he'd said, everyone who had a right attitude towards the school rules at the time - whether student or staff - was now doing well in life, either as a productive adult in the private sector, or as staff in a new educational system; meanwhile everyone who who broke the rules ended up in the unfulfilling predicament they're in today.

Although no-one was required to keep his old school's program anymore, he was really grateful that his teacher had taught him the importance of following his school's rules at the time.

Like the teacher in the analogy above who knew the child's time in school was only temporary preparation for adulthood, Jesus knew the New Covenant was near, and desired to prepare Israel to enter it. The appropriate way for Him to prepare the Jews at that time was to teach the right attitude towards the Covenant they had at the time, which was Moses' Law. And that's where Matt.5:18 came in. 

He refuted the idea that He came to disdain Moses' Law. He upheld it. In letter and in heart. But that didn't mean He was asserting that the Old Covenant - Moses' Law - would always be binding on everyone for all time.

Throughout His ministry He consistently and steadily unfolded the truth that a new covenant, a new day, was near. He inaugurated it a short time later on the cross, which also fulfilled the Law and the Prophets.

Neither was it intended to mean modern Jews are still obligated to keep the Law in some altered fashion, because that would change more than a mere jot or tittle.

He meant it literally to the Jews at that time. But He didn't mean you and I must do and teach Moses' laws.

What is Our Message

In Matthew 5:18 Jesus meant literally all of the Law. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. 

That's what His statement meant to His original intended audience: none of whom were Gentiles; all of whom were Jews; all of whom were under the Old Covenant; all of whom had obligations under Moses' Law; the New Covenant hadn't yet been inaugurated.

To them at that time it wouldn't have sounded like an unreasonable attitude to demand towards the Law seeing the altar, Temple, priesthood and Levitical genealogies were all in tact.

Jesus was explaining to both disciple and teachers alike that blatant disregard towards even just a single part of the Law was a prevalent attitude that wasn't going to get a person very far in the Kingdom of Heaven once it comes. He was asserting that His doctrine was not founded on insolence towards any part of the Law.

In understanding any Bible verse, the first consideration is: what did it mean to the original intended audience; and the second consideration is: how can that meaning be applied more broadly. Often it would be a mistake not to distinguish between the two.

Jesus' statement can't apply directly and literally to anyone today, because the altar, Temple and Levitical priesthood no longer exist. It would be a mistake to say that it does.

But it would also be a mistake to say that He didn't mean it literally to His original audience just because it can't apply literally to us today.

He meant it literally, for them. But we can still apply something of it, to ourselves today. But we have to be careful how we do that. 

In doing so, we must be guided by other statements Jesus made about the same topic, statements which were intended for us more directly in our time and situation. 

And He did make such statements. For example, He told the woman of Samaria that the time was coming and now was when the true worshippers would worship neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem (as Moses' Law had demanded) but would worship in spirit and in truth.

At the last passover, He declared that the feast was transitioning into a new covenant in His blood. And He encouraged His disciples to remember Him not on a set day as the passover had been remembered, but as often as they happened to share bread together.

At the cross He said, "It is finished". And the veil of the Temple was rent from top to bottom.

All of these statements of Jesus help to qualify the way in which Jesus' statement in Matt.5:18 can be applied to ourselves today. It wasn't intended to carry over to us literally.

We can also use the rest of the Word of God as a guide. For example, we can use the Law itself to know how the Law was meant to apply to us. In the Book of Genesis we see that God gave promise to Abraham that in his seed (singular, which is Christ) all nations would be blessed (justified, saved). Abraham believed it, and his faith was credited to him for righteousness before he was even circumcised. So the Law, which came later, wasn't a condition for the promised blessing. It was a temporary and limited inclusion.

The Law stated that the Lord God would raise up a Prophet to Israel like unto Moses.

The Psalms spoke of a true rest which was still to come to Israel, despite the fact they were already commemorating rest through their sabbath rules.

The Psalms also foresaw of the Melchisedek priesthood, an order of priesthood that had no place in Moses' Law.

The Prophets also spoke of a New Covenant coming. All of these things necessitated a change of the law.

So the Old Testament itself, not only Jesus' words, spoke of a time coming when Moses' Law would no longer apply directly and literally to us as a necessity.

So also does the rest of the New Testament. Jesus commissioned the Apostles to go into all the world, not only around Judaea, preaching the Gospel, teaching all nations (including Gentiles) to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded them.

The Apostles understood that this did not mean to go and teach all nations to observe Moses' Law. The Book of Acts shows incidences, and records sermons, where the Apostles as a matter of policy put no such burden on the churches. And they rejoiced for the reassurance.

The Epistles teach that we are free from Moses' Law.

So we have abundant witness that Jesus' words in Matt.5:18 don't apply directly and literally to anyone today. So how can we apply it? In many ways.

First, it shows God to be holy and inspires our worship of Him, because it authenticates Jesus and the Gospel and the New Covenant and the Scriptures, by showing that Jesus' doctrine and everything He achieved obeyed and fulfilled the Law and the Prophets completely.

Secondly, it reminds us of the importance of attitude. Whatever God's program is for us, we ought not to be insolent towards even a small part of it, but to embrace all of God's grace with a good and honest

Right and wrong are still consequential. It reminds us that if we yield to the Holy Spirit, and walk in love, we'll behave in a way which no point of the Law can condemn; or if we yield to the flesh, there'll be an opposite consequence. The Epistles don't encourage complete lawlessness, just not under Moses' Law as the complete, literal system that it was.

The Law can be consulted to teach ethical principles, spiritual realities. Those are some of the ways we can apply it.

But examples of mistaken ways of applying Matt.5:18 would include:

Thinking that Jesus didn't mean it literally, to His first audience;

Thinking that it applies literally to anyone today;

Thinking that modern Jews must still try to keep parts of the Law in a rehashed way;

Thinking that Gentiles must begin keeping parts of the Law in some rehashed way.

Each of the above is impossible - an oxymoron - and involves giving a meaning and scope to Jesus' statement that He didn't intend, as the immediate context, the wider context, and the rest of the Word of God shows, as already shown above.

The message which Jesus intended for His Apostles to carry, the message Jesus intended for the churches today whether Jew or Gentile, the message which is able to make our heart strong, the message which is able to build us up and give us an inheritance among those that are sanctified, the message that saved us, the message which we are taking to all nations, is the message of the grace of God, the message of the cross.

Monday, 16 December 2013

How Free Are We?

Some modern ways of keeping the Law, such as modern Judaism, and by Jewish-roots believers, though they don't try to literally follow the whole of Moses' Law, still I think fall short of the freedom which Paul asserted.

Matthew 5:18 can't be used as a basis for the belief that we must keep Moses' Law today, because Matthew 5:18 didn't allow for a non-literal adherence to the Law and yet Moses' Law can't be followed today except in a non-literal way.

If Jesus' statement in Matthew 5:18 meant that Jesus allowed for a non-literal adherence to Moses' Law, the Jewish rulers would have had something to accuse Him of. But despite their insistence on a literal adherence to Moses' Law, they had nothing to accuse Jesus of, either in word or in deed.

Jesus didn't mean, "For vaguely I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot and one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law unless of course you're considering the Law literally, till all be fulfilled, though of course much of the Law need be fulfilled only in this wise: only in some different way which you can figure out later how best to do". 

Had He allowed a non-literal adherence to Moses' Law, 
what further witness would His critics have needed against Him. They would have hauled Him off to the council or to the judgement a lot sooner than they did!

Had His statement in Matthew 5 allowed a non-literal adherence to Moses' Law, it couldn't have countered the misconception which He was addressing as effectively as it did - the misconception that His ministry was somehow in wilful ignorance of the Law, of the Old Testament Scriptures.

But the case is that His answer was understood in such a way that even His staunchest critics, who insisted on the most literal interpretation of the Law and the Prophets, were left unable to accuse Him.

In Matthew 5 Jesus asserted that His ministry and life was not in breach of the Law but in fact He was teaching, explaining, illustrating, doing, establishing and bringing to pass - perfectly - the literal and full meaning and purpose of the Law and the Prophets - the entirety of Old Testament Scripture - literally on every point.

Therefore He said:

"For VERILY I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, ONE jot and ONE tittle shall in NO WISE pass from the law, TILL ALL be fulfilled".

Literally. Not one jot. Nor tittle...


And He added that anyone who did break one of the least commandments and taught men so, would be called least in the kingdom of heaven.

It isn't possible to take Jesus' words as He intended them to be understood in that situation, and use it as a basis for modern Judaism or for modern Jewish-roots ways of keeping the Law. 


Words like "verily", "no jot"; "no tittle"; "in no wise"; "all" and "one of these least" described nothing less than an utter insistence on a literal adherence to the whole Law - or Jesus' statement could not have had the observed outcome that it had on His critics. It left them speechless!  

Those terms certainly doesn't describe the modern versions of "keeping the Law" that we see in modern Judaism or by Jewish-roots believers.

Jesus literally obeyed every point of the Law and the Prophets - throughout His childhood, His ministry and His teachings.

Then when the time came for Him to die and rise again and inaugurate the New Covenant - this also was done not in breach of the Old Testament but in literal fulfilment of it. 

In literal fulfilment! Not some adjusted way of doing it. He literally did it. All of it.   

The Old Testament speaks of a New Covenant. Therefore Jesus' work under the Old Covenant was not only to obey and uphold Moses' Law but also to inaugurate that New Covenant which the Old Testament promised. By inaugurating the New Covenant He was bringing to pass the promises written in the Old Testament. And He did so perfectly according to what was written.  

In Matthew 5 Jesus asserted that neither His life, His teaching nor His future actions were condemned by any requirement in the Old Testament, and He asserted that no part of the Old Testament Scriptures would ever fail in their God-given purpose.

He warned His disciples and the Jewish teachers of His day against the attitude that said it was okay to disdain even a small part of the Old Testament Scriptures. Such an attitude, He said, would result in a person being called least in the kingdom of heaven.

But by that statement Jesus could not have meant that believers everywhere, in all times, should always adhere to and teach Moses' Laws. Because the terms of His statement didn't make any room for any form of non-literal adherence to Moses' Law, such as can only be possible today, and such as we see in modern Judaism and by Jewish-roots believers, now that the veil of the Temple was rent from top to bottom and the altar and Levitical priesthood have ceased to exist. 

In fact to fail to embrace the New Covenant once it was inaugurated would have been tantamount to a failure to properly embrace the God-given purpose of the Old Testament, seeing the Old Testament speaks of the New Covenant which was to come in its designated time.

Jesus Himself had said to the Samaritan woman by the well that the day would come, and now was, when the true worshippers would worship neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem. That is, they would worship in a new way - not at the place an in the way written in Moses' laws.

At the last Passover Jesus spoke of the feast transitioning into the New Covenant in His blood. And He instituted the lifestyle of remembering Him, not on set days of the year as the Passover had been remembered but rather as often as believers so happened to share bread together. 

Then at the cross He said, "It is finished".

So Jesus definitely spoke of a new way of living that would come after the inauguration of the New Covenant.

But during His ministry to those who were still at that time under the Law, He was challenged by those who were under the Law to give proof that He endorsed the Law's requirements literally - and He gave it.

He gave it so thoroughly that even His most vehement opponents could neither gainsay nor resist it, and eventually none of them dared ask Him any more questions.

His answer in Matthew 5 asserted nothing less than a literal adherence to the whole Law - and His critics who sought to catch Him out understood it. 

Everything Jesus did and taught was in accordance with the Old Testament Scriptures. Even the inauguration of the New Covenant was in keeping with the Old Testament.

Therefore until the end of the world the Old Testament Scriptures shall continue to bear witness - authorising and authenticating the life of Jesus and this New Covenant and its new lifestyle which He so lawfully, literally and perfectly inaugurated by His own precious blood.

Seeing Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law by inaugurating the New Covenant, we also perfectly fulfil the God-given intention that God had for every part of Old Testament Scripture, by embracing the New Covenant. 

Not by inventing alternative ways of keeping Moses laws and then labelling it as "keeping Moses' Law", as modern Judaism and Messianic Judaism seek to.

In explaining this New Covenant which Jesus inaugurated, Paul asserted that the churches were free from obligation to Moses' Laws. 

And he defended this freedom by proving from the Law - from the Old Testament Scriptures - that the New Covenant lifestyle which He endorsed is entirely consistent with what the Old Testament Scriptures were anticipating. 

But attempting to keep Moses' Law, with new protocols that Moses' Law didn't write about - such as the protocols invented by Judaism and Messianic Judaism - doesn't thereby fulfil Moses' Law nor the Prophets.

The Old Testament Scriptures are literally fulfilled in their God-given purpose only by embracing the New Covenant.

Christ is the end of all the Law for righteousness, for all who believe. 

We are complete in Him, without needing to adhere to Moses' instructions regarding things like the feasts, sabbaths, food laws, and circumcision.

This is the message of God's grace. The good news.

This is the message which is able to build you up, and give you an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus.

Paul suffered much for this message, yet he was not ashamed, for this message is the power of God unto salvation to all them that believe, to Jews first and to Gentiles.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ. God doesn't expect anything more from Jews today than He expects of Gentiles. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

Gentile Christianity is not an appendage of Judaism. Modern Judaism developed later.

Old Testament Biblical Judaism was a temporary covenant inserted between the promise to Abraham and the coming of his seed, which was Christ. Moses' temporary Law was for the physical descendants. 

But the promise, made to Abraham before Moses' laws were given, was for all nations.

Christianity - and not Biblical Judaism, nor modern Judaism, Messianic Judaism or Jewish-roots Judaism - is what God had in His mind before the world even began, before Moses' laws were even given.

Abraham saw Christ's day, and was glad.

In the designated time the promise given to Abraham came to pass in Christ - without one jot nor one tittle of the Old Testament Scriptures - the Law - being disobeyed or disdained in the process.

Christ is it. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Nevertheless, let all believers in Jesus be fully persuaded in their own conscience concerning food, feasts and sabbaths.

The believer whose conscience rules that one date of the calendar is higher, and the believer whose conscience rules that all days are equal - are both honouring the Lord.

let's respect one another's conscience and get on with each other.