Who We Are To Be Part 6

1 Corinthians 1:10 says, “I appeal to you brothers in the name of our Adonai Yeshua the Messiah, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no schisms among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same opinion.

Notice what this passage is saying, that we are to be one, with no schisms. That our words are to be the same and that being the same (one/echad) in mind and opinion makes us complete. Therefore, we are not complete as long as as we are not one/echad, as long as there are schisms between us.

I have heard others over the years speak of unity not meaning uniformity, and in terms of our gifts and talents they would be correct, however this verse seems to be saying that in terms of our faith they are not. Then there is this verse, Ephesians 4:13, that speaks of the Messiah giving different gifts so that His body may be built up “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God and become complete (echad), attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Messiah.”  The oneness of the body seems to be the final step to the bride of Messiah making herself ready (Revelation 10:7).

Also, the body of Messiah keeping Torah, in other words, obeying the commandments is also definitely coupled with belief in Yeshua before His return (Revelation 12:17 – “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her seed—those who keep Elohim’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Yeshua.”).

So the question is are we there? No we are not. So what does that mean? It means we still have a ways to go. The prayer and hope is that we are on the road and not resisting the work of the Spirit in our lives and the life of the body. Remember the work of the Spirit according to Ezekiel 36:27 is to help us obey the decrees and laws of Elohim and do them. Also, according to Jeremiah 31:33 the New Covenant is the placing of the Law/Torah of God on our minds and hearts.

Therefore, the Reformation is not yet complete until these things are true of us. God is still working among His people and He is preparing us for His Kingdom. So we pray, “Your Kingdom come Your Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

So why is it important that even the Gentile believer obeys the Law of God/Torah. It is not only our obligation of living in the power of the Spirit (Romans 8), not only how we express our love for our Messiah (John14), but it is also how we make Judah jealous (Romans 11).

We are called to make the Jews jealous and even angry that we have something that they understand is theirs (Romans 10:19 and Deuteronomy 32:21). When we practice the Torah/Law of Moses/Law of God, when they see us practicing Torah it arouses in them a jealousy and in some cases even anger because they think we are hijacking what is theirs. However, Scripture itself tells us that the same law is for the foreigner and the native born (Exodus 12:49; Numbers 15:15-16, 29;Leviticus 24:22; Numbers 9:14 and Deuteronomy 1:16). It is for all those who choose to follow Elohim and be a part of His Kingdom.

At this point it is not just about our Discipleship in the Kingdom but it also becomes about Evangelism of the Jews. Paul in Romans 11:13b-14 puts it like this, “I make much of my ministry (to the Gentiles) in the hope that I can somehow arouse my own people (the Jews) to jealousy and save some of them. This jealousy is in the hope of their salvation.

So when we live out the Kingdom life it is as if we are Joseph saying to his brother Judah, “I am Joseph (Ephraim) a son of Israel and I bring you my brother good news of life, the Messiah, the true bread of Heaven, has come and He is Yeshua of Nazareth, Yeshua the Netser, Yeshua the Branch.”

Couple these two things, belief in Yeshua our Messiah and obedience to the commands of His Father and we have God’s recipe for His people becoming one/echad.  Whether Jew or Gentile, we are called to be one/echad in Messiah and all those who follow Yeshua the Messiah and love Him will obey Him.  We willingly become the bondservant of our Master to serve Him faithfully all our days. 

What would the body look like if we did this instead of causing division and strife in the House He is building?  Things would all come into place and the tabernacle of David would be echad!  It would be ready for the glory of Elohim.

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Who We Are To Be Part 5

In John 17 Yeshua prayed that His followers would be one as He and the Father are one. I used to think I knew what that meant, that there would no longer be any denominations among the church. However, God has shown me that His ways are higher than our ways. He has a much bigger plan in mind.

His plan is to make the Jew and Gentile one. This is what Paul refers to as the mystery of God/Elohim in the book of Ephesians. Then in Revelation 10:7 John tells us that before the seventh trumpet blows that the mystery of God will be completed. So before the last trump blows we will truly be one.

We see this, as John mentions in this verse (Revelation 10:7), foretold by the prophets.  So where do we see the idea of God’s people being made one in the prophets? We see it in Ezekiel 37 when Elohim tells the prophet to take two sticks. One is named for the tribe of Joseph or Ephraim and all the tribes associated with him and the other is named for Judah and all the tribes associated with him.

We know who Judah is, they are the Jews. But who is the tribe of Ephraim and how did that get associated with the Gentiles? When Elohim dispersed the northern tribes of Israel He dispersed them into the nations and they have not yet returned. They went out into the nations and began to live as the nations, as the Gentiles. So much so that they don’t even know they are descended from the northern tribes of Israel. These are the lost tribes of Israel that Yeshua speaks of coming for.

But again how does that correlate to the Gentiles? We find this in the book of Genesis chapter 48 when Jacob adopts Joseph’s sons Manassah and Ephraim. I know you remember that Jacob crossed his arms and put his right hand on the head of the younger, Ephraim. In doing so he put Ephraim ahead of Manassah.

Jacob then blessed Ephraim and said that he would be the fullness of the nations (gentiles). That should sound familiar from the writing of Paul. In Romans 11:25 Paul mentions the fullness of the Gentiles coming about and that until that happens there would be a hardening of Israel (the Jews). He even calls this a mystery.

When the fullness of the Gentiles (Ephraim) occurs the unhardening of the Jews will happen at the same time and so all of Israel, both Ephraim (Gentiles) and Judah (Jews) will be saved.

Interestingly enough, we are seeing more Jews coming to faith in Messiah Yeshua now than since the first century and at the same time the Gentiles are coming into their fullness, they are becoming complete and beginning to understand the importance of obedience to the Word of God (Torah). Again, these things are happening at the same time.

It is time for the bringing together of the two sticks! We are to be one as Yeshua prayed for and as Ezekiel puts it in 37:21-28, “then say to them this is what ADONAI Elohim says, ‘Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, where they have gone. I will gather them from every side and bring them to their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will be king to them all. They will no longer be two nations and never again be divided into two kingdoms. They will never again be defiled with their idols, their detestable things or with any of their transgressions. I will save them out of all their dwellings in which they sinned. I will purify them. Then they will be My people and I will be their Elohim. My servant David will be king over them. They will all have One Shepherd. They will walk in My ordinances and observe My rulings and do them. They will live in the land that I gave to My servant Jacob, where your ancestors lived. They will live there – they, their children and their children’s children, forever, and My servant David will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace (shalom) with them – it will be an everlasting covenant with them. I will give to them and multiply them. I will set up My Sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be over them. I will be their God and they will be My people. Then the nations will know that I am ADONAI who sanctifies Israel, when My Sanctuary is in their midst forever.”

Remember Yeshua when He was praying in John 17 said that the oneness of His people would be what let the world know that Elohim sent His Son. Let’s be more mindful of what His goal is for us and head in His direction, not our own anymore.

So how does this happen?  Zechariah 8:23 says, “Thus says the LORD of Hosts, In that day 10 men from all nations will take hold of the wing/tzitzit of one Jew saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard the LORD is with you.'”

This verse is saying that in the last days the Gentiles from all nations (Ephraim and those who come with him) will take hold of the wing on one Jew wanting to go with him because it is obvious that Elohim is with them. We are seeing this beginning to happen in our day.

Many are going to the believing Jews and asking them to teach them of the ways of Adonai. They are in essence taking a hold of the tzitzit or tassels of a Jew and asking to go with them. I say tzitzit because the word for wing here is the word that describes the corner of the garment (wing) that the tzitzit is to be attached to.

To see Gentile believers interested in what the Messianic Jew has to teach is Biblical. It was prophesied about in this passage. They are asking to be discipled by those who keep Torah as a means of showing their love to our Creator.

Again, this is about Discipleship, not Salvation. It is a desire to learn the ways of our King so that we may please Him, just as Moses prayed in Exodus 33:13. Moses asked this for the purpose of knowing Elohim better, not knowing Him in the first place.

Remember, the goal ahead of us is YHWH making us one and the mystery being fulfilled. So let us learn!

 

The Heart of God

This is where we live.  This chapter is all about today.  Not about what He did 2000 years ago. Not what we accepted when we came to Christ, but how we live in Christ today.  Because, obviously, He did not take us home when we said, “I do”.  So He expects some things out of us during this period of sanctification, during our period of Kiddushin, He expects some things out of us. 

This is where we are and so it is a matter of upmost importance.  This is the very heart of God for His wife, for His people, for His temple today.  I want to start by looking at a passage out of Ezekiel 37:15-28:

“The word of the LORD came to me:  “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, `Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, `Ephraim’s stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him.’  Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.  When your countrymen ask you, `Won’t you tell us what you mean by this?’ say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph–which is in Ephraim’s hand–and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick, making them a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’  Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on and say to them, `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone.  I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land.  I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols and vile images or with any of their offenses, for I will save them from all their sinful backsliding, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I will be their God.  `My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees.  They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your fathers lived. They and their children and their children’s children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever.  I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant.  I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.  My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.  Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.’”(NIV)

The nations will know.  I will make the two one, I will make a covenant of peace, an everlasting covenant with them.  This is what I believe is the very heart of God, oneness with His people.  He wants to be our God and for us to be His people and He accomplishes that through the marriage of His Son to His people. 

As we start to look in the New Testament and our early church history, we see that the church was first thought of as a Jewish sect.  That’s what we were.  Most believers in that early first century were Jewish, they were Jews who recognized their Melech Yeshuah H’Messhia, their King Jesus the Messiah.  So in that first century as Gentile believers started coming into the nation there had to be discussion about Jew and Gentile and so that is where we are going to start. 

Ephesians 2:11-19 says, “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)– remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.”(NIV)

Members of God’s people, of God’s household.  Church hear me, the word ‘church’, the Greek word for ‘church’ in the Greek Septuegant, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, is used in talking about the congregation of Israel.  It is not exclusively a New Testament term.  The church is the congregation or assembly of Israel.  God seeks to make all His children, whether Jew or Gentile, one.  That is His purpose, to create in Himself one man out of the two.

I want to say very clearly at this point, I know there is a lot of talk out there in theological circles about replacement theology, which says that the church replaces Israel.  That is NOT what I am talking about.  I want to make that very, very clear.  The church did not replace Israel.  We have the awesome privilege of being brought into citizenship in Israel and to share in their covenant promises. 

Romans 9:6b states, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.”(NIV)  What Paul means by that is that just because one has the physical lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob does not make them a member of the Spiritual nation of Israel.  Because only in Christ, only in Messiah, does that happen.  Even Jews must recognize their Melech Yeshuah H’Messhia, they must recognize their Messiah.

Romans 10:11-13 reiterates this, “As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.””(NIV)  He takes the two and makes them one.  Remember we are talking about the heart of God and what God desires for His own people.  This is God’s desire for us as we live out this life of following Him and awaiting Him.

We then find in Romans 11:12 & 15-21 & 23-26a, “But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!… For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?  If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root,  do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.  You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.”  Granted, but they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either…. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.  After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!  I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved”.

All Israel, the holy assembly of God’s people whether Jew or Gentile will be saved.  The heart of God, oneness among His people.  We have to be careful, the church has become awefully Gentile in the last 2000 years.  True?  True!  But we must not forget our roots, remember it was already mentioned that in the first century we were Jewish.  The church was Jewish.  The Apostles kept going to the Temple, they continued to celebrate the Feasts.  However as we became more and more Gentile we lost connection to the root.  We must remember and not stand on arrogance that we are the Church.  But remember that we stand on a root and they are our root and one day those branches that were broken off will be grafted back in.  You see there are not two trees of the church and Israel.  There is but one tree.  And we will all stand together in that oneness and in His covenant of  peace before God Almighty and marry His Son, those who have called on the Name of the LORD.   

Later in that Romans 11 in verses 30-32 we find, “Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.  For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”(NIV)  Jew, Gentile it doesn’t matter.  We all broke the first covenant.  We are all in need of a new covenant, every one of us.

A Citizen of Israel,

Vicky

Forward in Love

Ephesians 4:7 Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift. 8 For it says:
When He ascended on high, He took prisoners into captivity; He gave gifts to people.
9 But what does “He ascended ” mean except that He descended to the lower parts of the earth? 10 The One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. 11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head —Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.(HCSB)

It was the Messiah who gave the duties of being an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor and a teacher.  He did not give them just because He felt like it, but for a very specific purpose.  The One seeks for His people to be one.  Do not miss that.

On a corner of one of our seminary buildings was verses 11 and 12 and it always bugged me because it stopped there.  But Scripture does not stop there.  These duties are assigned so that the saints can properly do ministry in such a way that grows the body up.  You see, ministry can be done in such a way where the body does not grow up and it stays an infant.  So, the question is, what does it look like when the body of Christ is grown up?

Verse 13 gives the answer to that question.  You see, we are headed in a specific direction, not meandering aimlessly around on our own.  With the help of the Spirit and those God equipped to lead the body the church is supposed to come to a place where they reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of God’s Son. 

This part is very important, this unity is in doctrine.  This is the area we like to ignore, but according to this passage we cannot.  We must have unity in how we live for Him and in our doctrine.  We cannot have unity in one and not the other and expect the world to see the Light of Truth in our lives.  That is why so much of this book is given to this subject of oneness and unity.

I have often wondered how it is that so many people inside the church want to insist that there can be unity of the body and not unity of doctrine.  It has also amazed me that no one really seems determined, within orthodox Christianity, to sit down together and pray together and pour through Scripture together until unity becomes reality. 

You know, do the hard work our founders here in The United States did when they shut themselves up in a room, prayed, searched the Scriptures and talked together coming out of that hall with the Constitution.  Where are those in the faith willing to do that?

The issue to my past wonderings may be found in the next phrase in verse 13, “growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness”.  This can also be translated this way, “into a complete man with a maturity measured by Christ’s completion.”  Look at that again, it says, “a complete man”.  Does this remind you of anything already talked about in the book.

Back in chapter two Paul talks about the Messiah taking the two, the Jew and the Gentile, to make one man.  You see we are not complete without each other.  Up until recently in history the Jews were not coming into the faith of the Son of God in very large numbers.  However, that is changing and with them we are seeing a resurgence of understanding in the faith. 

Could it be that they had to be grafted back into there own tree before we who are in the faith could sit down and really seek unity, complete unity.  Did they need to be at the table?  I believe so.  Why?  Because they hold the key to so much that the Gentile church had left behind long ago and frankly no longer made much sense to us.  That is why some could think it O.K. to abandon the Old Testament.  But it is not O.K., we need each other.

I have often said that Yeshua/Jesus does not want a dysfunctional Bride, yet that is what we have been giving Him for quite some time.  No, He seeks oneness, complete unity (John 17) for His Bride.  The pieces are in place and we can learn from one another again.  Jew and Gentile are no longer separate, but in Christ have become one man, a complete and mature man.

This is why we will not be tossed to and fro by the waves that sail our way.  As one, knowing our faith and standing firm up against one another, the waves break on us instead of us breaking on them.  False teaching does not stand a chance when the body stands together as one.

No, we speak the truth in love instead of following after false teaching and saying it’s O.K. to do so.  We follow the one who is the One.  We grow to be like Him who is our head.  We grow by each one of us doing our assigned duty in love.

We have been given our marching orders and they are to stand up against one another in love and not to allow any false teaching in. 

We must act and think as one, a properly trained military unit.  We are His body.  He is the head, the commander of the unit.  No unit can do anything without the commands of it’s commander.  And no unit will succeed when it disobeys its commanders explicit instructions.  That is what we have, explicit instructions, commands, to follow.  It is up to us to do the following.  That is why Jesus said to His disciples, “Come, follow me”.

In the weeks ahead I hope to create a page on this website where we can come together in love to discuss our differences and learn from each other as we hear each others hearts. 

It will be a place where we can be honest about what we think we understand, but at the same time are willing to hear from others who disagree with us. 

It will be a place, not to win an argument, but a place to follow the leading of the Spirit. 

Please invite people to come and join us here at Esther’s Legacy, people from different orthodox Christian backgrounds. 

We need each other.  The Gentile Christian needs the Messianic Jew and the Messianic Jew needs the Gentile Christian.  Lest we forget, the different Gentile denominations need each other too.

Forward in Love,

Vicky

Hold The Line

Ephesians 4:1– “Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility  and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, 3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. 4 There is one body and one Spirit —just as you were called to one hope at your calling — 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”(HCSB)

Knowing the mystery and that he had been given the administration of this mystery, having prayed for the believers to know God’s power and love, Paul basically says “with that in mind let’s get down to brass tax”. 

That is what he means by the “therefore”.  To add weight to what he is about to say, to let his readers know that he understands how hard it is and will be he calls himself the prisoner of the Lord.  He has chosen to walk this path that has taken him to prison and he is calling the others to walk it with him.

This is the life they had been called to and are expected to walk in a way that is worthy, worthy of the calling.  And who called them? 

The Lord did, not Paul – God called them to this life. 

Is living the mystery as God wants it to be going to be easy? 

Absolutely not.  Loving and living as one will require their all and nothing less.  It will take the Spirit filled life. 

I want to break down this passage because it is so much weightier than how we often translate it to be in the English.

Beginning with the word “humility” we see that God is asking us to do something very contradictory to the flesh.  This word means to think lowly of ones self, having humiliation of mind. 

This is the exact opposite of the worldly message of self-esteem where we are called by the enemy to think highly of ourselves, to esteem ourselves instead of others and God.  This is by no means easy, but highly necessary.

Our next word is “gentleness “.  It is really the word “meekness”.  Unfortunately we do not really understand this word. 

It is not an absence of power, but a very intense power that is restrained and in control.  Meekness means knowing you have power, but not always exerting that power, or right, on others. 

Jesus is our greatest example of this.  He had the angels at His disposal before His arrest and He restrained that power for the joy that laid before Him, for the sake of His Bride and in obedience to His Father.  This is what this word is calling us to be.

Then comes “patience”, a word we simply do not understand.  This word does not mean just sit around and wait while we twiddle our thumbs. 

This word is the idea of fortitude, standing guard, being fortified.  It is being longsuffering in action.  Knowing you may be fortified, standing guard, for a long time, but willing to keep standing guard until God moves you.

Are you beginning to think, “O.K. that’s enough, please that’s enough”?  Like I said this is not easy, but God does not stop here. 

He talks about accepting or bearing with one another.  However, the word for “accepting” really means to “hold yourself up against”, in this case, one another. 

Are you getting the picture?  We are to hold ourselves up against each other in love. 

Now here is the idea.  The idea Paul is trying to create is a military line.  Like troops in formation, we are holding up against one another as a military line and the thing that glues us together is love.

I want to take the next phrase together. 

It is “diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit”.  The word “diligently” means to make every effort with speed. 

O.K. what are we doing with speed and with every effort?  We are keeping. 

The word “keeping” means to watch as in a watchman on the wall, to guard from loss or injury or to hold fast.  

We are on the ball, so to speak, and keeping watch on, guarding, and holding fast the unity or oneness of the Spirit.  We do this with the peace or oneness that binds us together– our love for one another.

Oneness or Unity is hard work, work that requires every effort and determination to stay the course. 

It is also something that does not automatically happen just because we are one body with one Spirit who lives in each of us. 

No He will not force this upon us but gives us the directions to achieving it through the power of His Spirit. 

We as the body are not one because we do not want it or seek it. 

We do not think lowly of ourselves.  We do not restrain our power or rights.  We have little fortitude and longsuffering and are unwilling to hold up against one another in love. 

We do not stand guard over the unity and oneness of the Spirit through any bond of peace.  We do not love one another as He has commanded us to do.

We do not do this and I am sad to say that for the most part I am afraid we do not even really attempt it.  We are comfortable being apart especially in our different denominations.  This should, just as it was for Paul with the Ephesians, be a matter of prayer and concern for us today.

We are to hold fast or hold the line, so to speak, on the matters of doctrine and life that follow in the book.  Staying firm on the fact that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, above all, through all and in all.

Church… you must hold the line, hold fast.  You must stand guard over the oneness of the Spirit with all diligence. 

Let us live the mystery in such a time as this.

Vicky

True Peace

In Ephesians 2:11-22 Paul discusses peace, but do we today really understand what this peace Paul is speaking about is.  Typically when we hear the word peace we think of quietness, stillness and rest.  To be sure that is part of what Paul is talking about, but there is also something much more profound in the word “peace”.  It is rest that can only be found when we draw near to God.  When we find our rest in Him.  Even more it means oneness with each other and God.  Being made whole.   This idea is carried out repeatedly in this passage.  Read this passage with that in mind.  You might even want to substitute the word “oneness” for “peace” and see how that opens up the passage for you.

 EPH 2:11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)– 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.     19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

This whole passage is about God making the two – those who were far and those who were near – one.  One with each other, putting to death their hostility and hatred for each other by the death of Jesus on the cross.  In Isaiah 57 the Lord says, “Peace, peace to those far and near.” This passage in Ephesians is stating that this has been fulfilled in Yeshua, who came to proclaim the glad tidings of oneness (peace) to those who were far and those who were near.

Let’s back up.  As God’s light of grace shone on those who were aliens to His people, Israel, they were brought near to His people and to Him through the cross and blood of the Messiah.  Also, those who were already “near” through the covenants and promises were brought truly near by the cross and blood of Christ.  For even they, though they had been given the covenants and promises, could not come near enough to God by following the commands and regulations of Scripture – no one can.  As Scripture says, “No one is righteous, not even one”(Psalm 14:3, 53:3 and Romans 3:23).  Humanity, whether Jew or Gentile, is not capable of coming near, truly near, to God on his own.  Sin always separates us, that is why Jesus died.  Only the God-Man could live a sinless life and therefore fulfill the commands and regulations of Scripture becoming the perfect sacrifice of the New Covenant.

It is with the New Covenant, promised back in the book of Jeremiah that God says, “I will be their God and they will be my people”.  He promised a  heart and mind that had the law of God written on them ready and willing to follow Him.  It is the blood of the Messiah that is the blood of the New Covenant – the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats could never be enough, only the blood of The Lamb of God was sufficient.

With the New Covenant Gentiles of the flesh were made citizens of Israel, citizens together with the Jews – all having faith in the Messiah.  It is the Messiah that is our peace, our rest, our stillness, our oneness.  I heard a really wonderful illustration of this recently.  It is actually one that is in Scripture though we have lost the mental picture of it.  In Israel when a wild olive shoot comes up next to a cultivated olive tree that shoot literally raps itself around the tree and after a time you can no longer distinguish the wild shoot from the original tree.  That is an awesome picture to me.  In this way Christ made the two, the Gentile and the Jew, one tree.  Both indistinguishable from the other.

Taking this new tree (made from the two), this new man, Jesus then reconciled both to God through the cross.  Again, Paul states that through the cross their hostility was put to death.  The Jew and the Gentile were hostile to each other then in Paul’s day and they still are today.  Yet in the cross of Christ, the Messiah, this hostility has been put to death and this is also seen today.  Next week I want to highlight some of the ways God is doing this in our generation.

Paul ends by saying the through the Messiah both Jew and Gentile (now both part of the spiritual nation of Israel, God’s people) have access to the Father by the one Holy Spirit.  It is the first time in this passage that Paul uses the plural pronoun “we” purposely bring the two together.  This new man is being built into a holy dwelling built on the foundations of both the prophets and the apostles.

The Old Covenant points directly to the New, even prophesies it – the prophets.  It was the apostles who first proclaimed its fulfillment in Christ.  Therefore, together the prophets and the apostles make up the foundation of God’s household.  This foundation, however, would be worthless without the chief cornerstone, Yeshua the Messiah.  It is on Jesus that the whole house is joined together as one and rises as one holy temple.

The final verse (22) reads in the English as if Paul goes back to just talking about the Gentiles.  However, I do not believe that is the case.  Instead, the “you” is plural, meaning both the Jew and the Gentile in the household of God, the church or assembly of Israel (in this case in Ephesus).  The household of God, both Jew and Gentile, are being built together into one to become the dwelling of God where He lives by His Spirit.  Paul is summarizing what he had already said in detail.

We are one, both with each other and with God through the cross of Christ and by His Spirit and our hostility has been replaced by love for each other and our God.

Peace,

Vicky

The Mystery

I learned something very valuable this past week.  Do not start a major endeavor, such as this blog, right before a big week.  This past week was Vacation Bible School week for us.  I did not write last week, and as a result God changed my direction a little.


I found myself in the book of Ephesians.  It has many of the themes we will be dealing with in this blog, and God made it clear to me that that is really where we need to start.  I remember what my speech teacher in school used to tell us, “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them”.  Ephesians is going to stand as this blogs equivalent to “tell them what you are going to tell them”.


Let’s get started.


EPH 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment–to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.


After Paul’s introduction, he begins offering praise to the Father and Jesus Christ and says that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ in the heavenly realms.  Then he goes on to describe those blessings.  Being chosen to be holy and blameless in His sight.  Let that one sink in a little.  We were not just chosen, but chosen with an end result in mind, being holy and blameless.  What does that look like?  That is just what this blog will be discussing and what Ephesians does such a good job at fleshing out.


He adopted us as sons through Jesus Christ according to His pleasure and will.  He gave us His grace, redemption and the forgiveness of sins.  Then He made known to us the “mystery” of His will according to His good pleasure.  It is this “mystery” that is the focal point of Ephesians and what we will spend our time on this blog exploring.  What is that mystery?  Look down a little further to the second part of verse 10.  That mystery is to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.  To bring us together — make us One in Christ and with Christ.  And notice when this will take place.  When the times will have reached their fulfillment.


Some of you might have found it frustrating that I did not mention “before the creation of the world” and “predestined” from earlier verses.  These are connected to our being chosen and adopted.  Just as the fulfillment of time has to do with the mystery, God does things in His time and in His time things often find a fulfillment in the heavenly realms before they work themselves out in the earthly realm.  Bringing all things together under Christ found it’s spiritual fulfillment in the heavenly realms when Jesus died and rose again, however, I believe we are even now seeing the earthly fulfillment of this heavenly reality.  God is bringing those who place there faith in Jesus Christ together as one under Christ.  In other words, He is making us holy and blameless in His sight – a spotless bride.


Have an awesome evening in the Lord!


Vicky