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The ‘Law’ of Sin and Death

“The Lord God took the man  and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die”(Genesis 2:15-17).

One of the biggest misconceptions within the tenets of Christianity is that the old testament ‘law’ has been done away with and followers of Christ are no longer ‘under the law.’  Though I cannot be certain from where this doctrine originated, I’m going to guess it evolved from choosing only half of this verse in Romans as a doctrinal view.

“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14-15). 

The word translated ‘law’ in this verse is the Greek nomos.   This Greek word can mean anything from general principles of law to the first five books of the Bible known as the Torah.  It’s such a general word that Strong’s Concordance actually says that the meaning of the word nomos must be derived from the context in which it is used.

Within the context of the Romans verse using nomos is the word ‘because.’  Because is used to introduce a word or phrase that gives an explanation or reason.  To claim “I’m not under the law, I’m under grace” is not giving the reason why.  The reason why in this verse has to do with sin no longer being the master of one’s life. 

Law and Justice

According to an online dictionary, law is defined as “the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and may enforce by the imposition of penalties.”  From a Biblical perspective, it would be necessary that the Kingdom of God have a system of rules that regulates the actions of its citizens.   When one of the citizens breaks the law, they receive justice for doing so. 

This is what happened in the Garden of Eden, the eternal paradise, the first glimpse at the Kingdom of God.   Adam was given one rule.  He couldn’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  If he broke the rule, the penalty was death. 

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:15).

Adam was given the command before the woman was made.  It was his responsibility to pass this one command on to his wife.  However, because she was deceived by the serpent, she ate the fruit and gave some to Adam who committed the sin of disobedience.  They realized their sin in their nakedness and tried to cover it up.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Genesis 3:6-7).

God was not fooled by their fig leaves.  He knew their hearts.  He saw their sin.  He cursed the serpent who deceived Eve.  He gave Eve pain in child bearing and gave her a desire to rule over her husband.  He cursed the ground from which Adam was made so that Adam would toil all the days of his life for food.  He proclaimed His justice on Adam’s sin: death. 

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). 

Because of Adam, everyone sins.  Because of Adam, sin and death entered the world.  Because of Adam, everyone was kicked out of the Kingdom of God.

Going Beyond God’s Boundaries

Some time ago, my son invited a friend to spend the weekend.  This friend was not a Christian, did not even believe in God.  However, he had questions he wanted answered.  Starting with the basics, I asked him to define sin.  He thought deeply for a few minutes and said, ‘doing bad things.’ Of course my response could only be, ‘Who determines what things are bad, or good for that matter?  He replied, “Good question.”  I explained that if someone puts their faith in God, it should be God and no one else, who makes that determination.  He agreed. A foundation was laid for the law of sin and death and the gift of eternal life. 

As Creator of the Universe, God gave one law to Adam.  After the flood, God gave more laws to Noah for mankind.  To Abraham, God gave laws for him and his descendants.  Through Moses, God gave 613 laws to Israel outlining how to love and worship Him along with how to live in a community and love your neighbor.  All of these laws from Adam to Israel have one thing in common – they are God’s laws.   In Hebrew, the word ‘law’ is torah and means“teachings or instructions.’ Sin is nothing more and nothing less than breaking God’s teachings and instructions.

“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).

As the Ruler of the Kingdom of Heaven, God defines sin as breaking His lawor torah. Sin is ultimately disobeying His instructions andgoing beyond the boundaries of His established desire for our behavior.  The consequences for sin, as Adam learned, is death (Romans 6:23).

In Hebrew, the word for ‘sin’ is chata and means ‘to miss or go wrong.’  In Greek, the word for ‘sin’ is hamartia and means ‘to miss the mark.’  This is exactly what Adam did.  He went beyond the boundaries that God established for him in Paradise, disobeyed God’s one instruction and missed the mark.  As a result, everyone sins (Romans 3:23).  Everyone.  There is no one who escapes the ‘law of sin and death.’

God’s Grace and Sin

“What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?” (Romans 6:15).

According to Paul, stating “we’re under God’s grace” is no excuse to continue breaking torah.  What if Adam and Eve’s conversation went something like this?

“God loves us unconditionally.  He created this incredible Garden for us.  He gave us authority over the animals that we named.  We walk and talk with him every evening in the breeze.   He has given us all the trees in the garden from which to eat except this one.    Why would he kill us? He won’t care if we just taste the fruit.  We will be like Him.  Besides what does ‘death’ mean anyway?”  Just look at the abundance of fruit on the Tree of Life!”

Oh yeah, those were the serpent’s words.  Adam and Eve had no understanding of God’s grace, the power of His grace to overcome sin and even the desire to sin.   However, because of their sin, God’s grace abounded to Adam and Eve.  He removed the leaves and covered them with garments of skin.  In order to make the garments, blood had to be shed.  Animal blood.  This set up the torah of blood for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22).  His incredible grace did not stop them or their children from sinning.  Cain killed Abel. 

The incredible grace of God was probably something they told and retold their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They probably spoke often about  how they sinned against God, how He promised a Redeemer,  and how He shed the blood of an innocent animal to cover their sin.   God’s grace did not remove them from the law of sin and death nor did it change the fact that they had to live out God’s judgments for their lives in a fallen world.   God’s grace kept them alive for many more years and kept them walking in the hope of a Redeemer.   God’s grace empowered them to put the past in the past and press on toward the goal, the higher calling of God’s promised Seed that would restore all things to the way they were in the Garden, but it included an even better promise, the power to overcome sin and death  (Philippians 3:14).   

Victory Over Sin and Death

“Because the Torah of the Spirit, which produces this life in union with Messiah Yeshua, has set me free from the law of sin and death … (Romans 8:2).

The law of sin and death brought on by Adam’s disobedience to God’s one instructionwas destroyed by the Seed of woman, the second Adam, the Messiah Yeshua.  His blood atoned for sin and brought universal forgiveness.   Through his resurrection, he destroyed the power of death.  When Yeshua ascended into the heavenly realm, his Father poured out His Spirit in order to begin the restoration process.    Those who are born again of the Spirit of God re-enter the Kingdom with the power to overcome sin and disobedience to torah – the same power that resurrected Yeshua from the dead.   Kingdom citizens no longer live as slaves to sin and disobey God’s laws.   They no longer live under condemnation because they are set free from the law of sin and death through faith in the work of Messiah Yeshua.  They are now free to live out the Torah of the Spirit written on their hearts.

“In fact, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed (the Spirit)  remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God” (1 John 5:18).

Does Sinless Mean Perfect?

“Be perfect therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Not long ago I read a letter in the newspaper written by a local pastor.  In the letter the woman commented several times that she was ‘not perfect’ as a rationalization for things that were less than virtuous and honorable in her life.  I wanted  to laugh, if it wasn’t so sad.

“Perfect” in the Greek is teleios and means ‘mature and adult.’  When this pastor wrote, “I’m not perfect,” what she really was saying,  “Please excuse the sins in my life.  I’m not behaving maturely and acting like an adult.”  What a sad commentary on the power of God in the life of a pastor!

Most of the world and even people in the church think of ‘perfect’ in the same way this pastor does – incapable of sinning.  Consequently, they just muddle along rationalizing their disobedience and never experience the victory of God in their lives.  As a pastor who should be teaching and guiding a flock of God’s people, her words mock the Father who is perfect and Yeshua who told us to “be perfect as our heavenly Father.’

Of course, sinning and ‘falling short’ are inevitable in life.  We must learn from our ‘shortcomings’ and mistakes.  We must be transformed into maturity, making wise decisions for our actions,  not making foolish excuses regarding our ‘imperfection.’

Biblical Maturity

“We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing” (1 Corinthians 2:6).

Maturity involves wisdom that is not of this world and does not act in the ways of this world.

“Brothers, stop thinking like children.  In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults” (1 Corinthians 14:20).

Maturity involves a transformation of mind to a way a person thinks in regards to evil.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, argued like a child; now that I have become a man, I have finished with childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:10-11).

Maturity puts away childish behavior and acts like an adult.   

“Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14). 

Maturity involves growing up spiritually, eating solid food,  being trained in righteousness, and using discernment when it comes to evil.   With another reference to evil, it must be an important concept  to understand when growing from a babe drinking milk and basic elementary teachings into maturity (Hebrews 6:1-3).

“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Messiah Yeshua, sends greetings.  He is always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Colossians 4:12).

Maturity means being fully assured that you are in God’s will and you stand firm.

Noah

“This is the account of Noah.  Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

The Hebrew word in this verse for blameless is tamim and means ‘perfect, blameless, sincere, whole, complete.’   This word carries with it the idea of being free from objectionable practices.

Tamim is also used in reference to the people of God being called to avoid the idolatrous practices of the Canaanites (Deuteronomy  18:13).  Though there are no Canaanites today, there are many idolatrous practices that the people of God should be avoiding, but instead they lack the discernment that maturity provides so they embrace this sin.

Tamim also implies that a person externally meets all the requirements of God’s law or Torah.   In other words, there is nothing in a person’s outward activities that are odious to God.  Because of the inward condition of their heart, they meet God’s standards of living rightly before Him.    

According to Genesis, Noah walked with God and tamim describes his relationship to God.   Noah was a mature man.  He used wisdom in a corrupt world and his maturity to discern good from evil.   He took no part in the idolatrous activities going on around him; he remained separate and his life exemplified this separateness.    He stood firm in God’s will to build an ark while the world around him went from bad to worse and mocked his  faith in an unseen God.  Noah had a right heart and therefore walked blameless or perfect before God.

Did Noah sin?  Of course he did.  He planted a vineyard, got drunk, and lay naked in his tent.   He was shamed by Ham.  However, his sin did not affect his maturity in the sight of the Lord because he had obeyed God and witnessed His mercy. 

Abraham

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God El Shaddai; walk before me faithfully and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1).

Abraham left Bablyon and its idolatrous ways.  He lived in tents with his family apart from the rest of the world. He obeyed God’s commands, even to the point of being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah.  He is called the ‘Father of Faith’ and was given the sign of circumcision as evidence of his faith.  He is also  called tamim, mature and blameless.

Did Abraham sin?  Of course he did.  Twice, he lied about Sarah not being his wife nearly killing the kings of Egypt.  However, his sin did not affect his maturity in the sight of the Lord because he believed God and witnessed His Provision. 

King David

“For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5).

David had faith in God like no other Israelite soldier.  He trusted in God when he stood before Goliath with only a few stones and a slingshot.  When Goliath was killed, he credited God for delivering him from the hands of the Philistines and certain death.  As a warrior David cleansed the land of Israel from idolatrous people through war.   With skillful hands, David led the armies of Israel.  As a King, he shepherded the people of Israel with integrity of heart (Psalm 78:72). 

Did David sin?  Of course he did.  He sinned when he cut off the tzizit of King Saul, God’s anointed king.  He sinned when he had Uriah the Hittite killed.  He sinned when he committed adultery with Bathsheba.  However, his sin did not affect his maturity in the sight of the Lord.   He was called tamim, blameless and a ‘man after God’s own heart’ because when he sinned, he repented and retained the Holy Spirit (1 Samuel 13:14).

Zechariah and Elizabeth

“Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly” (Luke 1:6).

Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were called tamim.  As  a descendant of Aaron, Zechariah did his Temple duties as prescribed for his lineage through Abijah.  Elizabeth was barren.  They desired a child.  An angel comes to Zechariah and tells him he is going to have a son.  He doesn’t believe the angel and is rendered mute until the boy is born.

Did Zechariah and Elizabeth sin?  There is nothing in Scripture that says they did; however they were human beings.  Perhaps Zechariah not believing the angel could be considered sin, and if it was, it didn’t change Zechariah’s or Elizabeth’s maturity in the sight of God and they raised the last prophet who proclaimed the coming Messiah. 

The Body of Messiah

“You must be blameless (perfect) before the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 18:13).

Yeshua quoted this command from the Torah because he understood the Kingdom of his Father and how its citizens must behave.  If he didn’t believe it was possible to be ‘perfect’, he would never had commanded his followers to be so.  The Amplified Version of the Bible adds more understanding to Yeshua’s words in Matthew 5:48,

“You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity] as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Accordingly, we must be perfect, growing in complete maturity of godliness in mind and character before God just like Noah, Abraham, King David, and Zechariah and Elizabeth.  As citizens of God’s Kingdom, we have been give His Spirit that empowers us have victory over ‘the law of  sin and death’  and live blameless in a world as corrupt as ‘the days of Noah.’  We must keep ourselves spotless from the world’s corruption and idolatrous practices so that we  are mature and can discern good from evil and reach the proper height of virtue and integrity.   In order to do what Yeshua commanded,  we must live according to the Spirit of life that is found in the teachings and instructions of God, erroneously translated as ‘the law.’  To claim ‘imperfection’ is no excuse for sinful behavior any more than being ‘under grace’ should give us the freedom to disobey God’s commandments and break the law.  When we misinterpret the ‘law’ that was destroyed on the cross,  we put ourselves back under the law that brings death and forfeit the amazing grace of God that was given to Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and David; the empowering grace of God that we are called to proclaim.

“We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Messiah” (Colossians 1:28).

©2012 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive. 

Dead Sea Scrolls and Today’s Holy Scriptures

Scroll of Isaiah

I use the Hebrew Scriptures in English because they are the most reliable of the ancient writings.  People claim that over the centuries men have changed the Bible so much that we don’t know what is true and what is not.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  The Biblical scrolls were hidden in 70 AD  in various caves near the Dead Sea.  No one knew they were there so no one could change what was written.  In 1948, they were found by an Arab shepherd boy.   When these Dead Sea Scrolls are compared to the manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures used today, they are identical proving today’s Bible is authentic and has not been changed.

Even before the Dead Sea Scrolls were put in clay jars in a cave, the Greeks translated the Hebrew Scriptures into their language about 300 BC.  These writings are known as the Septuagint and they, too, have been compared to the Dead Sea Scrolls with no significant differences found.

Some people claim the Jews rewrote the Torah to contradict others’ religious beliefs and books, but this is also not supported by the evidence in the Dead Sea Scrolls.   If the Jews had changed any jot or tittle, it would have been found in the more modern writings, however, Jewish scribes are so meticulous that if one jot or tittle is incorrect, they throw the entire page away.

If there is a writing or another book that claims to be ‘Biblical’, it needs to be written before 70 AD and compared to the Dead Sea Scrolls.  For example, the Jehovah Witnesses claim to use the Bible, however, their Bible was translated in the 1800s and has numerous departures from the Hebrew Scriptures.   I’ve looked up Scriptures in the Jehovah Witness Bible to find familiar verses had been deleted or drastically changed to support a Jehovah Witness ideology.   These changes contradict the Hebrew Scriptures making their holy book a different book altogether.  Because of the changes, they view God, His plan of redemption, His Son and His chosen people from a completely different perspective.

Another example is the King James Version of the Bible written in 1611.    Many Christians claims this is the ‘only’ authorized version and won’t use any other translation.    Who ‘authorized it’? King James.  He was a tyrant king and the reason many Christians fled England to become what we know as the Pilgrims.  These Christians wanted to leave England and King James’ rendition of the Bible because he used it to control his subjects. Compared to the Dead Sea Scrolls, there are many changes in the King James translation because he wanted to be king, and not compete with the King of the Universe.

The Koran was written between 653 and 656 AD centuries after the Dead Sea Scrolls were buried and hidden.  Just like every other prophetical writing should be compared to the Dead Sea Scrolls to  authenticate what is written, so should the Koran.  When compared to the the Hebrew Scriptures, it is flawed and not authentic.

There are warnings in the Scriptures about adding to or taking away from the Word of Yahweh.  These warnings are for everyone: Jew and non-Jew, Isra’el, and non-Isra’el, Jehovah Witnesses, Church of England and Islam.   Men love to bring glory to themselves and want power and control over people.  They change the Bible to say what they want it to say to pervert the Truth and gain followers for themselves.

Everyone has to choose what words of Yahweh they will accept, but I will continue to use the Hebrew Scriptures because their authenticity has been proven by the Dead Sea Scrolls.  It holds the Word of God about His Redemption, His Land, and His chosen people.

“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6).

©2012 TentTentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. 

Christian Tattoos, Really

“He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.  He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. … On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: king of kings and lord of lords” (Revelation 19:12-13,16).

Recently, I was shocked to learn that some Christians believe Jesus is going to return on a white horse with a tattoo on his thigh.  Not only that, but he also has us tattooed on the palms of his hands. Is  that what the Scriptures really say?  Will Yeshua have a tattoo of  ‘the name that only he knows’ on his leg?  If so, couldn’t anyone tattoo their thigh with some random letters or words and claim they are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords deceiving the whole world?  I hope that the anti-christ doesn’t own a white horse, have a robe dipped in blood and carry a sword!

Why is it that many Christians believe such nonsense?  The only answer could be their interpretation of Scripture has become so skewed their doctrine of grace has no boundaries.   They have created a sinful savior who is incapable of delivering anyone so they remain in their rebellious carnality while proclaiming Jesus as their Lord.

Tattoos in Scriptures

“And do not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor put tattoo marks on you.  I am the LORD”(Leviticus 19:28). 

The Hebrew word for ‘tattoo’ is qaqu and means ‘to cut or imprint’ the skin.  In the verses surrounding tattoos, God makes it clear that His covenanted people were not to worship the gods of the the nations around them by drinking blood, divining spirits, selling their daughters into religious prostitution, or cutting their bodies for the dead.  Some say that the command is only for Israel, but don’t the words “I AM the LORD” have significance to Christians? Or, “Be holy as I am holy?” It would seem not as 25% of all tattoos per year are religious in nature. Just look on line for ‘Christian tattoos,’– there are 108,000,00 tags.  

As with many commands of God, the ‘cutting or imprinting the skin’ has become a cultural phenomenon that denies its religious root of worshipping other gods. This rationalization of sin transforms tatoos into an acceptable by believers except for a few remnant souls who stand on the Word of God.

Tattoos are now called body art. The making of a mark, figure or writing by pricking and inserting pigment under the skin is no longer considered the same thing as cutting the flesh for the dead.  Receiving a tatoo number was scorned by Jews in concentration camps during the Holocaust; however,  now believers tattoo birth dates of babies, death dates of loved ones and anniversary dates under their skin.  It seems the ‘other god’ is idolatry of self and flesh. Branding the human body with flowers, words, and even more reprehensible, Scripture verses takes away from the handiwork of the Creator who made each of us in His image and we are to reflect His glory.

I have learned from asking people who have tattoos that most, if not all, are done in memory of a loved one or someone who hurt them deeply.  These individuals justify their tattoo as a lasting memorial for the dead helping them to overcome the emotional pain.  Instead of going to Yeshua to be set free from depression, sadness,  anger, bitterness, deep pain and suffering, they cut their bodies.

I know one young man who tattooed  yod-hey-vav-hey, the holy name of God, on his back.  He said it was to honor God.  How can something that God forbids bring Him honor? From the death perspective I wondered, “Is Jesus still dead that we need to cut our flesh for him?” “Is a tattoo an honorable memorial to him?”  According to the Scriptures, Yeshua is alive and seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Luke 22:69, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1); therefore, a tattoo to honor him is blasphemy.  

The Engraved Hands of Messiah

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands …” (Isaiah 49:6). 

The word ‘engrave’ in Hebrew is patah and is only used in reference to engraving the names of the Tribes of Israel on stone.  This ‘engraving’ never refers to a tattoo or body art on the flesh. The markings on Yeshua’s hands are the scars from the nails on the cross not a tattoo!

“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27).

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight” (Luke 24:30-31).

Thomas was a doubter to Yeshua’s resurrection.  The scars that he touched were not tattoos from some tattoo artist in Israel.  They were the crucifixion marks of a dead man come back to life!  They were evidence of his resurrection! The two men from Emmaus also recognized Yeshua by the scars on His palms when He broke bread.   His scars were real scars from a real event and not some drawings he received in a tattoo parlor.  It is those same scars from the nails in his hands and feet that when He returns, ‘all the people of the earth will look on the one they pierced and mourn’ (Zechariah 12:10, Revelation 1:7).

Faithful and True Witness of God’s Word

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.  With justice he judges and makes war.  His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns.  He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.  He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God” (Revelation 19:11-12). 

Riding on a white horse, Yeshua is called Faithful and True.  To what is Yeshua Faithful and True?  The name written on his thigh: the Word of God.

Yeshua was faithful and true to every Word that was the essence and reality of his life. He was sinless and never broke one of his Father’s commandments.  If he had broken even one commandment like Leviticus 19:28 regarding tattoos, he would have sinned against his Father and become an ‘unfaithful and a false witness’.   Moreover, he would have been a blemished ‘lamb’  unable to be a sin offering for us.

“Then they said to Jeremiah, ‘May the LORD be a ‘true and faithful’ witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the LORD your God sends you to tell us” (Jeremiah 42:5).

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘These are the words of the Amen, the ‘faithful and true’ witness, the ruler of God’s creation” (Revelation 3:14).

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Messiah, a lamb without blemish or defect [tattoo]” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Yeshua’s Tzizit or Tassels

“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels (tzizit) on the corners of your garments with a blue cord on each tassel.  You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes” (Numbers 15:38-39, Deuteronomy 22:12).

The four corners of a prayer garment with tassels or tzizit remind the wearer about the name of God, the power of God, the anointing of God, and most importantly, the commands of God.   Putting tzizit on the hem of their garment was a reminder to the commands of Yahweh so they would not follow after the lusts of their eyes and heart.

The Name of God – יהוה

Yeshua was born into Tribe of Judah which makes him Jewish.  As a Jewish child, he was taught the Torah commands. As a Jewish man, he obeyed the command in Numbers and wore tzizit on the four corners of his garment.  Tzizit are made of multiple strings and knots that have a numerical value for the tetragrammaton Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey or the memorial name of God.  It would be more probably that the name of God written on Messiah are his tzizit resting on his thigh as returns with his armies. 

“On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16).

The Name of God on His Thigh

No earthly king bears his thigh to the world, so why would the eternal and holy King of Kings and Lord of Lords bear his?  Kings wear robes and Yeshua will be no different.  His robe, however, will have the testimony of God’s name on it.  Yeshua, the Faithful and True witness, will finally restore the name of his Father when He returns.  There will be no confusion as to who he is as his “thigh will bear the Name.”

Imprinting the Word of God

“Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.  Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 7:3-4).

The Israelites were given a powerful way to remember the commands of God and it wasn’t with a tattoo on their body.  Specifically,  they were to tie the commands as symbols on their hands and bind them on their foreheads.  They weren’t to write, engrave or tattoo them literally on their hands or foreheads as that would have been disobeying God’s command and sin.

These are the commands, decrees and teachings the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe …. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:1, 8-9).

According to the new covenant, the Word of God is written on our hearts by the Spirit of God. The Amplified Bible describes the new covenant relationship with God as the commandments are ‘imprinted on our hearts’. If we could just tattoo Scriptures like the fruits of the Spirit or 1 Corinthians 13 on our bodies and be at peace with God, then the new covenant would be unnecessary.  Everyone must make a choice to either love God and His Word as it is written or willfully rebel against Him by justifying sin in the name of freedom and grace and becoming a fleshly billboard.  

“But the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord are from everlasting to everlasting upon those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him, and His righteousness is to children’s children— To such as keep His covenant [hearing, receiving, loving, and obeying it] and to those who [earnestly] remember His commandments to do them [imprinting them on their hearts]” (Psalm 103:17-18 Amplified Bible).

King Yeshua will be returning to Jerusalem on a white horse. His witness to the Word of his Father will be faithful and true.  His Kingdom will be ruled with justice, and an iron scepter for those who refuse to obey his Father’s commandments.   Following the Commander of Yahweh’s armies, dressed in white are those who will rule and reign with him because the Spirit of God imprinted His commands on their hearts and not their precious, sanctified bodies.

Tattoos on Yeshua. Not ever. 

Christian tattoos, nope.

©2012 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. 

What’s Wrong in Galatia?

“They stirred up the people, as well as the elders and the Torah-teachers; so they came and arrested him and led him before the Sanhedrin. There they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops speaking against this holy place and against the Torah…” (Acts 6:12-14).

When we share our faith walk with non-Jewish believers saying that we keep the Biblical Sabbath, celebrate the Feasts of the Lord and eat according to Leviticus, we are always referred to the book of Galatians and warned of legalism and Judaizing.  What is it about Judaizing, legalism, and the so-called ‘Galatian error’ that incites people to react defensively toward a non-Jewish believer who desires to obey God’s commands out of a heart of love, commitment and devotion?

The Word is “Compel”

“Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised.  They only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Messiah…. They want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh” (Galatians 6:12-14).

According to this verse, new gentile believers were being compelled to undergo outward flesh circumcision as a requirement to live out their faith in Yeshua of Nazareth. This happened because some Messianic Jews were fearful of being persecuted by non-believing Jews for their faith in Yeshua.

The Galatian error had nothing to do with faith obedience to the commands of God or Torah, it had nothing to do with the Sabbath, the Festivals or dietary regulations. The Galatian error was about a ‘written code’ that was inhibiting the non-Jew’s freedom to live in obedience to God’s commands and enjoy the blessings, promises, and covenants they now had access to as part of the commonwealth of Israel through faith in Messiah.

Circumcision

“Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts” (1 Corinthians 7:19).   

When studying Galatians and especially Paul’s teachings, it is important to understand the terminology he used when referring to the Body of Messiah, Jews and non-Jews. Many times ‘circumcision’ verses are taught with an ‘anti-circumcision’ viewpoint with the idea that if non-Jews become circumcised, they lose their freedom and are forced to obey God’s commands. This is not how Paul used the terms ‘circumcision’ and ‘uncircumcision;’ this is not what ‘circumcision’ means.

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has nothing to do with the act of circumcising the flesh.  He compares the flesh condition of two different groups of people: the Jews who were known as ‘the circumcision’ and the gentiles who were known as ‘the uncircumcision.’  Putting the verse in its proper context and terminology, Paul is saying that it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a non-Jew, what matters is keeping God’s commandments.  It can be reasoned from this verse that Paul never taught a gospel that encouraged disobedience to Torah,  but believed that both Jew and gentile have the responsibility to keep God’s commandments which include Sabbath, Festivals, and dietary regulations.

Paul uses the same terminology in Galatians 6:16:

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” 

Paul is again not speaking about the act of circumcision.  He is saying “Being Jewish or non-Jewish means nothing; what counts is being a new creation [in Messiah].”  He wants all the Galatians (and those who read Galatians) to understand that our outward flesh condition nor our DNA, has anything to do with our justification before God. All of us, Jew and non-Jew,  (circumcised or uncircumcised) need to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God; everyone, Jew and non-Jew, (circumcised and uncircumcised) needs to become a new creation in Messiah (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Redemption from the Law

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive full rights of sons” (Galatians 4:4).

Yeshua, who was fully God, humbled Himself and came down to earth as a human being.  He  was born into a world of (the law of) sin and death just like every other human born of a woman.   He lived under the law of human nature with the temptation of sin, however, he remained sinless because his Father was not Adam, but Yahweh.  He never broke one of His Father’s commands as written in Torah.  He lived them perfectly and taught them to his followers correctly.  Because he was completely righteous and without sin, his death was sufficient payment to free all mankind, Jew and non-Jew (circumcised and uncircumcised), from the law of sin and death and give them life now and eternally as sons of God.

“You are all sons of God through faith in Messiah Yeshua, for all of you who were immersed into Messiah have clothed yourself with Messiah.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.  If you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 5:26-29).

We all live under the ‘law of sin and death’ until we are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and become sons of God.    No one in Galatia or anywhere else at any other time was ever justified by laws – man’s or God’s.   As redeemed sons of God in Messiah, there is no spiritual differentiation between Jew and non-Jew (circumcised or uncircumcised), male or female, slave or free.   When each of us comes to faith in Messiah, we become Abraham’s seed and evidence of the promise God made to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him.

Zealous for ‘the law’

“For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.  I was advancing Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:13-14).

In his own words, Paul admits that before he met Yeshua, he persecuted new Jewish believers regarding Judaism and the traditions of the fathers that he called ‘the law.’  If anyone lived contrary to the ‘traditions of Judaism,’ they were persecuted and even put to death by his authority. Until his Road to Damascus experience,  Paul was the greatest persecutor of Messianic Jewish followers of Yeshua who he thought could no longer adhere to traditional Judaism and the religious system that it included.  Acts 7:54-60 records him front and center at the stoning of Stephen receiving the coats of the witnesses at his feet.

Conversion through Circumcision

Before Yeshua’s death and resurrection,  the only way for a gentile God-fearer like Cornelius to  join the ‘commonwealth of Israel’ was to convert to Judaism.  This was done through a religious process that included circumcision of the flesh.   Though circumcision was initially given as a covenant sign of faith to Abraham, over the centuries circumcision had become the outward sign of following Judaism and all of the manmade traditions, yokes, and burdens that went with it.

In the Temple, a ‘wall of partition’ separated the people of Israel from the gentiles.  Though a God-fearing gentile could come to Solomon’s Colonnade to pray, they could never enter the Temple area unless they had legally converted to Judaism through the ritual of flesh circumcision.  It was this ‘wall of partition,’ the ceremonial ‘law’ to become legally Jewish that Yeshua destroyed in his flesh.

The problem in Galatia was not that Messianic gentiles were being forced to obey the commandments of God, but that non-Messianic Jews wanted gentile believers to convert to Judaism.   Paul made it very clear that gentile believers did not have to  convert to Judaism to live out their faith in Yeshua. 

In fact, Paul taught that all followers of Yeshua of Nazareth needed to remain in the flesh condition they were in when they were saved.  If they were ‘uncircumcised,’ they were to remain as gentiles.  If they were ‘circumcised,’  they were to remain as Jews.  It is the witness of Jew and gentile worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob together according to the commands that is the testimony of Messiah. 

“Circumcision has value if you observe the law [of Judaism], but if you break the law [of Judaism], you have become as though you had not been circumcised” (Romans 2:25).

Paul states that circumcision to become lawfully Jewish has no value because it is completely dependent on observing Judaism and its traditions.  A ritual circumcision does not necessarily have its foundation in faith, but in the value of the traditions of the fathers; the traditions of men.  These traditions or laws are easily broken and then it is as if the person is no longer a convert to Judaism.

Paul understands this entire process more than anyone because he was a ‘Judaizer’ himself wanting gentiles to convert to Judaism.  Moreover, he has learned through personal experience that being legally Jewish, of which he has the most extensive credentials, is not as valuable as faith in Messiah Yeshua.   It is faith in Yeshua that gives all believers – circumcised or uncircumcised – not only freedom from the law of sin that leads to death, but also the burdens of laws of Judaism.

Titus and Timothy

Enter Titus.  Titus was a Greek believer (non-Jew).  He did not feel compelled to be circumcised.  He was quite content to remain in his non-Jewish condition, but it created some problems within the  Jewish congregation that needed to be addressed.

“This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Messiah Yeshua and to make us slaves” (Galatians 2:4). 

Notice Paul doesn’t say Jewish believers in Messiah are creating the problems, but rather ‘false brothers’ who had ‘infiltrated’ the body of believers in Jerusalem.  In Jerusalem ‘false brothers’ would most likely be Jews who had rejected the Messiah and were Judaizing the new non-Jewish believers or ‘false brothers’ could imply that these men ‘pretended, bore false witness’ to the Messiah. The purpose of these ‘false brothers’ was to ‘infiltrate’ the Body of Messiah and compel the gentile believers to convert to Judaism through circumcision.

Titus was the test case.   Though he personally did not feel the need to be circumcised, he was still being compelled to become legally Jewish.  If Paul allowed him to be flesh circumcised and become legally Jewish, then the whole message of salvation by faith for gentiles would have been nullified.   It would have changed justification by faith in Yeshua to works of the flesh – heritage or conversion.  The gospel to the nations with which God entrusted Paul would have ended abruptly.

But what about Timothy?   He was circumcised.

Timothy had a Greek father and a Jewish mother. His mother and grandmother raised him with the Hebrew Scriptures and he understood his Jewish heritage.   For him to be circumcised was not an issue of conversion to a legal Jewish one because he was already ‘legally Jewish’ through his birth mother.   Furthermore,  Paul was going to take Timothy with him on his missionary journeys to places where there were unbelieving Jews. Being an uncircumcised Jew would have been a huge a stumbling block for those Jews to hear and receive the message of salvation in  their own Jewish Messiah.

Did Titus not keep God’s commandments while Timothy did? Of course not. This question has already been answered: “Circumcision [being Timothy] is nothing and uncircumcision [being Titus] is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts” (1 Corinthians 7:19).  For Titus to believe that he had a different set of commands as Timothy or did not have to obey God’s commandments like Timothy would have amounted to not only ignorance, but also ‘gentile’ arrogance.

Foolish and Bewitched

“You foolish Galatians!  Who has betwitched you?” (Galatians 3:1).

I cannot count how many times this verse has been quoted out of context to ‘correct us’ and our walk of faith. It is almost funny, if it wasn’t so sad.  We have met and known real people who sincerely  believe that obedience to God’s Torah is foolish and we are somehow being led astray by a ‘bewitching spirit’ and have ‘fallen from grace.’

Justification for sin comes through Messiah Yeshua’s atonement on the cross and by faith in Him alone. There is no argument there.  To compel someone to become Jewish according to a ‘written code’ involving circumcision of the flesh is most definitely a foolish error when it comes to the message of justification.  However, someone who loves the Lord God of Israel and desires to obey His commands out of that love are not bewitched or foolish. They are not trying to compel anyone to legally convert to Judaism.  In fact, it is quite the opposite. They are sharing a fuller message of salvation that includes sanctification. Yeshua Himself said, “If you love me, you will obey my commands” (John 14:15).

Zealousness and History

“Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good.  What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them” (Galatians 5:17). 

The unbelieving Jews, the Judaizers, only wanted gentile believers to ‘mutilate their flesh’ so they could boast about them.   They liked the idea of multitudes following them and their rules.  It boosted their egos and made them feel important and in control of this new movement of God.   They wanted to be able to say, “Look how many gentiles are converting to Judaism!”  Simply put, this was the Galatian error in Paul’s day: forced gentile conversion to Judaism.

It is highly probable the Messianic Jews didn’t really know what to do with the number of gentiles coming to faith in Yeshua. Though the Council in Jerusalem outlined the responsibility of a gentile initially turning to God, there was no guarantee that the pagan ways of the nations wouldn’t infiltrate and destroy the Messianic faith that was just out of the womb.  Messianic Jews like Paul were well aware that Yeshua didn’t preach the kingdom of Judaism, but they also didn’t want to lose their Jewish identity and Biblical heritage.  In their defense, after 2000 years of gentile infiltration and councils denouncing everything Jewish about faith in a Jewish Messiah, there was some merit to their concerns and struggles.

In the first century, there were more Jewish believers than gentile.  Gentiles who came to faith in Messiah grafted into the ‘commonwealth of Israel‘ and became part of the Olive Tree of Israel.    They met in synagogues on the Sabbath and were taught the Torah (Acts 15:21).   They took on a Biblically ‘Jewish’ identity while retaining their unique calling as gentiles to make the Jew envious.   As they tried to live out their new faith celebrating Biblical holy days, they encountered judgment from the Judaizers who wanted their adherence to the ‘written code’  first: gentiles needed to convert to Judaism.  Read in this cultural context Colossians 2:16 takes on a whole new perspective.

“Therefore do not let anyone (Jew)  judge you (gentiles) by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Messiah.”

When the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, the Jewish nation was scattered all over the world.  Jerusalem was no longer central to Judaism, the Jewish people, and the Messianic faith. The Jewish congregation of believers led by James was no longer the an example of faith (1 Thessalonians 2:14).

As the centuries passed and the number of gentile believers increased, they lost their connection to Jerusalem.  The Torah no longer came out of Zion nor the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Anti-circumcision or anti-Jewish doctrines crept into the ‘church’ and edicts from various church councils like Nicaea and Laodicea made it illegal for  believers in Yeshua to follow anything that appeared ‘Jewish’ including Sabbath, Biblical festivals, circumcision, and Levitical dietary regulations. 

Unfortunately for the growing Body of Messiah,  everything in the Bible looked ‘Jewish’ because God had  entrusted His Torah to the Jewish people to guard and protect.  Eventually Rome took the place of Jerusalem, the Pope spoke in the place of God, and the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Latin. Gentile believers easily fell into Roman religious practices against all warnings by Paul in his letter to the Romans (Chapters 9-14). Jewish believers either converted to Roman ‘Christianity’ or died.  Then, of course, came the Crusades, the Inquisitions, and the Holocaust.

The Modern Error in Galatia

Judaizing is a non-issue today as Christians are no longer part of the Messianic Jewish community.   They do not attend synagogues for their teaching and instruction as did the first century believers.  They are not faced with ‘false brothers’ who compel them to convert to Judaism or be cast away from the God of Israel.  The Christian church no longer teaches Torah as an outline for living a life of obedience.   In fact, most Biblical truths that were taught by Yeshua and lived out by the Apostles and first gentile believers (including some Jewish traditions that Paul commended the gentile believers for keeping) have been eliminated to the point that neither Paul, the Apostles, or Yeshua would recognize the Body of Messiah today.

The modern Galatian error is a now a ‘gentile code’ that compels Jews to follow the ways of the nations embedded in Christian doctrine.   Jews who come to faith in Jesus Christ no longer embrace the eternal covenants and promises given to them. They ‘legally convert’ to Christianity through baptism and confirmation into one of hundreds of denominations. Through the misunderstanding of a first-century issue, the modern-day church discourages anything remotely Jewish and their ‘circumcised’ converts attend church services on Sunday and celebrate foreign holidays that are prohibited by the God of Israel in the Scriptures.  In these murky waters, many of the ‘circumcised’ have lost their Jewish identity and their call to be a light to the gentile nations has been snuffed out. 

Something definitely has ‘bewitched’ the church. It’s not a Messianic believer obeying God’s commandments; it’s a distortion of the Truth. This distortion has paralyzed ‘the uncircumcised’ from entering into the promises given to Abraham, the reality of the new covenant as prophesied by Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and walking in the commandments of God as lived out by Yeshua. Jew and gentile, ‘circumcised’ and ‘uncircumcised’ still remain separated. Their testimony to the world of ‘one new man’ is impeded by an error that can no longer be called Judaizing and compelling gentiles to become legally Jewish through ritual circumcision.  The modern ‘Galatian error’ has become the anti-Jewish catch phrase for arrogance over the first century Messianic Jews who dared to allow the ‘uncircumcised’ to enter the commonwealth of Israel through faith in the Jewish Messiah.

©2012 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive. 

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