The Center for
Messianic Learning 

Unapologetically Pro-Torah
Unashamedly Pro-Israel
Irrevocably Zionist
ב״ה
“… out of Tziyon will go forth Torah, the word of ADONAI from Yerushalayim.”
(Isaiah 2:3)
Jew and Gentile (Synagogue and Church), one in Messiah. (Ephesians 2:14)
“For He is our peace, Who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, …”
 

If your life is not in jeopardy for what you believe, you’re probably on the wrong side!

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Please Note: Nothing on this website should be taken as anti-Church. I am not anti-anything or anyone. I am only pro-Torah and pro-Truth. Sometimes the Truth upsets our long-held beliefs. Why isn’t my theology consistent throughout this website?

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Developing a
Systematic Messianic Theology

“The purpose of careful theological formulations is not to put barriers in the way of people who are seeking salvation, but to define clearly the truths upon which genuine [Biblical] faith rests, so that people will not be misled by false doctrines.” [Robert M. Bowman, Jr. Why You Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah's Witnesses. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989, p. 18.]
 

An Introduction to the
Science of Theology

Lesson 4: Getting Down to Basics
The Bare Essentials of the Messianic Theology

In this lesson:


Since we are about to embark upon the study of Bible doctrine, also called the study of theology, it is appropriate that we take just a few minutes to discuss the basic vocabulary of the science of theology. A number of the subjects in this lesson are repeated from previous lessons, and will be repeated again in subsequent lessons.

Some Important Definitions

Theology, rightly understood, is a science. And like all other sciences, the science of theology is subdivided into areas of specialty or concentration. The science of theology also has its own unique vocabulary and, if we are going to be theologians, we need to learn that vocabulary. Messianic Judaism, as an eclectic movement,[1] has no centralized structure, no central source of authority other than the Scriptures, and no formal theology of its own that has been widely published. Additionally, since the “Torah Pursuant Messianic Restoration Movement” includes people from all branches of Judaism and from literally every Christian denomination, I personally see it highly unlikely that until Messiah returns there will ever be anything close to resembling a consensus of opinion about what constitutes “Messianic Jewish Theology.” So in order to build our own “Messianic Theology” we are forced to use Christian Systematic Theology as our basic pattern.

A considerable additional difficulty exists in the fact that classic Systematic Theology is deeply rooted in Greek, or Western, thought and traditional Judaism is deeply rooted in Hebraic, or Eastern thought. Western thought tends to deal with absolute definitions of who, what, why, when, where, and how; Eastern thought tends to think in terms of word pictures and the feelings that those word pictures elicit. For example, if you ask a Western theologian to describe God he will respond with a list of the attributes of God: omniscient, omnipotent, indivisible, eternal, immense, etc. If you ask an Eastern theologian to describe God he will will respond with a list of things that God is “like”: Father, Shepherd, Rock, Savior, Comforter, Defender, Provider, etc. Both are, of course, accurate, but the Eastern approach is impossible to actually quantify, which is difficult for the Western mind to accept. Being a blend of both Eastern and Western cultures, Messianic Judaism finds itself trying to “straddle the fence” and effectively harmonize the two very dissimilar approaches. Not an easy task at all, as we are about to find out in the remainder of this series of studies.

An additional difficulty lies in the fact that “Christianity” is deeply concerned with what a person believes, whereas Judaism is much more concerned about how a person behaves. Our behavior is governed by our true beliefs, not by what we claim to believe. As the Master once said, “You will know them by their fruits.”

The following terms are those used in classic Christian Systematic Theology. In our studies we will usually (but not always) attempt to avoid the classical Greek/Christian terms in favor of more Hebraic terms, since we are, after all, trying to define a Messianic Jewish theology.

In my humble opinion, theology is the most wonderful, exciting, stimulating, and rewarding of all the sciences. The skeptic, the unbeliever, the God-hater will tell you that theology is certainly not a science, nor even a valid philosophy, but they are speaking from a position of ignorance.

According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (1981 edition), science is:

possession of knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or understanding; knowledge attained through study or practice; a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study <the science of theology>; something … that can be learned like systematized knowledge. [Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, ibid.]

The fact that we are trying to effectively deal with “Christianity” and “the Church” at the same time we are dealing with “Messianic Judaism” and “the Synagogue” further compounds our effort, so we need to also define these additional terms that we will be using extensively in this series of studies. For a more extensive discussion of these terms see “Vocabulary Matters.”

Torah

In traditional Jewish thinking, the word Torah is used broadly to indicate the entire body of authoritative writings of the rabbis; for example, the term “walking Torah” indicates following all of Jewish rabbinical tradition. Other definitions commonly used include:

• All Jewish law, as recorded in both the Tanakh and the Talmud (the “Oral Tradition” committed to writing).

• The Tanakh (the “Jewish Bible” which consists of the Books of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings).

• The first five books of the Bible, the Books of Moses (also know as the Chumash or the Greek equivalent, Pentateuch).

• The Covenant which God gave to Israel through Moshe at Mount Sinai (because it contains many individual teachings, or “torahs”).

• Any teaching from the Books of Moses.

In traditional rabbinical thinking, there are two Torahs: written and oral. When most rabbis speak in these terms, they define the written Torah as the Chumash, which was written down by Moshe as he received it from HaShem on Mount Sinai. They claim, however, that there was a second Torah that was given to Moshe which he did not write down, but transmitted it orally to Israel and that it has been handed down orally through the centuries. This oral material was finally written down, starting around the year 200 CE under the direction and authority or Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (Judah the Prince). Since then there have been many additions under the supposed authority of Devarim (Deuteronomy) 17:8-12 (as interpreted by the rabbis), which are considered as authoritative and as having also originated at Mount Sinai. The capstone of this Oral Tradition is the Talmud, which consists of the Mishna of R. Yehuda HaNasi and its authoritative commentary, the Gamarah.

I personally do not refer to the Talmud as “Torah” because Sh'mot (Exodus) 24:4 says, “Moshe wrote down all the words of ADONAI,” and the Oral Tradition is claimed to be words of ADONAI which Moshe did not write down. While I do not consider the Oral Tradition as Torah, do not believe it is the product of divine inspiration, and do not believe that it has spiritual authority for Believers in Mashiach, I do, however, believe that there is undeniably great value in reading and studying the Talmud and other rabbinic writings, just as there is great value in reading and studying any of the great biblical commentaries that have been written down through the centuries. But more specifically, studying the writings of the rabbis gives us great insight into the way the Sages have thought, reasoned, and come to their interpretation of the Scriptures.

I personally use the word Torah in three ways:

(1) to refer to the Chumash specifically, the five books of Moshe, which will be the most frequent use of the word;

(2) to refer to specific teachings within the Chumash; or

(3) to refer to the entire body of Scripture, including the Tanakh and the Ketuvei HaShalichim, or Apostolic Writings.

I believe if we can modify a person’s vocabulary, we can actually change the way that person thinks. There are two terms that I wish each of you would permanently erase right now from your vocabulary: those two terms are “Old Testament” and “New Testament.” The word “old” usually indicates something that has diminished value because of its age or has become obsolete, and the word “new” frequently means that which replaces something “old.” The Tanakh is certainly ancient, but its value will never diminish, and though they are certainly newer than the Tanakh, the Apostolic Writings supplement and complement, not replace, the Tanakh.

Israel

Unless I state otherwise, when I say “Israel” I am referring either to:

(1) the biological descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov plus all those non-Jewish people who have been adopted or grafted into that family since the time of Avraham, or

(2) the political entity of Israel, either ancient or modern.

When I assert that non-Jewish believers in Mashiach are “adopted” or “grafted” into “Israel”, I am using the term “Israel” to refer to the special part of the Jewish people who are known as “the remnant”; that is, those descendants of the Patriarchs who have come to a saving faith in Yeshua HaMashiach, the Messiah of Israel. The “remnant,” however is still very much a part of “Israel.”

Gentile

The word “gentile” is the English equivalent of the Hebrew “goy” (ywg), singular, or “goyim” (~iyywg), plural, which refers to people of the nations other than Israel, and is sometimes also used of Israel itself, when it should be translated “nation.” Although Scripture frequently uses the words “goy” or “goyim” to designate a pagan or an unbeliever, this is not always the case, so I will not use it that way. That being said, it must be remembered that prior to Messiah, if a person was not Jewish they had no access to HaShem and were therefore, de facto pagan. If I mean pagan, I will say “pagan;” if I mean unbeliever, I will say “unbeliever.” However, because some have used the word “gentile” as a derogatory term to refer to a person who is not Jewish, I generally refrain from using the word to refer to a believer in Mashiach who is not Jewish, and simply prefer to use the term “non-Jewish.” I do, however, frequently refer to the “Gentile Church” (which generally rejects the Torah along with all things Jewish) to make a distinction from Torah-Pursuant non-Jewish Messianic Believers.

Jew/Jewish

This is a much more difficult term to define than one would expect, since even those who call themselves “Jewish” cannot all agree on a definition of the term. In its most technical aspect, the word “Jew” is a shortened form of the word “Judah” and therefore refers to an Israelite who is a descendant of Yehuda ben Ya'akov, or who is a member of that branch of the family through adoption.

The Orthodox usually define a “Jew” as a physical descendant of Avraham through Yitzchak and Ya'akov. They feel that a Jew must either have a Jewish mother or have been converted to Orthodox Judaism by an Orthodox rabbinic authority. Many Orthodox rabbis hold that a “Jew” must adhere to the tenets of Orthodox Judaism, and many Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reformed, and Humanist Jewish rabbis have even different definitions of the word “Jew.”

The Government of Israel holds that a Jew is a person whose mother is Jewish and who has not “converted to any other religion” — clearly meaning “Christianity.”[2] It is quite acceptable to the Government of Israel for a “Jew” to be a Secular Humanist, an Atheist, a Buddhist, a Hindu, or any other “religion” (except perhaps Muslim), as long as he or she does not believe that Yeshua of Nazareth is the Messiah.

I really appreciate the definition of a Jew used by David Ben-Gurion, the “George Washington” of modern Israel, who reportedly said during Israel’s War of Independence, “Anyone with the chutzpah to call himself a Jew, is a Jew!”

Biologically speaking, and therefore the literal definition of the word (which I will use), any person whose mother or father is a descendant of Ya'akov is therefore also a descendant of Ya'akov, and therefore biologically Jewish. Since any person who has one Jewish parent is biologically Jewish, it therefore stands to reason that anyone who has one Jewish grandparent is likewise biologically Jewish. Being as little as one-eighth Jewish in Nazi Germany would earn a person a one-way ticket to a death camp; if that definition of Jewish was good enough for Adolph Hitler, should it not also be good enough for us?

Most people use the words “Jew” or “Jewish” and “Israelite” interchangeably, and this is the way I personally usually use the terms. However, because of the long history of anti-Semitism, it is often considered derogatory for a non-Jewish person to refer to a Jewish person as a “Jew.” So to be on the safe side, unless you specifically know your audience, you are far better off to use the term “Jewish person/people.”

Christian/Christianity

The words “Christian” and “Christianity” are as hard to define as are “Jew” and “Jewish.” In their broadest common usage they refer to the religion whose adherents “believe in” (whatever that may mean) “Yeshua/Jesus” (by whatever individual definition or opinion of Him they may have). In their narrowest usage they refer to only those who view Yeshua/Jesus as HaShem come in the flesh and who place their trust and only hope for eternal life in His completed work of redemption through His death, burial, resurrection, and anticipated return to reign bodily on earth at some point in the future.

There is an additional use of the term “Christian” which is cultural instead of “religious” and refers to anybody who is not an adherent of any other major world religion and who celebrates in any form the holidays of Easter and/or Christmas. To others, since the United States was originally founded as a “Christian” country, anybody born in the United States is considered a “Christian” by virtue of that nationality.

To avoid any confusion, when I refer to a person who has entered by faith into a saving relationship with Yeshua HaMashiach, I almost always use the term Messianic Believer, or simply “Believer.”

Church

“Church” has become a personally difficult term for me to deal with, as I was born into and raised within “the Church” as the son of a devout Christian minister, and I served in Christian pastoral ministry for something like 35 years before being introduced to the Messianic Restoration Movement. Just as there are many definitions of “Christian” and “Christianity,” so also there are many definitions of the word “church.”

When I use the word “Church” (capitalized in my writing) I am almost always referring to what I often call the “Gentile Church” — that is, the entire group of adherents to the religion which believes in “Yeshua/Jesus” by whatever individual definition or opinion of Him they may have (the same as the broadest usage of the word “Christian” as explained immediately above), and who refer to themselves as “the Church,” but who reject the authority of Torah as a rule of life, and who reject virtually all things Jewish. This would include the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopalian, and Lutheran Churches, plus all the Protestant denominations. I specifically exclude from that definition all pseudo-Christian cults such as the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, and the like. Some of “the Church’s” members are true “Believers” in the Yeshua/Jesus revealed in the Scriptures; most are not. When I use in my writing the term “church” with a lower-case “c” I am referring to an individual non-Torah-pursuant “Christian” congregation.

When I am speaking of those non-Jewish people who have actually entered by faith into a saving relationship with Yeshua HaMashiach, but who reject the Torah and the Sabbath, I generally use the term “Evangelical Christians” or simply “Evangelicals.”

I never refer to Torah-pursuant Messianic Believers or their congregations as “the Church.” To do so, I believe, would be a significant insult, as use of the term would associate them with a large body of non-believers. [For a further discussion, see “Where Did the Word ‘Church’ Come From?”]

Synagogue

My use of the term “Synagogue” (capitalized) refers to the entire body of greater Judaism, both Messianic and non-Messianic, including all those who either identify themselves as Jewish or who have “attached” themselves to those who do; “synagogue” with a lower-case “s” refers to an individual Jewish community or house of worship, whether Messianic or non-Messianic.

Messianic Community or Messianic Israel

I use the terms “Messianic Community” and “Messianic Israel” interchangeably to refer to all those elect people of all ages, both ethnically Jewish and ethnically non-Jewish, who have through faith entered into a covenant relationship with Yeshua HaMashiach. This, I believe, is the correct meaning of the Greek word ecclesia — the “called-out” ones.

This group includes all the physical descendants of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'akov of all ages who have placed their faith in the atoning work of Messiah, and who depend upon Him, and Him alone, for their eternal destiny (the “faithful Remnant”), plus all of the people of earth of all ages who are not physically descended from Ya'akov (all the people of all the “Gentile nations”) who have placed their faith in the atoning work of Messiah, and who depend upon Him, and Him alone, for their eternal destiny, and are through their faith in Israel’s Messiah thereby adopted into the family of Ya'akov and grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel.

graphic representation of the divisions of humanity

In this illustration, Circle A represents all the physical descendants of Ya'akov (“all Israel”). Section B is that portion of Israel who have placed their faith in the atoning work of Messiah (the “faithful Remnant”). Circle C represents all of the people of all the “Gentile nations.” Section D is that portion of all the Gentile nations who have placed their faith in Israel’s Messiah. Section E, then, represents all of the people of the earth, of all ages, who constitute “Messianic Israel.”

Must/Should/Have To

I do my very best to avoid using terms like “must,” “should,” and “have to,” as I believe that for the most part they are inappropriate when dealing with matters of faith. The use of such words can lead to legalism at best and spiritual tyranny at worst. As a Torah teacher, it is my responsibility to teach you what the Word of God says and to teach you how to interpret it for yourself with the help and guidance of Ruach HaKodesh. It is not my responsibility to tell how you how you “should” or “must” interpret Scripture or to apply it to your own life. Where and when appropriate, I will tell you my opinion or my interpretation, and I will even sometimes tell you how I personally apply it or even how I wish that you would interpret or apply Scripture. But what you do with what you learn is between you and HaShem.

I will not even tell you in my classroom (whether literal or virtual) that you “must” live a Torah-pursuant lifestyle (though I highly recommend it.) There is much heated debate within the Messianic Jewish Community itself as to what level of Torah observance is expected of a non-Jewish believer in Messiah. There are factions within the Messianic Movement which hold that non-Jewish Messianic Believers are required to observe every single halakhic provision of not only Biblical Torah, but also of the entire Oral Tradition. Some teach that non-Jewish believers are obligated to obey every aspect of Biblical Torah but are not obligated to observe the Oral Traditions. Still others teach that they are obligated to only the “Noachide Laws” which they say are “binding upon all mankind,” and that they are free to take upon themselves as much or as little of the “yoke of Torah” they desire. There are even those within Messianic Judaism who go so far as to say that non-Jewish Messianic Believers are not permitted to observe the Biblical Torah provisions; “Torah,” they say, “is only for the Jews.”

As with all matters of strenuous debate, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. I have studied the matter at great length, and I have come to a position on the subject with which I am comfortable, for myself, at least for now. But it is not my place to impose my opinion upon you. That is a subject that will undoubtedly be discussed at great length in the classes you will study in this Beit Midrash, and one for which you will ultimately “have to” decide for yourself as you learn Torah and grow in faith.

Since you asked (you did ask, didn't you?), I will share my current opinion. I believe that there is one, and only one, “standard of righteousness” by which all mankind will be judged, and that is the Torah of God as recorded in the entire body of Scripture (Torah, Nevi'im, K'tuvim, and Apostolic Writings), but I believe specifically the entire body of mitzvot (commandments) contained in the Torah (the Books of Moses) are binding for all who claim a covenant relationship with the God of Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya'akov.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. (Luke 12:48, NAS)

But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works;” show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:18, NAS)
[“works” = mitzvot = obedience to the commandments of Torah]

I believe that Yeshua HaMashiach is God Who walked in Eden in the cool of the evening with our first parents, Who appeared in bodily form to the Patriarchs at various times and places, and Who verbally delivered the Torah to Moshe and literally inscribed the Decalogue (Ten Commandments) with His own finger in the tablets of stone that Moshe brought down off the mountain. I believe that when He said, “If you love Me you will keep My mitzvot (commandments),” He was referring to the Torah He gave to Moshe. Yeshua faithfully kept all the commandments, and if we love Him, we will want to walk as He walked.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15, NAS)

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10, NAS)

Furthermore, while I do not believe or teach that salvation is either obtained or enhanced by Torah observance, we should consider the fact that on the only two occasions reported in the Gospels on which Yeshua was asked what was necessary to obtain eternal life, His response was quite simple and direct: obey Torah!

A man approached Yeshua and said, "Rabbi, what good thing should I do in order to have eternal life?" He said to him, "Why are you asking me about good? There is One who is good! But if you want to obtain eternal life, observe the mitzvot." (Matthew 19:16,17, compareMark 10:17-21)

An expert in Torah stood up to try and trap Him by asking, "Rabbi, what should I do to obtain eternal life?" But Yeshua said to him, "What is written in the Torah? How do you read it?" He answered, "You are to love ADONAI your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your understanding; and your neighbor as yourself." "That's the right answer," Yeshua said. "Do this, and you will have life." (Luke 10:25-28)

Yeshua wanted to make absolutely sure that we know and understand exactly what He was teaching about the relationship of all Believers with the Torah and our responsibility to obey all the commandments (mitzvot) of Torah. He said:

So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:19, CJB)

Whether you choose to accept your responsibility to live a Torah-pursuant life or not is certainly up to you; it all depends upon whether you want to be “greatest” or “least” in His Kingdom.


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Two Basic Assumptions

1. Our Source of Authority is the Bible

For the study of Theology (Bible doctrine), it should be clearly evident that the Bible itself is the only valid and acceptable source of information. If the infinite God of the universe has not chosen to reveal Himself through the Scriptures, the finite mind of man can never hope to comprehend Him, or even to discover much at all about Him.

Although God is disclosed in His creation [“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1)], history teaches us that relying on the declaration of creation for our information about God almost without exception results in the worship of that creation rather than in the worship of the Creator.

Relying on human reasoning and logic results in man creating idols for himself and worshipping them.

Relying upon the opinions and emotions and experiences of men results in false doctrine and heresy at worst, faulty and inconsistent doctrine at best. The holy Scriptures, and they alone, provide a reliable, authoritative revelation of God.

Though we will touch on some of the evidences for the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures in this series of studies, the in-depth investigation of those proofs is well documented in numerous other works. For example:

[Refer to the Bibliography.]

The inspiration, reliability, absolute accuracy, and final authority of the Bible is therefore the basic assumption of this series of studies.

Our Methodology is Systematic and Scientific

“The laws of methodology are as essential in the science of systematic theology as in any other science. The theologian creates none of his materials any more than the botanist creates the flowers or the astronomer orders the stars. It is given to the theologian, as to other scientists, to recognize the character of his material and to give to it an orderly arrangement. … The importance of ascertaining and holding the truth in its absolute purity and right proportions cannot be overestimated. This end can be secured only by a systematic method, a scientific attitude, and extended labor. … the science of Systematic Theology will be incomplete and misleading to the extent that it disregards or misinterprets any portion of the divine revelation.” [Chaffer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology, vol. 1. Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1980, p. 7f.]


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The Absolute Essentials of Bible Doctrine

As we studied in our last lesson, Yeshua HaMashiach warned us that in the last times there would be many false teachers and false “Christs/Messiahs” in the world. And they all have one thing in common: they all want to be called “Christian” while they continue to teach their false doctrines. They claim to value “Christian” morals and ethics while they take evangelical Christian vocabulary and redefine the terms to fit their false teachings.

They talk about God, about “Jesus,” about atonement and salvation, even about Scripture. But in their false religions, those words have totally different meanings than they have in the Bible. Then they point to the redefined “God-words” they use and claim that their use of those words make them “Christian.”

Bob Larson, a leading evangelical teacher of cults and false religions, has this to say about the deviations that cults (in particular)  make from biblical Doctrine:

Compatibility to Bible doctrine, not social respectability and the usage of evangelical clichés, should determine whether or not any religious body is truly Christian. When making this evaluation, test these five areas of teaching:

(1) the attributes of God,

(2) the Person of Christ,

(3) the nature of man,

(4) the requirements of atonement, and

(5) the source of revelation. …

[There is] a simple, alliterative way to concisely express the basic faults of most cults: Cults generally:

demote God,

devalue Christ,

deify man,

deny sin, and

denigrate Scripture.
(Larson, Bob. Larson's Book of Cults. Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1983, p. 32f.)
 

The fact that there are currently over 43,000 “Christian” denominations worldwide supports the supposition that each of these believe that the other 42,999 denominations have departed from the “true faith.”

Within the group of those who consider themselves “evangelical Christians” or “Messianic Jews” there is a major division on the doctrine of eternal security. On one side of the dividing line are those who believe that the work of salvation is totally dependent upon God, and since God cannot change His mind, once they have been saved they can never lose that salvation. On the other side of the line are many devout Believers who reason that since salvation is dependent upon their faith, then if they allows their faith to waiver, or demonstrates lack of faith by a willful act of disobedience (any violation of Torah), then their salvation is lost until their faith is regained or they have properly repented of their sin.

The question then becomes whether what we believe about the doctrine of eternal security, although terribly important to our liberty in Messiah and our peace of mind, is in fact critical to the fact of out salvation.

What, then, are the absolutes? What are the elements that we can agree make up the essentials for true Biblical faith?

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The Attributes of God

The Scriptures plainly teach that HaShem is an indivisible compound unity:

Sh'ma, Yisra'el! ADONAI Eloheinu, ADONAI echad [Hear, Isra'el! ADONAI our God, ADONAI is one]; (Deut. 6:4)

Yeshua confirmed (Mark 12:28-31) that this is the most important mitzvah (comnmandment) in the Torah. The Hebrew word echad (one) denotes a compound unity, such as one bunch of grapes, one congregation of Believers, or that a man and woman shall become one flesh. Had HaShem chosen to delare himself a singularity, He would have used the Hebrew word yachiyd, [“Take your son Isac, your yachiyd son ...” (Gen. 22:2)] One of the most common designations in the Tanakh for HaShem is Elohim, a singular noun that always takes a plural verb when referring to Deity.

At the moment of creation we find HaShem operating and interacting “within” and “among” Himself. God (Elohim), the Spirit of God, and the Word/Yeshua all participated in the creation of the universe. Yet “ADONAI is one (echad).”

In the beginning God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth. The earth was unformed and void, darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water. (Gen. 1:1-3) …  Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in the likeness of ourselves; …” (Gen 1:26) … In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing made had being. (John 1:13) For by Him [Yeshua] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created through Him and for Him. (Col. 1:16), NAS

HaShem is invisible, no one has seen God at any time, yet He manifests Himself in many physical forms.

Yet He has manifested in many physical forms:

But He has revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures in three primary manifestations: there are within the one [Heb. echad] God of the Bible three distinct yet indivisible Persons[4] Who are eternally the same in substance and equal in power, yet eternally distinct in Person and work: God the Father (HaAv), God the Son (HaBen), and God the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh), each of Whom is infinite, eternal, indivisible, unchangeable, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, personal, and perfect in wisdom, power, holiness, righteousness, justice, goodness, truth, mercy, and love.

God the Father decrees, God the Son declares, God the Holy Spirit enacts.

If anyone is absolutely correct in all other points of doctrine but in error on this one point, he is hopelessly lost because he (or she) is worshipping a God other than the God of Avraham (Abraham), Yitzchak (Isaac), and Ya'akov (Jacob) — the God of the Bible.

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The Person of Messiah

Unlike any other religion known to man, Messianic Judaism (and its “daughter,” Christianity) stands or falls on the Person of its “foundation” (not “founder”). Just as there is only one God of the Bible, so also is there only one Messiah of the Bible, Who was always one (echad) with God the Father and God the Spirit from eternity past. He is the Creator of everything that is created. Besides the “triune” God, there is nothing that exists that was not created by HaMashiach. He has always been fully God and He will always be fully God.

Out of love for a lost creation, He became fully human without giving up anything of His deity. He was born of a virgin by the power of Ruach HaKodesh; lived a perfect, sinless, human life in absolute obedience to HaShem’s Torah; voluntarily gave up His life to fully pay the penalty of sin for all mankind; was crucified, died, and was buried; was resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven in the same body in which He died. He will return in that same body to gather His saints, judge the world, reign physically over all of creation; and ultimately create an entire new heaven and earth. He did not exist in bodily form (except for brief visits to humanity) before His incarnation, but will forever after bear the scars of His execution in His glorified body as a badge of honor as our High Priest.

Any “Yeshua/Jesus” or any “Messiah/Christ” that does not match the description of Yeshua HaMashiach of the Bible is one of the false “Messiahs/Christs” that Yeshua predicted would appear in the last days (Matthew 24:5, 23-26; Mark 13:6,21-23; Luke 17:23; 21:8; cp. Acts 5:36). The Yeshua HaMashiach we serve absolutely must be the same ADONAI Yeshua HaMashiach presented in the Bible, because:

  • If He is not HaShem, then He holds no power to save, for only HaShem can provide salvation.

  • If He is not one with the Father, then He is a liar, for He clearly claimed deity for Himself. If He is a liar then He surely cannot be HaShem.

  • If He did not become fully human, then His death did not satisfy the judgment of HaShem against the sin of humankind.

  • If He was not virgin-born then He inherited the sin nature of Adam, was therefore sinful Himself, and His death did not satisfy HaShem’s requirement for a spotless sacrifice.

  • If He sinned (violated Torah in any small degree), then He was Himself in need of a Savior.

  • If He did not die, then He did not pay the penalty for sin. (“The wages of sin is death.”)

  • If He was not bodily resurrected, then He does not have the power to resurrect the saints.

  • If He did not ascend into heaven, then He cannot return for His own.

  • If He does not return then He is a liar and not HaShem. And if He is a liar, then the Bible is a lie and mankind has no revelation and no hope.

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The Nature of Man

God created humankind, male and female, in His own image. Man chose to sin against God, and in so doing he became alienated from God and inherited a sin nature, and is totally depraved. He possesses no spark of divine life, and, of himself, is utterly helpless to remedy his lost condition apart from the grace of God.

  • If man is in fact not sinful, then Messiah’s death was for nothing and God has wasted an awful lot of time and energy in providing a means of atonement. Also, if man is not sinful, then Yeshua HaMashiach is a liar, and the entire doctrine of Messiah’s Person is jeopardized.

  • If man does not perceive of himself as sinful, then he likewise perceives no need of a Savior. If he perceives no need of a Savior, then he will never turn to Yeshua HaMashiach for salvation.

  • If man already possesses the divine life, then he too may be a god; yet the God of the Bible expressly states that there is no God besides Himself, and that His glory he will not share with another (Ex 8:10; Deut 4:35,39; Ex 8:10; 9:14; Deut 4:39; 32:12, 39; 1 Sam 2:2; Is 43:10-12; 44:6-8; 45:5-7; Mark 12:32); man is not, nor ever will be, God (Is 43:10-12).

  • If man is able to save himself, then Messiah’s death was in vain, and man must work out his own salvation by living out his life under the absolute letter of the Torah. Since Yeshua HaMashiach was the only one to every have lived up to the full requirements of Torah, then no man can ever be saved.

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The Requirements of Atonement

The sacrifices of the Torah foreshadowed the Lamb of God, “slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), Whose shed blood would be the final sacrifice and cleansing from sin (1John 1:7). Man, whose sinful rebellion has separated him from God, can now have “peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20) and be “reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:19) because of His vicarious, substitutionary death.

For anyone who agrees with the essential elements of the Biblical doctrines of the Person of Messiah and the Nature of Man, the scriptural description of the atonement is the only means by which sinful man can become reconciled to a Holy God. To reject the doctrine of Atonement requires one to reject both the doctrines of Messiah and of Mankind.

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The Source of Revelation

Since our only reliable source of revelation is the Bible, then we must look to the Bible to see what it claims for itself. It claims that it is the Word of God, inspired (that is, God-breathed), inerrant, complete (Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18,19), and the only infallible rule of faith. It reveals the origin and destiny of all things; records God’s dealings with mankind in the past, present, and future; and focuses on the Person and Work of Yeshua HaMashiach. The Bible inspires faith (Romans 10:17) and will make men “wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15).

The greatest possible evidence we can have for the infallibility of Scripture is the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy (Jeremiah 28:1-17; Hebrews 1:1-2:4). God places His reputation on the line with Biblical prophecy. God requires absolute accuracy from a prophet, and declares that if a single thing spoken by a prophet in the name of ADONAI fails to come to pass, then everything that the prophet has ever said must be disregarded (Deuteronomy 18:22, literal). By that criteria, if the Bible claims to be the Word of God (and it does), then one single error in the entire canon of Scripture would require us to discard the entire Bible.

Therefore, by its own testimony, the Bible declares that the Believer must accept the entire Bible (“every jot and tittle”) or must discard it entirely. That being the case, then all other “revelation” must be weighed and evaluated in light of the Bible.

These past few paragraphs, I believe, demonstrate how terribly important it is for every Believer to have a firm grasp of the essentials of Bible doctrine. Yeshua HaMashiach plainly said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). With the world full of false Messiahs, our eternal destiny depends upon our ability to recognize the only true Messiah. And we can only recognize Him from among the impostors when we know what the Bible says about Him.

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Continue to Lesson 5

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  1. Messianic Judaism is an eclectic movement (i.e., deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources) only in that adherents come from every branch of traditional Judaism as well as from hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of Christian denominations. The ideals of Messianic Judaism, hopefully, come primarily from the Scriptures, with some interpretation from thousands of years of study by Jewish sages and Christian theologians. [RETURN]

  2. This is one of the primary reasons that Messianic Judaism positively must make sure that it is recognized as a sect of greater Judaism alongside Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Judaism, and totally separated from Christianity and “the Church.” A Jewish person who has come to faith in the Jewish Messiah has absolutely, positively not “converted” to Christianity, but rather has become a Jew who follows the Jewish Messiah. [RETURN]

  3. We know that this was HaShem, because He accepted Joshua’s worship; angels never do, and HaShem always does. [RETURN]

  4. Please note well: If we could be able to clearly and definitively define God in terms we could actually understand, that couldn’t possibly be the God of the Bible. If HaShem (literally “The Name”) can crate the entire universe by simply speaking it into existence, He can do anything He wants to, and He can appear in any form that He chooses, and we are forever unable to comprehend the infinite. Over the span of recorded history, he has appeared to mankind in many forms: as the Angel of the Lord, as the Captain of the Lord’s armies, as a burning bush, as smoke, as cloud, as lightening, as thunder, as a pillar of fire, as a Man in a furnace (and others), and lastly as the Man Yeshua. When we discuss the “Persons” of the “Trinity,” it is important to understand that we aren’t even close to the Reality that is HaShem. We are only attaching convenient “handles” to see if we can possibly begin to grasp His glory and His functions as related to humankind. [RETURN]

 

Revised Shabbat, September 21, 2019

Page last updated on Tuesday, 09 February 2021 01:20 PM
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