Sunday, October 15, 2017

THE THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHT FROM PASSOVER

As we study the Gospel accounts of the Crucifixion we are often confused by the apparent discrepancies between traditional practice and the Gospel record. Many have set about compiling charts and calendars, as has this writer, to find a solution.

One of the confusing factors that is not always taken into account is the simple fact that the Hebrew calendar 24 hour “day” starts at sunset while our Roman calendar day starts at mid-night. In fact the Roman day has one daylight period and two night periods while the Hebrew day has just one of each of about equal length. Even those familiar with these facts still sometimes get their ‘wires crossed’ by not realising that in Genesis 1, the Hebrew “night” comes before the “day”.

Of course, apart from the fact that Genesis repeatedly refers to “the evening and morning, one day” there is a clear logic to this order as well. Darkness is the absence of light and existed first, God said “Let there be light”, so light is created and comes after darkness which just ‘is’.

Now, we see how we drift in our ideas. The very word “evening” from “eve” or poetically "even" and "eventide" in our experience suggest "toward the end of". Although New Year's Eve is before New Year and in most other usage we use it to mean “before the event”. It goes to prove my frequent contention that most words have no meaning out of context. It is like a colour on an artist's palette, it exists and excites various responses however it is only when it is applied and shaped on the canvas that it expresses meaning. One dictionary definition of "evening" reads, “The period immediately preceding a certain event.” The “evening” is the period preceding the “morning” - one day! Our thinking has changed but God's Word doesn't.

Consider how easily folk are confused. Most will remember how the new Millennium was celebrated 12 months early, in year 2000, even though both the Greenwich Observatory and the US Navy Observatory pointed out that 2001 was the first year of the new Millennium.

This simple fact of night coming before day, has caused considerable confusion to the extent that even Jewish feasts, like Passover, get moved 12 hours to the “evening after the day”, the Roman calendar logic, rather than the evening before the day, the Hebrew calendar logic.

Now, once we take this fact on board, it becomes a simple matter to describe the events surrounding the Crucifixion and Resurrection consistently with the Gospel accounts. Jesus did not, as some say, celebrate the Passover with His disciples, early. Neither did He rise from the grave on the first day of the week, which may disturb those who use that thought to justify changing the Sabbath. The Passover was kept on the evening of the 14th Nissan and Jesus was crucified and buried on the 14th Nissan, the Passover was not “the Sabbath” spoken of, that was the next day, the 15th of Nissan, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Passover was not eaten on a Sabbath, for work, contrary to Torah was necessary in connection with the Feast. (eg lighting fires.)

The fact the the women came to the tomb at daybreak on the first day of the week does not prove that Jesus rose then - “He is Risen!” as the greeting goes and the time of resurrection is not given, except in Jesus own plain statement in Matthew 12:40 "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." If we are to take Jesus at His word then he did not mean one and a half days. We must agree that he had to be in the grave before sunset, the day He was crucified which simply means He must have risen, also before sunset, which had to be late on the weekly Sabbath, the seventh day, as He was not in the grave at sunrise on the first day of the week.

Note:

Jesus "only sign" of his true Messiahship was "the sign of the prophet Jonah" (Matthew 12:39,40) - 3 days and 3 nights in the grave.
Jesus kept the Passover with his disciples on the 14th Nissan. (Luke 22:15) - The day starts at sundown.
Jesus was crucified on the 14th of Nissan and died about mid-late afternoon and buried before sunset (Luke 23:54).
Jesus was 3 days and 3 night (22 hours) in the grave - (Not 1 1/2 days)
Jesus did not rise from the grave on the first day of the week but close to sundown on the Sabbath (Luke 24:1-3)
The Jews moved Passover to the 14th like Christians moved the Sabbath to the first day of the week (Changing times and seasons). 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Making of Man



       If you watch some of those very interesting TV "Nature" documentaries it is possible to be amazed beyond imagination by the wonders of living things, only to be informed by inference or direct statement that the whole thing is the result of an accident. A Big Bang. A Singularity. A time when absolute emptiness suddenly became a universe - all by itself. It must be the only time we ever got something for nothing.

Although much reputable scientific research today has concluded that Darwinistic Evolution is an impossibility and although many notable evolutionists have "confessed" the poverty of the theory that they have so long and lovingly espoused, the media and educational establishment still peddle the evolutionary lie.

Of course there is a reason for this - If you don't want to admit to 'design' and by extension a 'designer', because of the moral implications on your lifestyle - then you 'fudge' the whole issue with scientific jargon - a case of deliberate denial - self deception to avoid facing the issue.

On the other hand, Christians have tried to justify a medieval view of nature or have bought into any one of a number of "compromise" theories that may be made to reconcile the words of Genesis 1 and the misleading claims of science, so called.

Might it not be, that the account of these events as given to us by our Creator is easier to understand than our vanity has allowed. It is seldom, that this issue is not approached, except with a lot of preconceived ideas and theological pre-conditions. It is interesting to take a fresh look at the record without the bias of self replicating scholarship and the traditions of men.

Genesis 1:1 makes a simple statement concerning an infinite matter. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth". No process or time span is indicated. Just a simple, direct statement that tells us, Who did what and when.

Genesis 1:2 gives us another picture unrelated in time from the first. "Now the earth was (became is a fairer translation) unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters." This verse is concerned only with the last word ("earth") of the previous verse and therefore is obviously not spatially related to the whole of the first verse. There appears no need to include events so far either physically or chronologically with the six days of accounts or visions that follow.


The "six days" are complete in themselves and the events related may have happened instantaneously or occupied varying time spans - we are not told and does it really matter? In one sense the answer is "no" but if we are to understand the psalmist and others who declared that God is known through His creation, (Romans 1:19,20) then the answer is a resounding "yes!".

What follows from verse 3 onwards describes the furnishing of this particular planet, Earth and this may have taken a short time, just 6 x 24 hour days as some believe or the "days" may only have been the time and sequence of the revelation of what actually took place at another time, somewhat like an "action playback" of one aspect of a game. The writer tends to prefer this latter view as it is absolutely consistent with the general order of events as we learn from observation and also allows that each "day's" events were actually inter-dependent and ran, either, parallel or concurrently with those on other "days".(1) Obviously, the linear limitations of narrative require the sequential telling as described in Genesis 1:3-31.

What we want to particularly dwell on in this study is, however, the making of Man. What sort of creature was he/she.

We read in Genesis 2:7 that Man was created from the elements already existing, literally "the dust of the ground. "Then Yehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." And, science would show that as to our composition, this is true, we are made of the stuff of the universe.

Now right here we find that Man was not given, as is today commonly believed, a "soul" but when he received breath (nefesh - spirit) he became "a living soul". Animals too were formed from "the dust of the ground", v.19 and are referred to in the Hebrew as "living souls", it's a term for a living, functioning biological mechanism. The fact that animals seem to have been considered for a possible companion for Adam established at least a mechanical similarity. However, no animal had the "likeness and image" characteristic so the psychological and physiological gap was too great. Genesis 2:20 A true “mate” after his kind, must be found (v23) for Adam.

So, next comes the first mention of cloning where God takes some of Adam's cells and creates a modified human, a female complementing the male and providing the mechanisms and technology for reproduction. Something similar must have been done for each of the animals and even many plant species as they too exist as male and female with a dazzling array of variations in function and process.

As we start to consider the kind of creature Adam was, it is best if we forget fanciful stories and stick to the Word - the record given us by the Creator. At this point in time, Adam is mortal as also are the animals and the cessation of existence known as death may well have happened in the animal kingdom, depending on their determined life span. You see, immortality for any created being was only possible through partaking of the Tree of Life and later we learn something of the nature of that "Tree" that may surprise you.

First, there was another "Fruit" that displaced innocence, the Tree itself was, as all things God created, "good" - in fact it is through knowledge of the Torah that we know "good and evil", (see Paul on that) - so one must surmise that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was a form of the Torah. However, at this time in the affairs of this planet, Yehovah desired Adam and Eve to remain innocent, as part, if you like, of a developmental or maturing process. They were not yet ready for initiation into "the other side" of reality. At the same time, as part of that process, Adam had to be free to choose. It would not be wrong to surmise that in the fulness of time Yehovah would permit access to this presently forbidden Tree. You see Man was being made in "the likeness and image" of his Creator and the Creator knew "good and evil" so it's clear that man's development was not yet complete.

Now earlier I said that immortality was made possible by the partaking of the Tree of Life - whether by one "eating" or by repeated partaking, we can only surmise. The environment in those days permitted great longevity, probably through massive shielding from cosmic radiation by a dense cloud blanket that was only lost at the time of Noah's flood. However, there was some cellular damage and eventually the mechanism of life would break down. Therefore, I suggest that the Tree of Life was a natural remedy that simply reversed the injurious effects of cosmic exposure.

Now before you throw that idea out as "just speculation", hear the words of the Creator Himself when he cast Adam from the garden and set up some technically equipped guardians to this Tree of Life.

Genesis 3:22 And Yehovah Elohim said: "Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever."

Notice that Adam and Eve, through disobedience, had become as the Elohim, "knowing good and evil", contrary to the Creator’s intention at that time and if they now managed to eat of the Tree of Life they could be or would become immortal sinners. I believe this is a very important verse as it gives us an understanding both of the nature of Yehovah and the type of beings we humans are, but it gives us a picture rather different from popular teaching.

It's really a matter of just reading what is there and not "interpreting" the record through some theological lens that attributes meanings (interpretations) not intended by the text.

Another verse that is frequently "interpreted" is just next but one, Genesis 3:24 "So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden the cherubim, and the flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way to the tree of life." How many pictures have you seen of a single angel (inaccurately called a cherubim) holding a flaming sword? Well, notice Yehovah placed "the cherubim", cherubim is Hebrew and it is plural so it could have been any number of beings, a whole company. Then it also says " . . . and the flaming sword which turned every way". This was obviously a device described according to the vocabulary of the writer as a "flaming sword", that was some sort of barrier or warning system that moved around somewhat like a searchlight. Too simple? Well, it may not fit some interpretations but what other account can you give that fits more closely to the actual text.

You see, our faith has become questionable by being made subject to man's imagination, when in fact the record is simpler than we have dared to imagine.

If we can go back for a moment to Genesis 1:26,27 And God said: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." 27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. Which is a brief overview of what we learn in more detail in the next chapter.

Notice the Elohim said "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" and it has been debated in scholarly circles for generations what these words "likeness and image" mean and the consensus is usually that they don't mean what they say. Yet what is it that separates man from all other animals? Creative, imaginative and emotional qualities that were to enable us to walk, talk and have fellowship with, the Being who created the universe. Early disobedience and sin severely curtailed those abilities, but the promise was there - we were created more like the Elohim than we have ever dared to imagine.

Those who debate the meaning of the words "likeness and image" seem to fail to notice that some years later, Adam and Eve had a son who was described as being in their "likeness and image" - the exact same Hebrew words as in Genesis 1:26. In fact it is a sort of summary of events to date concerning Adam.

Genesis 5:1-3 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him; 2 male and female created He them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. 3 And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth.

Notice these three verses repeat that Adam was made in the "likeness of God" and that the son of Adam was in his "likeness, after his image" - the same words as Genesis 1:26.

(1) A careful study of the inter-dependence of plant life with other life forms (insects) and it's environment essential for reproduction strongly support the "paralell" view of the "days" of creation.

SUMMARY: What have we learned?

The whole universe did not necessarily get created in six 24 hour days.

Adam was not created immortal.

Man does not have a soul - he is a soul.

Death is merely the "wearing out" of the biological mechanism.

The real judgement was being deprived of the source of rejuvenation which meant the loss of potential for immortality, the natural consequence of which is death.

That God meant us to be a whole lot more like Himself than we have ever imagined!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Answer to a person on the Trinity Doctine

Jesus says: Luke 6:46: why do you call me, lord, lord, and do not the things which I say?
In Mark 12:28-34: Jesus in speaking with a scribe basically states his creed!

And one of the experts in the law came and heard them disputing together, and recognizing that he had answered them well, asked him, “What commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered:

“The first is, Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone, and so you are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

And the expert in the law said to him, “Well said, Teacher, you have spoken truth that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS THERE IS NONE OTHER BUT HE, and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself is more important than all the whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.”

And when Jesus saw that he answered intelligently, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

Commentary for: Mark 12:29

Jesus answered, “The first is, Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone,

“Hear, O Israel!” The verb “hear” means not only to hear, but to pay attention and heed. Thus, some versions have, “Listen.” The verb “hear” is in the imperative mood, hence the exclamation point at the end of the phrase.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!” This verse is a quotation of Deuteronomy 6:4, and is most often translated something like this: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord,” or “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” However, in this article we will see that these translations are not the best, and can lead to false conclusions.

The Hebrew words Shema Yisrael (שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל), “Hear, [O] Israel!”) are the first two words of Deuteronomy 6:4, and are the title of a prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services (the title “Shema Yisrael” is often shortened to simply “Shema”). Observant Jews consider the Shema to be the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism. Originally the “Shema” prayer was only Deuteronomy 6:4, but in more modern Judaism it has been expanded to include other sections of the Torah as well. (In this article, we will sometimes refer to Deuteronomy 6:4 as the Shema).

The first thing we should say about the statement, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!” is that, according to Christ, it was a part of the greatest commandment in the Law. Usually when someone asks, “What are the two greatest commandments in the Law?” the answer is “Love God, and love your neighbor.” But Jesus did not answer that way. Jesus included the Shema in his answer, and by doing so made a very important point: before we say that “Love God” is the first and greatest commandment, we should know who “God” is. The Shema shows us that we do not get to choose who “our God” is, Yehovah alone is God.

Most people think that the great commandment is just “Love God,” partly because the record in Matthew22:37, which is the same event, does not include the Shema statement. However, it is common that when two or more Gospels record an event that they include different details. In this case, Mark gives the full account, and Matthew leaves out the Shema, which is understandable because the account in Matthew is much shorter than the account in Mark.

The Shema is widely understood by Christians to be about the nature of God and a confirmation of the Trinity and the compound unity of God, i.e., that God is “one,” and therefore He is one God made up of three persons. However, that is not at all what the verse is saying, as we will see by examining both the Old Testament and New Testament texts on the subject.

One thing should be clear to everyone who studies Mark 12:29: no matter how the Greek text of Mark is worded, it is a translation of the Hebrew, because to answer the Pharisee’s question, Jesus - Yehoshua Messiah would have quoted the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. Jesus - Yehoshua would not have spoken Greek to him. Although we will see as the study develops that the Greek in Mark (and the Septuagint), can mean what the Hebrew OT says, the Hebrew wording is very dense and has a number of secondary meanings built into it, and so the full meaning of the Hebrew is difficult to capture in Greek.

To fully understand the dialogue between the Pharisee and Jesus in Mark 12:28-34, it is helpful to know it is the same record as Matthew 22:34-39, although each Gospel has details that the other Gospel does not include. The Pharisee, who was also a “scribe,” that is, an expert in the Law, asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment in the Law. The conversation that followed gives us a context that helps us properly understand and translate the Shema.

The Old Testament text, like the New Testament, is often used to support the Trinity. But that is not what the verse is saying. For one thing, the Jews do not now, and never have, believed in a Trinity, and yet they have used Deuteronomy 6:4 as the rallying call of the nation of Israel since long before the time of Jesus. Deuteronomy 6:4 can be, and should be, translated close to the way it is translated in a number of modern versions: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone” (NAB, NLT, NRSV, and the Tanakh; the JPS Bible). The Geneva Bible of 1599, which was the Bible of the Pilgrims and many of our founding Fathers and is a translation generally recognized by scholars as a better translation than the King James Version, has: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is Lord only.” The Moffatt Bible has: “the Eternal, the Eternal alone, is our God.” Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible correctly uses God’s proper name, “Yehovah,” instead of “LORD,” and has: “Hear, O Israel: Yahweh is our God—Yehovah alone.” We believe that using “Yehovah" instead of “LORD” is the most proper way to render the verse, and Rotherham’s translation is about as close as you can get to an English translation that captures the primary meaning of the verse.

Deuteronomy 6:4 is saying that Israel [and believers today] have only one God—Yehovah. That is why the verse says that Yehovah is “our” God.” Other people may have other gods, but the people of God are to have Yehovah alone as their God. This Old Testament truth is confirmed by God's anointed one in Mark 12:29, and reconfirmed by Paul, who wrote that, “to us there is one God, the Father” (1 Cor:8:6).

Although it is commonly believed that Deuteronomy 6:4 is a statement of “monotheism” and thus the “compound unity” of God, that is not what the verse is saying. Of course it is a statement about monotheism, that there is one God, but that is not its primary emphasis, as we will see below.

Furthermore, it is not a statement about the compound unity of God for a number of reasons. First, because the compound unity of God does not appear in Scripture. 

Second, the Old Testament was given by God to the Jews so they could know and obey Him, and never in the more than 3500 years since the Shema was written have the Jews understood it to refer to a compound unity in God - quite the opposite. They took it to mean that there was only one God, and fiercely fought against polytheism throughout their history. So if the Shema was God’s attempt to reveal a compound unity in God, the attempt was an epic failure. It makes much more sense that God gave the verse to the Jews and intended it to mean what the Jews say it means. 

Furthermore, the Jews did not take the Shema as their primary statement of monotheism because many other verses made that point (we will cover that shortly).

Third, the context of the Shema in both the Old and New Testaments, backed by the Scope of Scripture, shows that the Shema is not saying “God is ‘one,’ but rather is saying that Yehovah “alone” is our God.

The context shows us that Deuteronomy 6:4 is using the Hebrew word ‘echad (#0259 אֶחָד; “one, only, an, alone”) in the primary sense of “only” or “alone,” in contrast to the number “one,” and the context in Mark 12 confirms this. Note how Deuteronomy 6:4-5, flow together and thus make a major—and logical—point: “Yehovah is our God, Yahweh alone! And you must love Yehovah your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” It is because Yehovah “alone” is God that we can worship him with “all” our heart, “all” our soul, and “all” our might. If we had more than one God, our worship would have to be divided between all the gods we served, and each god would get only “part” of our heart, soul, and strength.

In fact, that is what happens with Trinitarians today: they divide their worship of God into the worship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But that division of worship is what is expressly forbidden by Deuteronomy 6:4 and Mark12:29.

When Jesus was asked about the first commandment, he quoted both Deuteronomy 6:4 and Deuteronomy 6:5. Interestingly, in both Hebrew and Greek (the Septuagint and Mark 12), these can be one sentence, the second starting with “and,” (or even “and so”). It is traditional to separate the “first commandment” into two sentences, but grammatically it can be one sentence and thus easily seen to be one commandment.

What should be clear is that Deuteronomy 6:4 is a statement about our personal relationship to God. He “alone” is God, so He is to be “our” only God and we must worship Him with “all” that we are and have. Deuteronomy 6:4 is not primarily a statement about monotheism, it is a statement about relationship. Stated another way, Deuteronomy 6:4 is not about the nature of God, it is about our relationship with God. 

Monotheism is important, and God had established that there was only one God earlier in Deuteronomy. Only about 50 verses before the Shema, God had twice stated that He was the only God. Deuteronomy 4:35 says, “Yehovah is God, besides Him there is no other.” Four verses later Deuteronomy 4:39 establishes that truth and says, “Yehovah is God in heaven above and on earth below. There is no other.”

After establishing that there is only one God in chapter 4, Deuteronomy 6:4 then takes that truth and makes it personal: Yahweh who alone is God is to be “our” God, and we are to worship Him with “all” our heart, soul, and strength.

Furthermore, after Deuteronomy 4:35, 39, and Deuteronomy 6:4 have established that there is only one God, and thus Yahweh alone is to be “our God,” Deuteronomy 6:13 then says that we should fear and serve Him, and swear oaths in His name.

The scope of Scripture also shows us that the Shema is about our relationship with God and not the singular nature of God. For example, Zechariah 14:9 uses the word 'echad and speaks of the future, saying that Yahweh will be king over the whole earth. The last part of the verse says in that day, “Yehovah will be one ['echad], and his name one ['echad].”

Here we see the same use of 'echad that we see in the Shema. When Zechariah says that in that day Yahweh will be “one,” it is not making a statement about God’s nature, as if somehow His nature would become “one” in the future but is not “one” now. Rather, it is using “one,” ('echad) as “alone,” just as in Deuteronomy 6:4. Zechariah is saying that in the future Yehovah will be “alone” and His name “alone,” not in competition with the names of other gods.

Unlike today when many “gods” distract us from God, in the future all the competing gods will be cast away and Yahweh “alone” will be everyone’s God. Isaiah says, “On that day people will throw their silver and gold idols, which they made to worship, to the moles and the bats” (Isaiah 2:20 HCSB).

Zechariah says, “‘And on that day,’ says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, ‘I will erase idol worship throughout the land, so that even the names of the idols will be forgotten’” (Zech. 13:2 NLT). Isaiah 2:11 and Isaiah 2:17 say that Yehovah alone will be exalted in that Day.

Also, the very first of the Ten Commandments fits with the Shema, saying that Yahweh alone is to be our God. The First Commandment is: “I am Yahweh your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. You must not have any other god but me” (Exod. 20:2-3; NLT with Yahweh in place of “the LORD”). So the first commandment says in effect the same thing that the Shema says: God alone is to be our God, and we are not to have any other god but Him.

Having seen that the Shema is a statement about our relationship with God and that He “alone” is to be our God, we can now turn our attention to the New Testament text and Jesus’ words in Mark 12:29. As has been stated earlier, there is no doubt that Jesus would have quoted the Shema as it appears in the Hebrew text. He would not have been quoting it in Greek, even though the Gospel of Mark is written in Greek. But when we study the Greek word translated “one” in Mark 12:29, heis(#1520 εἷς; pronounced “hace”), we find that just like the Hebrew word 'echad, can mean “one” or “alone,” so can the Greek word heis. In fact, we see heis being used in the sense of “alone” several times in the New Testament. The BDAG Greek English Lexicon lists Mark 2:7; 10:18; 12:29; Matthew 23:10; and Luke 18:19 as clear examples of heis meaning “alone.”

As has been stated above, the Hebrew text is very compressed and hard to translate. A common translation of the Greek is, “The Lord our God is one Lord.” However, a translation that reflects more of the meaning of the verse is, “Hear, Israel, The Lord our God is the only Lord” (that same basic translation appears in: The Geneva Bible; The New English Bible; Sir Andrews Norton’s, A Translation of the Gospels; The New Testament by William Barclay; and The Source New Testament by A. Nyland). Another good translation is in the New American Bible (NAB), which follows its translation of Deuteronomy and has, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!” Still another good translation is God’s New Covenant by Heinz Cassirer. He has: “Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one and only Lord.” Cassirer’s translation should catch our attention because he was born and raised Jewish and taught philosophy at Glasgow University and Corpus Christi, Oxford, and converted to Christianity due to his reading the Greek New Testament. Thus he brings a unique blend of Jewish heritage and a thorough knowledge of both Hebrew and Greek to his translation. He clearly understands that the Shema is making the point that God is the “one and only” God.

How do we know that when Jesus quoted the Shema that he quoted it with the same meaning it had in the Old Testament; that God “alone” was God? We know it by reading the whole account in Mark. We must pay attention to all the elements of the conversation: the question the Pharisee asked, Jesus’ answer, the Pharisee’s commentary on Jesus’ answer, and Jesus’ statement about what the Pharisee said.

First, the Pharisee’s question: “What commandment is the first of all?” We learn from Matthew 22:34 that the question was initially asked to test Jesus. It was a question that the Jews had asked and hotly debated among themselves for centuries, and was a question all the Jews were interested in. It seems clear the Pharisee legitimately wanted to know where Jesus stood on the issue.

Jesus answered the question by quoting both Deuteronomy 6:4, 5, which shows that Jesus understood that it was not enough to just “love God,” in some generic sense, we must love the “right God,” the true God, the only God, who is Yehovah. Jesus then added the second commandment: love your neighbor as yourself. The Pharisee had not asked for that information, but we can see why Jesus added it: the Pharisees were well known for holding themselves aloof from others, and even the name “Pharisee” means “Separated one,” someone separated from the rest of mankind, who are then relegated by default to a lesser status. Jesus was trying to reach this Pharisee’s heart, and teach him that if he loved God, it would show itself through his love for others.

The Pharisee responded to Jesus’ answer in a way that showed he had grasped what Jesus said and had himself come to a similar conclusion about the central point of the Old Testament Law. The Pharisee started by acknowledging that Jesus’ statement was “well said,” and then he connected the Shema with Deuteronomy 4:35, that Yehovah is God and there is no other God but him. The Pharisee did not have any conception of a “compound unity” in God, but rather spoke back to Jesus the simple message of the Old Testament contained in the Shema: Yehovah alone is God and there is no other God, and that is why we can and must love God with “all” our heart, soul, and might. Furthermore, as the Pharisee acknowledged, loving God and our neighbor was more important than all other religious ceremonies and practices.

Jesus immediately recognized the heart of this Pharisee, and said to him: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”

If the Shema was teaching the “compound unity” of God, and if Jesus was trying to communicate that to the Pharisee, he would have immediately recognized by the Pharisee’s answer that he did not “get it.” At that point Jesus should have further engaged the Pharisee so he could have a chance to understand the compound unity of God and the doctrine of the Trinity. Why didn’t he?

The simple answer is that Deuteronomy 4:35 and Deuteronomy 6:4 teach a simple truth: there is one God, Yehovah, and He alone is to be our God. That is the simple point that is being made in both the Old and New Testaments.

Having said that the most pertinent truth in the Shema is that Yehovah alone is to be our God, there are nevertheless some other basic truths that the wording of the Shema shows us.

Although the primary meaning is, “Yehovah is our God, Yehovah alone,” the wording of the Hebrew text and the word 'echad also allows for: “Yehovah is our God, Yehovah is unique.” Although not the primary meaning, if we read the verse that way, it is saying that Yehovah, who is “our God,” is unique among the gods, thus superior and worthy of our worship.

The usage of 'echad as “unique” is found in Song of Solomon 6:9, where the king speaks of his 60 queens, 80 concubines, and “young women without number,” but tells his new beloved that she is “unique” (Do you think she believed him?).

Another secondary meaning that can be seen in the very compact wording of Deuteronomy 6:4 is that there is “one” Yehovah. It was common in the cultures of the Middle East that several gods would be known by the same name, or the same god would be assigned different characteristics and worshipped differently in different places. Examples of gods like this include: Astarte, Baal, Cybele, El (a Canaanite god), Isis, Leviathan, Lilith, and Tammuz. In contrast to gods who, in different places had different characteristics and were worshipped differently, Yehovah was only “one” God and was to be known as the same and worshipped the same everywhere.

In the spiritual battle, Satan is always trying to distort God: His nature, His character, His love, and His actions, and God works to prevent that. After the birth of the Messiah, Satan has worked to distort Jesus - Yehoshua too. Thus less than 30 years after Jesus gave his life for mankind, 2 Corinthians 11:4 speaks of those people who preach “another Jesus,” and Galatians 1:6-9 shows that people were perverting the Gospel, saying, “If anyone is proclaiming to you a Good News that is contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

In closing, it is helpful to speak a few more words about why the Shema cannot be referring to a “compound unity” in God. 

If the Shema was making the point that God was a compound unity, then neither verse 4 nor verse 5 would fit with what the Bible actually says. The Old Testament never reveals that “Yehovah” was a compound deity, made up of separate “Persons.” Trinitarian theologians acknowledge that the Old Testament does not reveal the Trinity - a major reason the Jews never believed in one.

In the Old Testament, “Yehovah” and the Son are always represented as two separate entities. “Yehovah” is the equivalent of the “Father” (or “God”) in the New Testament. Just as the Father and Son occur together many times in the New Testament and are clearly presented as two (Cp., “The testimony of two men is true: I bear witness about myself, and the Father bears witness of me” - John 8:17-18), so the Old Testament presents Yehovah and the “Son” (also referred to as the “Lord,” “Servant,” or “anointed”) as two, not “one God” (Cp., Psalm 2:2, 7; 110:1; Isaiah 42:5ff; 49:4-5; 53:6, 10, 11). Furthermore, it is clear in the Old Testament texts, such as those that call the Messiah the servant of Yehovah, and in the New Testament texts as well (Cp., 1 Cor:15:28) that the “Son” is subservient to Yahweh. Given that, for the Shema to say that “Yehovah” is “one,” in contrast to many, does not make sense. If the verse were referring to a compound deity, it would have had to say that “Elohim” is one.

Furthermore, if the Shema were saying that “Yehovah” were “one” in the sense of a compound unity, then verse 5 would be incomplete and confusing, rather than helpful. If God were a compound unity, then what the Israelites would need would be instruction as to how to treat each “Person,” i.e., how to worship and serve each “Person” in this compound deity. But instead of offering instruction as to how to worship each “Person,” verse 5 contradicts the idea of multiple “Persons” in God and says to worship “Yehovah” with “all” your heart, soul, and might, clearly treating Yehovah as the one God whom we worship.

Also, Jesus’ answer to the Pharisee, that he was not far from the kingdom of God, shows us that a person does not have to believe in the Trinity to be saved. We can see from the way the Pharisee spoke to Jesus that he did not believe in the Trinity, but Jesus made no attempt to instruct him and instead said he was not far from the Kingdom. If a person had to believe in the Trinity to be saved, Jesus would have taught the Pharisee about it, and would never had said he was close to the Kingdom.

If Jesus says: "The Lord - Yehovah our God is Lord alone," then how can Christendom say disagree and say, "oh no, God is not one alone, but 3-1?

Jesus says in John 17:1-3: Jesus said these things,a and lifting up his eyes to heaven, said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so that the Son can glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all flesh so that he could give life in the Age to come to all those you have given him. And THIS IS LIFE IN THE AGE TO CME, THAT THEY MAY KNOW YOU, THE ONLY TRUE GOD AND HIM WHOM YOU SENT, Jesus - Yehoshua Christ - Messiah.

Does not Jesus exclude himself from having or being a second person of a triune god in what he says in verse 3?

Notice:

Mark 10:18: And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except one: God - Yehovah.

Luke 18:19: And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good, except God -  Yehovah alone.

Does not Jesus again exclude himself from having any part of a triune god with this statement. Would the god/man as a second person of a triune god make this contradictory statement?

Notice Psalm 110:1: Yahweh says to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool for your feet.”

If you will ask a Hebrew scholar what Hebrew word is used in Psalm 110:1 for "my lord" he will tell you it is "adoni" a word that in the Tanakh is never used to refer to Yehovah, but is used to refer to a man only. So here we have "the lord" mentioned that is obviously a Messianic reference to the one we know to be Jesus - Yehoshua a man! Not a god/man, but a man who had a beginning as the beginning of God's New Creation, specially conceived in the womb of Mary by the power of the Spirit of Yehovah. The one who Paul refers to as the second man [1 Corinthians 15:47]. Why does Paul refer to Jesus - Yehoshua as the second man? Because he was the second man specially created of God - Yehovah, Adam being the first man and Jesus - Yehoshua being the second man and the last man - Adam to be specially created of God - Yehovah.

As man - Adam was called the son of God because he was specially created of God - Yehovah [Luke 3:38]; so Jesus - Yehoshua is also called the son of God because he was specially created of God in the womb of Mary [Luke 1:3-35].

Notice Paul talking and says in 1 Corinthians 8: Therefore, concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we all understand that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “THERE IS NO GOD BUT ONE.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many gods and many lords), yet TO US THERE IS ONE GOD, THE FATHER, from whom are all things, and we are for Him; and one lord [remember "adoni", Jesus - Yehoshua Christ - Messiah, because of whom are all things, and we are because of him.

Is it not obvious that Paul was a Jew who believed in the Shema probably repeating it 3 times a day and could not in any way be described as being a trinitarian.

Notice: The Catholic Church's Encyclopedia says: "the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be proved from scripture" Amazing statement.

If the Trinity doctrine cannot be proved from scripture then why would anyone want to believe what has been brought about in the imaginations of men who were obviously not speaking for God - Yehovah when they developed the doctrine of the Trinity that is founded not on the scriptures but on Gnostic pagan ideas that infiltrated the called-out Assembly beginning from the death of the apostles.

Satan didn't waste any time to pervert to truth that Jesus taught about his God - Yehovah and his Father which is plainly put for in Mark 12:28!

We as believers have be grafted into the Israel of Yehovah, and are spiritually circumcised sons of the living God Yehovah who is one and there is no other.

Isaiah 44:8: Don’t fear, neither be afraid.
Haven’t I declared it to you long ago, and shown it?
You are my witnesses.
Is there a God besides me?
Indeed, there is not. I don’t know any other Rock.”

Isaiah 45:14: This is what Yehovah says:
“The labor of Egypt and the merchandise of Ethiopia,
and the Sabeans, men of stature,
will come over to you,
and they will be yours.
They will go after you.
They will come over in chains,
and they will bow down to you.
They will make supplication to you:
‘Surely God is in you, and there is none else.
There is no other god.

Isaiah 45:18: For this is what Yehovah says,
who created the heavens,
the God who formed the earth and made it,
who established it
and didn’t create it a waste,
who formed it to be inhabited:
“I am Yehovah,
and there is no other.

Isaiah 45:22: Look to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth,
for I am God,
and there is no other.

Is Christendom not calling God - Yehovah a liar when the say
He is not the only God, that in fact He is triune?

To worship another god that is not Yehovah is idolatry. To worship a god/man that is not the truly created son of God is to worship another Jesus - Yehoshua. Paul says for worshipping another Jesus you will be cursed.

Read the following online books:

http://www.christiandiscipleschurch.org/sites/default/files/books/totg_english.pdf

http://www.christiandiscipleschurch.org/sites/default/files/books/topm/TOPM_English_Large_Print.pdf

http://www.focusonthekingdom.org/Aims%20and%20Claims.pdf


Pastor Bruce Lyon
Restoration Fellowship Assembly
Ottawa, ON, Canada

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Why is following God's Anointed One so difficult?

It's difficult because we do battle against the desires of the flesh, the desire of the eyes and the pride of possessions, the same things that confronted Eve when tempted by the Adversary. We have the law of sin working in our bodies because we are of the federal head of the whole human race, Adam. We also fight against wicked spirits in high places - the heavenly realm. Now if one is in the anointed one of God, His beloved son Jesus who by his death defeated the powers of the Adversary and those under him; then we can walk free from the law of sin that keeps those not in him in bondage; and with the new creation life he has given us we can walk in the spirit overcoming the law of sin in us.

It is a daily, hourly battle that will not be over until we are resurrected; but it is a battle worth winning in the anointed one Jesus. We do not carry out this battle that God has placed us in on our own because He always provide us with the power to carry out whatever He asks us to do, and that power is His indwelling Spirit! Our hope, IF we hold fast to His message and obey His commands, to love Him with all our being and love one another, is to co-inherit with the lord Messiah this world which will be completely renewed by him and us; and to co-rule over all the nations that live over into the coming new age with the lord Messiah Jesus, the King of Israel and King of kings and Lord of lords of all the nations.

Now we need to walk through this wilderness as Israel did of old but instead of the unbelief that impeded them; we need to walk in the faith of Abraham in Messiah Jesus, so that what our God and Father has begun in us, He will cause to bear fruit enabling us by His Spirit to have a glorious life as glorified men/woman immortal in the soon coming new age!

In Messiah Jesus we have truth, light, love, the way, new age life, wisdom, power of the spirit of truth - his spirit working in us, to help us along the way and he as our high priest who always acts as our advocate before the throne of his God and our God, his Father and our Father. Rejoice, the battle is ours. IF we remain in him to the end, we will be victorious.
Put on the whole armor of God and pray unceasingly, rejoicing and praising the name of Yehovah! These are the sacrifices our God and our Father loves to receive. Halil Yah - Praise God all the day long! Rejoice our salvation draws near!

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Priesthood of All Believers

The Priesthood of All Believers
The Who-When-How of Christian Service
When we hear of "priests," we typically bring to mind the image of a religious figure: most often that of a Jewish priest, oft encountered in our biblical studies, or a Catholic priest, with whom most are at least somewhat familiar. Although, in general, these individuals are viewed with a certain amount of respect for their lives of service to God and mankind, they are also quite often viewed with disdain for the many abuses that have arisen among the priesthood (whether in ancient Judaism or over the centuries in Catholicism). William Cowper (1731-1800), one of the most popular English poets of his day, once opined that "a priest is a piece of mere church furniture at best." Not a ringing endorsement, to say the least. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), an American essayist, lecturer and poet, was even more disparaging: "Once we had wooden chalices and golden priests, now we have golden chalices and wooden priests." Let's face it: some of the negative criticisms over the centuries of "the clergy caste" are quite valid, for these religious leaders have not always been paragons of virtue, or living examples of the likeness of GOD'S ANOINTED ONE, or devout ambassadors of God's love, mercy and grace.

I want to direct our thoughts to a concept not often promoted by the established clergy (regardless of religious persuasion): THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS! In this present dispensation of grace, every true believer is regarded by YEHOVAH as a priest engaged in priestly service. And yes, that includes women! There are no exclusions based on gender, race, nationality or social standing. If you are saved by grace through faith, if you are "in GOD'S ANOINTED ONE YEHOSHUA," you are a priest in YEHOVAH'S sight. You are a fully functioning member of His priesthood, and you are called to serve Him and others in that capacity. Isaiah prophesied about "the year of YEHOVAH'S favor" (Isaiah 61:2) which would come upon the people of YEHOVAH (a prophecy with more than a single and/or immediate fulfillment, but one that would be applicable to both present and yet-to-come dispensations), saying, "You will be called priests of YEHOVAH, you will be named ministers of YEHOVAH" (vs. 6a). Although this certainly had meaning and application for the ancient Jews, it also looked to the era of the new covenant. "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to YEHOVAH, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9). "You, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to YEHOVAH through YEHOSHUA THE ANOINTED ONE" (vs. 5). For the lord YEHOSHUA "has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father" (Revelation 1:6, NIV).

As for the all-inclusiveness of these called-ones in the new dispensation, the prophet Joel gave us a glimpse: "I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. On my servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days" (Joel 2:28-29). Peter declares to the crowds on the day of Pentecost that this prophecy was being fulfilled in their presence, saying that what they were witnessing "is what was spoken by the prophet Joel" (Acts 2:16). "The time of the new order" (Hebrews 9:10b) had arrived; it was a time of great change. As Jesus declared to the Samaritan woman, "The time is coming - indeed it's here now - when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way" (John 4:23, NLT). Yes, it is a new day; things have forever changed, and changed dramatically! In this new order we who are in YEHOVAH'S ANOINTED ONE are ALL priests before YEHOVAH, performing priestly service. The rigid religious restrictions and exclusions of the past are gone; the era of a new sanctuary and a new priesthood has arrived (Hebrews 9:1-10)! The way into the very presence of YEHOVAH by ALL believers, entering through the veil as priests serving before YEHOVAH under our great High Priest YEHOSHUA THE ANOINTED ONE, has been opened unto us (Hebrews 10:19f). We are indeed a chosen and blessed people; a royal priesthood; freed from bondage to oppressive law; living in the freedom of YEHOVAH'S grace.

As the people of Israel made their escape from their centuries of bondage in the land of Egypt, they were led to Mount Sinai. It was here that YEHOVAH ELOHIM entered into a gracious covenant with the Israelites. "You shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Exodus 19:5-6). Although the people were initially thrilled with this prospect, their history would be one of repeated detours from this "highway of holiness" laid out before them. By these deviations from God's will for them, the people of Israel would fail to rise to the regal reality to which their God had called them. Although there were a number of bright moments, spiritually speaking, in their long history as a nation, it would not be until the era of the new covenant that YEHOVAH'S redeemed ones would truly become, in the way anticipated by YEHOVAH, "a kingdom of priests." In Revelation 5:9-10 we find the four living creatures and the 24 elders singing a new song, declaring of the Lamb of God, "Worthy are you to take the scroll, and to break its seals; for you were slain, and did purchase for YEHOVAH with your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And you have made them to be a kingdom of priests to YEHOVAH; and they will reign upon the earth." It would be a kingdom "not of this world" (John 18:36), Jesus told Pilate, but a spiritual kingdom in which the Spirit of YEHOVAH would dwell within His subjects: thus, while living in this world, we would nevertheless not be of this world.

In the new dispensation there would be no need for a literal physical structure (a temple) in which religious, ceremonial acts would be performed, for YEHOVAH would now dwell within the sanctuary of our hearts. There would be no further need for a priesthood (after the pattern of the Levitical priesthood who ministered in the Jewish temple), for every person who was in GOD'S ANOINTED ONE YEHOSHUA would be a priest performing priestly duties. YEHOVAH'S temple is now the called-out Assembly, and the sanctuary (the "naos") is our hearts. "Do you not know that you are a temple (literally: a "naos" = sanctuary) of YEHOVAH, and that the Spirit of YEHOVAH dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16, cf: 1 Corinthians 6:19). The "temple" of this new dispensation of grace is not a building made by human hands, but a spiritual edifice (the called-out Assembly) made up of living stones (i.e., individual believers). We are the household of YEHOVAH our Father, "having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, GOD'S ANOINTED ONE YEHOSHUA himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple (literally: "naos" = a sanctuary) in the lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of YEHOVAH in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22). "You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to YEHOVAH through YEHOSHUA THE ANOINTED ONE" (1 Peter 2:5), for "you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for YEHOVAH'S own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (vs. 9). Yes, our lord YEHOSHUA THE ANOINTED ONE "has made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father" (Revelation 1:6). "What Israel was to be as witnesses of YEHOVAH, we are as  those who have been grafted into the Israel of YEHOVAH.

No longer is YEHOVAH'S priesthood limited to a specific people (the Jews), and a specific tribe (the Levites), and a specific gender (males only). The priesthood of YEHOVAH under His new covenant is open to all who are indwelt by His Spirit. Men and women, Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, rich and poor -- ALL may serve Him within this priesthood of all believers. "Thus, the called-out Assembly is an unlimited priesthood to offer upon the altar of the consecrated, dedicated heart of the believer spiritual sacrifices, not animal sacrifices as in the case of the Levitical priests, but the activities of the human spirit of man energized by the Holy Spirit" [Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, vol. 2, p. 53]. This priesthood of all believers is "one of the basic premises of the New Covenant: YEHOVAH invites all of us to be members of His royal priesthood; all of us have been called to ministry; all of us have both the joy and the responsibility of serving GOD'S ANOINTED ONE and each other" [Dr. Paul Cedar, The Communicator's Commentary: 1 & 2 Peter, p. 143]. He is Messiah - King of a kingdom "that transcends all geographical borders or political differences" [ibid], one in which we reign with Him by virtue of being in Him, "seated with Him in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 2:6; cf: 2 Timothy 2:12). Further, we are a kingdom of priests, a priesthood that transcends both nationality and gender. We are truly, in every sense of the word, a universal called-out Assembly of our Lord YEHOSHUA THE ANOINTED ONE: all are welcome; all may serve in whatever capacity YEHOVAH has called them and equipped them! "The distinction of priests and people, nearer and more remote from YEHOVAH, shall cease" [Drs. Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 1528]. "All believers alike, and not merely ministers, are now the dwelling of God and priests unto YEHOVAH" [ibid, p. 1471]. "Each member of GOD'S ANOINTED ONE shares in His eternal priesthood" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22, p. 4]. "Natural descent and all other differences are obliterated" [Dr. R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, p. 99].

"The whole body of Christians is in fact a priesthood. Everyone is engaged in offering acceptable sacrifice to God. The business is not entrusted to a particular class to be known as priests; there is not a particular portion to whom the name is to be especially given; but every Christian is in fact a priest, and is engaged in offering an acceptable sacrifice to God. ... The term 'priest' is applicable to all Christians alike" [Dr. Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. "Collectively," writes Homer Hailey, "the redeemed are a kingdom; individually, they are priests" [Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, p. 101]. Within this new covenant kingdom, brought into existence by the Messiah, we find some significant changes from the kingdom of the old covenant, but one of the most prominent, and to some: problematic, is the fact that ALL disciples are priests before YEHOVAH. Indeed, efforts have been made throughout the history of Christendom to exclude certain disciples from realizing this new reality. "This truth of the 'priesthood of all believers,' however, was rediscovered and reintroduced during the Reformation" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 12, p. 230]. Offering up sacrifices unto the YEHOVAH was no longer restricted to the Levites, nor even to male "priests" alone (as seen in some "high church" denominations). "Every Christian can offer up spiritual sacrifices" [Dr. B.W. Johnson, The People's New Testament with Explanatory Notes, p. 359]. "Under the law of Moses the priests constituted a special class empowered to officiate in worship; inasmuch as all Christians are authorized to engage in the worship of YEHOVAH all Christians are priests, and thus together constitute a priesthood of believers. ... Such are a priesthood, because empowered to officiate in worship; and the priesthood is a 'royal' one because of its relationship to the Messiah - King" [Guy N. Woods, A Commentary on the NT Epistles of Peter, p. 58, 63].

Burton Coffman, in his Commentary on Revelation, noted that "GOD'S ANOINTED ONE has made us a kingdom, each member of which is a priest unto YEHOVAH. This is not some far-off thing that will happen in some so-called millennium; it is the status of things now in GOD'S ANOINTED ONE'S called-out Assembly" [p. 23]. The kingdom of our YEHOVAH and Father -- His forever Family; His blood-bought Called-out Assembly universal -- is made up of believers who are also commissioned as priests to offer up sacrifices unto Him. And yes, this transcends race, culture, nationality and even gender! "Every stone - son and daughter - being a spiritual sacrificer or priest, all offer up praise and thanksgiving to YEHOVAH through HIS ANOINTED ONE; and such sacrifices, being offered up in the name and through the merit of His Son, are all acceptable in His sight" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 6, p. 851]. Where too many get "hung up" here is in their view that our priestly functions occur primarily within a church building in an official "worship service" during which we perform regulated "acts of worship." And, of course: No Women Allowed!! The phrase "worship service," however, NEVER appears in the Bible ...not even one time!! We have created a monster by taking a beautiful spiritual relationship with our Father and turning it into a rigid, regulated religion. By organizing and institutionalizing this relationship we have lost sight of the Father's universal spiritual Family, and all we are left with is a host of warring religious factions, sects and denominations  Frankly, it is shameful what has happened in Christendom over the centuries, which is why many of us are seeking to awaken our wayward brethren and bring about a much needed spiritual reformation and transformation.

YEHOVAH is little concerned with what happens within our buildings during a "worship service." Those times are for our own edification and encouragement, primarily. Where you and I truly serve as new covenant priests is in our daily lives as we offer up the sacrifice of YEHOSHUA focused, grace-centered, love-motivated lives in service to others (to YEHOVAH'S glory). "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of YEHOVAH, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to YEHOVAH, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of YEHOVAH is, that which is good and well-pleasing and perfect" (Romans 12:1-2). Did you notice that Paul spoke of our priestly "service of worship," Not of our partisan "worship services"? We, as kingdom priests under the new covenant, no longer offer ceremonial and/or bloody sacrifices in a physical structure (temple), but rather spiritual sacrifices motivated by the Spirit indwelling YEHOVAH'S people: the new "naos" (sanctuary) of YEHOVAH. We are not only the "temple/sanctuary" ... we are not only the "priesthood" ... we are also in a very special way the "sacrifice" being offered. "Present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice" (Romans 12:1). John Calvin (1509-1564) wrote, "Among spiritual sacrifices the first place belongs to the general oblation of ourselves, for never can we offer anything to YEHOVAH until we have offered ourselves (2 Corinthians 8:5) in sacrifice to Him. There follow afterwards prayers, giving of thanks, alms-deeds, and all exercises of piety." "Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to YEHOVAH, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to HIS NAME. And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices YEHOVAH is pleased" (Hebrews 13:15-16). Our spiritual sacrifices are "not actual ceremonial observances," but are rather exemplified in our daily "pattern of social conduct" [Dr. J. Ramsey Michaels, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 49, p. 101].

Little wonder, then, that James, the brother of our lord YEHOSHUA, observed, "This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our YEHOVAH and Father: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27). This prompted John Wesley (1703-1791), in speaking of our duty as priests of YEHOVAH, to say, "You are to offer up your souls and bodies, with all your thoughts, words, and actions, as spiritual sacrifices to YEHOVAH" [Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. Brethren, let's cease the endless sectarian strife over what we may or may not do in a church building during a "worship service." We have divided over such nonsense long enough. Let us rather focus on our "spiritual service of worship," and, as priests of YEHOVAH, let us offer up ourselves in daily godly living as ambassadors of His grace and representatives of His love. In this way we fulfill our commission as a kingdom of priests.

Written by Al Maxey and edited by Bruce Lyon