Tag Archives: Christianity

What was celebrated on December 25th before it became Christmas?

Sol

A Coin of Constantine the Great with “Sol Invictus” (Invincible Sun) on the reverse. The inscription reads “SOL INVICTO COMITI” which means “to the Invincible Sun, Companion (of the Emperor)”

Did you know that there was a long standing celebration that happened on December 25th before Christianity adopted it? The “Invincible Sun”, which was the official sun god of the Roman Empire was commemorated each year on the 25th of December just after the 7 day feast of Saturnalia done in honor of saturn. But where is the proof for such claims? Can we find solid evidence for such observances which are said to have happened on the 25th of December? Such a piece of evidence exists, and is known as the Chronography of 354.

Titlepg

Title page from the Chronography of 354

The ”Chronography of 354”, also known as the ”Calendar of 354”, was a Roman Calendar with illustrations alongside various texts and lists, which was produced in 354 AD. It is the earliest dated western codex(Papyrus/Parchment sheets in form of a book) to have full page illustrations. The term ”Calendar of Filocalus” is sometimes used to describe the whole collection, and sometimes just the sixth part, which is the Calendar itself. Other versions of the names (“Philocalus”, “Codex-Calendar of 354”) are also occasionally used.

The Calendar itself contains important Roman Dates and festivities such as “Birthdays of Emperors”,  “Birthdays of Popes”, “Games” & “Chariot Races”. Amongst these festivities are the celebration of “Saturnalia” and “Birthday of Invictus(Invincible Sun)”. Saturnalia being celebrated on 17th December (7 Days leading upto the 25th) and “Birthday of Invictus” celebrated on the 25th of December are marked on this Calendar which dates back to 354AD.

You can view the complete calendar here or by reading the book titled “On Roman Time: The Codex-Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity” by Michele Renee Salzman.(Some of the pages can be viewed on Amazon as well)

The below page (click image to see enlarged view) contains the main Illustration of December alongside the festivities of the said month. (I have highlighted “Saturnalia” and “Natatalis(Birthday) Invictus” on the image for easy reference)

The Month of December in the Calendar of 354

The Month of December in the Calendar of 354

Abbreviations on the above calendar page
CM = Circenses missus (‘games ordered’)
N = Natalis (‘birthday’)
LVDI = games

SENATUS LEGITIMUS = Senate allowed (days on which the senate could sit)
DIES AEGYPTIACUS = Egyptian days (unlucky days)

Description of Main Illustration – According to Salzman (pp. 75-6), the picture illustrates the “Saturnalia”, since gambling with dice (The dice are placed on the table) was allowed only during this holiday. The mask represents the custom of dressing in costumes (especially cross-dressing) that is characteristic of both Saturnalia and Carnival (Lawson 221-231). The fringed or tasseled mantle is a characteristic of shamans (Butterworth, Traces, 167-8), as is the tasseled Medusa mask (Butterworth, Traces, pp. 151-2, 164-7, plates IX, XV-XVII). The figure in the Calendar also wears the calliculae (or galliculae), which reflect evil, and are also standard accoutrements of priests (Mollet, s.v.) and of shamans (Butterworth, Traces, pp. 30n, 162-8, plates X, XV-XVII).

Conclusion
Ever told someone that December 25th is not Biblical? that it has Pagan Roots written all over it? Ever had people scoff at the fact that you do not celebrate Christmas? This post is a small piece of historical ammunition that you can use to show our friends and our families that the celebration of Christmas is nothing but tradition, and not only tradition, but connected to Pagan tradition as well.

Is God’s Law a Curse?

The belief that the “Law is a curse”, is a doctrine that has been handed down for many generations in Christianity. Each New born Christian is taught one way, or the other, that the Law is useless, done away and even a curse. They are taught that whoever “obeys/does” the Law of God is “under a curse”. The proof for this idea comes from the letters of Paul – “the misunderstood apostle” as I call him. Today, we will delve into the Scriptures in hope of uncovering the truth behind his words and clear out any misunderstandings these verses have created.

Let us review the words of Paul that have been misinterpreted by most Christians
Gal 3:10 
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
Gal 3:11 
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
Gal 3:12  
And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
Gal 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Life&DeathReading the above, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that whoever obeys “God’s Law” is “under a curse” and that the “Law is a curse”. If many more Christians knew the context of Scripture, that Paul himself is quoting the Old Testament here, and understood the Covenant God made with His people, these misunderstandings would cease to exist. The core of this misunderstanding lies in not knowing that God set forth both Blessing & Curses, and Life & Death, when He made the Covenant with His people.

 

The Blessings & Curses of the Law
When God made the Covenant at Sinai & confirmed it at Horeb, He set forth Blessings & Curses before His people. If the people obeyed, they would be blessed. If the people disobeyed, they would be cursed.

Deu 11:26-28 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.
Deu 30:15,19 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
Deu 29:21 And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law:
Dan 9:11  Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.
Jos 8:34  And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law.

Read the list of Blessings for obedience(keeping His Covenant by obeying God’s Law) in Deut 28:1-14 & Lev 26:1-13

Read the list of Curses for disobedience(breaking His Covenant by disobeying God’s Law) in Deut 28:15-68 & Lev 26:14-39

The above verses are clear on the fact that God set forth blessings and curses for the ones who obey or disobey.
Life, good & Blessings were for the obedient.
Death, evil & Curses were for the disobedient.
This was the Law of God. The Law of God could save no one. Neither did it have a mind of its own. It was merely a set of instructions to live by. Whoever lived by them had life, good & blessings, while whoever disobeyed had death, evil & curses on their lives.

Now let’s  focus our attention on what Paul wrote about, in Gal 3:10-13

Gal 3:10
Paul quotes Deut 27:26 saying that whoever “does not continue/does not abide” in God’s Law is “cursed”. Deut 27:26 reads “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.” (Also read Jer 11:3, Eze 18:24)

Gal 3:11
Paul differentiates the Law & Faith, saying no one will be justified through the Law of God but by faith quoting Hab 2:4 “the just/righteous shall live by faith” in God. This is exactly what the Prophet Habakkuk spoke through the Spirit, in Hab 2:4 which reads “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Gal 3:12
Paul furthers his argument saying that the Law has no connection to faith, but that whoever does/obeys the Law will live in them (will have life through it) quoting Lev 18:5 “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.” (Also read Neh 9:29, Eze 20:11,13)

Gal 3:13
Then, Paul goes onto explain an important point that is the root of this misunderstanding. It is important to note that, it is not the fault of Paul but our own, that we have misunderstood this for so long. Paul says that through Christ’s death on the cross, He has redeemed us from the curse of the law. It is clear that Paul is not calling “God’s Law” a curse. He is simply saying that Christ redeemed us from the “Curse OF THE Law”.

What was the curse of the Law? The Curse of the Law was that whoever disobeyed/sinned would die(Eze 18:24). Sin led man to death(Rom 5:12). We know what Sin is, only through the Law(Rom 7:7)

What did Christ redeem us from? He redeemed us from death which was the wages of Sin(Rom 6:23). Paul was right to say that Yeshua(Jesus’ true name) saved us from the Curse of the Law, as the “Curse of the Law = Death”.

A short review of the points made by Paul in the above 4 verses;
• Whoever does not obey God’s Law is cursed (Gal 3:10/Deut 27:26)
• The righteous are not justified before God, through Law, but by Faith (Gal 3:11/Hab 2:4)
• The Law is different to Faith, but who “obeys/does” the Law will have life(Gal 3:12/Lev 18:5). So, conversely, if someone does not obey/do the Law, they will have death.
• But Through Christ’s sacrifice we are free from the curse of the Law, which is Death(Gal 3:13). Not that we can be disobedient to Him, but that we would have grace & mercy, through repentance, whenever we fall short of obeying God’s Law.

With the above understanding, let’s review Gal 3:10-13
Paul has made his case that no one is “justified/made righteous” before God through the Law, but by having Faith in God. But he has also said that whoever disobeys God’s Law is under a curse. Even though we are “justified/made righteous” through faith, Obedience to God’s Law is necessary to not be under the curse of Death. In other words, We are saved/justified/made righteous through Faith, but our obedience to God & His Laws decides whether we stay under His favour/grace and obtain Life eternal. Just because someone who believes in God’s mercy, is saved, does not mean he/she can go on disobeying God and still have His favour/grace towards him/herself. But, whenever we fall short, and break His Law (Sin), we are now not under the curse of the Law, because Christ has taken the Curse, which is Death, on Himself.

“Sin” or “Disobedience” against God is the “breaking of God’s Law” (1Jn 3:4  Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.) This could be written as a simple equation as given below;

COMMITTING SIN = BREAKING GOD’S LAW brings CURSE OF THE LAW = DEATH
LIVING RIGHTEOUSLY = OBEYING GOD’S LAW brings BLESSING OF THE LAW = LIFE

Because of Christ, even when we break The Law, we can still receive mercy through repentance, and not be under the “Curse of the Law” which is Death.

Conclusion
Paul never called God’s Law, “a curse”. This is a man-made doctrine which has existed in the Christian congregations, from as early as the 3rd Century AD. The “Curse of the Law” was Death, which was the wage needed to be paid for Sin. Through Christ’s intervention and death, He took this curse on Himself, giving us freedom from Death and passage to eternal Life. Our Messiah did not take away the Law through His death. He took away the “Curse of the Law” through His death. We receive salvation through Faith, and not by keeping God’s Law. This was the same with the people of Israel, as they were saved from Egypt & Slavery through God’s Grace & Mercy, and not because of any righteousness they had. After they were saved, God wanted obedience from them. This is the same pattern seen throughout the Scriptures. We are also required to be obedient towards our Heavenly Father after He saves us through His grace. And whenever we fall short, He still has mercy towards the repentant, because of the redemption work of Messiah Yeshua.

We cannot call the Law of God, a curse, as it is only a guide on how we should live. The choice is upto us. We can choose to live in the blessings or to die in the curses. We cannot blame God’s Law for the choices we make. Let us walk in the “Blessings of the Law” by being obedient to our Creator and choose life Eternal, for He has paid the ultimate price for our lives, so that we are never under the “Curse of Law”, which is death.

The Five Fold Ministry. Before or After Christ?

Most Christians believe that the Five Functions or duties noted by Paul in Eph 4:11, commonly known as the “Five-Fold Ministry” came about after Yeshua(Hebrew name of Jesus). Namely, The Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors & Teachers. Even though we do not see many Apostles, the other categories are seen in almost all “Free Churches” as well as ones from traditional backgrounds.

Are these functions new ones? Were these functions there before Messiah’s appearance, even in Old Testament times? Are these Positions of Power or Duties to be carried out as Servants? These are some of the questions we will try to answer today.

Eph 4:11  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

In the following explanations of each of these functions, we will also take a closer look at the origins of these titles by looking at the Greek and Hebrew words which the English words derive from. The Strong’s Greek/Hebrew concordance has been used for this purpose, alongside the KJV Translation of the English Bible. 

1. The Apostle
G652 – ἀπόστολος – apostolos – ap-os’-tol-os –
a  messenger, he that is sent

The word “Apostle” in the English language originates from the Greek equivalent “Apostolos” which meant “a messenger” or “one that is sent”. This was not a title specifically made for Christianity, for any messenger would have been called “Apostolos” in Greek. In Joh 13:16, the Greek Word “Apostolos” is translated as “he that is sent” while in 2Cor 8:23 & Philip 2:25 it is translated as “messenger” revealing the true meaning behind the word apostle.

Most people have misunderstood Luke 6:13 to mean that Christ created this new position called “Apostle”. Luk 6:13 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles. The true meaning should be that He chose 12 amongst His pupils as the ones who would take His message out into the world.

As the word “Apostle” derives from its Greek cognate “Apostolos”, this word cannot be found in the Old Testament. But this does not mean “messengers” who spread God’s Word were not found in the time before Messiah. Haggai was known as the “messenger” of the LORD (YHVH) centuries before the Apostles in the New Testament(Hag 1:13). The priests who worked in the Temple were also known as “messengers” of God(Mal 2:7). The Scripture say that many “messengers” of God were sent before the Babylonian exile(2Chr 36:16).

2. The Prophet
H5030 – נביא – nâbı̂y’ – naw-bee’ –
a prophet or (generally) inspired man: – prophecy, that prophesy, prophet.
G4396 – προφήτης – prophētēs – prof-ay’-tace
a foreteller (“prophet”); by analogy an inspired speaker; prophet.

Much like the “Apostle” which derived from the Greek word “Apostolos”, the English word “Prophet” also derives from the Greek Word “Prophetes”. The Old Testament had many Prophets. Naming them, I think, is unnecessary. Although, I must mention a few to help you understand what it means to be a Prophet. A Prophet is not only the ones who are called, “Prophet – so and so”. Whoever speaks for God, in the name of God, and represents Him, is a Prophet. It is not a designation. It is merely a duty and a description of what the person does. Abraham (Gen 20:7), David (Acts 2:30), Enoch (Jude 1:14) are but a few characters written in the Scriptures who were never known specifically as “Prophets”, even though they were clearly considered Prophets.

Yeshua was also called a Prophet (John 4:44, Luke 4:24, 13:33, Mat 13:57, Acts 3:22,23, 7:37), and prophesying through the Holy Spirit was done before the Day of Pentecost. Zechariah, Father of John, prophesied being filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:67). A person can also prophesy(Say something that comes from God) without knowing it, like Caiphas, the High Priest who prophesied about Yeshua dying for the whole Nation(John 11:51)

The duty of a Prophet could fall onto a Male or a Female. Miriam, Moses’ sister (Exo 15:20). Deborah, the Judge of Israel (Judg 4:4), Huldah (2Kin 22:14), Philip’s four daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:9) & the widow Anna (Luke 2:36) were all female prophets.

It is also important to note that just like some can Prophesy in Truth and in God, some can prophesy falsely saying it is in God’s name(Jer 23:21, 28:15-17, 29:31, Eze 13:7, 1John 4:1). Not all who Prophesy in Christ’s name, is known by Him (Mat 7:22,23).

3. The Evangelist
G2099
– εὐαγγελιστής – euaggelistēs – yoo-ang-ghel-is-tace’
a preacher of the gospel: – evangelist.
G2098 – εὐαγγέλιον – euaggelion – yoo-ang-ghel’-ee-on –
a good message, gospel.
G2097 – εὐαγγελίζω – euaggelizō – yoo-ang-ghel-id’-zo
to announce good news (“evangelize”) especially the gospel: – declare, bring (declare, show) glad (good) tidings, preach (the gospel).

The above 3 Greek words (“yoo-anghelistace”, “yoo-anghel-eeon”, “yoo-ang-elidzo”) are closely connected to the meaning of “Good news”. The word translated as “Gospel” in our English Translations is G2098 – “yoo-anghel-eeon”. So effectively, the word “Evangelist” means a “Preacher/bringer of Good News”. Matt 11:5 is a good example of this fact. “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. The pharse “the gospel preached to them” is translated into English off a single Greek Word, which is G2097 – “yoo-ang-ghel-id’-zo”. This same word is used as “Preach” in the case of John (Luk 3:18), of the 12 Disciples (Luk 9:6, Acts 5:42), of Christ (Luk 4:43, 7:22, 16:16, 20:1), & of all believers (Act 8:4), making them all Evangelists.

The Greek word “yoo-anghel-idzo” cannot be seen in the Old Testament Scriptures which were written in Hebrew. Much like in the case of the word “Apostolos”, this does not mean the function of an Evangelist (who brings/preaches Good News) was not there in Old Testament times. The word “Evangelist” itself can be seen only 3 times in the New Testament (Eph 4:11, Acts 21:8, 2Tim 4:5) even though the function of an Evangelist (Bringing/preaching Good News) “G2097 – “yoo-ang-ghel-id’-zo” can be seen over 50 times.

In the Old Testament Scriptures, we see that Isaiah is known as one who “preaches good news”(Isa 61:1) which was also quoted by Christ in Luk 4:18. The word used by Yeshua in Luke 4:18 for “preach the gospel” is none other than G2097 – “yoo-ang-ghel-id’-zo”.

The author of Hebrews in Heb 4:2 says “For unto us was the “gospel preached”, as well as unto them“. The word which is translated as “gospel preached” here is G2097 – “yoo-ang-ghel-id’-zo”. Who does the author refer to as “them” in this verse? The context reveals that it is the people of Israel in the Old Testament, which means “Evangelizing” happened in the Old Testament times as well. (Please read Heb 4:6 for a similar verse and Chapter 3 for context)

4. The Pastor
G4166
– ποιμήν – poimēn – poy-mane’
a shepherd (literally or figuratively): – shepherd, pastor.
H7462 – רעה – râ‛âh – raw-aw’
to tend a flock, that is, pasture it; pastor, shepherd.

The word “pastor” is connected to shepherd both in the New Testament as well as in the Old. Not only is it connected, it is more often than not, translated as “Shepherd” throughout the Bible. In fact, the English word “pastor” is seen only in Eph 4:11 while the Greek word that it is translated from (G4166 – poy-mane), is seen 18 times in the New Testament, translated as “shepherd” into English 17 out of 18 times(Mat 9:36, 25:32, 26:31, Mar 6:34, 14:27, Luk 2:8,15,18,20, Joh 10:2,11,12,14,16, Heb 13:20, 1Pe 2:25)

The English translation of the Old Testament contains the word “pastor” many more times (Jer 2:8, 3:15, 10:21, 12:10, 17:16, 22:22, 23:1,2) than the New Testament which contains it only once(Eph 4:11). But similar to the New Testament Translation of the word “Pastor”, the actual meaning of the Hebrew word(H7462 – raw-aw) which is translated in these instances is “shepherd”. The word “shepherd” itself is used in the capacity of “leader” in the Old Testament (Isa 56:11, 63:11). Even though “G4166 – poy-mane” & “H7462 – raw-aw” are translated as “pastor” in some places and “shepherd” in others, the true meaning is “shepherd” (a leader of a flock).

5. The Teacher
G1320 – διδάσκαλος – didaskalos – did-as’-kal-os –
an instructor (generally or specifically): – master, teacher.

The Greek word which is translated as “teacher” in Eph 4:11, is in most places translated as “Master” (mosty pertaining to Yeshua). The true meaning of the word is instructor/teacher, as the Greek word “G1320 – didaskalos” derives from the word “G1321 – didasko” which means “to teach”.

The Old Testament Scriptures also prove that there were many teachers appointed by God before the time of Christ. Moses was a teacher appointed by God (Exo 24:12, Deut 4:5). There were appointed people who went around the land of Israel teaching God’s Word (2Chr 17:8-10). The tribe of Levi were instructors of God’s Word and His ways (Deut 17:9-11, 24:8, 33:8-10, 2Chr 30:22, 35:3). The priests (Aaron’s sons) were mainly appointed to teach God’s people (Lev 10:8-11, 2Chr 15:3, 2Kin 12:2). Samuel who was a judge of Israel was also a teacher (1Sam 12:23). Nehemiah and Ezra were also teachers (Neh 8:9) along with a host of others (Neh 8:7). It was a Commandment of God to teach everyone in Israel, man, woman & child (Deut 31:11-13).

Positions or Duties? Leaders or Servants?
In some Christian congregations today, being an Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor or Teacher carries a sense of power and hierarchy. These have become titles and designations rather than functions in the body of believers. It is important to respect everyone, from a fellow believer to one who is appointed to lead/serve. But sad to say, this respect has been misused, and at times, changed into positions of power.

Christ is the embodiment of all the 5 functions mentioned in Eph 4:11.
He was an Apostle (“one that is sent”) sent by Our Heavenly Father. (Joh 5:30, 6:39, 8:42, 17:8)
He was a Prophet (“one who represents & speaks for God”). (Mat 13:57,Luk 13:33, Joh 6:14, 7:40
He was an Evangelist (“one who preaches Good News”). (Matt 11:4,5, Luk 4:18, 8:1, 20:1)
He was a Pastor (“Shepherd”). (Matt 25:32, 26:31, Joh 10:11,14, Heb 13:20, 1Pet 2:25)
He was a Teacher (“one who teaches God’s Word”). (Mat 10:24,25, 22:16, Joh 1:38, 3:2, 13:13)

wash feetEven though He was the epitome of Righteousness and God’s image, what did He say to His Disciples under Him? What was the example He left with His followers who were to become leaders in the body of believers?

Joh 13:14,15  If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
Mat 20:26  But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Luk 22:25-27  And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.

Whoever is appointed to serve, whether he/she be an Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor or Teacher, they are all servants. And according to the example left to us by Yeshua, whoever is a leader, is in fact a servant who is humble enough to wash the feet of whoever is put under his/her authority.

Conclusion
The “Five fold Ministry” is thought by many to have been instituted after Yeshua, even though there are clear indications that all of these functions existed well before New Testament times. Most of these misunderstandings have come about because of the English translations we read. As seen in the evidence above, even though most of these cognate words (English words that have derived straight from the Greek counterparts – eg. Apostle & Apostolos, Evangelist & Yooanghelistace) cannot be seen in the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures (because they derive from Greek), it does not necessarily mean that the function did not exist in Old Testament times.

Not only were all of these functions or services there in the Old Testament era, they were part and parcel of God’s Word. Accordingly Christ Himself embodied all of these functions, acting as a servant rather than one who is served, leaving His Church an example to follow. “whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant”.

What are Phylacteries?

Have you ever noticed or been puzzled by the word “Phylacteries” in the New Testament? Ever wondered what Christ was talking about in Mat 23:5? His words were “But all their works they do to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments”.

Pharisee I had paid little notice to this word before, picturing in my mind that it was some sort of clothing item that the Pharisees wore. Not paying full attention to details in the Bible can, and have, had a major impact on the beliefs that are prevalent in the Christian congregations.

The “Pharisees & Scribes” who were wearing phylacteries mentioned by Yeshua (Jesus’ true name) would have looked something like this. The “Phylacteries” or “Tefillin” as it is called in Hebrew, is a small box which contains Scripture with a strap, which can be bound on the Head or the Arms.

The importance of this verse is in the fact that it sheds light on a major misunderstanding in Christianity. Which one, you ask? “It’s the common belief among Christians that the Scribes and Pharisees Kept the Old Testament Law, and that this is why Yeshua called them Hypocrites and white washed tombs – because the Old Law was done away”.

The problem with this understanding is that both biblically and historically, we have evidence that the Pharisees did not keep God’s Law. In fact, wearing “Phylacteries” was not a Commandment given by God. Then why did the Pharisees wear these things? Because it was part of their “Oral Law”, known as the “Traditions of the Elders” throughout the New Testament (Mat 15:2,3,6, Mar 7:3,8,9,13, Gal 1:14). TefillinWearing “Phylacteries” was how they had interpreted Exo 13:9,16 & Deut 6:8, 11:18 which says that “God’s Word should be a sign upon our hands and between our eyes”. Obviously, this was a figure of speech to say “that we should do or obey as well as remember God’s Word”.

The Pharisaic Sect of Yeshua’s day had taken a piece of Scripture out of context and made a separate Law out of it. The “Oral Law” which is still in use today, known as the “Talmud” is strictly adhered to by Orthodox Jews around the world. Not only do they wear it, the “Talmud” provides strict laws on how to even put it on. (If you want to learn more about the Pharisees and their traditions, I recommend that you watch this video, brought to you by former Orthodox Jew – Nehemiah Gordon)

What does this mean? Are all Jews like Pharisees? Are all Pharisees alike? The picture of “Pharisees” and some times, even “Jews“, in a Western Christian mind, is that they were wicked, legalistic and nonspiritual people. This is hardly the case. We know that there were quite a lot of Pharisees who respected Yeshua, as well as some who believed in Him (Luk 13:31, Joh 9:16, Act 15:5). We should by no means generalize people. Furthermore, it is important to remember that Yeshua, His Disciples, His followers and even Apostle Paul, were all Jews.

The Orthodox Jews of today, still adhere to a plethora of extra laws (from the Talmud), thinking that it is genuinely what God expects from them. They are misguided, as much as the Christians who think the Law is done away in Christ. We must understand that not all Jews are like the Pharisees of Christ’s age. Consider the Karaite Jews who reject the Talmud and anything other than the Old Testament, and the Messianic Jews who believe in Yeshua.

The many persecutions which have fallen on the Jews have always happened because of this huge misunderstanding. A lot of people have persecuted “Jews” standing under Christ’s banner, making it impossible for them to except Yeshua as the prophesied Messiah.

What was the main Commandment which the Pharisees broke through their traditions?
God’s Word specifically instructs that no one can add or remove anything from God’s Law/Commandments.
Deu 4:2  Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Deu 12:32  What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.
The Scriptures call anyone who adds to God’s Law, a Liar (Pro 30:6). This was one of the main concerns Yeshua had regarding the Pharisees, when He said “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men”(Mar 7:8) & “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? (Mat 15:3).

Are all traditions bad? Are all traditions sin? definitely not. But the moment we put “Tradition” over “God’s Commandments”, or teach “man made Traditions” as “God’s Law”, we are breaking His Words. This is why Yeshua said (quoting Isaiah 29:13)”But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men“(Mat 15:9) regarding the Pharisees.

Adding and Diminishing & the 2 Houses of Israel
If you know about Biblical History, you would know that the people “Israel” divided into 2 Kingdoms after the death of King Solomon. These 2 Kingdoms were called “The House of Judah” & “The House of Israel/Ephraim”. “The House of Israel” was carried away by Assyria and scattered in the nations with a promise of being regathered, while “The House of Judah” was exiled for 70 years in “Babylon” being let back into the land. (Please go to this link for more info) It is interesting to see how “the Jews” (House of Judah) add to God’s Law, through their various traditions and man-made laws written in the Talmud, while “the gentiles” (House of Ephraim) diminishes from God’s Law, saying it is done away and that they are free from it.

“Phylacteries” are a good reminder of checking our lives, our doctrines and our thoughts for anything that we may be adding or diminishing from our Creator’s Words. It is a call to really put His Words in our hearts and souls, binding them on our hands by being obedient to Him, that His Words may be always foremost in our minds (Deut 11:18), so that we do not turn to the left or to the right from them (Jos 23:6) choosing God and His Word alone in the midst of man-made commandments & traditions.

Paul – the misunderstood Apostle

According to the prevalent understanding of Paul’s teachings amongst Christians, Paul was a major opponent of the Law. He taught that it is done away with, in Christ. That there is no need for us to obey the Law, as we are now under Grace. Are these claims really true? Did he believe and teach that the Old Testament is now abolished? That all who obey it are under a curse? Or is this all a 2000 year old misunderstanding of his words?

Consider Peter’s words and his warning regarding Paul’s Words
2Pe 3:15,16   And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest(pervert), as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

If Paul’s words were hard to understand in the 1st century AD, and some were even using his words to teach something different to its original meaning at that time, are we so sure that our current understanding is so accurate?

Note: Let me be clear at the onset of this study, that this is NOT an attempt to say “we must keep God’s Word for Salvation”. On the contrary, God’s Word is clear that Righteousness/Salvation cannot be attained through keeping God’s Law. It is only attained through God’s Grace. As we move forward you will see that Paul’s whole ministry revolved around this idea – We are saved through faith & God’s Grace alone. But after we are adopted into His fold, we have to serve Him in obedience to His Commandments/Laws through the help of His Spirit.

The call for an Audit
If you are keen to learn the truth above all, and you are willing to go the distance and do whatever is necessary in obedience to our Heavenly Father, I call you to an Audit. Evaluate yourself and your beliefs. If what you understand is right, an audit will only strengthen your beliefs. If you see some questions raised that you never thought of, it will still help you to learn more and draw closer to God.

Remember that the first major reformation in Christianity as we know it, which happened in the 1500’s under Martin Luther, was a response to some of the incorrect doctrines that were taught and practiced by the Roman Catholic Church. If such an Audit of Doctrine had not been done, the majority of Christians today could have still been following the Catholic church without question.

My request to you is, that you do not approach this article with preconceived notions. Be like the Bereans(Acts 17:10,11) and search the Scriptures for the Truth. You are more than welcome to disagree with me. But I ask you not to disagree with Scripture. Test everything written in this article. See whether everything falls into place. Remember that there can be no disagreements between the Biblical Authors. There can be no conflict between two verses in the Bible, when taken in context. Our goal is to serve God Almighty in Truth and Spirit.

Fitting it all in – a personal testimony
If any person believes that they have the whole of Scripture figured out, they are only deceiving themselves. The Scriptures are the pieces of a great Puzzle. All of the pieces in the puzzle needs to fit perfectly. We cannot force pieces of the puzzle to fit where we want it to. It needs to be in perfect harmony to all the pieces around it, giving us a complete picture. We have all been taught by someone or the other, where these pieces of the puzzle fit. Personally, for a long time, I did not question the placement. I knew some of the pieces and their placements did not make sense. But I thought, others knew best. I thought who am I to question the placement which has been this way for centuries, approved and taught by great men and women of God. But sometimes, you come across verses that go against YOUR beliefs and doctrines. Now, some people, like me, had the ability to just read over these lines and not even notice them. I was like Paul (but not even 1% as knowledgeable as he was), on my way to Damascus, with my understanding and belief of the Word. All of us need Yeshua(real name of Jesus) to open our eyes. All of us need the guidance of God’s Spirit. No one person, including me, has the whole puzzle figured out. All of us are learning. If you have and open mind to look at the puzzle again, let’s proceed.

As we read above, Peter clearly states that the Beloved Brother Paul writes to the assemblies according to the wisdom given to him. Some of the things that he writes are hard to understand. And that people who do not understand these things, pervert these teachings to their own destruction. This is a clear warning given to the assembly about Paul’s writings. But today, Paul’s writings are key to some of the doctrines in Christianity. Whether it fits or not with other verses in the Scriptures, is overlooked.

Using his words, I myself used to think that we are free from God’s Law/Commandments. I used to think that we should act according to his word, as he was the apostle to the Gentiles. An audit changed my understanding and my life. At the end of the day, we are called to be disciple of Yeshua(Jesus’ true Hebrew name). Not of Paul or anyone else for that matter. Even Paul said that he follows Yeshua (1Cor 11:1). And Paul admonished people who called themselves followers of anyone else other than Yeshua (1Cor 1:11-13).

So let us look at a few instances which sheds light onto Paul the Apostle, his beliefs and his teachings

  1. Contrary to common belief, his Hebrew name which was Saul, was not changed to Paul. He was also called Paul(Act 13:9). This name would have been easier to use in the Greek speaking world of his day, as Paul (Paulus) was of Latin origin.
  2. Paul was a Jew (Acts 21:39) and was brought up as a Pharisee (Acts 26:5)
  3. Paul’s message did not contradict the Old Testament, as the Bereans examined the Scriptures and checked whether it was true. (Acts 17:11)(The Scripture that is spoken here was the Old Testament, as there was no New Testament or Gospels at that time, which were written later and compiled to what we have now, only around 400AD)
  4. Paul’s custom was to go to synagogue on the Sabbath. (Acts 13:14,42,44, 17:2, 18:4)
  5. Paul took a Nazarite vow where one shaves his head (Acts 18:18 – Num 6)
  6. There were many “rumors” that he taught against God’s Law (Acts 21:21)
  7. There was no proof that he broke any of God’s Laws (Acts 24:13, 25:7,8)
  8. Paul kept the Law, and walked according to it (Acts 21:24)
  9. Paul purified himself at the Temple in accordance to the Law (Acts 21:26)
  10. Paul said Ananias was a devout man because he kept God’s Law (Acts 22:12)
  11. He worshiped God believing everything written in the Law & Prophets (Acts 24:14)
  12. He said that he does not nullify the law by faith, but that he upholds the law (Rom 3: 31)
  13. He said that the Law is not Sin, but the knowledge of Sin (Rom 7:7)
  14. He said that the law and the Commandments are holy, righteous and good (Rom 7:12,16)
  15. He said that the Law is not what leads us to death (Rom 7:13)
  16. He said that the Law is Spiritual (Rom 7:14)
  17. He said that he delights in God’s law (Rom 7:22)
  18. He said that He serves the Law of God (Rom 7:25)
  19. He said that the Law is good, and that one must use it properly. (1Tim 1:8) (Please read this article to understand more on what Paul meant, as Pharisees were using God’s Law inappropriately, while the “Circumcision party” used it to earn salvation)
  20. Paul said that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (He did not say some of it is done away, but that all of it is God-breathed)
  21. Paul went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feasts according to the Law (Acts 18:21, 20:16 /Ex 34:22/Lev 23)
  22. Paul used the Law to defend himself. How can he defend himself with something, if he was preaching that it was abolished (Acts 23:3)
  23. Paul signified that he unwittingly broke a law, quoting the specific Law from the Old Testament (Acts 23:5 / Exo 22:28)
  24. Paul taught the Law of Marriage and Divorce out of the Law (Rom 7:2/1Cor 7:39 – Deut 24)
  25. Paul taught keeping of the Passover (1Cor 5:8)
  26. Paul used the Law regarding muzzling an Ox (Deut 25:4) to teach how people who work for the growth of the Kingdom, should be taken care by it, just like an ox (1Cor 9:9-12/1Tim 5:18)
  27. Paul quotes Deut 19:15 – a matter is established by 2 or 3 witnesses (2Cor 13:1/1Tim 5:19)
  28. Paul quotes Deut 27:26 – a person breaking God’s Law is cursed (Gal 3:10)
  29. Paul quotes Hab 2:4 – the just shall live by faith (Gal 3:11)
  30. Paul quotes Lev 18:5 – the man who keeps God’s Law, lives because of it (Gal 3:12)
  31. Paul quotes Deut 11:26-28 & 27:15-26 – the curses of the Law (Gal 3:13)
  32. Paul quotes Lev 19:18 – Love thy neighbor as thy self (Gal 5:14)
  33. Paul quotes Deut 5:16 – Honor thy father and mother (Eph 6:2)

Looking at all of these verses, still some would say, that he kept the Law because he was a Jew. And that we don’t need to, as the Law was given to the Jews. First of all, the Law was not given to the Jews (Please read Defining “Jews” and “Gentiles), but to the whole of Israel. Secondly, as Paul said, there is no more Jew & Gentile(Gal 3:28). And as Yeshua said, there is only one flock(John 10:16). Furthermore God’s Law was for the Native born as well as the stranger (Exo 12:49, Lev 24:22, Num 15:15,16). And by his own words, we are now grafted into Israel (Rom 11:16-26) becoming partakers (Eph 2:12).

Will Apostle Paul be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven?
Mat 5:17-19 records Christ’s Words “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven”. According to the prevalent understanding of Paul’s words, he has broken almost all of God’s commandments as well as taught others, that the law is no longer applicable. If so, according to Christ’s own words, Paul would be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. How can Paul go against God’s words which clearly states, no one can add or abolish any of God’s Commandments (Deut 4:2, 12:32)?

What about the many instances where Paul speaks about the Law in a negative way?
The misunderstandings that exist regarding his teachings, are caused by a few main reasons
1) We have not read/understood God’s Law and the Old Testament
For example, it is taught that when Paul says “curse of the Law”(Gal 3:13), that this means the Law is the curse. While actually the “curse of the Law” means, the curse which comes on whomever who does not obey the Law (Deut 11:26-28/ Deut 27:26/ Gal 3:10). Reading the front of the Bible(Old Testament) first, makes a vast difference when understanding Paul’s teachings, as this is the only Scripture which was available to the 1st Century Church.
2) We do not know the history/context of his epistles
For example, it is taught that when Paul says “Those who are trying to be justified by the law have fallen away from grace” (Gal 5:4), that this means all who obey God’s Law has fallen from Grace. While actually what Paul was teaching against was “justification by the Law”, as no one can gain righteousness by keeping God’s Law – only Christ’s blood can redeem us and justify us. (Gal 2:21). This was the main debate even at the Jerusalem Council – as some said you have to be circumcised to be saved(Acts 15:1), which is a baseless doctrine according to Scripture.
3) We have been handed down inaccurate teachings, doctrines and preconceived ideas
For example, it is taught that when Paul says “Blotting out the Handwriting of ordinances nailing it to the cross”(Col 2:14), that this means the Law is done away at Christ’s death. While actually what Paul teaches is that the ordinances that said, we should undergo the penalty of death for our sins, were nailed to the cross, as He died in our place.
4) We have not understood Biblical Definitions
For example, some of the terms used in the New Testament such as, Church, Israel, Jew, Gentile are not clearly defined Biblically. (please refer links)
5) We have not clearly understood characters/groups portrayed in the Bible
For example, “The Pharisees” are commonly linked as the group who kept the Old Testament, which is clearly not the case. (please refer link)
6) Reading verses out of context
For example, it is taught that when Paul says “you are not under Law, but under Grace” (Rom 6:14), that this means we don’t have to keep God’s Law. While actually throughout the letter to the Romans, Paul teaches that : Law is not Sin, but the knowledge of Sin(Rom 7:7), Law and the Commandments are holy, righteous and good (Rom 7:12,16), Law is not what leads us to death (Rom 7:13), Law is Spiritual (Rom 7:14), that he delights in God’s law (Rom 7:22) and serves the Law of God (Rom 7:25). The problem is that we have forgotten that these are “letters”, written without chapters or verses addressing issues of specific assemblies of people. We cannot, and must not, pick particular verses out of context.
7) Paul’s usage of the term “Law”
In his epistles, Paul talks about several different “Laws”, namely –
1)Law of Faith (Rom 3:27)
2)Law of Sin (Rom 7:23-25)
3)Law of the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2)
4)Law of Sin & Death (Rom 8:2)
5)Law of Righteousness (Rom 9:31)
6)Law of God (Rom 3:31, 7:22-25, 8:7)
7)Law of Christ (Rom 8:2, 1Cor 9:21)

Conclusion
In conclusion, I ask you to test everything in this study against the Word of God. Do not rely, or place your trust solely on a denomination, a church, a doctrine, a teacher, a pastor or anything/anyone of this world. Put your faith in God, and God alone – The Creator, Redeemer and King! Ask Him to show you the whole Truth through His Word, through the help of His Spirit.

And keep in mind Peter’s Warning when reading Paul’s letters. His words are hard to understand. So we must be diligent in dividing his teachings for the truth. Apostle Paul could not, and would not have gone against God’s Word which is the same yesterday, today and forever. Let us put off all the misunderstandings regarding his teachings and get to know the Paul we never knew.

A page of the King James Bible printed in 1611, which contains our Heavenly Father’s Holy Name

The image below is a page from the King James Bible printed in 1611, and shows part of the 5th & 6th Chapters of the Book of Exodus. Special attention should be given to Chapter 6, where God’s name is specifically mentioned and was printed as “IEHOVAH”. Exodus 6:3 is one of the few places that retained God’s true name in the KJV.

King James Bible Imprinted at London : By Robert Barker …, 1611. In Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library. BS185 1611 .L65.

God’s Holy name has been printed as “Jehovah” in later prints of the KJV Bible, and is now seen as “LORD” in the New King James Version. All English Translations carry the title “LORD” in capital letters instead of his actual name “YEHOVAH”. “LORD” is not our Heavenly Father’s Name. It is only one of His many titles. For further information on this subject, consider reading this article.

You can view the printed pages of the King James Version produced in 1611, by visiting this link.

Defining the term “Salvation”

As Christians we believe we are “Saved”. We believe that through Christ, we have received Salvation. But do we really understand what Salvation is? What are we saved from? Is the “Salvation” we receive, permanent? Are “Christians”, as some state, “once saved, always saved”?

Defining Salvation and understanding this key concept in Christianity is important in understanding our Creator, God Almighty, as well as His Word.

We are born to this world and continue in the path of Adam, as sinful beings and are under the control of Sin from our youth. “Sin” is breaking or not obeying God’s Commandments / Laws (1John 3:4). Everyone who sins, comes under the curse of God’s Law(Deut 11:26-28), which is Death (James 1:15).

Contrary to popular belief, God’s Law is not the curse. The curse came upon all who broke God’s Law, which includes every soul on earth. This is the curse of the Law that Christ took upon himself (Gal 3:13). He saved us from the Penalty of breaking God’s Law. He saved us from the Penalty of Sin, which is Death.

The name in which our Messiah was addressed as, on earth was “Yeshua”.  He was a Hebrew, born amongst Hebrews, who spoke Hebrew. His name was “Yeshua” which means “Salvation” in Hebrew. And this name was given to Him, as His mission was to save people from “Sin” (Mat 1:21).

A “Christian” is someone who emulates “Christ”. A true “Christian” cannot be a “Sinner”(one who dwells in Sin). We have all been “Sinners”. But we have all left our old selves behind when we accepted Yeshua as our Messiah. We cannot be partakers of Sin anymore.

Does this mean we cannot Sin after starting our walk with God? Certainly not. We will fall short one time or the other. Some will sin more than others. And that is why we have His Grace. Grace is a free gift given to us, not so that we can keep on living our own lives the way we see fit, but so we can obey Him and not be cursed with death when we fall short (Rom 6:15,16). It is not a free pass to “sin”(Sin is breaking God’s Law).

A true Christian cannot be constantly and willfully sinning. Such a person is taking the blood sacrifice made by Yeshua lightly (Heb 10:26-31).

So what then of Salvation? A person who accepts God and receives Salvation from Death, can also as easily let go of it by going back to their old ways (Heb 6:4-6, 2Pet 2:20-22). Some say or think that they do not “Sin”, as “Sin” in their mind is not what the Scripture defines it to be. The Scriptures are clear. “Sin” is breaking or not obeying God’s Commandments / Laws (1John 3:4).

The doctrine of “Once saved, always saved” is baseless when using Scripture in proper context. Telling people “come as you are, God will accept you” is not entirely correct. God does give every sinner a chance to become a child of His. But the sinner needs to change his or her ways. They cannot come to God and still dwell in their earlier sinful life. In other words, you can come to God as you are. But you must change your ways, after you come to Him. If a sinner comes to “Salvation” and then returns to the earlier sinful life, how can that person be “Saved”? Salvation is part of a Righteous Life, just as Death is part of a Sinful Life (Rom 6:1,2).

We have learned that Sin leads to death. So what leads to life? It is God’s Word that leads to Life Everlasting (John 5:24, 14:23,24). God has called us to live righteous lives (1John 3:6-10). Righteousness is the opposite of Sin, which means Righteousness = Keeping God’s Law, as Sin = Breaking God’s Law (1John 3:4).

At the end of time, at the judgement seat of God, each of us will have to stand and give account to what we have said and done. All of us will be judged according to our works (Rev 20:11,12). Not according to our Faith. The Righteous judge, will decide whether each of us are worthy of Life or Death. Our Salvation will be completed only on that day, when we enter His Kingdom. Until that day, let us strive to obey God to our best ability with the Grace we receive through Yeshua.