Tag Archives: Christianity

Defining the term “Israel”

A lot of us see “Israel” on the news. Christians pray for “Israel”. They visit “Israel”. This “Israel” is a cause for anger for some, and relief for others. But, is this the “Israel”, mentioned in the Word of God? Or is the Definition for “Israel” something else? Is it a place? Is it a country? What exactly is “Israel”?

The name of Jacob
Most of us are familiar with the story, where Jacob wrestled with God. In Gen 32:28, The “man” who wrestled with Jacob, blessed him saying “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

Let us study the word “Israel” before we proceed any further –
The Strong’s Hebrew Concordance – H3478 – ישׂראל – yiśrâ’êl – yis-raw-ale’
From H8280 and H410; he will rule as God; a symbolical name of Jacob

Let us also study the two words that form the word “Israel” which are “H8280” & “H410”
H8280 – שׂרה – śârâh – saw-raw’
to prevail: – have power (as a prince).

H410 – אל – ‘êl – ale
strength; as adjective mighty; especially the Almighty God, power, strong.

Looking at the above meanings, it is clear what the Blessing of the name “Israel” meant. Jacob and all who would be called Israel after him, would carry the meaning of “to have Power as a Prince, with Almighty God”.

God reaffirmed and repeated this name in Gen 35:10, and went on to say, ” I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.”

The people which came from Jacob and his 12 Sons or 12 tribes were called “Israel” after Jacob’s death. The main thing we see throughout Scripture is that “Israel” is not a place, but a people. The Land which the Children of Israel lived in, was called the “Land of Israel”. Most Christians believe that the People of Israel were the “Chosen People” before, but that they are no more the “Chosen People”. That the Christian Church is the new “Chosen People”. Let us see what God says about Israel, and whether this claim is true.

Israel is called God’s Firstborn Son

God calls the people – Israel – His Son – His Firstborn (Exod 4:22).

God made His Covenant with Israel
God made His Covenant at Sinai with Israel (Exod 34:27) and promised to renew it with them in the future (Jer 31:33, Heb 8:10)

Israel is God’s People
God calls Israel, “My people” (Exo 3:10 ; 5:1, 7:4, 1Sam 9:16, 2Sam 3:18, 5:2, 7:7,8,10,11, 1Ki 6:13, 8:16, 14:7, 16:2, 1Chr 11:2, 17:6,7,9,10, 2Chr 6:5,6 Psa 50:7, Isa 1:3, Jer 7:12, 12:14, 23:2,13, 31:1,33, Eze 14:9,11, 21:12, 25:14, 34:30, 36:8,12, 38:14, 39:7, Joe 3:2, Amo 7:8,15, 8:2, 9:14,    Mat 2:6, Luk 2:32, Heb 8:10, Rom 11:1)

Israel is called God’s People forever
2Sam 7:24, 1Chr 17:22, 2Chr 20:7, Psa 125:2)
If God said that Israel is His people forever, they “are” His people “forever”.

At this point, I want to stop and make something clear. I am not saying that the “Country which is called Israel” today, is of no importance. It is after all, part of the Promised Land. The country Israel, does not contain most of His people though, because the majority who are called “Israelites” today, are only Jews(from the Tribe of Judah, 1 of the 12 tribes of Israel). We will do an in depth study of what happened to the other 11 Tribes, in a future Study. A person shouldn’t confuse the Land with the People. And as per the Scriptures, most of “Israel” is scattered around the world, not knowing who they really are. These are the lost Sheep. More on that later.

Yeshua had a strong connection with Israel
Yeshua was the Savior of Israel as per God’s Promise (Acts 13:23)
Yeshua is called the King of Israel (Joh 1:49)
Yeshua said that He was sent only for the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Mat 15:24)
Yeshua is said to rule over the House of Jacob (also known as Israel) forever. (Luke 1:32,33)

What about all of us “Gentiles”?
We will define the word Gentile also in a separate study. But, it is of value to notice that Paul called “Israel” an Olive tree that ALL believers are grafted into (Rom 11:16-26). What this means is, when you believe in God and His Salvation, you become part of the commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2:12). And notice that not everyone who calls himself an Israelite, is an Israelite. It is not through flesh, but through spirit. (Rom 9:6-8)

By this time, if you are thinking what I am trying to say with all of this, this is it. Whoever believes in God, is “Israel”, a part of His Chosen People. According to John 10:16, Yeshua does not have two folds of sheep. He has only one. If Israel is God’s People Forever, we must be part of His People. I was a Gentile, as long as I did not know God and walked according to my own ways. When I believed in Him and started obeying Him, He became my God and I became a part of His People, Israel. Remember how Ruth, a “Moabite” woman, the great grand mother of David and from whom Yeshua, our Savior also proceed, became part of Israel. In Ruth 1:16, she says to Naomi, for where you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge: your people shall be my people, and your God, my God“.

Further proof that we can no more be Gentiles
The gate to Heavenly Jerusalem has 12 gates with names of the 12 Tribes of Israel.(Rev 21:12) If we are Gentiles, where do we Gentiles enter through? It does not talk about a 13th gate.

The New Covenant is made with the House of Judah and House of Israel. Together they form Israel. (Heb 8:8-10). Where is the Covenant for the Gentile?

Yeshua is said to rule over the House of Jacob (also known as Israel) forever. (Luke 1:32,33). Where are the Gentiles in this Kingdom?

The Good Shepherd has only one flock.(John 10:16) If God has said that Israel is His people/His flock forever, can Gentile Christians be another flock?

Does it matter whether we are “Gentiles” or “Israel”?
In my humble opinion, yes. Because God has not made any Covenants with any Gentiles. All His promises are for His people, Israel. All the prophecies revolve around Israel. And calling ourselves Gentiles is as if we are saying we are not His People. This separation from Israel has brought about much confusion in Christianity, as people think that there is one Law for Israel and another Law for the Gentile. One set of Commandments for Israel and another set for the Gentile. The Sabbath for Israel and Sunday for the Gentile. and the list goes on. We must get rid of the separation. and fully understand the God we serve. and in return, who we are, as well. We are called to reign with Him (Rev 20:6), which by the way, is the essence of the name “Israel” as we first discovered. (Israel = to have Power as a Prince, with Almighty God)

Remember Paul’s words in Gal 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Yeshua, The Anointed One(Jesus Christ)”. What has, is and will be, this ONE people? none other than Israel!

Who were the Pharisees?

One of the recurring main characters throughout the New testament is the group called “Pharisees“. Common misconceptions regarding this sect of Judaism has led to a lot of confusion in Christianity.  The so called “Vipers” or “Hypocrites” according to Yeshua (Hebrew name of Jesus), represent the Old Testament and God’s “so-called” archaic Laws in lots of Christian minds. If you believe that the Pharisees were the ones who kept God’s Commandments perfectly, and Yeshua came and loosened these archaic Laws, I would like to showcase some “irrefutable evidence” from the Word of God to suggest otherwise.

Let’s start by asking a few questions about the pharisees? Who were they? Were they the ones who obeyed God’s Commandments & Laws in Yeshua’s time? Did Yeshua really condemn them because they were keeping God’s Commandments? Was Yeshua getting rid of the Commandments of God along with the Pharisees who kept them?

Let’s review some facts about the pharisees first, using the Bible as our guide

  • The Pharisees were a sect of Judaism – Acts 26:5
  • The Romans had given them the power and place/authority that they held – John 11:48
  • They had power over the Synagogues – John 12:42
  • They had their own officers and guard – John 7:32; 18:3 / Mat 26:65,66
  • Some pharisees wanted to protect Yeshua – Luke 13:31
  • Some pharisees were waiting to accuse Yeshua – Luke 11:53,54
  • They had disciples of their own – Mark 2:18
  • They traveled to make disciples  – Mat 23:15
  • They did not keep God’s total Law – Mat 23:23
  • They had their own law/doctrine/teaching – Mat 16:12, Mar 7:8, John 7:51
  • Their disciples had power to cast out evil spirits – Mat 12:27
  • They had many customs/traditions like washing of hands – Mark 7:3,5, Luke 11:38
  • Paul was a pharisee – Philip 3:5, Acts 23:6; 26:5
  • There was a division amongst them about Yeshua being righteous or sinful – John 9:16
  • The 1st century church contained believers who were from this sect – Acts 15:5

Looking at the above scriptures, a few things should become clear to you:

  1. Not all Pharisees were hypocrites. Some even believed Yeshua was Messiah(Acts 15:5)
  2. Pharisees obeyed something other than God’s Law/Commandments, often called “Traditions of the elders” or “Traditions of men” (Mat 15:2,3,6/ Mar 7:3,5,8,9,13/ Gal 1:14/ 1Pet 1:18)

What proof is there to say that they did not keep God’s Commandments?
Let’s read Mat 15:1-20. The pharisees questioned why Jesus’ disciples did not eat with washed hands(Mat 15:1,2). Jesus replied by how they were breaking GOD’S LAW, by keeping the TRADITIONS OF MEN(Mat 15:3) and adding to God’s Law. This whole event revolved around the washing of Hands, and whether or not it makes you unclean(Mat 15:20). Mar 7 talks about the same event. The Pharisees asked why Jesus’ disciple are not keeping the “traditions of the elders“(Mar 7:5). They laid aside the COMMANDMENTS OF GOD to keep the TRADITIONS OF MEN(Mar 7:8,9). They broke GOD’S COMMANDMENTS because of their TRADITIONS(Mar 7:13). Paul kept these traditions before he beleived in Yeshua(Gal 1:14)

The Pharisees believed in another Law, other than the written Law of Moses, called the “Oral Law”. They believed that the “Oral Law” was passed down from Moses to Joshua, and to the Judges after them, and that the Pharisees were the keepers of this extra Law. This “Oral Law” is what was called “The Tradition of the elders” at that time, mainly because each Rabbi/Teacher of the Sect of Pharisees would teach the Oral Law to his students “Orally”, and these Teachers of the Law could add to this Law. This “Oral Law” has now been written down, and is available as a book called the “Talmud”. You can read more about the “Talmud” in any Encyclopedia. The Orthodox Jews, who you see clad in black with hats and beards, live by this “Oral Law” additionally to the “Written Law of Moses”. Even today, they do not eat unless they keep the tradition of washing the hands.(The “washing of the hands” is not in the Old Testament. It is not part of God’s Law). And their are many traditions like this, that I will not go into. If you want to learn more about the Pharisees and their traditions, I recommend that you watch this video. The Orthodox Jews could be called the Pharisees of the modern era, because they are keeping the same traditions. A Rabbi or teacher of the sect of the pharisees could make a law that would be added onto the “Oral Law”, making it a tradition or what they would call a “Law”. They believed that they had the authority to make and change Laws as they pleased, and that not even God or Prophets like Elijah could stand up against them. (I highly recommend that you watch the video linked above, to understand more about this Oral Law and who the Pharisees really were).

Did they really teach something different or in addition to God’s Commandments?
They taught doctrines of men INSTEAD OF the commandments of God (Mat 15:6,9, Mar 7:7)

But did they break and teach to break God’s Commandments?
Let us go back to Matthew 15 to see how they added to God’s Commandments.
In Mat 15:3-6 and Mar 7:10-13  Yeshua asked the Pharisees, Why do you disobey the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honor your father and mother: and, He that curses his father or mother, let him die. But you say, Whoever that says to his father or his mother, It is a gift/Corban(Meaning an Offering), by which you profit, he does not have to honor his father or his mother, he is free. In this way, you have made the commandment of God “of none effect by” your tradition. What was Yeshua trying to explain here? He said that God’s Commandment was clear. We have to honor our parents. How do you honor your parents? By taking care of them and bringing honor to them by who you are. But what were the Pharisees tradition saying? A person could tell their parents, that whatever he uses to take care of the parents, is a gift/offering to God, and not have to take care of his parents. Has God ever said that we should give offerings to Him while our parents suffer? Does giving to God free us of taking care of our parents? The Pharisees had said that the offering was more important than taking care of your own parents. This is how they broke God’s Law. By adding to it and taking away from it. Which God specifically said not to do(Deut 4:2, 12:32, Prov 30:6). This is how they made God’s Commandments “of none effect” or worthless. By putting “Traditions of Men” above “God’s Commandments”.

The main thing to understand, is that the teachings of the Pharisees, was not the Commandments of God.

Yeshua taught to obey God’s Commandments.(Mat 5:19, 19:17, Joh 12:50). He also taught His disciples to beware of the Doctrines/teachings of the Pharisees.(Mat 16:11,12)

Some think that the “Washing of hands” is in the Old Testament. And Yeshua is abolishing those Old Laws. I would ask such a person to find exactly where the “Washing of hands” is mentioned in the Old Testament before you make up your mind.

Note:
I have purposely kept the argument between Yeshua and the Pharisees about the Sabbath (Luke 6, Mat 12, Mar 2:23), out of this study. (This will be covered in a Study that is done solely on the Sabbath, in the near future) Though, I would like to point out, that just like the “washing of hands”, another one of the Laws written in the “Talmud”, the “Oral Law” of the Pharisees, is specifically how one should not even pluck corn on the Sabbath Day.

In conclusion, I hope you have adequately understood the following:
The pharisees did not adhere to God’s Commandments.
They did not represent the Old Testament or God’s Laws.
Yeshua’s arguments with the pharisees does not mean He was going against Gods’ Law.
The pharisees had a Law of their own.
They broke God’s Commandments through keeping their own Laws

Even though the objective of today’s study is not to find answers to whether Yeshua freed us from the Old Testament Laws or whether He upheld God’s Law, I would note, learning who The Pharisees were, is one of the keys to getting rid of a lot of misunderstandings about Yeshua, His Teachings & God’s Commandments.

Did God tell Peter that he is free to eat unclean animals which He had banned before? Acts 10:1 – 11:18

A lot of people read the events around Peter and the vision he saw, to say that “God revoked the Food Laws”. Is this true? Can we come to the conclusion that God was trying to communicate to Peter that the Food Laws were no more after Christ’s death through this Vision? The objective of this study is not to conclude whether the Food Laws are valid for today, or not. (This will be a separate study, hopefully in the near future). The objective of this article is to study the said passage, so that we can figure out what it means, and what it does not mean. Whether God really did tell Peter to start eating all animals without separating clean and unclean, or whether God’s message was something else.

Let us start at the beginning of the Chapter and work ourselves down step by step. Since this is a verse by verse commentary, I have underlined the critical verses, if you want to get the facts, fast.

Acts 10:1
We know a few things about Cornelius. He was a Centurion of the Italian Regiment. He was posted in Caesarea, a place in Palestine. Mar 8:27, says that Yeshua Himself visited Ceasarea.

Acts 10:2
He was a godly man. He feared God with all his household, helped the poor and prayed constantly to God.

Acts 10:3
It says that he saw a vision about the 9th Hour. Later in verse 30, he confesses that he was fasting and praying at the 9th hour in his house. This was a separated time of prayer as seen in Acts 3:1. In this vision he saw, an Angel of God speaking to him.

Acts 10:4
And the Angel says that his “prayers” and the “compassion he had towards the poor” has reached God.

Acts 10:5,6
He is given direction to send men to Joppa(another place in palestine) to bring Simon Peter to him, so Peter could direct Cornelius as to what must be done.

Acts 10:7,8
When the Angel had left Cornelius, he called two servants and a god-fearing/devout soldier and told them what had happened and sent them to Joppa, as he was commanded.

Acts 10:9
While Cornelius’ men were approaching Joppa the next day, Peter went upstairs to pray around the 6th hour of the day.

Acts 10:10
It says Peter was very hungry, but the food was still being prepared. And he suddenly fell into a trance.

Acts 10:11,12,13
Peter saw the Heavens open up, and a great sheet with all kinds of animals let down to earth. And Peter heard a voice saying “Rise, Peter, Kill and Eat”.

Acts 10:14
Peter says “Not So, Lord”, meaning “may it not be”, I have “never” eaten anything which is unclean or common/unholy. This poses and interesting question. If, as some believe, Yeshua(Real name of Jesus) had taught the Disciples that all things are Clean, and everything can be eaten, why is Peter rejecting this “commandment” from heaven? So, it is safe to say, that Yeshua would have never taught any disciple to break God’s Food Laws.

Acts 10:15,16
Then the voice replies Peter saying, “What God has cleansed, do not call common/unholy”. This happens 3 times and the sheet was taken up back to Heaven. In this vision, did God revoke his food Laws and say God has cleansed all food, and not to call or segregate foods as clean and common/unholy or unclean? It is very clear. But, let us read on before jumping to any conclusions.

Acts 10:17
It says that Peter was unsure of what the vision meant. Why? it was so clear. God had told him to eat all things. But, Peter was not so sure what all of this meant. God had commanded not to eat unclean animals before, and now suddenly, He is asking Peter not to call Unclean animals Unclean! While all of these thoughts were in Peter’s mind, the men from Cornelius had reached the gate of the house where Peter stayed.

Acts 10:18,19,20
While the people asked for Peter, He was still thinking what the Vision meant, when the Holy Spirit spoke to him saying “3 men are looking for you, Arise, Go with them, without doubting anything, I have sent them”. Is this vision somehow connected with the arrival of the 3 men from Cornelius’ house? Let us read on.

Acts 10:21,22
Peter goes downstairs and declares that he is Peter and asks for what reason they are looking for him. They tell him that Cornelius, a Centurion, a God fearing just man, who is known by even the Jews with good report, saw an Angel asking him to send for Peter, to hear what he has to say.

Acts 10:23,24
Peter asked them to stay with them in Joppa, and left Joppa the next day with some of the other believers. The next day, they entered Ceasarea, and Cornelius was waiting for Peter in his house, and he had invited his friends and relatives as well.

Acts 10:25,26,27
As Peter was entering the house, Cornelius rushed to him, fell down, and worshiped him. But Peter “took him” up saying “Stand up, I am also just a man”. And then Peter entered the house to see many who had gathered.

Acts 10:28,29
Peter talks to the assembly, and says “You know, that it is unlawful for a Jew to keep company with, or visit foreigners”. Let’s stop here for a minute and study what Peter really meant, before we proceed. First of all, we should see that it was a known fact by all, that Jews did not keep company with foreigners. Otherwise, Peter would not start his speech by saying “You know”. We see this separation throughout the bible(John 4:9) So much so, that Jews did not even talk with non-Jews (John 4:27). They tried to even refrain from stepping into buildings that foreigners were in(John 18:28). Had God Almighty, instituted such a Law? God has always advised Israel not to go after the nations, and their ways, but never to not keep company with them or talk to them. in Deut 4:6-8, God even advised Israel to keep His Laws so Gentiles will see the good things of God and obey God. This law, of division between Jew and Gentile, like many other laws, were forced on Israel by their teachers and rulers, such as the Pharisees. (More about them in a future study). So, in short, It was a custom, or man made law, that no Jew could visit or keep company with a Gentile.

Now we finally get some solid answers to the questions we asked in Acts 10:15,16. Peter goes on to say, “but God has showed me that I should not call any man “common/unholy” or “unclean”. That is why I came promptly to you, as soon as I was asked to come”. It is very clear, by reading this admission, that Peter understood his vision the moment the 3 men asked him to come with them to Ceasarea. He understood that “God had showed” him the vision concerning not calling any man “Common/Unholy” and “Unclean”. Putting no difference between a person who knows God, and a person who is searching for God. Remember, ultimately, all are children of Noah, a child of God.

Peter goes onto ask why they asked him to come.

Acts 10:30-33
Cornelius explains what happened to him and tells Peter that they are present, to learn what God has commanded them to do.

Acts 10:34,35
Then Peter says that he “understands” that God does not respect any particular individual or nation, and that He has accepted all who “fear Him” and “does what is righteous”, in all nations.

Acts 10:36-43
Then Peter goes onto witness about Yeshua and preaches the Gospel to the people.

Acts 10:44-48
Then something fantastic happen. While Peter talks to the people, the Holy Spirit falls on the people. And some of the believers who were of the “Circumcision party”, who had come with Peter, were astonished. (We will check who “the Circumcision party” was, shortly). The Gentiles spoke in tongues, and magnified God. Then, Peter asked “Can anyone forbid these people who have received the Holy Spirit to get baptized? And Peter commanded them to get baptized in the name of the Lord. And he stayed with them for sometime.

Acts 11:1
The apostles and believers in Judea had heard that the gentiles received the Word of God.

Acts 11:2,3
When Peter came to Jerusalem, “those from the Circumcision” opposed Peter. Notice, that it was not the “Apostles” and “all the believers” who opposed him. It was only those of “the Circumcision”. Some think that “the Circumcision” is, all Jews. Not so. (Gal 2:12,13 showcases how Peter was scared of the Circumcision, and how the “other Jews”, who were not of “the Circumcision Party/Group” also followed him). They believed, as per the name which is used to call them, that you needed to be circumcised to be saved.

What was the accusation brought forward against Peter? That Peter went to “men who are not Circumcised” and ate with them.

Acts 11:4-15
To this, Peter replied by conveying the whole story which happened to him, not starting with the 3 men who came to Joppa, but starting with the vision he saw. He tells them the vision, and how as he was having the vision, the 3 men were looking for him at the house, and how 6 believers, present with him, went with him to Caesarea. How Cornelius had seen an Angel, and how the Holy Spirit fell, while he spoke.

Acts 11:16-18
Peter also says that he remembered what Yeshua said “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”. He told everyone, that God had given the Holy Spirit to the gentiles who believed in Yeshua, and asked them, who was he to withstand God. When “the Circumcision party/group” heard this, they kept quiet and glorified God, saying that God had granted repentance unto the gentiles as well.

So, in conclusion, as we have seen throughout this reading, the Vision was connected to the Gentiles and not regarding them as unholy or unclean. It could not have been about the food. If it was so, “The Circumcision Party” who accused Peter of eating with gentiles, would have ripped him to shreds for breaking “God’s Food Laws”. The key to understanding this misunderstood part of the Word, is Acts 10:28, where Peter said “God has showed me that I should not call ANY MAN “common” or “unclean”.