"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Was Paul Crazy?

This is post number nine in the series: Why I Am Not A Christian.

Outside of those laws that directly pertain to Temple service and worship by the priesthood (Kohanim), you really can't point to any of Adonai's laws in Torah and say that it makes no sense to follow them, or that by following them you will not be upholding the two greatest commandments, and again, I point to what the Master Himself said in Matthew 5:17-19:

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law (Torah) or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.  For truly I say unto you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

Instead of seeking out the opinions of people who lived hundreds or thousands of years after the resurrection of Yeshua, doesn't it make more sense to search the Scriptures to find the correct view on how to obey God's commands?  If you are a Christian who claims to believe in the authority of Scripture as inspired directly by the Holy Spirit, should you not then read the New Testament and take its instruction as having more weight and authority than any church tradition?  I find it rather ironic that there are Protestant churches who only exist because Martin Luther said that his conscience was held captive by the Scripture, which gave rise to the Latin phrase: Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria. (by faith alone, by Scripture alone, to God alone be the Glory),  but all that really served to do was allow a breaking away from the horribly corrupt Roman Catholic tyranny.  As Luther continued on, he fomented horrendous hatred against the Jews and gave rise to the concept of "replacement theology."  The new Protestant church beginning with the Anglicans or Church of England kept the vast majority of traditions of pagan origin.  Maybe some of the clergy understood what they were doing wrong, but the churches had all pretty much become political structures with immense power and most of the masses simply did not question such authority.

We simply refer to it as the book of Acts.  Its complete name is the "Acts of the Apostles."  I've heard more than a couple of people say it should more properly be called the "Acts of the Holy Spirit," and I agree with that sentiment.  Luke, the author of the gospel that bears his name, was a careful and thoughtful historian.  No one in any of the sciences dealing with history or archaeology has ever found a flaw in any of Luke's work, but then what would you expect from someone writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit?  The last time I referenced Acts was in regard to the misunderstanding I often encounter about the tenth chapter, as if that was to tell us that believers no longer had to worry about the dietary laws of Torah.  Regarding Acts chapter fifteen I pointed out that the elders and Apostles simply assumed that the new converts from the gentiles would begin learning how to obey Torah.  It was rather shocking to their system that gentiles could have received the Holy Spirit without first learning Torah and engaging in circumcision and ritual baptism, but the Holy Spirit made it obvious that they could be received first and learn later, just like what happened to the people at Mt. Sinai in Exodus.  In other words, the leaders of this new body of believers in Messiah had to reach back for the lesson that had been given in Torah and realize that the precedent had already been set.  God wants sincere seekers and believers who are willing to learn His ways, rather than those who think they already know.

Therefore, with the idea in mind that we should look to the example and words of those who actually walked with and were disciples of the Master, let's look at what the 21st chapter of Acts has to tell us.  At this point in time,  Paul finally got back to Jerusalem after travelling around and evangelizing and he reports to the elders of the congregation, apparently led by James.  This account can be found in Acts 21:17-26.  This is an event that you just won't hear preached about from any Christian pulpit, because what it really teaches just throws a monkey wrench in the typical Christian interpretation of how we are to live.  I'm going to paraphrase this in plain modern English.

Paul returns after what might be a couple of years of travelling around to the synagogues.  This is well after the leadership of the body of believers in Messiah or "the people of The Way" have swollen in numbers to several thousand, having observed the Holy Spirit perfoming miracle after miracle through these men and women who walked with Yeshua.  The Temple is still standing, but the Talmud records ( I love a hostile witness proving my case), that ever since they crucified that troublemaker from Nazareth, the scarlet cord that they cut from the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement no longer turns white as a sign that God has accepted this offering.  The doors to the Temple swing open by themselves, and disturbing voices will continue to be heard until the Temple finally is destroyed by Titus in 70 AD.  The Sanhedrin and other skeptical Jewish leaders are probably beside themselves because it's even worse now than it was when the upstart from Galilee was walking around.  This body of believers is an enigma to everyone outside of belief in Messiah.  These believers in the Nazarene continue to come worship and pray in the Temple and even bring sacrifices and offerings.   . . . .  .  er, . . . uh . . . .  what?   Yeah, what it says.

Luke writing:  "And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. And now the following day Paul went in with us to James and all the elders were present.  And after he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.  And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, "You see, brother, how many  thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law [Torah]  ----   [Yep, that's right.  Go check your own translation.]   ----  and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs."   Acts 21:17-21

Read it again and let it sink in.  Does it sound like they think this is a good thing?  If there is any question in your mind, let's continue on in the text, and let the text, the Words of the Holy Spirit, speak for themselves.

"What, then, is to be done?  They will certainly hear that you have come.  Therefore do this that we tell you.  We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses in order that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law [Torah]."   Acts 21:22-24

And Paul did exactly as he was told.  Yep.  That Paul.  The guy who single handedly wrote almost half of the New Testament.  The guy who wrote the letter to the Romans, which gets twisted into whatever meaning any particular preacher wants to give it by lifting select verses out of context.  Notice that Paul didn't reply to them by saying, "Wait a minute, you guys.  You've got it all wrong.  We no longer have to worry about all that stuff.  We are now under grace and don't have to worry about keeping the Law."   Is that what Paul said?  No.  So we need to stop and think.  We need to make up our minds on this issue.  Was Paul schizophrenic?   Was he crazy?  If he was, then we should just forget all this stuff about wanting to be disciples of this Jewish Messiah, because this religion makes no sense.

I will choose a better way.  I will choose to believe that the Scripture is right in all that it says and that I need to correct my human, fallible thinking by conforming my thoughts to Scripture.

Now, as if that wasn't enough to make the case for Torah observance, the story continues.  Paul goes to carry out the very thing that will prove that he is also zealous for the Law and it creates an uproar in the Temple because those who accuse him of breaking the Law and teaching the same, are there assuming that he has brought uncircumcised men into the Temple area beyond the court of the Gentiles.  Paul is arrested for his own protection and to prevent a riot.  Asking for an opportunity to speak to the crowd, Paul appeals to them on the basis of having always been a Torah observant Jew, "educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today."  Acts 22:3  

Paul doesn't take this opportunity while under Roman guard to tell the Jews that Torah observance is no longer important now that Messiah has shed His blood.  On the contrary, he appeals to his own zealousness for Torah and to correct the misconception that he would ever condone the breaking of any of the commandments of God in order to have righteous standing before these men to then proclaim the gospel of Yeshua the Messiah.

Let's become mature in our thinking when it comes to understanding Scripture. God is not a God of confusion or capriciousness.  He didn't give us all those commandments only to later on say, "Just kidding."  And you can find nothing, anywhere, in all of the New Testament to prove that the Torah is no longer in effect.  Oh, you can certainly take individual verses out of context to try and make such a case, but you would be engaging in eisegesis, or "reading into" the text what you want to infer.

In the next installment, I hope to bring to light what really upset the Jews and has been twisted to mean something entirely different.  Click on "What Upset The Jews" to go there.

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