Shields Up

Above all, take the shield of faith…

Ephesians 6:16a

You may have been taught that the Christian’s shield is (a) his promise to follow and (b) the reliability of his performance. Let us be persuaded about our security.

Abraham’s Shield Should Shake us from our Slumber

After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

Genesis 15:1

Are you stealing?

God knows the answer and you who teach others to stop doing whatever the law says we should never do should either say what God says or do what the law requires. Plead guilty.

“Guilty as charged” suffices

Now we know that what things whatsoever the law says, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

Romans 3:19

Getting to the Core

An introduction to Jesus is not an introduction to Judaism. If that sticks in our throat we cannot be expected to always pick a winner. Not even a radically transformed Mosaic economy does any justice to Abraham’s historic faith and justification without law and works.

Our centre stage is the cross

We have no law, prophets and writings. All we have is gospel whose beginning and end is Christ. The law, through the thousands of years it was Israel’s pride, produced no children of God, but the gospel, on the first day in the life of the church, made 3000 persons heirs of the kingdom, complete with a downpayment.

Let’s get the main objection to the Cross out of the way. James (see 1:25 and 2:8), an avowed Pharisee and disciple of Moses calls the decalogue royal and liberating, turns out to be the only witness in the New Testament who lends lip service to Christ as Saviour, and is out on a limb as surely as Esau was hated (not chosen). He is silent on the saving grace of God to which John, Peter, and Paul have consistently pointed us.

James would be the kind of person one would eexpect in modern times to insist that one learns everything about the law before one can become a disciple of Jesus. That is a pathway that the church soundly rejected.

If someone is saying that he wants to introduce you to Christ why would that person try to teach you everything about the Christ (and God in the Bible!) when in fact you are safer when you are in Jesus’ care and have the Holy Spirit as Helper who alone is able to guide us into all truth?

Maybe the rationale is that there is nothing to learn after one meets Jesus. That falls through the cracks. Could it be that one is complete and mature upon meeting Christ and there is no growth possible neither in grace nor knowledge? Of course not! These two scenarios are classic brainwashing techniques.

Beware of the Pharisee. His convert-making has one result: more kids for hell-fire. Hear Yeshua in Matthew 23:15 making it clear what pretenders do to their disciples.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

Dead or Alive

Of all the bits that go into the accurate identity of his disciples this ID card is truly marvelous and elicits from the believer to a grateful and joyful “Yes!” “God’s work” is not a popular way of introducing ourselves but it is arresting, full of consolation and assurance.

For we are his workmanship (poiema, ποίημα), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

God prepared our works

Did he need to say “beforehand “? Yes. Someone will say “Prepare is always ‘before’ “. True, but the intention of the writer is to further (see vs. 8) caution people against claiming responsibility for the works that proceed from God’s creation. Not only does he save us apart from any work we have done or are required to perform, but he also takes the initiative to prepare the good works of the new life.

The Father’s poem – the result of grace

There is little room for misunderstanding God’s saving and keeping grace. He has hemmed us in most securely by anticipating our need and our quasi-intelligent objections. We love credit even when we aren’t in the game.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand (proetoimazo, pro + hetoimazo, προετοιμαζω) that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

What are the chances that Lazarus helped the Lifegiver call him forth from his grave of four days? Are today’s good works subject to condition and human invention and choice? What are the chances of anyone but Yahweh removing the cherubim and flaming sword the gate to Eden?

Total Loyalty to God is a Shameful Lie

One of the signs of the modern hypocrite plague is the affirmation of total loyalty to God. We hear a lot of talk about discipleship and learning, but all the talkers can offer the world is the insane treadmill of death, sin, and law.
The world – with the Jewish people in particular as the example – was held behind bars until faith came. There was no gift of the Holy Spirit until Christ died. Faith is said to have busted open the prison that held us. In this sense the word faith takes on a personality. That prison is also described as the age of minority; the juvenile stage of human life. It is the stage of immaturity, no authority as family member, and subjection to appointed guardians and custodians. Faith brings us to freedom from this juvenile stage.

  1. It is Christ who came
  2. It is Christ who died
  3. It is Christ who freed us

We need to tell James to stay home: faith can never be dead because faith is the means of getting life into us and faith is the road on which we walk. How can it ever be dead?
That perversion of the sacred narrative is an example of the ongoing error of the human effort to ingratiate oneself to God. Salvation and grace are not of human origin.

Now the only people who will claim that achievement are those who are resistant to the need for a change and the one-sided (divine) responsibility for salvation. It is an abomination that people want credit for God’s work.

It is also shameful because the mark of good interpretation of Scripture is the division of saving truth from childish and useless fables. The only people who resisted God, for the record, are Jews. It was to them that God turned his attention and no one can tell the story of Abraham’s descendants without recognizing the predicament of the human race. A dismal failure is the best way to illustrate the winning plan these loyalists are selling us in the 21st century.

Scripture is convincing that a temple and its laws have no relevance when the salvation of the world is confessedly the exclusively work of the Son of God. Christ did not come to impose the teachings of Moses.

The Lord Yeshua the Messiah is sacrifice, priest, holy place (as residence), mercy seat and the satisfaction for all who come to God by him. Animal blood does not cut it.

We love because he first loved us.

From dead festival to living faith

The lessons that spring from the announcement of the ancient festivals are typically instructions about what to do and when. Naturally, there are prohibitions in the mix. Surprisingly, the following show up and if they did not give the Israelite near complete confidence and comfort they certainly do today over two thousand years later.

The following three instructions show how YHWH intended to focus the Israelite mind on personal responsibility for the neighbour’s welfare.

  • 1. Proactive kindness to the poor: reaping, Leviticus 23:22

And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the Lord your God.

  • 2. Proactive kindness to the poor: bringing food
  • 3. Seven days of fire offerings, aromatic (incense or great smell) for yhwh and the nutrition for the priesthood

The lessons that spring from the announcement off the festivals are typically instructions about what to do and when. Naturally, there are prohibitions in the mix like Leviticus 23:25, “You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the Lord”.

Surprises include:
Food offerings for YHWH. Leviticus 23:36

For seven days you shall present food offerings to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the Lord. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.

Bread with yeast, Leviticus 23:17

You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the Lord.

As evidence of the symptomatic refusal to shift into warp speed we have the doctrine of God-creator dominating both Jewish and Christian practice instead of the saving and providing God in both temporal and spiritual matters.

Pentecost (Shabuot) is our season of shift. It stands in contrast to Leviticus 2:11

No grain offering that you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as a food offering to the Lord.

Even so, leavened bread, in the feast of Pentecost, seems to properly identify us along with our Saviour-God (as the unblemished life). God accepts us with his Son.

Leviticus 23:17

You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the Lord.