Which Promises Belong to Christians?

Which Promises Belong to Christians?

Can Christians Claim Promises Made to Israel?
Can Christians Claim Promises Made to Israel?

I recently read a post regarding the promises in the Bible. It said that some of the promises were made only to the nation of Israel and some only to Christians.

I disagree.

Let’s start out by defining what a promise is. It the Tanach (Old Testament), the word translated “promise” is דָבַר (da-bar), which means “speak or promise.” It first appears as promise in Genesis.

“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD
 by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD
 will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Genesis 18:19 (NIV, emphasis added)

This was a promise to an individual, specifically Abraham. God had promised a child through Sarah who would be called “the son of promise.” Now, if you look at the promise as one of the flesh, you don’t foolishly think that you will have a baby at 90 or 100.

But if you recognize that Scriptures in the Tanach are spiritual as well as temporal, you can see that the promised son, Isaac, was a type and a shadow of the Son of Promise who was yet to come, Jesus of Nazareth. That promise was made to the entire world.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 2:2 (NIV, emphasis added)

Isaac’s near-sacrifice was a type and shadow of the sacrifice Jesus would make for the whole world. Abraham believed God’s promise to make his offspring a blessing to all the families of the earth (Acts 3:25). He did not hesitate to do all God spoke (דבר) to him because he understood that God’s promises are yes and amen.

“For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.”

2nd Corinthians 1:20 (NKJV)

Next, we have to look at whom the promises apply. The article I read divided them into those for Jews and those for Christians. The problem with seeing things that way is that it ignores the Book of Romans

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same LORD is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him.”

Romans 10:12 (ESV)

What are His riches but the promises made to His people?

The next chapter in Romans describes to us who His true church is.

“But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.”

Romans 11:17-18 (ESV)

Yes, I realize that salvation is the issue here and that Jews and Gentiles alike gain salvation in the same way. But what may not be so apparent is that Gentiles are grafted into the same tree that represents the nation of Israel. Jews who believe in Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) remain Jewish and all the promises relevant to them as Jews still remain. They do not leave Judaism behind and become Christians, as though it were a separate way. There is only one way, through Jesus. The law never was meant to save them—in fact, it could not—yet Jesus diligently kept God’s law.

“…since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the Law by this faith? Absolutely not! Instead, we uphold the Law.”

Romans 3:30-31 (Berean Bible)

There is a great misunderstanding about what Jesus came to do. Most Christians think that the law has been done away with, but according to Jesus Himself, that is not true.

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Matthew 5:17-18 (NKJV)
Zayin represents a man with a crown on his head
Zayin represents a man with a crown on his head

A “jot” is the smallest letter of the Hebrew alef-bet, called variously yud or yod. A “tittle” is the crown-like marking above some of the letters (particularly the letter “zayin,” which represents a man with a crown upon his head).

Jesus was saying that He was making the law “full.” The Jews kept the letter of the law but ignored the weightier matters. That is why He said the following.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

Matthew 5:21-22 (NKJV)

Therefore, the law and the prophets were not done away with; in fact, Jesus kept all the laws to the letter. He did not, however, put restrictions upon the people that came from the traditions of man instead of from God.

If a Jew becomes a believer in Christ, he does not cease being a Jew. When a Gentile becomes a believer in the Jewish Messiah, he does not become a Jew. Instead, both of them become something entirely new—followers of the living God.

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”

Romans 8:16-17

To sum it all up, there is one Scripture in particular that states it all quite clearly.

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, killing the hostility.”

Ephesians 2:11-16 (NKJV)

If we are separate from Jews who believe in Messiah yet retain the promises given to Israel, then the wall has not been torn down and the “one new man” does not exist.

There is no Christianity apart from Christ’s own faith and He is a Jew and heir to all the promises. When we are saved, we become heirs of all the promises because there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. If anyone can claim the promises of God, it is Yeshua Himself, and we in Him.

Thoughts on Eternal Security

Thoughts on Eternal Security

Iron sharpens iron

Recently during a Bible study with friends, the subject of “once saved, always saved” arose. I expressed that I believed that once you were saved you could not “lose” your salvation. One of the other members did not agree. She was fully convinced that you could, indeed, lose your salvation and pointed out several verses of scripture that were difficult passages to argue with.

My constant prayer is that the Holy Spirit will enlighten my understanding, give me the mind of Christ, and direct my thoughts, words, and actions. I told my friend that I would go do some soul-searching and Bible reading to see if I had simply believed what I had been taught, if my understanding of scripture was inaccurate, or if my belief was well-founded.

Define that, please

I did a lot of praying and reading. Why did I believe that I couldn’t lose my salvation? I decided I needed to understand the Biblical definitions of some key words.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

What does eternal mean? Taken from the Greek word aiōnios, it means in this context everlasting, without end, never to cease. The other two meanings don’t fit the context (click link G166 ).

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting G166 life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24)

Both times, and in fact 17 times in the book of John alone, the word eternal means “without end.”

So then I needed to understand what it meant to believe. There are a lot of meanings for the Greek word pisteuō g4100, and unfortunately, many think that someone who adheres to “once saved, always saved” includes the meaning of the word which is translated “mere acknowledgment of some fact or event: intellectual faith.” Of course—and quite honestly—I do not believe that someone who says “magic words” is saved. Instead, and I think more biblically, this definition is more appropriate. “Used especially of the faith by which a man embraces Jesus, i.e. a conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah — the divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God, conjoined with obedience to Christ.”

What does it mean to be conjoined? For this one, we need a regular dictionary, since the word is not in the Bible, though the concept is. The Dictionary.com defines conjoined as “joined together, united, or linked.” Not just acquaintances, but deeply associated like brothers.

“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;” (John 8:31)

Believers—true followers of Jesus—continue g3306 in His word. Jesus said His disciples indeed continued. They did not depart (except Judas). The Greek word menō is defined as “a primary verb; to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy):—abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand.”

So now I have a better understanding of what Jesus meant when He told Nicodemus that those who believed in Him would have eternal life. Those who joined themselves to Jesus in unity and continued in His word were His disciples.

So what about those hard passages?

My friend was fully convinced because there are passages that seem to say if you start down the path with Jesus and then fall away, you can’t be redeemed again. And she’s right—kind of.

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)

What does “to fall away” actually mean? Another word for it is apostasy. John MacArthur defines apostasy this way. “Apostasy can be defined as someone who, with full knowledge of the gospel, full knowledge of the message of Scripture, turns against it in a final act of rejection” (emphasis mine).

Two people in the New Testament who immediately come to mind are Judas and Demas. Judas spent three years in the company of followers of Christ, seeing all the evidence of His messiahship, with all His teaching and miracles. Yet Jesus called Judas a devil! Judas hadn’t yet betrayed Christ, but Jesus knew that he wasn’t a true believer, despite having been enlightened, having tasted of the heavenly gift, and having partaken of everything the other disciples had. He ministered with them, ate with them, fellowshipped with Jesus, yet was not of them.

Demas was ministering with Paul until he (Demas) quit. He didn’t continue, though he had followed Paul and heard his teaching and saw the miracles Paul performed. He heard, saw, tasted… but didn’t continue. He didn’t fall away, he simply walked away.

So the impossibility of being renewed again unto repentance is because all that can be said has been said and all that can be done has been done and yet it was all eventually rejected. There is nothing else left for that person. Jesus cannot be sacrificed again for them; His sacrifice was once for all.

“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (1 John 2:19)

This scripture shows that continuing with them was what would confirm their discipleship. How long to continue? Until the end.

“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:12)

Perdition is the Greek word apōleia, meaning the destruction which consists of eternal misery in hell. Judas’ very nature was perdition. He was never a true believer, as demonstrated when Mary poured the expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet.

“This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” (John 12:6)

Now let’s look at another hard scripture.

“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

If you take this scripture alone, it appears to say that once you start walking with Jesus, if you reconsider, you have fallen away. But does it?

Let’s look at the scriptures immediately before it.

“And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.” (Luke 9:57-61)

Each one of these men called Jesus Lord. Each one of them said they would follow Him. Note that these men made “professions of faith” and yet did not follow Jesus, though they said it was their intention. Did they really fall away? From what? How can you “fall away from the faith” if you never truly even had it?

In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the servants couldn’t tell the difference between them. The Master told them not to tear them out lest they also tear out the wheat. They grew up together until the harvest, and then the tares were burned. Only the Master knew which were tares and which were wheat. We, as servants, are not called to make that distinction.

One last thought

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23)

I believe there are many who call themselves Christians but do not “continue in His word.” They perform many good deeds and preach as though they are truly His followers. But they do not continue! At some point they deny the faith that they have earlier espoused, thinking that all the good deeds they’ve done will allow them to depart from His word. This final denial cuts a person off from salvation. That is the “falling away” of which the Bible speaks, in my opinion. Constantly being fearful of losing your salvation cannot be what Jesus had in mind. How many times did He say “fear not”?

Perhaps you still don’t believe in eternal security. But please, don’t live in eternal insecurity!

If you are saved, you will continue to the end, even if you have doubts. Your inheritance is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit who has put His seal on you. Once He bestows on you eternal life, it is for eternity.

“And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: AND, LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAY, EVEN UNTO THE END OF THE WORLD. Amen (Matthew 28:17-20
The Aaronic Blessing from an Hebraic Viewpoint

The Aaronic Blessing from an Hebraic Viewpoint

The LORD bless you and keep you: The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you: The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26 RSV)

To understand this very special blessing, for which God Himself chose the wording, we must look at the language it was written in. We must take on the mindset of the Ancient Hebrew people and see the meaning of the words from their viewpoint. And when we do, you will see that English doesn’t come even close to the magnificence of this amazing grace.

The red letters are the root forms of the words in Hebrew.
Lines within the words divide them into syllables.

So from an Hebraic perspective, it would be better translated:

YHVH will kneel before you,* giving you gifts, and He will guard you, hedging you about with His protection. YHVH will illuminate you with the entirety of His being, bringing order where disorder was, and He will be your comfort and provide for all your needs. YHVH will lift up His wholeness of being upon you and He will set in place everything to make you whole and complete. * figuratively speaking

In our weekly Havdalah meeting, our Messianic congregation receives the Aaronic blessing as given by one of our pastors or our cantor/rabbi. This is allowed because Yeshua has made us a kingdom of priests and kings to His Father (Revelation 1:6). Therefore, not only can we receive the blessing, but as priests we can speak it over others as well.

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Bearing God’s Image and Likeness

Bearing God’s Image and Likeness

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים נַֽעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ וְיִרְדּוּ בִדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעֹוף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל־הָאָרֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶמֶשׂ הָֽרֹמֵשׂ עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26

zac durant
Photo courtesy of Zac Durant on Unsplash

In what way are we made in God’s image, after His likeness?

The word in Hebrew for image is צֶלֶם (tselem). It is from an unused root meaning “to shade.” Figuratively, it means a representative figure. We are to represent Him on this Earth. In the Ancient Near East in Moses’ time (remember he wrote the Torah which contains this verse), an image was believed to bear the essence of the thing it represented. We are to bear God’s essence! If you live in Texas, as I do, you are meant to carry His essence in Texas. If you live in Singapore, you are meant to carry it in Singapore.

God is not repeating Himself when He says “after our likeness.” That’s a different word: דְּמוּת (de-muth). It means—in some way—a similitude. Another word for similitude or likeness is equivalence.  Obviously, we are not equal to God in every respect, but if you look at the very next words, you can see how we are equivalent: we have dominion. By giving us dominion over the earth, we have become like God. He has total dominion, but we have limited dominion.

We resemble God in the way that the moon resembles the sun. The moon is a light in the sky because the sun is shining. We have dominion, but it is a reflected dominion, the way the moon is a reflected light. Without the sun, the moon would be just a dead rock whirling around in space. Without God, our dominion would have no foundation to draw upon.

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