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Christians…Don’t forget to check your Filters!

As a boy growing up in our public school system, I was taught the “theory” of evolution as “fact”.  It was explained to me that over billions of years, everything  had somehow “evolved” from nothing.  I was given periodic tests to make sure I understood the “truth” of what I was hearing.  I passed with flying colors. Everything went along okay until that day  I read in the Bible where The Holy One said He created everything in 6 days!  Uh oh… Now what?….

I wish I could tell you that because I was a very wise young man, I immediately took The Living God at His word and pitched the theory of evolution.  However, I would be lying. Sadly, evolution, had become a “filter of interpretation” thru which, I would screen any and all information as it pertained to the world around me.  Instead of questioning this “filter of interpretation,” namely that “everything evolved,” I would simply interpret 6 days to really mean billions of years… even though, the Bible clearly says 6 days. In this manner, I would make things “line up” or “fit” within my comfort zone of understanding.  And, after all, how could my preacher…sorry, I meant teacher…with his or her degrees, ever be wrong about what he or she is teaching?    And so it is…..

Today, each of us have various “filters of interpretation” thru which, our understanding of Scripture flows.  If we have the correct “filter”, we will be able to learn and grow in Messiah, while “filtering out” deception and false teachings.  If however, our filter is “flawed” or “plugged,”  certain truths of God’s Word may not make it thru to us.  Why? Because when we view Scripture after it has passed thru one of these “flawed filters”,  we may see a distorted picture of what God is actually saying.  Often times, it forces us, as it did in my case with evolution, to “add to” or “take away”  from His Word, so that things “fit” within our belief system.  So, what should we do about this?

First, it’s important for us to recognize that each of us do have some flawed “filters of interpretation”.  Even Paul admitted that he “saw thru a mirror dimly”.  Knowing that,  we should heed Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians when he said “Test all things; hold fast what is good” Let me ask a question. Have you done that? Have you “checked your filter” lately?

In this teaching of “Seeds of Restoration”, we will “test” or examine seven common “filters of interpretation” that are found within Christianity.  Perhaps you have come to view Scripture after it has passed thru one or more of these “filters”.  If so, I challenge you to prayerfully check out what I say, and let me know if you think my filter is “plugged”.  Here we go…..

Filter No. 1—Jesus came to do away with the Law of Moses, or change them.

There are many people who love the Lord today, who honestly and with a pure heart believe Jesus came and did away with the “Torah”, God’s “instructions” for His people. Scripture however, very plainly teaches just the opposite, both by the life our Messiah lived and by the words that He spoke. Consider this…we know that Jesus was the spotless Lamb of God, (John 1:29) He was without sin, (2 Cor 5:21) which means, He kept the instructions of God, the Torah, perfectly. (1John 3:4) He was the Living Torah. (John 1:1) On these points I believe all Christians would agree.  However, many never consider what this means to those who would be called His disciples… those who would desire to imitate and pattern their life after Messiah.  Jesus honored the Sabbath. (Luke 4:16)  He kept the appointed Feasts of God. (John 2:23, 10:22)  He taught obedience to the Torah as given thru Moses (Mark 7:6-13).  In short, Jesus lived out His Father’s instructions perfectly while saying “follow Me”.

Now, Jesus told us very plainly not to think He would abolish any of His Father’s instructions. (Matthew 5:17)  In fact, He said until heaven and earth pass away, not one stroke would pass away from the Law or the Prophets until all is fulfilled. That’s about as plain spoken as it gets.  Heaven and earth both are still here and many prophecies have yet to be fulfilled. I guarantee you that Jesus meant what He said. He even warns us of a terrible day when He would have to tell many who practice lawlessness to depart from Him. (Matthew 7:21-23) And, He warns all of us as Believers, that breaking and teaching others to break, even the least of the commandments will cause us to be “least in the Kingdom of Heaven”. (Mathew 5:19) Jesus would not have said these things if the Law as given thru Moses would be “done away with”.

Friends, these are plain and simple teachings from our Master.  How is it that some don’t believe Him?  Perhaps He gave us an answer in John 5:46… “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me.  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” In Malachi, the last book of the Prophets, just three verses before the book of Matthew, we see these words from The Holy One.  “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments.”  How quickly we can forget when we turn the page and begin reading from Matthew.

As you know, Jesus came to pay the price for our sins. He took away all of the condemnation that was against us.  However, He did not give us permission to sin against God by rejecting His Torah… His instructions.  In fact, in Matthew chapter 4, Jesus who is quoting from Moses, (Deut 8:3) warns us that God’s Word is a matter of life for us. He says… ”It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” He said this of course, before the “New testament” was written.  Also, notice that Jesus said “Man shall not live…” This statement is made to all men. He did not address this statement to just “Men of Israel”   I point that out as an introduction to our next “filter of interpretation”.

Filter No. 2—The Commandments were given to Israel and do not apply to the modern day church.

Another “clogged filter” restricting the understanding of many of God’s people is basically this…God gave the Commandments to Israel, not the modern day church.  Believe it or not…I agree!!   Paul says in Romans 9:4-5 that Israel is “to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen”.  As we can see from Scripture, God did give the law to Israel. However, He also gave the covenants, the promises, the adoption and the glory to Israel! So, where does that leave the so called “Gentile” Church? Let’s take a look at the “truth of the matter”.

Thankfully, God has always made provision for all who would want to follow after Him, but on His terms, not ours. Even in the Great Exodus it was a mixed multitude (Exodus 13:38) that came out of Egypt.  Paul tells us in Romans 11 that Gentiles are grafted into the “Olive Tree” by faith and become one in Messiah.   Paul makes it clear that by faith in Messiah we are children of the promise and are counted as the seed of Abraham. We must remember that the idea of the “church” (ecclesia—the assembly, the called out ones) being something other than God’s chosen people is a concept completely foreign to Scripture.  In Ephesians 2:8, Paul tells us an awesome thing. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Praise the Lord for that verse… now notice verse 11.  “Therefore remember that you once Gentiles in the flesh-who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands- that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from 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”  He then goes on to say that “we are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,”  Praise God. Want some more?

Consider this. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Praise the Lord!

Now, considering what we just learned from Scripture, let’s reexamine the question. Do we in the modern day church consider ourselves as part of the commonwealth of Israel to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants the giving of the law and so on?   I believe the answer must be a resounding yes.  If not, and the teachings of Moses are not meant for our instruction, which Scriptures do we use to live by?  After all, in the Apostolic Scriptures we find the Book of James addressed… “To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad”.   The book of Hebrews is written to…well… the Hebrews! It becomes obvious that we as Christians must either accept the Bible in its entirety or throw it away and live each according to his own desires. It’s the same life defining choice Elijah gave to Israel years ago. “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him… I submit to you that we are part of  God’s people, Israel.  Not because of any bloodline, but by the blood of Yeshua, our Messiah.   And, as His people, we are not to subtract from His Word. (Deut 4:2)

It comes down to this…we have rejected much of God’s Word just because we didn’t stand at the mountain.  We should find that ironic and quite sad. After all, we made a deal with God at that mountain, promising to do all that Moses would tell us. We were scared of God’s voice and asked Moses to “hear all that the Lord our God may say, and tell us all that the Lord our God says to you, and we will hear and do it.”  (Deuteronomy 5:27)

Filter No. 3—The Division of God’s Law (Ceremonial, Moral, and Civil).

An often repeated, yet completely unscriptural “filter of interpretation” that many have added to their “vehicle of understanding” goes something like this: The Commandments of God can be divided into three different categories: 1) Moral laws, 2) Ceremonial laws, and 3) Civil laws. We as modern day believers should abide only, by those instructions considered to be “moral commandments” The “ceremonial and civil commandments” were for a different people in a different time and thus no longer apply.

While this “teaching” might have a good ring to it and stand in unison with most Bible commentaries, it has no Scriptural support. None. Time and again throughout the Scriptures, the Lord tells us to keep all of His commandments so that it might go well for us.  We need to understand that every command from the God of Israel is a “moral” commandment, given from a loving Father to His children. He defines right and wrong, we trust and obey.  At a time before there was a “New” Testament, Paul told Timothy that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”. (2Tim 3:16-17)  Paul evidently did not read many Bible commentaries.  Also, look up Leviticus 19:3…in it God says “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God”.  How would we divide that one?

Filter No. 4—The Church was given a New covenant which did away with the Law of Moses.

The next “flawed filter” that is often used, but never “tested” against the Word of God tells us that… “we in the church are under a  new covenant, so we don’t have to obey the Commandments of God”.  Many believe that God for some reason changed His mind concerning His Torah, and made a deal with the “church” that allows for us to forget about keeping His commandments. So, with a hearts desire to know the “truth of the matter”, let’s take a fresh look at Scripture, laying aside what we think we know and ask the questions… Who is the new covenant given to and does it do away with the Law as given thru Moses? Remember, we are talking about the new covenant that most in the Church claim as their own.  Here goes…

Hebrews 8:8 “Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—“not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.  For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.  For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more”

Houston, we have several problems!  1)The “new covenant” is clearly given to Israel.   2) He calls them “My people” and 3) The law will still not be done away with!  Once again, we find it problematic to adhere to any form of replacement theology which does not recognize the “church” as part of the redeemed of Israel.  And once again, Scripture teaches obedience to Torah.  Even in the “New” covenant! Notice, nowhere in Scripture do we ever find permission to come up with out own set of commandments.

Filter No. 5—Paul was against us keeping the Law of Moses.

In Acts 21, Paul is informed of a rumor being spread that he has been teaching the Jews to forsake the teachings of Moses.  So, Paul is asked to pay for and participate in taking a “Nazirite” vow  along with four other men, which actually included offering an animal sacrifice at the Temple.  Now remember, this is after Jesus went to the cross. Did you know that Paul actually went thru with it? Why?  Scripture makes it clear… So that “all (that includes you and me) may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you (Paul) are nothing, but that you (Paul) yourself also walk orderly and keep the law”. (Acts 21:24) It is so ironic that today we see the same thing happening again. Many people are being told from the pulpit even, that Paul is against us keeping God’s instructions as given thru Moses. Let’s see if we can once again put this rumor to rest by seeing what Paul has to say, in his own words.  We do believe Paul right?

In Romans 3:31 Paul said this…”Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not!  On the contrary, we establish the law.”   In Acts 24:14 Paul says “…so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.   In Hebrews 10:28 he says “Anyone who has rejected Moses law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” As plain spoken as Paul is concerning his view of the Law and the Prophets, many still honestly believe Paul is anti-Torah. How can that be?

It turns out that Peter gives us an interesting warning in 2 Peter 3:15-16 concerning the writings of Paul. He says this…” our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures”.  Peter then goes on to warn us not to be led away by their error.  Sadly, many people including Bible teachers and many pastors, are untaught and unstable when it comes to understanding who Paul really was and the context from which he taught.  So, what is the proper context? Listen up, and then check me out…

We know that Paul loved the Lord, and we know that Paul devoted his life to serving his Master. He was a bondservant of  Messiah. We also know, and this is the important part…that Paul would never teach people to disobey the God of Israel, but… he did come against anyone who tried to add to what Jesus had done on the cross. This is what we see happening in the book of Galatians for example.  In Galatians 5:4 Paul says “You have become estranged from Messiah, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace”.  Remember, Paul was not against the law. His own words bear witness to this. So, what was he against?  He was against those who would teach the law as a means for salvation.  Do you see the difference? Most Bible teachers have missed the context of Paul’s writings, substituting obedience for justification.  Paul was not teaching us to ignore God’s commandments when he said “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” Paul was warning us not to listen to those who would seek to put conditions on God’s unconditional love.

Rest assured that Paul does not teach us to ignore the instructions of the Living God. In fact, if he did, then he was a false prophet as according to Deuteronomy 13 and deserving of death by stoning.  Speaking of stoning, do you know why Stephen was stoned to death?  If you remember he too was falsely accused of something.  You can find the answer in Acts 6:11-14.  Hold on to your hat and check it out!

Filter No. 6— Jesus said the only commandments we had to keep were to love God and people.

In Matthew 22:37-40 Our Lord is asked by a lawyer “which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus says this…”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Now, this response from Jesus has been understood by many to mean that we are free to ignore much of the Torah, as long as we love God and people.  Now, this does tickle the ears a bit.  However, let’s take note of a couple of key points many overlook.  First, notice that the response by Jesus does not do away with or change the Law of Moses.  In fact, He is actually teaching the Law of Moses! Check out Deut:22:37and Leviticus 19:18 to see if our Messiah is making up a new set of commandments.   Also notice, that once again Jesus affirms all of the Law and the Prophets, just as He did in Matthew 5:17.  He says “on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets”.  Jesus is telling us very plainly that if we truly love the God of Israel, and His people, we will not want to break His commandments.  He tells us this very thing again in John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments”.

Here is another, perhaps easier way of “unplugging” this same filter…  Jesus did tell us to love God and people.  The question is …what is the Scriptural definition of love for God and love for His people?  Some of you might want to sit down for this one…1John 5:2-3 says “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome.

Filter No.7- We now have the Holy Spirit…we don’t need the Law of Moses.

Once again, let’s look to Scripture to see if we need a filter change! In the book of Acts.  (Acts 15:19-21) we see an interesting decision made by the disciples concerning non-Jews who have turned to the God of Israel. They send instructions for these new believers to “abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, (which can only be defined in the Torah) from things strangled, and from blood”.  Is this all that is required  for “new testament” Believers?  Are these the only instructions we need to abide by as Christians today?  Of course not.  In fact we don’t even find a prohibition of murder listed in these instructions from James.  So what’s going on? The answer lies in the very next verse… “For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”  Did you catch it? The Disciples are rightly expecting these new Believers, although they have the Holy Spirit to guide them,  to study, learn and apply the Torah, God’s instructions to their lives. In time, they would learn how to live as children of the God of Israel. They would learn about clean and unclean, they would learn God’s definition of food and to abstain from eating the abominable.  They would learn about His Sabbath’s and appointed times.  They would learn to treat others, as they themselves would want to be treated. They would learn Torah, the instructions of a loving Father, given to His children. What about us? Has anything changed? Are we under a “new” “new testament” teaching of some kind, or might the words of James still apply to us?   Friends, the Holy Spirit authored the Law of Moses!   May all the redeemed of Israel, return to the ancient paths and once again walk according to His Word, His Torah.    “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables”.  2 Timothy, 4:1-4

Copyright 2007 Tim C. Terry

One comment

  1. Another great article and reminder; thank you! What a wonderful way to spend the Sabbath.



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