Acts and Faith

Acts and Faith

In the third and fourth chapters of the Book of Romans Paul sets down one of the cornerstones of Christian theology. Paul argues that no man can be justified by works as described in the Law of Moses because such justification would be a justification of debt and not of grace. Only through faith, argues Paul, is the justification a justification of grace.

Paul is saying that if God rewards good works it would be as if God is paying off a debt to the doer of these works. But when God rewards faith then God’s mercy and grace are revealed.

In order to support this theology Paul points to Genesis 15:6 where God reckoned Abraham’s faith for righteousness. The conclusion Paul arrives at is that only faith and not works can count for righteousness.

This Christian doctrine is the very antithesis of the Jewish Scriptures.

First of all, if God were to reward works it would NOT be an issue of paying a debt. God owes nothing to any of His creations. Whatever works are done by God’s creations give nothing to God that He did not already possess. If God chooses to reward works it is an expression of grace and mercy because our works belong to God before we gave them to Him. Just as God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness so did He count Phineas’ works for righteousness (Psalm 106:31) and so does He count our works as righteousness (Deuteronomy 6:25). Whatever it is that God counts as righteousness it is never a debt that He owes. It is always an expression of His grace and mercy.

But; protests the Christian, can works not be a product of hypocritical self-righteousness and an expression of self-absorption?

The answer is that of-course works can be empty and hypocritical but these are not the works that the Law of Moses talks of. The works described by the Law of Moses are works of obedience, works of hearkening to God’s voice, works that emerge from a heart that is completely submitted to God. It is only to the degree that the person is submitted to God in heart and in deed that we can consider the works as “hearkening to God’s voice”.

But as much as Christians are confused about works it seems to me that there is a deeper confusion about faith. I am not even referring to the fact that the faith of the Christian in Jesus has nothing to do with the faith of Abraham in the One Creator of heaven and earth. I am talking about the delusion that the path of faith is somehow free of self-righteousness and hypocrisy.

Christians seem to believe that their faith can justify them. But what is faith in God? Faith in God means recognizing that God is the only true power. If someone feels more secure because he or she has a steady job then their heart is leaning on a power other than God. If a person feels any better because the doctor reported that they are in good health then again the heart is not complete with God. If someone doesn’t feel as safe and secure in a lonely forest as they do in a civilized city then again the heart is relying on the power of men and not so much on the power of God.

Full faith in God means freedom from self-centeredness. If you feel just as happy when your friend acquires some goal in worldly or in spiritual matters as you do when you yourself reach that goal then you can say that you are free from self-centeredness.

Faith in God means freedom from pride. If you feel the same way when someone insults you as when someone compliments you then you can say that you are free of pride.

Does this mean that faith in God is impossible? No! Not at all. But it won’t happen without God’s help. You need to pray to God so that he can fill your heart with true faith in Him. You need to recognize that just as you cannot produce works that are pleasing to Him without complete and utter humility before God so will you not produce faith without complete humility before God.

You need to follow the path that God set for us so that we can walk in His faith. This path is the path of works. By doing justice and loving kindness we can learn to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). Not that we see these (the practice of justice and kindness) as a means to “earn” a walk with God. Because God will never owe us anything. Instead we see the practice of justice and kindness as opportunities to imbibe in God’s goodness and to humble ourselves before Him.

No one can say that their heart is entirely pure (Proverbs 20:9). All we can do is yearn and look forward to the day when God will intervene and cleanse us Himself (Deuteronomy 30:6). To yearn means to walk the path that God mapped out for us with as much obedience as God grants us each and every day.

But what happens until then? What happens before our hearts and deeds are completely subject to God? The Jewish Scriptures make it clear that God doesn’t expect perfection from His creations (Psalm 103:14). The Scriptures are replete with examples of God looking favorably upon the hearts and deeds of men even though we know that these men and women were not perfect in heart or in deed simply because they were human.

To think that we have “arrived” is arrogance. To believe that we are nowhere is spurning God’s goodness. We need to recognize our blessings at the same time that we need to recognize our utter dependence on God.

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Thank You

Yisroel C. Blumenthal

 

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47 Responses to Acts and Faith

  1. Annelise says:

    There are a lot of valuable thoughts here. Thank you.
    Shabbat shalom.

  2. David says:

    Faith and works go hand in hand. They are two sides of the same coin. Both James and Paul are in agreement. Paul clearly argues the importance of works in Romans 2 as does James in 14. It is only the emphasis and purpose of writing that differs between James and Paul. James emphasizes the inseparability of works which follow from ones faith. James continues with cautioning against dead (empty or worthless) faith which results when there are no associated works. And Paul is arguing both, first in chapter 2 he emphasizes works and then in 3 and 4, he focuses on the importance and primacy of faith. Paul continues with an explanation of futile, empty works not based on faith. In chapter 9 he provides an example of a failure to attain righteousness because it was pursued as if by works alone, void of faith.

    Since faith is the origin, Scripture says that we are judged on our faith. But Scripture also says that we are judged by our works because it is by or through our works that our faith is expressed.

    So in conclusion, one cannot attain a righteousness by faith apart from works (James 14:24) and likewise, neither can one attain a righteousness by works without faith (Romans 9:32).

    James 14:

    20But are you willing to recognize, O
    empty-headed man, that faith apart
    from works is barren? 21Was not
    Abraham our father made righteous
    by works, in that he offered up Isaac
    his son upon the altar? 22You see
    that faith was working with his
    works, and by the works was faith
    made complete, 23and the Scripture
    was fulfilled that says, and Abraham
    believed God, and it was reckoned to
    him for righteousness, and he was
    called the friend of God. 24You see
    that by works a man is declared
    righteous, and not only by faith.

    Romans 2:

    6who will repay each person
    according to his works: 7to those who
    by patiently doing good seek for
    glory and honor and incorruptibility,
    there will be life in the Age to come.

    10…but glory
    and honor and peace will come to
    everyone who is doing good, to the
    Jew first and also to the Greek, 11for
    there is no respect of persons with
    God.

    13for it is not the hearers
    of the law who are righteous before
    God, but those who do the law will
    be declared righteous

    Romans
    9:
    30What then are we to say?
    That Gentiles, who did not diligently
    pursue righteousness, attained
    righteousness, even the
    righteousness that is by faith, 31but
    Israel, pursuing a law of
    righteousness, did not succeed in
    reaching that law. 32Why? Because
    they did not pursue it by faith, but as
    if it were by works. They stumbled
    at the stone of stumbling, 33just as it
    is written, Look! I am placing in Zion
    a stone over which people stumble,
    even a rock over which people fall,
    and the one who believes in him will
    not be put to shame.
    Brothers, my heart’s desire
    and my supplication to God
    for them is that they may be saved.
    2For I can testify about them that
    they have a zeal for God, but not
    according to knowledge. 3For in
    their disregarding the righteousness
    that comes from God, and seeking to
    establish their own, they did not
    submit themselves to the
    righteousness of God. 4For Christ is
    the fulfillment of the law, with the
    result that now there is righteousness
    for everyone who believes.

    • David
      Do not try to whitewash Paul – Paul presents a picture as if the Law of Moses is not the Law of faith – This is completely false – The Law of Moses is a description of what works of faith are – Jeremiah 7:23

      • David says:

        Read Romans 9:31, Paul is saying just the opposite from what you claim. He is critical of Israel who tried to attain righteousness based on works void of faith. He doesn’t say law is without faith. Read it: “But Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not succeed in reaching that law. 32Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works.” So, therefore, IF the Israelites had pursued righteousness by works of FAITH, they could have attained it under the law. But they didn’t. They were without faith. Also, Paul is critical of the hypocritical behavior of the Israelites who profess the law on the one hand, but don’t do it. He says actually they also dishonor God by doing the law! (Romans 2:23 – 25). So some did the law outwardly only (without faith), while others didn’t even do that!

        • David says:

          The second sentence from the last should read: “He says acually they also dishonor God by NOT doing the law!”

          • David
            In chapter 4 Paul contrasts the Law of Moses with the faith of Abraham – he is not talking about anyone’s observance – he is talking about the Law itself

  3. I absolutely agree that faith is demonstrated through works/acts (obviously, “faith” that doesn’t move one to act is not really faith). Very sad would be if one were to look to “faith” to save him (just another form of trusting in one’s own works) rather than taking his eyes off self and realizing that the truth is, in ourselves is not goodness (Psalms 16:2). As Rashi explains this verse in his commentary on Chabad.org “The benefits that You do for me, it is not incumbent upon You to bestow [them] upon me, because You do not benefit me on account of my righteousness.”

    It is the same with our faith; we have not “earned” merit from G-d because of faith, either. True faith means understanding that despite our sin (Isaiah 1-5), despite our disloyalty (Isaiah 30), despite our failures (Psalms 51)…HE has redeemed us for HE alone is Good. It is about HIM, not about us.

    That said, although faith in HIM does indeed lead to acts, our acts must be according to His Word, not our human reasoning. We know from Isaiah 29:13-14 that it is indeed possible to perform good “acts” (even “worship”) while keeping one’s heart far away from G-d. True acts stemming from a heart of faith in G-d—a heart that truly knows Him—are based on Truth and come from a heart of humility, not self. It is the OBJECT of the faith, and not faith itself, that really matters. For example, acts of “zeal” (using the exact same terminology as was used to describe Phineas’ zeal for G-d—described in Numbers 25 and mentioned again in Psalms 106) that were NOT founded on G-d’s commands but rather on human reasoning were punished—as in Saul’s acts of zeal for the sake of the children of Israel and Judah (2Samuel 21). We also see in 2Samuel 6 an instance in which an act seemingly meant to protect the ark of the LORD from harm was one that G-d punished severely (by death).

    In Phineas’ case, his zeal was based on heart passion for G-d, which again, is about heart submission in choosing to believe that G-d’s Word is true—no matter how unappealing or ugly, and no matter how clearly it depicts our sin. Phineas’ acts were based on a clear command from G-d—he chose to believe G-d’s ways were right in the face of all opposing human reasoning (i.e., this was just a young man who loved a woman…a seemingly harmless love affair…he brought her to his own relatives, whom he obviously trusted to “understand” his situation…and Phineas had to kill him not in front of enemies who wished for his death but rather in front of the very ones who loved him). When human reasoning said one thing and G-d’s Word said another, Phineas rejected human reasoning and chose G-d.

    This same heart was also seen in Abraham. According to human reasoning, he should not have been able to produce a nation at that time in his life. G-d said it would happen. Abraham rejected human reasoning and chose G-d.

    In both cases, they truly submitted their hearts to G-d to the extent that His heart became their heart, His passion became their passion, and His Words became the truth they lived by. That is true faith in G-d. And that faith leads to action.

    • P.S. I had meant to start a new paragraph above: (“It is the OBJECT of the faith, and not faith itself, that really matters”) but accidentally inserted it in the middle of the other paragraph.

      What I meant to add there is that I believe a focus on faith is good only inasmuch as it helps the hearer to understand what it means and how it fits in the realm of trusting and hoping to G-d. But the true focus must ultimately be the OBJECT of that faith. If the object of faith is wrong, the “faith” is simply an erroneous delusion. In addition, if I were to somehow believe I am “worthy” because I “have faith,” then I would not in fact be walking in faith at all but rather would be looking to my own works (faith) to save me.

      Conversely, when I humbly come to the LORD and realize, as Isaiah did, that—just as with Israel—it is my own sins that have been my undoing (Isaiah 50:1-2) and yet HE redeemed and ransomed me (Isaiah 51:10-11), then the object of my faith (G-d) is right. Then, just as the psalmist knew, I can be sure that despite my sin and error and many failings (Psalms 32, 38, 39), HE is the one who ransoms and redeems me (Psalms 49:8-16), by HIS work alone (Psalms 71:23), then my faith is sure and sound. And the reason, then, is not MY faith (with the focus on me) but rather the OBJECT of my faith—HIM alone.

      • Larry says:

        Sorry to sound to lame, I have the flu, what is the object? Would that be Christ?

      • P.S. And a heart that is passionate about and focused on HIM will most certainly act in accordance with that focus on Him, knowing that G-d’s Word alone—ALL of His precepts and judgments—will stand in the end (Isaiah 40:6-8).

    • Freedom
      You missed the whole point about this post. Of-course the object of faith needs to be God – but can you say that you do not fear if an army of people who hate you stand up against you (Psalm 3:7)? Does your heart not even have a tremor of fear when you are threatened by physical harm? – If your heart trembles when faced with a physical threat – then you are not completely trusting in God (Psalm 131:2). We all need to grow in our faith just as we need to grow in our works – and the holiness that God grants us through works (Numbers 15:40) is one of God’s ways of helping us grow our faith.
      The same applies with acknowledging one’s own sin – there are so many levels of this recognition – do you fully realize the magnitude of sin? do you fully realize what it means to violate the command of the One who created you and is constantly sustaining you? It is only to the degree that you are horrified at the slightest injustice that you may commit towards your fellow man – that you can honestly claim that you acknowledge your injustice towards God. Don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that you understand justice towards God better than you understand justice towards another human.
      Boasting about acknowledgment of sin and of trust in God is no different than boasting about works.
      By the way – which “direct command” of God was Phinehas fulfilling? (I am not trying to say that he was following human reasoning – I just want to hear where you found a “direct command” to kill a Jewish man who has relations with a Gentile woman – notice – it does not say that Zimri was worshipping Ba’al Pe’or)

      • Friend,
        The Direct Command from G-d is found in Numbers 25:1-5, and from the context (“they profaned themselves by whoring with the Moabite women, who invited them the people to the sacrifices for their god…”, after which G-d said to kill the ringleaders and for each to slay the guilty among his men.

        However, I think you missed the whole point of what I was sharing. The point is that it was his HEART that G-d commended, from which flowed the acts of passion (“Phineas…has turned back My wrath from the Israelites by displaying among them his passion for Me…”). Passion is not an act; it is something that is in the heart, which then leads one to act. So, first, good works for G-d come from a heart that first knows and is passionate about Him. Second, acts of zeal that were NOT founded on G-d’s Word (such as Saul’s zeal—using the same Hebrew terms as are used to describe Phineas’ acts (2Samuel 21)—were punished severely. So that means we must be listening to what He says, accepting His Word.

        Third, what is specifically mentioned in Psalms 106 with regard to Phineas was his intervention (which kept many people from dying). Reading this made me think of Daniel 12:3 (one of my favorite verses since childhood): “…and those who turn the many to righteousness will be like the stars forever and ever.” What a beautiful verse! Because of Phineas’ intervention, many lived and saw the mercy of the LORD.

        And I absolutely agree with you that justice with regard to G-d cannot be separated from one’s view of justice toward humans. That is the entire point of submitting one’s heart to G-d, acknowledging ALL of HIS precepts, judgments, and laws as right, as David did, even when some seem to contradict our own human view of what is just and right. It is choosing G-d’s ways, loving G-d’s ways, submitting to G-d’s ways…even when we don’t fully understand them. It is looking the many ugly passages of Scripture (long, detailed passages!) that describe our sin and failures—and G-d’s hatred of that sin—full in the face and acknowledging that HE is right and we are wrong. HE is our Redeemer and we are the ransomed and redeemed. We grow in our understanding as we continue to encounter more truth in Scripture…but our heart must be to accept the truth as He gave it, His passion must become our passion, and His Words must be the Truth we live by.

        Shalom

        • P.S. In case it came across otherwise, my intention in sharing what I did about the OBJECT of our faith was not to contradict you but rather to contribute. (I was not suggesting that you were saying otherwise, in other words.)

          I do absolutely agree that any boasting/focus on self at all—whether for works by calling them “works” or for works as calling them “faith and trust”—still amounts to a focus on self. The object of one’s faith/hope/trust must indeed be not ourselves but the LORD, His Whole Word, and Who He Is as our Redeemer and LORD. I think it is as we shift focus to simply submit to ALL of His Word and Ways as Just, Perfect, and Right (even when they are difficult to read and accept) that we learn to grow both in faith in Him (with the focus on HIM, not on “faith”) and in acts that reflect the passion that then grows in our hearts as we learn to know Him more deeply for Who He Is as He revealed Himself in Scripture.

          Shalom

          • Freedom
            The way Moses presented the command was to kill those who have worshipped Ba’al Pe’or (Numbers 25:5) – this does not seem to apply to Zimri if you read the scriptures at face value
            You speak of “simply submitting to All of His word…” – you spoke of your own faith being sure and sound – so do you really think that you have submitted to ALL of His word?

          • Friend,
            Given the context, yes, I think it is clear that it applies (G-d did not provide the story of Phineas’ heart of passion for Him in a vacuum, or suddenly switch to some unrelated story; rather, He gave it in its immediate context as it related to both the command and the punishment).

            Yes, I believe my faith is sure and sound. This is not to say that I do not need to continue to grow in my faith (indeed I do), but I know Whom I Believe, and HE is sure and sound. He is my Rock, my Redeemer, my Savior, and the One who Alone is Holy. I am one who is ransomed and redeemed, by His Grace and Mercy. And I know I can trust His every Judgment, every Precept, every Word, that it is True and Right.
            Shalom

  4. melissa33774 says:

    In my opinion, the error in the Christian’s view of the “Law”, or the 613 Commandments, or Mitzvot, given to the Jewish nation at Mt. Sinai, is to assume that a Jew observes these mitzvot in order to to gain a place in Heaven; if we work real hard and accrue as many mitzvos as possible, then maybe we will dodge the fiery depths of hell.

    This couldn’t be farther from the truth. If a person observes these laws with that in mind, he is losing sight of what it’s all about. When we do deeds with the expectation of a reward, then we are merely serving our own ego. Our rabbis teach us that the reward for a mitzvah, is another mitzvah. In other words, when we do one mitzvah, another mitzvah will follow. And then another. And then another. And THIS is our reward; that we have made the world a better place.

    On a deeper level, a “mitzvah” is a connection with G-d. It is a way in which G-d gives us to connect with Him on a daily basis. Can we fulfill all 613 mitzvot as outlined by the “Law”? No. But this is why He gave us 613. G-d, in His love and mercy, laid out 613 ways we can connect to Him. 613 ways to show Him we love Him. 613 ways to come close to Him. And thank G-d for that. He knows we’ll mess up a few here and there, so He always gives us another chance.

    Although we may never accomplish observing all the Commandments, there is always SOMETHING we can do. Every time we give charity, we bring ourselves closer to G-d. Every time we choose not to steal or to murder, we bring ourselves closer to G-d. Every time we choose not to worship an idol, we bring ourselves closer to G-d. Every time we honor our mother and our father, we strengthen our relationship with G-d.

    Did I take advantage of every opportunity to do a mitzvah today? Maybe not. For example, I did not say my morning blessings today. But I showed kindness to my neighbor today. I called my mother yesterday. Tomorrow is another day. And if G-d chooses to give me the gift of life for one more day, then maybe tomorrow I can remember to say my morning blessings. Either way, none of this will get me into Heaven. But it will make each day of my life here on earth that much better. And as a bonus, each mitzvah I do will indeed increase my faith in the Holy One, Blessed be He. And in the end, isn’t that what life is all about?

    • Melissa
      Thanks for this beautiful and articulate comment!!

    • David says:

      It runs deeper than that, from the time that God has revealed His grace through Jesus Christ, I (as a Christian) believe that righteousness comes only through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:20 – 25). However, I also believe that the non-believing Jew can be grafted back in through belief in Christ (Romans 10:1 – 4 and Romans 11:23). And no one (neither Jew nor Gentile) can come to God unless he goes through Jesus; Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

      • melissa33774 says:

        David, I understand what you are saying and I know this is your belief. I certainly cannot argue with one’s belief. All I can do is compare one theology to another.

        As I read John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”, there are serious flaws that a Jew cannot reconcile. Abraham our father recognized that there is only one G-d, with whom we have a direct one-on-one relationship. No intercessors. No mediator. No go-between. This realization is the covenant between G-d and Abraham, that will be marked in the flesh for all of his descendants, until the end of time.

        The next directive from G-d is at Mt. Sinai with the giving of the 10 Commandments. The first 3 statements uttered by G-d that brought these displaced people together as a nation were: “I am the LORD your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.” Going “through Jesus” in order to “come to the Father” is putting a man, an intermediary, BEFORE the Almighty Himself. This is very problematic for the Jew.

        I know that you were taught that a non-believing Jew can be “grafted back in”, as if he were a limb that has been cut off. However, Replacement Theology is a thing of the past. The prevailing belief among Christian scholars is that Israel was never “cut off” to begin with. Scholars have revisited many of the claims of the Jewish Bible, primarily G-d forging an eternal covenant with the Jewish people.

        In Genesis 17:7, G-d says to Abraham, “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you”. We know that this covenant with the Jewish nation is still in force today, as the prophet Isaiah tells us (chapt 40, verse 8), “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”

        Scholars now recognize that the claims of the Christian Bible support the idea of Gentiles being grafted into the Jewish nation and thus enjoying all the rights and privileges that have been bestowed upon Israel, the Jewish people. Not the other way around. This new revelation to the Gentiles in no way takes away the status of the Jews as G-d’s Chosen People. “Chosen” merely refers to the separation of the Jews from the nations in order for them to be free from bondage, so that they may keep the Laws given by G-d, as delivered through Moses.

        Scholars recognize that the laws of Moses are eternal. Even your Bible confirms this: “It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” (Luke 16:17)

        Likewise, Matthew 5:17-20 quotes Jesus speaking to the Jews: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law… Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

        However, this responsibility to keep the Law was never intended for the Gentile nations to keep. But since G-d is an all loving and an all merciful G-d, He paved a way for the Gentiles to attain righteousness as well. Thus, one does not need to be of the Circumcised in order to be deemed righteous by G-d. Paul realizes this and spreads the Gospel to the Gentiles with the message, you do not need to convert, nor be bound by the Laws of Moses. You too, just as G-d’s people, Israel, can enjoy the status of righteousness before G-d and therefore have a place in the World to Come. (Although Paul changes the message from the 7 Noahide Laws to belief in Jesus, but that’s a whole other discussion for another time).

        How, then, could the Church have been chosen replace Israel? There is no indication by Jesus that Jews need to do anything other than be Jews.

        .

        • melissa33774 says:

          Just to add another thought: David, you responded that it goes much deeper than what I said above. I disagree. I don’t think there is any “hidden” agendas here. The formula is really very simple. Have faith, walk humbly with my G-d and be kind and respectful to others. It really is not about an eternity of Heaven or Hell. Better to live one day on earth than an eternity in Heaven. Why? Because only here, in this physical world, in a physical body, can man partner with G-d in making this world a better place for all humanity. We are the arms and feet of G-d. He is the Mastermind, but only we can carry out His wishes. Those of us who are blessed enough to be given that chance shouldn’t be distracted by an obsession with eternal reward or punishment. Our job is right here, right now. Let me do my job here and I’ll worry about Phase II when I get there.

    • Donna Lampson says:

      Thank you Melissa, That really spoke to me !

      • melissa33774 says:

        Thank you Donna for your support. I am glad that you found my thoughts meaningful. It come from Chassidic thought. I love Chassidus; it speaks to me as well. It reveals the inner meaning of the Torah and gives us a glimpse of the cosmic “Why”. Its teachings reveal the mind of G-d and what His ultimate plan is for mankind. The focus of Chassidus is serving our Creator with joy.

        The biggest problem we have in our society today is that our lives lack meaning. Teen suicide is on the rise because young people lack purpose in life. People turn to materialism to fulfill an inner need that can never be satiated. Same with drugs and porn; people are seeking thrills but are never satisfied. Broken marriages, pregnancy out of wedlock… people are seeking love but never seem to find it.

        If we only understood that our lives have meaning; that each and every one of us are here for a unique purpose, there would be much less unhappiness in the world. Psychiatrists would be out of business! Why, we might even be able to usher in the Messianic Age! We have the ability to do that… we can choose to serve G-d with joy. We can choose to have faith. Faith doesn’t just happen. We have to choose it. We can choose to see the glass not merely half full, but understand the reality that it is always completely full. The void we see as missing water is not a void at all. It is just filled with something else. Something we can’t see… the molecules that make up air. Our lives are like that. Even though we might feel empty, there exists something that we don’t perceive. Our glass is always full… we just have to choose to see it. That’s Chassidus.

        • hyechiel says:

          Dear melissa33774;
          OK! You have hit the Tanach on the Crown!
          This is what HaShem is trying to get across to us. How many times has He told us that if we follow His way, all shall go well, or -i”If you turn to me, I shall turn to you.”
          There is no mediator, I have the responsibility to do what I can, to live life as He said. THIS is why it is so important for us to not change the lable of each other, but to live by the ethics and morals He taught all of us.
          When I am pressure about accepting Jesus, I remind the person that G-d already laid out His way, which we call the Noahide way. (See Jesus rendering in Matthew 19:16-19)
          Now, as Theodoric the last great Roman Empior said; “Yihe eta zei.’ Make it so.
          Shalom;
          Yechiel

  5. David says:

    Yourphariseefriend wrote:
    “David
    In chapter 4 Paul contrasts the Law of Moses with the faith of Abraham – he is not talking about anyone’s observance – he is talking about the Law itself”

    My response:
    Are you continuing to make the same argument? It certainly sounds so but with different words and as usual, a total lack of specific supporting scriptural citations. Where you have referred to Scripture to accuse Paul, it’s a vague non specific reference to chapter(s) in Romans which actually speak against your position. Contrary to what you are implying, Paul is not, I repeat not discrediting the law given through Moses in favor of the faith of Abraham. He is explaining how the law is based on the SAME FAITH AS the faith of Abraham. And you are also wrong in another sense because he is, I repeat IS talking about OBSERVANCE of the law, or “failure” to pursue the law through FAITH!

    He says that we are “upholding” the Law through the faith of Abraham! FAITH OF ABRAHAM!! (ROMANS 3 VERSE 31). The problem is not the law, but the failure to pursue the law by faith! So the Israelites FAILED, not because the law was defective, but because the Israelites were defective (Romans 9 verse 31 and 32). Romans 4 is about how we ALL share in the promise of Abraham, not ONLY to those of the law (Romans 4 verse 16). It has nothing to do with your claim that the law is in opposition to Abraham.

    Romans 3:

    30since there is only one God,
    who will declare the circumcision
    righteous on the grounds of faith,
    and the uncircumcision through that
    same faith. 31Do we then nullify law
    through faith? Absolutely not! No,
    we uphold law.

    Romans 9
    31 But Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not succeed in reaching that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works.

    Romans 4

    16That is why
    righteousness is by faith, so that it
    may be according to grace, to the
    end that the promise may be certain
    for all the seed, not only to those of
    the law, but also to those who share
    the faith of Abraham—who is the

  6. David
    Read Romans 3;21 and Galatians 4:24

    • David says:

      Romans 3:21: But now a righteousness from God apart from the law has been revealed, although the law and the prophets are testifying to it,

      And therein my lie the seed of your error. 3:21 does NOT say that the law was without righteousness. It does NOT say the law was defective. It says there is available a righteousness apart, meaning separate, meaning not from the law. AND, the entire OT (law and prophets) are testifying to it. And to continue to 3:22, that righteousness is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

      AND, just before 3:21 is 3:20. “because by the works of the law no flesh will be declared righteous in his sight,…” Again, Paul emphasizes the error in the application of the “works” of the law based not on faith but on works. He doesn’t say by the “law” but rather “works of the law”. He’s not calling the law defective, but rather the “works” of the law as the Israelites pursued righteousness not based on faith but instead works void of faith.

      Read Romans 7:12 “So, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

      Read also Romans 9:6 “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel, who are descended from Israel, neither, because they are Abraham’s seed, are they all children, but Through Isaac your seed will be called.” The law didn’t fail the people did, who in fact weren’t all Israelites from the heart.

      And read Romans 11:11 “I say then, did they stumble resulting in falling beyond recovery? Absolutely not!” He’s saying the people stumbled. The law did not stumble.

      You have misconstrued Galatians 4:24. Paul is talking about the error of going BACK to the law once God has revealed a new righteousness separate and apart from the law. Now, when the new covenant was revealed in Jesus Christ the law is no longer useful and is found to be inferior to the righteousness found in faith in Christ. You can’t have both Paul is saying. There is no longer any righteousness found in the law. But, at the time it was given and until the revelation of Christ the law ruled in righteousness. The allegory of the two women pertain to the two covenants WHICH CANNOT OPERATE AT THE SAME TIME. We can only have one covenant operating at a time. The old is now obsolete and we cannot go back.

  7. Freedom
    No direct command – just your understanding of the context – you have already demonstrated that your understanding of Scriptural context is very prone to error –
    Inasmuch as your faith needs to grow – it is not faith in God – Faith means a sense of security – if you still fear physical threats than you feel secure in things other than God
    In any case you are believing in a new covenant which the Scriptures clearly say is not for you – you can explain it away as much as you want but you can’t erase the words written in the Bible

    • Friend,

      We can’t simply pull a verse out of Scripture; we have to read it in the context G-d gave it. And He did in fact directly relate Phineas’ intervention (mentioned in Psalms 106) to the punishment (turning aside G-d’s wrath), which was clearly and directly related to the commands in Numbers 25. Then G-d even went on to specifically mention trickery on the part of the Midianites, with this particular woman and Zimri’s killing also specifically mentioned in regard to Peor (Numbers 25:17-18), so I do believe it is clearly related.

      Even aside from all of that, it would make no sense to claim that G-d would reward an unrelated event that is merely one’s own impulse — He certainly didn’t do so in 2Samuel 21 when Saul acted according to his own reasoning instead of according to G-d’s Word.

      But that isn’t even the main point here (or at least not the point I was trying to make in my contribution to your post). My point was that Phineas here was able to intervene and help many to live and see the mercy of the LORD. And I love the way it reminds me of Daniel 12:3…of how those who turn many to righteousness will shine as the stars forever and ever. His love and blessings extend to all individuals who, along with His beloved Israel, seek and love Him. He has always done so throughout the recorded history in His Word, and He will always be the same Good G-d.

      Shalom and blessings.

      • hyechiel says:

        Dear Freedom;
        I have found it funny how, in discussions like I read here, I would quote from either the Tanach, or the Gospel, to show where I am coming from, and the look I get from the other person!
        “Don’t confuse me with facts!”
        We are not only encouraged to read the Sacred Word, but to study as it is; then form our concepts based on the facts of what is written.
        I give you an example from my studies; the census David took of the people, and the ensuing plague!
        In 2nd Samuel, -d has David take the census, in 1st Chronicles, Satan provokes David to do so.
        2 things I found out; the workers did not do as G-d instructed in Numbers, Chapter 1. Instead of a half shekel from each person, as instructed by Moses, from HaShem, they went from one person to another, thus transmitting the illness.
        Samuel was written during the early Kingdom, so the writer knew only G-d to have a part in telling David to take the census.
        Chronocles was written post Persean Exile, so we learned about there being a bad guy (potentially) to cause problem. But it was on a short leash of G-d. But, the writters of Chronicles did not want it to seem as if G-d would tell David do X, then the problems? So they substituted Satan.
        Remember, the Tanach was not brought together-yet. But you see how, even when the other point of view is available, games are played.
        So it is with many “evangelist” and they want you to think they have the answer, even when they know they do not. One reason why many Christians are conerting to Judaism; we limit such games to the extream, so what you read in the Tanach can be relied on. The census type of errors are few and far between.
        Your evangelist friends depend on ignorance in their target. i sure have made a few unhappy, but I am not complaining. It is either G-d’s word, or man’s myth. I go with G-d.
        Shalom;
        Yechiel

      • Freedom
        I accept that there was a direct command that Phineas was fulfilling – but you won’t find it with your “sola scriptura” approach

  8. hyechiel says:

    Dear Friends;
    Faith and works go together like bread and butter. Abraham was “justified” by faith, but he had to show it. Why? So he would know he had it and what it means.
    Some here are still struggling with how one impacts on the other. that is the whole point of G-d’s teaching; they don’t. They are simply both sides of the walk with G-d.
    We are physical, but have a soul. The “physical” is elevated by what we do; the “spiritual is elevated by the direction we direct our work.
    At the same time, if I am defecent in faith, say, but do what I can to do what is right, it is still right.
    If I am defecent in “works”, but have faith, I can correct what I am doing, so I come closer to what G-d wants of me.
    James and Paul stated diferent aspects of the process, but niether one coujld fully state what that process is. Why? Because to each one, it was separate aspects. Period. The truth is, they are the same thing, joined in the process so our world can be a better place.
    This week, May 17-may 21, Mid-America showed this; major storms hit Kamsas and Oklahoma. Many came into danger, with faith that He would preserve them, and they saved many lives.
    Shalom;
    Yechiel

    • melissa33774 says:

      That was beautiful.

    • David says:

      You’re wrong. James and Paul never say they are the same thing. James says that faith (in Christ) without the resulting works is dead faith. And Paul says that the works of the law are no longer relevant. The works of the law is holy and good he says and they once had a purpose, which was to be a temporary tutor until the age of grace (faith in Christ). Paul is talking about the works of the law in that context as opposed to the works resulting from faith in Christ which is what James is talking about. Paul also talks about the primacy of faith and the promise regarding Abraham’s seed which preceded the law. Paul points out that in that context the “seed” promised is Christ. Seed can mean both singular or plural or both depending on the context. But Israel did not succeed in reaching the law because they did not purse it by faith but as if it were by works. Matthew 19:18-21 was applicable when Jesus said it, and while we were still under the works of the law. But we are no longer under the works of the law since Jesus has been raised from among the dead. We are now under grace, undeserved grace because another paid for our sins. It is through faith in Jesus Christ that we will be declared righteous on the day of judgment. Those who were under the law will be judged under the law. But there is not now any longer a law. Now we have grace and those who are under grace will be judged under grace. Currently there is only one way to achieve righteousness in the day of judgment and that is through grace, faith that Jesus was raised from among the dead, and where He is (with God) we shall be. At least that’s what Paul and James believe, and me too. They do not believe that faith and works are the same, absolutely not. Faith and works are not the same.

      • hyechiel says:

        Dear David;
        Oy Vey! do you have the blinders on!
        Read this, then see if you think G-d told us forever, but that He canciled it.
        http://jewsforjudaism.org.au/resources/blumenthal-series/christianity-unmasked/
        Have fun.
        Shalom;
        Yechiel

        • David says:

          I went to your link but found this cautionary note from the author:
          “A brief word of caution before you begin reading. I will be speaking ill of Christianity and its founder. I will not mince my words; stop here if you don’t want to go there.”

          Since he’s telling me in advance that it’s more counter missionary propaganda and that he has no real point to make other than speaking ill of God’s people and God’s only begotten Son, why should I bother?

          As to your point though, Does God ever make promises and change them based on human behavior? Of course you know he does. And regarding the “new covenant”, why do you think it’s called “new” if it’s just a rehash of the old?

          Did God save the Israelites because of their righteousness or in spite of their wickedness? How long were you expecting God to put up with the idol worshiping pagan Israelites anyway?

          Isn’t it more likely that God already knew that no matter how hard man tried he wouldn’t be able to achieve the law, and therefore instituted a superior solution? And along those lines God wanted you Jews to learn that for yourselves first hand?

          You (the Israelites) had your chance to do it through the law up until the time of Jesus and you failed. Now there’s another system in place.

          • Yehuda says:

            “Since he’s telling me in advance that it’s more counter missionary propaganda and that he has no real point to make other than speaking ill of God’s people and God’s only begotten Son, why should I bother?”

            That’s an interesting perspective David.

            Imagine a car review writer, was writing a review of a particular model;of car (let’s say, the Ford Edsel) which he had thoroughly evaluated and found to be lacking on many counts. Suppose that he knew that his review might be read by a particular population of people who were die-hard fans of the Ford Edsel and in an effort to spare them pointless aggravation he prefaced his detailed review with the following:

            “A brief word of caution before you begin reading. I will be speaking ill of the Ford Edsel. I will not mince my words; stop here if you don’t want to go there.”.”

            Would you then feel that his review could be dismissed simply because of that introduction?

          • David
            Funny – the first “system” came with the option of sinning – and you say it got canceled even though that possibility was foreseen – but the second “system” – which is to be followed by total obedience according to the prophets doesn’t get canceled because of sin
            In any case a new covenant doesn’t mean a new law or else Josiah was making up a new law when he made another covenant with God (2Kings 23;3)

          • hyechiel says:

            Dear David;
            You are afraid to read what Rabbi Blunified wrote. Why? Because your acceptance of the Gospel dispels any opening that G-d may have more to say on the subjects at hand.
            He did, in the Tanach. Not the mis-representation in the Greek Marcion had done, as there are many errors in it, compared to the Hebrew.
            Also, remember, the pre-Council Nazarine sect had a closer afainity with the Tanach, which was basicaly their sacred writings along with the Jews, but were distroyed, or forced underground to protect themselves from you “Christian” predecesors, who sold their souls to the Roman Pagan government.
            A good example of this is where the Bosnian Christians, who abscribed to the older beliefs, were wiped out by a “Christian” confederation of Russians and others. Now, Bosnia is a strong hold of Muslim faith.
            Could it be that G-d is showing you all what His reactioin is, to your rejectioin of His Word and teachings?
            Also, many Christians, including clergy, are leaving Christianity. They read both books and see the rejection of G-d in the Gospel. Not all become converts to the Noahide faith, or Judasim, but they want a close relatioinship with GT-d, not through an idol, but as He said.
            Now, do you choose G-d, or idolitry?
            Yechiel

  9. melissa33774 says:

    Ok. Here is a deeper insight into the dichotomy of Works vs. Faith. The truth is that one cannot exist without the other. In fact, if they don’t BOTH exist at the same time, then NEITHER one could exist on its own.

    There is a very famous story that is told in Talmud about a man, Rabbi Pinchas ben Ya’ir who needs to save captive children. He travels a long distance to do the will of G-d, to free the captives. But along the way, his path is blocked by a flowing river.

    He cannot get across the river on his own, so he commands the river “Split so that I may pass to the other side”. The river replied, “You are going to perform the will of your master, and I am going to perform the will of my master. You may not succeed in your task, while I will surely succeed.”

    So the rabbi then responded, “If you don’t split, I will decree that water should not flow in you forever!”

    The river split.

    Ok. So what’s going on here (other than the fact that we need to suspend our belief in talking rivers)? Each player in this scene is doing what G-d willed him to do. Rabbi Pinchas was fulfilling G-d’s will by freeing the captive children, while the river was fulfilling G-d’s will by flowing (in short, doing what rivers are supposed to do). However, one action took priority over the other, in that freeing the children became more important than the river flowing. So Rabbi Pinchas basically threatened the river by saying, “Look. Perhaps your job is to flow, but G-d’s will is greater and because of this, either way, I will fulfill G-d’s will. So you can either work with me, or you can cease to exist because your existence is worthless if you don’t help to accomplish G-d’s will!” The river made the wise choice and conceded.

    What does this parable teach us? The river had to DO something in order to be deemed worthy. On the one hand, without the rabbi’s faith in G-d to perform a miracle, the children would never have been saved. Yet, at the same time, without the action of the river, G-d’s will would never have come to realization.

    The river thought that by flowing it was carrying out G-d’s will. Until Rabbi Pinchas came along, and the river realized that its true potential, its true purpose in the greater scheme of things, was to change its works. In other words, before it stopped flowing, it was just a river. After obeying the command of the rabbi (who acted on faith), the river became an integral part in G-d’s greater plan. Only at that point did the river justify its own existence.

    So I ask, are we not justified by our works?

  10. hyechiel says:

    Dear Friends;
    For those who may not fuly understand the basic idea of Torah, one of the major do nots;
    Exodus 20:4 . You shall not make for yourself a graven image or any likeness which is in the heavens above, which is on the earth below, or which is in the water beneath the earth.
    Many other nations have, their gods conceived by another god. But, HaShem said that all nations are sanctified before Him.
    For the Jew, it is different; we are not sanctified by just being here. He has a job for us, and it is one we are to grow into. Why the leway He gave us, to allow offerings. He made it clear that it is a concession, not a commandment, except how we are to proform the offering.
    Offerings include a handfull of grain, as the offering of a cow. When in exile, we could not proform offerings, so what. In Micah, He stated what He requires.
    Some here have tried to say that we have to have an alter. In Micah, He corrected that idea, by telling us what He requires. No bar-be que here.
    So pay attention to what He says. You find interpretations in the Gospel, but the First Person direct in the Tanach.

  11. Dina says:

    Following.

  12. Doovid says:

    It is interesting that Our Pharisee friend spells out God while our Christian friend “Freedom”
    uses the “G-d” Will wonders never cease as our Christian friends try to out Jew the Jew. Now I have read the replies and have to say this. We can argue faith vs works till we are blue in the face but the reality is Faith in whom! All the faith in a man will never save anyone, The slightest faith in God will put that person on God’s way.. The real issue is this: Was Jesus only a man or was he God manifest in the flesh. One must ask himself, on what basis can I answer this question? I only know one answer. The Tanach. The Tanach gives mankind the essence of what the person of Messiah will be when he arrives. Psalm 147:19,20 also states that it is the Jewish nation that God gave the keys to this God given writing. This is why we have rejected the claims of Jesus of Nazareth. He didn’t and doesn’t fit the description our great God has entrusted us with. It isn’t a spiritual blindness as Paul states, rather it is being honest to God. I would suggest to Freedom and David to consider this;

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