|Messiah Our Sanctification
Sermon by Rabbi Loren Jacobs
"But by His doing you are in Messiah Yeshua, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30).
My dear brothers and sisters, I want to speak to you from deep within my heart this morning. I am very concerned about the health and well-being of the Messianic Jewish movement. It's increasingly clear to me that there are some serious misunderstandings and faulty theological understandings within parts of the Messianic movement.
It results in thinking that goes something like this: the Jewish people are the Chosen People. Being Jewish, or living a Jewish lifestyle, is superior -- it's more Biblical, it's filled with more blessings, than living a normal Christian lifestyle. After all, Christianity has been mixed with paganism, and non-Biblical elements, but the Messianic lifestyle is purer, and that's why I want to be part of the Messianic Jewish movement. I'm concerned because these ideas strike at the heart of some very important, bedrock theological concepts -- the doctrines of sanctification, and our relationship to the Law, and the chosenness of the Jewish people.
Let me state clearly that Christians living a Gentile Christian life are not practicing paganism. Well, they may be if they are praying to Mary and the Saints, praying to statues and icons, believing that they are eating the literal body of blood of Christ, and eating the blood of animals -- that's paganism. But other than that I don't see paganism in the Church. I don't see Christmas or Christmas trees as pagan, or rejoicing in the resurrection of Messiah on Easter, and calling it Easter, or worshiping on Sunday, as being pagan.
Last week I received an email from a woman who wrote the following:
That dear sister exemplifies my concern: she was taught about the Jewish people in a positive way; she became a Christian, but she felt that something was missing from Christianity, and so she started exploring the Jewish roots of the Faith. Her search led her to the conclusion -- and the right conclusion in my opinion, that what she was looking for she already had -- Yeshua, the Ultimate Sacrifice for Jew and Gentile alike, and that the grass of Messianic Judaism wasn't greener than the good green grass she had been eating in her church.
I've heard the complaint that Messianic Jews make Gentile Christians feel like second class citizens, but I want you to know that there are no second class citizens in the Kingdom of God. If you know that you are as valuable to God as the next person, which you are, then no one can make you feel less valuable, even if they try. Anyone who tries to make you feel less valuable is wrong, and you shouldn't believe what they say.
Unfortunately, there are some Messianic Jewish leaders who do make our wonderful Christian brothers and sisters feel less valuable. How do they do this? They encourage Gentile Christians to convert to Judaism. They teach that full Torah observance is what is expected for all the blessings of God to flow. I don't believe that.
I want to consider some key passages from the Word of God this morning. What do these verses have in common? See if you can find some of the common ideas, the threads that weave them all together:
Rabbi Paul, writing to the Colossians, says: "In Him (Yeshua) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Messiah; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions... Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day -- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Messiah" (Colossians 2:9-17).
You mean if I am a Gentile, but I am joined to Messiah Yeshua by having faith in Him, I am 100% complete? I lack nothing? Nothing? God considers me circumcised, and part of the New Covenant, and that I am alive and forgiven, and I have freedom as to what I eat and drink, and that there is freedom about the Jewish holidays and the Sabbath? They are only a shadow, and point us to Yeshua, who is our Sabbath Rest, and our Holidays, and since I am in Him, joined to Him, I already have the reality, which is greater than the shadow? But I can celebrate Shabbat, and keep kosher if I want, and observe the holidays? Yes -- that's what it means.
If someone wants to observe a Biblical holiday or custom, there is the freedom to do so, but there is no obligation to do so. We have the freedom to celebrate the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, but also the freedom not to. If someone says, "Messiah is my Passover and I don't need to celebrate a Passover Seder" -- fine. If someone else says, "I want to celebrate the Passover and better remember Messiah my Passover Lamb" -- that's fine too. If someone says, Yeshua is my Sabbath, but I want to worship God on the First Day of the Week, as Christians have done for centuries, that's OK? Yes, that's OK!
Rabbi Paul, writing to the Romans, says, "The Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). Paul, even though you personally kept kosher, you are telling me that eating and drinking is not a major emphasis, but what is far more important, and what we need to concentrate on, and what the rulership and dominion of God is concerned about is being indwelt by the Spirit of God, and being in a right relationship with God, having peace with God and joy that the indwelling Spirit can give us? That's right!
Rabbi Paul, writing to the Galatians, says, "For in Messiah Yeshua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6). What did you write Rabbi Paul? Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, which I understand to mean being Jewish and living a Jewish lifestyle according to the Torah, or uncircumcision -- being a non-Jew, a Gentile, and not living a uniquely Jewish lifestyle, means nothing. But what means everything -- what is all important, and must be our constant focus and priority, is faith in God, faith in Yeshua, and true faith shows that it is true faith by being acts, being at work, filled with love and good deeds.
Rabbi Paul, writing to the Corinthians, says, "Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called" (1 Corinthians 7:18-20). Paul, do you mean that if I was called to salvation, if I was saved being a Gentile, uncircumcised, I don't need to become circumcised? I don't need to become a Jew or live a typically Jewish lifestyle? I can pretty much live the same way I was living, within my culture, living like my people live? That's right!
God does not make any mistakes, and He specifically ordained that you come from the parents, people and nation that you came from. God does not want Gentiles to become Jews. For Messiah's Holy Community to be made up of Jews and Gentiles, Jews must remain Jews, and Gentiles must remain Gentiles, otherwise Messiah's Holy Community of Jews and Gentiles couldn't be made up of Jews and Gentiles! African-Americans remain African-American; Chinese people remain Chinese, Europeans remain European, and Jews remain Jews -- part of their people, and part of their culture.
Since the coming of Messiah, circumcision -- being Jewish, and living a Jewish Biblical lifestyle, means nothing -- and uncircumcision -- being a Gentile and not living a Jewish Biblical lifestyle -- means nothing. That's not what matters, that's not what is important. But what is important is keeping the commandments of God.
All of us are to observe God's commandments, however, not all 613 commandments are meant to apply to everybody. For example, there are laws in the Torah that only apply to priests. For example, the High Priest couldn't marry a divorced woman or a widow, whereas a regular Israeli could. There are laws that only apply to the king (like writing his own copy of the Torah). There are laws that apply to men and not to women, and vice-versa. Most of the laws directly apply to the Jewish people, but not the Gentiles. All of us are to "fulfill the Law," but the requirements of the Law are different.
So what relationship does the Gentile Christian have to the 613 laws of the Torah? The book of Acts records that Messiah's Emissaries (the Apostles) and the Elders of Messiah's Holy Community met to decide this very issue. This meeting, recorded in Acts 15, is often referred to as "the First Jerusalem Council." According to the binding decision issued by the Emissaries and Elders, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit, apart from saving faith in Messiah Yeshua, only four things are obligatory for Gentile Christians to observe (see Acts 15, especially verses 19-20, 28-29). I would also include obedience to the Moral Law -- laws such as not murdering, not stealing, and not committing adultery. These are moral laws which God has written on everyone's heart (see Romans 2:14-15).
If I can summarize the Gentiles' relationship to the commandments, all that is necessary is to have faith in Messiah Yeshua. That alone saves them. Then there are the four basic requirements in Acts 15. Then there are the moral requirements of the Law that are already written on everyone's heart. Anything beyond these requirements is optional, and a matter of personal freedom.
So, what good is the Torah, Rabbi Loren? O, it accomplishes many purposes. It forms the basis of Israel's constitution. It helps Jews remain distinct. It helps to restrain sin. It reveals sin by showing us just how sinful sin really is. It teaches us important principles about many things, like the holiness of God, and God's way of atonement. Here is one purpose that is the most relevant: "Therefore the Torah has become our tutor to lead us to Messiah, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Messiah Yeshua. For all of you who were baptized into Messiah have clothed yourselves with Messiah. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua. And if you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:24-29).
One of the greatest, most important purposes of the Torah is to lead us to the Messiah, who makes us righteous, who enables all of us, Jews and Gentiles, to become the true children of Abraham, and better yet, Sons and Daughters of God, heirs of the promise of eternal life!
Rabbi Paul, writing to the Philippians, says, "We are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Messiah Yeshua and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Torah, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of God's Holy Community -- the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Torah, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Messiah. You actually mean, Rabbi Paul, that your extensive Jewish upbringing didn't really profit you when it came to what is most important -- salvation?
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Messiah (You actually mean, rabbi Paul, that Yeshua is like the pearl of great price, and your attitude is that you are willing to sell everything else that you owned, in order to gain Him? Nothing in your life is to be compared to Him?),
and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Torah, but that which is through faith in Messiah, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; (that's sanctification -- that's holiness, that's our walk, that's our priority, that's our focus!) in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:3-11).
Rabbi Paul, writing to Timothy, tells him what the goal of a New Covenant teacher must be: "The goal of our instruction is" -- what? -- more Torah observances? Or, is it "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith -- that's sanctification" (1 Timothy 1:5).
Rabbi Paul, writing to the Corinthians declared, "I determined to know nothing among you except Messiah Yeshua, and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). What Paul? You made up your mind to exclusively focus on Messiah Yeshua, and in particular to focus on Messiah's death? That is more important than everything else? That truth alone is sufficient? Now, why would that be? How can that be? Just Yeshua alone Paul?
Isn't He the Creator of the universe, the One through Him God made the world, our sun, moon and planets, this galaxies and all the millions of other galaxies? Isn't He the Sustainer of the universe, who upholds the entire universe, every molecule, every atom, every subatomic particle, by means of His power? Isn't He the Final Goal of the universe -- the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. One day everything that exists will perfectly submit to His lordship. He will rule over all in perfect peace and harmony? Isn't He El Gibor -- the Mighty God, and Immanu-El -- God with us, the fullness of God in a human body, the Word made flesh, the very image of the invisible God, the exact representation of God's nature, who shares the same name and nature, being, character and essence as God the Father; the Lord of Glory, who came as a servant, and yet the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
Isn't He the Messiah, the Anointed Ruler sent to save us and rule over us, the Son of David, the ultimate King of David's line, who is destined to rule with peace and perfect justice over Israel and the nations forever, the bringer of the Covenant to bless all the families of the Earth, the Mediator of the New Covenant? Isn't He not only Israel's Savior, but the Savior of the World, the Savior of all men, the Deliverer who can meet our need for salvation.
Isn't He our Prophet, our Priest and our King, fulfilling all three offices in one Person, superior to King David, the prophet greater than Moses, the Priest greater than Aaron? Isn't Yeshua our chief Rabbi, our Teacher who guides us into all truth, our Wonderful Counselor who will give miraculous advice, unfailing in the depths of it wisdom, to everyone who asks Him for it? Isn't He the true Torah, the Living embodiment of the Word of God? Isn't He the Judge of the Living and the Dead, who will judge all, so that all mankind may honor Him even as they honor God the Father?
Isn't He Jacob's Ladder that connects Earth and Heaven, the one and only Mediator between God and Man, our High Priest, who offers sacrifice for us, who atones for us, who reconciles us to God, who continues to intercedes for us, who even now prays for us, who forever saves us because of His eternal life? Isn't He Himself the perfect and Final Sacrifice, acceptable to God, enabling us to be reconciled to the Creator from which the whole world is estranged? Isn't He our sin offering, our burnt offering that enables us to be dedicated to God, our peace offering that brings us wholeness, completeness, peace and well-being with God?
Isn't He our ultimate Sabbath, the One who brings true rest to the weary human soul? Isn't He our Passover Lamb who enables God to passover all of our sins forever, saves us from the Egypts of sin and eternal death. Isn't He our Matzah -- the Unleavened Bread, our Sinless One, who was victorious over sin and who can break the cycle of sin transmitted from generation to generation? Isn't He our Firstfruits, the first One to be raised from the dead, thereby giving hope that all who believe in Him will likewise be raised from the dead? Isn't He our coming King, who will son rule over Israel and the nations, and our Yom Kippur Scape-Goat, who brings perfect and final atonement. Isn't He our Sukkah, our Tabernacle into which we are harvested into God's eternal Kingdom?
Isn't He our Aron Kodesh, our Holy Ark, in which the Word of God dwelt, over which the presence of God hovered, is our bronze Mizbeach, our altar which atones for us, our Washbasin which cleans us so we can serve God, our golden Menorah which sheds the true light on us, our Bread of the Presence which feeds us, our Golden Altar that enables our prayers and praises to ascend and be accepted by God, is the true Temple in which God dwells?
Isn't He the Rock that was smitten, providing us with the mayim chaim -- the living water of everlasting life, so that we don't ever have to be spiritually thirsty again? Isn't He the Bread of Life that came down out of Heaven, that gives life to the world, infinitely better than the mannah that our fathers ate in the wilderness, since they died?
Isn't He the star that arises from Jacob, shining the light of Heaven, the Light of the World, the Bright Morning Star and the Sunrise from on High?
Isn't He the Branch that brings forth the fruit of everlasting bliss, so that believing in Him is like eating from the Tree of Life? Isn't He the Stone that the builders rejected, but the Stone that God set firmly in place to be the foundation of all that God is building, the cornerstone which will support our lives eternally?
Isn't He the Resurrection and the Life, so that if we join ourselves to Him, we can be raised from death, and live forever? Isn't He the True Vine in whom we must abide if we are to produce any lasting results in this life?
Isn't He the Door that opens the entrance to the New Jerusalem. Since we are lost, isn't He the Way that leads us to God? Since we are confused, in great darkness, surrounded by lies, isn't He the Truth that sets us free from all ignorance and evil? Since we are alienated from Ha Makor, God, our Source, isn't He the Life that enables us to live forever?
Now do you understand why Paul would write, "I determined to know nothing among you except Messiah Yeshua, and Him crucified."
So what is really important? What should we concentrate on? Yeshua declared: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." You mean, Rabbi Yeshua, Supreme Source of Truth, that if I focus on loving God with my whole being, and loving my fellow human beings, everything else will fall into place?
Likewise, Paul declared: "The whole Torah is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Galatians 5:14), and "Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Messiah" (Galatians 6:2). That's it? That's all? Love fulfills the Torah and the law of the Messiah? That's right!
So what should I focus on? "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). You mean Paul, that the evidence that the Spirit of God is at work in my life is not about observing ceremonies and holidays, but having inner qualities that make me more like Yeshua, more like God?
One last verse: But by His doing you are in Messiah Yeshua, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.
He is our wisdom -- as we look to Yeshua, and understand Him, and draw near to Him, we learn how to do those things that please God.
He is our righteousness -- as we look to Yeshua, and understand Him, and draw near to Him, we become righteous in God's eyes -- God declares us not guilty, and righteous. God considers us to be in a right relationship with Himself.
He is our redemption -- as we look to Yeshua, and understand Him, and draw near to Him, we are redeemed, bought out of the slave market of sin and death, saved from the evil in this world, delivered from Hell and the dominion of Satan.
He is our sanctification -- as we look to Him, and understand Him, and draw near to Him, we become holy. We become more like God. God will be at work in our lives, cleansing us from our sins. Join to Messiah, being filled with His Spirit, we will become like Yeshua -- the Holy One, and we will be pleasing to God.
Now that you have found Messiah, you lack absolutely nothing! In Him you have been made complete. You have been grafted into Israel's Olive Tree of Salvation and Blessing. You have been reconciled to the God of Israel. Every spiritual blessing in Heaven is yours! You are a fellow citizen with the Messianic Jews and the Jewish saints who lived before the Son of God came to Earth, and will live forever with us in the New Jerusalem. You are a full heir of the Kingdom of God. if you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise."
All who have joined themselves to Israel's Messiah have a new and equal access to the God of Israel. Because of Yeshua, God is equally our Heavenly Father. We can all come boldly before His throne of grace at any time. We all share His Spirit. We are brothers and sisters. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. That should be enough for all of us!
Remember, it is Messiah in you, which is your hope of glory. In Messiah are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Your life is hidden with Messiah in God. He is everything to us. He is our all in all. In Him we are complete. Joined to Him, we possess all spiritual blessings. Believing in Him, we have peace with God. Faithful to Him, we are set free and live forever. He gives us His joy, His peace, His strength, His Spirit and His Life. In Him all the promises of God are yes and amen.
Messiah is our hope, the source of our strength, the One who gives us joy and peace. We have been joined to Messiah. We have been crucified with Messiah, buried with Messiah, raised with Messiah, victorious through Messiah, alive to God through Messiah, persecuted along with Messiah. We will live forever because of Messiah, and rule and reign with Messiah!
Fix your eyes on Yeshua. Focus on Him. Concentrate on Him. He wants to have first place in everything. Let Him have first place in your mind, your heart, your soul, your thinking, your study, your meditation, your contemplation, your conversation, your evangelism, your ministry.
I want to conclude with a prayer for all of us. It's Paul's prayer, that God "would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Messiah which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:16-19).