All Things… To All People?

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For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
~1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (KJV)

            This is a favorite passage to many who seek to oppose the notion that we are to maintain any level of observance to Torah today and to the modern Christian ideas of evangelism that conclude that we are free to use whatever means and method necessary to “win the lost”. There are, however, a series of major flaws in holding such an interpretation to this passage.

            Before I get too deep into explaining the actual context of the author (the Apostle Paul) and the historical events that inspired this passage, let’s take a look at the obvious. The general idea behind the current interpretive view of this text by modern Christianity is that Paul says he can basically do whatever is necessary to “fit in” with whatever group of people he is with at the time, thus being able to “increase his chances” of winning them to faith in Messiah Yeshua.

Winning The World By Being Like The World

All Things 1            In many cases this view may seem harmless. For example, a Christian may join a club geared toward some hobby, like a sport or an outdoors activity, in order that they may develop relationships with people and witness to them. Seemingly there is nothing wrong with this, as engaging in these types of activities most certainly do not violate Scripture.

            On the other hand, Churches will often times take a passage like this and twist it to garner some type of unbiblical justification for doing things that openly oppose God’s Word. One of the more obvious things that comes to mind is when Churches use known pagan practices, including the use of pagan deities, to draw a crowd in during major holiday like Christmas, Easter, and even Halloween.

(Note: I know I might have just lost a few people by calling the most popular “Christian holidays” pagan, but click on these terms I have hyperlinked for you here and throughout the message, they will open videos and blogs about them to help you see just how ungodly these celebrations really are. Some argue that they really are not as bad as many claim. I challenge you, examine the information available and make a logical choice. So long as there is any even remote possibility these holidays are evil in God’s eyes, there is but one logical choice to be made.)

            This things go directly against what is stated in Torah to not have any other gods before Yahweh and to not worship Him in the same way that pagan people worship their gods (see Deuteronomy 12). Besides that, God has given us plenty of celebrations in His Word, like the Spring and Fall Feasts as well as Purim and Hanukkah, all of which we see Yeshua participating in. So, does the text here allow us liberty in evangelism to use even known pagan worship practices to draw people to Messiah?

            If we are going to interpret the text in this manner, we must take it all the way. There can be no selective interpretation in this, so let us consider some possibilities that come from this method of interpretation of the text and see if we can come up with a logical conclusion. After all, we are talking about “becoming all things to all people” here.

• Can we become a liar so that we might win liars to Messiah? Did Paul mean that?

• Can we become fornicators and adulterers so that we can win those who are caught up in sexual perversion, the porn industry, prostitution, etc.? Was Paul doing that?

• Can we walk into a store and start stealing stuff so that we can “get in good” with a band of thieves in the hopes that they will in turn come to Church with us and get saved? Do you really think that’s what Paul meant?

• How about murder? Can we murder people so that we might have a better chance of getting a serial killer saved?

How about this…

• Should we become Muslim to win Muslims?

• Should we become Buddhist to win Buddhists?

• Should we become Mormon to win Mormons?

• Should we worship Satan to win Satanists?

            Do you know that there is a thing called “Christian Swingers”? A couple by the name of Cristy and Dean Parave have a swinging network that they use to “preach the gospel” through swinging with other couples. If you are somehow not aware of what I am talking about, the term swinging is a slang of sorts for the act of married couples swapping partners for sex. Do you still want to say that becoming all things to all people means what religion has told you it means?

            Obviously lists like these can go on and on, but I am sure you get the point. While there are certainly cultural practices such as hobbies and sports that are not in opposition to Torah, logically speaking it would seem that Paul could not be promoting the idea that it is OK to violate the written Word of God in order to win people to faith in Messiah.

            Think about it, Paul also said that “all things are lawful, but they aren’t all edifying” (1 Corinthians 10:23). Do you really think he was saying that lying, stealing, adultery, or murder are lawful or permissible? You can do them, it’s the “New Testament”, the age of grace, no law against that. It won’t edify you, but it won’t condemn you either, right? Obviously that is not what the Apostle was saying, and neither is he saying that it is OK to violate Torah in order to win acceptance with the heathen in hopes they will eventually convert to faith in Messiah.

            And while were at it, talking about becoming all things to all people that we might win some, why isn’t anyone trying to become an expert on the Bible in order to win those who are experts on the Bible? Because I can assure you that there are a LOT of people out there who know way more about the Bible than most Christians do, but are themselves not adherents of faith in Yeshua. Some of them are among the wolves in sheep’s clothing the Bible speaks about, invading the Church with their vast knowledge to lead people astray. Others are in the ranks of anti-Bible groups like atheists or members of opposing religions who are well studied in the Scripture just so that they can make uneducated Christians look stupid. Get in the Bible; you will be amazed at what you can learn!

A Missionary’s Advice

All Things 2            I once had an acquaintance that works as a licensed nurse and uses her skills to go on medical missions trips to foreign nations through Christian organizations. She is Hispanic and speaks fluently in both English and Spanish, and so I know she would go to some countries in South America, but I think she went to places like India as well. While I have not heard from her for several years, she said something very interesting to me one time that caused me to think for a moment.

            Like most Christian missionaries, she holds to the view that you “eat whatever you are provided” in those countries, without regard to the biblical “food laws”. While proper study of the text where this view comes from shows that it was addressing whether or not you should eat a meal set before you if you are unable to confirm whether or not the food was sacrificed to an idol, which I have addressed in more detail in the past, I did not push this issue with her because she holds strongly to her opinion and I was not in a position to meet with her to properly discuss this in detail. So, I let it go at that time.

            Well, she said to me something to the effect of: I go on a lot of foreign missions and these people are poor, they eat whatever they can find, are you going to tell me that these people are unclean?

            While I did not bother answering her at the time, because it was not a proper format to begin an in depth discussion (she asked me via a text message to my phone), the plain answer is: YES!

            “Oh, but the Bible says to call no man unclean…” That is true, however, that is from Acts 10 where the problem was a racist form of legislation that called all non-Jews unclean, regardless of whether or not they were following God’s Word (most Gentiles up to that point were not following The Way, and it is even less likely that they were living by Torah). The fact remains that, according to Torah, if you eat something unclean then you are indeed unclean. This is because those things actually do harm to your body, which is what is meant by unclean in the first place. Any sickness, disease, infection, infestation, or toxic poisoning that results from eating an unclean thing is what makes you unclean. Just recently I came across a report of a whale that washed up on shore where locals were being warned to stay away from it. Among the reasons for the warning, a statement was made saying:

Whales can carry lots of diseases which can be passed on to humans so we would advise members of the public not to get too close.

            Whales are an unclean animal, and like all other unclean animals science shows that they can be dangerous to eat, potentially causing all sorts of health concerns.

            Back to my friend, as I thought about her question and meditated on what Scripture says, it hit me. You see, these missionaries that believe they are doing good may be ignorantly doing more harm than good. Consider this:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”
~Matthew 23:15 (NIV)

            We’re talking about becoming all things to all people… even at the expense of not obeying the Bible. You see, here’s the scenario that I saw as I thought and meditated on what my friend said to me and what the Bible says about the matter:

            A missionary or evangelist goes to a foreign nation to preach the Gospel to the people there. While doing so, they say nothing of the need to obey the entire Bible, including Torah, and they dine with the locals eating pork, shellfish, even things that most of us would consider to be gross like spiders and bats (I have heard the stories of missionaries eating these types of things, claiming that you eat it so that you don’t offend the people). The missionary or evangelist then leaves the people, perhaps having established a Church in the region and placed a Pastor over it, given out Bibles in the native language, and so on. The people begin to read and study their Bible. They come to those places where it says not to eat certain things, and they think back on the minister who started this whole thing with them. They conclude that this Christian religion is full of holes and they abandon it only to return to their old religion or no religion at all.

            HOWEVER…

            If the missionary or evangelist would tell them the truth about the matter, then there would be no potential for the above scenario to play out. The minister could simply refuse the unclean foods offered, show them in the Bible where it says not to eat them, and explain in basic terms the scientific evidence that shows how those things harm their body and even how eating forbidden things contributes to the imbalance of all life on Earth. They could then use that to show the people how God really IS the Creator of all life and that all life has a beautiful design to it, right down to what each living creature (including human beings) are designed to eat. They can show these local people how God put all of this together right from the beginning of Creation and how He truly is more powerful than any god created by the hands and imaginations of men. By doing this they would avoid offending the people in a refusal to eat the unclean things offered, they would present a much more powerful image of God, and they would create disciples who would not turn around and read things in the Bible that completely contradict the message that was presented by the missionary or evangelist in the first place.

            It is so sad that we have people coming back from the missions field with infestations of deadly parasites simply because they ignorantly took the words of Paul out of context and “prayed over it and ate it”.

To The Jews I Became As A Jew

All Things 3That is, with Jews, what I did was put myself in the position of a Jew, in order to win Jews. With people in subjection to a legalistic perversion of the Torah, I put myself in the position of someone under such legalism, in order to win those under this legalism, even though I myself am not in subjection to a legalistic perversion of the Torah.
~1 Corinthians 9:20 (CJB)

            Here we see the statements from verse 20 of our subject text from a different translation, the Complete Jewish Bible. This is a version that helps us see the Bible from the more Hebraic perspective that it was initially written in. This is important because the Bible was written exclusively by Hebrew men, it was written initially to Hebrew people, and it was written within the context of Hebrew culture. In order for us, as “New Testament” Believers, to properly understand what anything in the Bible says, including the post-Gospel Apostolic Writings, we must learn to read it from the perspective of a Hebrew Believer living in the first century.

            In this translation it was decided to place a period after “…in order to win Jews” where the King James Bible opts for a semi-colon in this position. However, the entirety of this verse is within the context of those in the Jewish community who had not accepted Yeshua as the Messiah. The Jews Paul was referring to were not all Jews, for he himself was a Jew. He wasn’t saying that he was pretending to be someone he already was. This was a direct reference to those Jews who were not a part of the “sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5), a Jewish sect distinguished as placing faith in Yeshua as their Messiah but also maintaining obedience to Torah.

            Notice that we see here that the Jews to whom Paul is referring are those who hold a legalistic perversion of the Torah. This is an important distinction to consider, as we look deeper into this passage.

            We know that there are plenty of examples of this legalistic perversion of Torah going on during the time of Yeshua and carrying on into the period of the first century Church. One example that comes to mind, as I made mention of it in another recent article, is the account in Mark 7 when the Disciples were accused of being in violation of a rule for not eating bread without first doing a ceremonial hand washing. This was a perversion of the Torah.

            Another example is seen when the religious leaders tried to make an accusation regarding the Disciples’ act of picking heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath. This, interestingly enough, is actually permitted by Torah (Deuteronomy 23:25), as plucking grain to eat it right away is not considered work. But the religious leaders were insisting upon their legalistic perversion of the Torah.

            There is a Rabbinical work called the Talmud, which is a compilation of teachings that were put together prior to the time Yeshua walked the Earth, likely during what many refer to as the “Intertestimental Period”, which is the period of time, approximately 400 years, between the final writing of the “Old Testament” and the birth of Yeshua. The Talmud contains some good reference material and helps us understand what was going on at that time in history, but it was also an attempt to place a “fence” around the Torah.

            What the religious leaders did, whether intentionally or not, was they wrote up a whole bunch of rules with the idea that if you followed their rules you wouldn’t break God’s commandments, not even accidentally. This may seem like a good idea, but it has proven to be quite flawed.

            First of all, man-made rules, especially religious ones, are not divine and therefore are most certain to be flawed in some way. God’s Torah is holy; it came directly from the mouth and hand of God Himself, handed to Moses face to face.

            While I have better things I can do with my time than to pour over the man-made beliefs contained within the Talmud, one thing I have noticed in the times I have looked at some of these rules is that there have been times where it seemed as though following them actually made it impossible to actually follow God’s Torah. This would present a real problem, as any religious rule that would prevent you from actually obeying God is certainly not a good idea.

            Another thing I notice when I look at this basic idea of trying to prevent people from accidentally breaking Torah is that Torah itself provides a path of repentance for unintentional sins, while no forgiveness is offered for intentional sins (see Numbers 15:22-31, Hebrews 10:26-31). There is no need to place a boundary of protection around God’s Torah because provisions are made for those who are chasing after Him and His Ways but may sin out of some type of ignorance. I believe that this also applies to those who earnestly are striving to serve Him but are the victims of false teaching.

            I get asked all the time: “Is it a salvation issue?” “Do you really think God will send someone to hell for… (eating pork, getting a tattoo, or whatever)?” These types of questions are actually somewhat dangerous, because the very fact that one is asking them shows that they have acknowledged that the Scripture speaks against and calls sin the very thing they are questioning as being a “salvation issue”. By having recognized a particular thing as a violation of Scripture, but doing it anyway, and holding the attitude that it’s not a salvation issue or that nobody will really go to hell for doing it is the very definition of intentional sin. And regarding intentional sin, again, both the “Old Testament” and “New Testament” say that there is no forgiveness or sacrifice that can be offered.

            Here’s the thing, and I say this all the time, but it certainly bears repeating: If you are holding this type of view to justify things that are clearly a violation of Scripture, WHAT IF YOU’RE WRONG? Think about it, if you are wrong, then you are facing the possibility of eternity in hell no matter how saved you think you are. How hard is it, really, to just obey the Bible for what it says? I’ll let the Bible answer that for you:

“This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it’s not out of your reach. It’s not on a high mountain—you don’t have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it’s not across the ocean—you don’t have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now—as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it!”
~Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (The Message)

            This passage, of course, is a portion of the conclusion of God’s Torah as given to Moses. It tells us that obeying God is easy. Religion tells you that it is too hard to obey the Bible, particularly the Torah that it wrongly calls the “Law of Moses”, because the whole motive of structured religion is to keep people in bondage. They will tell you that it is bondage to obey the Bible, but the reality is they are trying to trap you in a system of religion where the people at the top benefit from the vulnerabilities of people who are genuinely trying to place their faith in the true and living God.

            I’m not telling you to stop going to Church, which is what I have seen some people starting to teach. The Scripture tells us not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together. As I pointed out in a recent article on the Sabbath Day, you can neither keep nor break the Sabbath on a day other than the Sabbath. Some are teaching that going to Church on a Sunday is an act of pagan worship that somehow breaks the Sabbath. This is not a good theology because we are instructed to forsake not the gathering of ourselves together and even more as we see the end coming, and you cannot break the Sabbath on a Sunday because, again, Sunday is not the Sabbath Day.

            In addition to this, the deception in the Church is so thick that it may be a bigger mission field than trying to take the Gospel out to the streets. At least unbelievers are generally receptive to listening to people; try convincing mainstream Church people that they are wrong! That’s a REAL challenge.

Did Paul Ignore Torah Around The Gentiles?

All Things 4With those who live outside the framework of Torah, I put myself in the position of someone outside the Torah in order to win those outside the Torah — although I myself am not outside the framework of God’s Torah but within the framework of Torah as upheld by the Messiah.
~1 Corinthians 9:21 (CJB)

            As noted earlier in this message, this cannot mean that it is OK to engage in activities that oppose God and His Word in order to win people to faith in Messiah. This type of thinking does more harm than good. Unfortunately, it is this very line of thinking that led to Believers under the system of Catholicism, centuries before the Protestant Reformation but also well into the development of the Catholic belief system, to adopt pagan traditions and celebration, re-branding them as “Christian”. That is why, at least according to numerous sources, most Christians today celebrate Christmas and Easter instead of the Holy Feasts of Yahweh that are given in Scripture. I highly recommend you read through my series of messages on Taking Back Our Holy Days sometime, you likely won’t want anything to do with the secular-pagan counterfeits again!

            So, if Paul was not saying that it is OK to use worldly methods and pagan worship practices that are familiar with those you are witnessing to as a means to relay the Gospel to them, then what could he have been saying? It’s really quite simple actually—we just need to pay attention to what is after the dash (or what is parenthetically inserted, as in the King James cited at the beginning of the article).

            Paul clearly states that in his “putting himself in the position of someone outside of Torah” he himself is NOT outside of Torah and operates within the framework of Torah as upheld by Yeshua the Messiah. What he was basically saying was that he was in the world but not of the world (see John 15:19). He was saying that he could go to the local community fair and engage with people there who do not keep Torah, but he himself would keep Torah even in that environment, or that he could meet someone for dinner to talk to them about the Gospel and even if they ordered the pork chops he would order a biblically clean meal.

            He was NOT saying that it’s OK to have egg hunts at “Easter”, Santa Claus at “Christmas”, or Trunk-or-Treat in the Church parking lot for Halloween. Neither was he saying that you can blend the Kingdom with the culture or mix the sacred and the secular in order to draw the lost into your Church. I mean, why don’t we just erect a giant statue of Buddha or Mohammad next to our Church signs, that would draw in a lot of people wondering what in the world we are doing. Then we can preach the Gospel to them, right? No harm done at all! But that’s just how ridiculous a lot of these so-called evangelism methods of today really are. Sadly, this is the state of a Church that embraces the counterfeit hyper-grace teachings and tries to rewrite the Bible as some type of secular self-help guide.

            Bait and switch methods are not godly, they are the tools of secular business scams. Those who feel the need to use gimmicks not found in Scripture to draw a crowd of people only prove that they do not actually believe The Bible. If these preachers and their Churches actually believed The Bible, they would do what Yeshua said would draw a crowd of people: Lift Him up. If you need anything more that a Bible, the name of Yeshua, and the power of the Holy Spirit to draw a crowd to the Gospel then you are doing it wrong.

            Paul differentiates here God’s Torah from the legalistic perversion of the Torah he mentions in the previous verse. In verse 20 he notes that he is not subject to the perverted version of the Torah by the legalistic religious leaders, but in verse 21 he makes it clear that he, and all other true Believers, are subject to God’s Torah as upheld by our Messiah, Yeshua, the Ben-Elohim (Son of God). In other words, you are not bound to follow man-made religious rules outside of Scripture, but you are also not free to live against the rules that are contained within Scripture—especially the Torah (the five Books of Moses that contain 613 mitzvot). And I will remind those who may think the Torah was just for the Jews, Exodus 12:49 (TLV) says, “The same Torah applies to the native as well as the outsider who dwells among you.”

            Your message is only as strong as your adherence to the very message you are working to convey. You cannot expect to be taken seriously as a Christian when you live in defiance to the Word of God.

To The Weak I Became Weak

            One other part of the text I want to hit on real quick is where Paul said “to the weak I became weak”. This was certainly a continuation of his thoughts from the previous chapter where he spoke of the weaker brother being one who refrained from eating meat, going vegetarian, because he was afraid to eat something offered to an idol. That is where Paul said that if eating meat causes his brother to stumble, he will never eat meat again (1 Corinthians 8:13). What he was saying in chapter 9 then was that he can “become weak” for the sake of the one who is weak, because doing so would not violate Torah.

            Paul would not, in this example, violate Torah by refraining from meat for the sake of witnessing to and discipling the “weaker brother” as eating a vegetarian diet temporarily does not violate the Torah.

            There is no commandment against becoming a vegetarian. Although, as I pointed out in a message on Passover, there is a commandment to eat either lamb or goat that one time a year, which a person choosing vegetarianism for the reasons Paul addresses in his letter to the Church at Corinth could still do as they would have enough control over the situation to know whether or not the meat they had was properly prepared for Passover. So then, Paul (and anyone else for that matter) can certainly engage in a vegetarian meal, temporarily, without violating Torah for purposes of fulfilling the mission at hand.

            I will note, however, that a strictly vegan/vegetarian diet is not actually biblical and evidence seems to indicate that the best dietary practices include at least some meats from animals deemed “clean” by Torah (see Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14). A proper balance may be in line with what some call an alkaline diet and would consist of about 20-30% “clean” meat products and 70-80% plant products. Before you make any changes to your diet you should discuss your plans with a trained and certified nutritionist or dietitian as well as your family Doctor, though there is usually no harm in following the dietary instructions in the Bible as the Bible is really the only actual standard of pure truth in the history of the world.

(NOTE: I am not necessarily endorsing “alkaline diets”, merely pointing out that their general concept seems to be in line with Scripture where our diet should consist of at least some percentage of animal meats. This is not an article on biblical dietary principles, however, and I will remain on topic.)

Something I Learned Selling Cars

All Things 5            Let me assure you, people today know more about the Bible than you might think. We live in a time where people have access to all of the world’s information on a miniature computer they carry everywhere that we call a smartphone. You simply cannot just “share your faith” with random people anymore; your personal testimony won’t always convince people in this information abundant society. Remember what I said earlier, even atheists and members of other religions often know more about the Bible than the average Christian.

            For several years I was involved in the wild world of automotive sales as a new car salesman. Because of potential copyright violations and my lack of desire to openly promote a brand from a published written work I will not specify what vehicles I was selling or the dealerships I worked for. But there is something I learned at that job more than at any other retail or sales position.

            As the “new guy” I had it relatively simple. Not much was expected of me, I was able to introduce myself to customers as a “new guy” and, as a result, the customer would allow me to do the basics of walking with them to find a car they liked, take it out for a test drive, and draft up the paperwork had they decided to buy a new car that day. But that only got me so far.

            At some point in time I encountered a customer with something I was not prepared for: a question about the vehicle. That is the point where I realized that I needed to take product knowledge seriously, so I began to study the manual I was given that gave all the details I would need to know about a car in order to sell it properly. I learned all about the horsepower, transmissions, utility features, gauges, and all other features of the cars I was responsible for selling. In a short period of time I was able to walk around a vehicle in the showroom or out on the lot with a customer and tell them everything about the vehicle they were looking at.

            But then there was another problem that eventually came up: no matter how much I knew about the cars, there were customers who knew more about the car than I did. This was a particular problem when I may have stated something that simply wasn’t true, not intentionally, but there were times when we (salesmen) were provided wrong information that we would in turn pass on to a customer during a presentation.

            I remember once being at a three-day training session and at some point during one of the classes the instructor talked to us about a particular feature on new cars. We were all familiar with the feature; we had heard about it many times and used it often in our presentations to potential customers. We had all been told about this feature from the management team at our respective dealerships.

            But then, after describing this feature, the instructor said that it was completely false, an urban legend, that had spread like a plague throughout the world of automotive sales. I was shocked, I could not believe I had been telling customers about this for years, completely based on having been told about the alleged feature many times by previous trainers, managers, and other salesmen.

            To this day I have never figured out who was right about the issue, the man who told us that it was a myth or the many people who had told me about the feature in the first place. I looked in the salesman’s guide for the vehicles I was selling and I could not find anything about that feature. It simply wasn’t in there.

            My decision was simple. I never again used that as a selling feature for any car I sold until I left that business. I still sold my share of cars. I did not need to spread information I could not confirm in order to convince a customer to buy a car from me.

            I say it all the time, always err on the side of caution. In this case the logical way to do this was to not use this alleged feature as a selling method. I had plenty of other features I could use and that I could validate in official publications about the vehicles I was tasked with selling. In contrast, when it comes to the claims that certain holidays (already mentioned in this message) are of pagan origin the consensus among pretty much all scholars and academic sources seems to be: maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. As long as this cannot be answered conclusively, because the potential exists that they are evil in God’s eyes and as a result could cause someone to spend eternity in hell, the logical “err on the side of caution” approach is to treat them as if they are and lead people to not celebrate them. There are, after all, plenty of celebrations to be had that you can find in The Bible.

            But that was prior to the smartphone revolution. Sure, customers were able to do some preliminary research at home on the Internet before visiting us, but today a salesman of any product has to compete with the customer who has all the information about the product on their phone.

            Today college professors and high school teachers have to compete with students that have the most updated information on a subject on their phone, and if that instructor is teaching outdated or outright false information they will be called out on it. What should be more concerning is that parishioners have this same ability when sitting in a Church listening to a Pastor that pushes the same errant doctrines that they learned and never questioned. People, whether educated or not, have the information to call out lies and most know how to access it.

Ministry In An Informed Society

All Things 6            Today’s Christian Believer has to compete with the fact that people outside of Christianity know more about our faith than most actual Believers do. If you are not a student of the Bible and the historical facts surrounding it, you will not be taken seriously in any effort to witness your faith. Even a growing number of Christians are rapidly finding out that much of what Christianity has taught in the past is completely wrong.

            Not too long ago I heard a Pastor talking about the armor of God from Ephesians Chapter 6. He did not teach the traditional view, however, that likens this armor to that of a Roman soldier. What he taught, and had both “Old Testament” and “New Testament” texts to back it up, was that the armor is describing the garments of the High Priest, the Kohen Gadol.

            The message was good, but is also contained a “big picture” message that it seems most in his audience likely did not catch. What this man was teaching was more than a fresh perspective on something that had been taught wrong. What he was declaring was that everything every Christian ministry we know of today—your Christianity, your parent’s Christianity, your grandparent’s Christianity—all of it was completely wrong.

            Yes, that’s right, think about the implications of that. What are we to do when everything we thought we knew about the Bible is being proven completely wrong? This is why many are revisiting the ways of Hebraic-minded early Believers, because obviously modern Christian thought just isn’t cutting it anymore. Ordinary people are figuring out the truth!

            We have been reading the Bible for hundreds of years with the wrong set of glasses on. Instead of reading an English Bible translation with an American cultural mindset we must make that much needed change and learn to understand the Bible from a First Century Hebraic mindset and seek to understand at least major keywords in the text from the original language they were written in. Every Christian today, unless you speak fluent Hebrew and have a Bible written entirely in Hebrew, should have access to a good Bible Concordance. Interestingly enough, now we have come to a place, as a result of the information explosion and the Internet, where you can access a Bible Concordance right on your phone too.

            You can literally look up a verse in the Bible on some websites and then do a side-by-side analysis of the verse with the original language (Hebrew for the “Old Testament”, Greek for the “New Testament”). Then you can click on a particular keyword and find out how that word is defined in the original language. At times, such as is the case of 1 Timothy 4:3-5, this completely changes the understanding of the text (which is explained in my article “Created With A Purpose”).

            If Christianity had ever been given any type of liberty or freedom to practice faith without adherence to God’s Torah in the past, that time is quickly coming to an end. Christians are sort of funny at times, you know. As a whole, I have often heard Christians tout about how we are living in the last days, but then when the signs begin to fall into place that we are in those last days they fight against things that the Bible plainly says will happen.

Before The End Will Come

All Things 7Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. ~Luke 21:24b (TLV)

            There must come an end to the “time of the Gentiles” prior to the return of the Messiah. Whatever may or may not have been permitted in the era of “Gentile Christianity”—if such a term is even valid—is drawing toward its conclusion. If God in His mercy and grace has truly overlooked the transgressions against Torah by the Christian faith that will no longer be the case as we draw closer and closer to the return of the Messiah.

            It is abundantly clear from the growing movement and interest in Torah by “Gentile Christians” (and I use this term in quotes because I am not fully convinced that it is even theologically correct, I’ll explain in a moment) is a preparation by the Ruach HaKodesh (God’s Spirit of Holiness) to prepare for the return of our Messiah. Regardless of what has happened in the past and what God may have overlooked in previous generations of Believers, the Body of Messiah must be purged of sin before a holy God can come to this world to rule and reign.

            Sadly, many Christians today are opposed to a return to the ways of Torah and such things as the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem along with the application of the Levite priesthood, the Sanhedrin, and even animal sacrifices. In a book written by the late Dr. Grant R. Jeffrey titled The New Temple And The Second Coming the following is stated:

Obviously, the Antichrist cannot stop (or cause “to cease”) the daily sacrifices unless, prior to that moment, the Corban – the daily morning and evening sacrificial system – has been reinstated. The last daily sacrifice of sheep occurred three weeks before the burning of the Temple in the summer of AD 70. At that time the Roman legions surrounded the Second Temple and prevented lambs from being brought in for sacrifice. Before Daniel’s prophecy can be fulfilled, the Jews must reinstate daily animal sacrifice. An altar will be built in the area to the east of the site for the Third Temple. Once the priests resume daily sacrifice, the construction of the Temple itself will begin.

            Regardless of what Christians have done in the past and even what they continue to do today that stands in opposition to the Word of God, when the Temple is raised up and the sacrificial system begins, nobody will be able to go to the Temple without maintaining a Torah-observant life. Even the Apostle Paul maintained the highest observance of Torah to be ceremonially clean so he could enter the Temple and make sacrifices.

“After an absence of several years, I came to Yerushalayim to bring a charitable gift to my nation and to offer sacrifices. It was in connection with the latter that they found me in the Temple. I had been ceremonially purified, I was not with a crowd, and I was not causing a disturbance.”
~Acts 24:17-18 (CJB) [Note: Yerushalayim is a Hebraic form for the name of Jerusalem]

            The Apostle Paul, the same guy who “became all things to all people that he might win some” is also the same guy who was offering sacrifices in the Temple and made sure he had been ceremonially purified to do so. As a side note, he could not have been ceremonially purified had he been chomping down on pork and other unclean things so he could “become a swine-eating Gentile that he might win some swine-eating Gentiles”.

            The same Apostle Paul who “became all things to all people” lived his entire life (after his conversion) as a Torah-observant follower of Yeshua Messiah. He kept the weekly Sabbath, as it is recorded over 85 times in the Book of Acts that he, along with other Apostles and early Believers, observed the Sabbath Day every week, on the seventh day of the week as defined in the Torah. Just prior to declaring that he was ceremonially purified and making sacrifices in the Temple, Paul makes this statement in defense of his ministry, “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way (which they call a sect), I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything written in the Torah and the Prophets” (Acts 24:14).

            There is no possible logical way to claim that a man who was “believing everything written in the Torah and the Prophets” would ever be teaching others to live contrary to the Torah and the Prophets in order to “win people to the faith”. That would be hypocritical and worthy of deeming Paul a heretic. And, I will add, any “Christian Pastor” today who has acknowledged the validity of Torah but does things opposing to it to appease their congregation or create some type of bait-and-switch scenario under the banner of “evangelism” is a hypocrite and may be worthy of being deemed a heretic.

            The simple reality is that God is waking people up all over the world to the fact that Torah must be embraced before the world will be ready for the return of Messiah. Those Christians who are fighting against the moving of His Spirit on this are literally hindering the return of our Messiah. His return must be in accordance with Scripture, so as long as Christians resist the preparation He is pouring out the longer His return will be prolonged.

            I stated a moment ago that I was not so sure the term “Gentile Christian” is really even a legitimate term. The reason I say this is because the simple reality is that the New Covenant God made was with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, and the only way for a person not of those houses is to somehow become members of either house through a legal means. I recently came across a statement from Messianic Bible Teacher Daniel Botkin, whose work I have cited in the past. Regarding this he says:

            To Christians who tell me “I don’t need that ‘Old Testament’ law, I’m a Gentile believer living under the new covenant,” I politely point out that the new covenant is not made with Gentiles. Look at what God says in Jer. 31 and Heb. 8. The new covenant is made ONLY “with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” Period. No mention of Gentiles. The only possible way for a Gentile to be part of the new covenant is to find a legal way to get himself into the house of Israel. He does this by putting his trust in Israel’s Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus). If you believe in Israel’s Messiah, you become a member of Israel in God’s eyes, whether you like it or not. Even if you’re an anti-Semite. And as a member of Israel, you become a partaker of God’s promises to Israel and you are responsible to live as a Messianic Israelite. And BTW, this is not replacement theology, it is inclusion theology.

            What all this means is that the covenant is… A COVENANT. In a covenant there are terms and responsibilities by both parties involved. When you come into covenant with Yahweh through His Son Yeshua you become responsible to follow His Torah. The good news is that if you really did enter into covenant, as opposed to just embracing a religion, you receive His Ruach HaKodesh, His Spirit of Holiness, that will drive you toward living that Torah-observant life.

            The Scripture says that you are made into a new creature in Messiah (2 Corinthians 5:17) and that you will receive a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26). The evidence, in part, that you are a new creature with a new heart and a new spirit is:

1. You are driven with a hunger to read and study the Scripture.

2. You are driven to seek out anything instructed by the Scripture and obey it.

            It’s been said by one well known Pastor that, “What gets in the head ultimately gets in the body.” This is a phrase used to describe the process of a flow of divine illumination on the revelation of Scripture received first by those in authority and then distributed to the body of Believers by that authority. Sadly, I have been watching for years as men who have a notable amount of influence within Christianity strive to deliver the Torah message today, but they seem to be met with great resistance.

            In other cases I see these men trying to deliver the truth only to be infiltrated by a liberal agenda seeking to do everything it can to hold onto the traditions of Christian religion that have for too long opposed God’s Torah. I can assure you, there will come a day that the pagan idols will be torn down and destroyed. However, if the Body of Messiah does not tear them down God will. It will be much easier on those who choose to tear them down on their own.

Fitting In Without Conforming

All Things 8            The bottom line is that a proper understanding of our subject text from 1 Corinthians 9 is that we are to fit in with society around us while not conforming to ways that completely oppose the Bible. In the book Neighboring Faiths: A Christian Introduction To World Religions author Winfried Corduan proposes the following statement, which is worthy of consideration:

Christians must learn to live in a world of religious plurality. Christians desiring contact with neighbors who belong to a different religion need information regarding their food preferences, holidays, religious customs and symbols, and – above all – beliefs about the central reason for human existence.

Many of these non-Christian folk appear to be happy with their religions and are not searching for a better way. They hold onto their beliefs and seem to find as much satisfaction in them as Christians do in theirs. Thus, for Christians, the encounter with non-Christian believers more than ever appears to be a meeting between “neighboring faiths.”

            Certainly at some point in time you have seen someone driving a car with one of those COEXIST bumper stickers on it. You know, the ones where the word is comprised of a variety of symbols representing major world religions. While I don’t fully agree with the notion that we can ever truly coexist with those who live outside of the Kingdom of Yahweh, we can most certainly live among these people and allow the true light of Messiah to shine through our lives. As I alluded to in the beginning of this message, if you have Muslim or Buddhist neighbors in your community, you don’t have to practice the ungodly ways of their religions to open a door where you can share the Bible with them. Such a notion would be ludicrous!

            But that appears to be exactly why Christians celebrate things like Christmas and Easter. According to many sources these holidays are the result of Christians taking an existing form of worship from other religions and rebranding it to appear “Christian”. It would be no different than Christians worshiping Buddha or Allah in order to attract people from other religions to become Christians. The problem, of course, is that Christianity blended with other religions is no longer Christianity. This creates a very real possibility where a Christianity that celebrates things like Christmas and Easter instead of the biblical Feasts of Yahweh is itself a false/pagan religion. Notice I did say possibility, I am not outright saying that any form of Christianity is false or pagan, just presenting that it is a real possibility.

            We are to be like the white farm duck in the picture above. This duck is perfectly capable of hanging out with the wild mallard ducks for a time, but eventually the flock of mallards will fly away to their next destination and the farm duck will return to it’s place on the farm.

            While there is always the potential for conflict between Believers and unbelievers, I find the strongest and most common conflicts are not with those you meet on the street with a differing religion than ours, but with those who are claiming to be a part of the Body of Messiah but do not live according to His Torah. For example, the more a family member grows and follows what the Bible says, the more inner spiritual conflict there will be with those in his or her family who do not want to do what the Bible says. This is certainly amplified further when they are part of a family living in the same household.

            Sadly, I have also witnessed a number of situations over the years where a spouse will divorce their partner seemingly as a result of them not being able to deal with their husband’s or wife’s growing commitment to Scripture. You would think that a Christian would be encouraged by a spouse who is taking the Word so seriously, but it seems that is not always the case. Some people actually base their view of what it means to be a Christian and follow Messiah on what they see a majority of other “Christians” doing. As such, they will actually go as far as labeling the one person they fell in love with to be a fanatic or an extremist if he or she begins to take their Christian faith more serious and question the ways of the Church.

            What Paul was teaching in the passage from 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 is very simple: We are to live in a way that we can fit in with society without looking like crazy religious fanatics while at the same time not conforming to society’s anti-God ways. Paul was not teaching us to host a Christmas party with the pagan god Oden who has now taken the name of Santa Claus and serve people unclean ham as a way of winning people to Messiah. He was not saying to fill the Church grounds with colored eggs “left by an egg-laying rabbit” to win converts. He was not saying to have a youth pizza party with all manner of unclean pork pepperoni, ham, and sausage in order to draw in more teens with the hope that they will start coming to Church.

            What he was saying was that you can go to the local shopping mall or grocery store and just be a normal, functioning member of society without compromising your walk with God. You don’t have to put on a tallit and walk through the shopping center loudly speaking in tongues or something. That’s no more biblical than celebrating some ungodly holiday just because it’s popular and will attract a lot of people to Church. And as you fit in with people, without compromising your obedience to biblical commandments, God will open doors of opportunity for you to engage with people about Scripture. That’s what this verse is about, acting normal in society. It’s NOT about doing things that violate Scripture because they might draw a crowd.

            In no way did Paul’s statements here or anywhere else in his writings authorize the ways of the world as evangelistic tools for winning the lost. Such an interpretation of the Bible opens up the Church to all sorts of abomination, allegedly justified and without regard for the God who gave us a standard of holy living in His Torah. Consider what Christopher J.H. Wright, Ph.D., says in his great missional hermaneutic titled The Mission Of God: Unlocking The Bible’s Grand Narrative:

To establish a biblical grounding for mission per se is legitimate and essential. To claim to find a biblical grounding for all our missionary practice is much more questionable. Some would say it is impossible—even dangerous. Rather than finding biblical legitimation for our activities, we should be submitting all our missionary strategy, plans and operations to biblical critique and evaluation.

            What Wright is essentially saying here is that before we do anything to win people to the faith, we should evaluate what we want to do against the commandments of the Bible—the Torah—and see if the method is approved by Scripture or if it will violate the Torah. If a seemingly “good idea” for drawing people to your evangelistic event or outreach conflicts with a commandment of God, then it should be discarded. Remember, the Bible says that obedience is better than sacrifice. Sadly, much of what modern Christianity calls evangelism today is an outright affront to the God we are claiming to be evangelizing for.

            The last time I checked, the Bible also says to “come out from among them and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17). It doesn’t say to blend in, be like them, do what they do, all in hopes that they will come to your Church. Even if they do come to your Church because it is being worldly to attract worldly people, what are they really going to find? Certainly not the life-transforming power of the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God)!

            The late Charles H. Spurgeon is quoted as once having said: If you have to give a carnival to get people to come to church, then you will have to keep giving carnivals to keep them coming back. In other words, if you have to use worldly ways to draw them, you will have to keep doing those things to keep them. This will make a Church into nothing more than a secular entertainment center (which, sadly, is what most Churches have become). On the other hand, if you draw them with The Bible, the name of Yeshua, and the power of the Holy Spirit, then that is all you will need to keep them coming back and your Church will thrive with people intent on one thing: Serving the Living God.

            What Paul clearly taught was that he could fit in with any group of people without compromising his own commitment to Yahweh. Some people take Scriptures like Romans 14:21 or 1 Corinthians 8:13 and say that they don’t want to offend people regarding food they serve. I can assure you that you will likely not offend a single person in America and most likely anywhere else in the world by offering from the most commonly eaten clean animals, like chicken.

            Even if your concern is in offending a Believer, it’s really that simple. I can’t comprehend the possibility of a Christian being upset because you invited them to your house for dinner and served chicken instead of pork chops. With the growing number of Christians that are realizing the truth, however, you may create an uncomfortable situation even for people in your own Church if you try serving them a pork product or shellfish or some other unclean thing. On top of that, if you are not sure of a person’s religion, perhaps a co-worker or something, the absolute wisest thing to do when offering them a meal is to stick with the most popular clean meats.

            Think about it, what would happen if you tried to serve an observant Muslim or Orthodox Jew a pork roast or a pepperoni pizza? You will offend them… the very thing we say the Bible warns against doing. This is simply an added bonus to following one of the most basic instructions the Bible has to offer, but it is a very practical one as well. Just following the simple dietary instructions of Torah will prevent you from accidentally serving people potentially offensive foods. Perhaps the only way to truly be all things to all people is if you follow Torah!

            The entire message Paul was conveying here is that we are able to do everything we can short of violating Scripture to reach people with the Gospel. The moment we start doing things opposed to God’s Word, however, is the moment we have gone too far and compromised our witness of that very Gospel. And if you are using Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9 to justify the use of sin as a tool of evangelism, you have committed blasphemy on top of it all.

~Blessings and Shalom~

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