Monthly Archives: July 2014

One Torah, Two Approaches to God?

In my post on “Biblical Equality” I mentioned a scathing treatise put forth by some leaders in Messianic Judaism. I have since linked to their paper in that post for clarity. This blog post is offered by some of those that were slandered in the MJ paper.

I urge you to consider their response and defend their position. Thanks, Jane, for posting this. The body needs to hear “both sides of the story”; we must hold the IAMCS accountable for their actions!

janediffenderfer.com

Root of our Faith

A Critical Look at the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations

and Synagogues (IAMCS) Steering Committee Report

of False Accusations Against the Hebrew Roots Movement

 

We, as Messianic leaders and teachers, have become increasingly concerned that there are a small number of individuals and groups today promoting the idea that the Torah is not valid in the lives of Believers in Messiah Yeshua [Jesus Christ]. These people, headed by the Steering Committee of the IAMCS, state that all Believers – Jewish and Gentile alike – ought not to walk as Messiah, by honoring the Torah, particularly the Shabbat, the Feasts of the LORD, and eating a Biblically kosher diet. This erroneous understanding of Scripture, which has been around since the fourth century, and the days of the Roman Emperor Constantine, is the subject of this paper. This doctrine promoted by the IAMCS leaders causes them to conclude that the…

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The Teaching of Balaam


This article was originally a Torah commentary. Because of the flow of the story, it actually involves three portions, Balak, Pinchas, and Mattot. You can see all the scripture references in this footnote.[1] The entire focus of this study is on the Teaching of Balaam. Thus, I felt it was better suited as topical article. I fully believe that the teachings of Balaam are alive and well in our assemblies and we are unaware. My desire here is to look at what the Word has to say on this subject so that we are empowered to remove this wickedness from our own hearts and assemblies. Those of you familiar with Dr. Alewine’s Creation Gospel model will also find this article helpful as it is the foundation behind my thinking.

The Story

Near the holy place, where the Ark dwelt, an Israelite sees a beautiful woman. Her eyes tell him everything he wants to know. He approached her; and as they say, “the rest is history”. Out of nowhere, a holy man named Pinchas bounds toward the couple with a spear raised high in the air. The couple, already in the throes of passion, doesn’t even see him coming. Pinchas releases the spear with great force and it skewers the couple like a human kabob; first the Israelite and then the woman beneath his naked body. The deadly plague grinds to a halt and the masses are spared.

Torah portion Balak ends like the scene out of a graphic action/drama movie. It’s pretty explicit, but that’s exactly how the drama is presented to us in the Hebrew text. This Bible story is definitely for mature audiences only!

pinchasYet this brazen act by Pinchas not only stayed the plague that had broken out on the people, but earned him a permanent covenant of peace and a covenant of perpetual priesthood before YHWH. Wow. The seriousness of the peoples’ sin is illustrated by the harsh and detailed judgment mete out by Pinchas. Thankfully, we know who and what placed Israel in this position. Balaam could not curse what YHWH had blessed, but he sure knew how to work around the system or find the loopholes.

If you only read parsha Balak, it may not be very clear exactly what the prophet Balaam did that was horrible enough to earn him a name that is forever associated with wickedness. (Micah 6:5, 2 Peter 2:1-22, Jude 11, Revelation 2:14-15) After all, YHWH did let Balaam go to Balak and he only blessed the Children of Israel. Surely, there is more to this prophet than hearing a talking ass. So, what happened? We learn the rest of the story two portions later in Mattot.

Num. 31:15-16  And Moses said to them, “Have you spared all the women?  (16)  “Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD.

At some point in his dealings with Balak, Balaam gave him some wicked advise. The fees for divination and recognition are indeed a mighty snare. Balaam found a way (so he thought) to have his cake and eat it too. Balaam could truly hear the voice of YHWH, but he did not fear or reverence the Holy One. He obviously told the Midianite king how to get around the Word of YHWH. What do you do when you want to curse what God has blessed? You put a stumbling block before the other person’s feet; a temptation that is almost irresistible. And there has never been a greater temptation for a man than a scintillating woman.

Causing a brother or sister to stumble, especially on purpose, is equivalent to high treason in YHWH”s economy. Balaam may have earned the respect and the wealth of a pagan king, but YHWH brought judgment to his door rather swiftly. Again from Torah portion Mattot:

Num. 31:8  They killed the kings of Midian along with the rest of their slain: Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian; they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword.

Jos 13:22  The sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the diviner, with the sword among the rest of their slain.

The Israelites ended up killing Balaam with the sword. Now, let’s fast forward all the way to Book of Revelation. Yeshua has some interesting things to say to the assembly at Pergamum.[2] This is a little lengthy, but I urge you to read each verse and notice the parallels of word usage.

Rev 2:12-17  “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:  (13)  ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.  (14)  ‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality.  (15)  ‘So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.  (16)  ‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.  (17)  ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’

What sort of judgment comes to our door when we go the way of Balaam? A quick and piercing double edged sword. The sword of Truth is in Yeshua’s mouth; it is the Holy Word of God.

Heb. 4:11-12  Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.  (12)  For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The corrupt couple was pierced by the Word of YHWH (sword) by the hand of Pinchas. Balaam received the same judgment as those he placed a stumbling block before and it came swiftly. There was no mercy for either party. Wow, that all sounds so harsh. I’m not writing to put an unholy fear in your bones, but to point out the actual sin and penalty that occurred in these portions. The Holy One included quite few verses warning us about the teaching of Balaam; therefore, His desire is that we learn from these examples in order to avoid this type of judgment.

So, what did Balaam teach?

wolf-sheepYeshua says he taught the people to “eat food sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality”. Fortunately, we have more clues given to us in 2 Peter and Jude.

2Pe 2:15-17  forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;  (16)  but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.  (17)  These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved.

Balaam wanted a REWARD. He had a problem with a lust for recognition and wealth. This lust caused the prophet to try and profit off the people of YHWH. Let’s look at the metaphors that Peter uses to describe the followers of Balaam. What is a spring without water? It is a natural well that fails to give forth the waters of Life. Wells, springs, and water are all idioms for the Holy Spirit, Wisdom, and the righteous woman (Bride). In other words, there is indeed a spirit at play here; it’s just not the Holy Spirit. It brings death rather than life. Mists driven by a storm gives us a similar picture. Jude uses equivalent expressions in his warning; thus, the action/spirit we are to avoid is definitely cohesive in the minds of the writers of the Holy Bible.

Jude 1:11-13  Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.  (12)  These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted;  (13)  wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

Again, we see that reward or pay is what drives the spirit of Balaam. But what is scary is that these followers of Balaam are not outside the assembly; they are in the midst of even our feast celebrations! These people lack sacrificial love and only really care for themselves. Like Peter, Jude compares them to something that should bring life and water, but they do not. They are “clouds without water”. Instead of being driven by the wind of the Ruach HaKodesh, they are powered by another wind/spirit. Thus, they are incapable of producing holy fruit. They are not the “stars” of Abraham’s seed; in fact, they are the tares among the wheat — ready to be burned and reserved for black darkness.

So, if all this is true, we should be able to pick a follower of Balaam out in heartbeat, right? Wrong. If it were that easy, there would be no need for all the warnings given to us in Scripture. I believe there is a very specific reason why it is so difficult. And, most of you won’t like my answer. The difficulty we have, or you might say our lack of discernment in this area, is because we each struggle with the same temptations that are encompassed in Balaam. I will let Jude explain:

Jude 1:14- 19 (14)  It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones,  (15)  to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”  (16)  These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.  (17)  But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,  (18)  that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”  (19)  These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve ran into many grumblers, fault finders, and divisions in those groups returning to YHWH’s Torah. As a matter of fact, I have to admit that in my earlier years of this walk, I even participated in such things all in the name of holiness. I know it’s terrible, but it’s the sad truth. At the time, I would have thought I was anything but a follower of Balaam!

What I have learned (and often write about) is this very dichotomy between the Truth and a Lie. Between a man and the beast. Between the harlot and the righteous woman. Between the Spirit and the flesh/evil inclination or a wicked spirit. Between a Prophet and a Diviner. Between a Sheep and Goat. Between the Wheat and Tare. You get the point. As it turns out, the difference is often “subtle” and the battle ground is most often within — not outside of a person.

Close, But No Cigar

There are seven wicked spirits that counterfeit the seven holy spirits of YHWH (Pr. 6:16-19, Is. 11:2). In Holy Writ, we are constantly forced to deal with two brothers, two women, two houses, two “ways”. One is always righteous and one is always wicked. Nevertheless, they often can be found in the same places, doing similar things, wearing similar clothes, and calling to the same people. King Solomon the Wise, tried in earnest to teach his son and us this very simple truth. The enemy truly masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Cor. 11:14)

But what is not always immediately apparent is that this duplicity is within us! Overt wickedness is easy to detect if you know the Word. But, a heart set on self-righteousness, pride, and grandeur is not always so obvious. This is because we cannot escape our flesh or nephesh — the part of us that is shared with the beasts of field. Like them, we have instincts and a desire to survive at all costs. We get hungry, thirsty, tired, and sexually aroused and seek to gratify these appetites. At our core, the flesh seeks to preserve self.

Contrary to the old Greek philosophers, this does not mean that the nephesh is evil. It serves a godly purpose even in the lives of a holy people. Without it, we’d be no earthly good. We must eat, drink, sleep, and procreate or our species would die off. But, these passions are not to be what rules a child of the Most High; the Holy Spirit must sit at the helm of our ships.

Balaam was ruled by an unholy spirit fueled by his flesh/nehpesh. Though there was a part of him that could hear YHWH’s voice, the desire to please his own desires was much stronger. Have you ever “given in” to the desires of your flesh? I know I have and sadly sometimes still do. No one is exempt from this dilemma. It is a daily battle.

Let’s take the story of Balaam for example. How many of you read this story, realized the utter wickedness of his actions, and associated YOURSELF with Balaam? I would gander that very few, if any, of you did. Our nephesh always makes excuses or justifies its actions. It’s never wrong in its own eyes. This is why it’s so hard to come to a place of repentance or even “hear” the gospel unto salvation. The flesh is always concerned that it will be uncomfortable, restricted, or robbed of pleasure and fun.

The real lesson we are to learn from Balaam is to recognize these “negative” attributes in ourselves, correct them, and help others to do the same. The Bible brings correction, but it is mostly to us as individuals. Rarely is our job to point the finger at another. There is a time for this (which we see in Pinchas), but having a burning desire to do so more often exposes a nephesh ruled person. The nephesh always wants negative attention to be on someone else, because self-preservation is all it really cares about.

Thus, I put together the following chart for your personal introspection. If all you can “see” when perusing it is someone else’s sin, then you’ve just revealed the one seated on the throne of your heart. Here’s a clue, it’s not the Holy Spirit; it is the beast (nephesh). But fret not, you are not alone. Kick the beast down and bring it into obedience to the Ruach HaKodesh!

Balaam/Beast                                                                   vs.                             Holy Spirit/Man

Lusts for profit


Seeks to produce godly fruit


Desires recognition from others


Seeks to please YHWH


Looks for loopholes to obedience



Hears and obeys because of love


Urges others to compromise or conversely to be rigid and merciless (in the name of holiness) Strong sensations of either greasy grace, or a controlling Torah Terrorist. Extremist on either side of the scale.
Urges others to obey, but is tempered with compassion, mercy, and patience. Constantly seeking balance in all things. Allows freedom within the boundaries of Torah.

Killed by the Sword


Lays flesh on the altar by allowing the Sword of the Word to purify the heart.


Tries to get YHWH do go along with his desires/will.


Accepts the will of the Sovereign of the Universe and knows it is best even if it hurts.


Appears righteous (clouds without rain)


Does righteousness (joins the great cloud of witnesses)


Speaks blessings to others, but counsels curses in the dark.


Speaks blessings to others and means it.


Hears and turns into the way of the harlot.


Hears and turns into the way of wisdom (righteous woman).


Takes pleasure in immorality. May even participate behind closed doors. (hidden/dark)


Runs from immorality. (Like Joseph)


Uses flattery for personal gain/promotion.


Speaks truth, allows YHWH to promote them.


Grumbles and Complains (gossip/slander) which drags others into their derision against people, leadership, and assemblies. This happens under the banner of no compromise, holiness, and righteousness.


Turns from gossip/slander/lashon Hara. Knows that complaining about the way things are done, the leadership, other people, or families is only following the way of Cain, Korah, and Balaam.


Brings strife and division as a result of the above. Seeks to attract others unto themselves. Desires cookie cutter versions of belief and thought with Self as the head. They split and divide families, friends, and assemblies in the name of holiness. No unity. The house is continually being torn down. New group often latter splits again as a result of the same spirit at work. Strong sensation of feeling unwelcome, unholy, and condemnation. Run!


Seeks mercy, compassion, loving-kindness, and patience with family, friends, leadership, and assembly. Manages to disciple and mature new comers rather than condemn them for ignorance in matters of obedience. Seeks to build others up. (A wise woman builds her house) There is an overt sense of love, belonging, and warmness in these groups. Critical and judgmental spirits are not welcome.


Loves the wages of unrighteousness. Loves being right. Loves putting others in “their place”. Looks for ways to profit from the sheep.


Loves YHWH and the Body. Seeks to produce the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.


In a nutshell, Balaam teaches you to turn in to the house of the harlot[3] by appeasing the appetites of the flesh. What feels good and right is truth to a Balaam. Going the way of Balaam is serving or demanding to have your own preferences, desires, wants, and gain. It is the opposite of a humble, caring, patient, and loving servant of the Most High.

If we recognize the teaching of Balaam in our own lives (no matter how miniscule), we need to repent and put YHWH back on the throne of our hearts. I have found a great tool that helps me to keep the “beast” or nephesh/flesh in its proper place. That tool is the Jewish practice of Mussar. If you’ve ever used a Chesbon Nephesh (accounting of the Soul) chart to help you find hidden or forgotten sin in your life before Yom Kippur, then you have had a tiny taste of Mussar.

Mussar means correction and is a simple daily practice that guides you to develop or strengthen godly traits such as gratitude, compassion, honor, simplicity, generosity, loving-kindness, responsibility, trust, faith, etc. It only takes a few minutes a day, but the payoff is immense! Hopefully by now, you have a much better understanding of what the teaching of Balaam actually was/is. In closing, I will link to some Mussar resources that are sure to keep Balaam at bay! Don’t wait until you have to hear it from an ass…

Websites:

Riverton Mussar

Aish.org 

Books:

Everyday Holiness by Dr. Alan Morinis

Mussar with the Messiah by Vickie Howard

Expect to see more articles from me on the teachings of mussar in the future. (:


[1] Balak: Num. 22:2- 25:9; Micah 5:6- 6:8; 2Pet. 2:1-22; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14-15

Pinchas: Num. 25:10- 29:40; 1 Kings 18:46-19:21; Ps. 106; John 2:13-22

Mattot: Num. 30:1 -32:42, Jer. 1:1- 2:3, Mt. 5:33-37

[2] Note to Creation Gospel students: Notice that Pergamum is the 2nd assembly. It is on the stem of “separation”. The question becomes, separated unto what? Balaam causes separation unto division — leading to death. We know that separation is only good if it leads to gathering like the third day of creation and the spirit of resurrection.  We see this same picture with the sharp double edged sword. The Word separates the righteous unto life and the wicked, like Balaam, unto death.

[3] Proverbs 7

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Biblical Equality

john McKee

I just finished a short ebook by J.K. McKee of Outreach Israel Ministries and TNN Online called “Biblical Equality and Today’s Messianic Movement”. It is fantastic and I highly urge you to forgo a $3 coffee to buy this informative document. You will be glad you did. This post will explore some of Mr. McKee’s insights and some of my thoughts that he helped tie together.

Mr. McKee focuses on Galatians 3:28:

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.

Notice that there are three categories of people mentioned in this verse. Most people understand that this verse is emphasizing the equality and freedom we have in Messiah. And, this is true. However, there is more to the story, as explained below.

For now, consider some of our most outspoken disagreements within the whole of Messianic circles. Number one centers on the identity and separation/inclusion of Jews and Gentiles (Greeks). Some Messianic Jewish leaders just released a scathing treatise against those that are for inclusion and equality between these groups back in January 2014. One of their most notable battle cries was IDENTITY markers for Jews, which (they believe) Gentiles should not infringe upon. In their mind, Sabbath, dietary laws, and the moedim (feast days), are those markers. (For a response to this treatise, click here)

They have an unwarranted and unholy fear of Gentiles actually being obedient to the Covenant. In their mind, if there isn’t a line drawn in the sand to separate these racial groups, the Jewish people will cease to exist or be overrun by Gentiles. Thus, they claim that followers of the God of Israel that come from Gentile backgrounds should not seek to keep the Creator’s calendar and Torah, lest they become vile practitioners of supersessionism. What they fail to realize, is that by demanding such, they have placed themselves as the overlords and gate keepers of the covenant. You can’t be the light, draw people in, to only turn them away.

Ungodly fear is at the root of this type of thinking. To lose (perceived) control can be a very compelling goad. Their scare tactics have succeeded somewhat and they have managed to persuade some into their hypocrisy. Sadly, if they would only open a genuine dialogue with those that “see” differently, their fears would be alleviated. In over ten years, I haven’t met one single person from a Gentile background that desires to keep the Torah and cling to the God of Israel that has any notions of usurping Judah, overtaking Israel, or replacing Jews in any form or fashion. Instead, I see a people that would pick up a sword any day of the week to defend Judah, Jews, and the Land. This, even when their name and faith is continually slandered, rebuked, and denied legitimacy by the former.

Mr. McKee posits a poignant question in his book:

What happens in a religious culture that emphasizes distinctions first, rather than common faith and belief in the Lord Yeshua? What will commonly be manifest in such an environment are rivalry, suspicion, self-superiority, factionalism, and division, to be then followed by resentment and bitterness.[1]

Do we not see these things happening right now in those returning to the Torah and their Jewish roots? While non-Jewish believers have been crying out for acceptance and equality in the Body, many have forgotten the last third of Galatians… there is neither male nor female.

Restoring women is a missing key to this equation. Those bent on complementarianism rather than equality or egalitarianism among the sexes are denying the complete restoration and a full return to Edenic values. Mr. McKee puts it this way:

“The LORD God of Israel is not going to honor the request of a Messianic non-Jewish man, to be treated as a welcomed equal in Messianic Judaism, if such a man’s wife might not be treated as an equal, co-leader of the family along with him.”

Mr. McKee observes that the three groups mentioned in Galatians 3:28 are all interconnected. We can’t isolate one group and that be one’s only focus of restoration, for they actually reflect one another. They are each a picture of the other two. Thus, if we desire to seek true freedom and equality, there are three categories that must be simultaneously considered.

Many of my readers are aware that when I began to diligently seek out the biblical role of women, the Father dropped a hidden bombshell on my lap, by revealing the issues of modern day slavery (trafficking). I grasped the connection immediately; and I believed I was seeing the other side of the coin. But, I now realize that what He was actually showing me is more akin to a wicked tripod that supports and gives strength to oppression and domination in all forms. Isn’t it written somewhere that a threefold cord is not quickly broken? (Ecc. 4:12)

dreamstimelarge_22045424

© Christianm

In light of Galatians 3:28, where there are issues of race, there will be issues of slavery and domination. Where there are issues of slavery, there will issues of gender equality and repression. One begets the other. Do you think it is a coincidence that Woman Suffrage, Equal rights, and the abolition of slavery are all intertwined in (recent) United States history? I think Paul saw this link a long time ago.

This is why now more than ever, those returning to the Torah and keeping the Testimony of Yeshua should be breaking the legs of this wicked tripod and uplifting and restoring the marginalized groups back to the original state: Eden.

But how can we accomplish such a feat? Where do we begin? How does a society and a Body entrapped in the dogma of authority, dominance, and control shift gears and do a 180 degree turn?

What many fail to elucidate when examining the issues of race, slavery, and gender equality, is our world’s proclivity toward male oriented authority, dominance, and control. Which are all, by the way, traits that the Creator especially endowed in the masculine side of His Creation. When these characteristics are tempered by the Holy Spirit and the feminine side of Creation, they bring balance and security.

But what happens if these masculine qualities dominate without the opposite, yet complimentary, traits of the feminine? We would expect to see a world entrenched in a power grab for dominance, authority, and control. Is that not the world we live in? On a smaller scale, we see the same thing happening within the Body of Messiah. The scales are tipped too far in the direction of the hard masculine. The Jewish sages, particularly the Chassidic sect, see this unjust scale and foresee a transition coming.

As with the general scheme of the cosmos, so with man and woman and the human consciousness. The history of humankind can be seen this way: A transition from male to female values, from authority to dialogue, from dominance to persuasion, from control to nurture.[2]

Do you hear the heart of this rabbi? He can clearly see the problem… and the solution. Dialogue, persuasion, and nurture are needed for reform. All of these qualities are feminine. But if we continue to deny females to operate in their God given abilities; or worse, deny their legitimacy to minister to the Body altogether, we can expect a continual struggle with race, slavery, and gender. What a vicious cycle!

I have great hope that we are on the cusp of real restoration. It has taken us a long, long time to get to where we are today. There is still much struggle and resistance to change (restoration). But I cannot help but to also recognize another connection to the three groups mentioned in Galatians 3:28.

With the reestablishment of the state of Israel in 1948, came also a theological paradigm shift. Israel and the Jewish people have a God given right to exist and flourish. For many Christians, seeing this took a sincere desire to reexamine the Scriptures in light of current events. Old traditions, dogma, and pride had to be laid on the altar of Truth.

Do you believe that it is a coincidence that the Civil rights movement quickly came on the heels of this restoration? And with that, the beginnings of a return of both believing Jews and Gentiles to the Torah of YHWH? Like it or not, all these happenings are CONNECTED.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is also another spirit that likes to work contemporarily with the Truth and offer the naïve a counterfeit. Sometimes core truths are twisted into a tree that no longer resembles the seed from which it sprang in ideologies such as liberal progressivism and secular feminism. Nevertheless, each started with “good intentions.” If only we could step back and look at the bigger picture of what is happening. We have a problem that begins with IDENTITY.

Identity Crisis

Let’s back up for a minute and reexamine Galatians 3:28.

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.

Mr. McKee pointed out something else in his paper that hadn’t resonated with me before. Was Paul refuting traditions found both in 1st century Judaism and other surrounding cultures on some pretty ingrained social norms in Galatians 3:28?

There is a morning blessing in the orthodox siddur (prayer book) that seems a little offensive without understanding its true background. The prayers in question are in the shacharit.[3]

 “Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a Gentile.”

“Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a slave.”

“Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a woman.”

Before I address the traditional justification for these prayers, I’d first like you to notice that these prayers are not only the exact same “social” classes mentioned by Paul in Gal. 3:28, but they are also in the same order. Is this a coincidence?

I don’t believe Paul’s declaration in Galatians 3:28 was countering these three blessings in the Jewish siddur. As a matter of fact, Judaism wasn’t the only religion or society that held social class views on these subgroups in the first century. The language of the three blessings echoes Greek prayers. In his later years, Plato is reported to have said, “I thank God that I was born Greek and not barbarian, free and not slave, male and not female, but above all that I was born in the age of Socrates.”[4]

Again, is the striking similarity of this proclamation to the Jewish prayer and Paul’s declaration just a coincidence?

It is human nature to compare ourselves to others. We encounter the good and bad results of this in today’s world just as much as they did in the 1st century. Social psychology has developed a theory called social comparison that attempts to explain this tendency. Social comparison centers on the belief that there is a drive within individuals to gain accurate self-evaluations. The theory explains how individuals evaluate their own opinions and abilities by comparing themselves to others in order to reduce uncertainty in these domains, and learn how to define the self.[5] In other words, we compare and distinguish ourselves from others to determine our own IDENTITY. Pay close attention to that last sentence, for it is at the root of much of our quarreling and division.

The common apologetic for the three “blessings” mentioned above from the Siddur is that these three classes of people – gentile, slave, and woman – are not sociological classes, but mitzvah classes. The apologetic insists that the prayer has nothing to do with the equality of these individuals. Instead, they are meant to be expressions of gratitude for the mitzvot (commandments), and each of the people mentioned in each blessing has more mitzvot to fulfill than the one preceding.

While this explanation is compelling, it still stands to reason that this section of the Siddur could have been influenced by the Greek culture of the first century. I am not alone in this assumption. Many Jewish scholars conclude the same thing.

I believe Paul was calling the people to recognize that in a redeemed or restored state, we must forgo our old social comparisons. Our identity is not found in comparing ourselves to others, but in the finished work of the Messiah. Our destiny and proper “social” status is not found in modern society, not in the Middle Ages, not in the first century, and not even in the age of the patriarchs. We must seek to return to our first estate and that place is most akin to the Garden of Eden, before the fall. For it is there where we have no Jew or Greek, no slave or freeman, no male or female; we have perfect oneness and unity!

If we could grasp the Hebraic concept of the cyclical nature of time, seasons, and restoration, instead of a progressive linear view of supersessionism, then the social comparison tendency would have to fall to the wayside. While our propensity remains to be a preoccupation with authority and patriarchalism, Yeshua tried to steer us BACK toward the beginning, to the place of mutual submission, sacrificial love, and servanthood.

Mat. 20:25-28  But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  (26)  “It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,  (27)  and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;  (28)  just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

There should be mutual equality, respect, and submission between men and women in the Body based upon the gifts that the Spirit gives to each (male and female) believer. (Acts 2:15-21; Gal. 3:28) Likewise, there should be a mutual equality, respect, and submission within the home between husband and wife. (Eph. 5:21-33)

Mr. Mckee persuasively pointed out WHY the Edenic model is not only powerful, but so desperately needed in the Body of Messiah today. His proposition not only resonated with my heart, but baffled me as to why we have such a hard time seeing this, for it is pure simplicity.

In order to fully realize this, let’s look at the Galatians 3:28 one more time:

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.

Until we jump down from our high horse of social comparison and pick up the lens of the Messiah, we are doomed to repeat the millennia of mistakes of all those that have gone before us. We must exchange our desire for dominance and control with a heart for service, servanthood, and sacrificial love; or we are not fulfilling the law of our King.

Perhaps this is why FLESH was a daily offering. We cannot look out for numero uno (number one) and win the race of the Kingdom. All of God’s children of every race, tribe, and tongue, both genders, are equal and one in the Kingdom of Heaven. What are we waiting for? Why don’t we start living out this principle now?


[1] McKee, John Kimball Biblical Equality and Today’s Messianic Movement, 2014. Kindle file.

[2] http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/AID/2918/ShowFeedback/true

[3] Shacharit = Morning Prayers. The name is derived from the Temple service offerings: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Liturgy_and_Prayers/Siddur_Prayer_Book/weekdayprayer.shtml

[4] http://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/e/euthyphro-apology-crito-and-phaedo/plato-biography

See also the classical work: Vitae Philosophorum 1.33

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_comparison_theory

Categories: Messianic Issues, Women | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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