Month 1:3, Week 1:2 (Shanee/Matzah), Year:Day 5936:003 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 25 March 2012
Salvation and Rewards in Context
The opposite of liberty (deror) is universally understood to be imprisonment and slavery. Liberty means the happy state of having been released from servitude for a life of enjoyment and satisfaction that was not possible before. Whereas the secular man believes thay liberty is something that he must obtain by his own power and strategem, the Tanakh (Old Testament) makes it pain that liberty is a gift of Yahweh bestowed upon the Nation - Israel - that submits to Elohim (God) and obeys the mitzvot (commandments) in emunah (faith) by each citizen being true to the National Covenant, the Torah.
The theocratic nation of Israel with its own territory and government came to an end a very long time ago and will not be restored until Messiah returns. All believers in Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) are a Nation in exile scattered amongst the nations awaiting the call to return home: so liberty as understood in the Old Covenant has both a different application as well as a developped meaning in the New.
The Gospels and Pauline Epistles expound upon New Covenant Liberty in great depth. Here the enemies from whom Yahweh through Yah'shua (Jesus) liberates His people are revealed to be sin, Satan, the penalty prescribed by the Torah (Law) for breaking the mitzvot (commandments), and death itself.
Yah'shua's (Jesus') public ministry was one of liberation. He opened it by announcing Himself as the fulfilment of Isaiah 60:1:
Ignoring Zealot hankerings after a national, military-type liberation revolution from Rome, Yah'shua (Jesus) declared that he had come to set Israelites free from the state of slavry to sin and Satan in which He found them:
"The Ruach (Spirit) of Yahweh-Elohim is upon Me, because Yahweh has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound" (Isa.61:1, NKJV).
Yah'shua (Jesus) had come, He said, to overthrow "the prince of this world", the "strong man", and to release his prisoners (Jn.12:31ff.; Mk.3:27; Lk.10:17ff.). Casting out demons (Mk.3:22ff.) and healings (Lk.13:16) were part of this work of dispossession. Indeed, Yah'shua (Jesus) appealed to these (Lk.11:20; cp. Mt.12:28) as proof positive of the coming among men of the Kingdom of Elohim (God). And what is that? It is the promised eschatological state in which men effectively receive Yahweh's forgiveness and salvation and are effectively made subject to His will.
"'Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed...You (religious leaders) do the deeds of your father'. Then they said to Him, 'We were not born of fornication; we have one Father -- Elohim (God)'. Yah'shua (Jesus) said to them, 'If Elohim (God) were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from Elohim (God); nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My Davar (Word). You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the emet (truth), because there is no emet (truth) in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it'" (John 8:34-36,41-44 NKJV).
Paul lays great emphasis on the emet (truth) that Yah'shua (Jesus) liberates believers, here and now, from destructive influences to which they were previously in bondage: from sin, the tyrannical overlord whose wages for services rendered is death (Rom.6:18-23); from the penalty of the Torah (Law) and from any Talmudic notions that obedience to the mitzvot (commandments) is a condition for being saved since it generally stirs up sin and gives it its strength - i.e. legalism (Gal.4:21ff.; 5:1; Rom.6:14; 7:5-13; 8:2; 1 Cor.15:56), but rather we are to obey Torah in consequence of being saved through emunah (faith, trusting); from the demonic "power of darkness" (Col.1:13); from polytheistic superstition (1 Cor.10:29; Gal.4:8); from the burden of Old Covenant ceremonialism (Gal.2:4) which was given as a pointer to Messiah until its fulfillment on the Cross. To all this, Paul affirms, freedom from the remaining partial bondage to indwelling sin (Rom.7:14,23), and from physical corruption and death, will in due course be added (Rom.8:18-21).
This freedom or liberty, in all its aspects, is the gift of Messiah, who by death bought His people out of bondage (1 Cor.6:20; 8:22ff.) Present freedom from the penalty (punishment) of the Torah (Law), sin, and death is conveyed to believers by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), who unites them to Messiah through emunah (faith, trusting) (Rom.8:2; 2 Cor.3:17). Liberation brings with it adoption (Gal.4:5); those set free from guilt become sons of Elohim (God), and receive the Ruach Mashiach (Spirit of Messiah) as a Ruach (Spirit) of Adoption, assuring them that they are in truth Yahweh's sons and heirs (Gal.4:6ff.; Rom.8:15ff.).
Man's response to the divine gift of liberty, and indeed the very means of his receiving it, is a free acceptance of bondservice to Yahweh (Rom.6:17-22), to Messiah (1 Cor.7:22), to righteousness (Rom.7:18) as defined by Torah, and to all men for the sake of the Besorah (Gospel) (1 Cor.9:19-23) and for the sake of the Saviour (2 Cor.4:5). Christian/Messianic liberty is neither an abolishing of responsibility nor of the Torah, and is not therefore a sanctioning of licence (lawlessness)...the 'freedom' to do what you want. The believer is not "under legalism but under grace" (Rom.6:14, JNT) for salvation and consequently is not therefore "without Torah to Elohim (God)" (1 Cor.9:21). The Divine Torah (Law) of Yahweh, as interpreted and exemplified by Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself, remains the standard expressing Messiah's will for His own freed bondservants (1 Cor.7:22). Believers are therefore "within the framework of Torah (Law) as upheld by the Messiah" (1 Cor.9:21, JNT). This "Torah (Law) of Messiah" (Gal.6:2) - the apostle James' "Torah (Law) of Liberty" (Jas.1:25; 2:12) - is the Torah (Law) of Ahavah (Love) (Gal.5:13ff-: cp. Mk.12:28ff. Jn.13:34), the principle of voluntary and unstinting self-sacrifice for the good of men (1 Cor.9:1-23; 10:23-33) as expressed through the divine tavnith (pattern) of the mitzvot (commandments) and for the glory of Yahweh (1 Cor.10:31). This life of avhavah (love) brimming in the vessel of Torah (Law) in Divine Tavnith (Pattern) is the response of gratitude which the liberating Besorah (Gospel) both requires and evokes. Christian/Messianic liberty is precisely freedom for ahavah (love) in Torah-Tavnith and service to Elohim (God) and men, and is therefore abused when it is made an excuse for unloving licence or Torahlessness (lawlessness) (Gal.5:13; cp. 1 Pet.2:16; 2 Pet.2:19), which is irresponsible inconsiderateness (1 Cor.8:9-12).
Paul wrote the Epistle to the Galatians to counter the threat to Christian/Messianic liberty which the Talmudic Judaising theology of the Pharisees presented. The basic issue, as he saw it, was the sufficiency of Messiah for salvation apart from the ceremonial works of the Torah. The Talmudic Judaisers held that the Gentiles who had put emunah (faith) in Messiah needed circumcision to be saved and to be Israelites. Paul argues that if this were so, then by parity of reasoning they would need to to keep the entire Torah in order to be saved instead of living the Torah in consequence of salvation. This, he argued, would mean seeking justification by legalistic observance of the Torah (Law), and such a quest would mean falling away from grace and from Messiah (Gal.5:2-4). Paul maintained that the believer - whether Israelite or non-Israelite by birth - is free from the need to perform legalistic works of Torah (law) in order to be accepted by Messiah, for as a believer he is fully accepted already (Gal.3:25ff.), as the gift of the Ruach (Spirit) to him proves (Gal.3:2ff.,14; 4:6; 5:18). Thus the New Covenant convert, whether former Judahite or Gentile, need no longer burden himself with the ritual Torah (Law) which is fulfilled in Messiah because the redeeming work of Messiah has freed him completely from the need to seek salvation legalistically through Torah (Law) as understood by the Talmudic Rabbis (Gal.3:13; 4:5; 5:1). His task now is, first, to guard his Yahweh-given liberty against any who would tell him that emunah (faith) in Messiah alone is not not enough to save him (Gal.5:1), and, second, to put his liberty to the best use by letting the Ruach (Spirit) lead him into responsible fulfilment of the fourfold and four-levelled Torah of Ahavah (Love) (Gal.5:13ff.) as shown in the table below:
|Level 1: LAW OF AHAVAH (LOVE) & LIBERTY IN MESSIAH|
|Level 2: Love Yahweh and Love Your Neighbour as Yourself|
|Level 3: The Decalogue - Ten Devarim (Words) or Commandments|
|Level 4: The Whole Body or Minutae (Minute Details) of|
Torah-Mitzvot (Commandments) in Divine Tavnith (Pattern)
Paul makes a similar point elsewhere. The Christian/Messianic is free from the need to work for his salvation and he is bound neither by Judaic ceremonialism nor by pagan superstition and taboos in order to 'achieve' it. And though there is a large realm of things indifferent in which "all things are lawful (permitted) to me" (1 Cor.6:12; 10:23), not everything is helpful, which of course de jure (legally) includes any action that might demand we break the mitzvot (commandments) in order to achieve the desired end. What Paul does not mean is that we can do anything we want to - rather, he is saying that what is not already covered by Torah is moral and ethical territory in which we must use our liberty responsibily, with an eye to what is expedient and edifying and with a tender regard for the weaker brother's conscience (cp. 1 Cor.8-10; Rom.19:1-15:7). Where the Torah is silent, we may extrapolate using tavnith (pattern) without the need for volumes of man-made rules such as the Pharisee-Talmudists evolved and which kept the Judahites in heavy bondage. What Paul does not mean, as many Christians choose to interpet him as saying, is that we should discard all Law and simply follow our feelings, remembering that the lev (heart) is no baraometer for righteousness (Jer.17:19), and nor is it 'made' so by simply claiming that it is the 'Ruach (Spirit)' when in truth it is our own flesh talking through our emotions.
While salvation from sin, death, guilt and hell is a matter of emunah (faith) and not of works, the rewards of the saved - and indeed the resurrection we inherit - are most definitely a function of our works. In concluding this study it is therefore important that we understand exactly what these are and how they 'work'.
Any reward depends for its signifiance upon the character or Shem (Name) of its bestower, and Yahweh's rewards, both as blessings and punishments, are manifestations of His justice (e.g. Ps.58:11) and inseparable from the B'rit (Covenant) (Dt.7:10) to which His mitzvot (commandments) are annexed. Thus the second mitzvah (commandment) relates the penalty of disobedience to the jeaolousy of Yahweh, and the reward of obedience to His mercy (Ex.20:5). Deuteronomy 28 explains Israel's well-being in terms of submission to the B'rit (Covenant), a theme developed by the later prophets (e.g. Is.65:6-7; 66:6). That obedience to Yahweh will bring visible temporal rewards is rightly expected throughout the Bible, but two false conclusions were also drawn from such teaching as Duteronomy 28, namely:
Job, Psalms 27 and 73 all reflect the tension created by these false deductions, and Ecclesiastes 7:14 marks an extreme cynicism. Yet it must be noted that the Tanakh (Old Testament) Elohim (God) Himself and His salvation is already known to be the supreme reward (Is.62:10-12; Ps.63:3).
- 1. That righteousness is automatically rewarded materially; and
- 2. That suffering is a certain sign of sin.
Yah'shua (Jesus) promised rewards to His talmidim (disciples) (Mk.9:41; 10:29; Mt.5:3-12) so coupled with self-denial and suffering for the Besorah's (Gospel's) sake as to prevent a mercenary attitude. He slew the Pharisaic notion, that still prevails in Judaism and amongst many Messianics today, of meritorious service (Lk.17:10) and discouraged desire for human reward in this life (Mt.6:1) since Elohim (God) is the talmid's (disciple's) best reward. Yah'shua (Jesus) shows that reward is inseparable from Himself and from Elohim (God), and the apostles laboured to establish the complete dependence of man's obedience and emunah (faith) upon mercy and grace (Rom.4:4; 6:23). Work, and therefore reward, is certainly looked for, but simply as an index of living emunah (faith) (Jas.2:14-16), not as a basis of claim upon Yahweh. The reward of salvation in Messiah begins in time (2 Cor.5:5) and its fulfilment is looked for after judgment (final rewards and punishments) when the covenant people enter into full enjoyment of the vision of Elohim (God) which is their enduring reward (Rev.21:3). Yahweh alone knows how the gradation of rewards will be apportioned in the next life and we can simply be content to give our best in this life and rest in the knowledge that our Master will be fair in what He gives in the next.
Taking all the Scriptures together, then, we find that the emet (truth) about liberty and salvation lies somewhere midway between traditional Protestand Evangelical and contemporary Messianic understanding. Our greatest reward is salvation and fellowship with our Heavenly Father - dwelling and communing in His presence - which is by emunah (faith, trusting) alone. Nevertheless that trusting leads us into passionate service for which we shall be rewarded both now and in the life to come.
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor.5:10, NKJV).
"Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labour" (1 Cor.3:8, NKJV).
"And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work" (Rev.22:12, NKJV).
"I am He who searches the minds and levim (hearts). And I will give to each one of you according to your works" (Rev.2:23, NKJV).
"Then Peter began to say to Him, 'See, we have left all and followed You.' So Yah'shua (Jesus) answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time -- houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions -- and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mark 10:28-30, NKJV).
The liberty (deror)that believers speak of is therefore radically different to (though incorporating) the libertarianism that politicians speak of (because of free agency) and hostile to the libertinism of sinners (doing whatever you want). We must never confuse these, as is easy to do, given the political saturation of these parallel terms in society.
Continued in Part 2
 How Do I Get Eternal Life?