Unity…how not to achieve it

Written by Schalk_and_Elsa on. Posted in Training in righteousness, Uncategorized

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wine landWe have learned in the previous article what unity is and learned from Paul on how unity could be attained. However, some in the Messianic community, are teaching that unity can only be achieved through the same doctrine. They use manipulative techniques to get believers to compromise on their beliefs in order to go with the stream, in this case with Judah. Believers are taught that following them in this is a sign of maturity and don’t we want to be seen to be mature?

What is wrong with this? Is it important what others think of us? Who is the focus on?

Our focus should not be on how we are perceived by other people. Our focus should be obedience to YHVH. If we can only obtain unity through compromise, then should we aspire to it? Who do we fear? Is this what YHVH desires? You know, a few times in history Israel was united; they were united in idol worship. This is an extreme example, but it illustrates the point. Compromise is compromise and transgression of YHVH’s instructions is sin. We can’t choose unity above obedience, that is wrong! Approval of people should not be important to us. Approval of YHVH, however, should be our priority.

John 12:43
43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of Elohim.

The context here is about “secret” believers in Y’shua, for whom it was more important to keep the approval of their brethren than to proclaim their faith in Y’shua. They were scared that if they openly confess their faith in Y’shua, they would be thrown out of the synagogue.

Paul also wrote about this…

Galatians 1:10
10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of Elohim? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Messiah.

Paul wrote, “if I were still trying to please men” implying that he did that before his encounter with Y’shua. He wrote somewhere else that he was very zealous in keeping the traditions. We are not saying that keeping traditions are wrong; however, we are to consider who we please with the traditions we follow and whether it is in line with Scripture.

Isaiah 2:22
22 Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; For why should he be esteemed?

There are many more verses we can quote that teach us not to regard man above YHVH. So, what do you think? What is more important unity or obedience? Should they be mutually exclusive? I think not. We have learned in the previous article that unity can be achieved without compromising. Is it perfect unity in everything? No, however, we have also learned that as long as sin exists in this world, we can forget about perfect unity. Unity will always be disrupted. It may sound like a cynical statement, but it is true.

Paul wrote another passage that is very applicable to this topic of unity, Romans 14. This passage is really talking about this subject. About how we are not to judge one another pertaining to our observance and how we are not to be a stumbling block for one another because of our differences.

Let us look at this passage in more detail.

Romans 14 on unity

Weak in faith

Romans 14:1–4
1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for Elohim has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for YHVH is able to make him stand.vegetables

This passage has nothing to do with eating clean or unclean, instead, when you study the context, you will see that Paul could be referring to either gentile of Jewish believers who recently came to faith. They are called “weak in faith” because they are still new and unsure of what to do.

The weak are believers, either Gentile or Jewish, who have not yet grown sufficiently in their faith to have given up attachment to various ascetic practices and calendar observances. Their tie to these activities, however, is not supported by a rational though mistaken ideology, as with the legalists of (2) above. Rather, it is irrational and emotional, linked to psychological needs, social pressures or superstition, or it may simply be a matter of habit. When their activities in these areas are questioned in “arguments over opinions” (v. 1), they are not “fully convinced in their own minds” (v. 5), not “free of self-doubt” (v. 22), but rather easily “upset” or even “destroyed” (v. 15) and thus able to “fall away” or “stumble” (vv. 20–21). This is why Sha’ul calls them “weak.” 2

In verse 3 to 4 he shows how both of these, the strong in faith and the weak in faith err.

3–4 Sha’ul chooses his words carefully in order to pinpoint the sin of each. The one who eats anything might take pride in having thought the matter through and freed himself from his fears and compulsions; therefore he might look down on his duller, weaker brother, with his self-created fence around his self-created law. But the abstainer is more likely to develop a “holier-than-thou” attitude and pass judgment on the other as careless or a libertine. In this letter, boasting has already been condemned at 1:22, 30; 2:17–27; 3:27–4:2; 11:18, 25; 12:3ff.; and judging at 2:1–3. 2

Why does he talk about self-created fence around a self-created law? Here is a story to explain it.

I once met a musician who had been addicted to heroin and under its influence had used his guitar to express the anguish of his existence in desperate, despondent blues. On coming to faith he not only stopped using drugs but destroyed his record collection and his guitar; two years later he still felt himself too “weak” in his faith to play his instrument. Making music is obviously not a sin, but he was afraid that playing guitar might resuscitate his habits of the “bad old days.” For the sake of his own soul and sanity he constructed this “fence around the law” for himself. 2

This brings to mind the Rechabites, but we will go into more detail about them later-on in this article. We will first continue with Paul and Romans 14. Paul continues, speaking about the observance of days..

Each be convinced in his own mind

Romans 14:5
5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.

Here is David Stern’s commentary on this verse. Just note that when he writes Jewish holidays, he means Biblical Holy days. The Jewish people, including Mr. Stern, identifies so much with these days that they tend to call them Jewish holidays. calendar1

One person considers some days more holy than others. The reference is not specifically to Jewish holidays but to any days that any believer might have come to regard as especially holy. This is because the “weak” are not specifically Jewish believers, but any believers attached to particular calendar observances (see Section (4) of 14:1–15:6).

Each should be fully convinced in his own mind. This principle for dealing with doctrinal and practical disputes applies to adiaphora (matters about which the Bible is indifferent) and must be balanced against 2 Ti 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living.” Where Scripture gives a clear word, personal opinion must give way. But where the Word of God is subject to various possible interpretations, let each be persuaded in his own mind while at the same time “outdoing one another in showing respect for each other” (12:10). 2

This is great advice from Mr. Stern, we will repeat it because it is so important. Where Scripture gives a clear word, personal opinion must give way. But where the Word of God is subject to various possible interpretations, let each be persuaded in his own mind while at the same time “outdoing one another in showing respect for each other”.

Each of us will give an account of ourselves

Paul then continues and speaks about judging others different opinion and regarding him with contempt because of that.

Romans 14:10–12
10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of Elohim. 11 For it is written, “As I live, says YHVH, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to Elohim.” 12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to Elohim.

This fits in nicely with his previous thought “each person must be fully convinced in his own mind

Each of us must be convinced in our own mind and will have to give an account of ourselves to YHVH.

The question is, do you follow others, or do you search the Scriptures for yourself and ask YHVH to reveal His truth to you? It is easy to be manipulated by others in following them, but when you give an account to YHVH, what will you give an account of?

Did you know what the two middle words of the five books of Torah is? They are “daros” and “daras,” meaning to search carefully or more literally “searching you will search.” That is what we are to do search the Scriptures for ourselves while praying that YHVH will reveal it to us. The Bereans were mentioned for doing this, they did not take everything they were taught and swallowed it; they searched the Scriptures to see if it was so (Acts 17:11).

A stumbling block

The next important thing is then to not be a stumbling block for another. Let us just stand still at this “let us not judge one another anymore” What does Paul mean by this for we know that we are to judge one another in certain matters? This judging is comparing others to ourselves and thinking less of them because of their different opinion, it is like condemning them in a way.

Romans 14:13

13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.

The teaching of this verse, which expresses the central point of this chapter, is a midrash on Leviticus 19:14, which says, “You are not to place a stumblingblock before the blind,” or, more generally, you are not to bring cruel intended harm upon someone who is helpless….

This meaning for “blind” would include both those whom Sha’ul calls weak in trust and those whom he considers strong in trust but inclined to pride; until their attitudes change both are relatively helpless, and it is wrong to cause them to commit sin, either in fact or in their own opinion. 2

This, once again, links with the passage about the Rechabites. Let us look at that passage now. This is quite an interesting passage and we can learn a lot from it.

It is best you read the narrative from the source instead of us paraphrasing it, so here it is.

Jeremiah 35:1–11
1 The word which came to Jeremiah from YHVH in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, 2 “Go to the house of the Rechabites and speak to them, and bring them into the house of YHVH, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.” 3 Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, son of Habazziniah, and his brothers and all his sons and the whole house of the Rechabites, 4 and I brought them into the house of YHVH, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, the man of Elohim, which was near the chamber of the officials, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the doorkeeper. 5 Then I set before the men of the house of the Rechabites pitchers full of wine and cups; and I said to them, “Drink wine!” 6 But they said, “We will not drink wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, ‘You shall not drink wine, you or your sons, forever. 7 ‘You shall not build a house, and you shall not sow seed and you shall not plant a vineyard or own one; but in tents you shall dwell all your days, that you may live many days in the land where you sojourn.’ 8 “We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he commanded us, not to drink wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons or our daughters, 9 nor to build ourselves houses to dwell in; and we do not have vineyard or field or seed. 10 “We have only dwelt in tents, and have obeyed and have done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us. 11 “But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against the land, we said, ‘Come and let us go to Jerusalem before the army of the Chaldeans and before the army of the Arameans.’ So we have dwelt in Jerusalem.”

Then YHVH pronounced judgment on Judah for not being obedient to Him even though He sent prophets to get them to turn from their wicked ways. He uses the Rechabites obedience to show Judah how commandments from a Father should be observed especially their heavenly Father.

Jeremiah 35:12–17
12 Then the word of YHVH came to Jeremiah, saying, 13 “Thus says YHVH of hosts, the Elohim of Israel, ‘Go and say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, “Will you not receive instruction by listening to My words?” declares YHVH. 14 “The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, which he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are observed. So they do not drink wine to this day, for they have obeyed their father’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again; yet you have not listened to Me. 15 “Also I have sent to you all My servants the prophets, sending them again and again, saying: ‘Turn now every man from his evil way and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to worship them. Then you will dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your forefathers; but you have not inclined your ear or listened to Me. 16 ‘Indeed, the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have observed the command of their father which he commanded them, but this people has not listened to Me.’ ” ’ 17 “Therefore thus says YHVH, the Elohim of hosts, the Elohim of Israel, ‘Behold, I am bringing on Judah and on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster that I have pronounced against them; because I spoke to them but they did not listen, and I have called them but they did not answer.’ ”

We know from Scripture that drinking wine or planting a vineyard is not wrong, and we are neither commanded to dwell in tents. So, how does YHVH view these instructions from the father of the family and their adherence to it?

Jeremiah 35:18–19
18 Then Jeremiah said to the house of the Rechabites, “Thus says YHVH of hosts, the Elohim of Israel, ‘Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father, kept all his commands and done according to all that he commanded you; 19 therefore thus says YHVH of hosts, the Elohim of Israel, “Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me always.” ’ ”

Here is some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary.

35:12-16. Why did Jeremiah bring the Recabites into the temple and offer them wine when he knew they would refuse it? This was to provide a lesson to Judah. The Recabites consistently obeyed their forefather’s command. They stood in sharp contrast with the people of Judah who had consistently not obeyed God.

35:17. The Recabites served as a visual reminder of Judah’s sin. God vowed to bring on Judah…every disaster He had pronounced against them. This “disaster” could refer either to the curses of the covenant (cf. Lev. 26:14-39; Deut. 28:15-68) or, more probably, to the fall of Judah and Jerusalem predicted by Jeremiah (cf. Jer. 4:20; 6:19; 11:11-12; 17:18). Judah would be punished because she did not listen to God’s words and did not answer God’s summons.

(3) The reward of the Recabites.

35:18-19. In contrast with faithless Judah the Recabites had consistently obeyed the command of their forefather Jonadab. God promised to reward their faithfulness, and assured them that they would never fail to have a man to serve Him. The Phrase “serve Me” (‘ōmēḏ lep̱ānay) means literally, “to stand before Me.” It was used of those who served the Lord as prophets (1 Kings 17:1; Jer. 15:19), of officials who served Solomon (1 Kings 10:8), and of priests in the temple (Deut. 4:10; 10:8; 2 Chron. 29:11). However, though God might have been offering the Recabites a special place of service to Him in the covenant community, this interpretation is not required. The same phrase also described the people of Israel who stood before the LORD at the tabernacle and the temple (cf. Lev. 9:5; Deut. 4:10; Jer. 7:10). So God may have promised that the line of the Recabites would always have descendants who would be able to worship the Lord. The promise pointed to a continuing line rather than a specific place of ministry.3

Who knows why these instructions were given by the Rechabites forefather? It may have been his conviction. It may be a story similar to the story of the musician we read about earlier, a self-created fence. Who knows? We can only speculate. The point is they lived according to their conviction and was honored by YHVH for it.
Note also, and this is very important, that their personal conviction did not transgress Torah in any way. We are not commanded to drink wine, plant a vineyard or have a house. We can never expect YHVH to honor us for our convictions if these are not in line with Scripture. It is therefor extremely important to search the Scripture like the Bereans did to make sure we understand correctly and not following blindly after others.

One last note before we conclude. There will always be people who want to create conflict in order to be in the limelight or to convince others of their view. Here is some advice as to how to interact with them.

Romans 16:17–19
17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Master Messiah but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. 19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.

How are we to interact with them? We don’t, so if you know someone who is always causing dissentions, don’t get involved in their debates. It is that easy.

Conclusion

We are to fear YHVH only and are to be obedient to Him. We may be alone in our walk because of this, but be encouraged. There is a special reward for those who fear Him…

Malachi 3:16–18
16 Then those who feared YHVH spoke to one another, and YHVH gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear YHVH and who esteem His name. 17 “They will be Mine,” says YHVH of hosts, “on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.” 18 So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves Elohim and one who does not serve Him.

We must all ask ourselves the question in everything we do “Who do we serve?” Are we serving YHVH or ourselves or another person?

References

  1. All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD and Y’shua for Jesus.
  2. Stern, D. H. (1996). Jewish New Testament Commentary : a companion volume to the Jewish New Testament (electronic ed., Ro 14:1). Clarksville: Jewish New Testament Publications.
  3. Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Je 35:12–19). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
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