Monday, November 24, 2014

23 November: Messiah the King

This week, instead of concentrating on the Tanakh, we will be concentrating no the Gospel.  Since today is the feast of Messiah the King, our lesson was from Mark 11:27-33.

They returned to Yerushalayim, and as Yeshua was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the presbyters came to him. They began to ask him, “By what authority do you do these things? Who gave you the authority to do such things?”
Yeshua replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of Yochanan - was it from heaven, or from men? Answer me.”
They debated among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven’ he will reply, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But dare we say, ‘From
men?’” They feared the people, for all considered that Yochanan was indeed a prophet.                                                                                                                           They answered Yeshua, “We do not know!”
Yeshua said to them, “Then neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.”       

We note the discussion was over the authority of Yeshua.  Was it from man, from Satan, or God.  Yeshua sets a trap for them by asking about Yochanan's (John the Baptist) authority.  They find that Yeshua has trapped them, because if they admit the Baptist came from God, Yeshua will ask why they did not listen to and obey him.  If they say the Baptist was merely a man with no authority from God, they resist a revolt, for many believed in Yochanan. 

Today, our question is not about the authority of the Baptist, but about the authority of scripture, so the question must be asked, "From where does the authority of scripture come?"  For the Orthodox Church, the Old Testament is the LXX or Septuagint version.  In the New Testament, out of 350 Old Testament quotes, 300 come from the LXX.  Most of the quotes in Matthew come from some unkown source, and Matthew or the person who translated Matthew into Greek may have translated it himself.  So we accept the LXX as authoritative, because that is the version accepted by the authors of the New Testament.  

The New Testament, on the other hand is very much a work of the church, but not so much a work by the church.  The church and New Testament very much developed around each other.   For the very early Christians, the Biblical authority was the LXX.  Paul tells us this about the Old Testament:

15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is[b] useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Now the New Testament had a different development.  While the early church had the LXX in writing, it had no overtly Christians texts in writing.  What they did have were eyewitnesses to the faith, and when they realised the return of the Lord was not imminent, they began writing things down.  Matthew was probably  the first, writing his Gospel in Aramaic, possibly as early as 50 A.D., if not earlier.  It is said that St. Thomas took a copy of St. Matthew's Gospel in Hebrew (Aramaic) with him to India.  Mark was written by John Mark, who if he knew Jesus, did not know him well.  He is believed to have been a disciple of Peter.  Luke, on the other hand was disciple of Paul, and never met Jesus.  John's gospel was more than likely written by the church of Ephesus, based on either John's teachings and or writing, around the year 100Most of the New Testament was written by Paul, who had a vision or visions of  the risen Messiah.  There are several other books, which may or not have been written by apostles. 

So as the church grows, and apostolic witnesses are dieing out, it needs to develop authoritative books.  The originals of these were probably the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and the Epistles, which were passed around from church to church.  As I mentioned, the church and New Testament grew around each other.  There was no hierarchy in the beginning which said these books were legitimate and these weren't.  When Constantine called the 1st Counsel of Nicaea, he did not have an agenda as to making Christians worship on Sunday, nor a list of books upholding his theological position.  What he did have was a church with much disagreement which was threatening the stability of his empire.   Today, it is popular to say that Constantine did have an agenda and that he imposed that agenda on the church.  But if one studies history, what we find out instead, that basically, the church did not pick a certain set of books because those books upheld their doctrine, but they chose these books because these books were the ones that were  used in the worship of the church.  In other words, the church and the books molded each other.  Another thing at Nicaea, the recognition of Sunday worship being the primary worship of the churchConstantin may have recognised Sunday as a day of rest in his empire, but again, he was merely recognising something already true in the church and going back to the book of acts.

So, is God Lord?  Is God sovereign?  Does he have the power to determine that his will is revealed in scripture?  Many people today, especially our youth choose to believe that God is not sovereign, and that most of the New Testament was written by man without God's inspiration.  They want to boil Yeshua down to the "historical" Jesus, a wise teacher, with no authority. 

This is not the Yeshua I worship.  The Lord Yeshua I worship is sovereign, over history, over  time, over the Bible and the church. If  my Lord had intended to promote extra-marital sex, homo-sexual sex, child sacrifice, then he could have picked another group besides the Jews.  There were various societies who had these practices.  If fact God had some of them exterminated, because he found them to be so evil. 

The problem today, is most people do not want a sovereign God. They want a God who will permit them to do what they want.  They are not interested in God's plan of salvation.  They think the great Santa in the sky will  give them what they want and will not judge them.  No judgement for them, just the worship of self, self gratification, self-righteousness, and self-sufficiency, self which is I, the centre of SIN, the beginning of Idolatry.

It is high time that we begin to recognise that Adonai Yeshua is sovereign.  He inspired the scriptures which show the saints, warts and all.  We are told the scriptures may lead to salvation, and they are useful for correction and training in righteousness.  It is time for the CHURCH to return to the Bible.  Today the CHURCH is week and fragmented, because many no longer believe in God's sovereignty.  We need to recognise that sovereignty, and allow God to rule our lives.