by Asher Intrater, , Revive Israel
Life can be likened to a long journey or marathon. At the finish line you only want to hear one thing, and nothing else matters:
"Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful in little; I will appoint you over much. Come into the joy of your Master." (Matthew 25:21)
God has given us grace through Yeshua. In fact He has given us all things. All we have to do is believe in Him and trust Him. We can have faith in Him because He has been faithful to us. (In Biblical Hebrew, the word for "faith" - emunah, means "faithfulness".)
"If we are unfaithful, He will remain faithful, because He cannot deny Himself." (II Timothy 2:13)
Since faithfulness is the nature of God, we want to be faithful as He has been to us. We are faithful to Him by being faithful to the people around us.
In the lives of the Patriarchs and Prophets, it seems that God often allowed them to go through long periods during which there was no outward evidence of the fulfillment of God's promises in their lives. All they could do was to be faithful. Perhaps God was testing them? Or perhaps there is no way to develop faithfulness without going through a long period in which there is no outward blessing.
"Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10)
In every relationship, no matter how good it is, you will go through periods when nothing seems to be going right. There is no reason to keep going from a personal viewpoint. Then you have to make a choice of whether to be faithful to that relationship. Why? Just to be "faithful, for faithfulness' sake?" That's right!
Yeshua gave His life to us when nothing else seemed to be right. He was faithful to us. He was pierced to the heart and bled to death, on the mere possibility that someone would be faithful in return.
"Messiah became a servant to the circumcised because of the faithfulness of God, in order to fulfill the promises made to the patriarchs." (Romans 15:8)
One of the ironic aspects of being the "chosen people" is that the multitude of our sins is written in the Bible for the whole world to see. Throughout all the centuries, despite our failures, sins and betrayals, God was and is still faithful to Israel. Yeshua is Jewish, an offspring of Abraham and David. This is an expression of God's faithfulness to His promises. If He has been faithful to our people, He will be faithful to all. Let us be faithful in return.
by Asher Intrater, , Revive Israel
The first community of faith in Yeshua (Jesus) started on the day of Shavuot (Pentecost). There was an original core of 120 Jewish believers (Acts 1:14), made up primarily of native-born "Israelis" from the Galilee (Acts 1:11; 2:7)
A careful reading of the Gospels and Acts reveals a social, almost ethnic tension between the Galilean disciples of Yeshua and the more religious Jews of the Judean and Jerusalem area (Matthew 26:73, Mark 14:70, Luke 22:59; 23:6, John 7:1; 7:52). That tension between the "Galileans" and the "Judeans" finds significant parallels in the tensions between Messianic and Orthodox Jews today.
When the Holy Spirit was poured out, the core group immediately encountered a larger group of 3,000 (Acts 2:41). These people had come from outside of Israel to visit Jerusalem for the Holy Days. "And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven" (Acts 2:5). These were what we would call "diaspora" Jews today.
However there were also people from other ethnic backgrounds: "... both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs" (Acts 2:11). (Crete is a European island close to Israel.) So within the whole group there were:
The multi-ethnic international "church" or "ecclesia" developed later as the gospel spread into Asia Minor and Europe. However, the pattern of different types of branches grafted together (Romans 11:17) was already apparent and built into the foundation of the ecclesia from the first day. This mix of different languages, cultures and ethnic backgrounds caused stress within the community (Acts 6:1).
As the international visitors returned home, the gospel spread into their nations. Each national group searched for their own identity, and even name. "The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch" (Acts 11:26). The Jewish disciples within Israel had not sought a separate "branding" because they saw themselves as an integral part of the Jewish community around them - not as starting a new religion.
As the number of churches among the Gentiles grew, two identities developed. Among the nations, they were referred to as "the churches of the Gentiles" (Romans 16:4); while, the Jewish believers were called the "remnant of Israel." "I have reserved for Myself in Israel ... a remnant called by grace" (Romans 11:4-5). The international council of apostles (Acts 15) determined that these two groups could develop their own congregational subcultures.
Not only did the gospel spread into Europe, but it also penetrated the communities of "Orthodox" Jews in Jerusalem. Tens of thousands of religious Jews came to faith and gathered around Jacob (James). They maintained their own lifestyle, faithful to the Torah and Rabbinic customs, in a somewhat different way from the original Galilean disciples. "Many myriads of Jews have believed and they are all zealous for the Law...and they walk according to the customs ..." (Acts 21:20-21).
This multi-ethnic diversity is a natural outgrowth of the original commission to preach the gospel from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). As the gospel is returning from the ends of the earth to Israel today, there is an amazing restoration of conditions somewhat parallel to those of the first century: Messianic Jews in Israel and the Diaspora; and Christians from every tribe, tongue and nation (Revelation 7:4, 9).
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