Updated: Mar 17
YAHUAH nowhere speaks of making Christmas a part of His followers, nor does He say to celebrate His Son's birth. He does tell us, though, not to add to His worship anything that is a tradition of the heathen. Such additions hinder rather than enhance our journey to YAHUAH's Kingdom.
What are the fruits of keeping Christmas? Has Christmas helped to glorify YAH? Has it clarified and aided man's spiritual life? We have a record of the fruits of Yahudiym additions. Their intent may have been better than those who accepted Christmas into Mashiachiym, since they at least attempted to obey the Law of YAH. Still, when YAHUSHA walked among them, they did not recognize their own MASHIACH! Adding to and subtracting from YAHUAH's Word changes YAHUAH's intended focus.
Christmas is no better. When the so-called Believer added Christmas to their way of worship, it had nothing to do with true Believer worship at all. It was a ploy to win converts from paganism. It was a deliberate grab for power. From the beginning, Christmas, rather than promoting the true Alahiym and His way of life, has only led people away from the truth.
Peter writes that we are redeemed from these very traditions (I Peter 1:18). These traditions, inherited from our fathers, are a part of our culture. YAHUSHA used His ministry to repudiate every addition, subtraction, and distortion that had attained any kind of specious, "divine" authority, and He did this by clarifying and magnifying the truth. Christmas seems to have "divine" authority because "claimed believers" are doing it, but it is part of a world that is anti-YAH, anti-MASHIACH. It is not a part of what YAHUAH has shown is true.
The word translated “walk” is halakhah in Hebrew. Yashar'al had to walk "in the way."
The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Volume 2, reads under "Judaism":
The authoritative Jewish way of life as expressed in moral law and ritual precept. It embraces the whole body of Jewish teaching, legislation, and practices that proceeded from interpretation and reinterpretation of the laws of the Scriptures. . . . Although legalistic in content, the Halakhah is designed to bring all human occupations into relationship to the service of YAHUAH and to establish the supremacy of the divine will as the measure of all directions and strivings of human life.
On the surface, this sounds good; we should search and meditate as to how the Scriptures apply to every aspect of life. However, these interpretations were merely human opinions. Some of them were right on, but others were grossly off the mark. The Halakhah was not the Word of YAH.
Over the centuries, the Jews first gradually elevated these interpretations to be equal with Scripture, and then to be more important than Scripture. Mark 7:3 describes such a tradition that did not come from YAHUAH‘s Law but from Halakhah. YAHUSHA says that they rejected the commandments of YAHUAH so that they might keep their own tradition (verse 7). He also said their traditions destroyed the effect of YAHUAH ‘s Word (Mark 7:13). Halakhah was their tradition—the Yahudiym way of life.
In addition, not only were they zealous in collecting these interpretations and putting them into books, but in their zeal, they encouraged each other to live rigidly according to these interpretations. They were also zealous in proselytizing. YAHUSHA says in Matthew 23 that they would encompass land and sea in order to gain one proselyte, and then they would make him a child of hell.
It became a major problem for YAHUSHA and the called out assembly when the Yahudiym did not have the humility to admit that many of their interpretations were wrong. They did not agree with YAHUAH ‘s Word, and they viewed YAHUSHA, and then the called out assembly, as enemies to be obliterated.
Halakhah, the Yahudiym way of life that Paul called "the traditions of my fathers" in Galatians 1:14, had been his religion. It was in question in the book of Galatians, not the law of YAH. It was the Yahudiym way of life, the Halakhah, with ascetic, demon-driven Gnosticism added to it. This was the yoke of bondage that could not be borne.
The typical approach to this chapter hinges on defining the word azazel, the Hebrew word for the second goat, often translated as “the scapegoat.” However, there is no obvious definition scripture for the word.
Scholars are little help in arriving at a definition, for scholars can be found to support whatever view one desires. A typical explanatory note is found in The Comprehensive Commentary of the Holy Bible, which gives this unrooted viewpoint: “See different opinion in Bochart. Spencer, after the oldest opinions of the Hebrews and Followers of MASHIACH, thinks Azazel is the name of the devil, and so Rosenmuller, whom see.” Yet, if the wise of this age cannot give scriptural backing for their views, of what value is their scholarship? Are the “oldest opinions of the Hebrews and Believers based on the Word of YAH or dependent upon the traditions of men?
Many have based their understanding of Leviticus 16 on tradition, which claims that azazel is the name of a fallen angel. The original, 58-lesson Ambassador College Correspondence Course says this about azazel: “Ancient Jewish literature knew the Devil by this name. It is, for example, spelled Azalzal and Azael in apocryphal literature” (Lesson 37, p. 4, 1965; emphasis ours).
The updated, 32-lesson edition contains a few more sources (Lesson 37, p. 10, 1986). However, the authors do not use the Scriptures in their evidence, as the Scriptures does not identify the live goat as a type of Satan. Instead, the authors quote Arabic tradition that azazel is the name of a demon. They quote a book entitled Islam and Its Founder. They also quote a couple of Protestant theologians on their respective opinions.
The real bombshell, though, is this excerpt:
Let's notice a modern Jewish commentary that makes it clear that the azazel goat represented Satan the devil: "Azazel . . . was probably a demonic being. . . . Apocryphal Jewish works, composed in the last few centuries before the MASHIACH Followers era, tell of angels who were lured . . . into rebellion against YAHUAH. In these writings, Azazel is one of the two leaders of the rebellion. And post talmudic documents tell a similar story about two rebel angels, Uzza and Azzael—both variations of the name Azazel. These stories, which must have been widely known, seem to confirm the essentially demonic character of the old Scriptural Azazel" (Union of American Hebrew Congregations, The Torah-a Modern Commentary, page 859). (Emphasis ours; ellipses theirs).
This last source is a devastating admission. Yahudiym tradition is used as the final and most important proof, yet its foundation is “apocryphal Jewish works, composed in the last few centuries before the MASHIACH Followers era.” The best-known apocryphal Jewish work from that era is the Book of Enoch.
The Book of Enoch bears the name of one of YAHUAH ‘s faithful servants, yet it was actually written by individuals during the intertestamental period (circa300-100 BC). While containing biblical themes and names, it also includes many things that directly contradict the rest of the biblical canon.
In the Book of Enoch, Azazel is a fallen angel who teaches mankind unrighteous ways. As a result, he is bound and sentenced to the desert forever. It also contains another tradition typically taught on the Day of Atonement—that Satan is the author of human sin: “And the whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin.” In other words, the ascribing of all human sin to a fallen angel is from the very same Jewish tradition that identifies the azazel as a demon. Yet neither aspect of that tradition is backed up by Scripture.
Halloween is a custom of the nations. YAHUAH Himself calls such things abominations, practices that He hates. If we strip away its façade of revelry and feasting, it is idolatrous false worship, honoring spirit beings that are not YAHUAH. In addition, YAHUAH never tells us to celebrate this day or in any way to honor the spirits of the dead.
Notice that He warns us not to be "ensnared to follow" the practices of the nations. A snare is a trap designed to catch an unwary animal. The trap itself is hidden, but what is visible is a kind of lure, an attractive trick designed to fool the prey into entering the trap. Once it takes the bait, the gate comes down, a hook comes out, or a spring slams closed on a limb, and the prey is trapped.
YAHUAH is alerting us to the fact that heathen or ungodly practices—customs, ways of worship, traditions, celebrations—usually have characteristics that appeal to our human nature. They are the lures. We can become caught up in them before we are aware of it. YAHUAH advises us to watch out for the hidden dangers, the appealing entrapments, that are designed into these holidays.
Many cultures have a form of Halloween in their tradition. It seems that most of this world's peoples desire to celebrate the dead. The holidays or feasts may vary from place to place, falling on different days and following different customs. The common denominator is that they all honor or remember the dead or unseen spirits.
Mexico has its "Day of the Dead" in which participants give out candies in the shape of skeletons and visit graveyards to commune with the dead by leaving them food. In Japan, they honor their ancestors with various celebrations. Certain African tribes set aside days to honor the unseen spirits, warding off the evil ones and placating the good. German, Scandinavian, Spanish, Italian, and many other cultures have a Halloween-type holiday.
In English-speaking countries, Halloween derives primarily from the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced "sow-in"). Samhain, held on the three days around November 1, was a kind of New Year's celebration and harvest festival all rolled up into one.
The Celts believed that these three days were special because of the transition from the old year to the new. They felt that during this time the boundary between the physical and spiritual worlds relaxed or lifted, allowing spirits to cross over more easily. This idea, of course, terrifies superstitious people—that departed spirits could walk among us, especially those who died in the past year as it was thought these spirits desired to return to the mortal realm. For this reason, they believed they had to appease the spirits to make them go into the spirit world and stay there.
The Celts did this by putting out food and treats so that, when these spirits came floating by their houses, they would pass on. They thought that, if they did not appease the spirits, they would play tricks or put curses on them. Whole villages would unite to drive away the evil spirits, ensuring that the upcoming year would be good. Others among them would hold séances or conduct other kinds of divination by incantation, potion, or trance to contact dead ancestors in hope of receiving guidance and inspiration.
An interesting aspect of this transition time—the three days of Samhain—is that it was considered to be "no time," a time unto itself. Thus, it became a tradition that the order and the rules by which people lived were held in abeyance during them.
All laws went unenforced. The social order was turned upside-down—the fool became king, and the king became the fool. Men dressed as women and vice-versa. People took on different personas, dressing in disguise and acting the part. No work was done during this period of total abandon, for it was a time for revelry, drinking, eating, making and taking dares, and breaking the law. In a word, it was chaos.
Then Roman Catholicism arrived on the scene and "converted" the pagans. It also decreed a day to honor departed saints: May 13, All Saints' Day. The priests instructed the "converted" pagans to keep All Saints' Day, but they continued to celebrate Samhain because it was so much more fun than attending church to pray for the hallowed saints of yesteryear.
To keep them in the fold, in AD 835 Pope Gregory IV officially authorized moving All Saints' Day to November 1 to coincide with Samhain. He allowed the pagan "Followers of MASHIACH" to keep their old customs as long as they put a gloss of Believers worship on them. Thus, they kept Samhain in the name of MASHIACH to honor the departed saints.
Like Samhain, All Saints' Day began the evening before, which was called All Hallows' Eve, All Saints' Eve, or Halloween. Since then, Halloween has evolved into its present form, in which nothing remotely Mashiachiym remains. It is known for all its pre-MASHIACH Celtic practices—particularly the recognition of the spirit world in the form of fairies, witches, ogres, goblins, demons, ghouls, vampires, etc.
Today, "trick-or-treating" is the most recognized of Halloween activities, and it is simply a form of extortion. Children, whether they know it or not, are acting as the spirits who will play a trick or put a curse on the one who does not pay up in food or treats. Divination and séances are also commonly held on October 31. Hooliganism—tricks resulting in vandalism—often reaches its high point on Halloween. For many years, Detroit was the scene of "hell night," in which rampaging young people trashed large areas of the city, setting fires, smashing cars and windows, looting, and generally creating havoc.
The Celtic feast of Samhain still survives in Halloween. It has simply reverted to our ancestors' Celtic practice.
Two arguments are often used to justify Christmas observance.
1) Many will reason this way: "But, even though the exact date of MASHIACHs' birth is unknown, should we not select some date to celebrate as His birthday?" The answer is positively no! Notice the statement quoted from the Catholic Encyclopedia: "Sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthdays." The celebration of birthdays is not a Follower of the way, but a pagan custom, observed by sinners!
2) But, many still reason, "Even so—even though Christmas was a pagan custom, honoring the false sun-alahiym, we don't observe it to honor the false alahiym, we observe it to honor MASHIACH."
But how does YAHUAH answer in His Word? "Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them [the pagans in their customs] . . . that thou enquire not after their alahiym, saying, How did these nations serve their alahiym? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Master thy Alahiym: for every abomination to the Eternal, which he hateth, have they done unto their alahiym" (Deuteronomy 12:30-31).
YAHUAH says plainly in His Instruction Book to us, that He will not accept that kind of worship, even though intended in His honor. To Him, He says, it is offering what is abominable to Him, and therefore it honors, not Him, but false pagan alahiym. YAHUAH says we must not worship Him according to the "dictates of our own conscience"—a term we often hear. But YAHUSHA says plainly, "YAHUAH is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). And what is truth? YAHUAH ‘s Word—the Holy Scriptures —said YAHUSHA, is truth (John 17:17); and the Scriptures says YAHUAH will not accept worship when people take a pagan custom or manner of worship and try to honor MASHIACH with it.
Again, YAHUSHA said: "In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9). Christmas observance is a tradition of men, and the commandments of YAHUAH, as quoted, forbid it. YAHUSHA said, further, "full well ye reject the commandment of YAHUAH, that ye may keep your own tradition."
That is precisely what the millions are doing today. They ignore the commandment of YAHUAH. He commands, regarding taking the customs of the pagans and using them to honor or worship YAHUAH: "Thou shalt not do so unto the Master thy Alahiym." Still, most people today take that command of YAHUAH lightly, or as having no validity whatsoever, and follow the tradition of men in observing Christmas.
Make no mistake! YAHUAH will allow you to defy and disobey Him. He will allow you to follow the crowd and the traditions of men. He will allow you to sin. But He also says there is a day of reckoning coming. As you sow, so shall you reap! YAHUSHA was the living Word of YAHUAH in Person, and the Scriptures is the written Word of YAHUAH. And we shall be judged, for eternity, by these words! They should not be taken lightly or ignored.
These are strong warnings!
Mankind has an innate desire to worship YAHUAH, but he wants to be free to do it according to the dictates of his own mind. The result is a wide variety of religions—in actuality, mass confusion as to which is the true religion—and a world in which true values are lost in an ocean of conflicting opinions about how to live. This, in turn, has helped persuade many people to reach the conclusion that all alahiym are equally good, or its counterpart, that everybody is worshipping the same alahiym.
We all know YAHUAH is not pleased with this situation, but He allows it to continue. However, even while allowing it to continue, He is calling people out of it. He has shown His called-out ones that they have been redeemed from the bondage to traditions, described in I Peter 1:18 as "vain," "aimless," or "futile," depending on the translation. However, in the vast majority of cases, someone, presumptuously taking it upon himself to inaugurate a tradition, began practicing them, sincerely thinking he was improving his life. We have all followed these traditions, but the follower of MASHIACH is responsible not to allow the world to squeeze him into its mold of conduct, character, and attitude.
Proverbs 21:16 describes the way many presumptuous sins begin: "A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the congregation of the dead." Like this man, most people do not deliberately set out to depart from YAHUAH. Nevertheless, carelessness invariably enters the picture, and a person drifts from his former sure fix on his goal. Once his focus on the goal is blurred, he is more easily deceived into foolishly assuming certain things. An especially sad part of this is that the result is the same as if he were deliberately presumptuous.
The author of Hebrews uses a metaphor in Hebrews 2:1-3, portraying a boat slipping from its moorings and drifting away. A person "neglect[s] so great salvation" by allowing himself to be caught in the current of the world's attitudes and conduct. Presumption frequently begins with careless drifting, but the drifting quickly advances from neglect to presumption unless one carefully checks whether he actually has YAHUAH ‘s permission to behave as he does.
In Proverbs 8, wisdom is personified as a woman crying out to people along the way—to YAHUAH ‘s Kingdom?—to take heed to her instruction. In verse 36, she utters a profound warning: "But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; all those who hate me love death." None of us likes to think of himself as foolishly loving death. However, the Scriptures consistently shows that those who do not consciously, purposefully, and carefully direct their lives toward obedience to YAHUAH do indeed love death rather than life! Such a person is in effect presuming that all is well with him in relation to YAHUAH. YAHUAH does not like being taken for granted—because it is bad for us!
The second curse spoken from Mount Ebal revolves around the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12). Exodus 21:17 mandates death for any person cursing either of his parents. It is noteworthy that disobedience to parents is usually not secret, but overt, often blatant. The word here, though, is not “disobey” but “dishonor.” Dishonor can be a disguised response to parents. The hypocrite can feign honor to parents, all the while secretly loathing them.
Along this line, Mark 7:1-13, where hypocrisy is a significant theme, becomes instructive. Some scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem traveled north to ask MASHIACH why His disciples do not follow the oral tradition. They are referring to the halakha, which Peter, addressing the apostles at the Jerusalem Council years later, calls “a yoke . . . that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10).
In His response to the Pharisees, YAHUSHA calls His inquisitors hypocrites, honoring YAHUAH with their lips while their hearts are far from Him. They worship YAHUAH in vain, He avers, since they have abandoned “the commandment of YAHUAH [and hold in its place] the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8). The sin of the Yahudiym leadership is hidden—not obvious to the populous, which frequently considered the Pharisees and scribes to be pious. Nevertheless, their sin remains one of grave consequence. MASHIACH concludes in verse 13: “Thus [you make] void the word of YAHUAH by your tradition that you have handed down.”
Significant here is the fact that MASHIACH cites the fifth commandment as His example in this discussion (verses 10-12), namely, the tradition that a man is released from the obligation of caring for his aged parents if he dedicates the funds to the Temple. MASHIACH says that doing so is hypocritical and tantamount to dishonoring parents and to violating YAHUAH ‘s law.
Not all presumption is careless drifting. Unfortunately, strong evidence exists to show that much of modern liberalism in religion was deliberately planned and executed. A Layman's Guide to Protestant Theology by William Hordern, p. 74, refers to this:
The method of liberalism includes the attempt to modernize the called out assembly. The world, liberals argue, has changed radically since the early creeds of Christendom were formulated; this makes the creeds sound archaic and unreal to modern man. We have to rethink the called out assembly in thought forms which the modern world can comprehend. Fosdick argued that we must express the essence of the called out assembly, its "abiding experiences," but that we must not identify these with the "changing categories" in which they have been expressed in the past. For example, says Fosdick, an abiding experience of called out assembly has been its conviction that Yahuah will triumph over evil. This has been traditionally pictured in the category of MASHIACH's second coming on the clouds to destroy evil and set up good. We can no longer retain the outworn category, but we can still believe the truth which this ancient thought form was trying to express. We can continue to work in the faith that, through His devoted followers, YAHUAH is now building His Kingdom and that there will be a renewing of life, individual and social, to bring it into conformity with the will of YAHUAH. The essence of the faith is thus retained, argues Fosdick, which the thought form in which it was once clothed has been abandoned.
A second aspect of the method of liberalism is its refusal to accept religious belief on authority alone. Instead, it insists that all beliefs must pass the bar of reason and experience. Man's mind is capable of thinking Yahuah's thoughts after Him. Man's intuitions and reason are the best clues that we have to the nature of Yahuah. The mind must be kept open to all truth regardless of from whence it comes. This means that the liberal must have an open mind; no questions are closed. New facts may change the convictions that have become hallowed by custom and time. The liberal will venture forth into the unknown, firmly believing that all truth must be Yahuah's truth. In this spirit, the liberal accepts the higher criticism of the Scriptures and the theory of evolution. He refuses to have a religion that is afraid of truth or that tries to protect itself from critical examination. (emphasis added)
Is it any wonder, when those who are supposed to be the primary protectors of religious purity think the way they do, that the laity behaves as they do? Does it really make any difference? Certainly, because the almighty YAHUAH on high definitely thinks it makes a difference!
Hardly anything more clearly illustrates the self-deceived perverseness of human nature as its presumptuous additions of the observation of Christmas and Easter to the worship of the Alahiym of the Scriptures. That YAHUSHA was born in Bethlehem of Judea is indisputable, but among other things, He was not born on December 25, nor did anybody exchange gifts on that date. Scripture nowhere says there were three wise men, and it is clear they gave gifts only to MASHIACH as King.
Regarding Easter, YAHUSHA was not resurrected on a Sunday morning, nor was He crucified on a Friday afternoon. It is impossible to squeeze three days and three nights, which YAHUSHA Himself said would be the length of time He would spend in the tomb (Matthew 12:40), between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. Even so, fantastically detailed and emotionally appealing traditions have presumptuously been built around both these events and have been taught to a deceived public as though they were true.
Beyond what has been already mentioned regarding these days, where in YAHUAH‘s Word does He command that we believe and do these commonly accepted practices? Men have presumptuously taken them upon themselves.
The addition of Christmas and Easter to Followers of MASHIACH happened so long ago that they have come to be accepted as part of the Believers religion, and most people celebrate them without thought. Nevertheless, adding to so-called Followers of MASHIACH beliefs has not ended—in fact, it is still happening.
The late Pope John Paul II was an ardent ecumenist. He circled the Earth many times in his travels and embraced in conference many non-Catholics in his effort to bring all into one fold. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, has pledged to continue that effort. Recently, their representatives achieved a decisive victory in forging a much closer alliance with the Anglican Church. However, Anglican leaders could take this step only by abandoning the firm foundation of a former doctrine and thus joining Catholics in accepting a presumptuous addition that the latter already believe.
A headline in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, May 17, 2005, reads, "Catholics, Anglicans reach accord on Mary: Statement closes big gap between churches." The article explains:
The historical separation between Roman Catholics and Anglicans has narrowed after both found common ground on the position of Mary, mother of YAHUSHA, according to a document conceived at the highest church levels. . . . Anglicans, already close to Catholics because of liturgy and traditions, have moved even closer through their understanding of Mary as outlined in the joint statement, which took five years and an international committee to complete.
Bringing back the departed brethren has been a strong focus of the Catholic Church since the Counter-Reformation that followed the Protestant Reformation, which had dealt Catholicism a powerful blow in the sixteenth century. However, it was not until the "New Age Movement" began in earnest during the mid-1970s—with its strong, insistent call for a paradigm shift toward greater tolerance and radical thinking in religious beliefs and values—that the stage was set for ecumenical efforts to succeed.
The following quotation from the same article publicly undressed, as it were, the Anglican Church:
The document seeks to transcend past controversies on Catholic dogma, including the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary. While not spelled out specifically in the Scriptures, such beliefs can be interpreted through Scripture, according to the 80-paragraph document.
The result might be an elevation, or at least a heightened acknowledgment, of the place of Mary—particularly for Anglicans, the denomination born in England during the Reformation and called the Episcopal Church in the United States.
Anglicanism is considered closest to Catholicism because it gives Mary a pre-eminent place among the saints, includes her in Communion prayers and holds six Marian feast days.
Among other matters, Catholics and Protestants disagree over the Catholic dogmas of the Immaculate Conception—the assertion that Mary lived a life free from sin from the moment she was conceived—and the Assumption, the belief that her body and soul were taken into heaven when her earthly life ended.
Those dogmas have "created problems not only for Anglicans but also for other Believers," the document said, largely because they are not explicitly supported by Scripture.
But those dogmas also "can be said to be consonant with the teaching of the Scriptures and the ancient common traditions," said the document, titled "Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ." (emphasis added)
How can either of these two doctrines be biblically derived? They cannot! The Catholic Church has long acknowledged that the role they give Mary cannot be supported by Scripture alone, so now both the Catholic and Anglican churches have admitted through the publication of this document that these teachings are based upon mere human tradition.
In the distant past, someone decided that honoring Mary in this way would be "nice," or perhaps he used the word "appropriate," because she was chosen by YAHUAH to bear His Son in her womb, and besides, she seems to be such a good woman. However, the Scriptures call for no such elevation in status, and they certainly never claim that she lived a perfect, sinless life! Now the Roman Catholic Church has gone so far as to claim she is co-savior with MASHIACH!
Such presumption seems beyond the bounds of honest, spiritual reasoning, but the Catholic Church has similarly declared Sunday to be the day of worship, replacing YAHUAH ‘s Sabbath. They have published articles openly admitting that, if one uses the Scriptures alone, then the Sabbath is the only acceptable day of worship. In those same articles, they have also been honest in stating that they have made this change from Sabbath to Sunday on their own authority. On these issues, their presumption is not hidden!
But this is arrogant and bold hubris on a massive scale, enabled only because Satan has managed to deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9). The overwhelming majority of people calling themselves Followers of MASHIACH are so unconcerned—that is, tolerant and careless—they live thinking that it does not matter to YAHUAH.
Isaiah 1:10-17 chronicles the time before Ezra and Nehemiah when Judah observed the feasts, yet in a wrong spirit and with reprehensible conduct. Isaiah preached this to the Jews about one hundred years before they went into captivity to Babylon.
This is a clear indictment of their spirit and attitude, advancing strong proof of why YAHUAH later said through Ezekiel that Yashar'al and Yahudah went into captivity because of idolatry and Sabbath-breaking (Ezekiel 20:12-21).
There is no reason to believe that, just because YAHUAH says "your" new moons and "your" feasts, they were not the ones He appointed, at least in name. He could rightly call them "your feasts" because their keeping of them was so abominable that they bore no resemblance to His intent in commanding them to be observed. They were completely discordant with His character, as the listing of their sins shows.
He calls their giving of offerings, which were part of the spiritual aspects of keeping the feasts, vain and trampling His courts. He designates their prayers as an abomination, and their keeping of the feasts wearying to Him. Clearly, He had "had it up to here" with their Sabbath and festival observances. Have we examined our conduct recently in relation to our attitudes, approaches, and expectations for the Feast?
These verses give an interesting insight into how far the Israelites may have gone in adding to YAHUAH ‘s commands about the new moons.
There is a small chance that the new moon in question is the Feast of Trumpets. But if it is not Trumpets, it sets up an interesting situation: As the Israelite's ruling class wallowed in wealth, it drifted farther and farther from a true worship of YAHUAH. In practicing some stringent traditions that YAHUAH had nowhere commanded, they had attached their own ideas to His Torah!
This strict observance did not at all impress YAHUAH favorably! Totally out of harmony with YAHUAH ‘s aim of "justice run[ning] down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream" (Amos 5:24), they missed the intent of YAHUAH ‘s Torah entirely! He desires mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 12:7).
These verses strongly imply that the Israelites did not conduct business during the new moon, but YAHUAH never commands such a restrictive practice. Clearly, the day was different from common days because of YAHUAH ‘s assignment of special offerings. But in their occasional bursts of zeal (Romans 10:1-3), the Israelites apparently believed that if the little YAHUAH required of them was good, then more would be better!
In theory it sounds good, but we are given a two fold warning in Deuteronomy 12:32 and Proverbs 30:6 that we should not add to His Word. This casts grave doubts on following the Israelitish tradition.
It is essential that we look at the Old Testament as a Believers book that was purposely written with the Believer in mind.
It is easy for us to think of the Old Testament as the book of Judaism, and that Followers of MASHIACH roots are in Judaism. In fact, this idea is readily accepted in the "Believers world," but it is not true—not true in the least, except that there are some shared beliefs. If it were true, its modern corollary would be that Followers of MASHIACH roots are also in paganism, because some of the concepts that pagans have are also shared with Believers. That, incidentally, is what one large church has claimed in its writings about the holy days—that they actually derive from paganism.
The truth is that Judaism is a corruption of the religion YAHUAH gave to Moses. It, too, was syncretic: part pagan, part truth, bound together by their own reasoning. In many places, YAHUSHA corrected and railed against the Sadducees, the scribes, and the Pharisees. He said directly that they had rejected YAHUAH‘s commandments in order to keep their own traditions. YAHUAH‘s commandments are in the Old Testament; the Jews' traditions are not, and they are what the Jews lived by. Therefore, how can we say that Judaism came out of the Old Testament? YAHUAH called the people out of Judaism to bring them under MASHIACH, just as today YAHUAH is calling people out of a syncretic Christianity in order to bring them into true, scriptural worship of MASHIACH.
If Judaism really were YAHUAH‘s religion, why did He not fix it from within? The period between the Testaments—between Malachi and Matthew—covered roughly 400 years in which a great deal took place. The record of Judaism during that time, particularly the history of the high priests, is much like that of the Papacy during the Middle Ages.
True Believer’s roots are in the truth of YAHUAH —not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New. Judaism, though, rejects the New Testament, claiming the Old Testament as their book exclusively, and that perception is very strong to all. This world's Followers of MASHIACH claims the New Testament as its exclusive domain and virtually—and practically—ignores the Old Testament.
This ties in with Galatians 1:14, where Paul writes about being "zealous for the traditions of my fathers"—his description of the national religion of Judaism. YAHUSHAs’ disciples transgressed the tradition of the elders, not the Torah of YAH. One cannot find a command concerning what they are accused of in YAHUAH’s Torah.
Notice what YAHUSHA says happened here: The Pharisees had pushed the Torah of YAHUAH aside! In the same way, the book of Galatians is not talking about the Torah of YAHUAH but about Judaism. The two are not the same thing!
The Pharisees made their first major error in this area of judgment. They had abandoned the proper yardstick for their basis of judgment. As Matthew 15:1-9 shows, they had developed their own traditions that transgressed the Torah of YAHUAH (verse 3). Their worship had become vain - worthless - as they substituted the doctrines of men for the doctrines of YAHUAH (verse 9).
The Pharisees had lost touch with YAHUAH’s instructions, His mind. They leaned on carnal reasoning, which always decided in their favor. Situation ethics ruled, rather than the precepts of YAHUAH. They became very harsh in their dealings with the "little people," taking advantage of them simply because they could (Micah 2:1-2).
"A just weight and balance are the Master’s; all the weights in the bag are His work. It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established by righteousness" (Proverbs 16:11-12). Though the Pharisee's "additions" to the Torah seemed innocent enough at their inception, over time they became increasingly partial to those who made the additions. This destroyed holy standards, and wickedness reigned. Since the leaders' righteousness had been destroyed, their leadership was void of justice. Significantly, the Scriptures's final warning is not to add to or subtract from YAHUAH’s Word (Revelation 22:18-19), for our own judgments do not have the purity and objectivity of YAHUAH’s.
This problem never seems to go away. MASHIACH excoriated the Pharisees for it. James addressed the called out assembly about it because some were showing partiality to the wealthy in the congregations (James 2:1-12). Decision-making, judging, discerning, and evaluating fruits often become subjective. We base them on how they may affect our own well-being rather than render them impartially and objectively in the light of YAHUAH’s Word purified seven times (Psalm 12:6). Is it any wonder YAHUAH gives us an average of 70 years to learn to make right judgments?
In the religious Jews of His time, YAHUSHA faced man's proclivity to add to and take from YAHUAH’s Word. The Jews added thousands of regulations in a sincere effort to make their obedience to YAHUAH as complete as they possibly could. Their traditions were different from ours, but the principle is the same. Their religious life did not depend on listening to YAHUAH but upon clever arguments and interpretations of the experts, the rabbis. They substituted human ingenuity for YAHUAH’s Torah. YAHUSHA called their ingenuity vain and hypocritical, and their additions resulted in nothing good in terms of the Kingdom of YAHUAH.
The Pharisees expended a great deal of effort in their religious endeavor to be considered pure by YAHUAH. YAHUSHA, however, castigates them because all their work and energy were being expended on useless things, things that did nothing to make them more spiritual or permit them to witness for YAHUAH in the right way. Instead, they were religiously expending their energy doing nothing more than the traditions of men and were not the kind of works that YAHUAH was looking for.
People keep the traditional holidays in YAHUAH’s name, but He is not pleased with them or in them.
The Pharisees' outward appearance of piety was a lie because it was not accompanied by total commitment to the true Alahiym's way. Their traditions distorted the Torah of YAHUAH —and thus the very image of YAHUAH because the Torah is a description of YAHUAH’s character. YAHUAH‘s true holy and righteous character is the image of Him He wants us to bear and follow. Thus, MASHIACH repudiates every addition, subtraction, and distortion men elevate to a specious "divine" authority. Their use breaks the second commandment because they are not part of the way YAHUAH instructs us to worship Him.
Many profess faith in YAHUAH but do not even know Him! Their worship is vain, not knowing whom they worship and learning the doctrines of man, not YAHUAH. A belief imparted by parents or other authority figures that YAHUAH exists is not sufficient to establish contact with Him. For example, the Pharisees, familiar with the YAHUAH of the Old Testament and believing they were in good standing with Him, received MASHIACH’s rebuke that their faith was in vain. This is true of most people today who think they "know the Master" and profess faith toward Him.
Like ancient Israel, we can easily fall back into our former ways. The Israelites rejected the Torah of YAHUAH and relied on the traditions of Gentile nations. Elijah had to take drastic measures to prevent Baal worship from completely eradicating the worship of the true Alahiym (I Kings 18:20-40). Some of Judah's kings spent years tearing down shrines and high places to foreign alahiym (II Chronicles 34:1-7).
MASHIACH warned the Pharisees: "For laying aside the commandments of YAHUAH, you hold the traditions of men." For example, Christmas and Easter are traditions of men, but they are lies. What happens if a person, trying to establish a religion, mixes falsehood with the truth of YAHUAH? Recall YAHUAH’s wrath when Aaron made a golden calf at the urging of the Israelites in the wilderness and proclaimed a feast to the Master (Exodus 32:1-5). Observing Christmas and Easter in the name of MASHIACH is no different.
Blending the lies of this world with the truth of YAHUAH produces a foul mixture called syncretism (James 3:10-13). "Claimed Believers " religions of this world have mixed the traditions of paganism with some of the truth of YAHUAH’s Word. This is no different from what Israel was doing when Amos wrote back in 760 BC. Since their rejection of the house of David under Jeroboam, the Israelites had practiced a syncretistic religion (Amos 5:21-26; 8:14; I Kings 12:25-33).
Notice the contrast. All the energy they were expending was being done on traditions of men. YAHUSHA implies, "Why don't you expend your energy, time, and effort keeping the commands of YAHUAH? Then you'll be doing something to do with YAHUAH and pleasing Him."
My library contains a book titled The Code of Jewish Law. This six-hundred-page book, printed in fine type, is a compilation of laws that the Jews in the first, second, and third centuries AD—the time of MASHIACH and the next two hundred years—were required to do as a part of Judaism.
They did not perform them because they wanted to make fun of YAHUAH ; they did it in all seriousness. However, their zeal was misguided. Their zeal, Paul says in Romans 10:2, was not according to knowledge. They were expending their efforts sincerely, working hard, but on all the wrong things. The Jews who were faithful to their religion worked extremely hard. They would put us to shame in terms of religious zeal. Yet, being misguided and misdirected, it was all for nothing.
Works are a part of Believers, but what kind of works does MASHIACH want? YAHUSHA hints that it has something to do with the commandments or word of YAHUAH in contradistinction to the traditions of men.
Mark 7:14-23 (and its parallel account in Matthew 15:1-20) is another set of scriptures that some believe state that nothing entering into a man can defile him, therefore eating whatever one wishes is perfectly all right. Can this be correct?
Those who believe this fail to understand the subject of the chapter, which is YAHUSHAs’ denunciation of the Pharisees for their rejection of YAHUAH’s commandments in favor of their own traditions (verse 8). Verse 2 introduces the context: "Now when [the Pharisees] saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault." The dispute was over ceremonial cleanliness - eating without first washing one's hands - which is not even an Old Testament law but a "tradition of the elders" (verse 5), which the Pharisees had themselves proclaimed authoritative.
In addition, beyond this fact, note that the kind of food the apostles were eating is "bread," not meat. MASHIACHs’ later comments speak generally of "foods" and "whatever enters the mouth," not specifically meat. Mark 7 is not about clean and unclean meats at all!
Verse 19 contains the phrase "thus purifying all foods," and many have jumped to the conclusion that YAHUSHA declared all foods clean (as many marginal references state). The context, again - the very sentence in which it appears - proves this false: "Do you [disciples] not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, thus purifying all foods?"
First, "thus" is not in the Greek text but has been supplied by the translators. Without it, the sentence plainly states that the stomach "purifies" any kind of food put in it, not that YAHUSHA had somehow declared all foods to be purified. Second, purified is the Greek word katharízoon, which means "to cleanse," "to purify," "to free from filth." In relation to the stomach's or the digestive tract's ability to "purify" food, the sense of katharízoon in this verse is "to purge of waste." This is brought out clearly in the parallel statement in Matthew 15:17:"Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated?"
Do these scriptures do away with the law concerning clean and unclean meats? Not at all!
The parable is a series of contrasts between new and old. It contains new and old clothing, new and old wineskins, and new and old wine. MASHIACH’s being taken away makes the “newness” possible, and once that “newness” is available, it is wholly incompatible with the old.
YAHUSHA begins with an example of old and new garments: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.” In Scripture, going all the way back to the Garden of Eden, garments or clothing are common symbols of righteousness. After Adam and Eve sinned, they tried to cover themselves with something they made with their own hands (Genesis 3:7). Instead, YAHUAH gave them tunics made of skin (verse 21), requiring the life of an animal, representing the Lamb of YAHUAH giving His life to cover sin.
Matthew 22:1-13 contains the Parable of the Wedding Garment, whose lesson is that inappropriate clothing will keep a person out of a wedding feast. Isaiah 64:6 says that “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” The Pharisees had a righteousness, but YAHUSHA asserts that our righteousness must exceed theirs (Matthew 5:20), meaning that we need to have His righteousness imputed to us, which becomes our new covering, our new garment. As we become one with Him and submit to taking on His image, we have a righteousness that does not come from our works but from YAHUAH’s work in us.
Thus, we have a contrast between man's righteousness and the righteousness of MASHIACH. But, just as it makes no sense to tear off a piece from a new garment to patch an old one, so is it also a futile exercise to try to keep our own righteousness intact and use a little bit of MASHIACH’s righteousness to cover a flaw here and there. The two coverings are incompatible—we have to choose one or the other.
The conclusion is that, if a new garment is available, we would be foolish to use it to mend an old, defective one. Because YAHUSHA was taken away, His righteousness is available to us, so we need to discard any thought that our own is suitable. Instead, we must put on His righteousness and be conformed to it so that it fits and covers us appropriately. Clearly, works are involved and required on our part, but without the covering and involvement of MASHIACH, those works would continue to be as filthy rags.
To understand the new and the old, it is important to realize that the “old” could have many applications. It is not just the Old Covenant. In fact, the Pharisees in YAHUSHAs' audience did not actually represent the Old Covenant. The system of beliefs and practices that developed into Judaism is not the same thing as the Old Covenant. Certainly, Judaism makes use of the writings of Moses and the prophets, but it also leans heavily on the traditions of Jewish scholars and is infused with Greek philosophy.
The Pharisees, then, were not actually living by the Old Covenant! YAHUAH intended that covenant to prepare His people for the coming of the MASHIACH. Everything in the holiness code, the sacrifices, and so forth was intended to point to MASHIACH. Since the Pharisees could not recognize the Object of the Covenant, what they were practicing was not what the pre-incarnate MASHIACH delivered to Moses. They had gotten far off course.
Therefore, the “old” elements in this parable could be any system of belief aside from what became available through MASHIACH.
In Luke 13:10-17, MASHIACH heals another chronically ill person on the Sabbath. This time, though, He did not wait for anyone to ask Him questions. The episode plainly discloses the redeeming and liberating intention of YAHUAH’s Sabbath. When YAHUSHA says, "You are loosed," the ruler of the synagogue reacts immediately because to him the Sabbath meant rules to obey rather than people to love.
YAHUSHA replies in verses 15-16 by emphasizing the Sabbath principle:
The Master then answered him and said, "Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?"
MASHIACH makes a play on words here. He uses the same verb, "loose," to describe the ox and donkey as He does the woman being "loosed" from Satan through healing.
YAHUSHA acts against the tradition of the Pharisees, but no where challenges the binding obligation of keeping the Sabbath. Rather, His example shows that we should make merciful evaluations to help others cast off their heavy burdens. He argues for living the true values.
This is a clear example of a "private interpretation" (II Peter 1:19-21). Nowhere in the Old Testament does it say that no one would know where the MASHIACH was from. In fact, it says just the opposite! Matthew shows that Micah 5:2 names Bethlehem in Judah as the town in which He would be born, and that Isaiah 9:1-2 identifies Galilee as where He would launch His ministry.
Where did the Jews get such an outrageous, unbiblical idea? It was someone's private opinion that over time had become tradition, an accepted "fact." It became a proverb that is just as true as, "If you touch a toad, you'll get warts."
Is it any wonder that the people argued about Him so much? Earlier in John 7, we see some of this:
And there was much murmuring among the people concerning Him. Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people." (verse 12)
They had no idea what to expect because they were burdened by their traditional yet wrong understanding about the MASHIACH.
The issue in this conference was whether Believers needed to keep the ceremonial aspects of the Torah of YAHUAH to have salvation. At no time was the question of keeping the Ten Commandment ever even raised. Because of this, it should be clear that the Sabbath is not a ceremony.
Since believing Pharisees are directly noted in verse 5, the term "circumcision" may very well include the unwritten "Oral Law" that was a part of Pharisaic tradition and not part of the Word of YAHUAH. In other words, the Pharisees wanted the Gentiles to obey the oral traditions. This is why Peter uses the terms "tempt YAHUAH" and "yoke of bondage" in verse 10.
The speaker is James, our Savior's brother. "They" is the Jews, and "you" is the apostle Paul.
Verse 25 is a quotation taken from the conference in Acts 15, and the subject, according to verse 21, is the customs. The controversy did not involve the civil laws or the Ten Commandments. Instead, it involved the ceremonial additions, as is clearly shown in context by what Paul did.
The context shows what these customs were. Paul made the offerings required at the conclusion of a vow. It is clear that the passage is speaking about the ceremonies. It is also entirely possible that the controversy over these customs also involved the oral traditions of the Pharisees, which they were so devoted to.
There is no evidence that Paul ever taught any Jew to forsake Moses. To do so, he would have to preach against YAHUAH. There is no evidence that Paul ever told them, "Do not circumcise your children." He certainly preached that keeping the law could not justify a person before YAHUAH. His writings clearly state that we are justified by grace through faith in the sacrifice of YAHUSHA HA’MASHIACH (Ephesians 2:8).
Plainly, Paul's own actions in Acts 21 testify that, though salvation or justification could not be won through keeping these things, keeping them was not destructive unless one depended upon them for justification or salvation. In addition, there was no hesitation on Paul's part to do them. Scripture gives no indication that he argued with James; in fact, we see a unity of mind between them. There is no indication of reluctance either, that somehow it would destroy Paul's faith in YAHUSHA HA’MASHIACH, or that it would compromise him in the eyes of any Believer, Jew or Gentile, who might witness it.
This teaches that first-century Followers of MASHIACH understood this issue. They clearly understood what we seem to have such a difficult time understanding nineteen centuries later. Nothing this YAHUAH of love that we worship requires of us is bad for us. Sometimes what He requires may be difficult to bear, but it is not destructive to His purpose or thoughtless in any way. It is always intended to strengthen us.
The Pharisees were strict, but wrong in their interpretation of the Scriptures. They were wrong primarily because their strictness was in the area of ritual purity and morality than true spirituality and ethics. Both by YAHUSHAs' and Paul's testimony, they were not living according to YAHUAH's commandments as a way of life. Paul states clearly: "For not even those who are circumcised keep the Torah, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh" (Galatians 6:13).
A number of years earlier, YAHUSHA said virtually the same thing, recorded in a couple of places:
"And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." For laying aside the commandment of YAHUAH, you hold the tradition of men - the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do. (Mark 7:7-8)
Mark 7:1 verifies that He was speaking to the Pharisees. They were zealously and religiously adhering to Halakah, which was an interpretation of both the written law, given at Mt. Sinai, and a collection of verbal or oral laws that had been passed from one generation to the next for centuries. This law they elevated to divine status. In so doing, they rejected the commandments of YAHUAH.
When some in the Jewish faith merged their zealous practice of Halakah with Gnostic concepts, they became a persuasive and persistent enemy of the called out assembly. Gnosticism played a significant, background role in what Paul wrote in the book of Galatians.
In Romans 1:18-20, Paul asserts that things involving YAHUAH's existence, power, and nature are clearly seen, but mankind suppresses the truth. What YAHUAH wants man to know, man willingly ignores and suppresses through the addition of beliefs, customs, and traditions that cloak the truth. The truth is still there, hidden behind a screen of falsehoods that most never attempt to remove.
Theologians call this process syncretism. According to Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, it is "the combination of different forms of belief or practice." Syncretism could possibly describe other fields, like philosophy, but scholars use it almost exclusively in religious contexts. Syncretize, the verb form of the word, is very revealing. It means "to attempt to unite and harmonize especially without critical examination or logical unity." In other words, those who syncretize will frequently attach one belief or practice to their religion without trying to ascertain whether it is proper to do so.
Interestingly, a commentator writes that "they being ignorant of" (verse 3) could be translated into "for they ignoring," which puts a different sense on Paul's thought. When one is ignorant, he just does not know. Perhaps knowledge was withheld from him. On the other hand, when one ignores knowledge, it is readily available, but he turns his back on it.
Are modern Israelites who celebrate Christmas really deceived? Is the deception so strong that they cannot see it? A self-deceived person is ignoring truth rather than ignorant of it, and if that indeed is Paul's emphasis, it makes this Christmas question much more serious. It means that people are accountable for what they are doing, and therefore, they will pay more for it than if they acted in ignorance.
Most Americans are aware that many of the Christmas traditions have no connection with Followers of MASHIACH. Almost every year, articles on the origins of various Christmas customs appear in the newspapers, especially in the larger cities. The authors of these articles cannot trace any of the "modern" traditions back to the scriptures because most of the customs came from pre-Believers traditions in Germany, Norway, Russia, Holland, and other nations. Thus, people cannot claim that such knowledge was withheld from them.
Recall what YAHUSHA says about the Jews/Pharisees: "All too well you reject the commandments of YAHUAH, that you might keep your tradition" (Mark 7:9). Paul is saying the same thing, only in more detail and later in time. However, he adds something to it: ". . . they have a zeal for YAHUAH, but not according to knowledge." This summarizes their zealous attitude and its result. Despite their learning, they were ignorant and established their own righteousness.
With a great deal of zeal, they went about thinking and saying they were serving YAHUAH, but all they did was produce their own set of standards. Their zeal was probably their greatest barrier to the truth. The apostle Paul is a prime example. Before conversion, he was a zealous Pharisee! He was so zealous that it was notorious to the first-century church; it was afraid of him!
If he is an example of Pharisaism, then we see that his zeal for Judaism drove him to consider YAHUSHA and the church as traitors to his way of life. Simultaneously, it prevented him from objectively examining what was being taught. His mind was blinded by his zeal. It took him getting knocked down on the Damascus Road to convince him otherwise. It is a good example of the miracle that takes place in our minds, though ours is not as dramatic as his. Once converted, Paul could effectively examine the Jews' problem.
The Pharisees are a prime example of Israelites "seeking to establish their own righteousness." In the same way the Pharisees approached YAHUAH’s law, first-century Jews dealt with prophecy. We can see this in their reactions to the MASHIACH, YAHUSHA HA’MASHIACH.
A major theme of the Old Testament is the coming of the MASHIACH. From Genesis 3:15 through Malachi 4:2, prophecies of the coming of the Savior fill YAHUAH's Word. The Besorah writers show time and again how YAHUSHA fulfilled the prophets' predictions in His actions or in the actions of those around Him. Matthew, especially, makes a conscious point to highlight many Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in YAHUSHAs' life.
Thus, the Jews had the prophecies of YAHUAH's Word, as well as the life and words of YAHUSHA —their Alahiym, YAHUAH —to give unassailable proof that prophetic events were happening before their eyes. What more did they need? Did they even use the knowledge available to them? No! Paul says they avoid submitting to YAHUAH's knowledge, and instead, they establish their own! Galatians 1:4
Much of the controversy involved in this letter has to do with Gnostic Judaism, which was not the system that YAHUAH gave to Moses. Judaism was the national religion of the Jews during MASHIACH’s and Paul's time, but it had only a very loose basis on the law of the Old Covenant.
Paul refers to the sacrifice of MASHIACH here as a reminder that He fulfilled the sacrificial law—in living a sinless life and then willingly laying it down, He fulfilled the requirements of every sacrificial ordinance, such that the "blood of bulls and goats" was no longer required in a physical sense. Fulfillment does not equal absolution, however; James 2:8 shows that when we "fulfill" the royal law according to Scripture, we are doing what is right, and there is no way to stretch this into saying that we each individually do away with the law. In Matthew 5:17, MASHIACH shows that fulfilling is the opposite of destroying. MASHIACH’s fulfilling of the Law and the Prophets is to be an example for us to follow (Galatians 6:2; Colossians 1:25; II Thessalonians 1:11; James 2:8).
The "world" being referred to here is the Greek aion and means "age"—a time period. The "present evil world" or "present evil age" which we need to be delivered from by YAHUAH could be a reference to the strong influence the Jews had on the Galatians, as well as the Jews' wish to bind them (the Galatians) to the traditions and ordinances they had added to YAHUAH’s instruction, which He calls "burdens" elsewhere (Matthew 23:4; Acts 15:10).
Colossians 2:8-10 gives another general definition of Gnosticism, as well as how to combat it. Paul is writing about a philosophy like Stoicism, not a specific religion, such as Judaism. This is important to recognize, since in verse 16, Paul mentions the Sabbath and holy days, and it is commonly assumed that Paul condemns their observance. Yet, he does not - he warns against a philosophy that disparaged the feasting and joyous observance of the Sabbath and holy days. This is why Paul tells the Colossians to "let no one judge you" with regard to eating, drinking, or observing the weekly and annual Sabbaths - rather than what is commonly read into Colossians 2:16: "There is no reason to keep the Sabbath or holy days." Believers in Colossae were being pressured by the ascetic society around them, which would have looked down on their feasting.
This is confirmed in the rest of Colossians 2, which deals primarily with asceticism (see especially Colossians 2:21-23). Some branches of Gnosticism adhered to asceticism as a way to free the eternal spirit by living regimented, plain, and insular lives. (Conversely, some Gnostics went to the other extreme - practicing hedonism - believing that what they did with their bodies did not make any difference since only spirit mattered.)
Paul says that this philosophy and its associated doctrines were plausible, but they were not based on solid arguments. He calls them "vain deceit" (KJV) or "empty deceit" (NKJV). They may sound good, depending upon one's inclination, but they endanger the Called out assembly. The apostle writes that they would be "spoiled" (KJV), which does not necessarily mean being "corrupted," but rather of being "plundered," hence the NKJV's use of "cheated." This empty philosophy would rob or cheat them of their faith, their hope, their understanding of YAHUAH, their relationship with YAHUAH, their vision, and the purpose that YAHUAH is working out. Once introduced, it would begin to steal away all of their true, spiritual riches.
Paul also provides two possible sources of this unsteady philosophy: "the traditions of men" and the "rudiments of the world." Examining the "rudiments of the world" first will help to explain the traditions of men. Other translations call them the "elements of the world," the "basic principles of the world," or "the powers of the world." In using this term, Paul is referring to the demonic powers that make this world, this cosmos, what it is. The source of this philosophy of salvation through special knowledge is Satan and the demons.
This explains why, when we read the histories of various religions and their branches, the same patterns arise time and again. Man does not have it within himself to pass along accurately and dependably ideas that go back to the very beginning. With an incessant drumming, the powers of the world keep prompting men and women in the same vain deceits that directly contradict the truth about YAHUAH and His purpose for mankind.
Humans certainly play a role in handing down these traditions. Sunday school teachers and theologians perpetuate the Gnostic myths of the immortality of the soul, of eternal consciousness, of progressive revelation, of each person having a spark of goodness within that just needs to be fanned into a flame, and of each soul or spirit existing before in heaven and returning there upon death. Men pass these traditions on to other men, but the powers of the spirit world keep these messengers on their track and blinded to the truth.
The last phrase in Colossians 2:8 - "not according to MASHIACH" - is a simple one, but it encapsulates what this is all about. Not a single branch of Gnosticism had the truth about YAHUSHA HA’MASHIACH. That knowledge can be found only in YAHUAH’s Word.
Many of the people who had come into the Colossian church had brought their pagan philosophies with them, and they soon began to have an adverse influence on the entire congregation at Colossae. Paul corrects the people in the church who were doing this in Colossians 2:20-23.
Apparently, some of the people had begun thinking that self-imposed asceticism could somehow contribute to their salvation, and had begun turning away from trusting in MASHIACH. They had more faith in their unbelieving works. Paul warned them about this in Colossians 2:8: "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to MASHIACH."
How frequently the servants of YAHUAH have had to say this! John uses almost the same words at the beginning of I John 1: "Look, our hands have handled Him. We have looked at Him with our eyes and heard Him with our ears." Who is the we? He speaks of the apostles, intimating, "Get back to what we taught you." Jude and Peter say the same thing.
These men were not confronting the same people, but they probably were confronting elements of the same philosophical system that affected the church so strongly even as early as the AD 50s and 60s. Human nature always has a strong drive to make the way of YAHUAH more attractive to the senses by blending it with traditions that are not part of YAHUAH’s Word.
This is what is found in Exodus 32, which YAHUAH included in His Word so that we would see it etched vividly. The Israelites tried to introduce the Egyptian religion they had just left into the way of YAHUAH. They used the bull to represent the nature of YAHUAH. No wonder YAHUAH was so upset! They were trying to syncretize paganism with the truth of YAHUAH, just a few chapters after He gave them the terms of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was signed, sealed, and delivered in Exodus 24, which was a very short time chronologically - and they were already trying to twist the nature of YAHUAH into something radically different.
We see elements of this in the book of Colossians. The theological term for this is, as has been already mentioned, syncretism. It means "a joining, a meshing, or a blending together," "an alloying." Is anything purer than the Word of YAHUAH? How could a person think to improve it by adding something foreign?
The outstanding historical example of syncretism (at least in terms of what we call "the Christian religion") is Catholicism. It is a universal religion precisely because it has absorbed traditions of worship from cultures all over the world. Its Protestant daughters, having come from the same system, have not rid themselves of most of the sycretic beliefs, having thrown off only the governance of the Pope and several of the more blatant pagan practices.
YAHUAH has His traditions. On the one hand, YAHUAH is teaching us traditions through His Word and the ministry, traditions to which He wants His Family to conform. However, we have brought traditions with us from the world: Southern traditions, Northern traditions, Western traditions, Eastern traditions, Texas traditions, European traditions, Asian traditions, and so forth. These conflicting traditions set the stage for conflict. The traditions of YAHUAH and the traditions of the world we brought with us cannot in many cases co-exist! When we add to this our desire to be free, it makes for a most interesting mess!
YAHUAH has His traditions, and the major difference between divine and human traditions is that His are right and true—and they work! However, because conversion is a process, and we do not instantly and magically know all of YAHUAH's traditions, we bring our former traditions into the church with us. Thus, the church is set up for conflict. This is a major reason for the writing of the book of Ephesians. It shows that, for there to be unity, both Israelite and Gentile have to submit to MASHIACH because both of their cultures and traditions are wrong!
Before repentance, our "love" for YAHUAH was like what the uncalled in the world have for Him to this day. We loved a concept of YAHUAH given us by tradition. We even had some part in devising it because we really did not know Him. If we acknowledge this reality, we will discover it was an idol! In principle, it was tantamount to bowing before a statue as the ancient pagans did. Those in the world cannot enter His Kingdom until they worship the true Alahiym, which is why the second resurrection is necessary. It is also why YAHUAH says in such verses as Ezekiel 37:6, "I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Master."
The Alahiym of the Scriptures says in His Word that not a single person has ever known Him until He chose to reveal himself because before this happens no one knows what to look for in YAHUAH. Both testaments say, "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after YAH" (Romans 3:10-11; Psalm 14:1-3).
Human nature likes to think of itself as possessing certain virtues—that we were generous, kind, good-tempered, sincere, etc.—and that YAHUAH saw these in us and chose us for His side. How can this be in light of these scriptures? Who is telling the truth? Though some do have virtuous qualities, YAHUAH does not call such people because of them. Besides, these qualities fall far short of the image into which YAHUAH is shaping us.
Some people like to say they have always believed YAHUAH, yet what they believed was an idol, a syncretistic alahiym devised by combining scriptural truth and paganism. If what they say were true, Acts 18:27 could not also be true. We believe because faith is YAHUAH's gift. We have what we have only because we are the objects of His choice. He chose the ones He did simply because He chose them. We can go no further. We have no claim to any praise in this regard. Instead, it should humble us, stun us, into overflowing praise, gratitude, obedience, and zeal that He has given so much to those so undeserving to receive it.
Humility begins when we properly recognize who and what we are in relation to the sovereign Creator and to fellow man, called and uncalled alike. We show humility by the choices we make, and these will largely be determined by our willing recognition of the immense value of YAHUAH's loving revelation of Himself to us.
I John 2:15-17 warns us that there is a profound gulf between the Father and the world, and that a Believer is faced with making a choice between them. Spiritually, morally, and ethically, Following MASHIACH does not allow for neutrality. YAHUAH is bringing us into a position where we recognize truth, admit it is true, and make it a part of our lives.
We are learning a new way of life, so He does not want us to be ensnared by the attractiveness of many things that are in the world. We cannot presume that because something appears to be harmless, it would be fine to do "just this one time." Therefore, we have to learn to resist the urge to think and conduct our lives as the world does.
"World" in I John 2 is the Greek cosmos, and its basic meaning is "an ordered system." Because of the disparity between YAHUAH and this world, it cannot possibly be the world for which YAHUAH gave His only begotten Son. The world He created He called "very good." Nor is He referring to mankind, also part of His creation. He loves people and desires to save them.
Nevertheless, He does not like man's way of life. This ordered, human-centered system is anti-YAHUAH and anti-MASHIACH, and Satan sits at its head. This system occupies His creation and consists of people that YAHUAH loves so much that He sent His Son to die for them, but He does not love the system! It produces people that need to be rescued, and it tends to make them worse and worse.
When YAHUAH speaks of "the world," He is identifying all of man's purposes, pursuits, pleasures, practices, and places where YAHUAH is not wanted. Much of this world is religious, cultured, refined, and intellectual, but it is still anti-YAHUAH and anti-MASHIACH.
Through His calling, YAHUAH puts us into a position where He forces us to choose between disparate ways of life, and both of them are realities. We must choose either the eternal and worthwhile or the temporal and vain. YAHUAH is not saying that this world is unpleasant, unattractive, or unappealing, but we have to choose between that reality and His. The sum of this passage is that this ordered system—anti-YAHUAH yet appealing and attractive—has the power to seduce the believer, to ensnare him and turn him from YAHUAH. We have to be vigilantly on guard against it.