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Soli Deo Gloria is the writing and teaching ministry of Baruch Maoz in Israel. Baruch is engaged in writing original commentaries on the Bible, and theological and practical works in Hebrew. Some of his books are available in English. His Critique of the Messianic Movement, Come Let Us Reason Together: The Unity of Jews and Gentiles in the Church, has been published by P&R, and his Devotional Commentary, Malachi: A Prophet in Times of Distress by Crossbooks. Both are available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon while Shepherd Press produced his Devotional Commentary Jonah: A Prophet on the Run.

Baruch has written  a series of commentaries in Hebrew on Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah, Jonah, Nahum and Malachi,Romans and Colossians. He has written an Introdution to the Life and Epistles of Paul, an Introduction to Systematic Theology, an Introduction to Systematic Theology, and edited a modern translation of the Bible into Hebrew. He is also translating the New Testament into Modern Hebrew and engaged in other writing projects. In the pipeline are books on church life and structure, How to Preach and Listen to Sermons, and daily Christian disciplines. To date, Baruch is the only author writing Christian literature n Hebrew.

Baruch and Bracha are Israeli Jewish Christians who have served in Israel for 5 decades now. Between April 1974 and December 2006 Baruch served with Christian Witness to Israel, most of that time as Israel Field Leader. Betwen May 1975 and December 2008 he served as Pastor of Grace and Truth Christian Congregation in Rishon LeTsion, Israel. Our website reflects the experiences gained in the course of that time.

Our monthly newsletter, MaozNews, is available for the asking, with back-issues to be found on this website (Baruch's Writings/News From Israel). To subscribe, click address at bottom of this page. His faceBook and Linkedin pages serve as blogs and provide almost daily information on the scene in Israel. His postings are also avaialble via Twitter @BaruchMaoz

Baruch's Musings

 

May 24, 2016

On Grace and Government in the Present Conflict with Terror

I am pleased to announce the completion of a new article which can be purchased on my website here. This article deals with grace and government in the present conflict with terror. The word "grace" in our title stands for the Gospel, and therefore for the church. Hence our discussion will focus on the respective roles of the church and of government in the present world conflict, and of the relation between these two bodies. Our topic will be divided into three headings: The Role of Government in the Conflict with Terror; The Role of the Church in the Conflict with Terror; and A Brief Review of Present Realities and the Possibilities They Present. 

 

May 16, 2016

From my commentary on Colossians, Col. 2:18-19 (To be published 2017 by Founders Press)

Living under the domain of the Law meant that the Colossians were to be under the domain of the rulers and the authorities, emanations that purportedly made up the Divine Fullness and called for an adherence to some or all of Jewish custom. But such a submission brought death, not life.

Paul described these powers in terms that seem to be taken from the heretical terminology being taught in Colossae. The emanations were believed to control various levels of spiritual life and achievement. But they were all dealt with by Messiah in his death and resurrection. Paul said that Jesus, “taking off” the rulers and the authorities, “exposed them openly, triumphing over them” in so doing. Jesus is Lord of all, above all, conqueror of all. What point is there, then, in turning from him to serve lesser beings?

In an admittedly difficult passage Paul described the emanations as if they clung to Christ, somehow trying to keep him from the fullness of his accomplishments in the vain hope that, if they managed to hold on, a vestige of their powers would be preserved. But he “took them off.” He “exposed them openly,” much as Roman victors did when they returned from war and paraded their vanquished foes to the jeering, mocking, celebrating Roman crowd. The Roman Senate granted such a parade to the few whose victories were especially significant. They were called “triumphs.” The general would ride into Rome with his booty and captives, “triumphing over them” to the jubilation of the crowd. Paul borrowed this lively picture of victory to indicate the completeness of Christ’s accomplishments. What room is left for rituals, ceremonies, or other human accretions? Jesus did it all. All to him we give.

Such exactly was Paul’s conclusion: because of that, “allow no one to judge you about eating and drinking, or with regard to a feast or a new moon or of Sabbaths.” Food is a major issue in Scripture, greatly accentuated in Jewish tradition. But there is nothing in Scripture with regard to forbidden beverages. The rabbis enlarged on biblical injunctions and forbade a host of foods and food combinations. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk” (Ex. 23:19; 34:26; Deut. 14:21) had become a prohibition that disallowed all forms of cooking or consumption of milk and meat at the same time (as if there were any danger of eating a chicken with its mother’s milk), or even on the same plate.

The celebration of the New Moon is mentioned in the Law (Num. 29:6), but had become an important feature of Second Temple Judaism, as was—and is—the careful observance of the calendric year. “Sabbaths” is in the plural because Paul did not seem to be referring to the weekly Sabbath but to the various Sabbaths that were commanded in the Mosaic Law in relation to the feasts (Ex. 16:25; Lev. 16:31; 23:32; 25:2). Please note that Paul’s reference here is not to rabbinic custom but to the statutes of the Law as interpreted by the rabbis. No man was to hold the Colossians to account with regard to these statutes. No man has the right to oblige Christians by them. To the extent they were ever binding, they have found fulfillment in Christ. To the extent that the interpretations were wrong, they never had valid binding force.

Speaking of the Law, Paul went on to describe the statutes of the Mosaic Law as “a shadow of things coming, but the body is of the Christ.” Shadows are flat, dark contours of reality, void of detail, created by an object obstructing light. They are often distorted, depending on the angle of the light obstructed. The external, ceremonial aspects of the Law are to the Messiah what a shadow is to an object: flat, no more than the dark contours of a wonderful reality, void of important detail.

Of course, there is in the Law real indication of the general contours of Christ, his work, and his message. “But the body is of the Christ.” What are we to prefer, the shadow or the body? The Law or the Messiah? Why, Paul was intimating, should one prefer the shadow to the reality when the shadow is but a partial representation of who Messiah is, what he has done, how it affects us, and what he has taught? The shadow fades into insignificance in comparison with the reality. Jesus is a glorious savior!

If such is true of the Law, given by God at Sinai, what ought to be said of rabbinic tradition? It is, of necessity, far less than the Law, less than a shadow of reality. It can offer less. Why, then, should we be taken up with such a tradition when the glorious reality of the Son of God is with us?

Paul therefore insisted, “Allow no one to deliver judgment against you in self-assumed humility and worship of the angels.” The Colossians were to resist every effort to bring them under the yoke of mystical experiences and Jewish ritual. They should not buy into the teaching that offers them a means to communicate with angels or succumb to what Paul described as “self-assumed humility,” which is nothing less than a show, one could almost say a parade (the contrast is striking: How does one parade humility?) by submission to the rites and teachings of the heretics. These are things he (the purported teacher) had seen in a trance, but it served no real purpose.

Paul did not argue whether what the heretical teachers claimed to have seen was real or not. He will assume for the sake of the argument that it was. What good could such visions be? Can they contribute to a stable, mature kind of holiness, or do they create a sense of smug super spirituality? Do they encourage moral purity or pride? Do they truly bring one into God’s presence or simply provide an emotional rush?

Paul answered: by “intruding into [them],” that is, into such trance-induced visions, one’s pride is being encouraged by fleshly thinking. Rather than humility, pride is cultivated. Rather than spirituality, fleshly thinking becomes the order of the day because those undergoing such experiences cannot distinguish between the Spirit of God and their own spirits, between the presence of God and a sense of well-being.

What is more, those who hold to such views are “not holding on to the head” who is Christ, the source of life, direction, and purpose for the body, “from whom all the body, by way of the joints and ligaments provided, and being connected, will grow together by God’s doing.” 
Do you want to grow in Christ? Hold on to the head rather than to every new-fangled idea that raises its head. Do you want to be more spiritual? Make sure you are connected to the body so that you benefit “by way of the joints and ligaments provided.” Don’t separate. Don’t seek the company of the initiates, of those who follow your patterns and embrace your pet doctrines and practices. It is by way of the joints and ligaments provided by God in Christ that the body will grow together, and “together” is the only way it will grow in a Christian way. It is the only way it will grow “by God’s doing” rather than through human effort.

That’s the key. Spiritual growth is God’s doing, not ours. It is a gift, not a reward. It is a fruit of divine blessing, not a product of human prowess. Fruit is cultivated, but all the cultivation in the world will not create a single fruit apart from the blessing of God.

 

May 10, 2016

From my commentary on Colossians, Col. 3:13-19 (To be published 2017 by Founders Press)

Living under the domain of the Law meant that the Colossians were to be under the domain of the rulers and the authorities, emanations that purportedly made up the Divine Fullness and called for an adherence to some or all of Jewish custom. But such a submission brought death, not life.

Paul described these powers in terms that seem to be taken from the heretical terminology being taught in Colossae. The emanations were believed to control various levels of spiritual life and achievement. But they were all dealt with by Messiah in his death and resurrection. Paul said that Jesus, “taking off” the rulers and the authorities, “exposed them openly, triumphing over them” in so doing. Jesus is Lord of all, above all, conqueror of all. What point is there, then, in turning from him to serve lesser beings?

In an admittedly difficult passage Paul described the emanations as if they clung to Christ, somehow trying to keep him from the fullness of his accomplishments in the vain hope that, if they managed to hold on, a vestige of their powers would be preserved. But he “took them off.” He “exposed them openly,” much as Roman victors did when they returned from war and paraded their vanquished foes to the jeering, mocking, celebrating Roman crowd. The Roman Senate granted such a parade to the few whose victories were especially significant. They were called “triumphs.” The general would ride into Rome with his booty and captives, “triumphing over them” to the jubilation of the crowd. Paul borrowed this lively picture of victory to indicate the completeness of Christ’s accomplishments. What room is left for rituals, ceremonies, or other human accretions? Jesus did it all. All to him we give.

Such exactly was Paul’s conclusion: because of that, “allow no one to judge you about eating and drinking, or with regard to a feast or a new moon or of Sabbaths.” Food is a major issue in Scripture, greatly accentuated in Jewish tradition. But there is nothing in Scripture with regard to forbidden beverages. The rabbis enlarged on biblical injunctions and forbade a host of foods and food combinations. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk” (Ex. 23:19; 34:26; Deut. 14:21) had become a prohibition that disallowed all forms of cooking or consumption of milk and meat at the same time (as if there were any danger of eating a chicken with its mother’s milk), or even on the same plate.

The celebration of the New Moon is mentioned in the Law (Num. 29:6), but had become an important feature of Second Temple Judaism, as was—and is—the careful observance of the calendric year. “Sabbaths” is in the plural because Paul did not seem to be referring to the weekly Sabbath but to the various Sabbaths that were commanded in the Mosaic Law in relation to the feasts (Ex. 16:25; Lev. 16:31; 23:32; 25:2). Please note that Paul’s reference here is not to rabbinic custom but to the statutes of the Law as interpreted by the rabbis. No man was to hold the Colossians to account with regard to these statutes. No man has the right to oblige Christians by them. To the extent they were ever binding, they have found fulfillment in Christ. To the extent that the interpretations were wrong, they never had valid binding force.

Speaking of the Law, Paul went on to describe the statutes of the Mosaic Law as “a shadow of things coming, but the body is of the Christ.” Shadows are flat, dark contours of reality, void of detail, created by an object obstructing light. They are often distorted, depending on the angle of the light obstructed. The external, ceremonial aspects of the Law are to the Messiah what a shadow is to an object: flat, no more than the dark contours of a wonderful reality, void of important detail.

Of course, there is in the Law real indication of the general contours of Christ, his work, and his message. “But the body is of the Christ.” What are we to prefer, the shadow or the body? The Law or the Messiah? Why, Paul was intimating, should one prefer the shadow to the reality when the shadow is but a partial representation of who Messiah is, what he has done, how it affects us, and what he has taught? The shadow fades into insignificance in comparison with the reality. Jesus is a glorious savior!

If such is true of the Law, given by God at Sinai, what ought to be said of rabbinic tradition? It is, of necessity, far less than the Law, less than a shadow of reality. It can offer less. Why, then, should we be taken up with such a tradition when the glorious reality of the Son of God is with us?

Paul therefore insisted, “Allow no one to deliver judgment against you in self-assumed humility and worship of the angels.” The Colossians were to resist every effort to bring them under the yoke of mystical experiences and Jewish ritual. They should not buy into the teaching that offers them a means to communicate with angels or succumb to what Paul described as “self-assumed humility,” which is nothing less than a show, one could almost say a parade (the contrast is striking: How does one parade humility?) by submission to the rites and teachings of the heretics. These are things he (the purported teacher) had seen in a trance, but it served no real purpose.

Paul did not argue whether what the heretical teachers claimed to have seen was real or not. He will assume for the sake of the argument that it was. What good could such visions be? Can they contribute to a stable, mature kind of holiness, or do they create a sense of smug super spirituality? Do they encourage moral purity or pride? Do they truly bring one into God’s presence or simply provide an emotional rush?

Paul answered: by “intruding into [them],” that is, into such trance-induced visions, one’s pride is being encouraged by fleshly thinking. Rather than humility, pride is cultivated. Rather than spirituality, fleshly thinking becomes the order of the day because those undergoing such experiences cannot distinguish between the Spirit of God and their own spirits, between the presence of God and a sense of well-being.

What is more, those who hold to such views are “not holding on to the head” who is Christ, the source of life, direction, and purpose for the body, “from whom all the body, by way of the joints and ligaments provided, and being connected, will grow together by God’s doing.” 
Do you want to grow in Christ? Hold on to the head rather than to every new-fangled idea that raises its head. Do you want to be more spiritual? Make sure you are connected to the body so that you benefit “by way of the joints and ligaments provided.” Don’t separate. Don’t seek the company of the initiates, of those who follow your patterns and embrace your pet doctrines and practices. It is by way of the joints and ligaments provided by God in Christ that the body will grow together, and “together” is the only way it will grow in a Christian way. It is the only way it will grow “by God’s doing” rather than through human effort.

That’s the key. Spiritual growth is God’s doing, not ours. It is a gift, not a reward. It is a fruit of divine blessing, not a product of human prowess. Fruit is cultivated, but all the cultivation in the world will not create a single fruit apart from the blessing of God.

 

May 3, 2016

From my commentary on Colossians (Col. 2:13-14)

Up to this point, participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus had its primary reference to the Law, to ceremonies, and to what Paul described as the basic elements of the world. This is very much like what Paul had to say in Galatians 2:19–20: “Through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (see also Rom. 7:1–5). Here the apostle referred to yet another death that was the Colossians’ lot: death in sin (due to their participation in the sin and death of Adam). The resurrection of which Paul spoke next is to a new life by faith in the Son of God and by virtue of the new powers God has unleashed in the believer, so that he delights after God’s law, longs to keep it, and is enabled to do so.

“And you.” Paul reminded the Christians in Colossae that they were included in this wonderful reality. Their past could only be described as “being dead in your intrusions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh.” The apostle’s twofold description of their former situation is fascinating. The Greek term I have chosen to translate “intrusions” is commonly translated “trespasses,” which is an excellent rendering of the word but for one factor: it is so common that we have become inured to its meaning. Wanting to draw your attention to that meaning, I chose to startle you with a term you would not expect to find in this context.

Fundamentally, Paul was actually referring to trespassing, that is, to an unlawful intrusion into someone else’s territory. This term (paraptoma in Greek) means exactly that. It is one of the many terms Scripture uses to designate the various aspects of sin. It means the arrogation of rights that belong to someone else, in this case to God. Every time we set ourselves up as the goal of our lives, every time we partake of forbidden fruit, every time we transgress a border God established, we are trespassing and will have to give account to God. 
The Colossians had trespassed in the past by living for pleasure and by viewing their prowess as the sole source on which to rely for success. Now they were in danger of repeating the same mistake. They were trespassing by attributing to themselves and to rituals what only God in Christ can give.

The second term Paul used to describe their former state is “in the uncircumcision of your flesh.” This, of course, brings us back to what Paul said in 1:21 and 2:11–12. In the past, they were Gentiles, strangers, with no valid reference to Jewish ceremonies and, what is more important, with no reference to God. They were dead and bodily uncircumcised. They are not such any longer, and this they obtained, not by virtue of ritual, human effort, or enlightenment, but by the virtues of Christ.

Although trespassers and uncircumcised, we have been co-enlivened with him; that is, with Jesus. He forgave us all the intrusions of the past, to which we ought not return by arrogating to ourselves the ability to obtain enlightenment or spirituality by way of ceremonies, ritual observances, and appeals to purportedly spiritual beings. In forgiving us, Paul said, God wiped “out the handwriting against us [consisting] in statutes, which was contrary to us.” Paul was referring to the Law, to Jewish customs the Colossians were encouraged to embrace. The term handwriting refers to the ancient equivalent to a modern IOU—a written obligatory note.

Paul’s words here echo what Peter said in a similar context in Acts 15:10–11: “Why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.” Salvation is not just the forgiveness of sins. It is newness of life through participation in the resurrection of Christ.

In other words, to embrace such customs is to imply that Jesus made no difference, or at least that he did not make enough of a difference, for if righteousness was achievable through the Law, “then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal. 2:21). In such a case, he is not all-sufficient, and we must now add to his achievements Hebrew roots, Messianic practice, the Passover seder, circumcision, keeping a seventh-day Sabbath, Davidic dancing, a prayer shawl, the laying of phylacteries, a Second Blessing, and such.

No, said Paul. Here is what God did with “the handwriting against us [consisting] in statutes, which was contrary to us. He has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross.” The death of Jesus spells the removal of the Law’s demands on us as the grounds of salvation, of sanctification, of a spiritual life, or of anything else we may claim from God for ourselves. Jesus is all-sufficient, and we are to focus on him.
We skipped a discussing phrase to which we must now return: Paul said that the Law was “contrary to us.” Why describe God’s wonderful law in such terms? Because we could not keep it. As a result, instead of being a means of salvation or sanctification, it became our accuser. Paul spelled this out, for example, in Romans 7:7–11:

If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment deceived me and through it killed me.

So, as Paul put it to Peter in Galatians 2:16, “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law.”

(To be published, 2017 by Founders Press)

The Recent MaozNews
MaozNews No. 99, May 2016

to access, click below

In This Issue:

Trends and Tensions, pg. 1

Ministry and Family News, pg. 3 

 

Testimonials

I have deep respect and love for Baruch Maoz, and the work that he is carrying on in Israel, despite obstacles and opposition. He has been a dear friend for many years. I’ll never forget doing a conference for him in Israel several years ago. I pray that God may use his sound theology, helpful preaching, excellent books, and numerous gifts for the conversion and spiritual maturation of thousands of Israelis and for the abundant glory of God. Rev. Joel R. Beeke, Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation, Author

*

Baruch Maoz has been a minister of the gospel, author, publisher, and voice for believers in the land of Israel for four decades. I have seen firsthand the fruit of his ministry and I cannot recommend it too highly. Baruch’s preaching, teaching, and writing ministry should be supported by all who care about the gospel and its impact in Israel and beyond! Pastor Jerry Marcellino, Audubon Drive Bible Church, Federation of reformed Evangelicals – Laurel, Mississippi

 *

Knowing and embracing our Lord’s clear directive to bring the Gospel to the “Jew first” I, along with BPC have been extraordinarily blessed to work in partnership with the effective biblical and faithful ministry of Baruch Maoz. His ministry of evangelism, discipleship, along with his strategic and insightful writing/translation projects, only enhance my opportunity to recommend him and his ministry. Rev. Harry Reeder, Senior Pastor, Briarwood Presbyterian Church (PCA), Birmingham AL

*

Tom Ascol of the Founders Movement writes: "Baruch and Bracha Maoz serve in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Baruch has served as a pastor, publisher, author and church reformer in his homeland of Israel. He has ministered several times with our Grace Baptist Church family in Cape Coral and our people have come to love Bracha and him dearly. I highly recommend his and his ministry to any church that values expositional preaching and the gospel of God's grace." Dr. Thomas Ascol, Grace Baptist Church (SBC), Founders Movement, Cape Coral FL

For more, see below.

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