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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 Founders Press. 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, Matthew, Romans and Colossians. He has written an Introdution to the Life and Epistles of Paul, an Introduction to Systematic Theology, and edited a modern translation of the Old Testament into spoken Hebrew. He is presently 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
Following is a link to Baruch's summary to Paul's letter to the Romans (audio, 40 minutes)
September 08, 2016
From my Commentary on Colossians, to be published by Founders Press (Colossians 3:15-17)
Our next mission is indicated by Paul’s injunction: “And be thankful.” Let’s put that in context: “As God’s holy chosen ones, and having been loved, put on great sympathy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing one another and forgiving each other. If anyone has a complaint against anyone—just as the Lord forgave you, you forgive as well. Above all of these, love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of the Christ rule in your hearts, to the which you were actually called in one body, and be thankful.”
Thankful for what? Thankful for being “called in one body.” Thankful for the privilege of belonging to the church of Christ. Thankful for the fact that grace is the grounds for our membership. We do not need to learn another language, adopt another culture, improve or reduce our social standing, or subscribe to a denominational confession. Nor must we embrace the Colossian error, worship angels, or adopt Jewish custom. All who are in Christ are “called in one body.” If we trust in God through Christ for salvation, if we acknowledge his glory and seek to love and serve him, we belong to Christ and are therefore members of his one body. Nothing more is required.
“As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” [And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”] And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:36–38 NASB)
If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” (Acts 11:17–18)
Next, Paul said to the Colossians, “Let the word of the Christ indwell among you richly.”
The phrase is unusual. It appears only here. “The word of Christ” is nothing other than the word of God, the word of the Gospel. Christ only spoke what the Father gave him to say. His message is to indwell the fellowship of the saints. It is to be their major characteristic, the focus of their church life, the guide and arbiter of all differences. It is to indwell them by the reading, teaching, and contemplating of God’s word (a clear indication of the importance of preaching in the life of a congregation). The word of Christ points to his sufficiency and pulls us back every time we deviate. We need the word of Christ to conduct our church life as it ought to be conducted. We do not need the word of tradition or of ecstasies who claim additional revelation. As we focus on Christ, we focus on his word.
Next, as the word of Christ indwells among Christians, they are to be engaged in “teaching and admonishing yourselves with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” Here is a solid standard for song in the church. There is little, if any, distinction between psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs in Scripture, and commentators differ greatly as to the distinctions they draw, perhaps evidence of the lack of a solid basis for their arguments. One or another of the terms might indicate singing with the accompaniment of music and another without, but the minute distinctions that may exist are really unimportant. According to Paul, singing has an important role in the life of the church. It has to do with teaching and admonishing.
The main purpose of song in the church is not self-expression but instruction and admonition (an archaic word for “rebuke” or “call to duty”). What we sing should, therefore, have substantial content. The music should serve the words; it should never blanket them. If we sing without thought, or if we hear a song and cannot decipher the words, there is something fundamentally wrong. If the words are tacked on as a justification for the music, or if we sense that the words are forced onto the music rather than the music serving to express and emphasize the words, the song is sub-Christian. Emphasis should be on the words, not on the music, and certainly not on the musicians.
While there is room for emotion in the church (woe betide a church in which there is no emotion), there is no room for emotionalism; our singing should be full of biblical content. It should do more than say “Hallelujah” or “I love you, Jesus,” or even “You’re holy.” It should focus on the biblical message and its application to our lives. It should speak of the glory of God, his majesty, being, and attributes; of creation and the fall; of law and grace; of the incarnation; of Christ’s life and teaching, his crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension; of redemption; of conflict with sin; of hope, victory, and the glory of God.
Yes, Christian hymnody should be theology put to music. Hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs should teach. They should inform us of our faith, call us to our duties, rebuke us for our failures, remind us of our comfort, and express our longing, determination, and hope in Christ to be all that God would have us be.
Next we are told how we should sing: “with grace in your hearts singing to God.” First, we should sing with grace in our hearts; that is to say, out of the experience of the Gospel. Our singing should be outbursts of understanding of what God did for us through the Gospel. Having been taught and admonished, and having come to a fresh or a refreshed comprehension of the wonderful grace of God, we sing, and we sing what we have been taught. We simply have to sing! We have to give vent to our renewed appreciation of God and his kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. We have to respond in repentance, gratitude, hope, and commitment.
Second, and this is part of the point of Paul’s letter to the Colossians as a whole, the “we” who should sing should be the community. Paul was not vying against individual worship, nor forbidding solos any more than he was forbidding an individual leading in prayer. He was concerned because the Colossian Christians were being encouraged by the false teachers to aspire to something beyond the normal experience of Christians. They were being told they should set themselves apart by adding to what they (and others) had received in Christ. But as we have seen, Paul insisted that there is nothing beyond Jesus. There is nothing beyond what he has achieved.
We’ve also seen Paul insist on the unity of the church. He would now have that unity expressed in song—there should be more “we” in our singing than “I.” We should sing as a community of the redeemed, conscious of the fact that we are not redeemed on our own, nor do we worship on our own. Our worship in song (and song is not the only way we worship when we come to church) should be a foretaste of what is yet to be for all eternity: “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns’” (Rev. 19:6).
Third, our singing should primarily be directed “to God.” On the one hand, we teach and admonish one another in song. On the other, we worship. But we never entertain. We speak one to another (which leaves room for solos and for the choir) and to God. But we do not perform, and there is no room for clapping in appreciation of the choir any more than there is room for us to clap in response to a sermon.
Finally, Paul called upon the Colossians to focus on Christ as they aspired to increased spirituality: “And everything whatsoever you do, speaking or acting, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” The immediate application of such an admonition was related to the Colossians’ spiritual endeavors, but there is no sphere in life in which we are free from serving God or seeking to grow in grace and in the knowledge of his ways.
“Everything,” Paul said, “whatsoever,” without distinction; whether it is washing dishes or driving your car, teaching a Bible lesson or relating to your spouse, singing a hymn or disciplining your children, at work or at play or in your spiritual life, in “speaking or acting, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Don’t aspire to go beyond him. Relate all you do to him, and whatever you cannot do in the name of the Lord Jesus, don’t do. That is spirituality. That is the height to which you should aspire: “everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,” with one important addition that will bring us back in a full circle to Christ: “giving thanks to God the Father through him.” In other words, do everything as an act or worship and as an expression of gratitude to God for him.
August 30, 2016
From my commentary on Colossians , to be published 2017 by Founders Press (Colossians 3:14)
The apostle proceeds to tell the Colossians what they should put on: “Above all of these, love.” Of course, love is expressed in all the aforementioned characteristics: sympathy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing one another, and forgiving each other. It is the motive behind them all. But why should a slave love his master, and what kind of transformation must the master undergo to love his slave? Why should a Jew love a Gentile or a Gentile a Jew? The answer is ready: because of the Gospel, which recognizes no such distinctions and calls people from every nation under the sun to love and worship God, and to do so, among other ways, by loving one another. How could they love each other when they differed from another and had such a history of mutual exclusion? Once again the answer is ready: by the grace of God, by the power of the Gospel, by the moving of the Spirit.
Love, then, is “the bond of perfection,” or perhaps better, the perfect bond. Nothing binds better than love. Nothing binds us firmer to God than his love for us. Nothing blinds us more to ignore other people’s faults, moves us to care for people, bear with them, and sacrifice for them more than love. It is the perfect bond, capable of uniting diverse individuals who would not normally relate to one another by demanding of them, exemplifying to them, and motivating them toward a love that captures the heart and drives them to admit most willingly that “we love because he loved us first” (1 John 4:19).
Rather than engaging in conflict, competition, or the tendency to compare themselves with others, Paul called upon the Colossians, “Let the peace of the Christ rule in your hearts.” Be at peace with one another by virtue of the Gospel. Be at peace with one another as Christ has made peace between you and the Father.
Could there be a greater difference than the divide between him and us? He is holy and we are unclean. He is wise beyond measure and we are foolish beyond anything we can imagine. He is good and we are selfish. He is righteous and we are quick to take advantage of others' weaknesses. He is eternal and we depend on him, on food, drink, air, and sleep. We rebelled against him, corrupted his word and abused his world, worshipped the creature rather than the Creator, and preferred temporal pleasure to eternal holiness. Yet he loved us with an everlasting love and, at the price of his Son, established peace between us.
That peace should “rule” in our hearts, so that we are unruffled by those who differ from us and never feel threatened by another’s opinion or a contrary custom. Bedouin custom requires one to belch at the end of a meal to show satisfaction. Try that at a dark-suit dinner party in, say, France or England. Who is to say that one custom is better than another? Middle Easterners embrace and kiss; why is that any less acceptable than a handshake? Africans sway as they worship, while “cultured” whites stare frozen in place at the preacher. Which is more appropriate? There should be peace among us. The peace that Christ established between the Father and us should rule our hearts. It should govern our reactions to those whose differ from us.
“To the which [peace] you were actually called in one body.” There is a reason, the apostle insisted, that we were actually called in one body. After all, God could have chosen to create two—or more—bodies of Christ. He could have established a Gentile church and a Jewish church. He could have established a church for freemen and one for slaves, one for women and one for men, one for Spanish speakers and one for those who know English (or, for that matter Greek, Korean, or Hebrew), one for blacks and for whites. Oh yes, and one for Presbyterians and one for Baptists, one for Arminians and one for Calvinists. But he didn’t. He established one church for all. Existing divisions are man-made. They run contrary to God’s purposes, contrary to the Gospel, and contrary to the essential nature of the church.
The church is to be one. One! The church is a fellowship of grace to which anyone can belong on the grounds of grace in Christ and only on those grounds. There is no room for the compartmentalization of the church. There is no biblical basis for the divisions that exist in the church. The church is to include Gentiles and Jews; freemen and slaves; women and men; Spanish, English, Greek, and Hebrew speakers; blacks and whites; Baptists, Presbyterians, Calvinists, and Arminians. These are to mesh and clash and be sanctified and grow together as they worship God and serve him as one body. They are to learn from and love one another sincerely in spite of their differences and the difficulties these differences create. God’s intention is to “gather all up into one.” (John 11:52). His “plan for the fullness of time is to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:10). He is doing that through the Gospel. That is what we should be doing.
Christians acknowledge this truth. We pay it frequent lip service, and sometimes we even reach over the fences that our lazy preferences for comfort and sinful pride have created. We then consider ourselves exemplary, large-hearted, and exceptionally kind. The truth is that we betray the Gospel by allowing the fences to exist in the first place. We should not reach over them; we should break them down. Like President Reagan in Germany when the wall still divided Berlin, we should call, “Tear down this wall!”
We are called into one body to exemplify a peace that transcends differences and gives expression to God's ultimate eschatological goal: to undo the consequences of sin; to create a united, redeemed humanity, the members of which live together on the grounds of God’s grace and enjoy a God-centered harmony that gives him glory; to restore Eden at the expense of conflict.
Is Christ not sufficient to unite us? Are we to allow culture, language, race, social strata, or doctrinal differences that do not touch upon the essence of the Faith to divide what God has united in Christ? Is our culture or language or comfort more important than the Savior? The church is to be a harbinger of what is to come, a demonstration of the power of God and of the grace of the Gospel. The church is to be a visible enactment of the future, when the wolf and the lamb will lie together and the ox and the bear will feed beside each other. What are we saying by our divisions? What message are we conveying to the world?
August 23, 2016
From my commentary on Colossians (3:12-13)
Patience is obviously related to meekness. Meekness leads to patience, which in this case is described by Paul as “bearing one another and forgiving each other. If anyone has a complaint against anyone.” Paul was not discussing Christian character in abstract; he was addressing a situation in which a distortion of the Christian Faith was introduced as a means of higher spirituality and which, in fact, served to create a lower state of contention, competition, pride, insensitivity to one’s own failings, and blindness to the qualities of others. In such a context, differences between people are accentuated and harmony is unlikely.
Patience inevitably means “bearing one another,” and the willingness to do so is necessary in any human context because none of us is perfect. “We all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2).
Angels neither wed nor are given in marriage. We marry precisely because we’re not angels. (If only we remembered that, we’d be spared many a disappointment.) Marriage is a challenging, edifying, sanctifying, humbling experience in which we can learn the validity of much of what Paul had to say in this portion of God’s word. As much can be said of church life and of life in society.
Bearing one another means forgiving each other if anyone has a complaint against anyone. One would wish the if here expressed doubt. It does not. Human reality makes it clear: we often offend one another and, at least as often, have complaints one against another. If here is the now-familiar if of contingency meaning, “when” or, if you wish, “since you will undoubtedly have complaints the one against the other.”
Because there is not a human relationship in which any one of the partners never has a complaint against another, this injunction is extremely valuable. A forgiving attitude is necessary to those who have been forgiven. Remember our Lord’s warning:
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, “Pay what you owe.” So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.
Then his master summoned him and said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. (Matt. 18:23–35)
How should forgiveness be granted? Paul did not leave us with the question; he said, “Just as the Lord forgave you, you forgive as well.” The Gospel teaches us to treat one another as God has treated us. He sought us when we did not seek him. He prepared the grounds for our forgiveness although he had a well-established grievance against us. He wooed us with his kindness, without sacrificing his justice. He firmly but lovingly brought us to the bar of his justice and showed us our guilt, and then he moved us by his tender, mighty mercies and the gracious promises of the Gospel to turn to him and be forgiven. When we repented, he laid no further demands on us but to love him sincerely. Since then we failed repeatedly, but he continues to forgive with a liberality that transcends imagination. “Just as the Lord forgave you, you forgive as well.”
August 18, 2016
From My commentary on Colossians (Colossians 3:12)
The next spiritually moral characteristic to which Paul called the Colossians is “humility.” Once again, the relationship between humility and the former qualities is obvious. Sympathy and kindness are the products of humility because humility is what teaches people to love their fellow humans as they love themselves; humility forbids an individual from thinking that his concerns, joys, needs, fears, wants, and ambitions have the right to be of the highest priority.
Humility reminds us that others are worth as much and dear to God as much as we consider ourselves to be. Humility is what enables husbands to love their wives, wives to accept their husbands’ leadership, parents to lovingly respect their children as they bring them up in the Lord, and children to follow their parents’ lead by obeying their loving demands. It is also what enables Christians to bear one another’s burdens, forgive each other, and live together in harmony in spite of their differences.
Pride, on the other hand, is one of the most destructive forces on the face of the earth. It has brought more suffering to mankind than anything else. It lay at the root of Nazi arrogance and of all historical imperialistic aspirations. It laid the ground for Western colonial abuse of Africa, for the suppression of nations under the heel of Islam, for the heinous slave trade, and for both the First and Second World Wars. Pride destroys families, divides churches, and paves a straight path to hell.
We need to remind ourselves how Christ humbled himself, became one of us, underwent our temptations, experienced our misunderstandings, misrepresentations, and mocking rejections, bore our sins in his own body on the tree, suffered, died, and was buried. His humility for our sakes should be the grounds and motivation of ours.
Next, Paul called the Colossians to “meekness.” In Roman times, meekness was considered a fault, not a virtue. In Paul’s day, prowess was either military or political, and the two were often intertwined. Morality, a humble fear of God, and unselfish liberality were signs of feebleness of mind or heart—or both. Today’s values hardly differ. We have merely added keeping up with the Joneses, being aggressive salesmen or entrepreneurs, and standing up for ourselves in society. Paul called the Colossians to go against the grain of their society’s values, as we are called to go against ours, and be known for meekness.
Meekness is not evidence of weakness; it takes a large degree of emotional security to agree to appear to be weak. Nor is meekness an expression of an inability to cope with reality or a lack of ambition or drive. Meek individuals can be ambitious and highly motivated, as was Jesus. A meek person is gentle, not self-assertive, although he may very well be capable of projecting a sense of rectitude and authority that will move others to submit to him.
Living together as we ought, in the family, at church, or in society, involves a good deal of compromise. Even when we think we’re right, we often need to compromise until others come (if they come) to see things as we do. While it is wrong to comprise fundamental principles, we should not make everything a matter of conscience. It is right and good to be highly principled, but meekness should be part and parcel of our principles.
We should beware of being over-righteous (Eccl. 7:16). The Pharisees were over-righteous when they forbade healing the sick on the Sabbath or the plucking of grains to satisfy hunger. Paul warned the Roman Christians not to impose their sensitivities on those who did not share them (Rom. 14:1–12). We must respect each other’s liberties at the same time that we respect their sense of duty. Living together in the family, a church, or in society requires a meekness that does not seek to impose one person’s personality or preferences on another but makes room for frank, respectful, gracious discussion, sometimes resulting in continued disagreement.
Our Lord exemplified a dignified, conquering meekness that should serve as a beacon and a call for us. His meekness as he lived on earth and related to people like us should be the grounds and motivation of ours as we relate to God and to others.
August 10, 2016
From commentary on Colossians (3:12)
What follows is also in the plural. Taking note of this little fact will help us get the point of Paul’s message.
“There is no place for Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave freeman . . . but Christ is everything (all) and in all, “so as God’s holy chosen ones, and having been loved, put on great sympathy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing one another and forgiving each other. If anyone has a complaint against anyone . . .” In these verses, Paul was spelling out the practical implications of the demands grace put upon the Colossians. They were God’s holy chosen ones and were required to act as such. They were holy because God had made them holy by the sacrifice of his Son and the workings of his Spirit; he had cleansed them of sin, released them from its compelling bondage, put his law in their hearts, and made them his in a special way.
They were holy because God chose and separated them from the mass of sinful humanity to be holy and without blame before him. In spite of their many sins, they were God’s chosen ones. They did not choose him; he chose them. They loved because he first loved them, “and having been loved,” it was their duty to love their fellow Christians by putting on the characteristics of true love, all of which are necessary to love as one body in Christ:
First, “great sympathy.” The apostle was speaking of the ability and the honest willingness to see things from the other person’s point of view, with his interests as close to one’s heart as one’s own. He was speaking of the ability to share another’s sorrows, understand his concerns in a loving manner, and support him as he fails; of doing for others what you would want them to do for you. This kind of sympathy is the opposite of selfishness; it is a reflection of the beauty of Christ, who bore our pains and sorrows and underwent the temptations and trials of life that we experience, and is therefore able to succor us to the full extent of our need and beyond. His sympathy toward us should be the grounds and motivation of ours toward others.
Such sympathy is especially necessary for Christians of diverse backgrounds and social standings to enable them to live together in gospel harmony, sharing the grace of God and rejoicing in his goodness. An openness to other cultures, a willingness to bear with radically different personalities, and a realization that our way of understanding or doing things might not be the only way are necessary for a happy marriage, an edifying church life, and a stable society.
“Kindness” is grace’s next requirement. Kindness is a good-natured willingness to please others and do them well. It’s relation to sympathy is obvious. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul called upon his readers, “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
He then set before them the supreme example of kindness: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (2:1–8). Christ’s kindness and his humble generosity should be the grounds and motivation of ours toward others.
Church life is one of the important contexts in which we have both opportunity and need for kindness. It is where we give ourselves to others for God’s sake as disciples of Jesus. Like in a family and, to a slightly lesser degree, in society, a sincere concern for others is what oils the hinges of relationships and transforms them into positive experiences of the kind of grace that is God-like because it exemplifies the Gospel.
Kindness leads us to be alert, aware of, and sensitive to others and their needs. It means that we hold the door for the person entering the building behind us, that we give others leeway and forgive them liberally when they err. Kindness means that we are sincerely and practically committed to other people’s welfare and do not act as if the world revolves around us. Kindness makes us patient under trial and generous when in need. Kindness is simply Christlikeness.
August 2, 2016
From my commentary on Colossians. In summary of 3:1-11
This is the moment to draw your attention to an important fact: the “you” from verse 5 onward is plural. Paul was not addressing individuals in the church but the body as a whole. It is much easier to break bad habits and replace them with good ones when we enjoy the support and encouragement of community. It is much easier to break away from one’s former way of life and adopt another when we are in loving, exhorting, rebuking, inspiring, motivating fellowship with others engaged in the same spiritual and moral pilgrimage. That is one of the reasons why church life is so necessary to Christians. If you have noticed the similarity between the Spirit’s work and that of the church, do not be surprised. The Holy Spirit uses the church for the accomplishment of his purposes. The church is God’s habitation through the Spirit (Eph. 2:22).
As a community the Colossians had put on Christ. As a community they had clothed themselves with the new man. As a community they were being remade into the image of the Creator. No individual can by himself reflect the fullness of the infinite glory of God. All of redeemed humanity cannot do that, let alone any individual. John heard no solos sung in heaven, no individual performances. What he saw was a congregation so large it could not be numbered.
The more united the church is, the more effectively it can reflect the image of Christ and the more effectively it can serve for the formation of that glorious image in each individual Christian. We need one another to serve God in Christ as we ought. The new man is you and me, the pastor and the elder, the deacon and the evangelist, the old and the young, the wise and the foolish, the strong and the weak, together in Christ.
In this new man former distinctions have no place. Their foundations have been removed by the death and resurrection of Christ. “There is no place for Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave freeman . . . but Christ is everything (all) and in all.” That’s it. That’s the point Paul had been making. Christ is everything. He is all and in all.
If you have him, you need no more. There is no advantage to being a Jew and none in becoming or acting like one. If you lack him, you have nothing, regardless of whatever pretensions may be attached to what you have. Nothing else matters. No demiurge, no tradition however sanctified by years and adorned by rabbis, no angel, no abstinence, and no indulgence could ever match him, let alone add to his completed achievements. Jesus did it all. Jesus is doing it all by his Spirit. The Colossians were no longer viewed as “Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman.” They had been circumcised. They had been freed. They had been elevated. They had been united with Christ and, in him, were equal one to another. If they focused on Christ, they would have in him all they needed in an abundance that passed comprehension and exceeded every holy aspiration.
God of our lives and of our salvation, our lives are hidden with Christ in you, and our glory is hidden with him. One in Christ in spite of our differences, different yet one, we are to live without dissensions and without suppressions, in love and holy, happy harmony. We thrill at the thought of our calling and cringe at the thought of our weaknesses and failings. Help us, Lord. Continue your work of transformation. Teach us the self-discipline that is so necessary for holiness and contributes to happiness in you. Glorify yourself in us, and we will give you praise through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.
July 27, 2016
To the churches in Israel
It is reasonable to assume that the period of relative but still substantial freedom from which the church of Messiah in Israel now enjoys is drawing near to its’ close, and that harder days will return following the dual process of an increase in religious nationalism and the strengthening of the Jewish Orthodox community in our country.
I fear for the church, and not because of the persecution that is apparently to be expected. Persecution never disadvantaged the church. The Body of Christ knew hard days in the past, and overcame them all by the grace of God. We will overcome by the word of our testimony if we do not love life as we love our Lord Jesus the Messiah. Suffering was always accompanied by God’s blessing and, as it was said some 2,000 years ago, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” The more we suffer, the more we will grow.
My fear stems, rather, from a certain trend evident among us, evidenced in the effort to find acceptance by our people. We emphasize the strength of our national loyalty, the depth of our Zionistic commitment, our Jewishness. Be we forget the main issue.
Paul warned in his time, “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:2-9).
We are taken up with (commendable) activity in the social area: we oppose abortion, reach out to the homeless, to refugees and to those abusing drugs and other substances. We endeavor to rescues prostitutes and are troubled by the growing spread of homosexualism, but we are still missing the main issue.
The most important matter with which our churches should be occupied with is the cultivation of a fear a God, morally-motivated humility, vigorous holiness and a spiritual perspective that know how to challenge the society to which we belong by the clarity of it holiness.
Such a life-style never enjoyed popular acclaim, nor did it contribute to the popularity of those who endeavored to conduct themselves by such standards. As the Savior said with regard to a different matter, it is with these above all that we should be busy, without neglecting those other matters.
I therefore join Paul’s call and plead with the members of our congregations they we “must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity “(Eph. 4:17-19).
Regretfully, we tend to be far too much like the world. We dress like the people of the world and conduct ourselves too much like anyone else in the world. We enjoy most of the same things and, apart from the content our services are often more like secular concerts while our sermons are geared more to please, entertain and promote a sense of happiness than to exalt the holiness of God and to call us to repentance.
Thank God, not everything we do is characterized by such tendencies, but such is the growing trend among us. It takes courage to dare be different while frankly belonging to Israeli society. When push comes to shove, “our citizenship is in heaven.” It takes the kind of commitment that involves more than good intentions and sincere enthusiasm to put God – in reality – first in the life of our churches and of our individual lives in such a way that those among whom we live will identify symptoms and the presence of God and of a loving fear of him. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Co. 3:1-3).
Our churches should focus on cultivating a broad, deep, courageous understanding of God’s word, a nuanced ability to apply moral principles in the fear of God, independent thinking subject to the word of God, a willingness to sacrifice that will express itself, among other ways, in willingness to be rejected by our society, constant self-examination that will lead to constant changes and improvements in our lives and those of our churches, liberality toward those with whom we differ.
“In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.?
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God, and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 7-17).
May God be with us to help us as we face the days that are to come.
Mazkeret Batya, July 2016
July 26, 2016
From my commentary on Colossians (Col. 3:9-10)
Finally, Paul called upon the Colossians, “Don’t lie to one another.” This injunction comes almost exactly in the terms of Leviticus 19:11: “You shall not lie to one another.” Honesty is a fundamental obligation. Lying is radically anti-Christian. Dishonesty destroys trust; it undermines the basis on which any healthy human relationship can be established. It is a kind of betrayal, a theft, a form of adultery, denying reality as it is and affirming a reality that does not exist. Those who fear God should be frankly and sacrificially committed to the truth.
God is the God of truth and truthfulness, of integrity. Our “yes” should be as solid as a rock; our “no” as unmovable as a mountain. Of necessity, this means that we will have to think a good deal more before we express ourselves, but I can assure you that this will be a welcome and helpful exercise. “When words are many, transgression is not lacking but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Prov. 10:19). We would do well to heed the advice of Ecclesiastes, who said, “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few” (5:2).
Once again let us remember that this letter was addressed to Christians. It is people like us—you and me—who need to be reminded not to lie. This does not mean that we should give expression to everything that is in our mind, or even that we should at all times relieve people of their false impressions. But it does mean that we do not say an untruth. A Christian general may well have some of his forces feint in one direction in an effort to cause the enemy to concentrate his forces there, while he actually intends to focus an attack elsewhere. But lying is another matter.
In the past, the kinds of behavior proscribed by Paul were part of daily reality. But the Colossians had been converted. Conversion means change. When something is converted, it cannot remain the same. The Colossians were described as “having removed the old man with his habits and having put on the new man who is being renewed in full knowledge in compatibility with the image of him who is creating him.” The change they had undergone involved removing the old man, whom they were in Adam, “with his habits” of sin. Christians are no longer subject to the control of sin, although often and in many ways are still exposed to its enticements.
The Colossians had then “put on the new man.” They had clothed themselves with who they were in Christ. The sinful habits developed before their conversion no longer had a valid hold over them, but the practical force of those habits needed to be broken and replaced. Having put off, they put on. They did this by the inculcation of biblical principles and biblical motives, and by the insistent development of habits of holiness.
They were not alone in the struggle against the habits of sin and its demands. The new man that they were in Christ “[was] being renewed” by the ongoing activity of God the Spirit; they were being granted” full knowledge” in the sense of a personal, intimate understanding and embracing of God and his will through which they were being increasingly changed “in compatibility with the image of him who [was] creating him.” The image into which they were being changed was the image of God. The “him” being created was the new man. The one creating him was God himself. God's marvelous work of salvation began with faith and repentance, but there was a lot more to it than that. He was at work in their hearts by his Spirit, transforming men and women, boys and girls, Jews and Gentiles, slaves and freemen into his own image.
The ravages of sin were being removed. Increasingly, the beauty of God’s glory was shining forth in them. He was strengthening them in their conflict, rebuking and encouraging them when they failed, renewing their desire for his ways, comforting them, and ever motivating them to greater holiness, sincerer humility, broader kindness, and more substantial integrity. God’s people were being prepared for life in heaven in the happy, holy presence of God.
July 23, 2016
Don’t blame Sykes-Picot JP Editorial Saturday, July 23 2016
“Arrogant to the point of blindness,” British diplomat Mark Sykes and his French counterpart Georges Picot “carved up the Ottoman empire, not unlike a butcher slicing up slabs of meat fresh out of the freezer,” a British columnist charged recently. The diatribe, leveled by Spectator columnist Taki Theodoracopulos, is shared by many, most notably Henry Kissinger, an authority on diplomatic Machiavellianism, who wrote of the Sykes-Picot deal – a deal that had been meant to be kept secret – that it was “the foundation for later wars and civil wars.”
A century on from the deal, signed May 16, 1916, with the Middle East drowning in its citizens’ blood, it is indeed tempting to blame the Middle East’s turbulence on the Anglo-French intrusion and its blending of arrogance, ignorance and brutality. “The Ottoman Sultan (of Constantinople) had wisely divided the Middle East into provinces along ethnic lines,” waxed nostalgic Theodoracopulos, whereas the Anglo-French duo “proved as ignorant as George W. Bush was to be 87 years later. Had they never heard of the Sunni-Shi’a divide?”
There is no arguing that what happened in 1916 was colonialist machination and conceit at their worst. The deal that was concocted while Allied armies were being butchered in Verdun, nonetheless looked to the day after victory, whose biggest prize – from the European viewpoint – was to be the Ottoman Empire’s severed limbs. Though victory indeed resulted in the Sultanate’s dismemberment, no one in London or Paris thought of colonizing the other monarchies that vanished in the Great War’s aftermath – Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary. This fate was reserved for the Middle East, in which European diplomats saw what they saw in Africa, India and China: strategic frontiers and fair game.
It was against this backdrop that the deal ignored previous commitments to the Sharif of Mecca by Britain’s Viceroy to Egypt. That is also why Sykes and Picot struck their deal behind the back of the Zionist movement, and at its expense, as they designated international rule for the Holy Land. All this was happening in the very London where at the very same time Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann was lobbying for the adoption of the Balfour Declaration.
Ploys aside, the deal’s infamy stems from its masterminds’ woeful unawareness that nations long dormant would imminently come alive, and that the imperialism the pair were serving was on the eve of demise. The secret pact was publicized by Vladimir Lenin himself, who inherited it from Czar Nikolai soon after unseating him and learning that the Russian monarch had agreed to endorse the deal in return for part of what now is Turkey. Discrediting the deal as imperialism’s embodiment, Lenin’s scoop helped his propagandists glorify communism as the post-colonial future’s harbinger. And it stuck. That is why, a century on, pundits are still tempted to blame the region’s woes on foreigners.
It was the victors of World War I, goes this rationale, who forced into political straightjackets antagonists such as Iraq’s Sunnis and Shi’ites, or Syria’s Alawites and Sunnis, or Lebanon’s Shi’ites, Sunnis, Druse and Maronite Christians. Though Sykes and Picot did not actually redo the atlas, but merely drew the line between the prospective British and French spheres of influence, their deal was soon fleshed out by the cartographers who penciled borders that later proved unworkable, and in some cases have also become irrelevant, from Libya to Iraq and Syria.
That is, of course, true. However, when seen in the broader context of post-colonial history, this external impact does not explain Arab civilization’s crisis, nor does it excuse it. The modern Middle East marched forth over colonialism’s dead body. This sequence was most forcefully displayed in 1956 when Egypt wrested the Suez Canal from British and French interests that controlled the strategic waterway through the Suez Canal Company.
President Gamal Abdel Nasser did not win the consequent war, but he did gain the canal, and he did chase the European powers away from their last Middle Eastern strategic asset. The Arabs, then, were no less victorious in their clash with colonialism than were the Chinese, the Indians, the Kenyans or the Vietnamese. The difference was that with the powers gone, Middle Eastern conflicts flared frequently in ways that were difficult to relate to the colonialists’ legacy. The stuffing by foreigners of local rivals into single polities did not cause the bloody Iran-Iraq War ? because the imperialists did properly separate the Persians and the Arabs ? nor could Europeans be blamed for the strife along the years between Morocco and Algeria, or Libya and Egypt, or Iraq and Kuwait, all of which pitted Sunni Arabs against each other.
Moreover, if the borders demanded redrawing so as to better reflect ethnic and religious identities, why did the Arabs not get down to this business by themselves, say, through the Arab League? Who would have stood in their way had they asked the international community to recognize, sa
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
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