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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
April 11, 2016
From my commentary on Colossians: (Col. 2:4)
Paul was not saying the philosophy is wrong or in any way contrary to the Christian faith. After all, philosophy is but another name for theology—how we look at life, how we perceive God, what we think is the purpose of all things. But philosophy (like theology) can also be a vehicle that will take us where we do not, certainly ought not, want to go. The difference between philosophy and theology is their basis. Theology learns from God through the Scriptures; philosophy tries to understand the world by its own means. But they both result in a theology.
Paul referred to philosophy because so-called lovers of wisdom (which is what the Greek term originally meant) were popular in the Greek and Roman cultures. Purported philosophers traveled throughout the Empire peddling their philosophical teachings. The Colossian heretics obviously presented themselves as those who loved and represented spiritual philosophy. But this was “empty deceit.” They loved not the truth but the sense of being its professed possessors, with the sense of importance and the powers of influence that go with such a perception of themselves.
The apostle warned the Christians in Colossae to be alert “so that there is no one who is robbing you by way of philosophy and empty deceit.” They were to be intellectually alert so that they would be able to detect if someone was trying rob them. Rob them? What was Paul talking about? The doctrines that gave Paul reason for concern were offered as a means of enrichment or spiritual advance, not robbery.
That is exactly Paul’s point: the promulgators of the new teaching promised spiritual enrichment. Their doctrines actually provided an initial rush of what was thought to be a heightened spiritual experience. But once the novelty faded, instead of being enriched, adherents were impoverished; instead of more of God, they had less. They were starved by malnutrition while endless striving sapped their spiritual strength. Their worship became increasingly the product of emotional manipulation rather than of a vivid comprehension of God’s holiness and grace as the product of good teaching. Their sense of security was eroded because they came to believe it all depended on them. Their satisfaction was replaced by an ever-increasing need of greater stimulation. Their moral sensitivity was dulled by constant failure.
Does this sound familiar? Have you been taken up by a false philosophy and empty deceit? Have you embarked on a search for more, only to find yourself with less? Then heed the apostle’s advice and turn back to Christ as you first heard of him when you were converted and brought into God’s favor.
Tradition was a value in those days. The hoarier, the holier, it was thought. But a tradition that originated from the spiritual world, or that purported to know spiritual secrets— now that was a tradition worth knowing. Again, Paul framed his terminology to counter the false teaching in Colossae. His readers were called to beware lest they be robbed by a philosophy masquerading as a valuable spiritual tradition. Such traditions, he insisted, were merely human. They had to do with the lowest elements of reality rather than the higher. They could never be compared with Christ. As Paul put it, they were “compatible with human traditions, with the basic elements of the world, and incompatible with Christ.”
The term I’ve translated as “basic elements” was often used to refer to learning the alphabet. So Paul was saying that rather than teaching a higher spirituality, the Colossian heretics were teaching the ABCs of the universe, the most basic, simplest matters from which they should have progressed on long ago.
Rather than bringing the initiate into contact with the highest of the divine emanations, the doctrines and ceremonies of the heretics had to do with the “basic,” basest “elements of the world.” They were taken up with matters of food, drink, and ceremonial purity rather than with what constitutes true holiness: a love for God that drives individuals to hunger for him and to obey him, a morality that has God’s person and his law at its core, and God’s pleasure and his glory as its goal. That is what Christ teaches. Such is the only kind of spirituality that is compatible with Christ.
Christ is exactly opposite the base elements of the world. He is their Maker and they are made; he is non-contingent and they exist by virtue of his command; he is utter purity and they have been contaminated by sin. They are inevitably “incompatible with Christ, because in him— bodily—all the fullness of the Godhead dwells.”
We’ve seen what the term fullness meant to the Colossian heresy. Paul was saying that every ounce of deity, every feature that may legitimately be associated with being God, every divine attribute, every divine power, every distinctively divine action belongs to Christ. It belonged to him even before he took on a bodily existence and was known as Jesus the son of Mary, and it is to be found in him now. There are no emanations; there is no demiurge. Jesus is God in the full sense of the term, and so remains (dwells, in the present tense, not “dwelt.” Paul was describing an ongoing reality).
That being the case, there is no reason to look for anything beyond him. Christ is all-sufficient. As long as Jesus remains the focus of our attention, the goal of our aspirations, and the measure of everything we are invited to believe or practice, we have an excellent measuring rod by which to evaluate other things. The claim to be able to add to what Christ has accomplished is, in fact, to deny his sufficiency and to diminish the glory of his perfect Godhood. After all, what can be better than knowing God manifest in the flesh, to walk with him in whom “all the fullness of the Godhead dwells”? What greater salvation can be imagined?
April 5, 2016
From my commentary on Colossians
Still addressing the danger of the Colossians being turned from the path of the Gospel to a false message, Paul added by way of encouragement, “Because, if am actually bodily absent still [“absent” because, to the time of writing, Paul had not been able to visit the Colossian church], in the spirit [Paul was not laying claim to a mystical presence; he was simply saying that he cared about the Colossians and was informed of their welfare], I am with you and am rejoicing [obviously, at least a good portion of the church rejected the heretical teaching], seeing the orderliness and steadiness of your faith in Christ.”
The latter are military terms. Orderliness refers to soldiers establishing camp or maintaining ranks as they march. Steadiness refers to soldiers maintaining a solid front in the face of an attack. The Colossian Christians were engaged in a spiritual battle and maintained good order. They refused to retreat before the persuasive speech of the heretics. Instead, they maintained their resistance and held a common front.
By commending the believers in such terms, Paul was encouraging them to be all he said they were. The apostle knew how to encourage people to do well. There were times when it was necessary to criticize and rebuke. However much Paul did not enjoy it, he did not shirk the duty when there was no better way. But he always preferred to address churches and individuals positively. His letter to Philemon, written at the same time and delivered with the letter to the Colossians, is a superb example of such gracious wisdom.
“Because of that, as you have received the Christ, Jesus the Lord, in him conduct yourselves.” Paul continued his appeal. Since they had carried themselves so well up to this point, Paul exhorted them to continue.
At the same time he called them back to Christ: “As you have received the Christ, Jesus the Lord, in him conduct yourselves.” Such an exhortation ran directly contrary to the teaching he was challenging and called upon the Colossians to progress beyond what they had received in Christ. Paul was saying (and will say it clearer as he proceeds) that there is nothing beyond Christ. The best step the Colossians could take on their way to spirituality was to return to Christ as they had originally received him.
It is amazing—and deeply disappointing—to note how relevant such a call is for the church today. All kinds of gimmicks, doctrines, and methods are adopted instead of the simple but by no means simplistic faith in the power of God through the work of the Spirit on the grounds of the work of Christ. Empowerment, enlightenment, spiritual gifts, seeker-friendliness, contemporary or traditional worship, evangelism, children’s programs, miracles, love for Israel, Jewish tradition, Jewish roots, family-oriented . . . you name it: everything but Jesus. Surely Christian churches ought to be known above all in relation to Christ!
We allow the world to shape us, to determine our emphases. Somehow we do not understand that Christ is sufficient. We think his work needs to be supplemented. It needs to be rendered more relevant, more appealing.
Paul entertained no such thoughts. He was Christ-oriented and fully persuaded that Christ is all we need. He believed Jesus was eminently relevant and gloriously attractive, so he called the Colossians back to Christ with no additions. They were to conduct their private and congregational life in him, and in him alone.
Paul said that their future should be consistent with their past, “having been rooted [past tense] and being constructed [present continuous] in him and confirmed in the Faith as you were taught [past tense], overflowing in giving thanks [present continuous].” They had been rooted by Epaphras in Christ as trees are rooted in the ground, and were now “being constructed” and “confirmed” in him by their teachers as buildings are constructed, with solid foundations. Recognizing the value of what they had received and were receiving in Christ through their teachers, the Christians in Colossae were encouraged to persist in pressing forward in him rather than in seeking something more than Messiah can offer.
For that purpose, they needed to “be alert.” He was speaking of a spiritually motivated, biblically guided intellectual alertness that tests what is said and can identify doctrinal errors, both overt and incipient, because it is equipped with the information necessary for proper evaluation. Being a Christian involves thinking. Growing in Christ includes growth in understanding. What we believe, how we think, and the doctrines we embrace impact our spiritual lives for good or for ill. That is why Paul warned against “philosophy and empty deceit.”
He was not saying the philosophy is wrong or in any way contrary to the Christian faith. After all, philosophy is but another name for theology—how we look at life, how we perceive God, what we think is the purpose of all things. But philosophy (like theology) can also be a vehicle that will take us where we do not, certainly ought not, want to go. The difference between philosophy and theology is their basis. Theology learns from God through the Scriptures; philosophy tries to understand the world by its own means. But they both result in a theology.
April 1, 2016
MaozViews - An Intermittent Letter from Israel, March 2016
I Am Greatly Troubled
For some time now I have been expressing my concerns over the ongoing moral erosion in Israeli society. The two aspects of this process are the produce of differing circumstances yet share an underlying deficiency.
1. Israeli society has been taken up with an unrestrained hedonism that set pleasure, success, power and comfort as the primary goals of life. As a result, a moral cynicism has transformed guilt from a recognition of wrong-doing to the embarrassment of being found out. The list of senior public figures who are being investigated or have been found guilty of corruption, of indecent behavior, even of rape, is shocking: a President, a Chief Rabbi, a Prime Minister, a Minister of the Treasury, a Minister of Justice, a Minister of the Interior, prominent rabbis, senior police officers, senior religious politicians -- the list goes on, almost to the point of ennui.
The Prime Minister's wife has been found guilty of abusing employees; the wife of an Attorney General and of a Minister of Defense of employing illegal immigrants, a Minister in the present Government was jailed for corruption and, having served his prison sentence, is now back at the head of the Ministry where he committed his first (?) crimes. Israel's largest medical insurance company knowingly and consistently embezzled holocaust survivors of monies paid to the company for the subsidizing of such survivors' medical needs. Some of Israel's most respected companies, public and private, are riddled with corruption, tax evasion and unfair employment practices, with senior executives skimming off the cream of their companies' losses while their employees are put out on the street with no livelihood.
2. A wave of frustration, borne out of the hopelessness of the situation with the Palestinians, has led to anger that is blinding a growing number of Israelis to moral considerations. Years of policing tasks imposed on an army that is not structured for police work, with young men and women aged 18-21 having to face a stubbornly hostile populace and deal with repeated surges of attacks with knives, axes, scissors, home-made guns and molotov bottles have inured these young people to the more delicate considerations of right and wrong.
There have been a number of occasions when neutralized Palestinian attackers were extra-judicially killed by police and soldiers. That is decidedly NOT a matter of policy, but both the police and the army did not deal with the incidents with sufficient firmness, and turning a blind eye has only increased the likelihood of their repetition. A Chief Rabbi has proclaimed that Gentiles have no right to live in the land, except as servants of Jews. Senior politicians are defending a soldier who is suspected of murdering a disarmed Palestinian attacker and other men and women in uniform are repeatedly urged by an angry populace to kill neutralized attackers rather than arrest them.
Driving in Israel is often a cross between a suicidal attempt to get from one place to another and a potentially murderous escapade void of consideration for the safety of pedestrians or that of other drivers. Getting onto a bus or a train is an occasion of push and shove in the best sense of Darwin's survival of the fittest.
What both moral tendencies share is the lack of a moral imperative, and whence can such an imperative come? No so-called social contract can provide it. The strong will not accede anything -- why would anyone forgo what he can take for himself? The weak cannot impose it , they are too weak and, if made strong will yield to the same temptations they now oppose (consider the French or the Communist Revolutions). No, moral imperatives are just that -- they are imperative, imposed upon society yet from beyond the pale of society.
What took an oppressed downtrodden conglomerate of tribes and transformed it into a nation whose moral standards were a light to the world? Did they "see the light"? Did they stumble on a better way to live? No, God led them to the foot of Mount Sinai and thundered in their ears, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:2-3). All the rest issued from that. God, being God, provided Israel with a light for their feet, and a sure guide for their path.
Israel needs to hear the voice of God again.
But Israel needs more than the law; it needs the Gospel. Israel needs the grace that the God of Israel provides through the sacrifice of Messiah and the regenerating work of his Holy Spirit, so that Israel will turn from its ways and be saved. The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of theLord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, 'Son of man, can these bones live?' And I answered, 'O Lord God, you know.' Then he said to me, 'Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.'
"So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, 'Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.' So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then he said to me, 'Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, "Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off." Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord' ” (Ezekiel 37:1-14).
"How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!' ” (Romans 10:14-15).
March 31, 2016
Chief of Staff: We will prosecute those who defy IDF's values
In a letter addressed to soldiers Gadi Eisenkot states 'We will not waver in prosecuting soldiers and commanders who defy IDF's operational and moral standards'.
Yoav Zeitun (Yediot Achronot, March 30 2016)
In the wake of last Thursday's shooting incident in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot sent a letter to soldiers Wednesday morning stating, "We will not waver in prosecuting soldiers and commanders, who defy the IDF's operational and moral standards."
At the beginning of the letter, Eisenkot said, "In recent months, we have dealt with terror attacks against Israeli citizens, which seek to undermine the strength of the state. The IDF aims to maintain the safety of Israeli citizens and residents on the battlefield and the home front. The IDF indeed works with vigor and dedication and operates in all arenas freely, employing all means necessary. In my field tours, I am proud to see you making progress and preparing to sacrifice yourselves to protect the homeland."
The Chief of Staff cited the words of David Ben Gurion, according to which " The fate of Israel depends on two factors: her strength and her rectitude.” He wrote that the IDF has always sanctified the values of human dignity and the purity of arms, values based on Jewish heritage. Every action must be performed professionally, using measured force so that the mission is accomplished in accordance with the IDF’s values.
Eisenkot stressed that he and the officers will continue to back every soldier who errs in the heat of battle. However, they will must not deviate from the IDF’s ethical code. “Keeping the spirit of the IDF and its values is not a right but a duty, in order to preserve the IDF as the protector of the people in a Jewish and democratic state.”
Military Judge Lt. Col. Ron Shorr, who is presiding the case of the soldier who killed a neutralized terrorist in Hebron on Thursday, said that "the evidence (that the soldier murdered the terrorist) provided until now is not clear cut."
March 29, 2016
From My Commentary on Colossians (Col. 2:2)
Paul was engaged in a struggle for the Colossians’ comfort and encouragement. He wanted them to experience the richness of church life rather than withdraw into a purportedly elite ghetto such as the heretics were seeking to establish. Their comfort had to do with their being “linked together by love,” a love that (as he reminded the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 13 under similar circumstances) does not vaunt itself over others nor seek to compete with them; it labors for their welfare. Love draws people together, and Christians are to love all men, especially those who belong to the household of faith, regardless of any other factor.
The concept of a linkage between Christians is very apropos. There is no merging. Jews do not cease to be Jews, freemen to be freemen, or women to be women. Every link maintains its distinct identity, while each is firmly connected to another. Love is the connection. If we loved more, we would argue less, criticize less, and give more of ourselves. If we loved more sincerely, churches would not split, pastors would not be run off of their turf, and individual congregants would not be neglected. All would grow together in grace and in the knowledge of God.
Such loving linkage serves important purposes:
1. It leads “to all the riches of a full assurance of understanding.” Many truths can only be understood properly in the context of church life, simply because church life is about loving God in Christ, and loving God in Christ is about church life. One simply cannot consistently be a Christian without belonging to a congregation, sharing in its life, contributing to its welfare, partnering in its worship, growing in its context, and coming under its discipline.
When knowledge has been tried and proven, when it is transformed from intellectual knowledge to knowledge that comes from experience, it congeals into the kind of mature, humble, and gracious confidence that Paul here described as “the full assurance of understanding.” We know the power of the Gospel because we have experienced it. We know the truth of Scripture because we have tried it out and found it to be true. We know the grace of God because we experience that grace every day of our lives. We understand as never before.
2. Such assurance leads to still further understanding and, when speaking of church life, it leads “to full knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ—in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Paul had described the mystery earlier in terms of the unity between Jew and Gentile. Here he described it as Christ himself. The reason for that is Christ is known in the church as he can be known nowhere else. He is known when we experience his presence in each other and the transforming power of his grace as we reach across the barriers that normally divide people.
If we had any doubt that Paul was responding to the false teaching being promulgated in Colossae, he sets our minds at ease by clearly stating, “I say this so that no one will mislead you with persuasive talk.” Obviously some were seeking to mislead them. Whether they succeeded is open to question, but Paul clearly identified a danger in the verbal abilities of the heretics. People tend to be impressed by talent. They are more easily swayed by oratory than by content.
In these days of sound bites and superficial thinking, when culture is more influenced by what it sees on television than what it hears in church, the danger is all the greater. We should tune our hearts to our minds, and our minds to testing words, sentences, and whole messages against God’s word if we wish to protect ourselves from bad influences. It is not without reason that Jesus’ primary activity, like that of the prophets, was teaching rather than miracle working. For the same reason God gave us his revelation in words rather than pictures.
The Faith of the Bible is a Faith that demands, encourages, and enhances thinking. It motivates and guides believers to seek the internal logic of the universe. Science, history, and art take on eternal meaning. Language and culture are not viewed as the fruit of happenstance but as, in some sense, a work of God, or a corruption of that work. Their inner workings have meaning, and understanding those workings is part of man’s duty before God. Commenting on this verse in his commentary on Colossians, John Calvin reminded us:
Since many, content with a slight taste, have nothing but a confused and fitful knowledge, [Paul} mentions expressly the riches of understanding (Italics in the original). By this phrase he means full and clear perception. And at the same time he admonishes them that, according to the measure of understanding, they must make progress in love.
I Am Greatly Troubled, pg. 1
Ministry and Family News, pg. 3
Baruch and Bracha are touring Central and Eastern USA April-July. Interested churches are invited to write email@example.com
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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