How dedicated are you in your walk? In a world of compromises, many are willing to compromise the Word and their future by selling out to this shallow, transitory world.
Yahweh is a Mighty One of detail and He expects nothing short of total compliance. To demonstrate, consider the specifics He instructed for the design of the High Priest’s robe, down to its smallest embellishment. Consider the intricate design in the structure and furnishing of the tabernacle and temple. Note how He commanded the Ark of the Covenant to be transported, and even killed a man who unwittingly touched it.
Both the priest, temple, and ark were central to His worship and reveal the strictness Yahweh expects in His devotion.
When Yahshua said in Matthew 5:18 that not one yod or tittle would pass from Yahweh’s commands, He was conveying to us that compliance to even the smallest part of Yahweh’s mandate is a must.
Is Halfway Okay?
Let’s face facts. Humans are naturally lazy. We cut corners and do just enough to get by. We like to water down clear commands to make them more palatable, change worship to our liking – which is to be more like the world – and to bring in simpler substitutes to get around demanding requirements. That has been the well-walked path of churchianity all through the centuries.
Human nature consistently proves that once you crack open the door, the floodgates of compromise are not far behind. If you allow the camel to work its nose under the tent flap you will soon have a thousand pounds of dromedary in your lap.
The question is, how much devotion does Yahweh expect of His worshipers? If going halfway is okay with Him, then we can go halfway. If not, then our duty is to learn exactly what He wants. He is the One in charge. He decides our eternal future.
Why would we NOT want to be zealous in the way we honor Him? Yahweh is clear that he hates halfhearted, indifferent effort.
“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth,” Revelation 3:16. He’ll reject anyone having a permissive attitude who accepts half-truths and compromise in their worship.
Not one of Yahweh’s inspired writers presented any part of Yahweh’s worship as optional. Yahweh never allows multiple choices when it comes to our worship and obedience. There is only one way to follow Him – and everything must go that way. Paul wrote, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Master, one faith, one baptism,” Ephesians 4:4-5.
In His wisdom, knowing clearly the nature of people, Yahshua pronounced that the way is narrow. That means it is exacting and restrictive. Because of it, few would find and maintain the Truth.
Attention to detail in faith and obedience reveals the heart and strength of personal resolve. In Matthew 5:19 Yahshua said, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Does that mean practicing and teaching commandment breaking will still allow a place in the Kingdom, but only as a doorkeeper?
The Twenty Century New Testament in combination with Moffatt’s translation reads in verse 19 that such a person will be “least esteemed in the realm of heaven.” In other words, the commandment breaking, no-law advocate will have zero respect or honor among the heavenly hosts, which includes Yahweh and Yahshua.
Our salvation hinges on true understanding of the Bible and what is expected of us. Whether we walk in Truth depends on a correct grasp of that Truth as well as our resolve to follow it.
In 2Thessalonians 5:21 Paul wrote, “Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good.” Paul also told Timothy, “Study to show yourself approved unto Elohim, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth,” 2Timothy 2:15.
That doesn’t mean running to the minister with every Bible question. It means studying it out yourself to learn the Truth.
One Path, Not Many
We cannot afford to be flippant or careless with the Scriptures. The Word, Paul said, is given for proper doctrine, correction, and instruction in righteous living, 2Timothy 3:16. It speaks to the ultimate goal of salvation. Why should Yahweh give us specific instruction about life and worship if we’re just going to toss it all out and follow our own plan?
Many Bible students approach the Word in a piecemeal way, yanking verses or parts of verses from their context and completely changing the meaning. Others ignore passages that don’t agree with their beliefs.
Paul told Timothy: “Take heed unto yourself, and unto the doctrine [proper teachings]; continue in them: for in doing this you shall save both yourself, and them that hear you,” 1Timothy 4:16.
For a variety of reasons some passages create difficulty in understanding. Doctrinal problems result when care is not taken to rightly divide the Word. Along with impure motives, rebellion led churchianity to purge from their teachings the law and obedience, including observance of the Sabbath and Feast days.
Our culture suffers profoundly from ignorance of the Scriptures. Clerics steeped in man-made tradition only compound the problem. In Job 38:2 Yahweh asks rhetorically of Job as well as us in our day, “Who [is] this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”
Simply put, Yahweh asks who are these teachers who teach when they don’t know the truth themselves, and only make matters worse?
Not even a small percentage of churchgoers is aware of 2Timothy 2:15 and its command for individual study. The mandate is for each to “rightly divide the word of truth.” This phrase derives from the Greek orthotomeo. The Expository Dictionary says it does not mean dividing Scripture from Scripture, but teaching Scripture accurately.
The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge says the reference “is not to dividing up Scripture into dispensations, and applying to ourselves only what is allegedly valid for this dispensation…The emphasis is not upon ‘right division’ (which in the practice of some is ‘wrong subtraction,’ but on correct interpretation)” p. 1432.
Another verse addressing proper discernment of teachings is Philippians 1:10, where, after Paul encourages us to abound in knowledge and in all judgment, he says, “That you may approve the things that are excellent…” “Are excellent” should have been rendered, set apart that which is better from what is not (Restoration Study Bible note).
Every teaching must harmonize with the Word. When it doesn’t the result is the error the church has promoted for the past 2,000 years.
If the Roman Church had eradicated unorthodox beliefs and practices instead of blending error with truth, churchianity would be completely different today. There would not be this stark contrast between what the apostles and Yahshua taught and practiced with today’s tangled mishmash of doctrines.
How then can we read Yahweh’s Word and know that we are properly understanding it? How can we make right interpretations? How should we go about rightly dividing the Word and testing doctrines that differ?
Bible study is serious business. Study of the Word should be systematic. It takes discipline and dedication to do it properly.
To get off on the right foot, start with good study Bibles like the Companion and Restoration Study Bible. Your understanding will increase exponentially when you dig down to the foundational languages of the text, which these Bibles do.
When you compare other parallel or contrasting verses, as typically provided in a good study Bible like the RSB, you get a more complete understanding.
Some Bible Study Basics
Both the Old and New testaments were written in Hebrew. That’s clear for several reasons, not the least of which is that most every writer writes in his native language, which for the writers of both testaments was Hebrew.
These were not Greeks or Greek-speaking Jews living in Galilee in the first century. They were native, blue-collar Jews who spoke Hebrew, the language of the nation. Even Paul who was a native Benjaminite-Jew wrote to Hebrew-speaking Jews in various assemblies of the dispersion.
Yet only Greek manuscripts of the New Testament survive today, of which there are some 5,400, not to mention thousands of Latin versions and other languages like Syriac, Coptic and Armenian.
Most of the existing manuscripts derive from the Middle Ages, from the 7th century onward. Of all the thousands of Greek manuscripts, no two are exactly alike. Some scholars put the differences at 200,000, others at 300,000, meaning there are more differences in manuscripts than there are words in the entire New Testament.
Realize also that the manuscripts were all hand written (which is what “manu-script” means). Sometimes scribes left out words, lines or even entire pages, especially when two lines ended with the same words. It didn’t help that they didn’t use paragraph divisions, lower case letters, or punctuation.
Complicating the process was the lack of spacing between words. Words were all run together in the ancient Hebrew and Greek texts.
Sometimes translators with insufficient understanding would introduce mistakes when they thought they were fixing a factual or doctrinal error.
Some of their changes are not critical but others are. For instance, the oldest and best manuscripts of John don’t have the story of the woman taken in adultery, where Yahshua says, “He that is without sin cast the first stone.” Think about that – if only sinless people could inflict such punishment, then the Old Testament law of stoning would not exist.
This account does not appear in any manuscript until the 12th century.
The passage of 1John 5:7-8 is the only one in the entire Bible appearing to teach a trinity of father son and Holy Spirit. The passage, however, is missing in all except one of the 5,400 Greek manuscripts in existence, and then it doesn’t occur until after the invention of the printing press in the 15th century.
Ironically, sometimes the more difficult a passage reads the more faithful is to the original translation when scribes didn’t try so hard to manipulate the text.
Error from Ignorance
All of this is to say that trying to understand Yahweh’s Word through a cloudy filter thousands of years old, and through several languages besides, can at times be like trying to create a gourmet meal in the kitchen of a storm-tossed ship. Simplistic explanations are not always sufficient.
This is just one more case for the importance of the Old Testament as the anchor for New Testament teachings. Sometimes it is the only authority we have to ascertain the truth of a New Testament passage.
Yahshua taught the Old Testament, often referred to it, and urged His followers to read it and follow its teachings. In a question about the fate of wives in the resurrection, the Sadducees in Matthew 22 tried to trip Yahshua up. He told them, “You do err, not knowing the Scriptures.”
He went to the foundation of Truth, the Old Testament, known as the Scriptures.
Modern clerics would rather Yahshua have said, “But soon when I die and am resurrected I will have put to rest that obsolete Old Testament and given you freedom to live as you wish. Rest assured that no matter how you conduct your life you will still be saved. So hang on a few decades longer until a fellow named Paul writes a new Bible that will free you from the need to obey the statutes Yahweh gave for salvation.”
If the Old Testament is defunct, then why did Yahshua quote the Old Testament to prove who He was? Why did Yahshua refer to the Old Testament as proof of His Messiahship? Why did Yahshua instruct in his sermons to live by every word that comes from Yahweh? Why did Yahshua take so much time and effort expounding the teachings of the Old Testament?
The Old Testament Scriptures are the foundation of Yahweh’s Word. They testify to His existence, His purpose, and the plan for Yahshua’s coming to this earth. They cannot be subtracted from the Bible without destroying the message, meaning, and design of the entire Word.