Standing for the truth of God’s word above the philosophies of men

We need to be aware of, and reject, false religious traditions.

We need to be aware of, and reject, false religious traditions.

  • Colossians 2:8 – Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Messiah.

This admonition from the apostle Paul strikes at the heart of the major conflict that the first century believers faced: the resistance of the orthodox Jews of their day who did not accept their Messiah. The Messiah-believing Jews were coming out from among the ranks of orthodox Judaism into what was considered a new sect. However, what was happening biblically was the remnant of true Israelites was being separated from the rest of unbelieving Judaism, even among those who had been dispersed, as had been prophesied.

  • Isaiah 10:20-22 – On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no longer depend on the one who struck them, but they will faithfully depend on the Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel. The remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God. Israel, even if your people were as numerous as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction has been decreed; justice overflows.
  • Isaiah 11:10-12 – On that day the root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples. The nations will look to him for guidance, and his resting place will be glorious. On that day the Lord will extend his hand a second time to recover the remnant of his people who survive ​– ​from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the coasts and islands of the west. He will lift up a banner for the nations and gather the dispersed of Israel; he will collect the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

This process required immense vigilance, determination, and faith in God. They were being persecuted (that is, hunted with intent to harm) by their very own brothers. They were being challenged in their faith on principles they had grown up believing, being taught in the synagogues throughout the areas where they lived. They were coming to see that many of the traditions and ideas that had been created by the religious elite were being cast away because they were not God’s design for his spiritual people.

Yeshua had railed against the religious leaders for their adherence to their traditions and philosophies above the both the clear and symbolic teachings of Scripture.

  • Matthew 15:3-6 – He [Yeshua] answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.

Besides their hypocrisy and pride, Yeshua was calling them out on their observance to their own philosophical traditions that they held to above Scripture. They had created traditions around the teachings of Scripture, traditions that were contrary to the spirit and purpose of the law.

The apostle Paul in like fashion condemned the man-made restrictions and rules that had been added to the clear teaching and meaning of Scripture:

  • Colossians 2:23 – These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

The true message of the kingdom was not more restrictions and rules by the letter of the law, but the fulfillment of those things in Messiah and the advent of the spiritual kingdom adhering to the spirit of the law. The oral laws and traditions that had been added to the law of Moses were being shed as people began to understand Messiah’s teaching in light of the spiritual kingdom.

For example, physical circumcision had become a “badge of honor” among the Jews regardless of any spiritual or ethical practices. Paul preached that this was no longer necessary, but spiritual circumcision through a removal of the flesh through baptism was.

  • Colossians 2:11 – In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Messiah…

Temple worship and practices were no longer needed, because the body of believers themselves had become the dwelling place of God, as taught by both Paul and Peter.

  • 2 Corinthians 6:16 – What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
  • 1 Peter 2:4-5 – As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua Messiah.

These were the types of teachings that continued to separate the remnant of Israel from the orthodox Judaism of the day.

We also have a responsibility to confront the false teachings, traditions, and philosophies that have grown up around the true faith of Messiah in the centuries since these brave and faithful forefathers stood their ground in the first century. Through our institutions, organizations, and denominations, we have created a new “oral law,” a set of trappings that continue to divide and separate God’s people. We have created holy days not listed in Scripture, constructed networks of churches around the dynamics of charismatic leaders and humanistic teachings, and built a theology of orthodoxy on the philosophies of men rather than the truth of Scripture.

We have strayed from the spiritual nature of the kingdom into the realm of trying to build a physical kingdom representation in our own image. We must return to the roots of biblical faith and the spiritual kingdom that Messiah established two millennia ago. We, like our spiritual forefathers, must remain vigilant in the face of those who, as the apostle Paul admonished, would seek to take us “captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elements of the world, rather than Messiah.”

  • Colossians 3:23-24 – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Messiah.

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Our love for all others should be as natural as the elements of God’s Creation

Loving our enemies provides honor and glory to God.

Matthew 5:44-45 – “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, “so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

I find this passage to be enigmatic among the sayings of Yeshua, as it seems to contrast believers’ actions that are active with those of God that are assumed to be passive. We are commanded to actively love and pray for our adversaries, however, God’s natural order of things is for the sun to shine and the rain to fall. Is God actively blessing the evil by causing the sun to shine on their crops or actively sending rain for the purpose of blessing the unrighteous? Or are these impartial, passive blessings that are received by the evil and unrighteous just for the privilege of living in the natural world that God has created?

Based on the perspective of the biblical writings, God is not passive in his Creation, but he is actively involved with blessing all of mankind, while still ordering all things according to his will and purpose.

Ecclesiastes 3:11, 13-14 – He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also put eternity in their hearts, but no one can discover the work God has done from beginning to end. … It is also the gift of God whenever anyone eats, drinks, and enjoys all his efforts. I know that everything God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in awe of him.
Psalm 19:1 – The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

According to the apostle Paul, God’s invisible attributes can be deduced from his visible, natural Creation.

Romans 1:20 – For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Paul actually engages this type of argument while reasoning with the Greek philosophers at the Areopagus.

Acts 17:24-27 – “The God who made the world and everything in it ​– ​he is Lord of heaven and earth ​– ​does not live in shrines made by hands. “Neither is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. “From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. “He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

If we consider that even being alive as an individual on this planet is truly a gift from God, something that we as individual beings have zero control over, how much more the bounty of God’s provision is evidenced through the natural order of his Creation. This was even recognized among the secular philosophers of the day. Consider the statement of Seneca, a Roman philosopher of the first century, which is almost a direct parallel to the saying of Yeshua:

“If you imitate the gods, give favors to the ungrateful: for the sun rises for the wicked, and the seas are open to pirates.”

This idea of providing favors to the ungrateful, or as Yeshua states, loving and praying for the wicked and unrighteous, was considered a “godly” attribute even among the philosophers of the day.

John Wesley has an interesting take on this verse, focusing instead on how those generic blessings are received by those who don’t know God.

“He gives them such blessings as they will receive at his hands. Spiritual blessings they will not receive.”

This implies that non-believers, while not willing to submit to the spiritual requirements of God, nonetheless are willing to take whatever benefit they can from the Creation of God and use it for their own ends. For me, this illustrates how things meant to bless others can be taken for granted with no recognition or acknowledgement of the privilege provided. I believe this captures the sentiment that Yeshua is seeking to provide in this instruction.

Adam Clarke provides even further clarity in this regard as to the results of the those favors or blessings, even if they by-and-large go unacknowledged.

“There is nothing greater than to imitate God in doing good to our enemies. All the creatures of God pronounce the sentence of condemnation on the revengeful: and this sentence is written by the rays of the sun, and with the drops of rain, and indeed by all the natural good things, the use of which God freely gives to his enemies. If God had not loved us while we were his enemies, we could never have become his children: and we shall cease to be such, as soon as we cease to imitate him.”

God demonstrates that he loves all people by giving them life and blessings through his Creation. Yeshua encourages us as believers to mimic our heavenly Father by having our prayers and intercessions for the ungrateful and unworthy simply be a natural outworking of who we are, just as the sun rising and the rain falling are the natural outworking of God’s handiwork on a daily basis. Our love and forgiveness for all others should be as natural for us as sunshine and rain are for God: all day, every day.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.