Essentials of True Biblical Faith

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Essentials of True Biblical Faith

Bob Larson, author of Larson’s Book of Cults, says:

“Compatibility to Bible doctrine, not social respectability and the usage of evangelical clichés, should determine whether or not any religious body is truly Christian [we apply the same test to any person or body that would claim to be “Messianic”]. When making this evaluation, test these five areas of teaching:

1. the attributes of God,
2. the Person of Christ,
3. the mankind,
4. the Atonement, and
5. the source of revelation. ...

[There is] a simple, alliterative way to concisely express the basic faults of most cults: Cults generally

demote God,
devalue Christ,
d
eify Man,
d
eny sin, and
d
enigrate Scripture.”

Dr. Walter Martin defines a “cult” as any religious group “which adhere[s] to major doctrines which are pointedly contradictory to orthodox Christianity.” I began teaching the Church about the beliefs of pseudo-Christian cults and world religions in the mid-1970’s, and it wasn’t until the late-1990’s that I began to realize that much of the issue that I was taking with the so-called “cults” is not significantly different from much of the error that is being taught from most Christian pulpits.

When I began to carefully examine the Scriptures in the context of their true Hebrew origins, and to carefully and consistently apply the rules of Bible interpretation that I had been teaching for nearly 30 years, I was forced to admit that what is considered “orthodox Christianity” is as far from Bible Truth as “the cults” are from “orthodox Christianity.”

This forces me to adopt a definition of a “cult” that is only cosmetically simiar to Dr. Martin’s definition: “any religious group which adheres to doctrines which are pointedly contradictory to those essential truths taught by Yeshua and His Emissaries.” I have come to the realization, much to my dismay, that “the Church” and “orthodox Christianity” are in most cases as far removed from the true Biblical faith as the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses are from “orthodox Christianity.”

Nearly everything that you have read — and will read in the future — on this website is the fruit of that realization.

The same test should be applied equally to the teachings of every group that claims to be either “Christian” or “Messianic.” Many groups, by whatever name they call themselves, which deviate from the clear essential teaching of Yeshua and His Emissaries are easily identifiable by a cursory review of their teachings, and what is considered by most to be “orthodox Christianity” fails the test in many critical areas.

There are many religious groups whose deviations from true Biblical faith [NOTE] are more difficult to spot. When trying to determine whether or not to classify a particular group as a “cult,” the crux of the entire matter lies in the answer to one simple question: “Is it possible for a person to embrace the doctrines of this group and still be Messianic (a Believer in the true Mashiach of the Bible, whether Jew or Gentile)?”

A “Messianic” may be variously defined as “one who belongs to Mashiach,” or “one who is involved in a personal relationship with Mashiach,” or even more simply stated, “one who is saved.” (The term “saved” is traditional “Christian shorthand” for describing a person who has placed themselves under the Lordship of Yeshua HaMashiach and accepted His completed work of redemption on their behalf. They have entered into a personal relation with the God of the Bible and will spend eternity with Him in heaven.) Since salvation depends solely upon one’s personal relationship with the God of the Bible through Adonai Yeshua HaMashiach, it is most important for us to have a clear understanding of what, according to the Scriptures, are the absolute requirements for salvation.

For example, within the group of those who consider themselves “evangelical Christians” there is a major division on the doctrine of eternal security. On one side of the dividing line are those Christians who believe that the work of salvation is totally dependent upon God, and since God cannot change His mind, once one is saved one can never lose that salvation. On the other side of the line are many Christians who reason that since salvation is dependent upon one’s faith, if one allows his/her faith to waiver, or demonstrates lack of faith by a willful act of disobedience (sin), then that person’s salvation is lost until the faith is regained or the sin is properly repented of.

One must then decide whether one’s position on the doctrine of eternal security, although terribly important to the peace of mind of the believer, is in fact critical to the fact of one’s salvation.

Further, a distinction must be drawn “salvation” and “rewards.” Is it possible for a person to be “saved” and not receive one’s “rewards”?

A very brief review of the pertinent scriptures shows clearly that “salvation” is the free gift of God based solely on faith, whereas “rewards” are in response to one’s actions  or “works” (ergon, ergon).

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. (Rom 4: 1-4, cp. Gal. 3:6 and James 2:23)

Here we have the required “three witnesses” stating that “justification” comes only by believing God [not just believing in God — the demons believe in God, and it makes them shudder (James 2:19)] independent of any “performance” issues.

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” — that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as LORD, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same LORD is LORD of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the LORD will be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13)

This clearly teaches two important lessons: (1) if you believe that Yeshua is ADONAI, the God of Israel, and believe in His bodily resurrection, you wil be saved, and (2) “Whoever will call on the name of the LORD (ADONAI) will be saved.”

I will show wonders in the sky and on earth — blood, fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the coming of the great and terrible Day of ADONAI. At that time, whoever calls on the name of ADONAI will be saved. For in Mount Tziyon and Yerushalayim there will be those who escape, as ADONAI has promised; among the survivors will be those whom ADONAI has called. (Joel 2:30-32)

This clearly confirms that “whoever calls on the name of ADONAI (the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) will be saved.” It appears that those who teach that in order to be saved one must “call on the name of Jesus” are incorrect.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:12, also Luke 6:23)

This indicates that beyond salvation there are rewards in heaven. But there are multiple passages that speak of earthly rewards as well.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Tim. 4:7-8)  Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:4)  Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.. (Rev. 2:10)  I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. (Rev. 3:11)

There are also “crowns” in heaven to be awarded based on performance here on earth.

“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city.” (Rev. 22:12-14)

Messiah is “coming quickly” to render rewards for good performance (or punishment for poor performance?), grant access to the tree of life and to the gates of the city. So is “New Jerusalem“ during the Kingdom Period or in the olam habah? Some Christian theologians believe New Jerusalem will be established in the air above Temple Mount at the end of the Kingdom Period and after the total renovation of the earth; others think it will be during the Kindgom Period. Many Jewish theologians say that it will be be built 64 miles south of the current location of Jerusalem and will be the dwelling place for the Twelve Tribes during the Messianic Era. How we interpret the timing of New Jerusalem, and how we understand where or what “heaven” is determines whether or not we consider this a “salvation passage.”

And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God ; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting. (2 John 1:6-10)

This suggests that those who fail to “walk according to His commandments” (that is, those who fail follow Torah) may “lose what we have accomplished” and fail to “receive a full reward.” It also seems to say that anyone who fails to follow Torah as Messiah taught it “does not have God.” This could be interpreted as saying that Torah-observance is a requirement of salvation, but that contradicts what the balance Scripture says about faith being the only requirement.

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:17-19)

This passage indicates that those who believe in and follow Yeshua are expected to obey the commandments of Torah, but that those who fail to do so may still be a part of “the Kingdom,” but they will be considered among ”the least,” whereas those who keep the Torah and teach others to do likewise will be considered “great” in the Kingdom.

So it would seem that it is possible to be “saved” and lose out on rewards and, conversely, to gain rewards and not be “saved.”


What, then, are the absolutes? What are the absolute minimums that must one positively believe in order to be “saved” (that is, to have eternal life with God)? This is not about what is expected of performance and lifestyle of the Believer in Messiah, but only about “getting in the door of heaven.” I agree with Bob Larson, that these are the five “absolutes” — those things which one must positively believe to be “saved”:

1. the attributes of God,
2. the Person of HaMashiach,
3. the mankind,
4. the Atonement, and
5. the source of revelation.

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1. The Attributes of God

The Scriptures, both the Tanakh (the ancient Hebrew Bible) and the Apostolic Scriptures — which are rightfully one of the four major divisions of the Tanakh, along with the Torah (Divine Instruction), Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings) — clearly teach the three-fold nature of God (ok, we admit that the teaching is more clearly defined in the Apostolic Scriptures than it is in the Tanakh).

According to Yeshua, the most important mitzvah (commandment) within the entire Bible is this: “Sh'ma Yisra'el! ADONAI Eloheinu, ADONAI echad. Hear, Israel! ADONAI our God, ADONAI is one. And you shall love ADONAI your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” However, the Bible also demonstrates that there are within the one God of the Bible three distinct “Persons” who are eternally the same in substance and equal in power: Abba (the Father), HaBen/Yeshua (the Son), and Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit), each of Whom is infinite, eternal, unchangeable, indivisible, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, personal, and perfect in wisdom, power, holiness, righteousness, justice, goodness, truth, mercy, and love. The Personal Name of hwhy (YHWH) is attributed individually to each of these “three Persons” in Scripture.

If one is absolutely correct in all other points of doctrine but in error on this one point, he or she is hopelessly lost because he/she is worshiping a God other than the God of Avraham (Abraham), Yitzhak (Isaac), and Ya`akov (Jacob), the God of the Bible.

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2. The Person of Mashiach (“Christ”)

Unlike any other religion known to man, Messianic Judaism (what Yeshua intended for his Body to be — that extremely rare and true form of Judeo/Christianity that is based solely on the doctrines and standards of the Bible alone, totally apart from the traditions of men) stands or falls on the Person of its Foundation. Just as there is only one God of the Bible, so also is there only one Mashiach of the Bible (“Christ” is the Anglicized form of the Greek word christos, which is the equivalent of the Hebrew word Mashiach — “Messiah” — “the Anointed One”), Who was always one (Hebrew echad, a plural unity like one bunch of grapes or one flock of birds) with God the Father from eternity past. He is ADONAI, the Creator of everything that is created. Besides the God of the Bible, there is nothing that exists that was not created by Mashiach. He has always been fully God and He will always be fully God.

Out of love for a lost creation, He became fully human without giving up anything of His deity. He was born of a virgin through the power of Ruach HaKodesh, He lived a perfect, sinless, human life in absolute obedience to Torah (the teachings of Scripture, not the “traditions of the elders”). He gave up His life voluntarily to fully pay the penalty of sin for all mankind. He was executed by crucifixion, died, and was buried. He was resurrected from the dead and ascended into heaven in a glorified version of the same body in which He died. He will return in that same body to gather His saints (His Miqra/Ecclesia), to judge the world, to reign physically over all of creation; and ultimately to create an entire new heaven and earth.

Any “Mashiach” or “Jesus” or “Christ” that does not match the description of Yeshua Ha’Natseret — the “Jesus” of the Bible — is one of the false messiahs (“christs”) that Adonai Yeshua predicted would appear in the last days (Matthew 24:5,23-26; Mark 13:6,21-23; Luke 17:22-24; 21:8; cp. Acts 5:36). The Yeshua we serve must be the same Yeshua presented in the Bible, because:

• If Yeshua HaMashiach is not God (ADONAI), then He holds no power to save.

• If He is not one with the Father, then He is a liar.

• If He did not become fully human, then His death did not satisfy judgment of God against sin.

• If he was not virgin-born then He inherited the sin nature of Adam, and His death did not satisfy God’s requirement for a spotless sacrifice.

• If He sinned, then He was Himself in need of a Savior.

• If He did not die, then He did not pay the penalty for sin. (“The wages of sin is death.”)

• If He was not bodily resurrected, then He does not have the power to resurrect the Saints (the “Elect,” those who belong to Him).

• If He did not ascend into heaven, then He cannot return.

• If He does not return then He is a liar and not God. And if He is a liar, then the Bible is a lie and mankind has no revelation and no hope.

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3. The Nature of Mankind

God created humankind, male and female, in His own image. Mankind chose to sin against God, and in so doing humankind became alienated from God and inherited a sin nature, and is totally depraved. Humankind possesses no spark of divine life, and, of himself, is utterly helpless to remedy his lost condition apart from the grace of God.

If man is in fact not sinful, then Yeshua’s death was for nothing and God has wasted an awful lot of time and energy in providing a means of atonement (kiporah). Also, if man is not sinful, then Yeshua Ha’Natseret (“Jesus” of Nazareth) is a liar, and the entire doctrine of HaMashiach’s person is jeopardized.

If man does not perceive of himself as sinful, then he likewise perceives no need of a Savior. If he perceives no need of a Savior, then he will never turn to HaMashiach for salvation.

If man already possesses the divine life, then he too may be a god; yet the God of the Bible expressly states that there is no God besides Himself, that before Him was no God formed nor will any God be formed after Him, and that He will not share His glory with another (Exod. 8:10; Deut. 4:13,35,39 et al).

If man is able to save himself, then Yeshua’s death was in vain, and man must work out his own salvation by living out his life in total obedience to the absolute letter of the Torah. Since Yeshua Ha’Natseret was the only one to every have lived up to the whole Torah, then no man can ever be saved.

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4. The Requirements of Atonement (Kiporah)

The Tabernacle/Temple sacrifices foreshadowed the Lamb of God, “slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), Whose shed blood would be the final sacrifice and cleansing from sin (1 John 1:7). Man, whose sinful rebellion has separated him from God, can now have “peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20) and be “reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:19) because of His vicarious, substitutionary death.

If one is in accord with the essential elements of the doctrines of the Person of Mashiach and the Nature of Man as outlined above, then the scriptural description of the atonement is the only means by which sinful man can become reconciled to a Holy God. To reject the doctrine of Atonement requires one to reject both the doctrines of Mashiach and of Man.

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5. The Source of Revelation

Since our only reliable source of revelation is the Bible, then we must look to the Bible to see what it claims for itself. It claims that it is the Word of God, inspired (God-breathed), inerrant, complete (Revelation 22:18, 19; Devarim [Deuteronomy] 12:32), and the only infallible rule of faith. It reveals the origin and destiny of all things; records God’s dealings with mankind in the past, present, and future; and focuses on the Person and Work of Yeshua HaMashiach. The Bible inspires faith (Romans 10:17) and will make men “wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15).

The greatest possible evidence we can have for the infallibility of Scripture is the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy (Jeremiah 28:1-17 and Hebrews 1:1-2:4, for example). God places His reputation on the line with Biblical prophecy. God requires absolute accuracy from a prophet, and declares that if a single thing spoken by a prophet in the name of the Lord fails to come to pass, then everything that the prophet has ever said must be disregarded (Deuteronomy 18:22, literal). By that criteria, if the Bible claims to be the Word of God (and it does), then one single error in the entire canon of Scripture would require us to discard the entire Bible.

Therefore, by its own testimony, the Bible declares that the Believer in Mashiach, whether Jew or Gentile, must accept the entire Bible “every jot [yod, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet] and tittle [the decorative embellishments on Hebrew letters]” or must discard it entirely. That being the case, then all other supposed “revelation” must be weighed and evaluated in light of the Bible.

Additionally, the Believer must evaluate carefully everything that is said by anyone claiming to be a “prophet” — that is, anyone who claims to speak for God or on His behalf, to have any form of special “revelation” or “anointing” from God, to have any form of “special message” from God, or to have any “supernatural,” “sign,” “apostolic,” or “prophetic” gift. To claim to have any of those things is to claim to be functioning in the prophetic office. Any person making such a claim must be 100% accurate in every single thing that they teach. The Bible says that if such a person’s message is ever inaccurate in even the smallest detail, that person is a false prophet, and the Believer in Mashiach must totally ignore every single thing taught by that person.

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____________
Note:
You will occasionally notice the terms “Christianity” and “Messianic Judaism” being used somewhat interchangeably on this web site. That is because I have been running this website since the early 1980’s, before I was introduced to the Messianic Movement, and much of the material was originally written when I was a professor of systematic theology at a Christian seminary on the west coast, over 30 years ago now. Because the web site is so extensive (well over 500 pages at last calculation), it is very difficult to keep older articles edited to conform with the new “revelation” into which Ruach HaKodesh leads me on a nearly daily basis. I have now come to believe that “Christianity” fails in many critical areas to conform to that which I now believe is the only valid form of true Biblical faith.

I now believe that the only valid form of “Christianity” is that which:

• recognizes both its roots in Judaism and its proper relationship to the God, the People, the Land, and the Covenants of Israel (that is, “grafted into” — and therefore a part of — Biblical Israel (to which I refer as the Commonwealth of Israel), not replacing or superceding Israel in any way),

• recognizes and supports Israel’s undisputed right to the entire “land grand” that God covenanted to Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya`akov, which includes all the land from the “River of Egypt” (the Nile) to the Euphrates,

• includes God’s covenant people of all the biblical covenants in all eras, and

• submits to the authority of Torah.

I likewise believe that the only valid form of Judaism is that which:

• recognizes Rabbi Yeshua Ben Yosef (Yeshua Ha’Natseret) as the Son of God and Melech HaMashiach (Israel’s King Messiah) and which

• includes both Jews and non-Jews who are part of a covenant relationship with HaShem, the God of Avraham (Abraham), Yitzhak (Isaac), and Ya`akov (Jacob).

These two terms, therefore, only when properly used, refer to exactly the same body of people. [RETURN]

Page last updated on Saturday, 27 August 2016 04:33 PM
(Updates are generally minor formatting or editorial changes.
Major content changes after May 3, 2015 are identified as "Revisions”)