By the Scriptures

The thought that Christ came to start a new religion, which we now call Christianity, evidently lies at the heart of Christianity itself as a distinct religion. Christians claim to follow Christ, to believe in Him and worship Him, find their salvation in Him, and believe their unique practices and beliefs are what Christ Himself has commanded of them. For these divine instructions they rely exclusively upon the New Testament.

There is, however, a very basic problem with this understanding: Christ Himself never taught this, that He came to start a new religion, neither did any of His apostles. Both Christ and all of His apostles, including the Apostle Paul, believed the one true faith (Ep 4:4) was an old one, largely lost in Judaism yet embodied within the Tanakh, what we now call the Old Testament, which they referred to as the scriptures. (Jn 5:29) There was no concept of a New Testament (NT) scripture during the lifetime of Paul or the Twelve Apostles; they never based any of their teachings on anything but the Tanakh. They had no other scriptural authority, and scriptural authority was all they truly had. (Ac 17:11)

Both Christ (Jn 3:10) and the Apostles taught that the true and correct religion (Ju 3), the way to be in right relationship with God, was the historic faith embodied in the Tanakh. (Ro 16:25-26) Christ’s work and message didn’t alter this in any way, shape or form. (Ps 19:7-9) This is, in fact, how Christ Himself frames His entire ministry: He affirms that His message and redemptive work are grounded in, explained by and perfectly consistent with the Tanakh. (Mt 5:17-19)

While it is evident (at least to me) that the NT writings are just as inspired as the Tanakh, it is also evident that if we’re not properly grounded in the Tanakh we can easily misread, misinterpret, and misapply the NT, particularly the writings of Paul. This is, I believe, the fundamental problem with Christianity as a whole, and it is not a recent problem; it traces as far back as the early second century CE and includes nearly everything which makes Christianity a distinct religion, such as Sunday worship, the Eucharist (the Lord’s Supper), a belief that Christ has abolished or annulled Torah, and a variety of corruptions of the gospel which are deeply inconsistent with the Tanakh. Though considered fundamentals of Christian faith today, such beliefs were foreign to the early Church.

In the earliest days of the Faith, during the Apostolic Age, the disciples of Christ were considered a Jewish sect, The Way (Ac 9:2), a subset of Judaism; gentile believers were largely indistinguishable from their Jewish brothers and sisters in their worship and practice. (Ga 2:14) This sect was distinct from traditional Judaism in two fundamental ways: [1] a return to justification by faith (rejecting Judaism’s legalism) and [2] recognizing salvation was available to gentiles even if they didn’t become Jewish proselytes and observe Jewish customs and man-made traditions (as required in Judaism). Apart from these two key differences, the early Church was essentially identical to Judaism; the Church simply corrected the errors of Judaism in these two key areas where she had departed from the way of truth defined in the Tanakh.

It wasn’t until after the death of the apostles, as persecution of the Jewish people become more intense, that a move began to distance the churches from Judaism and from the Tanakh, to redefine the Faith as distinctly non-Jewish. Deceitful workers found plenty of fuel in the Pauline epistles (2Co 11:13), inventing another Jesus, another gospel, and fabricating an entirely new religion. (1Co 11:4)

Peter himself warns us about this, that some of what Paul writes is hard to understand and easy to misinterpret, such that those who are unlearned and unstable typically wrest Pauline statements, as they do also the Tanakh, unto their own destruction. (2Pe 3:16) And Paul himself warned that soon after his departing grievous wolves would enter into the Church, not sparing the flock. (Ac 20:29)

To the degree any Christian sect strays from the Tanakh it will be in error, and when the lies are couched in the very language of scripture, those who are deceived in them are exceptionally difficult to reach, since the words and many of the key concepts are already accepted and believed, but incorrectly, out of context.

This is particularly true of the gospel itself; very few (if any) Christian presentations of the gospel are based on the Tanakh, and what most Christians actually believe about salvation cannot be found within it. In fact, most Christians believe Christ actually came to change the way we’re saved, such that we’re now saved in a different way than those in the old dispensation. Nothing could be farther from the truth, or more eternally dangerous.

As it was for me personally, Christians may indeed find themselves inoculated against the true faith of God, thinking they’re eternally safe when they aren’t, hoping they have spiritual life when they’re still dead in sin. (Re 3:1) It is sobering to realize that many, perhaps most of those complacent in their Christianity will fail to make their calling and election sure (2Pe 1:10), and will be lost in the end, as Christ Himself predicts. (Mt 7:21-23)

Given this tendency to misinterpret and misapply the NT, and the eternal danger this poses, a good litmus test for any Christian teaching about the nature of God or Man (Ro 3:10), or about our duty to God or Man, or about how to be rightly aligned with God and in fellowship with Him (Ro 4:3), is that it must be grounded solidly in the Tanakh. (2Ti 3:16-17) This is following the example of Christ and His apostles; it is exactly what they did. (14-15)

So, if our understanding of the gospel, the ground of our salvation, is not firmly established within the Tanakh (Ro 4:16), and perfectly consistent with it (Ps 119:115), we need to keep seeking and praying until we find God in truth. (Lk 16:27-31) Inundated by counterfeit gospels, the Tanakh makes us wise unto salvation, teaching us what faith in Christ looks like and how to obtain it (1Ti 3:14-15); we cannot afford to be amiss here. (Mt 26:16)

And if any other teaching or doctrine cannot be derived primarily from the Tanakh (Ro 15:4), being only reinforced and supported in the NT, we should hold it loosely, with a bit of suspicion and caution, at arm’s length as it were, and not close to the heart. And, certainly, if any doctrine contradicts or dismisses any part of Torah in any way, we may safely discard it as darkness. (Is 8:20)

articles    blog

8 thoughts on “By the Scriptures”

  1. Evidently, the primary function of the New Testament scriptures is to enable us to rightly understand the Tanach, since it is so often misunderstood; the NT points us back to the OT and helps us see the Gospel and the fundamentals of the faith.

  2. Tim,

    I like your writing, challenging, yet open to discourse.

    I will discourse.

    IS the Word “trinity” found in the Tanach? Not asking about inferences, asking about the word itself, “trinity”.

    Also, the Word “rapture”, again, not inferences from scripture, but the actual Word “rapture” — within the mainly Hebrew Tanach.

    Lastly for now, if the Word of G-d is imperishable SEED which has
    the Life of the Almighty within it — and scripture itself talks about trees and fruit, would it be unreasonable or untanachable to see growth of understanding in John through Revelation that is an outgrowth of SEED. Seed Tree Fruit Mustard Seed Fig Tree cursed for not having Fruit.

    Appreciate your labor in the Word. You’ve been doing this for years, through thick n thin as one might say. As I see it, we are all a lot like King David — we may have slain a Goliath here or there — but we may have found a Basheba or numbered the children of Israel in a wrong way where judgment led to the death of 70,000 — or as David had a son that wanted to kill him, and a son that raped a daughter of his —

    Yet David, the sweet psalmist of Israel [ I wonder if any wives of the 70,000 who died called the King the sweet psalmist of Israel] — David would say, Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord does not impute iniquity.

    And who among us could stand if he numbered even one iniquity in our own lives. Just one sin!

    David experienced forgiveness down to the marrow of his bone.

    In the words of the Sweet Psalmist:

    1 {A Psalm of David, Maschil.} Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

    2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

    3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.

    4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.

    5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.


    Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

    That is you, and your readers. Blessed.

    1. Hi Stephen,

      Yes, I do think the NT extrapolates from the OT and helps us understand concepts which are in the Tanakh in seed form. The Apostles were given a correct understanding of the Faith, correcting the basic errors of Judaism, which had misused and misapplied the Tanakh. The apostolic witness of the truth as recorded in the NT is critical for us to understand and heed. (He 2:3)

      What I am trying to call out in this post is that to the degree our theology departs from the Apostolic faith, essentially a corrected Judaism, particularly in regard to the gospel itself, we endanger ourselves. The Christian corruptions of the gospel, ranging from trust in sacraments, baptismal regeneration, to various techniques for “receiving Christ” through confession, repentance and/or prayer, use the language of scripture and promise the benefits of salvation, yet without understanding the proper grounds of justification as laid out in the Tanakh: supernatural faith in Messiah and His finished work. (Ro 4)

      I do not know the eternal state of any soul but my own, and I do hope that many Christians are saved, but I fear most are not. (Mt 7:21-23) The gospel I was taught in Christianity, one very nearly universally taught and believed in Evangelical Christianity today, is false.

      I do my best to earnestly defend the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Ju 3-4) I invite you to join me. 🙂


  3. Tim,

    An earlier question, and a new question as we seek to understand parameters of the word gospel.

    IS the Word “trinity” found in the Tanach? Not asking about inferences, asking about the word itself, “trinity”.

    Also, the Word “rapture”, again, not inferences from scripture, but the actual Word “rapture” — within the mainly Hebrew Tanach.

    New Additional question:

    From Mark 16:20

    And they went forth, and preached every where, the
    Lord working with them, And confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

    It appears from context of vs 17 and 18 that these are specific signs THAT The LORD working with them, Confirms the preaching of the Word.

    Would you see that as part of the faith to contend for, earnestly.

    My original question relates to a thought, “is it good to define scripture with words outside of scripture in a doctrinal sense”. Just looking for some iron sharpening, peacefully please 🙂

    respect and love

  4. Tim,

    Sobering thoughts from yourself as usual.

    From Mark 16:20

    And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

    Two points to begin with as they go forth to preach the gospel. 1) The LORD working with them — and 2A) The LORD CONFIRMS the Word WITH signs following. vs. 17-18

    As a younger man, with a degree of vanity, but also a Love for Jesus… while staying with an older friend… a friend of his and his young daughter came over. As memory serves, he was in his forties and had been an alcoholic for a good portion of his life. Alcoholics drink until they drop, then they remain sober until they go off the deep end again.

    In talking we developed a rapport — he asked me, where did I go wrong? I’d been reading Hebrews 6:1-3; so asked him, were you ever baptized? Long story short, my friend drove us out to the lake in the dark dark night — I walked him out into the water, with the headlight beams from the car shining on us — and asked him to pinch his nose while I put him under the water, then raised him back up — he came out of the water speaking in tongues [Mark 16:17] … then his 12 year old daughter gave him a hug as he came up on shore, and while hugging him, said Daddy I’ve been praying for this.

    Did I know what I was doing? No. I was just out there, willing in some way to be light, and the ONE who grants increase, granted it for that man, possibly because of a praying daughter.

    Another day, I witnessed to a young man about the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and forgiveness of our sins by his death, then resurrection on the cross, and he laughed me to scorn. He had never heard of anything so ridiculous. We went back to playing chess or something or other. A few days later for one to two hours straight, again as memory serves — the Holy Spirit prompted me so strongly to go out and visit the young man — it may have been half a day. I did not want to be laughed at. I did not yield to that prompting. He committed suicide later that day I was to find out.

    Most of us have had both types of experiences — we are still promised that if we preach the Word, the Lord confirms with signs following.
    The WORD is more than dead letters on a page, or memorized dogma — True Word is full of HIS LIFE and does bring about a confirmation from HIM, with signs following.

    True Words will have within a Love for individual men and women. For GOD SO LOVED — without the depth of the Love of Christ in us for others we tend to experience the second example from my life I shared: fear of man, fear of what man will think, and too much love for one’s own self. Would be easy to rant on this thought, your thoughts Tim on The LORD CONFIRMING with signs following and the reality of not just speaking to others, but honestly having a love in our heart for them. As a woman once told me, I don’t care if you raise the dead when you pray, or lay hands on the sick and see them recover.. she ranted on… If you don’t love me, don’t speak to me


    ps – she was right to tell me off :), I was being “spiritual” with her.

    1. I enjoy your stories and agree, loving others is the heart of the Word. If we lack charity, we are nothing. (1Co 13)
      Did you see a conflict with Love in the post? or think a proper emphasis on love would change the way this post is written?

  5. Tim,

    My opinion, right or wrong 🙂 is that you are one who labors in the Word, which is Good, and helpful, and makes your writings thoughtful and encouraging myself and others to know Truth. My comments on love were a revelation — while — I was writing on your blog:

    For GOD so loved stephen’s world, For GOD so loved Tim’s world — whether spouses or exes or children or bosses or neighbors or Joe Biden or George Soros or AOC — whoever — in in our world – Mr. Putin etc… or Saul who was responsible for the death of Christians — For GOD so Loved. Wherever I am 🙂 — IS For GOD SO Loved working through Messiah in me towards “my” world… or am I a Judge, not that we are not supposed to make judgement; but we do well to remember there is ONE Lawgiver, ONE Judge — and, in my case — it is NOT myself.

    In terms of earnestly contending for the Faith, my previous question still is put before you.


    From Mark 16:20

    And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.

    Two points to begin with as they go forth to preach the gospel. 1) The LORD working with them — and 2A) The LORD CONFIRMS the Word WITH signs following. vs. 17-18

    QUESTION: ARE those verses in Mark, a portion of THE Faith, ONCE delivered to the saints which we should contend for. Is it in line with the Word to contend for — the Word — which the LORD CONFIRMS with signs following. Do YOU see that as part of the Faith Once delivered to the Saints, or do you see it as no longer valid?


  6. I see you have multiple topics for me. 🙂

    Trinity and Rapture, no, the words themselves don’t appear in scripture, but the relevant concepts appear (to me) to be present in the Word. We commonly invent new words (or repurpose existing ones) to succinctly capture more complex concepts so we may communicate more effectively. The fact that these new words don’t appear in scripture is irrelevant; we should focus on determining if the relevant concepts are indeed present in the Word.

    On signs and wonders, of course, they’re still valid: I believe God provides them as needful in similar contexts as faced by the early Church. Perhaps the question is motivated by the post on this topic a couple weeks back. I don’t deny the existence of signs today but question the motivation of seeking them when so much evidence is already available to us. I have experienced people tending to try to use the miraculous to exalt themselves and control others. Perhaps this is another root cause of why we see so few miracles in the churches today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.