"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that
I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
- Matthew 28:19-20 NAS
At Ascension Ministries, we believe that the great commission includes both salvation in God's Messiah and sanctification in His Word. Therefore, we teach that a person is saved by grace through faith in the atoning blood of God's provisional sacrifice and sanctified (set apart) from the world by living a life of loving obedience to His commandments.
Saved by Grace
In the Tanakh (Old Testament), God's atonement for the forgiveness of sin came through animal sacrifice:
"The priest shall also make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the LORD for his sin which he has committed, and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven him." (Lev 19:21-22 NAS; see also Lev. 4:20-35; 5:10-18; 17:11; Num. 15:25-28)
Animal sacrifice was a shadow and type of God's Messiah who came as "the Lamb of God" to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Consequently, in the Brit Hadashah (New Covenant), salvation comes by grace through faith in the atoning blood of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah that was shed once and for all for the forgiveness of sin:
"In Him [Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence." (Ephesians 1:7-8 NKJ; see also Heb. 9:13-14, 22; 10:15-17; 1 Pet. 3:18)
When a person receives Yeshua (Jesus) as their Savior, they are spiritually regenerated or "born again" (John 3:3). At that point, God's righteousness is imputed to them by virtue of their faith alone (Gen. 15:6; James 2:23), and they receive the imperishable seed of God's Kingdom that comes "through the living and abiding word of God" (1 Peter 1:23-24).
The Righteous Walk (Halacha)
Regrettably, this is where most of Western Christianity stops with regards to God's righteousness. Scripture, however, goes on to teach that, once a person receives God's imputed righteousness by grace through faith, they are called to live righteously in word, thought, and deed just as Jesus did:
"Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous." (1 John 3:6-7 NAS; see also 1 John 2:6)
The "practice of righteousness" (Halacha) is best described as behavioral righteousness which is lived out in our daily lives. Unfortunately, the knowledge of how to live a righteous life does not come automatically, but by studying the scriptures. This is why the Apostle Paul instructs us to study and apply (rightly divide) God's word in our lives:
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Tim 2:15 KJV)
All Scripture is Inspired by God
It is important to note that when Paul gave this instruction, the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) had not been written yet. Therefore, whenever the Apostles' letters use terms like "word of truth", "God's word", "it is written", "all Scripture", and so on, they are referring directly to the Tanakh (i.e. the Law and the Prophets). This is a very important point, because Paul goes on to tell us that the "Holy Scriptures" not only lead to salvation through faith in Messiah, but they also instruct us on how to live righteously:
"And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures [Tanak], which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture [Tanak] is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." (2 Tim 3:15-16 KJV; see also Acts 24:14; 28:23).
In other words, Paul is saying that the Law and the Prophets are not only the source of all wisdom regarding our salvation in Messiah, but they also provide God's instruction for living a righteous life. Consequently, once we are saved, God's Law (Torah) is no longer needed as a tutor to lead us to the Messiah (Gal. 4:24), but it is still needed to show us how to practice God's righteousness just like our Messiah did.
The Spirit of Elijah
The prophetic aspect of this philosophy has to do with the forerunner "spirit of Elijah" that God promises to send just prior to His coming. This is the prophetic voice (anointing) of Elijah that goes before the Lord to prepare His way:
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth." (Isaiah 40:3-4 NKJ; see also Malachi 3:1 NKJ)
Phrases like, "prepare the way of the Lord", "make straight in the desert", "exalt every mountain" and so on, are Hebraisms (Jewish idioms) that refer to the restoration of God's Laws (Torah) as the foundation of a righteous walk (Deut. 6:24-25; Ps. 119:172; 1 John. 3:7). In other words, just prior to Messiah's coming, there is a prophetic voice that rises up among God's people and calls them to repent (turn back) and walk in the righteous ways of Torah just like their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did (Gen. 26:4-5).
We see this very thing happen at Messiah's first coming, when the forerunner anointing of Elijah was poured out on John the Baptist. John preached biblical repentance by calling God's people back to walk in God's righteousness (i.e. return to Torah):
"And he will turn back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him [Messiah] in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:16-17 NAS)
In the same manner, just prior to Messiah's second coming, God promises to send the spirit of Elijah who will once again and call God's people back to observe His Torah.
"Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse." (Malachi 4:4-6 NAS)
Today, this anointing is not being poured out on a single individual, but upon God's people as a whole. This is the primary reason why so many believers are returning to God's Torah and the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith.
As the Holy Spirit draws the Body of Messiah together into the unity of God's whole word (the Law, the Prophets and the Apostolic Writings of the New Covenant), we will become the end time prophetic voice crying in the wilderness to "Prepare the way of the Lord".
The Ezra Model
Based upon this fundamental understanding of God's restoration plan, our primary approach to ministry is the Ezra model:
"For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel." (Ezra 7:10 NAS)
This three-fold blueprint (study, practice, teach) is God's proven method for learning and applying His commandments in our lives. This model will empower us to rise above the chaos of the last days and prepare the way for Messiah's coming. Ultimately, God's kingdom and God's righteousness will manifest in our lives, and we will be conformed to the image of His Son who walked in the Torah of the Lord:
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure."
(1 John 3:2-3 KJV)
If you bear witness to this philosophy of life and ministry, then we encourage you to join with us as together we prepare the way of the Lord.