Has anyone ever told you that you cannot keep Yeshua's teachings because they are too hard? A Jew of the second century had this to say concerning them “Moreover, I am aware that your precepts in the so-called Gospel are so wonderful and so great, that I suspect no one can keep them; for I have carefully read them.” (Justin Martyr, A.D. 160: Dialogue with Trypho a Jew, Chapter 10)
The children of Israel had a commandment from the LORD to possess the land of Canaan by “Overthrowing their altars, and breaking their pillars, burning their groves with fire…hewing down the graven images of their gods, and destroying the names of them out of that place.” (Deuteronomy 12:1-3, Numbers 13:1-3)
But before they were to do this, they were to send twelve men, one of every tribe, to spy out the land. The men spied out the land. Ten brought back an evil report to Israel saying, “WE BE NOT ABLE to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report...saying, ‘The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof…there we saw the giants…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:31-33)
Having heard these unbelief filled words, “The whole congregation said unto Moses and Aaron, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?” (Numbers 14:2-3) This majority agreed that they “Were not able”. God commanded, “Do this” and they replied, “We be not able”.
How did God feel about all of those Israelite's who said they were not able to obey Him? God judged them. None of those who agreed, “We be not able” obtained the Promised Land, though they were saved from bondage to slavery, Pharaoh, and Egypt; instead, they died in the wilderness because of their unbelief. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:12-13) “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:18-19) Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. (Hebrews 4:1-2)
Now Caleb, being one of the twelve spies said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” (Numbers 13:30) Caleb was not of that number who, with a false humility, blasphemed God who commanded “Do this” and replied, “We be not able”, as though God was lacking knowledge of man’s ability. But He was all the more confident, that He who commanded “Do this” was well aware of Israel’s condition, and that God wasn’t short of anything—for He commanded “Do this” so Caleb was fully persuaded that he was able.
Yeshua commanded, “Resist not evil…turn the other cheek…love your enemies…do good to those who hate you” (Matthew 5:38-48) therefore you cannot be a Christian and go to war, file lawsuits, defend yourself using violence, or have any hatred, malice, and unforgiveness. Furthermore He said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery,” (Mark 10:11-12) therefore, unless your legitimate spouse is dead, you cannot be divorced and remarried and be a part of the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 7:10-11) Yeshua gave a commandment to “Swear not at all” yet that is what many do to be a politician, government official, or a soldier and yet, millions of professing Christians think you can swear and be a Christian.
To these teachings—and many more—they say, “We be not able” therefore they will not inherit the kingdom because of their unbelief.
Here is part of an early Christian writing from the second century:
“Sir, these commandments are great, and good, and glorious, and fitted to gladden the heart of the man who can perform them. But I do not know if these commandments can be kept by man, because they are exceeding hard.” He answered and said to me, “If you lay it down as certain that they can be kept, then you will easily keep them, and they will not be hard. But if you come to imagine that they cannot be kept by man, then you will not keep them. Now I say to you, if you do not keep them, but neglect them, you will not be saved, nor your children, nor your house, since you have already determined for yourself that these commandments cannot be kept by man.”
“O fool, senseless and double-minded, do you not perceive how great is the glory of God, and how strong and marvellous, in that He created the world for the sake of man, and subjected all creation to him, and gave him power to rule over everything under heaven? If, then, man is lord of the creatures of God, and rules over all, is he not able to be lord also of these commandments?”
“For,” says he, “the man who has the Lord in his heart can also be lord of all, and of every one of these commandments. But to those who have the Lord only on their lips, but their hearts hardened, and who are far from the Lord, the commandments are hard and difficult. Put, therefore, ye who are empty and fickle in your faith, the Lord in your heart, and ye will know that there is nothing easier or sweeter, or more gentle, than these commandments.”
“And I hope, sir, to be able to keep all these commandments which you have enjoined upon me, the Lord strengthening me.” “You will keep them,” says he, “if your heart be pure towards the Lord; and all will keep them who cleanse their hearts from the vain desires of this world, and they will live to God.” (The Pastor of Hermas; Apostolic Fathers 46:4-6; 47:2-5; 49:4-5)
Men today can fly across the world...they can take a heart out of one person and put in another...there are dare devils who attract millions by their stunts...think of the gymnasts, the navy seals, and all of the inventions of electricity, computers, internet, cell phones, etc. and yet many who profess to be Christians dare to say, “We be not able” to keep Jesus’ teachings.
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves,” (James 1:22) for Christ has taught, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man…And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man.” (Matthew 7:22-26) Yeshua joined His two statements—one about the workers of iniquity—and the other about hearing His sayings and either doing or not doing them—by using the word “therefore”. Those who hear His sayings “therefore” and respond “We be not able” or “do them not” are workers of iniquity that will hear the worst possible words anyone could ever imagine “I never knew you: Depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.”
“Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again. Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Yeshua answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.” (Matthew 20:18-23)
Yeshua asked His disciples, “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” That cup of betrayal, condemnation and death; mocking, scourging, and crucifixion; to this they responded, “We are able.” Did Yeshua accuse them of boasting? No, but replied, “Ye shall drink indeed of my cup.” In fact Yeshua calls all who would follow Him to drink of this cup in these words, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
A man from the seventeenth century wrote:
“The Christian’s great conquest over the world is all contained in the mystery of Christ upon the Cross. It was there, and from there, that He taught all Christians how they were to come out of and conquer the world, and what they were to do in order to be His disciples…Christianity means nothing else, but an entire, absolute conformity to that Spirit which Christ showed in the mysterious sacrifice of Himself upon the cross.
Every man therefore is only so far a Christian as he partakes of this Spirit of Christ. It was this that made Paul so passionately express himself: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But why does he glory? Is it because Christ had suffered in his place, and had excused him from suffering?
No, by no means! But it was because his Christian profession had called him to the honor of suffering with Christ, and of dying to the world under reproach and contempt, as He had done upon the Cross. For he immediately adds: “by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Ga. 6:14 This, you see, was the reason of his glory in the cross of Christ, because it had called him to the exact same state of death and crucifixion to the world. Thus was the cross of Christ, in Paul’s days, the glory of Christians.
He was not referring to their not being ashamed to own a Master that was crucified, but rather their glorying in a religion which was nothing else but a doctrine of the cross—a doctrine that called them to the same suffering spirit, the same sacrifice of themselves, the same renunciation of the world, the same humility and meekness, the same patient bearing of injuries, reproaches, and contempts; and the same dying to all the greatness, honors, and happiness of this world, which the dying Christ showed upon the cross.
The necessity of this conformity to all that Christ did and suffered upon our account is very plain from the whole tenor of Scripture:
As to His sufferings: this is the only condition of our being saved by them, “if we suffer” with Him, “we shall also reign with Him.” 2 Ti. 2:12
As to His crucifixion: “knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him,” Ro. 6:6, etc. Here you see Christ is not crucified in our place; but unless our old man be really crucified with Him, the cross of Christ will profit us nothing.
As to the death of Christ, the condition is this: “If we be dead with him,” we believe that “we shall also live with him.” 2 Ti. 2:11 If therefore Christ be dead alone, if we are not dead with Him, we are just as sure, from this Scripture, that we shall not live with Him. (William Law 1686-1761 A.D.)
If you condemn or accuse people of boasting because they are keeping and teaching that you are able and must obey Yeshua's teachings, then you are of the same spirit of those wicked Pharisees who accused and condemned Yeshua. (John chapters 5-9)
If you tell men that they are not able to obey Yeshua's teachings then you are of that same spirit of unbelieving Israelite's who died in the wilderness.
Repent and believe the gospel. You are able. If you don’t, then it isn’t because you are not able to, but because you are not willing.