THE CHURCH AND ISRAEL IN SCRIPTURE
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The study of the Old Testament points to Christ who was to come. The New Testament tells us that it was Jesus Christ who fulfilled those prophecies, except for the ones that refer to Him coming a second time at the very end of the age. For 2,000 years, study of both testaments by Christians has enabled the Church to continue to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 1:3 KJV). Contention has been particularly evident in our day with the rise of new movements within the Church that obviously want to replace natural Israel with the Church.
Besides these, there is the confusing Messianic movement and the Hebraic Roots movement, which are seen by some as the same movement while others say they are separate from each other. These movements say they have two purposes: to create an atmosphere within the Church that would enhance their chances of reaching the Jews for Christ, and to bring the Church back to its Hebraic Roots. The Church is present on earth to bring the gospel to all men, Jew and Gentile, but what gospel? Some of these groups have as their source the British Israelism effort, others stem from the "revival," and still others renounce both of these groups, yet want to take the Church back to the practices of natural Israel. Others believe, in spite of the clearness of God's revealed word, that there are secret codes in the Bible that are revealing and prophetic.
On top of all of this, there often seems to be much emphasis on how the Jewish culture is supposed to relate to us, rather than on how it all relates to Christ. Where does the confusion as to who is who and what is what end? It doesn't, and it appears to get more confusing by the day.
I believe an understanding of the Old and New Testament as they relate to Christ should be sufficient. I have been a Christian for almost 30 years and came to know Christ and walk in Him and serve Him through studying my Christian Bible and a few Christian commentaries. In fact, Christians have grown in Christ for 2000 years by doing the exact same thing, and the truth of who He is has been preserved. The salvation God freely offered in Him has remained in its simplicity and its availability to both Jew and Gentile alike. Those who have believed the gospel are those of the "household of God" that He's been preparing to gather to Himself at the end of the age.
There is no doubt that a study of the Jewish culture and heritage can enhance the Christian's study of who Christ is, as long as it is firmly grounded in the Scriptures in the proper context and finds fulfillment in the New Testament. In fact, it is the responsibility of the Christian to know both the old and new that they might see how wonderfully simple God's salvation in Christ is. Just as we must be extremely careful and discerning in using Christian extra-biblical commentaries and other research books, so is it true of those based on the Jewish culture regarding our faith in the person of Christ. A very simple example are the feasts of God given to Israel. In JUDAISM, the four spring feasts still await fulfillment (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost), whereas in CHRISTIANITY, we see that our Lord Jesus Christ has fulfilled these in Himself. Paul proclaimed all of these feasts in the New Testament, but he did so by pointing to their fulfillment in Christ. He also exhorted the Christian to partake of Christ in this way in the Spirit: Christ our Passover has been sacrificed; Christ has risen from the dead (Firstfruits); cleanse out the old leaven (Unleavened Bread); receive the promise given Abraham and his Seed (Pentecost). Of these four feasts, Jesus did tell the disciples to break bread together in remembrance of Him and that was clearly practiced in the New Testament.
The Christian already enjoys this fulfillment in Christ and the idea that we have to return to the Hebraic observation of these feasts makes no sense at all. What can one add to the reality of Christ? To believe they are a command that we MUST celebrate them is beyond the limits of our freedom in Christ. If the celebration of these feasts is no longer law, then why the pressure to conform by some? It is because of this emphasis that some Christians have gone to the other extreme of saying everything Jewish must be discarded, which only adds to the confusion. The point is this: the Old Testament is the shadow pointing to Christ, and the New Testament is the reality in Him fulfilling what was to be fulfilled. In studying the word of God, we are to move from the shadow of the Old Testament to the light of the New Testament till we see Christ as the reality foreshadowed in the Old.
Jesus, the Son of God, was born a Jew under the law and it is because of who He was that salvation is of the Jews. The EMPHASIS here should be not on His Jewishness, though that is important, but on His being the Son of God become flesh to fulfill the promises of the Old Testament. He didn't come to earth to die on the cross and be raised from the dead and send the Holy Spirit into the hearts of all who believe so we could somehow become part of earthly Jerusalem. He did these things to make us members of God's household and make us citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. He did what He did because we were lost in sin and could not save ourselves. In that death and resurrection, He made us, and any Jew or Gentile who believes, a new creature in Him - meaning a creature who before God is forgiven, justified, declared righteous, sanctified and will be visibly glorified in Him when He returns at the end of the age. Acceptance of this finished work makes us a citizen of Jerusalem above where Christ alone is the center of all things. There is no call to be conformed again to the shadow in Scripture, but to be conformed to the image of God's Son.
The door to the study of Jewish things is said to be the Torah, for it is said that the Torah is Jesus. This is supposed to be synonymous with the Word being Jesus, as in John 1:
Jesus as the Logos:
(John 1:1 KJV) In the beginning was the Word (logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (logos) was God.
3056. logos, log'-os; from G3004; something said (including the thought); by impl. a topic (subject of discourse), also reasoning (the mental faculty) or motive; by extens. a computation; spec. (with the art. in John) the Divine Expression (i.e. Christ):--account, cause, communication, X concerning, doctrine, fame, X have to do, intent, matter, mouth, preaching, question, reason, + reckon, remove, say (-ing), shew, X speaker, speech, talk, thing, + none of these things move me, tidings, treatise, utterance, word, work.
Jesus as Torah (Torah replacing or being combined with Logos):
(John 1:1 KJV) In the beginning was the Word (logos=torah), and the Word (logos=torah) was with God, and the Word (logos=torah) was God.
8451. towrah, to-raw'; or torah, to-raw'; from H3384; a precept or statute, espec. the Decalogue or Pentateuch:--law.
The first five books of the Bible are called the Torah, yet at other times it is considered to be the Bible itself. It is sometimes difficult to know in which sense a person is using the term. It can also refer to the five books but also including other sacred Jewish literature and oral tradition. But the Christian is to hold to the whole word of God found in both testaments as the truth, exclusive of what Christian or Jewish commentaries, literature, and oral or written traditions say. These sources apart from Scripture must be discerned according to the Scriptures, because in themselves even they differ from one another.
Torah is not Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God, meaning ALL that God has to say to man regarding salvation through His Son and God's plan to save man. As God's Living Word, He came and spoke what the Father wanted us to know regarding salvation. As Strong's definition shows, He is the Word, the Logos, the Divine Expression of all that God has to say concerning the law and the grace that saves from the penalty of the law. The writer to the Hebrews wrote,
Heb 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
The first five books of the Bible (Torah=law) were certainly given to Moses as PART of all that God had to say to humanity, but the Old Testament would be incomplete without the word God gave regarding salvation from the law in the New Testament. God's word to the Jewish nation was the law, so that Israel and the world might see that man cannot keep God's law and it would become obvious that man needed a Savior. The New Testament tells us the rest of the story: By sending His only begotten Son to fulfill all the righteousness of the law and by taking its curse upon Himself as the perfect sacrifice for sins committed under the law, God opened the door to save all who believe by grace through faith in Christ. Are the first five books of the Bible important today? Yes, because the Jew does not believe in Christ, and in these books are pointers to Christ in the New Testament as redeemer of those under the law, that they might believe on Him and receive the free of gift of salvation from sin and righteousness in Christ.
The very first book of the first five books of Scripture tells of Abraham, about whom Paul wrote to the Galatians:
(Gal 3:19 KJV) For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
Genesis, a part of the Torah which tells us of the Abrahamic covenant, points to the New Testament and the wonderful fulfillment of the promise of receiving the Spirit by faith apart from the righteousness of the law. That's good news - very good news. This is a good example of using the first five books of the Bible to point to Christ and the free salvation He brought us. This is pointing from the shadow to the reality, and is much different than pointing the Church from the reality to the shadow. The Jewish people hold the Torah dear and they well should, but what they need is to have people explain it to them in light of the New Testament in order that they may see their Messiah has already come and will come one more time. It seems to me that those who have a solid understanding of the Old and New Testament is sufficient to preach the gospel to the Jews of today. They already have the Old Testament and it seems to me to be a simple matter of showing them how Christ fulfilled the Old in the New would be a rather simple matter. I fail to see how conforming the entire Church to look Jewish helps the preaching of the gospel to the Jews. In some cases it has irritated them.
As with anything that proposes to present spiritual truth, any movement today must be discerned according to God's promise of Christ in the Old Testament and the fulfillment of that promise in the New Testament. In some cases, doctrines have been formed to the point that they no longer agree with Christian doctrine as established in the New Testament. The word of God does call us to be reconciled to God and to be conformed to the holy character of His Son. It does call us to study and know both the New and the Old Testaments as they relate to Christ and to us as new creatures in Him. It does call us to share the good news with both Jew and Gentile alike. But any work to lead others to Him will bear fruit for the gospel only if we have a clear understanding that both testaments point to Christ. I don't support these movements because I see some of them as stuck in Moses, while the revelation of Christ and His salvation is found in Abraham who points to the salvation through Christ in the New Testament. Once believed, the written word points one to heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly as the place where one's citizenship is now. An important scripture that Christians need to lay hold of in this hour is from Galatians:
(Gal 4:21 KJV) Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
(Heb. 12:18 KJV) For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:
20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:
21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
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