The People of God: Jews and Christians
In the midst of widespread antisemitism, I'm foremost compelled to affirm my allyship with Israel. I believe in the Jewish people's right to exist as a sovereign nation and, I pray, they will soon take full possession of the land God promised long ago. After thousands of years of persecution, captivity and genocide, the surviving remnant of Israelites is nothing shy of a miracle.
Having said this, I do not believe the Lord automatically grants anyone entrance into His eternal kingdom. Whether Jew or Gentile, all of humanity is subject to this declaration: "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." - Jesus Christ (Jn. 14:6)
DO JEWS AND CHRISTIANS WORSHIP THE SAME GOD?
In 2022, I attended an event where I met an Orthodox Rabbi as well as a descendant of Holocaust survivors. The rabbi departed before I could speak with him, but I managed to (politely) interrogate the young ancestor. I was most interested in his beliefs concerning salvation and the forgiveness of sins. While I assumed the Jewish faith still consisted of following Old Testament laws and practices of circumcision and purification, it remained a mystery how 21st-century Jews viewed atonement.
I knew animal sacrifices ended after the destruction of Herod's Temple in AD70. I also understood that Jews don't consider the New Testament God's inspired word and their knowledge of Christ is severely limited. The gentleman proceeded to explain how his people recited prayers of repentance and devoted themselves to good works. He assured me he didn't believe salvation came by faith in Christ but by daily performing enough righteous deeds to outweigh the sinful ones. What an anticlimactic moment when I realized "being a good person" formed the basis of modern Judaism.
Prior to this encounter, I thought being Jewish strictly meant observing Passover, keeping the Sabbath (Saturday, not Sunday), reading the Torah (the first five books in the Hebrew Bible) and awaiting the Messiah. Upon further investigation, I found three primary branches, or denominations, of Judaism that contain a broad range of worldviews, including agnosticism and atheism. Most religious practices today are highly incompatible with the Old Testament. Many Jews do not worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but engage in a mixture of Eastern ceremonies, spiritualism and idolatry.
|The Lampstand in the Tabernacle (Ex. 25; Lev. 24:1-4) |
also represents Churches in His courts (Rev. 1:20; Zech. 4:2).
Ethnicity and religion are not synonymous. It's entirely possible to descend from Jewish lineage and not practice Judaism, and vice versa. It's also possible to observe certain customs ("cultural Judaism") while having no affiliation with Israel. Neither of these are the means by which we possess God's kingdom. The Bible proves Abraham's relationship with God - which predates Mosaic Law by 430 years - was founded on faith, not works. Abraham wasn't a circumcised Jew when he first encountered God in Genesis 12. Yet, Genesis 15:6 says, "Abraham believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith" (emphasis mine).
God called Abram (and later changed his name) for reasons theologians and scholars have yet to fully grasp. Abraham responded by leaving his homeland and entrusting the Lord with his future. He didn't attempt to earn his place in God's divine plan but simply believed He would keep His promise. In the book of Hebrews, we find out Abraham even went so far as to believe in resurrection power though he never witnessed God raise the dead (Heb. 11:8-10, 17-19)!! Had he laid eyes on Jesus Christ, Abraham would've recognized Him as the Messiah. The Lord says so in John 8:56.
I use "Abrahamic faith" to describe how Christians ought to esteem God above church traditions and seminary training. As it stands, Western believers have substituted prayer and Bible reading with useless religious activities; we've perverted grace to mean God no longer punishes sin. We settle for inviting lost souls into buildings and letting them leave in the same spiritual condition. Abraham - the father of all believers (Rom. 4:16-17) - discerned the voice of the Lord, built an altar, offered sacrifices and interceded for an entire city without a worship team, sermon series or theological degree.
The people of God need to get back to the basics. Whether Jew or Gentile, we are called to have Abrahamic faith, to seek the Lord and follow His ways.
The rise of anti-Christian sentiment among some Jews is reaching new heights. According to the Jerusalem Post, "So far in 2023, there have been dozens of attacks by extremist Jews on Christians or Christian sites, ranging from merely unpleasant to vandalism and assault." Quoting an Israeli scholar of Christianity, the Post continued, "This is a new phenomenon that stems from a denial of information or wrong information about Christians. Proper education about Christianity should be taught in Israeli schools rather than contempt or holding all Christians today accountable for what happened in the Holocaust."
Another source said, "Competition for converts and other factors led to an intensification of Jewish-Christian conflict towards the end of the first century..." This is evidenced in Acts 17 and other New Testament passages. The source also claims, "In several places John's gospel associates 'the Jews' with darkness and with the devil...a characterization which found its way into medieval popular religion..." Truly, Jews and Christians are at enmity because they (willfully) misunderstand and grossly misinterpret God's purposes for their existence. Israel and the Church are not interchangeable or replaceable. God's promises and work among us are distinct, yet we are one in His Son when we believe (Eph. 2:12-18).
I take passages like Romans 2:28-29 and chapter 11 to mean all who exercise Abrahamic faith are seen from God's perspective as having received a divine Jewish inheritance. Likewise, the body of Christ includes Jews born again of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, Christianity is rooted in Old Testament Jewish faith. Pentecost was established long before the birth of the Church - which was founded by Jewish apostles! Thus, we ought to stand in unity especially since it's predicted we will suffer immense persecution together (see Revelation).
Soon, the destiny of Jews and Christians will converge in a full display of God's glory when Christ is revealed to the world.