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Friday, September 28, 2007

Practicing The Jewish Religion In The Context Of Christianity

A couple of people have expressed an interest in my view of embracing Jewish religious customs in the context of Christianity. My most intimate familiarity with this thinking comes from a friend I had about 17 years ago who began to attend a Messianic Temple and eventually left the New Testament church to join himself to this temple. I briefly scanned the website that one of my questioners mentioned and while I do not have the time to read much of the material I am somewhat acquainted with the thinking. A couple of the books on the website I recognized (in fact I own one of the them; Hislops, The Two Babylons) and they basically deal with the Catholic church. Unfortunately when most people think of Christianity and especially the abuses therein they think Catholic. I say it is unfortunate because Catholicism is not a faithful expression of New Testament Christianity, nor or her daughters. the point at hand. I feel compelled to begin by asserting my love for the Jewish people. Christianity owes a great debt to the Jewish nation. Our Saviour was of Jewish birth. Our Bible was given to us by Jews who recorded the inspired words of God. The early New Testament church was largely Jewish. Most Gentiles have the Apostle Paul to thank for their salvation, and he was a Jew. I believe the covenants made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are unconditional promises that have yet to be ultimately fulfilled, but they will be. I believe that those who curse Israel will be cursed and that those who bless Israel will be blessed. I count myself among the Jews strongest supporters.

The Jewish people are a miracle of God. Having been dispersed across the globe for almost 2,000 years they managed to maintain their identity and eventually landed back in their ancient homeland, although that has been the occasion of much dispute. The Jews are the chosen people of God, the apple of his eye!

However........Their history is a history of disobedience and rebellion. They themselves have rarely kept their own law and ceremonies and if they did so it was often with a wrong heart. They have been the recipient of some of God's harshest judgment. The fact is that today they cannot practice their religion as the Old Testament outlines for to do so they must have a Temple, and they do not. The Hebrew religion is a system of sacrifice and they are not doing that. They have made substitutes but it is disingenuous for any of them to claim that they are practicing the Jewish religion as outlined in the Old Testament. Where is the priesthood ministering daily in the Temple. Where is the Most Holy place, the Holy Place, the table of shewbread, the alter of incense, the golden candlestick, the alter of burnt offering, etc. . . There is no one (to my knowledge) practicing the Jewish religion as it is set forth in the Old Testament.

Another thing to consider is that the Scripture clearly expresses that the Jews, as a nation, have been set aside for a time and God is fulfilling his plan primarily through the Gentiles. The Apostle Paul discusses this reality at length when concerning the Jews he writes:

Romans 11:8-28 - (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.

I am not one who believes we should abandon all of the Old Testament in view of the New. I do however believe that the New Testament supersedes the Old Testament in that it provides a more clear view of the purposes of the Old Testament. The New Testament certainly reveals the fact that much of the Old Testament has been fulfilled and is consequently unnecessary for the New Testament believer. The moral law is, of course,unchanging. However the religious ceremonial law was fulfilled in Christ and as a result is rendered useless. If the book of Hebrews is not teaching us this then I don't believe I could ever be sure what it is teaching us.

Jesus fulfills the office of priesthood:

Hebrews 7:22-28 - By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

The system of sacrifice, priesthood, and carnal ordinances of the Old Testament was simply a foreshadowing. With the advent of the substance, Jesus, the shadow disappears!

Hebrews 9:1-14 - Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

The ceremonial law simply was a shadow of good things to come.

Hebrews 10:1-4 - For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

As for the feast days the Apostle Paul also addresses the New Testament believers relationship to these when he writes:

Colossians 2:16,17 - Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

One of the main problems with this kind of thinking is that it diminishes the significance of the New Testament. The context of the New Testament is clearly different than that of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament God was manifesting himself through a nation. In the New Testament God is manifesting himself through the churches.

Ephesians 3:21 - Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

It is not unto him be glory in a nation but in the church. The New Testament emphasis is clearly placed upon the churches.

Jesus said "I will build my church".

Most all of the Epistles are addressed to particular churches.

The other Epistles that are addressed to individuals address church issues.

The Revelation is addressed to the seven churches of Asia.

The churches are referred to as the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, and the building of Christ.

Ephesians 2:19-22 - Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Who is the "ye" in the verses? The church at Ephesus! The church at Ephesus was the temple of the Lord, an habitation of God through the Spirit. Churches have displaced the Old Testament Temple.

Finally the way to know the truth is through Jesus Christ as revealed in the gospels, expounded in the epistles, and unveiled in the Revelation!

John 14:6 - Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

The truth is not unveiled in the Old Testament rituals but in the New Testament Saviour! The Old Testament ritual was simply a shadow, an imperfect reflection of the New Testament Saviour! Seeing Jesus helps us more clearly understand the Old Testament in its proper light because in him we have the reality, the substance and not the mere shadow! It is my fullypersuaded conviction that those who point us to Old Testament ritual are moving us back into the shadows!
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