Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Hebrew Torah and the Gentile Believer

Is a Gentile believer,

following the rituals of the Hebrew Torah,

more pleasing to God than those who do not?

                             

Many years ago, during the first few months as a new Christian, I was wondering why God chose me for salvation. I was seriously thinking that, since the Jews were God’s chosen people and I have been chosen, maybe someone in my past family history was Jewish.
 
I started to think that must be it! At that time my self-estimation of my spirituality went up quite a bit.
It seems to me that some Gentile believers think that if they “steal” something that belongs to the Hebrew people, to whom we refer as "the Chosen People of God", and make it their own, then they would be all the more "Chosen," even more spiritual, more holy, ever more closer to God; and to that end there may be Gentile Christians that use Hebrew words like “Yeshua” instead of the English word for “Jesus,” or “Moshiach” instead of “Messiah,” or “ruah ha-qodesh” instead of “holy spirit.”

Some even suggest that Gentile believers can only Biblically and rightly worship God if they do it on the Sabbath, that is, Saturday, like anywhere from the orthodox Christian denomination of 7th Day Adventist to the heretical cult of Jehovah Witnesses do. At the risk of digressing from the general scope of this topic, these Gentile Sabbath-followers (respectfully, for lack of a better term) even go so far as to imply (unintentionally?) that those Gentiles believers who do not observe Torah instructions regarding the Sabbath are disobeying God, not listening to the Spirit, receiving wrong revelation, and even failing to express genuine love towards God.

With respect to the Sabbath, Dr. Michael Brown s
tates, “God did not call any other nation to observe the Sabbath, although he did open the door for Gentiles to join themselves to His covenant with Israel in Isaiah 56:4-7, which is addressed to ‘the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths.’ So, the door was open for the Gentiles to enter into Israel’s covenant, but the specific covenantal, seventh-day Sabbath sign was given exclusively to the people of Israel.”*
 
I am not saying that something like the promises of God in the Torah are not also for Gentile believers. However, as Gentiles, we are not owners but partakers of the promises and blessings that were first delivered and belong to the Hebrew people. As the apostle Paul says, to the Jew “belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the [temple] service and the promises, whose are the fathers and from whom is the Christ” (Romans 9:4 NASB). That is why it was to the Jew first that the message of salvation was to be given.

The apostle further writes that Gentile believers “were grafted in among them and became partakers with them in the rich root of the olive tree” (11:17). Believing Gentiles were brought into the blessings that belonged to Israel, therefore, Paul warns, “it is not you who supports the root, but the root [supports] you” (v.18). The Hebrew people are further described as the “natural branches” while Gentile believers are branches cut out from a “wild olive tree” and “grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree.”
 


I am also not saying that, as Gentile believers, there is anything morally wrong with replacing English words with Hebrew words in everyday conversations; nor is there anything morally wrong with worshiping on Saturday instead of Sunday (as well as vice-versa). As a matter of fact, Gentile believers who participate to whatever degree in Jewish holidays and festivals should be commended in reminding us of our spiritually Jewish roots.

I am saying that we need to guard our hearts from thinking that because we, as a Gentile believer, may sound or act more Jewish than others or participate in Hebrew religious traditions where others may not, that we are the spiritually better, the more pleasing, or closer to God than other Gentile believers.
In Paul’s day, he had to contend with Gentile believers lauding it over the Jewish believers because the former, in spite of their once being outside the covenant and not following the rituals of the Torah (Acts 15; Galatians 2), thought they were closer to God than the latter.

In our day, we may need to contend with Gentile believers lauding (consciously or unconsciously) over other Gentile believers because the former think they are closer to God for their outward participation in the rituals associated with the Torah, in spite of the fact that all Gentiles (and Jews) are equal partakers in its blessing and promises, whether they outwardly follow the rituals or not.
_____________________
* For further understanding Dr. Brown's position, see: https://askdrbrown.org/library/should-christians-observe-seventh-day-sabbath

Saturday, November 8, 2014

On Forgiveness

Forgiveness

as Atonement


I've been thinking that, in a sense, forgiveness is making atonement.  Let's muse on it a little.

When Jesus died on the Cross making atonement for us, what did that entail?  It involved Jesus taking upon his body the punishment we deserved in consequence for our sin.  Instead of lashing out on us, Jesus allowed the divine anger against our sins fall on him while, at the same time, God loved His Son and bore him no ill-will.

God was hurt in two ways by each of us for our sins: one, his heart was broken by the mere fact that we sinned against Him who is our Father, in the same way a father would be hurt by the disrespect and disobedience of their child; and, two, he was hurt because he bore the consequences of our sin in the same way a the father does who runs in front of a speeding car that is about to hit their disobedient child crossing the street without permission.


It seems to me that, in the same way, we are hurt by the sins of others in two ways: in the first place, we are sorely disappointed that they would do something that hurts us and, in the second place, if we choose not to take revenge and forgive, we end up absorbing the pain of their sin against us.

Is this not what Jesus did when he died on the Cross, hurt both by the mere fact that we sinned against God and God sought forgiveness rather than revenge, thereby, making atonement in Christ.

I'm thinking that when we forgive someone, we are choosing to, instead of hurting them in revenge, allow ourselves to deal with - absorb - the hurt; instead of making the transgressor feel the pain of his own transgression, we dispense with any pain we may be able to inflict on them and rather take in the pain of their transgression against us and fully absorb it, dealing with it ourselves.

Do you see what I mean?

If we seek revenge or even harshly judge another for their sin, we are refusing to bear the pain they may have inflicted on us and seek turning it on them; we are resisting to bear in ourselves the hurt, confusion, and bitter pain by lashing out on them.  But this is precisely what God in Christ did not do.  God did not send His Son to condemn and take vengeance on sinners but to forgive and to bear the pain that necessarily comes with forgiving (John 3:17).


If we resist revenge and choose to forgive, then we must be prepared to...let me say...be crucified, to bear in our heart and body the ravages of another's sin.  If we choose to forgive, we are choosing to take upon ourselves the pain of another's transgression and to let it have full sway in us, to fully feel the pain sin causes that would have otherwise been inflicted on the transgressor if we had rather chosen vengeance.

Therefore, it seems that for you to forgive is to inflict upon your own body the Cross-marks of Jesus (Galatians 6:17).  To forgive is to make yourself the sin-offering in place of the transgressor, especially if you have never committed the same sin against another person.  You are the sin-offering for the transgressor because you are freeing them from being subjected to the punishment for their sin and taking the punishment due them upon yourself!

Since you are not taking it upon yourself to punish but rather to forgive the transgressor, you are taking it upon yourself to bear the grief they inflicted upon you, and to bear it to the full extent; you are allowing yourself to carry the sorrow their sin has caused by not inflicting sorrow on them; you are allowing yourself to be pierced for their transgressions by refusing to chastise them in revenge, however well-deserving it would be for you to do so.

In short, you are atoning for their sins; you are the atonement for their sin.  Forgiveness seen in this light makes more grave the prayer, "And forgive us our transgressions as - in the same way and to the same extent - we forgive those who transgress against us" (Matthew 6:12).