Israel and the Church (Pt. 1)
A Rock of Offence Special Commentary
This is Part 1 of a three-part Bible study.
Click on the appropriatle link to access
the other parts.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised
for the good of its victims may be the
most oppressive. It may be better to live
under robber barons than under omnipotent
moral busybodies. The robber baron's
cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity
may at some point be satiated; but those
who torment us for our own good will
torment us without end, for they do so
with the approval of their consciences."
Christian Novelist and Apologist
C.S. Lewis 1898 - 1963
When we examine traditional Christian faith and practice, one particular problem repeatedly comes to the surface. In his famous quote, C.S. Lewis is commenting about a certain unidentified group of religious people. Since Lewis is known as a Christian apologist (someone who defends the Christian faith), he is likely hinting that this group consists of those who profess to be Christian. This study provides some of the reasons for their unbiblical conduct, which he correctly refers to as "tyranny".
Recently, we received a book from a popular religious cult, now considered to be a respected Christian denomination. It was professionally produced and was offered as a gift. Nothing on the cover revealed its source. Yet, after reading a few pages, the identity of the organization became obvious. The book’s primary objective was to reveal “a controversial Biblical truth”. It is not our intention to discuss the book’s message or its authors. Instead, we focus on the following misconception connected to this book - which has corrupted many sectors of the institutional Christian Church since its beginning.
All rules, principles or systems of
theology found in the Bible must be
be obeyed by Christians living today
because these things are all part
of God’s Word.
The reader should not misinterpret our intentions. Obedience to God’s Word is important and should never be discouraged. Yet, the following example taken directly from the Bible illustrates the problem.
God commanded the Israelites to perform animal sacrifices to atone for sin in the Old Testament (in order to obtain and keep salvation). But, these same commands and practices are not binding upon the modern day Christian believer living after the cross. These tenants are an integral part of the Old Testament program of the Law and are correctly classified as “Biblical” – because they are recorded in the Holy Scriptures. Yet, Jesus fulfilled – and then abolished these “Biblical” requirements by nailing them to the cross (Matthew 5:17, Colossians 2:13-14, Ephesians 2:11-22). As a result, God now considers this Old Testament program (also known as “the first covenant”) to be “obsolete” (Hebrews 8:6-13).
Contrary to popular church teachings, there are many rules, principles and religious tenants connected to the Old Testament program that are correctly classified as “Biblical”, but are now obsolete and no longer required to obtain and keep salvation after the sacrificial death of Christ. Saint Paul said it this way:
"For sin shall not have dominion
over you: for ye are not under the
law, but under grace."
“For the law of the Spirit of life in
Christ Jesus has made me free from
the law of sin and death."
Popular religious cults exercise their power and influence by taking full advantage of our lack of knowledge in this matter - and can even cause the most dedicated and educated believer to go astray in their faith. Unfortunately, many groups within the organized Christian Church practice this same kind of misleading theology without the knowledge of their members. One example can be found in what some choose to call “Biblical Christianity”, which sounds correct - until you look beneath the surface. Once again, the word “Biblical” is used in a vague and deceptive way.
The Way That Seemeth Right
Often, we hear zealous and sincere Christians comment; “We need to obey the whole Bible because it’s God’s Word”. Yet, the very Bible they speak about (specifically the New Testament) warns that we can slip into dangerous error, without knowing it - by following these instructions. In this situation, Scripture teaches that there is both a right and wrong way to obey and believe its writings for those living after the cross - and God rejects the wrong way regardless of their good intentions. Jesus referred to it as “the broad way that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13-14) and the book of Proverbs calls it “the way that seemeth right, but leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). This is the primary reason the Apostle Paul commanded all Christians to; “rightly (or correctly) divide the Word of truth” in 2 Timothy 2:15 – in order to avoid the dangerous religious snare of believing the Bible incorrectly.
A majority of false Bible teaching
comes from the refusal or failure
to properly separate the two major
covenant programs of the Bible ...
Old Covenant Law-based
The Grace-based New
This one problem and the disastrous spiritual consequences it produces is what motivated Saint Paul to instruct his disciple Timothy (and all Christians today) to always “rightly divide God’s Word” (2 Timothy 2:15). Yet, most professing Christians and their leaders ignore this command and choose to interpret the Bible “undivided”, which effectively creates a false theology that mixes everything together.
Concerning this problem, Paul warns;
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic.
FOR THESE ARE THE TWO COVENANTS:
Paul continues to explain why this truth is important. The first covenant is associated with Hagar (the bondwoman) and Mount Sinai, where the Law was given to Israel. But, the second covenant is associated with Sarah (the freewoman) and her son Isaac, who was born according to promise and speaks of the New Covenant that Jesus initiated at the cross thousands of years later. Concerning these two covenants, Paul states;
SO THEN, BRETHREN, WE ARE NOT
CHILDREN OF THE BONDWOMAN BUT
OF THE FREE (SPEAKING OF THE
(See Galatians 4:21-31)
The book of Hebrews provides even more information that tends to anger many Christian fundamentalists;
"But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He (Jesus) is also MEDIATOR OF A BETTER COVENANT, WHICH WAS ESTABLISHED ON BETTER PROMISES. For if THAT FIRST COVENANT had been faultless, then no place would have been sought FOR A SECOND." (Hebrews 8:6-7)
"IN THAT HE (JESUS CHRIST) SAYS, "A NEW COVENANT," HE HAS MADE THE FIRST OBSOLETE. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Hebrews 8:13)
In Romans 8:2-4, Paul mentions these
two covenants once again using slightly
"For the law of the spirit of life in
Christ Jesus has made me free from the
law of sin and death. For what the
law could not do in that it was weak
through the flesh, God did by sending
His own Son ...
NOTE: The law of sin and death (or “the Law”)
is the first Covenant from Mount Sinai – and
the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus
is the second, or new covenant initiated
at the cross.
The first covenant of the Law given to Israel at Mount Sinai is also known as Judaism. The second (or new) covenant - rooted in Isaac (the son of promise) and later established at the cross – provides the governing principles for what most of us refer to as "Christianity" – or what Paul calls; The Church. Obviously, many other subjects exist in the Bible. Yet, these two covenants establish an important doctrinal framework AND DIVISION that all Christians must respect if they want to walk in truth and be accepted by God. The failure to respect this rule of Bible interpretation results in the religious tyranny C.S. Lewis warned about in his quotation given at the beginning of this commentary. The Apostle Paul referred to this tyranny as a particular type of Old Testament theology associated with "the curse of the law".
"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Galatians 3:13-14)
Scripture deliberately refers to the correct way of interpreting its writings as “rightly dividing” - because each covenant operates on different (and many times conflicting) sets of principles and rules. Following the events in Acts chapter 10 at the household of Cornelius, the Church now consists of both Jews and Gentiles. Yet, Judaism (the first covenant of Old Testament Law) demands that a Gentile (or someone belonging to a non-Jewish race) must be rejected and avoided as “unclean”. This is one of the core teachings of the Law that offended Peter and caused him to stumble during the "great sheet vision" in Acts chapter 10. But, this core teaching of Judaism is recorded in the Bible and therefore classified as “Biblical”. The simple act of having dinner with a Gentile or visiting their home is forbidden and considered a serious sin for anyone practicing the tenants of Old Testament Law, which is exactly what God commanded Peter to do in Acts chapter 10. This is one reason God removes the Christian Church from the Law's authority and places it under the New Covenant of Christ. As a result, Paul uses certain phrases in his official epistles to the Church to communicate this important truth such as; “we are delivered from the law” - “we are dead to the law through the body of Christ” (Romans 7:1-6) - “you are not under the law but under grace” (Romans 6:14) – “the law is taken out of the way and nailed to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14) – “the law is abolished in Christ” (Ephesians 2:11-22) - “the first covenant (or the law) is obsolete” (Hebrews 8:6-13) – “for as many as are under the works of the law are under the curse” (Galatians 3:10-12) – and finally, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13-14).
This is why it’s spiritually illegal
and impossible for Judaism (the first
covenant of Old Testament Law) to
govern the Christian Church. Yet, this
is exactly the kind of church government
a majority of spiritual leaders and
their followers attempt to establish.
As a result, various Christian churches and denominations conveniently ignores or even attempts to redefine these facts because they expose various cherished traditions and teachings as being false.
In contrast, the New Covenant of Christ is designed to be “racially universal” and carries no such restrictions against Gentiles – yet the Bible contains both of these covenants. This is why God’s Word must be “rightly divided” if it is to be properly interpreted and understood.
Paul warns that the Church is only under the covenant that has its roots in the freewoman (Sarah/Isaac), which is the New Covenant of Christ. Why is this important? The first covenant of the Law (or Judaism) was only given to Israel (the Jewish people) and not to the Church, which is now mostly Gentile. This original exclusion of the Gentiles from the "covenants of promise" is clearly stated in Ephesians 2:11-22, but is generally ignored by most Christians and their leaders. The kind of disastrous doctrinal error this produces, which initially started in the first century - is condemned by both the apostolic leadership of the church in Acts chapter 15 and in Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. But, this condemned theology is now accepted as fundamental teaching in many churches and denominations. As a result, congregations are told that both of these covenants (the old covenant and the new covenant - also called the first covenant and the second covenant) must be obeyed by Christian believers living today. To reinforce this teaching, it is often said that the New Covenant is just an extension or continuation of the Old Testament program. Yet, this wrong way of believing the Bible creates a deceptive and toxic theology that does not come from God. Bible Scholars often refer to it as Galatian religion, the Galatian error - or simply, “Galatianism”.
We believe that this is what C.S. Lewis is referring to as "tyranny" in his quote at the beginning of this study - since religious tyranny (Paul called it spiritual bondage) is exactly what Galatian religion produces. Yet, many modern-day professing Christians call it "Biblical Christianity".
A disastrous consequence of mixing the first and second covenants together is losing the distinction between Israel and the Church found in Scripture. Another aberrant doctrine known as “Replacement theology” is closely related to the error of Galatianism.
More information is available
at the following link:
Avoiding the Error of Replacement Theology
Since many are taught and believe that the Church is under the authority of both the first and second covenants (which contradicts Paul’s New Testament teaching), they are convinced that recognizing Israel - as a separate and distinct entity from the Church - is both unbiblical and wrong. This assumption sets the stage for yet another wrong-headed conclusion; that God permanently rejects Israel because they crucified their Messiah. It’s “wrong-headed” and misleading because Scripture clearly states that God has an everlasting covenant with Israel through Abraham, and will never permanently reject them - but will eventually save them. The following Scripture documents a promise and warning that God attaches to His "everlasting covenant" with the Israelites.
"I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you and make your
name great; and you shall be a
blessing. I will bless those
who bless you, and I will curse
him who curses you; and in you
all the families of the earth
shall be blessed.”
Paul warns the Church about the
error of rejecting or ignoring
Israel's everlasting covenant in
the following Scriptures;
"I say then, hath God cast away his people (The Jews)? GOD FORBID. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. GOD HATH NOT CAST AWAY HIS PEOPLE WHICH HE FOREKNEW." (Romans 11:1-2 - Emphasis Added)
(Paul is speaking to Christian believers in the Church) “Lest you be self-opinionated (wise in your own conceits), I do not want you to miss this hidden truth and mystery, brethren: a hardening (insensibility) has [temporarily] befallen a part of Israel [to last] until the full number of the ingathering of the Gentiles has come in, AND SO ALL ISRAEL WILL BE SAVED. As it is written, the Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob. And this will be My covenant (My agreement) with them when I shall take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-29 Amplified Bible)
Today major Christian denominations and
their members (but thankfully not all)
are choosing to curse Israel. But, the
everlasting covenant God made with Israel
through Abraham - and the divine
consequences that will befall those who
curse her, remain in force today.
Ignoring Paul's command to rightly divide God’s Word is what causes preachers and even whole denominations to teach that "the Church" has permanently replaced Israel – and that there is no longer any need for the Jew. Some even comment (remember that these people claim to be committed Christians) that Israel (and Jews in general) should be completely destroyed because they are cursed and rejected by God. This is nothing more than a resurgence of anti-Semitism, which was the root cause of the Holocaust in World War 2.
All these people seem to forget that the
Lord Jesus Christ originally came as
Israel’s Messiah and ...
IS A JEW BY BIRTH.
An interesting dialogue takes place between Jesus and the woman at the well in John chapter 4, where He made the following comments (verses 22 & 23):
"You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, FOR SALVATION IS OF THE JEWS. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him."
The woman responded (verse 25):
“I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
Jesus said to her, “I who
speak to you am He.”
This dialogue provides us with
some important undeniable facts.
Jesus said that God's salvation
originated from the Jewish people
and their culture.
Jesus reveals that He is
the Jewish Messiah.
This means that ... following
the cross - Jesus Christ, the
now resurrected Lord and Head
of the Christian Church ...
IS A JEW.
We emphasize these truths because a large Christian faction consisting of major denominations are striving to remove Israel from the Bible - and erase the Jewish nationality (or racial identity) of the Lord Jesus Christ. In order to accomplish this task, Scripture must be redefined or rewritten - which creates a dangerous counterfeit gospel that God ultimately rejects.
We also need to understand that the
Bible was written in the Middle
East and is based on Jewish
culture. Many of Christ's teachings
use "Jewish idoms", which are
often misunderstood and misapplied
by Christians living in the west.
What is known as "a blood covenant"
also originated in the Middle East.
It is only properly understood by
learning its intended purpose as
defined by the culture where it was
originally practiced. Christians
in the west have little knowledge of
what a blood covenant entails. It
is not just a contract or agreement
as many are told. Yet, God established
His Word and the salvation of Christ
on its rules and principles.
On the night before He was betrayed,
Jesus told His disciples; "This cup
is the new covenant in My blood,
which is shed for you."
(Luke 22:20 NKJV)
Those who embrace various expressions of Replacement theology will search for the words “Jew or Israel” in Scripture – and replace these references with “the Church”. Their sermons and Bible teachings are modified in the same way, often without the knowledge of their listening audience. This is nothing more than rewriting Scripture and making it appear that God says things that He does not say. For these reasons, we can safely conclude that this theology, regardless of its popularity and widespread acceptance - DOES NOT COME FROM GOD. Saint Paul offended falsely religious people in a similar way by labeling such distorted Bible teachings; “doctrines of demons”. Yet, a large part of Christendom embraces these teachings as "Biblical" truth. This is why we spend so much time in our commentaries warning about spiritual counterfeits.
This is Part 1 of a three-part Bible study.
Click on the appropriatle link to access
the other parts.
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