Archive for May, 2012

Faith joins Gentile and Jew into the Messiah (Our place – part 8)

May 22, 2012

Faith joins Gentile and Jew into the Messiah as one entity

Paul begins to point to the stumbling of the Jewish people as a matter/cause what brings salvation to the gentiles. But he directly points out too, that the salvation is first the Jew and then the Greek (Ro.1:16) This salvation is to be attained since Christ completed the suffering self sacrifice as an atonement for the sins of “all Israel”. And now the time has come that gentiles also may be part of “all Israel”. All this is done by faith in this Christ which gives true righteousness. And the “all Israel” factor is a mystery what will be revealed in the future. (Of course in future, otherwise it would eliminate the free will and choice to repent.)

The faith (emunah) is the true righteousness and will gain the true Torah. This is not something new to the Jews. It is the most basic tenet together with repentance. Paul explains this with a well known verse of the Torah, Deu.30:12: For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it? But the word is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it.

And this is Paul’s midrash (commentary) on it: For Christ is the fulfillment of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness of the law, “The one who does them will live by them.” But the righteousness which is of faith says this, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down); or, ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.)” But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart;” that is, the word of faith, which we preach: that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

I have to say that many of the church communities are taught that the law (Torah) is the opposite to grace. Paul doesn’t do this here: Christ (grace) is the end of the law. (Ro.10:4-6) Not the opposite. Moses described the righteousness of the law, (v.5) but the same Moses described the righteousness of faith (v.6) in Deu.30:12.

Now the gentiles can get the same reward as the Jews can get, but it is not due to the law, but by means of believe that Christ fulfilled it and gives it to the believer.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. (Gal.3:28-29) Paul here pointed back to the Abrahamic covenant in which all the people of the earth will be blessed. (Ge.12:3)

But it is all about those who are righteous. There’s a calling amongst Jew and now also gentiles, to become righteous, and an election to become one of them, one of the chosen people. This is what Paul says in Romans chapter 9. It’s not just Israel: For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel. (Ro.9:6) And then Paul shows on the hand of the patriarchs how Israel became Israel. Not by ethnic descendant, but by election. And not by works, but by faith. You can’t rely on the fact that you are the seed of Abraham: Neither, because they are Abraham’s seed, are they all children. But, “In Isaac will your seed be called.” (Ro.9:7) And you can’t rely on what comes from Isaac, because before the children were born it was already known that it was said to her, “The elder will serve the younger.” Even as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Ro.9:12-13) There’s an election according to God’s grace. And since the Messiah has come, this election is extended to the gentiles. The true people of God comes from anything but he who calls. (Ro.9:11) There’s a calling now also for the gentiles. It’s all from God who says: I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. (Ro.9:15 / Ex.33:19) Will that eliminate the free will? Far from that: But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed ask him who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” Or hasn’t the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel for honor, and another for dishonor? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath made for destruction, and that he might make known the riches of his glory on vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory, us, whom he also called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles? (Ro.9:20-24)
Now Paul concludes: the goyim who didn’t seek righteousness got it, but, again, as many as are called. We can’t stress this enough. It’s an investigation for all of us: are we really called? Do we have true faith? Do we walk the right path? What are our deeds? Did we give our heart to Him who it belongs to? It are not the Jews, it is not the church, it is not our community, but those who fear God. (Ps.118:4)

The problem Paul faces is the lack of faith by the people of Israel. He admitted they have a zeal (קנא kinah, rendered back to Hebrew) of God (Ro.10:2), but what he wishes he would see by the Jews is the righteousness what comes through faith, which what he said is that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Ro.10:9)

Age of the gentiles

The problem however is, the common Jews didn’t hear the gospel yet in Paul’s time. And therefore they couldn’t tell it to the world also and detract the message of Christ. They are still in the time of exile and bear the curse as it is written in the Torah. And although Paul sees the glory of the Messianic times in the prophecy (Ro.10:15) of Isaiah, he stresses here the fact that it is also stated in scripture that they are not all obedient to the gospel (v.16) and hence, like Isaiah said Who has believed our message? [Jew and Gentile] And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? And then he comes to the conclusion that there must be a time of rejection of the Jewish people, a time of suffering. (Is.53#) The people of Israel didn’t understood. (Ro.10:2,19,21; Ro.11:8) The time wasn’t there yet for the restoration of the people of Israel, the end of the exile, and the gathering in the land, to live in peace. It will not say that the gentiles understood it well. They all were furious, Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot a vain thing? Against the Anointed one? (Ps.2)
Just a few, a very few who are faithful and take the yoke of the despised Messiah. There would come a time of suffering rather than a glorious Messianic time on earth. And we see now that the people of Israel have its own unique role. Based on their special covenant as a nation and special blessings they also have special curses as a nation. The church could easily understand the curse, but now we see the emerging blessing since they have the land Israel back again. But also those who are called from the gentiles share the suffering. Since the great Master suffered, al his fellow people have a share in it, and a new era is about to begin. Not the glory of this world, but the world-to-come was expected. And despite of suffering, they already had glorious times because of the victory of the Messiah. That’s why Paul in the midst of his exaltation quoted psalm 44:23 Yes, for your sake we are killed all day long. We are regarded as sheep for the slaughter. (Ro.8:36)


Paul’s message in Romans 9-11 (Our Place – part7)

May 9, 2012

Paul’s message to the gentiles about the Jews

Paul’s letter to the Romans contains the most clear message in the NT about the role of the Jews. In three chapters (9-11) he writes his explanation about this special place the Jews have in world history. Paul is used to backup his point with scripture when building up a case like here in Rom.9-11.  We see here that he build his case upon the song of Moses described in Deuteronomy 32.

Before Paul begins to write his message, he showed in the previous chapters that the Torah on one side was a law that condemns the physical pleasures of mankind and on the other side it is a spiritual life which gains eternal life through the yet risen Messiah. He also showed that one cannot deny the Messiah Jesus and complete the Torah. For he lacks the spiritual salvation and therefore is condemned by this same law. But there is more to say about the people of Israel as a nation than just to conclude with this statement. Because they have the promises and the covenants which are irrevocable. (Ro.9:3and11:29) And so he paved the way to put his message.

He ends chapter 8 with a praise to God of the glorious time of redemption which has began yet through the Messiah Jesus in a spiritual way. Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written, “For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ro.8:33-39)

But now there’s a problem because of the Jewish denial of Jesus. This thought is present by Paul at the background, he called that a mystery and is about to show this as far as he and his audience can understand.

Romans 9-11

I would like to go through some verses of Romans 9 – 11 to see his explanation of a crucial verse in the Song of Moses, what speaks about the relationship of Jews and Gentiles.

I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. (Ro.9:1-2)

An opening verse and important statement: great sorrow because of the state of unbelief of the Jewish people as a nation and the separation of these Jews from their spiritual renewal and salvation through their Messiah.

For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. (Ro.9:3-5)
This extraordinary and unusual saying of Paul signifies not only his zeal for his own Jewish people, but it also alludes to the view he has in mind of the role the Jewish people would serve in God’s plan. This is given in the following two verses 4-5.
They are the Israelites whom belongs the:
– the adoption of sons (prior to the gentiles)
– divine glory (Kaboth/Shechinah)
– covenants
– the receiving of the Torah
– the worship (the temple sacrificial system, Avodah)
– the promises.
– the patriarchs, from which comes Christ.

All these seven special gifts Paul mentioned, marks the uniqueness of this special people as a nation. As a nation they will be redeemed in the end. These gifts are given and bound to a nation. And they are irrevocable because it are Godly covenants and promises. However, Paul says that the Jews have stumbled over the stumbling stone. (v.32-33) But not to fall completely. (Ro.11:11) He marks his point boldly that Israel as a nation will remain with the promises. And his concern is that they may be saved and restored. (Ro.10:1) As soon as possible for the sake of his brothers, but he knows that in the end “all Israel will be saved”.

Paul first expresses a great personal tension here. He said he wishes to be cut off from Christ for the sake of Israel. It’s one or the other for Paul: with Israel and deny Christ, or with Christ and without the commonwealth of the people of Israel. Though in the end he declares that this Christ, who comes from their flesh, is God worthy to praise above all. (v.5)

But Paul goes on saying “not all Israelites truly belong to Israel” (v.6) In other words, there could be a time that it seems that Israel would not make it, but in the end “all Israel will be saved”. The promise is the identifier. (v.8) The promise will remain and God will fulfill His words. It is not what we see now what happened since the people of Israel didn’t accept their Messiah, but shared anger instead. It’s about what we have to expect based upon the promises made to the people of Israel which is written in the Torah.

Here, in Paul’s message to the gentiles the meaning already laid of the unfolding mystery of God’s plan with the Jews which leads to the salvation of “all Israel”. I suppose that Paul has the song of Moses (De.32) in mind. When he sees what happens, that the gentiles are foregoing the Jews in the way of salvation, he must have a scripture what backed this up. If this people, the witnesses of the revelation of God (on Sinai), the people of the Torah and the promises, as he said, if they rejected Jesus, he must have a scripture for this. It could not only be a convincing Spiritual persuasion, and even not only an appearance of Jesus Himself, otherwise you are a false prophet according to the Torah. I suppose he is building up a case upon the Song of Moses in this part of the letter to the Romans, chapter 9-11.

Paul’s grafted in strangers analogy (Our Place – part6)

May 4, 2012

If there’s a covenantal relationship with Israel, and a divine calling of Jew and Gentile, then Paul comes into picture who merged these two into one, with his “ingrafted branches” analogy in Rom.11.

This analogy has a scriptural base and we can find that in Is.56 among other places. Isaiah speaks about the foreigners who join Israel. It’s the word of God which states:

“Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree. 4 For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; 5 Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off. 6 Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant; 7 Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people. 8 The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.” (Is.56:3-8)

Rashi comments on it that this strangers and eunuchs are converts. These (converted heathens) have surely a place in the house of God and in His covenant, according to this words of God. But this also implicitly states that gentiles are not the same as the people of Israel. Otherwise these converts would not be mentioned as strangers, but were fully regard as Israelites.

What we see here is that there are people who are faithful to the God and the Jews, but they are not regarded Jewish. Probably because they are not fully Torah observant. What they did do however, is keeping the Shabbat and are faithful to the covenant. And here is a very significant remark about them, they choose the things that please me. (v.4) About them is said: Blessed are they who do this. (v.2) To keep the judgement and do justice (v.1)

When the ingathering of the Israelites happens, these ones are also ingathered with them.

This must be the idea of the apostles (Acts15) that the gentiles have a place amongst the people of God. They may dwell in the tents of Jacob (Gen.9:27) and may come to Sion (Ps.87). And especially because the most profound thing ever happened since the giving of the Torah, that gentiles receive the Holy Spirit (before they convert to Judaism), the apostles believe firmly that the Messianic times were started and thought it is not good to obligate gentiles to keep the Torah to become part of the commonwealth of Israel.

In fact they created a new community within Judaism of Geriem we-Toshaviem (strangers and so-journers). This is a status of gentiles described in Leviticus 25:35. Now, since the Messianic age has began, they have spiritually the same share in Sion as the Jews, “as many as are called”. And this is what Paul called “grafted in”. Now they become part of Israel, spiritual. And in this Messianic age there’s no difference between Jew and Gentile, “no difference between Jew and Greek” (Ro.10:12) “They are one in Christ”. (Gal.3:28) It is not that the status of so-journer is of less importance. At a deeper spiritual level such a confession shows a higher devotion to God. David himself claimed this status too, in Psalm 39:13, “For I am a stranger with thee, A sojourner, as all my fathers were”. And compare what Jesus said: “But one who is the greater among you, let him become as the younger, and one who is governing, as one who serves.” (Luke22:26)
On the other side Paul warns the gentiles not to be proud of it and not to think they are now the replaced Israel, because that was certainly not the case. It even doesn’t abolish or change the existing covenant with the Jews.

Now if we see Jews and Gentiles, separate on one plane, together on another plane, we can understand the message Paul gives us much better.