Judaizers! Part Three:
Clarification: The nature of our complaint
Perhaps it is time to clarify the nature of the complaint that has been raised in regards to Judaizers in the past two blog entries. Judaizers is a name given to the Jewish teachers who followed Paul's ministry, teaching in the new churches that Christians needed to keep the Mosaic Law in addition to the receiving the gospel.
Judaizers promoted the following ideas in Paul's day and do the same in ours:
- That the Jews – as a nation – were and always would be God's special people and that they are at the center of all God's plans.
- Accompanying this in our own day is an attitude that Jews must be highly respected if not revered. Non-Jews included in God's plans are often considered mere tag-alongs.
- That God has unfinished business with the Jews. The fundamental problem is supposed to be that God promised some things to Israel that have not yet been delivered.
- Judaizing teachers did not accept that the Old Testament Law was annulled- nailed to the cross. Modern day Judaizers teach that some of the Law has been annulled but that other parts of the old Law must be kept.
- They did not accept that gospel was a complete replacement of the Law. Instead they saw (and see) it as an upgrade, remodeling, patched-job, or facelift for the Law.
- In some cases Judaizing teachers will even teach that we are still awaiting the new covenant; that its promise has not yet been fulfilled.
God's Special people:
Please read and compare the following passages of scripture (all quotes from the NASB):
From Exodus 19:5-6 –
5'Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."
From 1 Peter 2:5, 9 -
5you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
9But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.
From Revelation 1:6" -
and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father--to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The first of these passages is obviously God's promise given to the Hebrews by Moses. They were to be God's own possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The quotes from 1 Peter and Revelation, though, make this statement concerning Christians.
It is obvious that the status that was once enjoyed by the Hebrew people exclusively has now been given to Christians, regardless of their racial or ethnic origins. The same lesson might be derived from other passages of scripture, some of which we have looked at in previous blog entries. Some that you should be (or should become) familiar with are Romans 2:28-29; Galatians 3:29 & Philippians 3:3.
As Peter said…
…you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD… - 1 Peter 1:10.
How could this be? God had made a promise to the Jews that they would be His special people! True but the promise was conditional. The idea that God "has strings attached" to any of His promises is not a popular one in the religious atmosphere of modern Christendom but this is biblically true.
Notice from the beginning of Exodus 19:5:
…if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant…
The promise was theirs if they kept God's covenant. They did not. This is not intended as a slur but simply as a statement of biblical and historical fact.
Genesis records that God made promises to Abraham. The first of these is recorded at Genesis 12:2-3:
2And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
This promise to Abraham was extended and renewed in Genesis 15:5 and 17:4-8. To break down these promises and examine them point by point is unnecessary. It is enough to state that Bible history shows that all that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was fulfilled. The scriptures state this plainly:
"Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the LORD your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed - Joshua 23:14.
"Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant. - 1Ki 8:56
Many have asserted that God has not yet fulfilled all of the promises given to Abraham. But those who teach these things are apparently mistaken, as the Bible itself says otherwise. There were – in Paul's day – some who wanted to be teachers of the Law that really did not know much about the Law – see 1 Timothy 1:7. Such men are still with us today. And their message is quite widespread.
As previously stated above, God's promises to the nation of Israel were conditional. God stated clearly that - if the Hebrew people kept His covenant – that they would be blessed and that He would do wonderful things for them. See Leviticus chapter 26 and Deuteronomy 28. He also stated very clearly that if they did not keep His covenant that He would curse them and do things to them instead. This is also stated in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. If you haven't done so yet stop now, get your Bibles and read these two chapters. They are fundamental to understanding God's dealings with the Jews.
The Law – all of it – nailed to the Cross:
Paul, writing to the Romans, had this to say concerning the old Mosaic Law:
20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, witnessed by the Law and the prophets – Romans 3:20-21.
Then, seven verses later, Paul says:
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law - Rom 3:28
Context most definitely identifies that Paul is speaking here of the Mosaic Law. Faith in the gospel saves apart from the works of Mosaic Law. The Law served as a foundation for the gospel and is "a tutor to bring men to Christ". But there is no portion of Moses' Law that we must obey for salvation.
As a matter of fact, relying on Moses' Law for salvation will destroy our hopes of salvation. Near the outset of Galatians Paul makes the following remarks:
6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! - Galatians 1:6-8
In Galatians 1:9 Paul repeats what he has said in Galatians 1:8, verbatim! So what was this "different" and "distorted" gospel against which Paul warned so strongly? Galatians identifies it clearly. It was the Judaizers' teaching; namely that teachings of the Mosaic Law were still binding on Christians.
Read for example, Paul's rebuke against Cephas (Peter) in Galatians 2:11-16. Peter had caved into pressure from "the party of the circumcision" (Judaizers) to shun the Gentiles. This was hypocrisy because Peter knew better (See Acts 10 & 11). All of Galatians chapters 3 and 4 argue that the Law has been replaced by the gospel. And in Chapter 5 Paul warns the Galatians, as follows:
2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace – Galatians 5:2-4.
The Judaizers of that day were teaching that – in addition to accepting the gospel – you had to be circumcised and keep the Laws of Moses. Today they teach that we must worship on the 7th day of the week – the Jewish Sabbath. Accepting circumcision as a requirement of salvation was the equivalent of being "severed from Christ" and "falling from grace" in that day. What does this say of today's common teaching that we must observe Sabbath worship or memorize the Ten Commandments?
A completely new covenant:
Jesus, in giving us the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, said:
…"This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." - 1Co 11:25
Paul, writing to the Corinthians said that they had been made:
…servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. – 2Corinthians 3:6
Paul continues to compare the Jews' old covenant with what we have received in the new:
- In Verse 7, Paul refers to the old covenant as "the ministry of death, engraved on stones" (engraved on
stones obviously refers to the old law. See also 2Corinthias 3:2-3).
- In Verse 9, Paul speaks of "the ministry of condemnation" (the old law) having had glory (in the past) but then says in…
- Verse 10 …that in this case what once had glory now has none because of the glory that surpasses it. (We have the new covenant, far superior to the old).
The inspired Hebrew writer – in Hebrews 8:6 speaks of Christ being mediator of a better covenant and then quotes – in verses 8 and following – from Jeremiah 31:31-34, showing that the prophecy of a new covenant was fulfilled in Christ.
Heb 8:8-13 – 8 For finding fault with them, He says, "BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL EFFECT A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH; 9 NOT LIKE THE COVENANT WHICH I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS ON THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; FOR THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DID NOT CARE FOR THEM, SAYS THE LORD. 10 "FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 11 "AND THEY SHALL NOT TEACH EVERYONE HIS FELLOW CITIZEN, AND EVERYONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, 'KNOW THE LORD,' FOR ALL WILL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST TO THE GREATEST OF THEM. 12 "FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR INIQUITIES, AND I WILL REMEMBER THEIR SINS NO MORE."
He then concludes with this statement in Hebrews 8:13:
When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
If the old covenant was becoming obsolete, growing old and ready to disappear in that day, 20 centuries ago, what does that say about the status of the old covenant / Mosaic Law today?
I guess it depends on who you ask. Some of our modern day Judaizing teachers say that some aspects of that old, obsolete Law are still in effect. Tune in next time…
I am, by God's grace,
Rich in Christ