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Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
- Marc Heinrich
His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
- Rose Cole
[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
This post contains nothing that is of any use to me. What were you thinking? Anyway, it's probably the best I've read all day.
- David Kjos
Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
- Jonathan Moorhead
There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
- Carla Rolfe
| Is A Jew Justified By Being A Jew?
The Christian Perspective.
|I want you to imagine a Jewish person who is as sincere in his religion as is humanly possible, full of zeal for God, and as faithful to his religious duty as is humanly possible. Even as I set up our hypothetical Jewish person, I can't help but think how that describes the Apostle Paul prior to his conversion to Christianity, but while I might hit on that in a bit, let's just ignore it for now.
What I want to establish is that our hypothetical Jew is by no means a hypocrite - he is not adding to the scriptures any modern practice, or skimping on anything, or living like the world - but is constant in prayer, in meditation on the OT, and again, in practicing biblical righteousness. He is no slough - but about as real a deal as you can get.
Such a man would be an admirable thing indeed, for a faithful Jew lives to serve the one and only God.
Now, let us also say that our hypothetical Jew lived in a bubble somehow, with other hypothetical Jews, who had never in his life ever been exposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, nor even heard that someone had come to earth 2000 years ago, claiming to be the Messiah, and proving that claim not only by signs and wonders, but by a righteous life, by fulfilling every Messianic prophesy that relates to the incarnation, and finally by being raised from the dead by God the Father; let's say that our Jew has never even heard of such a thing, nor has any in his community.
The question is, can this Jew be justified by being a Jew.
We set up the question in this way, because we do not want to say this Jew is rejecting Jesus Christ, for in order to reject the Christ, he would have to have heard about Jesus. So I want to underscore the fact that this hypothetical Jew has never heard about Jesus.
Suppose our hypothetical Jew lives his entire life in profound devotion, and dies calling on the name of the Lord even as the Patriarchs did. Will this Jew be justified at the judgment?
Having set up the scenario as I have, I suspect that some readers might be inclined to say, "Yes" - that this Jew, having never heard the gospel, and therefore having never rejected the Messiah, would likely be justified by his faithfulness as a Jew. The same would argue that his religion was the best it could be and was limited only to the light he was given, and therefore having lived as well as could be expected given the available revelation, that God would be unjust to expect more from on judgment day.
I set up the elaborate scenario to answer the question, is there more than one way to be justified, or put another way, can you be justified in the OT way now that the NT has been established, and the orthodox answer is "No" you cannot.
In truth, if such a hypothetical Jew did exist, and lived his life according to the OT standard, and died ignorant of Jesus, having never rejected him - this would not justify him on the day of judgment. On the day of judgment, God would examine this Jews sins, and all his religion will not suffice to cancel out even the smallest of sins. The hypothetical Jew cannot be saved under the old covenant scheme because that scheme was invalidated by the Messiah. Men were never justified by keeping the law, but by grace through faith - as Paul argues in the NT, showing how scripture says Abraham was justified - not by being righteous, but by trusting God - that is, Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the law. So too our hypothetical Jew, having kept the law as perfectly as humanly possible (which means imperfectly), cannot be justified by it any more than Abraham himself could have been justified by righteous deeds.
The objection that arises in some camps is that this isn't "fair". This hypothetical Jew was sincere, and did all that he knew to do - how can a just God condemn a man who lived a better life than most Christians live today? An objection that betrays a gross misunderstanding of how we are justified.
We are not justified because we are good people or righteous, we are justified because Jesus was good and righteous, and in trusting Christ, we were baptized by Him into the body of Christ (the church) - united with Christ in such a way that when Christ was crucified, we too were crucified (in Him), so that our sins were carried by Christ to Calvary where God carried out a Judgment against them. God poured His wrath on Christ, and He, along with all who were united together with Him, died. Death had no claim on Christ however; Christ gave up his life and died the death that He died because He was willing to be united to those sinners whom God had elected to save from His wrath through Christ. It was the lives of these sinners that death had legitimate claim to, and when Christ received this wrath it was not for His own sin, for He was without sin, but was for the sin of those who were united together (by faith) with Him. Death took Christ, along with all who were in Him, but death had no claim on Christ.
It was for that reason that God, in order to remain righteous, had to raise Christ again from the dead - and it was for this reason that we who were united together with Christ, were raised from the dead in Christ - that is, just as Christ received death through our sins, so too we receive life through Christ's righteousness, for when God raised up Christ, He raised up all who were in Christ - this was the purpose of our union with Christ. Just as this union took Christ's life on Calvary, so it gave life to us on the third day - resurrection day.
The Jew who is not joined to Christ through faith, is not, nor cannot be saved, from God's wrath through his law keeping, sincerity, or own righteousness - it just isn't sufficient. The Jew is still a sinner, and his own righteousness, no matter how profound it is compared to others on the planet, does not attain to the level of righteousness required - which is a perfect righteousness.
One might object at this point also, saying, well then, how were the Jews ever justified? If they were justified by the law prior to Christ, why can't a hypothetical Jew who has never heard about Jesus be similarly justified?
Again - no person, Jew or otherwise, was ever justified by keeping the law, or prior to the advent of the law, by being personally righteous. The only means of justification has always been as an act of God's grace through faith. Before a law was ever given men were justified this way - by faith, that is, by seeing themselves as sinners, and therefore utterly and absolutely unworthy. In seeing themselves as sinners, they acknowledge that they cannot undo their sin - they cannot simply do enough good to cancel out those acts of rebellion (disobedience) that they have committed in the past - they see their own righteousness for what it is - vacuous, impotent, and as the prophet says - a filthy thing; and they look to God to save them from this - that is, they call on God to save them, and do not look to their righteousness as qualifying them for it. They call on God not to assist them in their righteousness so that they can earn heaven, but rather to have mercy on them, since they realize they can never earn heaven by their own acts of righteousness.
The objection at this point would probably focus on the fact that the Jew didn't "reject Jesus" - as though the reason God pours out his wrath on sinners were something other than their sin - that is, as though the reason hell is populated is because people "reject Jesus". This sort of objection springs from a corrupted teaching - the idea that sin doesn't condemn sinners, but rather failing to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and turn to Him in faith condemns sinners.
Here is how this works. Everyone who has sinned will be condemned by God for their sin on Judgment day. Big, small, young, old, domestic and foreign -we will all face the judgment, and everyone who has sinned will receive the same guilty judgment, and all who have sinned will receive God's wrath for their sin.
Hold on you say, what about those who are saved?
Those who are saved will be judged like everyone else on Judgment day, but the sentence for their sins has already been carried out - God has poured His wrath out on them already in Christ. God does not "enter into" judgment (i.e. carry out the judgment) when they are judged, because He has already done so in Christ.
Those who are condemned and are not in Christ, will certainly receive God's wrath. Here is a subtlety, so listen up. All of these will have lived a life that rejected God as their ruler, whether that their understanding of God as revealed in the Old Testament, or whether that be a greater rejection, having rejected the revealed Christ. But it will not be their rejection of God that condemns them - it will be their sin. To be sure, the very nature of sin - the very heart of it - is to reject God; that is where sin comes from - a heart that rejects God's rule, and in rejecting God's rule, rejects God.
God will not be moved by those who performed outward signs of righteousness, if inwardly they rejected Him. No one will go to hell "because they rejected God" they will reject God because that is what sin is, and they will go to hell because they did not repent of this rebellion in their life. Some will have spent their life pursuing sin with wanton abandon, and others will have spent their life in religious duty trying to earn a better afterlife by their righteous deeds - without ever acknowledging that they are and have always been, rebels who resent God's dominion. Whatever seeming obedience sprouted from ones such as these was always and ever intended to pacify God, to jump through the hoops God put before them, in order that they would reward them with a better afterlife. All their righteousnesses were performed to purchase something for themselves - that is, every seeming good deed was in fact an act of self preservation - an act of selfishness - an act of sin and rebellion.
The subtlety here is that some truly believe that you are condemned for failing to acknowledge the Messiah, when it works the other way - it is sin that causes every last person on earth to "fail to acknowledge" the Messiah. It doesn't matter whether we hear about the Messiah or not - from the cradle we reject God's rule, and we go right on rejecting God's rule throughout our life whether we are religious or not. We do this BECAUSE we are in bondage to it; that is, to sin. That is what sin looks like.
How then can anyone be saved? I mean, if we all start off as rebels because of our bondage to sin - why is it that some people turn to Christ and others do not?
The scriptures tell us. No man can come to Christ unless God the Father draws that person to Christ.
What was Paul doing when Christ met him on the road to Damascus? Who was Paul? Paul was Saul of Tarsus - a zealous Jew, and by zealous, I mean a keeper of the law, a student of the best schools in Jewish law, a man driven to do for God all that can be done for God. Saul was, according to his own understanding, acting in accord with all of Judaism when he took letters in his hand with him to Damascus - to bring the Christians he found there to "justice" - Paul had been engaged in rooting out the Christians so that they might be stoned to death. He was about as far away from being a Christian as one could possibly be - and yet he was full of zeal for God.
How, we say, did Paul meet Christ then - was he looking for Him? Was he trying to become a Christian? Did some coincidence happen by which he decided to become a Christian after changing his mind about things? NO! Jesus Christ came to Paul on the Damascus road, and intervened in Paul's life directly - having chosen Saul as one of His ministers before Saul was ever born - and having chosen this moment to reveal Himself to Saul, for this purpose - to call Saul to Himself on the day of His own choosing. Saul was struck blind and led to Damascus, and there he fasted, neither eating nor drinking for three days, and spent his time praying - and it was in this attitude of humility before God that Saul became a believer. Did Saul just arbitrarily choose one day to become a Christian? No, God drew Saul to Christ - just as God draws all who come to Him to Himself.
Anyone who is saved, is saved from sin - that is, they are saved from rebellion against God's rule in their heart, by and through God calling them to Himself. As many as God calls in this way, will come.
Some might balk at that because they have a corrupted understanding of righteousness. They believe that if God calls one person, it is only right for Him to call all people, lest some lack the opportunity to be saved. But such a presupposition imagines that there is something wrong or unrighteous about letting a guilty person receive the wages of their sin - that is, that God, in order to be "good" has to try and save people from His wrath, as though being merciful to one sinner suddenly made it unjust to allow any sinner to face God's wrath unless they too were given the same opportunity. I say, they have a corrupted understanding because they fail to understand that God's mercy here doesn't provide a mere opportunity to escape - but causes everyone who receives that mercy to turn away from their rebellion, and turn towards God in faith - that is, this act of mercy is the granting of repentance - the granting of the ability to overcome rebellion by turning to God in faith.
You see, if a Jew today were to live in accord with orthodox Judaism, keeping the law as best he can - even if he never hears about Jesus in his whole life - he will by no means be justified by being a good Jew - for no Jew was ever justified by being a good Jew. Justification happens by faith, and not by works.
Now, in order to make the example for "realistic" - let's describe two hypothetical Jews, one who is justified, and one who is not justified, and we will do this in both the OT and again in the NT.
JEW #1 in the OT (Not Justified): Keeps the law, prays, goes to temple, tithes, etc. Trusts that doing these things will satisfy God's shopping list of requirements, and looks to these acts of righteousness, coupled with his own ancestry, to qualify Him as a member of Abraham's covenant, and therefore justify him in the judgment. He will not be justified.
JEW #2 in the OT (Justified): Keeps the law, prays, goes to temple, tithes etc. Puts no trust in keeping the law as a means of justification but trusts God, even as Abraham trusted God, and as a son of Abraham's faith - that is, as one who did as Abraham did - believed God and it was accounted to Him as righteousness - is justified by faith.
Jew #1 in the NT (not Justified): Keeps the law, prays, goes to the synagogue, tithes, etc. Trusts that doing these things will satisfy God's shopping list of requirements, and looks to these acts of righteousness, coupled with his own ancestry, to qualify Him as a member of Abraham's covenant, and therefore justify him in the judgment. Whether he has heard about Jesus and rejected him or hasn't heard about Jesus at all - he will not be justified.
JEW #2 in the NT (Justified): Keeps the law, prays, goes to the Synagogue, tithes etc. Puts no trust in keeping the law as a means of justification but, trusts God, even as Abraham trusted God, and because of this trust is able to see that Christ is the Messiah - thus he too is a son of Abraham's faith - that is, he did as Abraham did - he believed God and it was accounted to Him as righteousness - and is justified by faith, but his faith is in God's Messiah, Jesus whom he is able to recognize because of his genuine faith.
The orthodox position, while I may not have articulated it perfectly above, is plain and clear - no one, whether of Jewish or Gentile birth, can be justified by adhering to a form of Judaism that fails to recognize the Christ that Judaism announced would come.
Do I believe that the Jewish people are going to be justified? Yes and no. I believe that those Jews who are of the same faith as Abraham will recognize their Messiah in Christ, and be justified, and those Jews who are of the same cut as the Pharisees who rejected Christ will not be justified, and will reject the Christ even as their forefathers did.
When Judaism was still the womb of God's Messiah, there were Jews who were of the faith, and Jews who were not. Only those who were of the faith were justified. But when Judaism gave birth to God's promised Messiah, those who were of Abraham's faith believed in God's Messiah. So it is today. Christianity is what Judaism has always promised, and anyone who claims to believe the promises of God, and the God of those promises, but rejects Him whom God had always promised - is deceived, thinking themselves to be of the faith, but lacking the very thing they imagine themselves to have.
So, no. A Jew, however kind, sincere, and magnanimous, is not, and cannot be justified by practicing a form of Judaism which denies the whole purpose of Judaism - God's Christ. Adhering to Judaism doesn't save anyone, and it has never has saved anyone, yet in the revelation that God delivered to the Jews, we find the faith of Abraham which justifies, and the promise of God's Messiah which all of Judaism was intended to bring into being.
If you are a Jew and are reading this, that is what most evangelical Christians believe. We believe that the Messiah would come from the Jews, as the Scriptures teach, and that He has come in the person of Jesus Christ. We believe that God is one God, and that there is no other, but that this one God exists as three persons, God the Father who decrees and directs His will, God the Son Jesus Christ, who though perfectly sharing the will of God the Father, acts in creation to carry out His will, and God the Holy Spirit who while perfectly sharing the will of God, acts as the power by which the Father's decree is carried out by the Son. We do not believe these are three God's but one God, unified in will and purpose, but revealed to us as three personalities, one of whom took on human flesh in order to redeem mankind from sin as part of God's eternal purpose which was determined before mankind, and this universe ever came into being.
My intention is not to offend, but to instruct. This is what most evangelicals believe. There are some evangelicals who would deny bits and pieces of this, some more, some less - as consensus is based on study and discernment, and we are not all equal in these things. But I think I have given a fairly accurate portrayal of the general understanding.
If you are an evangelical who has pondered these things, I hope that you see, or are beginning to see, that we are justified by faith and not by works of the law, which is what this post underscores. Saved by God, not by religions, not by works, not by doing the right things, jumping through the right hoops, etc.
Grace and peace.
Labels: Christianity, Judaism
posted by Daniel @
A good post. I agree with all that you said except one part. But let me have you clarify, so I am understanding correctly. Do you believe that believers will stand before God and answer for all their sins in judgement, just as unbelievers? I know you said the judgment has already been doled out on Christ, but are you saying that we will still have to answer for our sins? If so, I would ask why, when our sins have been put away as far as the east is from the west, and God remembers them no more? Please explain, or perhaps I am misunderstanding you.
Paul, in Romans 14:10-12 writes, "Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us will give an account of himself to God." [ESV Emphasis added]
Paul believed and taught that everyone would stand and give an accounting of their life to God, and that this accounting would take place at the judgment seat of God.
This is not to say that God will carry out the judgment against believers again, but it does teach that everyone will be judged and, if I can add, found guilty. Those who are in Christ will not receive God's wrath in answer to their judgment, for God's wrath has already been spent on their sin in Christ. Those who are not in Christ will receive God's judgement personally, without Christ.
I don't think the text here is obscure, I think it teaches (and plainly so) that we will all stand in front of the judgment seat and give an account of our lives to God.
God certainly has, as the psalmist writes, removed our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west, in Christ (as Paul's teaching later explains). It isn't that we sin and God suddenly forgets that we have sinned, rather it is that God does not count our transgression against us.
There is a difference between not having our transgression accounted to us and not being judged. We will be judged, but our transgressions (those who are in Christ) will not be held against us.
We will, according to scripture, have to give an account of ourselves on judgment day - and this accounting will show that God is just in having poured our His wrath on Christ for our sins. We will not receive condemnation, but it will be made manifest for all to see that the punishment doled out on Christ through our union with Christ was a just punishment - for our guilt will be found out, even as the scriptures teach - only we who are in Christ will not receive a new condemnation for it, we shall instead enter into God's rest.
Let me know if that makes sense or not.
OK. That's what I thought you meant. But I do not believe it. I believe that we will stand before God on judgement day and be declared completely righteous, in our Savior, of course. The account we will give of ourselves is Christ's account. He was perfect and that is how God sees us, right now today, as we live our lives.
There is therefore NOW no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. Romans 8:1
One of the most freeing things to me in being a believer in the Lord Jesus is that I will not stand before God and give an account of my sins. I will give an account of Christ's perfection, as he is my substitute. I don't have to dread and worry about answering for all my sins. They are done away with. Wow! That is so wonderful. To think that they will all be dredged up again is not freeing. It would be scarey and awful, I think.
I understand that you don't agree with me and I appreciate your opinion, but we will just have to agree to disagree.
With the knowledge that I will not have all my sins dredged up again, I want to do the right things and sin less, out of love for my Savior, not because of fear of standing before God and giving an account, but out of love.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
As I read your post, I thought not so much of Saul/Paul, but of Nicodemus and John 3. "Are you the teacher of Israel and you do not know these things?" I'm still interested to see how Romans 11 comes into play in the end.
Daniel I guess in the end you can't help but offend some, for Jesus declared that offenses must come. They are traps for the blind, the religious, the corrupt and designed to purify ones motives by the examining of ones self with the gospel.
If we as believers are so blind and arrogant to believe that God's purpose for Jesus was to come and set up a religion called Christianity. Then we are doomed indeed for we will all give an account of our lives at the judgment seat of Christ. We must all remember that Jesus Christ was a Jew and not Gentile, Mennonite, Baptist, Methodist, etc.
If the whole of the Christian experience understood that it is all about love. Then maybe we would all read the word out of love for God and be justified by our faith, instead of our denominational affiliation or the tax free status of the church!