I love Jewish people and some of my believing friends are of Jewish extraction. How can a righteous person hate the race of people from which the Messiah came?
And yet, like God, I can't agree with everything that Jewish people say or teach. And this is especially true concerning what some Jews teach about salvation.
We know of course that many Jews have historically rejected the Messiah – Jesus Christ. By the way, "Christ" is not a surname – its a greek word that translates the essentially Hebrew word "Mashiach" – Messiah. And yes, I know that even the word "Jesus" is essentially based on the Greek form of the name of the Lord. And some people just LOVE to argue about names. Its interesting though that the demons don't. You can cast out demons in the name of "Jesus". Never once did a demon tell me that he won't come out because I didn't use the name "Yeshua" (the Hebrew and original form of the name of our Savior).
In any case, it is not only the Jews that reject Jesus that are dangerous. False teachers are dangerous no matter what their ethnic origin is. And not least among these are the so-called Messianic Jews who emphasize the Keeping of Law as a means of salvation.
Those who read this site will surely realize that I do not promote some kind of message telling the unholy and lawless that they have nothing to fear if they "believe in Jesus". In fact, if we truly believe in Jesus, we will flee sin and cling to God. Jesus warned his own disciples about th deadliness of sin and told them that they should fear the Father, who has power to cast body and soul into HELL (see Matthew 10).
However there is an equal and opposite extreme to antinomianism (the teaching that sin won't lead to spiritual death for the believer). This error is legalism. And one of the most potent forms of legalism the devil has out there today is the Jewish form. Among those who call themselves "Messianic Jews" are those who believe that you must "keep the Torah" to be saved. Of course, no one can "keep the Torah" because for a start there is no longer any temple to which to bring your animal sacrifices. So, Torah teachers must pick and choose the commandments they consider essential to salvation. They will teach that you must observe a Saturday Sabbath, or that you must celebrate certain Jewish feasts mentioned in the Bible, or that you should wear certain kinds of clothes, eat certain kinds of foods or light certain kinds of candles. A lot of their teachings appeal to Gentiles who are looking for "something more" in the form of Jewish traditions and ceremonies which carry a certain mystique about them and usually not a few interesting anecdotal stories of interest.
These teachers of the Law are quite at odds with the apostle Paul on what constitutes the essential duties of the Christian believer. For Paul, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision was anything, but "faith working through love". True faith in God has now been detached from Jewish cultural practices and is now wholly centred on the person of the resurrected Son of God – Jesus Christ. And what God wants from us is the fruit of LOVE – which expresses itself mostly in terms of being helpful to others for their temporal and eternal needs.
The Book of Galatians has some very powerful things to say about this whole issue of keeping various parts of the Torah in order to be like "really saved".
Paul, who was himself a very learned Jew, of the tribe of Benjamin, and knew the law way better than the Judaizers he had to deal with, wrote this letter to Christians who whose faith had been DESTROYED by people who came in after Paul had left. These people would insinuate that Paul wasn't all that great and the Galatians really needed THEM and what they were teaching in order to be saved.
They were teaching the believers that they needed to observe certain Jewish customs and laws – especially male circumcision as a sign that they were truly the people of God.
Today there are also those who disparage Paul and his teachings. They don't like Paul and they think that he wasn't Jewish enough. The truth is that Paul turned 180 degrees away from all the legalistic Jewish religion when he turned to Christ Jesus. This is why he was so hated by the Jews. Paul never advocated disregarding the moral law of God – in fact he taught that by the Spirit of God we must put to death the deeds of the flesh. The law of love Paul upheld. However, Paul was very clear about the difference between Judaism and being "in Christ". He never tried to make the Gentiles into Jews. He never taught that Jewish believers are first class and Gentile believers are second class. In fact, he taught that the middle wall of division between Jew and Gentile had been abolished in Christ.
Paul made some very startling statements which should serve as a warning to anyone who wants to bring believers under the yoke of the Torah – the Law of Moses. If anyone wants to dismiss Paul as being an authority on matters of faith, they would also have to dismiss the apostle Peter. Because Peter wrote as follows:
"Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction". 2 Peter 3:15,16
Peter is saying that Paul is a "dear brother" writing with wisdom which God gave him. Peter here declares that Paul's writings are Scriptures! So if you want to write off Paul, you will need to write off Peter as well. And then who will you be left with, as an authority on true faith in the Messiah? Probably some fellow who has neither seen the Lord, nor known Him personally – but rather prides himself on his personal research and his Jewish ancestry according to the flesh. Someone who probably resembles a lot the Judaizers who were destroying the faith of the Galatians through their urging them back into a Jewish lawkeeping.
Paul taught the following:
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” (Galatians 3:10)
He writes to those who seek to be justified by keeping Jewish laws:
"You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace." (Galatians 5:4)
No stronger warning concerning Judaistic teaching could be given than Paul has given here.
In another place Paul says concerning Jesus:
"having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. "
These Scriptures make it very clear that all the legal requirements of the Law of Moses are finished for us. They are nailed to the cross. This would include all the ceremonial and civil laws of the Israelites – but not the moral law of God.
Are Jewish Believers a Special Elite Class?
Some Jewish believers in Jesus are really humble, wise and helpful people. Others seem to pride themselves on their Jewishness, as if being somehow children of Abraham according to the flesh makes them just that little bit better than everyone else.
Naturally, the belief that you are better than other races promotes division. On this issue, Paul said:
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh — who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands — that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
Gentiles and Israelites are one in Christ, when they are truly in Christ. It clearly teaches here that Jesus abolished in his flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances – all those Jewish customs from the Torah and elsewhere – so as to create one new man from the two. This means that God has created a new spiritual race of people from Jews and non-Jews alike. Those who are in Christ are not separated by requirements to observe certain Jewish ordinances. Once you start trying to re-introduce these things and teach others to do so, you are working against the purpose of God. If you want to observe Jewish customs because you like them, fine. But when you imply that doing this makes you more spiritual, more observant, more pleasing to God, that is when you have begun to be an enemy of the gospel and the purposes of God.
The problem is that once you add all kinds of laws as requirements for salvation, things which God no longer requires, you confuse the issue and people get their eyes OFF Christ and onto certain laws which they must audit themselves against regularly. This is bondage and it is not something the Spirit of God leads people into.
Once a person gets into this condition, they have become estranged from Christ and they are truly into a kind of works-based religion. Such religion cannot save. And so those who promote such religion are doing immense damage. Make sure you are not taken in.
Was Paul Under the Law?
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law.
If you want to win Jews to Christ, you can behave as if you are under the Law of Moses in order to win them over. You can celebrate Feasts and light menorahs all you want. But you should never ACTUALLY be under the law. Paul wasn't. He explicitly says so here. But he made himself fit in with some of their customs at times in order to try to win them. It didn't always work. Paul was actually arrested at the temple in Jerusalem in the very act of trying to fit in with the Jews (see Acts 21).
Paul said he was under the Law of Christ. This means that Paul followed the teachings of Jesus. Some people have the idea that not being under the law means being free to sin as much as they please (hopefully not too much). Paul is talking about the ordinances of the Law of Moses. He is not talking about being immoral or dishonest. If you REALLY follow the Holy Spirit, He will NEVER lead you to be sexually immoral or dishonest. The Holy Spirit will always lead you deeper into the Holy presence of God, where sin cannot stand.
Being Under the Law of Moses means being Under the Curse
Galatians 3:10 says: "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”"
We need to rely on the righteousness of Christ which is given as a gift to those with faith. We are cursed if we are trusting our Lawkeeping efforts. To remain in Christ, He ought to be the centre of our affections and we ought to seek to please Him in all ways – but to look to a set of rules in a self-imposed effort to please God is not the way to be a real Christian.
Once you set yourself to achieve righteousness through lawkeeping, you will fail, and you will be UNDER A CURSE. Things will go bad for you, and you will not be accepted by God at the end, unless you repent and put your trust in Christ for righteousness.