There have always been tensions between followers of Jesus and Jewish people going back to the Book of Acts in the New Testament. I want to explain where Christians are coming from relative to Judaism based on New Testament passages. I’m hoping this will provide some understanding to my Jewish brothers and sisters.
As a preface to this discussion, let me remind you that the entire New Testament, with the possible exception of the two books written by Luke, was written by Jews. These writers were not anti-Semites, but expressing what they believed had been revealed to them by Jesus’ teachings and God’s Holy Spirit. To keep it brief and simple, let me outline the New Testament understanding of God’s plan for the world, especially as it relates to Judaism.
(1) The Israelite nation (descendents of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob) was set aside by God to:
(a) Be the recipients of God’s divine revelation of himself and to preserve it.
(b) To be an example to the nations (the Gentiles) of righteous living (their location at the crossroads of the world at that time wasn’t an accident).
(c) To be the bearer of the Messiah.
(2) The Old Testament Law (The Law of Moses or Torah) was put in place as a guide to living and worship, and was to be practiced by the Israelites both to have a good life and to find favor with God.
(3) The Old Testament sacrificial system (sacrificing animals to atone for sins) was established by God as a temporary measure for the following purposes:
(a) To give God’s chosen people a way of repenting and having their sins forgiven, thus restoring their relationship with God.
(b) To illustrate the fact that the penalty for sin is death.
(c) To lay the groundwork for what the Messiah would accomplish (see Isaiah chapter 53).
(4) Having a foundation in the Law and prophets, the Jewish nation was to receive its Messiah as a spiritual Savior, not a military savior.
(5) Because the Messiah (Jesus) paid the penalty for our sins once and for all, the sacrificial system and keeping the ceremonial law would cease to be necessary (Hebrews 8-10).
(6) Jesus came first for the Jews, and then the Gentiles, so belief in what Jesus accomplished on the cross was to spread throughout the world, thanks to the Jews.
More on this topic in a future post.