Should a Jew become a Christian or a Christian a Jew?

Kees de Vreugd Tuesday 22 June 2010 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share by email Printer friendly

One of the objectives of this website is to refute what is commonly known as replacement theology or supercessionism. Our message is, simply said: the church has not replaced Israel in God’s redemptive plan. Clinging to replacement theology in fact means theological suicide! If God has annulled his covenant with Israel, who will tell us that He will not cancel his covenant with the church (if there is a covenant with the church)? But is the alternative then that we believe in two ways to salvation, one for Israel and another for the church? Or do we believe in a dual covenant with Israel and the church?

Are there two covenants?
I think it was the famous Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig who in his book ‘The Star of Redemption’ spoke of the idea of two ways, or a dual covenant. Jews should live by the observance of the Torah, the commandments God gave through Moses on Sinai. The Torah was given as an ‘eternal covenant’. The church, on the other hand, is the way for the gentiles, i.e. non-Jews, to come to salvation.
Of course, Rosenzweig could draw on Jewish tradition, which discerns a covenant with the people of Israel (Exodus 24) and a covenant with the ‘sons of Noah’ (the gentiles; see Genesis 9). Whereas Israel should keep all the commandments of the Torah, the ‘sons of Noah’ are obliged only to the seven ‘Noahide laws’.
The idea of a dual covenant thus seems to have a scriptural basis. But does this permit the conclusion that there are two (or more) ways to redemption? After all, aren’t Jesus’ words clear enough: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’? Are there two (or more) ways to salvation, or only one?

God coming to man
Let me get down to business at once: I increasingly believe that we should not speak of ways to salvation, but of the way of salvation. What do I mean? It is God who chooses to save mankind from sin and to redeem the world. From the very beginning His turning towards the world is redemptive. By separating light from darkness, water from water, dry grounds from water, He shows already what redemption will be. By creating man in His own image He shows what it is meant for. God does not want to stay outside. He longs to be with man and with creation. This He reveals in other words in His choice for Israel: I will dwell among you, He says. God chooses Israel as His address. The book of Deuteronomy is full of the phrase: the place which I have chosen to dwell among you.
Is this a primitive idea of the godhead in his temple as the centre of the nation? No, it is the gospel! It is expressed in the gospel of John: ‘The word became flesh and made his dwelling amongst us,’ and reiterated in the teaching of the apostle Paul. It is reflected in the magnificent vision of John in Revelation 21: ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.’

Israel is the centre
Israel is the centre of God’s dwelling with men. Israel remains the centre of God’s dwelling with men. ‘In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem’ (Isaiah 2:1-3).
The Hebrew reads: Torah will go out from Zion. Torah is the Word of the Lord He gave to Israel as a way of life when He made His covenant with Israel. Torah is the instruction the nations are coming to seek and live by.
Here is perhaps the secret of answering both replacement and dual covenant theology. It is not about man coming to God – it is about God seeking man! Torah is God’s instrument of preparing man to receive Him. Torah is God’s way to Israel, and so to mankind as a whole.

The word becomes flesh
God gave his Torah to sanctify Israel. Israel is called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. So Israel will be a light to the nations. And nations will walk by her light.
How can Israel be a holy and priestly kingdom? By fulfilling the Torah. The Torah is not meant to ‘earn heaven’, but to serve God and live before Him. And as a priestly kingdom, Israel does this also on behalf of the nations. The Torah provides the possibility of living before God, and returning to Him when the relation is disturbed.
So the word becomes flesh in Israel. In the heart of Israel, as her nucleus, the word becomes flesh and dwells among her. The only begotten Son of the Father comes as the essence of the Firstborn son Israel, to bear all our iniquities. He is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; the great High Priest who has gone through the heavens. In Him, God dwells among us.

One-way traffic?
To make a long story short: there is only one way: that of God coming to man. And this coming of God is through Israel. Israel’s essence is an ellipse with the Torah and the Word become flesh as its focal points. In fact, the two are one: it is the eternal Torah becoming flesh.
Now God’s coming to man calls for an answer. God calls on Israel to love and serve Him. He calls on each and everyone of us to love Him and to walk in His ways. Everything that would be an impediment to this relationship was taken away by Jesus on the cross. As such, He fulfils Israel’s calling of full obedience to God.

Should a Jew become a Christian or a Christian a Jew?
Jesus did not cancel or deny Judaism. A Jew who walks in the way of the covenant and obeys the commandments of the Torah (not just the Ten Commandments, but all of the Torah) out of love of God walks in the same faith as Jesus*, even if he does not recognize Him as the Messiah (yet). He obeys the Word that became flesh. In His word, the Messiah is present with His people. The inner side of this intimacy of God’s relation with Israel is hidden from our eyes.
On the other hand, a non-Jew who comes to faith through Jesus does not have to take all the Torah commandments upon him (only those assigned to him through the teachings of the apostles). “Each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him” (1Cor. 7:18). But in Christ, Jews and Gentiles are no longer antagonists, but reconciled into a new relationship.

*Initially, I wrote here: “A Jew who walks in the way of the covenant and obeys the commandments of the Torah (…) walks in obedience to Jesus.” We should not, however, try to theologically annex the Jews.


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14 Comments to “Should a Jew become a Christian or a Christian a Jew?”

  1. Bart says:

    A Jew who walks in the way of the covenant and obeys the commandments of the Torah (not just the Ten Commandments, but all of the Torah) walks in obedience to Jesus, even if he does not recognize Him as the Messiah (yet).

    I very much doubt that. There’s no place in the Bible where i can find that. Furthermore, if that’s the case, Paul’s sadness over his people (as described for example in Romans) is very strange. Why would he be sad if his people (the Jews) are being saved by obedience?

  2. Bart says:

    In addition to the above, I’m not saying that a Jew should become Christian. I’m just saying that Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life, as he said himself.

  3. In response to:

    Are there two covenants?
    – Yes, maybe more, but we can also speak of just one covenant: The covenant (of grace).

    One-way traffic?
    – “Each and everyone” – this is another phase, a new era. The same, but renewed covenant. Israel is extended with the gentiles because of the beginning of the Messianic era.

    Should a Jew become a Christian or a Christian a Jew?
    – First: both Jews (Judaism) and Christians are deviated from the true understanding of the only true Messiah. Both do need repentance.

    A true Jew can’t deny Jesus. If his sight on Jesus is correct, like Paul, he gets troubles with Judaism.

    I’m in doubt about this saying: “a non-Jew who comes to faith through Jesus does not have to take all the Torah commandments upon him.” I think he likes to do it as written in psalm 119.

    Furthermore, I agree with Bart. You could say however: walks in obedience AS Jesus (to the Torah).

    nice article btw,

  4. Ralph says:

    Interesting thoughts in this article, especially that of God initiating fellowship with man rather than the other way round.

    I would like to add that salvation comes by God’s grace through our faith, whether Jews’ seeking to live by the Torah in Old Testament times or that of Christians living under the New Covenant, seeking to approach holiness through the Holy Spirit of God within us. Neither of us have been fully able to keep God’s way of righteousness. The discrepancy between God’s holiness and our attempts at it have to be made up by the blood of sacrifices.

    Now Jesus has died for our sins, his sacrificial blood bridges the gap, so God and man can have fellowship. He is the perfect Lamb of God. In him the Torah is fulfilled. Why should any Jew continue to seek holiness through the burden of the written law, now the perfect way to the Father has been revealed through him who IS the way, the truth and the life – Jesus? In Ephesians it is written that Jews and Christians are now one – through the grace of one sacrifice, one faith, one peace agreement (Eph 2:13-17)

  5. Paul and Konstantin Karatsalos says:

    read chapter 9 of the epistle of Romans,chapter 2 of Efesians,chapter 3 verse 23-29 of
    Galatians and you will be convinced that a Jew should became a christian if he want to inherit the kingdom of God

  6. Ruben says:

    I am afraid the main issue that creates the gap between christians and Jews is the fact that we as christians are so preoccupied with our salvation. Rather than living for the glory of God, we live and strive to obtain our salvation.

    If we truly trust Gods grace, we no longer need to mark people as ‘saved’ and ‘not (yet) saved’. We would simply love them and in doing so glorify and mimic the grace of God.

    The issue Paul has with Judaism doesn’t concern salvation, as he already states that ‘all Israel shall be saved’. The issue he has with Judaism is their pride and since we have no lack of this as well, we should learn not to be so ready to judge…

  7. Kees de Vreugd says:

    Thank you, Bart, Jos, Ralph, Paul and Konstantin and Ruben, for your comments. They all call for new blogs. What we still fail to see is the difference in calling between Israel and the nations. Israel is called to be a priestly kingdom, to the benefit of the nations. In Jesus, the destiny of Israel is expressed in a perfect way. Out of a perfect fear of God He completes Israel’s shortfall. The righteousness of the Jews is insufficient, but certainly not superfluous.
    It might have been better to say that a Jew who obeys the commandments walks in obedience AS Jesus. We should not try to theologically annex the Jews. What I meant, however, was that Jesus did not ‘come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them’ (Matthew 5:17-20). The fulfillment of the Law even is the condition of the Kingdom of heaven.

    Kees de Vreugd

  8. Bart says:

    Ruben quoted:
    ‘The issue Paul has with Judaism doesn’t concern salvation, as he already states that ‘all Israel shall be saved’. The issue he has with Judaism is their pride and since we have no lack of this as well, we should learn not to be so ready to judge…’

    Are you sure you read the entire book Romans? When will ‘all Israel be saved’ ? And what was Paul striving to do, according to Eph 1? I’m afraid we are very occupied with the nation Israel, the city Jerusalem and all things the Jews concern, and forget to tell them their Messiah is the only way, life and truth! We have something which belongs to them: Yeshua Messiach. And so we can make them jealous, according to Paul and Isaiah.

  9. Kerri Cain says:

    Where do non-Jews who convert to Judaism fit into this?

  10. Sherret says:

    Amen Ruben!

  11. Sandra says:

    Philipians 2:9-11 says “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
    We must remember that the write, Paul, used to be Jewish, and he says in this Scripture passage that “EVERY KNEE” should bow, and “EVERY TONGUE” confess that Jesus is Lord. Does this not clearly state that Christ is it. No works, no confession without faith, no old sacrificial traditions are going to cut it. I’m sorry if I sound bigoted, but scripture is clear that works will not get someone to heaven–even if he/she is Jewish.

  12. Kees de Vreugd says:

    Dear Sandra,
    Thank you for your valuable comments. Surely, Christ is it – much more and much deeper than we can ever suspect.
    The main thought of the article is that God is the only One who initiates the relationship with man. He does this through His Word – His revelation to Israel in the Torah and through the prophets, and finally in Christ, Who is the Word incarnate, i.e. the Word (Torah) that became flesh. It is questionable, to say the least, whether Judaism desires to earn heaven by keeping the law. The point of Judaism is to serve the LORD according to His commandments, the fulfilment of which is love, exactly as Jesus taught (read the Gospels).

  13. Kees de Vreugd says:

    That is an interesting question. A Gentile (non-Jew) who converts to Judaism has taken upon him/herself the yoke of the Torah and has obliged himself to live in accordance with all the commandments. Generally spoken, the New Testament does not encourage this step as it doubts – to say the least – the ability of the Gentile to live up to this standard. More important, the apostles’ rulings concerning Jews and gentiles in the early christian community – which is Jewish for the most part – seem to stress the continuing importance of the difference between Israel and the nations together with their being one in Jesus.

  14. Anonymous says:

    When I read this, what comes to mind is Matthew’s treatment of this issue- not the remainder of the Gospels. Keep in mind that Matthew is writing to a Jewish community of believers who would have understood the Torah, the prophets and the practices of Second Temple Judaism. This is why he did not go to great lengths to explain the teachings of Torah to them.

    It is Matthew who continually states that Jesus did not come “to abolish the Law” but “to fulfill it.” It is quite astounding when you consider the sheer diversity of perspectives of the Gospel (and other NT) writers; no two have the same perspective on the nature of Christ’s ministry or his relationship to the Torah and prophets!

    Compare this with the wide range of diversity within Christianity today. You will have Christian groups who say you have to be baptized in order to be saved, whereas others practice “believer’s baptism,” others groups who will differ on their views concerning the gifts of the Spirit, and others groups who have differing views on issues such as the Trinity, Apostolic Succession, and/or the need for a Restoration. However, all these groups share one fundamental belief in common; they believe Jesus pointed the way to the God of the Hebrew Bible. Would God exclude these groups just because they don’t agree on specifics, especially when the Gospel writers themselves reflected such diverse perspectives?

    In my church, we speak of a “third” covenant of sorts in the form of the Restoration, but I do not believe that excludes or cancels out the “first” or “second” covenant by any stretch of the matter, it simply adds a new layer to the beauty of what can already be found and experienced in the nucleus of the prior covenants. My spouse, on the other hand, is of the Jewish faith, and I have never had any doubt about his relationship with God, otherwise we would not be married. I feel we share an essential unity under God’s irrevocable covenant with Israel, regardless of how that is expressed. God meets you where you are, and revelation progresses as you continue to grow deeper in your faith; and that, I believe, is the beauty of the Gospel as taught and embodied by Jesus while he was here on earth.

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