Because someone, somewhere will be quick to take offense, let’s waste the first paragraph of this article by stating that I have nothing against Jewish people, and if you are Jewish, I’m glad for you. I’m not out to convert you, change you, admonish you, or put you down.
However, this is a Christian blog. It’s not unreasonable for me to assume that people reading it are Christians, many of whom are Gentiles, like me. And what we’re talking about today is an increasing number of Christian Gentiles who adopt Jewish customs: the women cover their hair and the men grow beards; pork’s out of the house year round, as is yeast, during Passover, which is celebrated in conjunction with, or instead of, Easter; Jesus is Yeshua, God is Yahweh; Sunday is Saturday.
Many, Many Rules
The list can go on for the 1400 or so pages of my Old Testament, because the Gentile Christian who embraces an adopted Jewish heritage picks and chooses from all sorts of laws, customs, traditions, and obligations in an effort to express . . . what? about his Christianity.
One man told me, “The New Testament isn’t enough. To be a complete Christian, you have to follow the Old Testament.”
To which I replied, mentally because saying it aloud would have provoked an unnecessary argument: “If you’re going to play Jesus-Plus and follow the law, then you need to follow it all,” or as James, strongly purported to be the Lord’s brother and a Christian convert from Judaism, put it:
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2: 10)
This means, fellow women still of childbearing age, that you need to remove yourself from society, and do a whole lot of laundry, for seven days out of the month (Leviticus 15: 19 -23).
The Gospel Means “Good News”
The good news is, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,” (Galatians 3: 29). So the Old Testament, my friend, is as much a part of our spiritual heritage as the New Testament, and we can read it, meditate upon it, and learn from its wisdom and teaching. There’s a lot of great stuff in there.
The better news is, the promised Messiah that Abraham’s children searched for in that Old Testament, and eagerly awaited to come, has already arrived, and because Jesus was the perfect Jew, fulfilling ever jot and tittle of the Law and the Prophets, you and I don’t have to (Luke 24: 44). If the Old Testament shows us anything, it predicates that we can’t fulfill the law, ever.
For Gentiles who are Christians, it’s not the Law and the Prophets we need to follow, it is Christ, and following Christ looks like this:
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6: 29) It’s harder than it sounds, but “Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.” (John 6: 45)
So, how do we listen to the Father?
“This is love for God: to obey his commands.” (1 John 5: 3)
And what are those commands? Jesus tells us in Matthew 22: 37-39 that all of the Law and Prophets hang on these two:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “
The Things You Don’t Need to Do
You don’t need to sacrifice a ram on the alter, assuming you could find either (“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1: 29). There is no need to distinguish clean from unclean food (“What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean,’” Matthew 15: 11). If you have to work on Sunday, or Saturday, you don’t stand condemned (“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath,” Mark 2: 27).
It’s not what you do that saves you — it’s Who saves you:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2: 8)
Grace. Grace. Grace. It’s so big that it covers us even when we heap on the rules.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage people to think seriously about what “freedom in Christ” means. No, it’s not the freedom to do anything we want or desire, because although “everything is permissible for me,” not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 6: 12).
It does mean, however, that we do not allow others — including ourselves — to place burdens upon us that Christ did not put there.
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