As we head into the time of Passover and Easter, as happens every year there are bound to be more specials, stories and discussions about God, and Jesus. It’s interesting that so many who don’t believe feel that the most Holy time of the year for Christians is the best time to come out with the “Truth about Jesus” type discussions- yet for the enemy, it’s the perfect time to distract and deceive.
I would like to focus on truth about Jesus throughout this week so that any seekers who might be out there, will maybe come away with a clearer picture of His gift and mercy and have a better understanding of why Resurrection Sunday is such a special time of year for Christians all over the world.
Most religions are pretty straight foreword in the different beliefs and philosophies, but it is still important, I believe, to understanding the major world religions and worldviews. It helps to understand what it is that people base their world views or thinking and beliefs on. It is a help to people who may be searching for something more than life happening without a faith or belief, but who aren’t sure of what it means to follow a particular religious belief.
There are so many different beliefs in the world- some have a larger following than others, some are more definite about life changes than others, some have more rules, others have strange beliefs and are more “radical” than others, so understanding differences can help a person come to a more broad understanding of what is the truth.
For Christians, it can help develop a deeper faith in the Bible, and can also help by allowing more open conversations with people of different beliefs. It helps Christians to know where others are coming from when we share Jesus and the Gospel with them, much like the Apostle Paul when he shared the Gospel to those at Mars Hill when he showed enough knowledge about the many gods that the Athenians believed in.
I know people of other faiths are a little more open to discussion if a person has taken the time to study their beliefs and religious background. For me, religious studies and apologetics has strengthened my beliefs from before I was a believer and still now, and has shown me so many ways in which Christianity is true.
It has taught me that even among other Christian denominations, there can be huge differences in the way the Bible is interpreted, if it even is studied as the Book of God at all. It has shown me that there are many groups and religious people in the world who call themselves Christian, but by what their religion teaches, the books they teach from and their view on Scriptures, shows very little of the True meaning of being a Christ follower- a disciple of Christ, which is what the Christian “religion” is all about.
I guess the best place to start first of all, is a recap of what Biblical Christianity is.
There are many Christians in the world- many of them my family and friends who are not Bible readers, and are quite illiterate when it comes to knowing much about the Bible. Oh, they know the main “stories” but as for the meanings and life lessons and ways in which the Old points to the first coming of Jesus, and the New pointing to His return, which the stories are there for – they have no clue.
To be a Biblical Christian, this means that Christians look upon the Scriptures of the Bible with reverence, respect and with the knowledge that the Bible is the literal Word of God, that it is God Breathed, and the men who wrote the books were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. It means the Christian is diligently, seriously and carefully searching for the meaning of the Bible on God’s terms- not our own. It’s not to be changed whenever something written it is seeming to be out of date, something we don’t agree with (policial correctness) and not with our own understanding. We read the Word as we know it is God’s Own Word.
The common truths in the New Testament which shows the books are inspired by God, and His final Word on what Christianity really is has been subject to heresies and differences since the second century. The most commonly referred is Gnosticism. This is what many liberal Christians today believe in.
While there are so many different denominations in Christianity, the core belief however among all denominations which are the body of Christ, is the basic doctrine that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures… He was buried… He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3,4
There is much more to Christianity than that, but this is the main doctrine, in which to compare other beliefs by.
Biblical Christianity is belief in the True Word of the Bible which is God Breathed- His literal Word, the reliable Word, Jesus was born of a virgin, died for the sins of the world, on the cross, He rose again on the third day, and that He is the Son of God, God come in the flesh.
So, holding a Biblical worldview based on the absolute truth of the Bible makes me sound pretty sure of myself doesn’t it? Sounds like I believe I have all the truth. Well, I don’t. Only God holds all the truth because He is the only One who knows all the truth perfectly.
I am a Bible believing Christian, and I believe in the absolute truth of the Bible, but sometimes I am a pretty lousy Christian. I have made and will continue to make mistakes- so I am glad I have the Bible to show how accurate and reliable it is, and not only my word! It is the Word of God that I pass on to others. To teach and show Jesus. I am grateful for the knowledge through learning about other beliefs that Christianity is True- because of the Bible. My Biblical Christianity does not stand on my own word, my own actions or man made rules. It stands on faith and knowledge on the evidence proven that the Bible, is the Word of God.
As mentioned at the start of this post, it’s also Passover season, which starts Friday evening. It is this time when Jews around the world celebrate and remember the time when God moved throughout Egypt, passing over the homes of the Jews, and killed the first born of all Egyptians, including livestock, so Pharaoh would know God and let His people go.Most Jews have not recognized or believed that Jesus is their Messiah, and the bible talks about the time when they will recognize Him when, “they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” Zechariah 12:10
Until that happens, there will still be a great need to help Jews understand Who Yeshua is, and what Christians believe about God, the Judeo roots of Christianity and why we desire for them to know Yeshua.And before we can help Jews to know Him, we have to try and understand where they are coming from and what their beliefs are.
Judaism has a history beginning around 200 B.C. begun by Rabbis, or Jewish Teachers. Judaism ‘broke’ off from the traditional “Old Testament” beliefs of God held by the nation of Israel around the time of the Temple’s destruction in AD 70. The destruction of the Temple meant there were no more Temple worship, no more sacrifices and no more priestly duties- therefore no more need for priests. New practices in institutions such as synagogues, rabbinical training and the office of the Rabbi came about, and the Rabbis were those who now set the laws, authority and practices for the Jewish people. Depending on which Rabbi people learned under, was what their ‘religion’ became.
While Christianity and Judaism are similar in their both being rooted in the Old Testament religion of Israel, there are many differences between the two.
After the 18th century, Modern Judaism broke into 3 main branches. The different branches were more of a personal choice of association, family roots and tradition, and where the nearest synagogue was, and again, which rabbi’s message you liked or believed in. While there are 3 main branches, many people don’t adhere to any particular doctrine, and many times, they come to their own version of what Judaism is all about.
The three branches are Orthodox, Reform and Conservative Judaism.
Orthodox Judaism is the closest form of the Judaism which was practiced around the time of the Temple’s destruction. It’s emphasis is on tradition and strict observance of the Law of Moses as instructed by the Rabbis. Orthodox Judaism can be almost compared to Roman Catholicism, in that they both have heavy Traditional based teachings. The view of the Torah, or the first Five Books of Moses is that they are true. Faith is an essential part of belief in the Torah, and they believe in the divine origin of oral and the written word of the Torah. It is given a higher authority than the rest of the Hebrew Bible.
Their belief is that God is in spirit. He is to the Orthodox Jew, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal and loving. They believe humans are basically good, but with an equal portion to be capable of evil. They believe that people can have self control over their evil nature and be perfected by their own efforts to be good and in following the Laws of Moses. The Law is the basis for Judaism, and gives structure and meaning to life, which leads to a closer relationship with God. They do not believe in original sin, but that people commit sin by breaking any of the Laws. Repentance, prayer and obedience of the Law are needed for a relationship with God but salvation is not necessary. Their belief is that Messiah is a human, and not divine. He will restore the Jewish kingdom and rule righteously over the earth, and give judgement and make things right. The Orthodox Jew believes in a physical resurrection, and the righteous will be with God forever. Evil people will suffer after death, but many people have different thoughts on whether a literal hell exists or not. They attend synagogue for teaching and prayer, as well as social reasons. Men and women sit apart from each other, and the teachers usually face the same direction as the congregation.
Depending on the Rabbi, women are not held in much esteem in Judaism, which is one of the reasons why Jesus’s teaching and behavior towards women such as the adulterous woman, the Samaritan woman and his closeness to women disciples was so antithetical to what Pharisees believed.
Reform Judaism had it’s beginnings in Germany around the time of the Enlightenment during the 18th century. Reformed Judaism focuses more on ethics and ideas of the prophets. Reformed Judaism can be compared to Unitarianism and the more liberal church denominations in that they all have emphasis on humanism.
The Reformed Jew’s belief is that the Hebrew Bible is a human document which has passed on and preserved the history and cultures of the people and an important guide for learning moral and ethical ways to live. They have different interpretations of God, which includes mystical, natural and humanist philosophies. They do not believe that anyone holds the truth. They believe in the basic goodness of humans, and their approach is more humanistic, in that with education, evolution and encouragement, people can tap into the potential within self.
Their view on the Laws, are that the law is basically evolving and changing, and it adapts to each age. In their view, if the law or observance of Judaism comes against societal demands, they must be dropped in favor of society. They do not believe in original sin, and believe sin is a product of society. Salvation is by human effort, and brought about by a better society and education.
Reform Jews do not believe in a Messiah, but more in line with the liberal ideas of a utopia or perfect world to come where humans have evolved enough to be perfected and good. Reformed Jews call it the Messianic Age. They have no beliefs of life after death, although some believe in a Eastern Mysticism where souls will all merge into one huge impersonal life force. Their synagogue is called Temple, and the services are totally modern, and men and women sit together. They have choirs included in their worship services.
Conservative Judaism started around the 19th century, again with roots in Germany. They can be compared with modern liberal protestants, which focuses on form and social issues rather than on doctrine. Their views of the Hebrew Scripture is that they are both from God and man. It’s not considered inspired by God, and it’s revelation is an ongoing process.
A popular thought is that God is impersonal- similar to those beliefs that God created the world, and us, but He has left us to “do our own thing”. Truth and the law are relative and must adapt to societal changes. There is no belief in original sin, but that people can sin by actions or immoral choices. Conservative Jews identify closer with the Reformed views of salvation, but they include the necessity of keeping their Jewish Identity. They also have similar views as Reformed Jews concerning Messiah and have more humanist views of man creating a utopia. Similar views as well on life after death, although they are not as involved in Eastern Mystic ideas.
The Synagogue is seen as a basic part of Jewish life.
Out of each branch, there is no real comparison to Bible believing Christianity. Neither do any of the branches really practice having a personal relationship to God, as they are more focused on living according to traditional understanding and ethical behavior. In Judaism, there is no real official religious principal, or doctrine, except to reaffirm that God is One from Deut. 6:4
All Jewish people, no matter which branch of Judaism they practice, observe at least some of the Jewish Holidays. They don’t always look at Holidays as celebrations, but more of observances. The practice of circumcision of sons on the eighth day is followed by a ceremony called the brit milah is observed by each branch of Judaism. Bar mitzvah for boys and occasionally bat mitzvah for girls, which are coming of age ceremonies at the age of 13 are also celebrated. There is usually a synagogue service followed by a fancy reception or party. Jewish weddings are usually celebrated under a canopy, which is called the chuppa, and the smashing of a glass wrapped in cloth to symbolize the destruction of the Temple.
Other observances are practiced mostly by the Orthodox Jews, but to a lesser extent, other branches who wish to get in touch with their Jewish roots include things such as observing the Sabbath. Traditional Jews will not do any work on Sabbath, but others may at least cook a family meal at the beginning of the Sabbath, on Friday nights.
Some Traditional Orthodox Jews wear small black boxes, called phylacteries, which contain portions of Scripture. These must be wrapped around the arm and forehead according to a set time and pattern when they pray at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem. Many Jews of all branches will have a mezuzah on their door post of their home which are little boxes which contain various Scripture verses. This isn’t really related to Religious beliefs, but more a way to maintain Jewishness.
The last, most well known practice is to keep kosher laws. One of the most well known is the prohibition of mixing meat products with dairy at one meal. Many Jews will keep kosher laws more out of tradition than Religious reasons. Even among non religious Jews, who don’t believe in the dietary law will keep most kosher practice.
Christians do have some things in common with Judaism. We share the Old Testament and it’s teachings. We believe in the same Holy, Righteous God. Both faiths share the same view of Deuteronomy 6:4,5″The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Both faiths accept that the Law is given by God the Creator. We share the same need to worship God, the importance of a strong family unit, and loving others.
The major difference however is of course our view of Jesus Christ.
Jews do believe that Yeshua, if they’re even taught about him, was a good man, and rabbi and that his teachings were good.
For the most part, Jewish people view the Gospel as something only for Gentiles. It is considered to be our religion only, and many don’t believe they have any need for Jesus anyway. If a non religious Jewish person is considering a religion, it would be Judaism because it’s Jewish. Most Jews do not see Yeshua as their Messiah because He claimed to be divine, and He did not deliver Israel from their oppressors. Jews of Yeshua’s time were looking, and many are still looking for more of a political leader type of Messiah, where they will finally be free from oppression. What they fail to understand through many of the prophecies, is that while Yeshua came the first time as a suffering servant and a sacrifice- He will come again to deliver His people.
Another belief is that because Jews are Jewish by birth, then Christians too, are Christian by birth, not understanding the personal faith commitment made by people of all time and places is to have a relationship with Jesus. They don’t see Christians as people from all backgrounds becoming Christian, because anyone who is not a Jew is a Gentile- no matter where that person is from. They don’t seem to understand that no matter our heritage, once a person comes a believer in Jesus, we are following the Messiah. We have not changed our earthly heritage, but we have been adopted into the family of God- and we, through our belief in Jesus, believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
One main objection that many Jewish people have by placing trust in Yeshua as our Savior, is that they will no longer be Jewish if they do this. They believe that to become a Christian is to “lose” their Jewishness and turning their backs on their heritage, traditions and family. Whether a Jewish person is religious or not- they are still Jewish, and they have their own “Jewishness”, or ways of doing and thinking and celebrating things.
They see most Christians as being more quiet and subdued, more conservative in both political and religious life. Many don’t understand that the early Church was made up of mostly Jewish converts. They have not read the New Testament, so they have not had the chance to read Books such as Hebrews, which clearly show the Jewishness of Christianity. They do not know the ancestors of Jesus, which includes King David. They do not know the Jewish roots and family of Jesus or His apostles. They do not know that Paul, who was once Saul, was also Jewish- being raised in a very religious home and one of the Pharisees, and that he was still a Jew after his “conversion”. They don’t understand that all the apostles and Jesus Himself observed all of the Holy Days and celebrations.
Jewish people also assume a standing with God. They don’t speak of salvation because they don’t believe they have anything to be saved from. If there is a God, then Jewish people already have a relationship with Him. As far as sin goes, Jewish people believe that everyone is born free to choose whether to be good or evil- that no one is born that way.
Christians believe that God is One as well, but uniquely Three persons in One. We believe that Jesus was who He said He is, and that He came to save ALL mankind. We can only have a personal relationship with God through Jesus the Son. We believe that all are born in sin, and all fall short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:10,23; 5:12) and it is only through Jesus that we are able to stand before God.
Jewish people believe that anyone, no matter Jew or Gentile can be saved through commitment to the true God and through living a moral and virtuous life. Christians however know that we are only saved through grace and by the sacrificial death of Jesus- the Passover Lamb of God.
Many Jews find the salvation message as offensive. Many who live in Israel are under the belief that Christians are only interested in trying to convert Jews, and that we don’t care about their homeland. Many have heard enough of the Revelation prophecies to believe that they will all go to hell if they don’t believe in Christ. While there is some truth to this belief, there is so much more to the whole of prophecy (more than I can fit here) but they don’t understand that Bible believing Christians know that God is still looking over and caring for His people. Many Jewish people don’t understand the term “savior”, but they know the word “redeemer”, so if you are ever talking with a Jewish friend, it would be good to talk about Jesus as Messiah and redeemer.
One last thought here. Many Christians, knowing how the Gospel message is in many ways offensive to a Jewish person, will be hesitant to bring it up when talking with a Jewish friend. Many times, they will try to love their friends to Christ, instead of witnessing. While loving people is certainly something we should do, and sometimes it will help in witnessing to people of other or no religions- it will not help in bringing a Jewish friend to a relationship with Christ.
First of all, most Jewish folks are already kind, loving and upstanding in character. Most are very charitable- giving to many good causes. Therefore, doing things such as acting right and loving, giving to Godly ministries and charities doesn’t show any difference in Christian behavior or their own, and it will not show the message of the Gospel.
Another offensive issue is that of missions and missionaries. While these are worthy and spreading the Gospel message, to the Jewish person, missions are for rescuing and helping derelicts, and missionaries are those who work among primitive people. Definitely not something Jewish people view themselves as! Even though not many Jewish people accept the truth of the Old Testament, they hold the Book in high respect. It is good to have the Old Testament ready when talking with Jewish friends, so you can show them the whole Gospel from the Word of God. You can show the many prophecies concerning the first coming of Jesus from the Old Testament prophets which are never taught in Synagogues or by Rabbis.
Don’t ever think you can’t witness to a Jewish friend. After all, Messianic Judaism is gaining a huge movement all over the world. Messianic Jews from all walks of life are believing in Yeshua- and that He is the promised Messiah who will be Israel’s and the world’s savior and redeemer!
It’s amazing to think about as we enter into the Passover and Resurrection Sunday this year how many Jews are coming to know Yeshua, and indeed it seems as if the stones of Jerusalem are still crying out, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!
Scriptures to review: Isaiah 49:5-26 (redemption for Israel) , Isaiah 53:4-6, (Prophecies about Jesus) John 1:10-12, (Jesus not recognized) 1 Peter 2:24,25, (Salvation through Jesus) Isaiah 53:7-9, (prophecies about Jesus) Luke 23:32,33, (crucifixion), Matt. 27:57-60, (the burial) Romans 10:12, (all in the Body- no Jews no Gentiles) Matthew 3:13-17, 28:19, (Baptism by immersion and the Trinity) 2 Corinthians 13:14 (Trinity), Romans 3:10,23,24,5:12, (on sin) Ephesians 2:8,9 (Salvation through grace not works) The Book of Hebrews (Paul’s writings concerning the Jews)
He IS, through every book…
Bruchim haBaim! (blessed are those who come)
Have a wonderful Monday and week!