Overview For Jewish Roots Of Our Faith
With a number of changes taking place on the Vision Radio Network and the fact that The Journey breakfast show has morphed into Rise & Shine and has been cut back to 3 hours instead of 4, it seemed like a good opportunity to revamp Home Group too and to start looking at some fresh subject matter as well.
For the past 3 years approximately, we’ve been looking at different Bible personalities in greater depth to get a better insight into who these individuals were, what they did and what we can learn from them.
We looked at both New and Older Covenant characters, Apostles, prophets, kings, Jews, Gentiles, righteous and unrighteous people and every one of them played a role in God’s plan of redemption for His physical people Israel and the spiritual redemption of all mankind who would come to believe in His Son, Yeshua.
This year we’re going to begin looking at the Hebrew roots of our Christian faith.
We’ll take a look at things Yeshua taught, things He did as well as the things said and the things asked of Him by others and we’ll look at them in their cultural and religious setting in Israel 2000 years ago.
Have you ever heard a one-sided telephone conversation? You might be able to identify the topic being discussed and you might even be able to judge if the conversation is friendly or hostile. You might be able to determine the end result of the conversation, but without hearing both sides of the conversation, you really can’t understand with real clarity what was really discussed or what both parties truly believe and agreed or disagreed on.
Learning about our Hebrew roots is very much like listening to both sides of the conversation; it fills in all the missing details and significance and provides far greater clarity and understanding of the subject matter.
In some cases, it even brings about a complete paradigm shift in understanding and this isn’t something you need to fear because Paul taught us that it’s imperative we correctly handle the truth of the Word of God.
2 Timothy 2:15, ‘Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of Truth.’
The word for ‘accurately’ in the Greek is ‘orthotomeo’ which means to make straight, to teach truth directly and correctly. It means ‘orthodox’. In a religious context it means to stay straight and to not deviate from the orthodox teaching to alternate or new interpretations.
It’s the same root word for orthodontics, professional dental practitioners who make crooked teeth straight. We are to correctly interpret the truth revealed in the Word of God ensuring that we don’t deviate from its originally intended meaning, but to remain orthodox in our study of God’s Word and not to embrace alternate views and opinions
All of 2 Timothy 2 is about Paul admonishing Timothy about teaching the Word of God to faithful men who would in turn teach others the same things. He goes on to warn Timothy not to get caught up arguing or wrangling with those who want to move away from the clear meaning of Scripture to argue over worthless and alternate words and opinions. The whole point of Paul’s message to Timothy is to remain faithful to the clear teaching of God’s Word and to teach it to other faithful men who would in turn teach it to others. This message is vitally important to believer’s today especially so because of the myriad of aberrant and false teachings choking the church today.
Sometimes when we talk about the Hebrew roots of our faith we get accused of trying to force people back under the ‘Law’ which is not true at all. So right from the outset we want to make very clear some very important points.
- We are not calling for anyone to live under the ‘Law’.
- We are not advocating an embrace of Judaism.
- We do not believe Christians are obligated to begin living like Jews.
What we want to do is introduce Christians to the very rich, deep and incredibly practical and spiritually liberating significance of the Hebrew roots and foundations of our faith.
The history of the church over the past 2000 years has done such a thorough job of extracting every hint of ‘Jewishness’ from Christianity that the majority of secular Jews throughout the world don’t even realise that Yeshua was in fact a Jew Himself!
There are a great many ‘Christians’ today who also don’t realise that Yeshua was Jewish or that the Apostles and first believer’s to make up the church after the resurrection were all Jews.
But there are some important facts that we need to stress and make clear and they are;
- Yeshua was and remains to this day, a Jew.
- Every single Apostle was Jewish.
- Abraham was the first Jew.
- Isaac and all his descendants after him are Jewish.
- All the Old Covenant prophets (apart from the Gentile Balaam) were Jewish.
- All the Old Covenant kings born in the line of David were Jewish.
- Our Old and New Covenant Scriptures were written by Jews except for chapter 4 of Daniel which was written by the Babylonian Gentile king Nebuchadnezzar.
- The Scriptures that Yeshua and His Apostles taught from were in fact the Old Covenant Scriptures.
The Hebrew heritage of the Christian faith is so deep and rich that we could never plumb the depths of it in an entire lifetime and it’s a tragic indictment on the church that it deliberately separated every vestige of ‘Jewishness’ from our faith because of its deep-seated hatred and animosity toward the Jewish people.
To prove the point, here’s what Constantine said in his correspondence to the church universal at the conclusion of the Nicene Council.
This is an excerpt from the letter by Constantine to the non-attendants of the council at Nicea. (Eusebius, Vita ConsL, Lib 11118-20)
“When the question relative to the sacred festival of Easter arose, it was universally thought that it would be convenient that all should keep the feast on one day; for what could be more beautiful and more desirable than to see this festival, through which we receive the hope of immortality celebrated by all with one accord and in the same manner? It was declared to be particularly unworthy for this, the holiest of festivals to follow the customs (the calculation) of the Jews, who had soiled their hand with the most fearful of crimes, and whose minds were blinded in rejecting their custom, we may transmit to our descendants the legitimate mode of celebrating Easter; which we have observed from the time of the Saviour’s passion (according to the day of the week).
We ought not therefore to have anything in common with the Jews, for the Savior has shown us another way; our worship following a more legitimate and more convenient course (the order of the days of the week): And consequently in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren to separate ourselves for it is truly shameful for us to hear them boast that without their direction we could not keep this feast. How can they be in the right, they who, after the death of the Savior; have no longer been led by reason but by wild violence, as their delusion may urge them? They do not possess the truth in this Easter question, for in their blindness and repugnance to all improvements, they frequently celebrate two Passovers in the same year. We could not imitate those who are openly in error. How then, could we follow these Jews who are most certainly blinded by error? For to celebrate a Passover twice in one year is totally inadmissible.
But even if this were not so it would still he your duty not to tarnish your soul by communication, with such wicked people (the Jews). You should consider not only that the number of churches in these provinces make a majority, but also that it is right to demand what our reason approves, and that we should have nothing in common with the Jews.”“
This wasn’t the start of anti-Semitism in Church history but it was most definitely a major and significant turning point that not only steered the church away from her Hebrew roots, it became the sanctioned ‘green light’ for all Christians to hate and target the Jewish people for on-going hatred and persecution and that’s precisely what happened.
I mention this because it reveals in large part why the Christian church rejected its Jewish roots and it explains why so many Christians lack understanding of the importance and significance of their Jewish roots.
Romans chapters 9, 10 and 11 are an excellent presentation by Paul on God’s everlasting and unfailing covenant with the Jewish people. In no way does Paul argue that Jews are automatically saved because they’re not; they must and can only be saved through faith in Yeshua as their Messiah in the same way Gentiles are saved.
The book of Romans is what some call the definitive writing on the doctrine of salvation and Paul goes into incredible detail explaining that the religious, the pagan and the moral man is dead in his sins and without hope except through the cross of Yeshua. Paul explains that only through faith can any individual know real salvation from sin and thus have an eternal assurance of security.
Why would Paul – right in the middle of his teaching on salvation and eternal security – suddenly begin a defense of God’s covenant with the Jewish people? He does so to emphasise that God never breaks His promises or His covenants and that despite Israel’s national rejection of her Messiah, God was still going to fulfill His promise to Israel and that at the right moment in history future, all Israel would be saved. Not because of anything they’ve done but rather because God is the One keeping His covenantal promises to them. As individuals they must repent and put their faith in Yeshua, but nationally one day, all Israel will be saved. So Paul in the middle of his teaching about salvation uses Israel as an example of God’s commitment to keeping His promises – since God will never reject His chosen people, we can trust Him to not reject His adopted people either. Our salvation is dependent on God not on our efforts.
Once he finishes his teaching about God’s faithfulness to His covenant with Israel, Paul gets right back into his teaching on salvation and what’s interesting is Paul’s warning to the Gentile believers with regard to their attitude toward his Jewish countrymen.
Romans 11:11-32, ‘“I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!
But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.
You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.
And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted in contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?
For I do not want you brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery – so that you will not be wise in your own estimation – that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved, just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob, this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’
From the standpoint of the Gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable’
For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.’
In these passages from Paul, he explains that while Israel has had a ‘partial hardening’ because of their rejection of their Messiah, it was for the explicit benefit of the Gentiles so they could be ‘grafted in’. Grafted into what? The new Gentile believers were not grafted into Catholicism or Lutheranism or Presbyterianism or any other ‘ism’, they were grafted into the ‘Commonwealth of Israel’. Yeshua didn’t come to start a new religion, but to graft the Gentiles INTO the original olive tree of Israel.
When Paul wrote to the Ephesian church (which was predominantly Gentile) he said this to them…
Ephesians 2:11-16, “Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision’, which is performed in the flesh by human hands – remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who formerly were far off, have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups (Jews and Gentiles) into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross by it having put to death the enmity.’
So the Gentile believers are the wild olive branches ‘grafted in’ to the tree with the natural branches gaining our sustenance and support from the root of the tree which is Christ. What is the tree…it’s the ‘commonwealth of Israel’ – NOT ethnic Jews, but grafted into the Commonwealth of Israel.
Gentiles are grafted into Israel when they come to faith in Yeshua as their Messiah, they are not to be arrogant and think themselves better or more pious and loved by God more than the natural Jewish branches, in fact they’re supposed to extend mercy and kindness to the natural branches with the same measure of kindness and mercy that God showed them.
With this in mind, we’re going to embark on a series of studies that look at the Jewish/Hebrew roots of our Christian faith because this is what we’ve been grafted into. Paul told Timothy to teach what he himself had been taught to faithful men, to study to show himself approved and to teach God’s Word accurately and faithfully.
We’ll be looking at God’s Word in its narrative context, its social and political context and its spiritual context which will mean looking at what Yeshua taught through Hebrew eyes in a 2000 year old cultural setting. You’ll be amazed at just how relevant and life transforming it will be.