Rejoice with the Jews, not become Jewish
Paul struggled in all the churches against the Jew’s tendency to ensnare the Gentiles back
into Jewish practices for which the Jerusalem council agreed that there was no need to for them to do so. Today in Papua New Guinea, this is still happening. Some Jewish Christian organizations from Israel are trying to pull New Guinean Gentile believers into Jewish practices of Sabbath worship and the observance of Jewish customs and celebrations. They claim that since the Christ was a Jew, their Jewish practice of Christianity is the proper worship style over that of “pagan western Christian” traditions. They have a point. But today’s passage tells Gentiles to rejoice with the Jews, it does not tell us to become Jews. We Gentiles can and do praise God for his faithfulness to the Patriarchs; we can and do thank God for fulfilling his promises to the Jews over the years in sending the Messiah. We can and do worship the Father with them in spirit and truth. But we do not have to become Jewish nor practice Judaism to do so. As we will point out later, we Gentiles worship God for the fulfillment of what the Jews still observe in their imagery. We do not have to settle for observing just the “pictures” that are prevalent in Judaism, because we can celebrate the reality and fulfillment of those pictures in Christ. In the Old Testament, Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism to be accepted by God. No longer; however, the Jewish Christians cannot understand this thus they continually try to impose their style of worship on us Gentiles. The book of Galatians says so much.
Gentiles rejoicing with his people
Romans 15:8-15 Use this link for the NIV or use your favorite version. Highlight vs 9, 10, 11, 13.
As we ponder God’s character from the above passage, I wonder if God would answer our signature question below in the following way…
Who are you Lord?
I AM the God of the whole world, not just the Jews. I desire that all the nations hear about and receive my forgiveness not just Israel. I selected them to receive my message of good news to be able to give it to the whole world, but they only kept it to themselves and alienated themselves from everyone else. Thus I sent Paul to the Gentiles with this message that they too may worship me acceptably, not as Jews but as Gentiles with my righteous, and included in my body and church.
I AM the God who is faithful and have kept my promises to the Patriarchs. To Abraham, Isaac and Jacob I brought about the one who would be a blessing to all the world. To David I came as his offspring that would one day be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and on that day I will sit on his throne and fulfill the New Covenant that I promised to my people.
I AM the God of hope. You can have hope in me because my promises will endure forever. I will not let you down. I will do what I said that I would do. I will never leave you nor forsake you regardless of the hardships that you go through. I may not relieve you of them, but know that I will comfort you through them. For this you can walk with joy in the Spirit. In this world you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world. One day I will wipe away all tears from your eyes and establish my kingdom and remove the curse from this earth and reign in Jerusalem.
Jewish and Gentile believers are one in Christ
We should point out here that the Church and Bride of Christ is not the same thing as Israel. Even though Jew and Gentile believers are one in Christ (Gal 3; Eph 3; Col 3), Jewish celebrations are centered in their land and history which we gentiles do not share. Thus, we do not need to adopt Jewish culture to feel closer to God, because we are already accepted in Christ who is in God. It is important that we drop the labels that alienate us – Jewish Christian, Gentile Christian. In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile. We are just Christian; Period.
We definitely do not have to observe their laws for righteousness as that was accomplished for us by the Christ while he was on this earth (Jn 17:4; 2 Cor 5:21) nor their many Jewish holy days.
They worship on the Sabbath to remember the Law, Gentiles worship on Sunday to celebrate the resurrection of Christ on the first day of the week (even though we can worship on any and every day).
They remember Passover and the escape from Egypt as a nation; we Gentiles were not in Egypt, so we don’t have to remember the birth of their nation. But rather, we rejoice and remember Calvary which is the fulfillment of the picture of Passover and the Day of Atonement and the resurrection (regardless of the coincidence of timing with historical pagan ritualism of Easter) which is not a victory over Egypt but over Satan and sin in our lives. Christ is the true fulfillment of the picture of Passover thus we celebrate Him, not the day.
To us Gentiles, Pentecost (Shavuot) is not about, the festival of first fruits which recalls receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. It has a new meaning to us with the birth of the church and liberty from the requirements of the Law because of the finished work of Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit who continually indwells (Shekinah glory) us as his true children now.
We do not have to observe their holy days, as those were just pictures of what Christ accomplished for us. Jesus is: the promised seed of woman, the door to Noah’s Ark, our Melchizedek, the great I AM who visited Abraham to announce to Sarah of the coming of Isaac, the ram that was caught by the horns to take Isaac’s place, our Joseph sold as a slave to save the nations, our Passover lamb, the manna/ bread from heaven, the rock which was split by God to give water to his children, the brazen serpent on the pole, our kinsman redeemer, the embodiment of the Law on earth – the Word made flesh and dwelt among us, the great high priest who took his own blood into the heavenly temple, the spotless Lamb of God who died for our sins, Jesus Christ is our Emmanuel – God with us.
And we Gentiles were placed in him by God when we believed what he did for us. As Christians, all this we have from our Jewish ancestors for whom we can thank and praise God with them, but as free Gentile members in the Body and Bride of Christ, we are not tied to the observance of these rituals of Judaism. The goal is that Gentile and Jew worship and praise God together. Don’t let the differences in your religious practices alienate you from each other. Gentiles therefore do not have to become Jewish to worship acceptably. The sooner everyone accepts that fact the sooner Jew and Gentile can worship together in peace. When we concentrate on who we worship, we won’t have to worry about how we worship. If it is in truth and joy in the Spirit, we are all accepted equally. “If we are in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship one with another.”
More to come,