“Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s just praise the Lord.” Is this children’s-church song scripturally sound? I tell you, it is more sound than much of what you will hear coming out from behind the pulpit nowadays. But what does it mean? And what does it mean to you?
Are you listening to theologians who tell you that the Law was only valid for the Israelites?
They have been misled: “Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 24:22
“One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you.” Numbers 15:15-16.
“One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.” Exodus 12:49. This particular passage is specifically referring to eating the Passover lamb, which foreshadows salvation. Any foreigner who wanted to partake in eating the lamb had to become circumcised first, joining himself to the Hebrew nation.
Today, there is no physical lamb to eat because there is no temple. Jews do not even partake of a lamb anymore because God warned them in His Law not to do so without a temple. There is, however, a spiritual Lamb to partake of – that is Christ. To eat the spiritual Lamb, you must be spiritually circumcised – that is the act of coming to Him for salvation.
You will hear many preachers preach against circumcision and against keeping the Law. They use Galatians to make their case. I would encourage you to read the entire book. It’s very short. Paul was angry with the Jews in Galatia who were demanding that the gentiles be circumcised in order to gain salvation. In fact, he makes this very strong statement: “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” Galatians 5:3. However, note that his problem was not with circumcision itself (read Romans 3:1-2), but in the requirement to perform an act to obtain salvation.
It’s perfectly okay to be circumcised because of health reasons or because it is the lawful thing to do. Most who are circumcised don’t even have a choice in the matter. Paul isn’t saying that any circumcised person cannot attain salvation unless they keep the Law perfectly. He is saying that you can’t hinge your salvation on it (or anyone else’s, for that matter). If your salvation were to depend on circumcision, then it would also depend on the whole Law.
The Jews themselves never lived up to the perfection set forth in God’s righteous Law. “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Psalm 14:3, quoted in Romans 3:10. Not that the Law is difficult – it is easy. “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.” Deuteronomy 30:11, ESV. The Jews failed to keep the Law because they were human, sinful, rebellious – the same reasons all of us fall short. How could their consciences allow them to put a requirement on the Gentiles when they couldn’t live up to God’s requirements themselves?
The Jews were saved by grace alone. They knew it. Why did they believe that the gentiles would be saved through any other means? “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” Galatians 2:14. The Law cannot justify you unless you are perfect, unless you have always been perfect. “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:4.
Some folks believe that if we follow the Law to the best of our ability, we are trying to earn salvation. This would be like suggesting that any time you do something righteous, you are attempting to earn salvation. We know better than that. If it has become a sin to follow the Law in circumcision, Sabbath days, and dietary restrictions, then it would also be a sin to avoid adultery, stealing, and murder. In fact, if it were a sin to perform the Law to the best of our abilities, then the entire definition of sin would have become the opposite of what it always was, and is! “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. “ 1 John 3:4. (Notice how inseparable sin is from transgression of the Law. It works both ways. If you are sinning, you are transgressing the Law, and vice versa. John wrote it that way on purpose to help us avoid confusion.)
However, keeping the Law cannot make you righteous, unless you keep the whole Law – that is, never sinning, even once. This is precisely what Christ did for us. His righteousness became our righteousness. It was attributed to us, as though we were the ones who had kept the entire Law – which is the only way to Life. (Sin equals death, Law equals Life – Romans 6:23, Deuteronomy 32:46-47) “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Galatians 2:21.
The fact is, there is no one work that you have to do to “earn” salvation because it cannot be earned. There is no one act that you can do that will erase your past, present, and future sins. Doing something righteous, such as circumcision, does not atone for all of the wrong you have done. Once you have committed one sin in your life, you are doomed to experience the curse of disobedience (death), and there is no act you can perform to undo it. That is, you are doomed unless your sin can be atoned for – and it can! By the blood of Jesus Christ. This is the very reason that non-Christians will not experience eternal life. They are doomed by the curse of the Law. If the Law has become void, as modern-day theologians claim, then there is nothing by which to judge the unrighteous, nothing by which to separate those who will live from those who will not. (Read all of Deuteronomy for a more perfect understanding.)
The Law is the mirror by which we are judged, reflecting the perfect righteousness of God. In it, we can see what righteousness looks like. In Christ, we have an example of what it would look like for a human to continually abide in righteousness because He walked perfectly according to the Law. It is not the Law that is unrighteous. It is wholly righteous – it is the very definition of truth and righteousness itself. (Read Psalm 119:142&172). The only problem with the Law is that is makes no provision for redeeming yourself – except through your own death. “For he that is dead is freed from sin.” Romans 6:7, Romans 7:2. But a dead person still cannot experience the eternal life that he never earned, unless Christ’s righteousness is imputed to him. So you see, the Law is not the problem – sin is. Read this: “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” Galatians 3:21. In this hypothetical scenario, Christ would not have had to die for us.
Maybe you are still convinced that the Law was given only to the Israelites. I don’t see how you would reach that conclusion, but okay. Don’t you know that once you have entered into salvation, you have entered into the covenant that God made with His people? Any stranger who wanted to follow the true God would do so by joining themselves to the Hebrew people through circumcision. That’s what salvation signifies. Like it or not, if you are a saved person, you are an Israelite. “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:29. We are grafted into their family; we are heirs of their inheritance. The entire Word of God is all about Him, His Law (aka, His righteousness), and His people.
We hear that the church is the bride of Christ, and that any Jewish person wanting to get saved must do so by becoming part of the church. However, “church” just means congregation, and the congregation is spoken of over and over again in the Old Testament – it is not a new thing. This isn’t the “church age.” The congregation refers to His people. It has always been His people. If you don’t believe me, read Psalm 22:22, and Hebrews 2:12 which quotes it. Read Acts 7:38. Old Testament = congregation, New Testament = church. Congregation = church.
In regards to the church being the bride of Christ – that is also referring to Israel. Paul was familiar with Isaiah, chapters 50-54. The doctrine of the bride of Christ comes from those passages, and others, such as Hosea. You see, Israel was divorced for her unfaithfulness (chapter 50). In chapter 54, she is remarried to Christ. The death of God, Israel’s first husband, freed Israel from the law of her husband, allowing her to enter into marriage again, legally, without breaking God’s holy laws concerning marriage. (Isaiah 54:4 refers to her widowhood, just before her remarriage in the next verse.)
Salvation was offered to the gentiles almost as a side effect – but that’s just my way of looking at it; I’m sure God doesn’t see it that way. You see, it was too easy for the Messiah to save only Israel, so He made a way to save all of us: “And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6. Salvation became available to the Gentiles while Christ was in the process of saving Israel.
Read all of Isaiah, and you will see how God is going to save the 10 lost tribes of Israel in spite of the fact that they turned from Him and walked in rebellion for thousands of years. They don’t even know who they are, yet God is going to gather them from the 4 corners of the earth, and they will once again become His people. In this process, He also made a way of salvation to every nation. We are saved by being adopted into the Israelite family. We are called to obey the Laws given to them – because they are us, and we are them. We are the seed of Abraham because of our faith. If none of this makes sense to you, I would encourage you to read the whole Bible. If that seems like too much of a chore, start with Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews.
One more question, in parting: If the Sabbath day and feast days are perpetual ordinances, the way that God says they are so many times (read the first 5 books of the Bible), what would you suggest to Jewish people who trust in Christ? Would you suggest that they can stop keeping them now, that “forever” doesn’t really mean forever? What if someone told you that your eternal life gained through salvation wasn’t actually eternal, that it could be superseded by something new? And if you think that they should still be keeping them (you know, because forever really does mean forever), what would you suggest to the lost 10 tribes of Israel? These people have lost track of their lineage. They don’t know who they are. And how do you know you aren’t one of them? The Prodigal son, the lost sheep, the lost coin, the wheat and the tares: all of these parables point emphatically to the salvation of Israel, and our own salvation by extension.