A REST TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD (Part 2)
By John C. Carpenter
 
Continued from Part 1...
 
THE LOST SHEEP OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL
 
Although Israel has difficulty confessing that Christ has come to earth, the nation of Israel, the Jewish race, has always been, and remains to this day, very special to God. God the Father loves them very much. Speaking of Israel, God said, thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth (Deu 7:6). Christians everywhere should honor, bless, and love the Jews not only because Christians are instructed to love [John 13:34; Rom 13:8; 1 Thes 4:9: 1 John 3:11], but because Israel was and is a holy, chosen, special people "above all people." The Jews were so special to God that unto them were committed the oracles of God (Rom 3:2). Not only is Jesus Christ King of the Jews[Mat 2:2], the Saviour whom we love and believe in, but as the apostle Paul taught, [New Covenant] salvation [i.e., Christ] is of the Jews [is of Jewish lineage] (John 4:22). Our New Covenant salvation through Christ is historically Jewish. Referring to Abram [who later was renamed Abraham], the father of the nation of Israel, and his descendants, God the Father warned, And I will bless them that bless thee [Abraham and his descendants], and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed (Gen 12:3). According to God's promise, loving and blessing a Jewish son or daughter of Abraham will certainly bring God's blessing to our own lives. We can also understand that Israel is special because God the Father's New Covenant offer of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ was initially made only to the Nation of Israel and the Jewish race. Christ Himself said, ...I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel [Israelites, Jews] (Mat 15:24). Jesus even commanded His initial twelve disciples to ...Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mat 10:5-6). Paul verified God's salvation priority when he wrote, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first [chiefly], and also [secondly] to the Greek [Gentile] (Rom 1:16). Because of His deep and abiding love for the Jewish nation, God sent His only begotten Son to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But there was a problem with this arrangement.
 
THEY COULD NOT ENTER IN BECAUSE OF UNBELIEF
 
Although salvation through Christ was offered by God to Israel, the Jews blatantly rejected Christ. At the advent of Christ, the Jews continued to harden their hearts against God, and refused to believe, as they had similarly done in the days when they provoked God in the wilderness. Interestingly, in the Old Covenant relationship with Israel, the Lord was not grieved with Israel because of its' sin, but because of its' hardened heart, its' unbelief. The author of Hebrews explained: Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts [against God], as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not[it was not] with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief (Heb 3:12-19). Sadly, He [Jesus Christ] came unto his own [the Jews], and his own received him not (John 1:11). His own also hated him without a cause (John 15:25). In essence, as Christ explained, Israel was Making the [gospel] word of God [regarding Jesus Christ] of none effect through your tradition...(Mark 7:13). The gospel of Christ was unable to have an effect, it was unable to save the Jews, because the Jews preferred to follow their Jewish history, culture, and traditions rather than follow Christ. In short, the Jews preferred the traditions of Judaism over the salvation of Christianity. They heard about Christ, but did not respond to Him (James 1:21-23). As the Scripture said, the [gospel]word [of salvation through faith in Christ] preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it (Heb 4:2). The Jews heard about Christ, but refused to believe in Him. As in the Old Covenant, God is not grieved in the New Covenant with Israel's sin, but with Israel's unbelief. Israel has grieved God because they did initially, and have continued to reject, Christ and the salvation He affords. However, because of His faithful love of Israel, God has not abandoned Israel, nor is He finished with Israel. Paul explained that God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew (Rom 11:2), and that God has reserved a remnant of seven thousand Jews who have not bowed their knees to Baal (Rom 11:4-5). Referring to Israel, Paul later clarified that if they abide not still in unbelief,[Israel] shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again (Rom 11:23).
 
THROUGH THEIR FALL, SALVATION IS COME UNTO THE GENTILES
 
Although Israel rejected Christ, God used this rejection to the benefit of many others. Because of Israel's lack of faith and rejection of Jesus Christ, salvation through Christ consequently became available to the Gentiles. The apostle Paul explained this process to those in Rome when he wrote, I say then,Hath God cast away his people [Israel, the Jews]? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand [Jewish] men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election [those who are called to salvation through Christ as the result] of [God's] grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he [God] seeketh for; but the election [those called to salvation through Christ]hath obtained it, and the rest [of those who did not believe on Christ] were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompense unto them: Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. I say then, Have they [the Jews] stumbled that they should fall [permanently fail to see and believe that Jesus is the Christ, and be unsaved as a result]? God forbid: but rather through their [Israel's] fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them [the Jews] to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they [the Jews] were broken off, and thou [Gentiles] standest by [because of your] faith [in Jesus Christ]. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they [the Jews] also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou [Gentiles] wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these [Jews], which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness [hardness of heart] in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness [completion of the salvation]of the Gentiles be come in. And so [eventually and in God's time] all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel [of Christ], they [the Jews] are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election [those chosen by God to be saved], they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God [regarding Israel] are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these [Jews] also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy (Rom 11:1-31). Paul clarifies that because of unbelief, the Jews have been partly and temporarily broken off from Christ and a relationship with God. Through the fall of the Jews, not only was salvation made available to the Gentiles, but God was and is hoping to bring Israel to Christ by making Israel jealous of the Gentiles' relationship with God through Christ. Paul clarifies that God is not finished with Israel, that He has not cast them away, that He even now has a remnant of seven thousand Jews destined for salvation. Paul most importantly clarifies that for any and all Jews who repent and come to faith in Christ, God is able and willing to graft them in again to the good olive tree. The olive tree is of course symbolic of Christ who is the "tree of life" (Gen 2:9). Israel has been partially blinded by God to Christ and His salvation until God has had sufficient time to save those Gentiles chosen by God for salvation and eternal life. Paul states that Israel is beloved by God the Father, and that God has not changed His mind or will regarding Israel's gifts or calling. Paul explains further that as God had mercy on unbelieving Gentiles who repented of their rejection of Christ, God will also have mercy upon unbelieving Jews who repent of their rejection of Christ. In time, all Israelites [all Jews or Gentiles who believe on Christ] shall be saved.
 
THIS IS THE WORK OF GOD
 
The Book of Hebrews is written to Jews who had already come to faith in Jesus Christ, who were believers, but who were experiencing significant problems with their faith in Christ. The Hebrews: (1) were letting slip the things they had heard about Christ (Heb 2:1), (2) had hardened their hearts against God the Father and Christ (Heb 3:8), (3) because of an evil heart of unbelief, were departing from the living God (Heb 3:12), (4) were coming short of entering into God's rest (Heb 4:1), (5) were hearing the gospel but not mixing their hearing with faith (Heb 4:2), (6) were returning to an emphasis on the works of keeping the Jewish Law (Heb 4:10), (7) were spiritually needing milk rather than strong meat (Heb 5:12), (8) were tending to fall away from the doctrine of Christ (Heb 6:6), (9) because of the loss of their faith, were no longer assembling together in Christian faith (Heb 10:25), (10) had willfully "trodden under foot" [rejected] the Son of God (Heb 10:29), and (11) were drawing back from their faith in Christ (Heb 10:39). In short, these New Testament Jewish believers, who had already repented of their Jewish dependence on "dead works" and turned to faith in Christ (Heb 6:1), were now losing their faith in Christ, and wanting to return to their Jewish roots and their past dependence upon keeping the Law in order to attain righteousness and eternal life. As a result of losing their Christian faith, they were also losing their ability to "rest" in Christ. The author of the letter offered spiritual encouragement and instruction to the Hebrews to: (1) give the more earnest heed to the things which they had heard about Christ (Heb 2:1), (2) consider Jesus Christ, the Apostle and High Priest of their profession of faith (Heb 3:1), (3) exhort one another daily in their Christian faith (Heb 3:13), (4) labor to enter into the rest of God (Heb 4:11), (5) come boldly to the throne of grace (Heb 4:16), (6) leave the basic principles of the doctrine of Christ, and go on to spiritual perfection (Heb 6:1), (7) show diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end (Heb 6:11), (8) draw near to God (Heb 10:22), (9) cast not away their confidence in Christ, and have patience (Heb 10:35-36), (10) lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset them, and run with patience the race that is set before them (Heb 12:1), (11) look unto Jesus the author and finisher of their faith, who endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2), (12) follow peace and holiness with all men (Heb 12:14), (13) not turn away from God in heaven (Heb 12:25), and (14) let brotherly love continue (Heb 13:1). Generally, the author wanted the Hebrews to continue to love God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and their fellow human beings. Specifically, the author wanted them to continue in their Christian faith, and, as a result, continue in the rest that God had provided them through the crucifixion and death of Christ. It was clear that the Hebrews did not completely understand in their hearts that ...the law was given by Moses [and had its time and function], but [God now preferred that we accept the] grace and truth [that] came by [was provided by] Jesus Christ (John 1:17). They also did not understand that they were justified [made righteous] freely [gratuitously, without a cause, not deserved or earned by man] by his [God's] grace [undeserved favor and benefit] through the redemption [ransom paid] that is in [by] Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24). Despite the fact that Paul taught that ...by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph 2:8-9), the Hebrews could not accept that New Covenant righteousness and salvation could not be earned, that it was a free gift given by God through Christ, and that to receive this free gift, one simply had to believe on Christ. Paul echoed this doctrine when he wrote to those in Galatia, For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified [made right]by [keeping] the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live [eternally] by [because of their] faith [in Jesus Christ] (Gal 3:10-11). Righteousness through the Law was now no longer sufficient, for the Lord warned His disciples, except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees [who sought to establish their own righteousness through attempting to keep the Law], ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Mat 5:20). Righteousness now required faith in Christ. God now required a covenant ...written not with ink [as the Law was], but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone [as the Law was], but in fleshly tables of the heart (2 Cor 3:3). In echoing this theme, and in an effort to encourage the Hebrew Christians, the author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote, How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead [unable to bring eternal life] works [of the Law] to serve the living God? (Heb 9:14). Paul referred to this new approach to righteousness by faith, to this manifestation of the gospel of Christ in the heart, when he wrote, For he is not a Jew, which is one [who has been circumcised] outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit [Holy Spirit], and not in the letter [of the Law]; whose praise is not of men, but of God (Rom 2:28-29). Paul explained that it is not outward, physical circumcision according to the Law, but inward circumcision of the heart by the Holy Spirit, that makes one a Jew. We can conclude, then, if a Jew is one who is circumcised of the heart, and all believers are circumcised of the heart, then, by God's definition, all believers in Christ are "spiritually" Jewish. Speaking of the Jews, Paul said, Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they [the Jews] have a zeal of God, but not according to [true] knowledge[understanding of what God demands]. For they being ignorant of God's[New Covenant] righteousness [through Christ], and going about to establish [bring about] their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God [available only through faith in Christ]. For Christ is the end of the [necessity of keeping the] law for [the purpose of bringing about] righteousness to every one that believeth [on Jesus Christ]" (Rom 10:1-4). Believers in Christ are to be "dead [unresponsive] to [for the purpose of becoming righteous, having to keep] the law by [because of] the body [death] of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God (Rom 7:4), and have been delivered from the law (Rom 7:6). Paul also taught that if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law (Gal 5:18). This does not mean, though, that Christians are to ignore the Law. We should understand that, in one sense, Christians are to work at keeping the Law. Since sin is the transgression of the Law (1 John 3:4), and believers are to cease from sin (Rom 6:15), believers are to therefore strive to keep the Law (Luke 10:26-27; Matt 23:23; Luke 11:42). It should be clear, though, that the believer works at keeping the Law, not to earn or attain righteousness and salvation, but as the result, or fruit, of salvation. Speaking to those who still wanted to play by Old Covenant rules, Christ, using an Old Covenant example that could be readily understood, taught, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:14-17). Jesus plainly said elsewhere,Think not that I am come to destroy [dissolve the requirements] the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil[satisfy the requirements of the Law] (Mat 5:17). The requirement of the Old Covenant Law was obedience leading to righteousness. When righteousness could not be achieved through the Law, Jesus Christ, the New Covenant righteousness of God, was sent to earth by His Heavenly Father to fulfill this requirement of righteousness for the Law. Because the Law could not be kept, it was no longer keeping the Law that brought righteousness, but faith in Christ, who was Himself righteous that brought righteousness. As Paul taught those in Rome, For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world [and have eternal life], was not [made] to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect (Rom 4:13-14). The promise of eternal life was not offered to the seeds of Abraham through the Law, but through faith. Holy Scriptures plainly teach that without faith it is impossible to please him (Heb 11:6). Speaking to individuals who continued to reject Jesus Christ and His miracles (Mat 11:20) in favor of keeping the Jewish Law, the Lord said, Come unto me, all ye that labour [at keeping the Law] and are heavy laden [overburdened with Jewish ceremony], and I will give you rest [exemption from having to keep the Law] (Mat 11:28). The law made nothing perfect [righteous and consecrated to God], but the bringing in of a better hope [through Christ] did; by the which we draw nigh unto God (Heb 7:19). Some unbelievers who still thought that they had to keep the Jewish Law in order to achieve righteousness and life asked Christ, What [works of the Law] shall we do, that we might work the works of God? (John 6:28). Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him [Jesus Christ]whom he [God the Father] hath sent (John 6:29). Jesus clarified that in the New Covenant, works of the Law were no longer necessary to attain righteousness and life, and that the only "works" that were now required were to simply have faith in Jesus Christ. When we have faith in Christ, we can therefore "rest" from the works of the Law. We all should heed the advice offered by the author of the letter to the Hebrews, who wrote, Let us [Jew and Gentile alike] labour therefore to [believe on Christ so that we may] enter into that rest [from keeping the Law], lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief [demonstrated by Israel] (Heb 4:11), forThere remaineth therefore a rest [available] to the people of God (Heb 4:9).  AMEN.
 
 
THE CHRISTIAN HERALD
                                                           A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
 
"Let not your
heart be troubled:
ye believe in God, believe also in
me.  In my
Father's house
are many mansions: if it were not
so, I would have
told you. I go
to prepare a
place for you"
(John 14:1-2)


 
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