Posts Tagged ‘Messiah’

What Child is This?

What Child is This?

© C. O. Bishop, 12/22/2017 THCF 12/24/2017

(Comparing the lyrics of the hymn to the scriptural promises from which it sprang.)


One of the reason I really love the Christmas hymns is that they so frequently carry a pretty faithful representation of the facts of the Gospel, along with a fairly faithful representation of the facts of Christmas. Certainly, one may protest that there are facts overlaid by legend and mythology. That is true. We go to God’s Word to sort out the truth, and frequently still can see that the intent of the author was to honor God, and to reflect the truth of His Word. And, of course, there are glaring exceptions…but those are not the ones I am drawn to. A year or so ago, we took “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” as an example and found that, actually, the original words were quite accurate, and that the only questionable line in the lyrics was changed by a later hand (and, ironically, became the title of the hymn.)

This Christmas I would like to examine some of the core questions posed in a different Hymn: Today people try to recreate and re-invent The Jesus of the Bible. Even in his day, people denied that He was who He said he was, and within the first century, unbelievers were trying to change the Gospel to something more comfortable. It is not comfortable! The uncomfortable portions of the “Good News” of the Gospel are that way because of the unthinkable wickedness of the Human Race…because of our sin.

Today, as then, the appropriate question is “Who is this Jesus?” Zacchaeus climbed the tree because he desperately wanted to see Jesus, “who he was”.  Jesus, himself, asked “but who do you say that I am?”

A Little History: In 1865, in Bristol, England, an insurance company employee named William Chatterton Dix fell ill, and became extremely sick. He gradually recovered, and during that period of convalescence he went through some pretty deep depression, during which time, he read his Bible a great deal, possibly for the first time with comprehension. The result was that he went through what he called a “spiritual renewal.” I can’t say whether that was when he first received the Lord Jesus as his personal sacrifice for sins, or whether this is just the time when it deeply impressed him. He wrote a poem during that time, called “the Manger Throne”, from which three stanzas were later lifted when he wrote the Christmas Hymn, “What Child is This?

“Who do the People say that I am?”

Jesus asked the disciples this question, before asking them about their own answer to that question: They said “Some say that you are John the Baptist, and some Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.” We can see that there was great controversy, even at that time, as to who Jesus really was. Each person was to be held accountable for their own answer to the question. Pilate later posed a similar, essential question: “What then shall I do with this Jesus, who is called Christ?” We are each held accountable to the answer to that question, as well.

Every year, for the last several decades, people have gathered for the “Jesus Symposium” or some similar name, where they essentially “reinvent” Jesus, according to their own tastes. But the Jesus of the Bible was a historical person, and is easily proven to have been so. What becomes more difficult is the fact that only the Bible gives us an accurate view of who He really is, because the whole rest of the world has “an axe to grind,” in that, the entire human race is antagonistic toward the holy God of the Bible. We want a God who is more to our taste…so we re-create God in our image, according to Romans 1:21-23.

When William Dix confronted this question from his sick bed, he asked

What Child is This?

We need to address the same question: Who is He really? So let’s look at William Dix’s approach:

What Child is this who, laid to rest on Mary’s lap, is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate, Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh, The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise the song on high, the virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born, The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Where was He to be born? In Bethlehem…fulfilling the prophecy of Micah 5:2. (read it!)

Where was he to be found by the Shepherds? In a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, fulfilling the word of the Angelic messenger to the shepherds as a group. And who were those shepherds told that the baby really was? “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” They were not told that he was the king, in that particular context, but, if they knew the Old Testament prophecies (such as the one in Micah 5:2), they would have known that the Messiah (Christ) was to be the Eternal King, as well. So they left their flocks and they hurried into Bethlehem; they made haste, the scriptures say, to go see the newborn king. And they found him just as the Angel had said, along with Joseph and Mary. They went back to their flocks with Great Joy. Did they understand it all? I doubt it…but, then, I don’t really claim to “understand it all,” either.

But, why was he in a manger, and not in some hospital ward or maybe in a palace? Philippians 2:5-8 sheds some light on this: “…he humbled himself.” He not only became part of His own creation, but he became a man, not an angel. He not only became a man, he became a poor man, in a nation that was already a slave-state to Rome, a cruel, ungodly, polytheistic nation. A place where life was cheap, and righteousness was foreign.

He came, not as a conquering hero, but as a tiny, helpless infant, enduring all the hardships of life with the people he had called his own. Did they bring him honor? Not so you’d notice. The shepherds were the only witnesses. But, in that manger bed, all the Promises of the Ages were being fulfilled. He came to save sinners…and his entire life was poured out to that single end.

Take it Personally!

The hymnist recognized what was happening, there, and it shook Him. He was moved to a Godly fear, and he became a true believer, if he had not been one before then. He pondered the fact that those tiny, curled-up baby hands would be the same ones later pierced by spikes, as he was tortured on the Cross. That this tiny, helpless body, when full grown, was the same one which would be pierced through by the Roman spear, as his blood was poured out at the Cross. And he knew it was for himself, personally. “Nails, spears, shall pierce Him through…His blood be shed for me, for you!” Take it personally!

He also realized that this was the fulfillment of John 1:14, where it said that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory…)” We, too, can either embrace that truth, knowing that the Word, which was God, is also the Word which became flesh…and thus we can see His glory…or we can go back to seeing Jesus the way the World sees him: just another dead Jew…or perhaps a tragic martyr…or, even just a myth.

He winds up his hymn, encouraging the listener to join in worshipping the God-in-flesh Savior. To say “bring Him incense” is a call for worship. The incense burned in the temple was only used for that purpose…it was not used to make the home smell nice, or any other common purpose. It was a picture of the prayers, and praises, and worship being offered by believers. How do I know? God says so! Revelation 5:8 says that the incense (odours, KJV) in the vials of the elders (the church) were “the prayers of saints”; saints are the “holy ones of God”: believers! If you are a child of God, God says you are a saint! You may not feel that way (nor do I), but our feelings are not an accurate reflection of reality. It is a fact. But he says “Bring him incense, gold and myrrh.” Who did that? It was the wise men. Why did they do it? Remember, they weren’t even there, that first night.

Later, within a year or two, the wise men came from the East, and sought “him who is born King of the Jews”. These wise men were not Jews—these were from the area we now call Iraq, most likely, near what was once ancient Babylon, and may possibly have been some of the last surviving disciples of Daniel, the prophet. He had become one of the head wise men (later called Zoroastrian seers) in Babylon, some 500 years earlier, and he had prophesied of the coming Messiah (Daniel 9:26). They did bring him honor, but later…not at his birth. And the things they brought were appropriate: they brought gold, which was an appropriate gift for a king (and which would be needed for their escape into Egypt); they brought frankincense, which was appropriate to a priest and a sacrifice. They brought myrrh, which was a costly resin, used in medicine and in embalming…appropriate to His death. They recognized him for who He was. We need to do the same thing, and not take lightly the story of the birth of Jesus the Messiah.

The hymn-writer says that the way is clear, now, for the lowliest of human slaves, to claim the Savior, as well as for any nobleman willing to humble his or her heart. Queen Victoria was one of those monarchs who humbled her heart and by her own testimony, she was saved. Jesus echoes this, and says, “Whosoever will may come!”

The issue, then, becomes “What will I do with this Jesus, who is called Christ?” That is what Pilate asked, in Matthew 27:22…but then he went on to condemn Jesus to death. He claimed to be innocent, himself, but he was not. He had the authority to do right, and did not do it. God says that is sin (James 4:17). “Therefore, if a man knoweth to do right, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Pilate was guilty. We have to choose, as well, what to do with Jesus, the Messiah.

“Who do YOU say that I am?”

Jesus directed this question to His disciples. Peter answered: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” Jesus blessed Peter for that answer. But later, as you remember, Peter denied Jesus…and later still, he went back to commercial fishing…Jesus had to call him again. But God didn’t give up on Peter; He had a use for Peter’s life. And He has a use for yours and for mine.

So… just like Peter, I know who He really is, too …but what am I going to do about it?

The hymn-writer said, “The King of Kings Salvation brings; let loving hearts enthrone him!” Is that what I will do? Allow him to reign in my heart? Or will I just live life as usual, and let one day follow another for whatever is left of my life, not honoring The King much more than does the World: (“Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!”) But no real thought given to the reason we celebrate. Every day of my life, I wake up with one more chance to serve: one more chance to work with Jesus, offering my body a living sacrifice to His glory. Every day I have to choose how to spend my time, how to spend my money…and whether to serve Him, the King of Kings, or to just go ahead and serve my flesh, just doing what I want, to bring honor to myself. And, too frequently, I choose badly.

“Raise, raise, the Song on High!” When we sing together, do you really hear the words? Do you consider the importance of those teachings? Do you sing the words as a song from your own heart? If you do, then the last line says what should be the result:

“Joy! Joy, for Christ is born, the babe, the Son of Mary!” We can see Him as the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan and all of His promises to Israel and the World! We can see that the perilous times coming are not directed at us, but at the unbelieving world. We can see that our Savior is coming to take us home, to safety and eternal joy! We can experience, every day, the joy of knowing that He is truly in control, and that, regardless of how bad things look, we are headed for a good conclusion.

Lord Jesus, draw us along into Your Joy. Mature us through the teaching of Your Word, and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, re-shaping us into Your own likeness, that we can be able ambassadors of Your Grace and Love to a dying world. Please lift us up, as Your tools, Your hands and Your feet, and use us to Your glory.

Our High Priest (Part 1)

Our High Priest (Part 1)

© C. O. Bishop 3/21/17 THCF 4/2/17

Hebrews 4:9-16


We spoke last time about the rest that God offers: we saw a serious warning to professing believers that they recognize what is being offered and not fail to enter the salvation-rest through unbelief. We also saw that the rest has two parts…one part is a gift, offered to unbelievers on the sole condition of faith. When a person chooses to believe that Jesus’s blood is full payment for his or her sins, specifically, then they become a believer in Jesus, and that “salvation-rest” is given as a gift: they are no longer under the curse of God’s Law. This is a positional truth. Since the believers are now “in Christ”, their new position frees them from the law of sin and death.

But, the rest has a second part: the second part is conditional upon continuing, day by day, in an ongoing relationship with Christ on the basis of faith. It is a relational rest, and is available only to the believers, and only as they continually choose to enter into His rest, by faith.

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

The writer concludes that neither the Sabbath-day rest nor the Canaan rest were the actual fulfillment of the rest offered by Christ. Notice that he says that this specific rest remains “for the people of God”—believers. What is the “rest”, then? And why is it offered after faith has come? If salvation itself is not the “rest”, in this case, then what are we talking about?

10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

What rest? How do we labor to enter into rest? It is actually pretty difficult, in some ways, to accomplish what is being taught, here, because it goes against our flesh. We all want to believe that we can do something to earn a right standing with God. Even though we know we were saved by Grace through Faith, we still want to think that, at some level, we “deserve” God’s Grace. But the word “deserve” means to “have earned”…if you can earn God’s favor, it is no longer Grace but wages.

So, he says that “he who has entered into rest has ceased from his own works.” It requires constant attention for us to break the cycle of legalism, by which we hope to impress God with our behavior. We have to learn to submit ourselves daily to God, to allow Him to live through us. The result is that we quit worrying about whether we are “doing enough”. We simply do what He calls us to do.

How does this bring about “rest?” For one thing, I quit wondering whether I am really saved. Having placed my faith in Jesus’ completed work, there is nothing for me to add, nor can it be diminished. Jesus said “it is finished!” And it is! But we need to consider who He really is!

Who are we dealing with?

12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

It is odd that this verse begins with the word “for”—it would seem to indicate that we are to labor to enter into His rest, because God’s Word is alive, etc. It certainly says that all these things are true of the Written and the Living Word. Remember that it is truly God’s Word, not Man’s. (1st Thessalonians 2:13)

The issue is that, regardless of what we say we are doing, and why…the Lord knows our hearts. He knows our real motives. We may fool others, and we certainly often fool ourselves, but we don’t fool God. He says that the Word of God is alive and powerful. (The old English word “quick” means “alive”, not “fast on its feet.”) Incidentally, the word translated “powerful”, is the Greek energes, which is usually translated “effectual”—accomplishing something. The Greek word looks like “energize”, and it is tempting to grab that English word as a meaning, but that is not what it means. It means that Jesus, the Living Word, is alive and still working today. And…He sees things as they really are.

He further says that the Word is sharper than any two-edged sword…it can be used for a weapon or for surgery, apparently, as he says it separates between soul and spirit, as well as joints and marrow. However, there are only two words in the New Testament that are translated “sword”—this one is the Greek word “machaira”, which comes from the verb “to fight”, and means, specifically, a fighting weapon. I am not sure why this specific picture is drawn for us. Perhaps it underscores that this is the believer’s offensive weapon, but that it can be used in discipline against us, as well. Bear in mind that it is two-edged: whenever we think it is applying to others, it is also applied to our own lives, at one level or another. Every honest preacher knows that every sermon applies to himself.

I don’t know whether you have ever noticed, but inside any bone there is a substance called “marrow”, which has a vital part in our survival, as that is where blood cells are made. But, in a cooked soup-bone, for instance, we can see that at the end of each bone, approaching the joint, there is a transition between marrow and bone, where it seems to be a mixture of the two, and it is hard to tell which is which. God says He can see the difference, and can separate the two.

In similar manner, though we may have a hard time explaining the specific differences between soul and spirit (some people even denying that one or the other exists), God not only recognizes both but is completely clear on the differences. It is only from God’s Word that we even know for sure that a spirit and a soul are definitely two different things, and that a human is a three-part being, having Body, Soul and Spirit. God is clear on all of it. He knows what our real position is, and is never in doubt.

He meets us with compassion, but no human has ever “pulled a fast one” on God. We have never succeeded in “pulling the wool over the eyes” of God. It is tragic that we even try. But, if you think about this regularly, and use it as a measuring-stick against your thoughts and motives, it may help you to set aside self-effort, and enter into His rest.

Nothing I can do can add to my salvation or my security in Christ. And nothing can detract from it. It does take labor to enter into the rest offered to believers, because our flesh constantly wants to doubt it. The labor we exert, then, as members of Christ, is only an effort to be His hands, feet, heart, and voice, here on Earth. We are already part of Him…we serve because we are a part of him, not to become part of him.

He knows our hearts completely, understands our weaknesses and conflicts of interest and is completely tender toward us…which is a good thing, because he is also our High Priest!

Jesus is Our Great High Priest

14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

The phrase, “Great” High Priest is not a reference to Jesus being “great” at the job, though He certainly is. It means that He is high, and lifted up, far above all the other high priests of the history of Judaism…just as He is called the Great Shepherd, because He is the Master Shepherd, and high above all the human shepherds of the history of the flock of God. Remember that because the human shepherds have human failings, and, in some cases, have abdicated their responsibilities, God has declared that He is taking over the job (Ezekiel 34). It hasn’t happened yet, in its final fulfilment, but I personally believe that the final fulfilment is coming soon.

The High Priests of the time during which Jesus served in his earthly ministry (Annas and Caiaphas) were completely corrupt, and were his worst enemies. Though we don’t know their identities, the priests at the time when this book was written were the last to claim that title, as the temple was destroyed about five years later. Jesus is the Great High Priest, today and forever.

I have no doubt that there will be some sort of priesthood during the tribulation period, but it will be very brief, and will be cut short by the Antichrist. So the priesthood of Jesus is really the only one left. He is not only “our” great high priest; He is THE Great High Priest, for all eternity. His sacrifice stands forever, and his intercession for us is continual. The writer tells us that in light of this fact—the eternal priesthood of Christ—we are to hold fast to our profession.

This does not say we should hold on to Christ, or hold on to salvation, but to maintain a life that honors Him…our profession—our testimony. Since OUR high Priest (in contrast to that of the Jews at that time) has passed into heaven, and is not in danger of dying, now (as theirs was), nor is he corruptible, or vacillating, let us press on! Let us live lives that honor Jesus…adjusting our priorities to match His. We are secure in Him, and we can live in that security. We can walk confidently in the reality of His presence and His continuing ministry on our behalf.

Remember: this was written before the destruction of the temple (which happened in A.D. 70), but not much before…maybe four or five years. So, the system of faith within which they had grown up (which was God-ordained; not man-made) was about to be literally destroyed. Perhaps some historians know what happened to the priesthood of that day. Perhaps some even survived the destruction…perhaps none did. But the temple and all of its trappings were gone for good.

The Hebrew believers to whom this epistle was written did not know what was about to happen. The writer, here, was warning them of the need to make a full transition from Law to Grace; from the human-built temple to “a Temple made without hands.” Part of that transition means recognizing that Jesus is the replacement for every aspect of what they were about to lose. In fact, he had already replaced them all, but they, the Jewish believers, simply had not yet seen it.

The Gentile believers had never experienced any of the things written here. They were new to all of it. And, in spite of the fact that I have been a believer more than two thirds of my life, I am still nearly completely ignorant of the inner workings of Judaism. I cannot know it from the inside, because I am not one of them. The writers of the whole New Testament were primarily (if not exclusively) Jews; but this epistle makes a special outreach to the Jews who already had embraced Jesus as their Savior Messiah, but who were still living within Judaism. He is telling them that it is high time that they all step all the way into Christ. Not to become Gentiles, in any way, but to transfer their loyalties and dependencies to the Risen Christ.

15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

We should keep in mind that Aaron, the first high priest over Israel, was not born a priest: he was Moses’ younger brother. He was reared as a Hebrew slave, after Moses was taken up to be reared by Pharaoh’s daughter. He knew what it was like to grow up under the thumb of the Egyptians. He knew what slavery was like, and what hard work was like. He had travelled in the desert, as had all the other children of Israel who escaped under Moses. He knew the taste of manna in the morning, and quails in the evening. He had drunk water from the rock as they all had done. He had seen the judgment of God upon the disobedient. He had looked to the blood of the covenant for salvation. He could completely relate to all the experience of the Jews at that time. But he sinned and failed Israel in many ways. And, finally, he died.

There was never again a High Priest like Aaron, who had grown up under the exact same life as the rest of the Jews. The later priests all grew up in the home of a priest, and had lived a separate life…a somewhat privileged life. Consider, then, that the “great high priest” that Aaron was, even with his flaws, could never have been repeated, until Jesus stepped into that role. Why? Because he did live out the life of a poor, ordinary Jewish man, and yet is the High Priest.

Jesus has experienced all that the Jews of that time experienced, and did not sin. He lived under the hand of God the Father, though he, along with the whole nation of Israel, was subject to Rome. He was tested in every way, and still honored God with every breath he took, every decision He made…every Word He spoke. So, when I am tired, discouraged, or feeling under attack, and in pain, and want to give up, I frequently remember how tired He must have become during his ministry on earth, being exposed to every sort of hardship, and deprivation. His friends abandoned Him. His enemies sought to kill Him. But He pressed on, in faith and obedience. He is our Great High Priest! And, unlike Aaron, the prototype High Priest, he cannot die, leaving us to start fresh with another, lesser priest. He is alive forever—immortal: and forever unchanging: immutable. He is incorruptible, and holy. He is compassionate and wise.

So where does all this leave us? These things are all true…we see them in God’s Word, and not in just a few remote, obscure passages…these are all major doctrinal themes: The lostness of man apart from God; the Deity of Christ; the Holiness of God in the Person of Christ; the efficacy of the Blood of Jesus at Calvary, the preaching of the Cross, Salvation by Grace through Faith, and the eternal priesthood of Jesus, the Messiah. So, where does that leave us?

The Conclusion is in Verse 16

16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

On the basis of all those truths, the writer encourages his readers to draw near to the throne of Grace in full assurance that the High Priest is a friend, a companion, who truly, completely understands and accepts us, and is not secretly condemning us as hopeless sinners. He died to clear the way for us to approach God freely, and now calls us to do just that.

The review of these eternal truths leaves us with an open invitation…in fact, a standing command…to enter into the throne room of God on a regular basis. In fact, to make it our dwelling, as the Psalmist suggests (Psalm 15:1): “LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?”

We are invited to enter that tabernacle, and to abide there. Psalm 91:1 says, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the Shadow of the Almighty.” And that is where we are to approach the Throne of Grace, to obtain mercy, and find grace, to help in time of need.

God invites us to change our priorities. To read the Gospels and see the priorities of Jesus. To adopt His priorities as our own. He invites us to enter into His rest, and abide under His shadow.

Lord Jesus, teach our hearts to abide in you, to rest in you, and to live under the constant awareness of your intercession on our behalf. Let us serve beside you, as priests in the Body of Christ. Make us your hands and feet, reaching to the lost world. Make us a blessing to those around us.




What About Israel? (Part Three)

What about Israel? (Part three)

© C. O. Bishop 2/29/16 THCF 4/10/16

Romans 10:1-21


We have begun exploring Paul’s treatise in Romans chapters 9-11, explaining the current state of Israel, and how they still fit into God’s plans. Paul has already said how he feels toward Israel, not just as a nation, but specifically toward his fellow Jews. We saw how they rejected Jesus when He lived among them, and rejected His offer of salvation by grace through faith alone. The result has been that the Gentiles who were not even looking for a savior were then offered salvation…and many have joyfully received Him.

But Israel, who claimed to be seeking righteousness, and to be waiting for the Messiah, sought to do so by works of the Law, and had rejected faith. So, when their Messiah arrived, they rejected Him out of hand, as most still do today. They stumbled over the stumbling-stone that God set up throughout all the ages. Faith in a substitutionary sacrifice has always been the stumbling point. Cain rejected the blood sacrifice, and most people do, today, as a matter of fact. Jews and Gentiles alike stumble over this issue. But the Jews are a special tragedy, since it was their king, their Messiah, for whom they had waited, who they ultimately rejected.

What is Israel’s Position, Now?

10: 1Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
So, where does that leave Israel? Has God abandoned them? Paul says they do have a zeal for God, but not based on a genuine knowledge of His righteousness; that because they are ignorant (agnoountes…without knowledge) of the holy righteousness of God, they have worked to establish their own style of righteousness, sourced in self-will; they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God. This is true of non-Jews, too. We insist that we can have a “do-it-yourself” salvation; a self-righteous standing before a holy God. Throughout the Bible, when people saw God, they usually collapsed in despair, seeing their own unrighteousness compared to His eternal Holiness. Isaiah 6 says that when the prophet Isaiah saw the LORD, he said “Woe is me! I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips!” The Apostle John simply collapsed. The prophet Daniel was in similar condition. No one who truly sees the holiness of God will ever again see himself as sufficient.

Paul goes on to further explain the plight of the Jews. He makes no excuses for their position, but also does not treat them as being “beyond hope”: Quite the contrary; his greatest desire is that they might be saved. They are his family, in the broader sense. He says that in terms of the righteousness of God (which they claim to desire), they have truly missed the point:

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

The End of the Law for Righteousness

Paul declares that, had they embraced their Messiah, (as they say they will do, if He ever shows up, but in fact they did not do, when He did arrive), they would now be free from the Law of Moses as pertaining to personal righteousness.

For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.

Paul quotes Leviticus 18:5, here: under the Law, it was said, “if you do these things you will live.” That is not what the Gospel says. Moses brought a Law, saying “DO THIS and live!” The Law (and most Human religions) says “DO!” (“Do or Die”, in fact.) But Jesus offers something entirely different: in Romans 7 we saw that the Law was specifically inaugurated to show us that we CAN’T “do the things of righteousness.” The more we understand the righteousness of God, the more completely we realize the hopelessness of attempting to achieve such righteousness through our own efforts. And that was the intent of the Law: that we should be driven to the Messiah as our only hope. So: Jesus died to fulfil the demands of the Law toward sinners (you and me), and said “it is finished!” Where the Law said “Do!” Jesus said “It’s Done!”

If they knew the Messiah, they would know that the righteousness He provides puts an end to the involvement of the Law in producing righteousness. Law never could produce righteousness; it could only advertise the lack thereof. The Jews constantly thought that they could produce righteousness through works, just as most world religionists insist today. God says they can’t. In fact, Paul pointed out in Galatians 2:21 that, if righteousness could be attained by means of the Law, then Jesus died for nothing.

Here, in Romans 10, he simply says that Christ is the “end of the Law for righteousness”, to everyone that believes. The word “end” is “telos” in Greek…and it simply means “the end”: “termination”…not “fulfillment”. Yes, Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law; but in this passage, it clearly says he was the end of the law for righteousness. Law keeping is not even to be the outward sign of righteousness, in this age. Jesus said (John 13:34, 35) “by this shall all men know ye are my disciples”…how? If you keep the law? No: “If you have love one to another.”

But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)

Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)

But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
Paul points out the sharp contrast between Law and Grace. Grace says that the word of faith, preached by Christ and all his servants, is the truth; and that “if you believe it…you shall be saved.” Notice I left out the “confess” part. Not because confession of faith is not important, but because the faith part is what saves you. Genuine faith will result in confession of that faith, but a strict adherence to the idea that “confession with the mouth” is part of what saves you would exclude every mute person in history. Jesus said that whoever believes the Gospel has eternal life now, period. (John 5:24) Paul reiterated it when he told the Philippian Jailer, (Acts 16:31) “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!”

Calling Upon the Name of the Lord

12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
What does it mean to “call upon the name of the Lord?” By the host of passages that say, “believe…and be saved”, “look, and live”, etc., I would say that believing the Gospel, and claiming Jesus as your only hope for salvation is what moves a person from “death row” to full release in Christ. It requires a conscious decision: no one is “born saved”. If anyone tells me “Oh, I’ve always been a Christian!” I have serious doubts that they are saved at all. When we talk about “repentance” (which comes up a lot in scripture), usually the Greek word is “metanoia”…meaning a “change of mind”. There is a conscious change of mind involved, in choosing to take Jesus Christ as your savior…in deciding that His blood sacrifice is the payment for your sins. Whether it is public or private, spoken or silent, that decision must be made.

14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
Paul points out an interesting chain of ideas, here: He says, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (quoting Joel 2:32). That implies a conscious decision…a choice. Then he poses a series of questions: “How can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe on Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?” This is “Missions,” friends! He is flatly telling you that if people don’t hear the Gospel they will not be saved. And that, if we are to be a part of the fulfillment of the Great Commission, we have to either be sending preachers or going ourselves as preachers. It can’t be any clearer. But obedience is scarce.

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Paul concludes that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”. That is a pretty solid passage pointing out the necessity of hearing and believing the Gospel, for salvation. We could already have concluded such a thing by reading Jesus’ promise in John 5:24 and many other, similar passages; Jesus said, “He that hears my Word and believes on Him who sent me, has eternal life…” Sounds pretty clear, all right. The problem is the response of the people. Paul states the problem, in the next few verses: Not everyone who hears the Gospel believes it.

18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.

19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.

20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.

21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
Israel, as a nation, has rejected the message of the Gospel, the messengers of the Gospel (the apostles and prophets) and the Messiah of the Gospel, Jesus Christ. So, can the Jews be saved?

Of course they can, exactly the same as anyone else! Unbelief is not the “unforgiveable sin”; otherwise every person in history would be unredeemable: we are all guilty of unbelief at one level or another. When a rebellious, proud, self-centered unbeliever (as I was) changes his mind (that is what “repentance” means) and chooses Jesus for his blood-sacrifice for sin, he is saved…regardless of his past unbelief and other sins.

Is Israel still God’s chosen people? Absolutely…but they are having a “time-out” right now. The time is coming when they will again be central to God’s rule on Earth…He says that His reign will be from Jerusalem, and that all the inhabitants of that city will be Holy to God, and they will be a nation of priests…a kingdom of priests. This is not the same as the promise that the Church will be kings and priests. We are a different group. The promises to Israel are to Israel. The promises to the Church are to the Church.

Paul points out, also, that they have had more than adequate warning. God said that the sound of the message has gone out to the whole earth, and that He would make His people jealous through a foolish nation, and through insignificant peoples (from human perspective, as they did not comprise nations, or clear-cut ethnic groups, but were simple tribes and villages.) He said that people who had made no attempt to seek the God of Israel, were going to find him, while the people who claim to be seeking God, are in fact being sought constantly by the one true God, and have consistently ignored His voice, down through the millennia…and so fail to see Him.

“Replacement Theology” is a Snare

There have been people for centuries—whole cults, in some cases—who have gotten the idea that the Church is the “new Israel”, and that God has permanently replaced Israel with the Church or even some particular nation. (There was quite a movement that believed Britain had replaced Israel, but it has lost momentum.) I don’t know how anyone can read Romans 9-11 and still believe that God had rejected Israel permanently. Perhaps, in their desire to “claim the promises” made to Israel, they honestly believe that they can seize the promises by fulfilling the Law at one level or another. But they are missing the point of relationship.

When I was a child, my father offered each of us kids $5 (a lot of money back then) to memorize a certain poem (Rudyard Kipling’s “If”). Suppose a neighbor child up the street had taken the initiative to memorize the poem, and tried to claim that prize? Should Dad have felt compelled to honor a promise he never offered to that child? There was a relationship involved: we were his offspring, and it was an exclusive relationship, whether anyone else approved or not. Could he have chosen to include them? Of course he could, but he was under no obligation to do so.

God entered into an exclusive, unilateral covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. God made the promise, and there was nothing for Abraham to do but believe it. In similar manner God has continued to broaden and extend that relationship through faith to believers ever since.

But part of the promise was to the physical “seed” of Abraham. That promise, including the land and the lineage of the Messiah, was continually narrowed, not broadened. It was narrowed to Isaac, in exclusion of Ishmael, as well as Midian, and his five brothers; sons of Abraham with Keturah. (By the way, the promise to Isaac was never rescinded.) It was later narrowed to Jacob, in exclusion of Esau. Part of the promise (the coming Messiah) was narrowed to the house of David, and then many generations later, it specifically excluded Jehoiachin (also called Jeconiah, or Coniah), by name, saying that none of his offspring would inherit the crown, because of specific sin in his life. Finally, it centered upon the person of Jesus, who was the son of David through Mary; bypassing the cursed line of Jeconiah (from whom Joseph was descended), via the virgin birth. But the promise of the land remained to the children of Jacob—Israel—no other nation, or people. The Priesthood still was exclusively offered to the house of Aaron.  None of those things changed until the destruction of the temple. Even now, if Israel was to rebuild the temple, they would have to come up with some Levites, and, hopefully, sons of Aaron, to serve as priests. But Jesus is the High Priest, in heaven, and will eventually reign on earth.

The promises to the Church are different, and not earthly, as a whole. They are heavenly in nature, and while we have the privilege of serving the God of Israel, we are in a different (and better) relationship. Ironically, any Jew today who believes in Jesus as his Messiah becomes part of this “New Man”, and is no longer technically part of Israel. He has “upgraded” to being part of the Bride of Christ. He is no longer just a “guest” at the wedding feast, but a part of the Bride.

How Should We Then Respond to Israel?

Once, years ago, I unexpectedly received an upgrade from economy to business class on an airliner. I was amazed at the difference in accommodations, leg-room, comfort and food! I was on the same aircraft as before, but in a completely different area, and was being treated accordingly. At the wedding feast of the Lamb, there will be many guests…but the Bride is in a special category. Don’t try to move into the “guest” area, when you are part of the Bride.

We must recognize the importance of Israel, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem: we are called to do both. Value the Jews highly, as a group, and as individuals. Reach out to them in friendship and Love. But don’t try to become a “part of Israel”, by attempting to keep the feasts and the Law. Continue to invite them to become part of the Bride, by Grace, through Faith.

Lord Jesus, help us to walk in the reality of our blessed relationship with the King, and seek to reach others for your Glory!