THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
The Mosaic Law and the Jewish Messiah
By Lesley Mitchell
Anyone who does not believe in him [the Messiah] or does not await his coming not only denies [the truth of his coming, as stated in] the rest of the prophets, he denies Torah and [the prophecy of] Moshe Rabbeinu [Moses]. Maimonides, Mishneh Toreh (Laws of Kings 11:1)Judaism teaches that the Messiah will bring universal peace, a worldwide knowledge of God, the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, the return of the Temple, and a king of Israel from the line of David. Most importantly, the Messiah will usher in the restoration of Israel as a nation. Jesus did not fulfill these during His time on earth. Christianity has answers to this conundrum, including Daniel's 70 Weeks and the Millennial Kingdom. But what Christianity emphasizes is the necessity of the Messiah for the forgiveness of sins of individuals so we can be reconciled to God and get to heaven. Because no person and no group of people can completely fulfill the Mosaic Law.
The Law, the Prophets and the Psalms all stress the importance of keeping God's laws. Long before Jesus came to earth, God's chosen people had faith in God's promises and they walked by faith, even though they did not fully understand God's plan of salvation. Hebrews chapter 11 is the "hall of fame" of Old Testament men and women who trusted in God and "were longing for a better country — a heavenly one" (Hebrews 11:16).
God knew that for justice to be satisfied He would have to intervene, because no human is capable of obeying the Law perfectly. That is why the eternal and uncreated Word of God agreed to take on human form and pay the price to atone for the sins of the world. The Word became flesh and dwelt with us (John 1:1-3; 14). Jesus was the Word. He went willingly to the cross to redeem sinful humanity. This is where God's justice and mercy met at Calvary. Only God, by extending grace, could provide the solution to sin.
Grace is an essential part of God's character. In His grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us abundantly, in spite of the fact that we don't deserve to be treated so well or dealt with so generously. Ephesians 2:8 says, "For by grace are you saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves." The only way any of us can enter into a relationship with God is because of His grace toward us. Grace began in the Garden of Eden when God killed an animal to cover the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). He could have killed the first humans right then for their disobedience. But rather than destroy them, He chose to make a way for them to be right with Him. That pattern of grace continued throughout the Old Testament when God instituted blood sacrifices as a means to atone for sinful men. It was not the physical blood of those sacrifices, per se, that cleansed sinners; it was the grace of God that forgave those who trusted in Him (Hebrews 10:4; Genesis 15:6). Sinful men showed their faith by offering the sacrifices that God required.
God is the instigator of grace, and it is from Him that all other grace flows. God shows both mercy and grace, but they are not the same. Mercy withholds a punishment we deserve; grace gives a blessing we don't deserve. In mercy, God chose to cancel our sin debt by sacrificing His perfect Son in our place (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21). But He goes even further than mercy and extends grace to His enemies (Romans 5:10). He offers us forgiveness (Hebrews 8:12; Ephesians 1:7), reconciliation (Colossians 1:19-20), abundant life (John 10:10), eternal treasure (Luke 12:33), His Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), and a place in heaven with Him some day (John 3:16-18) when we accept His offer and place our faith in His sacrifice. Grace is God giving the greatest treasure to the least deserving — which is every one of us.
Jesus upheld the Law and kept it. He said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (Matthew 5:17-18). In this context, "abolish" is set in opposition to "fulfil." Christ came "...not to abolish, but to fulfil." Jesus did not come to this earth for the purpose of acting as an opponent of the Law. His goal was not to prevent its fulfilment. Rather, He revered it, loved it, obeyed it, and brought it to fruition. He fulfilled the law's prophetic utterances regarding Himself (Luke 24:44). Christ fulfilled the demands of the Mosaic Law, which called for perfect obedience under threat of a "curse" (see Galatians 3:10, 13). In this sense, the law's divine design will ever have an abiding effect. It will always accomplish the purpose for which it was given. But we must never forget that our salvation depends on God's grace.
When the time was right, "God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law" (Galatians 4:4-5). God's grace to us is not "opposed" to the Law but it is the opposite. The Law condemned — it showed that man is incapable of keeping God's perfect Law and reminds us we are sinners in need of forgiveness. The Law pointed forward to a future time when God, in Jesus, would provide the solution to sin and enable sinful humanity to be redeemed, not through earning the right, but through faith in God. God extended grace to sinful humanity by coming to earth to remove the "curse" of the Law and, through the shed blood of Christ Jesus, make it possible for all who come to saving faith in Him to be granted eternal life. From start to finish, salvation is entirely the work of God. Praise God for what he has done to redeem us!
See also: Heaven in Judaism
Image Credit: Lawrie Cate; "Torah"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Jesus-Christ | Other-Religions
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