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AT CHRISTMAS A JEW ASKS: WHO IS CHRIST?

By Rev. Ted Pike

Many Jews visit our Truthtellers website (www.truthtellers.org), curious how I can be so concerned for the safety of the Jewish people yet so critical of Jewish leadership. This fall, after observing Yom Kippur, a 24-year-old observant Jew came to my website. Here is what he said:

"I am a Jew. Tonight, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, concluded, and I found it to be a meaningful and emotional day. And now I find myself at your site wondering if, given my level of Jewish observance, I am guilty of supporting those actions which killed Christ."

He says that he believes Christ was a "great rabbi or scholar with a fantastic message that should have not been rejected! He spoke for good and acted for good, and through Jesus more people have understood the concept of repentance and redemption than ever could have through Judaism alone."

Yet David is deeply troubled by the concept of the Trinity. It seems to violate the oneness of God.

He says, "Tonight I had my fate sealed in the book of life for the year to come, but having fallen on your site, I had the thirst to ask some questions."

My answer to David, like replies to a mountain of emails generated by the hate bill fight this fall, had to wait. Yet now during Christmas, an especially appropriate time to discuss this question, I have sent this reply:

An Open Letter to David

Dear David,

In encounters I have had with religious Jews, their refusal to accept Jesus as Messiah marshals itself behind what they view as an impregnable argument based on logic and the Old Testament: God is one, not three. Christ said He was the second member of the Trinity, which included the Father and the Holy Spirit. To Jews, His claim is blasphemy. To worship one making such a claim is idolatry.

Like Judaism, which upholds the paramount importance of the unity of God, different religions emphasize what they believe are His most essential features. However, if we are going to reason about God correctly, we must begin with a premise about Him which is not simply an attribute among many but perfectly describes the essence of what He is all about. The apostle John gives us such a premise: "God is love." (I John 4:8) God loves with a perfect holy love. Surely this is His essence, his central motivation.

Where Did Evil Come From?

Only such holy love can explain one of the most inexplicable questions: "Where did evil come from? How could such a holy loving God have allowed our free wills, leading to sin and all the suffering such discord creates?"

Strictly speaking, God should not have allowed such freedom and its resulting misery. The law of a holy God, unchanging from past eternity, decrees annihilation of sin and discord. It is thus impossible that rebellious free will human beings, such as ourselves, exist. God revealed such intolerance to the Hebrews during the exodus. He told the people through Moses that if they even touched the mountain upon which He had descended they would be struck dead. If Moses, the most righteous man on earth, caught a glimpse of God's face, he would instantly die. (Ex. 19:12 and 33:20)

God's Prerogative to Love

Yet here we are, occupying God's universe with Him. So are disease, strife among men and nations, misery from natural and human-caused disasters, etc. How can such be? The incredible answer is that God's love made it all possible. If God had only respected His own rights rather than love, we could not exist. Instead, He knew that only by giving man a free choice between good and evil could man ever choose God. Only then could a myriad of souls become His eternal friends.

Understanding the tremendous benefits that would result from allowing free will, God temporarily set aside immediate enforcement of His law of death to discord. In doing so, He did not create the rebellion or sin that was soon to come. Rather, He gave angels and men permission, out of their own free wills, to sin. Thus, sin originated, not with God, but with those who exercised their wills against Him. We exist not as a result of God holding fast to His law of unity (a concept dear to Judaism) but out of God's prerogative to love.

The Role of Christ as Creator

Scripture also informs us that life was made possible through Christ, the second Member of the Trinity. (John 1:1-18, Col. 1:15-23, I John 1:1-6) This is offensive to Judaism, but isn't it interesting that the Torah begins with the assertion by God in Genesis, "Let Us make man in Our image." (Gen. 1:26) Jews reply, "God was referring to Himself and angels." Yet Genesis says that God made man in His image, not the image of angels. (Gen. 1:27)

David also refers to this plurality of the Deity when he says, "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet." (Ps. 110:1, Matt. 22:44)

Judaism, of course, asserts that a loving God without Christ is quite capable of creating life and redeeming all who come to Him in faith and obedience to His law.

Why is the Trinity Necessary?

This causes us to ask: Why is the Trinity necessary to our existence and salvation?

Simple. If rebellion is to exist in the presence of a holy God, and not be destroyed, then Someone of tremendous authority must take responsibility for it by being punished in its stead. There must be a Sinbearer - a Reconciler to a holy God. Scripture tells us Jesus performed this role, dying for us that all who repent and trust in Him might not be destroyed. (Rom. 3:19-26; I John 2:2; I John 4:10)

Scripture also says that all who are predestined to be saved are drawn to Christ by the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. (John 6:44)

Souls in Rivalry to God

To more fully understand the need for Christ and the Holy Spirit, I must explain something about the nature of the human soul. In the Psalms David affirms that, being eternal and mysteriously free, our souls are "gods." He says, "You are all gods, and all of you are sons of the Most High; nevertheless, you will die like men." (Ps. 82:7) Christ confirmed this when the Pharisees accused Him of blasphemy when forgiving sin. He replied, "Has it not been written in your law, 'I said, You are gods'?" (John 10:34) Of course, we are not God, the only true God, eternally pre-existent, with all His creative power and attributes. Although we can become one with Him in spirit and be "married" to Christ as His spiritual bride, we will never literally become a part of God. But He has given us, in His image, at least three of His divine empowerments: We have a conscience, we exist forever, and we have a perfectly free will.

Our soul is innocent as it comes to us from a holy God at the moment of conception. Yet, being made in the image of God, we, like Him, desire to exalt ourselves. We must come first. God is preeminently worthy of such exaltation because He is all truth, love, and virtue. We are not. We inherit His instinct to ascend but possess none of His worthiness or enlightenment.

Our desire to do our own will is so strong that if unrestrained we will come to an astonishing conclusion: "My guidance over my life is sufficient. I have no need of God." In other words, we make ourselves into idols. We worship and trust in ourselves. This produces all manner of conflict which we experience on earth, including divorce, murder, and war.

Christ: Our Way of Escape

If God had made us to be irresistibly inclined toward rebellion and self-idolatry and provided no alternative, then no one could be saved. God would not have been just to condemn us to hell eternally. Instead, in His love Christ vowed from the very beginning that He would provide a way of escape by His death at Calvary. He would furnish a source of redemption stronger than the force within us that leads to sin. The Trinity thus agreed that all who would ever be saved from sin would be saved through the empowerment of Christ's blood shed on Calvary. (Heb. 9:22) He would bear the punishment of death for man's violation of God's law so that all who trust in Him could have forgiveness and eternal life.

Yet, deep in sin, and enjoying it, how can man ever be brought to the salvation Christ has for him? Enter the third Member of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit. It is the function of the Holy Spirit, Who foreknows the destiny of spirits, to draw to Christ all souls who are predestined to be saved. He knows who will allow themselves to be humbled by Him and be drawn to Christ. Through such foreknowledge, God "predestines" such souls to be eventually brought to trust in their Creator. Thus, the Holy Spirit leads the "elect" to be truly "born again" -- to their own crucifixion experience. Our self-will dies when we repent of our sins, renouncing our ego, and exalt Christ alone. Trusting Him constantly, we are given a new resurrected spirit - a spirit that wants to be loyal to God forever. As long as we continue to trust Christ, walking in "newness of spirit," we do not displease God. (Rom. 7:6 and 8:2-4) We do not sin. (I John 3:6, 8, 9; I John 4:17; I John 5:18) We cannot be lost. (John 6:37) "If we walk in the Spirit as He is in the Spirit, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." (I John 1:6-7)

Calvary: Christ Empowers our Salvation

Thus, empowered by love, not law, Christ came to earth to die. In doing so, He temporarily set aside some of His divine attributes so that His greatest attribute, his prerogative to love, might be given fullest expression. "…Although He existed in the form of God, (He) did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (Phil. 2:6-8)

He, the infinite, changeless, omnipotent, omniscient, immortal God, became a finite, changing, and partly limited mortal man. Born in a stable, He wearily walked and preached upon this dusty earth. He allowed Himself to be rejected, humiliated, and finally crucified.

Although man had sinned, spreading rebellion and discord against a harmonious and loving God, Christ said in effect, "Father, don't destroy them. Execute Your righteous judgment of death to discord on Me!" The Father complied, turning His face from Christ, making Him "sin who knew no sin." (II Cor. 5:21) The Father allowed Him to be put to death by the very beings He, out of love, had created. Such suffering and loss, satisfaction of God's law, and advocacy on our behalf empower Him to reconcile all who trust in Him to a holy God.

The Old Testament Anticipates Christ

Because Jesus inspired the Old Testament we find it full of symbolic references to the coming sacrificial Lamb, the "Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world." (Rev. 13:8) In the Garden of Eden, Christ laid down the archetypal requirement that without shedding of blood no remission of sin is possible. The Hebrew faith has been criticized as a "slaughterhouse religion" because it drips with symbols and practices involving blood. These prepared the Jews for the ultimate sacrifice of the Passover Lamb at Calvary.

The Old Testament speaks powerfully of Christ through over 150 specific prophecies. The most graphic of these perhaps is the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. Much less understood, however, is the fact that the divinely authorized, yet morally incomprehensible behaviors of certain Old Testament saints were intended to describe and identify with Christ and the Trinity as They pursued the purposes of love at the expense of law. God set aside His own laws as such saints became humiliated, morally defiled, and even punished for what they were not guilty of. Such was intended as a reflection of the great One who would become sin although He knew no sin.

For example, Jacob was made a deceiver in order to preserve a divinely spiritual birthright leading to Jesus Christ. (Gen. 27) Joseph suffered the reproach of being called a sex criminal in order to save Hebrews and Gentiles from death. Like Christ, he was delivered over to death by his brethren. (Gen. 37:25-28) Moses was made the object of God's wrath so that the people would be spared death. (Deut. 1:37 and 3:26) Sampson was led to marry a Philistine in violation of God's law in order to help deliver God's people from their enemies. Again, like Christ, he was delivered over to death by his brethren. (Judges 14:3-4) David, numbering the people, was made a transgressor, punished because of the sins of the nation. (II Sam. 24:1) Hosea was made to violate God's law by marrying a harlot as a testimony against whorish Israel. (Hosea 1:2) Isaiah was compelled by God to bare his buttocks publicly, as a violator of God's law, to anticipate Christ's shame of nakedness on the cross. (Is. 20:2-4) Ezekiel was forced to lie on his sides for several years and cook his food with dung, a violation of Mosaic law, to atone for the sins of Israel and Judah. (Ezek. 4:12-15)

God's Love is Greater than His Law

The purpose of such moral anomalies in Scripture is to teach us that when led by God it has been possible in Scripture to violate God's law and yet perfectly obey Him. These shocking examples are intended to make us flexible to receive an astonishing truth -- one which our humanity resists. It is not in obeying God's law that we are good but in blindly obeying and trusting God Himself.

The Trinity and such heroes of faith were like an ambulance which, racing to save life, must of necessity break some of the laws which govern society. We all have seen emergency vehicles driving on the wrong side of the road, exceeding the speed limit, going through a red light. Why is it right for them and wrong for the rest of us? They must do so in order to save life. So also with Christ and the Trinity. Unless God acted unlawfully, we and the universe, fraught with discord, could not exist. We owe not only our salvation but also our very existence to the divine Word of God, the Creator Who, out of love, gave the word authorizing our mysterious freedom. By His death on the cross, Jesus Christ also authorized something just as impossible -- our reconciliation to a holy God through repentance and faith in Him.

Christ: God or Heretic?

Who then is Christ: God or, as the Jews perceive Him, a heretic? Can we trust the Bible, especially the Old Testament which so eloquently speaks to us of the contradictory role of Christ as Sinbearer and of His coming? The Old Testament was never intended as the consummation of God's revealed will for mankind. It was ordained to make use of the Jewish people to set the stage for the coming of Israel's true spiritual husband, Jesus Christ.

Tragically, to this hour, the Jews do not understand who Christ was or the magnitude of God's love which sent Him to them. Snagging on the "oneness" of God, they do not understand the power of God's sovereign love to temporarily override even that attribute of His nature in order to save.

The Jews were the first to receive the privilege of understanding God's prerogative to love. In order to facilitate that understanding, God gave them law. Yet law was not definitive of the God whose essence is love. That love was demonstrated on the cross by Christ who came to fulfill the law and provide the only way of salvation. "He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the very cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:11-12)

To understand Christ, then, is to understand the prerogative of God to love beyond all that we might have imagined. We owe more to Jesus Christ than our theologies have ever dreamed.

In His Light,
Ted Pike


Rev. Ted Pike is director of the National Prayer Network, a Christian conservative watchdog organization. You can read more of his writing at www.truthtellers.org.

TALK SHOW HOSTS: For interview with Rev. Ted Pike, call 503-631-3808.

National Prayer Network, P.O. Box 828, Clackamas, OR 97015

 

 

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