“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for possession, so that you might speak of the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…” 1Pe 2:9
With Christ’s triumphal ascension to the right hand of God and the establishment of the Church there was, no later than this, a change that took place in the way of access to the Father. Since no one may come to the Father but through Jesus (by His own words) and “there is no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved”, there is no ambiguity in the NT regarding the covenant and the ‘covenant people’; who they are, how they came to be, etc.
I can understand in the first decades after Christ that there must be a transition period of thought and outlook amongst the Jews who had been the covenant people before. God is longsuffering. But we are nearly two thousand years post facto and the confusion about the relationship between God and the Jews persists–primarily among Protestants and Evangelicals. I have always been perplexed by this and, since it came up recently, I thought I might take a look at some scripture in this post.
The verse I quoted to begin this post is straightforward and should be enough to establish that the Christians are the covenant people. All the allusions in the verse hearken back to the OT setup and were all, in fact, foreshadowing the Church; an elected kin-group, kingly priests, a nation set apart from the rest and purchased/possessed. These expressions and/or thoughts are lifted from Exodus when God was then establishing a covenant. He did so again through the work of His son. So the Church is all those things that the Jews once were, except a more perfect version.
But what about the Jews? That question resonates today. I can flip on the tube and sometimes find a ‘preacher’ telling us that we (as Americans AND ‘Christians’) MUST support Israel, the modern state that is, because that’s where Christ will return and reestablish an earthly kingdom–even reinstituting (some have said) the OT system of sacrifice! There’s a lot wrong in that thinking that is beyond the scope of this post (and if Christ was going to return and reconstitute Israel at Jerusalem, what would it matter what state it is in when He does? Who could stop Him?). This false doctrine has, at its core, a belief that the Jews remain ‘special’, a covenant people still, on par if not superior to the Church even.
We’ll consider some thoughts in Romans 10 from the Apostle Paul, himself a Jew that cared deeply for their salvation. I know this allows for no build-up or drama, but Paul uncategorically concludes in Ro.10:12 “For there is no difference both of Jew and of Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call on Him.” The reward is the same for both and the way to attain it is as well.
Righteousness is not defined by man. It is defined by God alone. Only God can make us upright in His eyes–the only ones that truly matter. Christ is the “end of the law” (v.4) and any righteousness therein. This is the change I refenced early on. What made the Jews special was their relationship as defined by God at Sinai. A relationship they entered into voluntarily. To them the ‘Word was appointed’, as Peter wrote in 1Peter 2. The Jews indeed were special. They had access to God’s Word which pointed to Christ. They had a belief in–and in many cases a zeal for (Ro.10:2)–God, owning knowledge uncommon among the gentiles. These were all advantages in moving forward with a belief in Christ. Most squandered those and both Jesus and Paul lamented that fiercely, emotionally.
Romans 10:8 reminds me of Jer 31:33, “but this shall be the covenant that I will cut with the house of Israel: After those days, says Jehovah, I will put My Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Jeremiah spends some time, as does Isaiah and others, forewarning the Jews that the gentiles would one day flock to the His ‘banner’ (Christ). I think Romans 10:8 is a direct allusion to Jeremiah 31:33. Instead of Tables of Stone (the Old Law), God’s new law would be written on Tables of Flesh (Christians). Verses 9 and 10 talks about how God establishes two crucial things: Belief, through which God (not us) establishes righteousness, and Salvation by confessing it.
The majority of Romans tells us how to be saved. It begins by essentially saying that both gentiles and Jews messed up and, since both are equally condemned, both are in need of the same salvation. Only Christ saves. As we are in the same boat, gentiles and Jews together, God made one avenue by which we may come to Him. I presume that, if this was not the case, God would have made a separate path for the Jews. Alas, He did not.
There are ‘peculiar’ Jews, just as I am ‘peculiar’. We share something in common: an abiding faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.