One of the most controversial subjects to be discussed is the Gospel. What exactly do we mean by the Gospel, and why is it offensive to some and attractive to others? Most people would agree that the message of the Gospel is connected to the events around the life and ministry of Yeshua (Jesus). But this, in and of itself, is where the problem begins. Can the message be trusted as truth? Is the Gospel the same for everyone? Do all people need the Gospel to be saved? These are all important questions that I wish to address, all within the context of the Jewishness of the Gospel.
Some might argue, “Why does the Gospel have to be Jewish?” The truth of it is, the message of salvation might have been revolutionary to the Jewish audience to which it was presented, but it was not a message of conversion to another religion. The messenger was Jewish. Yeshua of Nazareth was a Jew in His humanity. He was born of a Jewish mother and adopted by a Jewish father. He was raised as a Jew, taught the Jewish Scriptures and went through his Bar mitzvah at the proper age.
The message is not Jewish per se, but it is not gentile either. It is a message about the depravity of mankind, the need for a redeemer who would pay the price for our wrongdoings and our need to trust Him in what He did on our behalf. Incidentally, part of the Jewish faith is a belief in two Messiahs. One that would come to suffer and die for His people–Messiah ben Joseph, and one that would come to conquer the world and reign from His throne in Jerusalem–Messiah ben David. It can be argued that Yeshua will fulfill both offices as He already came as Messiah ben Joseph and died on our behalf, only to rise again on the third day to eventually ascend back to heaven and wait there, until His return as Messiah ben David.
The problem starts when Jewish people believe that following Messiah today forces one to undergo an identity change from Jewish to Christian or Gentile. Let’s be clear, once a person is born a Jew ethnically, they die a Jew, regardless of what they believe in or don’t. So, what’s the big deal then? Two words must be understood to clarify the issue: Jewishness and Judaism. Jewishness is an unchangeable ethnic identity that can never be lost, while Judaism is a religion that can be practiced or not, and on a wide spectrum of beliefs, I must add.
A Jew remains a Jew if he practices Judaism or not. Practicing Christianity cannot change one’s ethnic DNA, it changes everything else though. It changes our outlook on life, our dependence on God and our final destination from eternal suffering to eternal bliss in God’s presence.
Some people continue to claim that the Bible is an antisemitic book. Just because some people take verses out of context and use them to justify their flawed and often hateful agendas, doesn’t make the Bible antisemitic. It does contain passages that paint Jewish people in a less than favorable way, not because they are Jewish, rather, because they are faulty human beings.
The original audience for the Gospel was almost exclusively Jewish, in a Jewish area, punctuated by the Jewish lifecycle calendar (Leviticus 23.) The earlier rejection of the Gospel by Jews was not because it changed them into gentiles, but because the claims of Yeshua appeared blasphemous to the Jewish leadership. How could a man become God? This is a question that I have been asked numerous times by my Jewish people. The answer is actually quite simple. A man cannot ever become God (that takes care of a lot of false religions by the way), but God can choose to become a man, and this is exactly what He did. The second person of the triune God took human form and came to us so that in His humanity, and only in His humanity, he could pay the price for all of our sins. He died in His humanity, and rose again because He is God as well, and God can never die (Isaiah 9:6-7.)
Saul of Tarsus understood that very well, and after Yeshua commissioned him to be the apostle to the gentiles, he boldly proclaimed the Gospel everywhere he went. Incidentally, recognizing the Jewish preeminence of the Gospel, he always started with the Jewish community everywhere he went (Romans 1:16, Acts 13:46; 14:1.) As a matter of fact, Paul shared the Gospel only from the Jewish Scriptures or Tanakh. How could he use anything else, since the New Testament was being written in his lifetime (Matthew 5:17; John 5:39; Luke 24:44-46.) The message of salvation is good news for all mankind, including the Jewish people. Using the Jewish section of our Bible known as the Tanakh to Jewish people and the Old Testament to Christians, it is straight forward and it’s all there, hiding in plain sight. It goes something like this:
Our Only Hope of Salvation is Yeshua the Messiah.
God loves mankind and wants to bless all. It is not and never was God’s intention to be separated from mankind. God is a God of relationships, and He wants nothing more than exercising this relationship with His creation: “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (Psalm 16:11).
“How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; and You give them to drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light. O continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart.” (Psalm 36:7-10)
Mankind is separated from God because of sin, which results in spiritual death.
Original Sin: “But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17.)
Even despite this separation, God desires to have a relationship with man. Being the perfect and just God that He is, He is separated from us by our wrongdoings. The chasm is not insurmountable, but it does exist and requires a bridge.
Sin Nature: As the Bible makes clear, our sin has separated us from a possible relationship with God. The Bible also explains the punishment for our sins; that is, our trespasses. A punishment that is the same for all, Jews and Gentiles alike, if they indeed remain separated from God: “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
“For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6).
“Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine, the soul who sins will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)
“But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge.” (Jeremiah 31:30)
“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so, that He does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)
There is nothing man can do himself to be reconciled to God.
The Bible is very clear on this point as well; there is nothing we can do to save ourselves and be reconciled to God. Additionally, there is nothing that any man can do for us to reconcile us to God: “Although you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your iniquity is before Me,” declares the Lord God.” (Jeremiah 2:22)
“No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him.” (Psalm 49:7)
God has provided us with a way to be reconciled to Him as a free gift through the atoning death of Yeshua the Messiah.
But do not be discouraged! God loves us and He did provide a solution to what seems to be an unsolvable problem. God sent Yeshua the Messiah to be the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Messiah, whom the Scriptures teach is God in the flesh, died and atoned for our sins. We should pay particular attention to the Scripture from the prophet Isaiah who predicted the humiliation, suffering, death by crucifixion, resurrection and exaltation of the Messiah in Isaiah 52:13 through 53:12:“He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment, He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:2-13)
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” (Leviticus 17:11)
“I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no savior besides Me.” (Isaiah 43:11)
Yeshua’s atoning death for our sins gives us salvation.
The problem barrier between God and us created by sin has been knocked down by Messiah’s selfless sacrifice on our behalf. It is our choice to accept this free gift by faith. “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
“Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)
Only by repenting of our sins and accepting Yeshua’s death on our behalf can we be saved and reconciled to God. The solution is here and readily available for those who desire an eternal relationship with God. Only by repentance, as we voluntarily admit and turn away from our sins, can we be saved. Our faith, and only our faith in the atoning death of Yeshua the Messiah, can reconcile us to God. Yeshua bridged the gap between God and us. Our faith is our response to His gift: salvation for those who put their trust in Him: “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; and You forgave the guilt of my sin.” (Psalm 32:1-5)
“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” (Proverbs 28:13)
Contrary to all man-made religions, our biblical faith in God is rather simple. We realize nothing we can do will reconcile us to God except to believe by faith in the atoning death of Yeshua the Messiah. For those who do not currently have this relationship with the living God and desire to establish it, they are only a prayer away from becoming a child of God. He is waiting! Anyone can pray right now to invite him to be the Lord of their life and change them into a new person? The prayer is so simple. It is not a magic formula, so each person can use their own words::
Dear God, I agree that I have done some wrong and I am separated from you. I desire a relationship with You, but I cannot do it on my own. I thank you for sending Yeshua the Messiah to die for me, and I accept His death and resurrection as a free gift. By faith I invite Yeshua into my heart and ask Him to be my Lord and Savior.
This is by far the most important decision that one can make for their own life. At the end of the day the question should never be, “Is the Gospel Jewish?” but “Is the Gospel the true message of salvation?” The Gospel does change you, but not from a Jew to a Gentile or a Gentile to a Jew. The Gospel changes your destination. I made that decision 37 years ago, and the re-routing was well worth it!