Reforming Jewish Ministry, Part 2, by Rev. Fred Klett

The Covenantal Centrality of Messiah

As we continue to consider bringing the perspectives of the Reformation to Jewish ministry, that is to say bringing Jewish ministry into increasing Biblical conformity, we must at some point consider how the whole Bible fits together. Much error has come about through failure to understand the centrality of the Messiah and the Redemption he accomplished in all of Scripture. Bad theology has lead to bad practice as the unity of Scripture and the unity of God's purpose in Redemption has failed to be understood.

Getting the Big Picture

The more you study the Bible, the more you are able to see great over-arching themes. The basis for believing Jesus is the Messiah is not simply a few proof texts, rather it is based upon the whole Hebrew Bible. The coming of Messiah is central to God's plan of restoring a people for himself from Mankind's Fall (into sin and disobedience). Rabbinic legend speaks of Messiah waiting in the Garden of Eden, which will be restored when he comes. There is a indeed great theological insight in that legend! The restoration of mankind from the Fall is bound up with Messiah's coming. Messiah's redemption must involve restoration of all the benefits man had at Creation. There is only one sort of Messiah who fits this description, the one spoken in the New Covenant Scriptures in fulfillment of the Old!

The Covenant at Creation

When man was created he had life in the Garden under God's blessing (Gen. 1:28). Adam and Eve walked enjoyed a close relationship and communication with their maker (Gen. 1:28, 3:8). There was no shame (Gen. 2:25) and the heart of man was innocent (Gen. 1:27, 31; 2:25). Man resided in the Garden of Eden where there was harmony between man and man and between man and nature (Gen. 1:28). Death was unknown to man, as he had access to the Tree of Life (Gen. 2:17, 3:22).  If man would trust and obey God he would live.  Disobedience would lead to death.  We call this arrangement the Covenant of Works.

What We Lost in the Fall

When the Fall occurred mankind lost the Creator's blessing, which was replaced by the curse (Gen. 3:17). We experienced separation from God. Man hid in fear and was thrown out of Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8). Shame entered our consciousness and a covering was needed (Gen. 3:7, 21).  Our hearts becomes prone to do evil (Gen. 4:8; 6:5) and we experienced disharmony where there had been harmony. Cain killed his brother Abel, animals came to fear men, and the earth produced thorns (Gen. 3:16-18, 9:2). Sin resulted in exile from Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:23), exclusion from the Tree of Life, and finally, death (Gen. 3:19, 22).

The Covenant of Works Broken, The Covenant of Grace Begins

Man broke the Covenant of works that he was created under.  Hosea 6:7 tells us: "But they, like Adam, have transgressed the covenant: there have they dealt treacherously against me." At that point God, in his mercy began to deal with man redemptively through a Covenant of Grace. There is only one way in which anyone has ever been saved, through the Covenant of Grace. True, God administered this covenant differently in different times, but the way of salvation was always by grace through the work of Messiah.

As some wise men have written:

This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the Jewish people, all foresignifying the Messiah to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament. (WCF VII:V)

Redemption in the Hebrew Bible, the Tenach, had to do with regaining what was lost in the Fall, often as represented as a promise or type. Failure on the part of Judaism to understand the overarching purpose of God to redeem mankind from the Fall, and how the Messianic redemption is integral in this process, has caused Judaism to have no sufficient integrating principle in approaching the Hebrew Scriptures. I once asked an prominent anti-missionary rabbi if he could tell me "in a nutshell" what is the core of what the Hebrew Bible. He was slightly taken aback, unusual for him, and responded, "We don't think of the Bible in those terms." No. Instead the concern among the Orthodox sometimes sadly and humorously degenerates into whether or not one can turn on a light switch or eat an egg laid on the Sabbath! But they do not know that the Sabbath was given for man and our Sabbath rest is in Messiah's Redemption (Hebrews 4:9).

How is Redemption from the Curse of the Fall expressed in the Tenach? Perhaps this is best understood in terms of Blessing Promised. All nations were to be blessed through seed of Failure on the part of Judaism to understand the overarching purpose of God to redeem mankind from the Fall, and how the Messianic redemption is integral in this process, has caused Judaism to have no sufficient integrating principle in approaching the Hebrew Scriptures. Abraham (Gen. 12:2-3; 22:17-18). This is the purpose of Israel's existence. This is the plan of God. How sad that some have wrongly divided the Word of God into "Plan A" (Israel) and "Plan B" (Messiah's Congregation, the Church). There is only one plan, said Paul, "To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles (Acts 26:22-23).

In Israel's experience the Fall was being overturned. Abraham's children enjoyed a closer relationship and communication with God through the Temple and through the prophets (Dt. 4:29-40). The Shame of sin was covered through the Levitical atonement (covering) for Sin (Leviticus ch. 17).

The hearts of God's people were to be renewed, circumcised (Dt. 10:16, Ez. 36, Ps. 51). Harmony between man and man and between man and nature was promised (Isaiah ch. 2 & 11). The Garden of Eden was experienced in part through life in the Promised Land .  The humble would inherit the land of Israel (Psalm 37:11). Even Death itself began to be over come as eternal life was promised and the final resurrection was described (Daniel 12:2).

From Promise to Realization

With the coming of Messiah these things have reached a greater stage of realization. Redemption has been accomplished and is in the process of being applied. The Messianic Redemption has already come, is coming, and will come in fullness when he returns. The promised New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31) is in continuity with the Old and brings the Covenant of Grace to its fullest expression. What Messiah accomplished at his first coming is presently unfolding, and will be fully experienced when he returns. The fullness of God's blessing and the removal of the curse comes through the Second Adam (Rom. 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 15:22). Now, through Jesus, all peoples can experience a restored relationship with their Creator God. Through Messiah we receive Sonship, become the Temple of the Holy Spirit. We can have the complete Word of God dwelling in us richly. All shame is removed because Messiah has completely atoned for sin and we are counted righteous through Him (Titus 3:3-7). In a fuller way our hearts are circumcised and renewed (John 3:3, Colossians 2:11-12). Harmony is restored. Messiah restores peace between man and man as Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, slave and free, Arab and Israelite worship together. Even nature itself will be renewed at his return. The ultimate Promised Land, a universal restored Garden of Eden will be experienced in a New Heavens and Earth (Mt. 5:5). Death is overcome because Messiah rose from dead. He restored the Tree of Life -- eternal life is now the possession of all to believers (John 5:24, 1 Cor. 15).

Summary: Blessing, Curse, Renewed Blessing

God had a covenant with Adam at Creation which was broken. He established a Covenant of Grace with Adam's believing descendants which is administered in different ways until it's final expression in the Messiah, the Second Adam.  Blessing, Curse, Renewed Blessing is how the whole Bible fits together, and all that realized in the one who was born in Bethlehem, the City of David.

All the promises of God find their "Yes" in Messiah (2 Corinthians 1:20). He has become a witness and a covenant for the peoples (Isaiah 42:6, 55:4). The one covenant of Grace is realized through him. He obeyed the Father completely and took the punishment for our disobedience and so fulfilled the Covenant of Works Adam, and all of us, have broken. We must ground all we believe and all we do in him if we are to have a proper foundation for reforming Jewish ministry. It is on this solid rock we must stand. All other ground is sinking sand.

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