The Final Renewal: Judeo-Christian Restoration
An Accelerating Phenomena within Contemporary Christianity
by: Robert (Bob) Somerville
Eternal truth came from God, through the Jews, to the Church, for the world, by Jesus Christ.
A growing awareness that the roots of our Christian faith are deeply embedded in the Soil of the Jewish faith is creating a virtual renaissance in Christian thinking and understanding. Academics, Pastors, Church leaders, Bible expositors, teachers, and concerned Christians universally are beginning to rethink the validity of many time-honored traditions and doctrinal concepts of conventional Christianity. There is a growing suspicion that, in many cases, we have been far too removed from our Hebraic origins. This remarkable awakening is igniting a burning desire in the hearts of many believers to see a comprehensive restoration of these abandoned treasures of this Hebraic heritage. Conceptually, the trend could be identified as a Judeo-Christian Awakening. It is not institutional, it is a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit on the cutting edge of renewal moving across denominational lines. Indeed, it is proving to be a crucial component of the final phase of renewal in the Church as she prepares herself to declare the definitive Gospel of the coming Kingdom throughout every nation that Jesus predicted (Mt 24:14).
Most people are familiar with the term "Judeo-Christian." It is an expression frequently used by scholars, Bible students, and commentators. Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines it as "a religious faith which has its roots in both Judaism and Christianity."
Since the scriptures teach that there is only one Biblical faith (Eph 4:5), we shall discover that a divine integration of the Hebrew faith and the Christian faith creates a completed, singular Biblical faith. In this context, we are confronted with the one doctrinal faith of scripture [the faith of God] that is to be taught among all nations (Ro 16:25-27).
The terms Judaism and Christianity are publicly coined words, that is, they are not of divine origin. The word "Christian" was created by the public as a nickname for the followers of Christ in about A.D. 42 at the city of Antioch (Acts 11:26). Eventually, it was employed for the purpose of differentiating between the Jews who believed in Jesus as Messiah and those who did not. Ultimately, it was adopted as a sweeping identity for the universal Church of Jesus Christ. The word "Judaism," birthed during the intertestamental period, was popularized through similar circumstances (*Council of Jamnia) but has been exploited to make Jewishness the antithesis of Christianity. The truth is that the proper principles of teaching, worship, and practice for the people of God are neither "Jewish" in an ethnic sense nor even "Christian" in a religious sense, but simply "Biblical" in a divine sense and, therefore, eternal and universal (for all nations). Nevertheless, the terms "Judaism" and "Christianity" are acceptable identities when understood in a compatible, indeed complementary fashion. Consequently, we will use them conjunctively for the purposes of identification and orientation, i.e., Judeo-Christian faith.
Jesus was a reformer not an innovator (Heb 9:10)! By that we mean Jesus did not replace something old with something new. He did not replace law with grace. Romans 10:4 informs us that the revealed Christ was the very intent of the law producing the Judeo-Christian faith. The writer of the book of Hebrews informs us that Jesus was both the author and perfector of our faith (Heb 12:2 NIV). Faith in this context must be understood as a doctrinal faith rather than just confidence faith. An author is one who originates and a perfector is one who completes or updates. Therefore, the term "Judeo Christianity" is quite appropriate in describing the faith of Yahweh God which was introduced at Sinai and completed (perfected) by Yeshua (Jesus) at Calvary (Heb 12:2). Like the horse and carriage, you can't have one without the other and be complete.
How did Jesus bring about this perfection or completion? Through His messianic ministry, He eliminated many of the superfluous elements of excessive ritualism in the Hebrew faith but retained the useful components enriched by the dynamic of the Holy Spirit i.e. *Passover/Communion. This constituted an "update" to Judaism not an elimination of it. It should be obvious to even the most casual observer that we have drifted a long way from that completed Judeo Christian faith of the first century Church. Christianity is simply incomplete when absent from its Hebraic contours. Our present-day, Hellenized (Greek influence), Latinized (Roman influence) gospel needs another "updating" for renewal and it is already in progress.
There is an increasing Jewish emphasis surfacing within the Church relating particularly to the nature of worship, teaching, and religious practice. For example: the more frequent singing of the Psalms, the use of banners, sounding the shofar, the Christ centered celebration of Biblical feast days (primarily Passover Pentecost, and Tabernacles), sacred dancing, home schooling, chanting (Hebraic supplication), and high praise. Others include: Sabbath celebrations, tithing, learning the Hebrew language, a more frequent use of the name Yahweh (the Divine name) and other Hebraic titles of God, and observing the Hours of Prayer (Acts 3:1). Even the displaying of Jewish symbols (Menorah, Star of David, etc.) is seen more frequently than in times past. These are but a few of the components of Biblical worship drawn from our Judaic heritage that are now becoming commonplace in the worship, practice, and teaching of many traditional and contemporary Christian congregations.
These progressive believers are not to be confused with fringe groups who tend toward radicalism and sensationalism. Instead, these believers are, for the most part, orthodox and faithful to the fundamentals of traditional Christian teaching, but they sense a leading of the Holy Spirit to add a richness to their faith and worship by employing many of these foundational principles rooted in Old Testament. Granted, the restoration of these activities is not yet the accepted norm in all Christian circles, but it is a rapidly developing trend that can hardly be ignored. Unquestionably, this is a work of the Holy Spirit to restore to the Church first-century Judeo Christianity through a renewed emphasis on "Judeo." Understandably, some church leaders express apprehension born out of a fear of Judaism and/or legalism. May God hasten the day when something is judged, not by whether it is Jewish or traditionally Christian, but whether or not it is Biblical and Christ centered.
How can two religions that claim to have sprung from the same God fail to have many, indeed most, things in common?
God said, "For I am the LORD, I change not" (Mal 3:6). If so, why is there such a startling difference between Christianity and Judaism? How can two religions that claim to have sprung from the same God fail to have many, indeed most, things in common? The fact is that they should and did have much commonality in the first century. The existing dissimilarity in them is entirely of human origin. Jesus did not come to start an entirely new religion and He is not responsible for the contrast in appearance and principles of teaching that exists between the two. In fact, Christianity could well be perceived as a Jesus kind of Judaism. The restoration of genuine Judeo-Christianity will undoubtedly go far in improving the communication between Jews and Christians. Communication will improve as the result of a more common frame of reference.
The return to Hebraic foundations can also provide a more biblical base for achieving improved doctrinal unity among denominations. Obviously, there is a much needed unity of thought and definition to be brought to the myriad of present-day, conflicting Christian theological positions. Many have given up hope that we will ever agree on the scriptures. These conflicts of doctrine, in many cases, can be directly attributed to the removal of the Divine principles brought to us through the Hebrews. Rather than Hebraic, much of our reference is Greko-Roman. Invariably, an inconsistent frame of reference leads to conflicting conclusions. When we begin to use the same tools for research and biblical excavation, we will more likely arrive at a consensus as to "what is truth"
One may question: "What difference does it make how I worship God or if I do not have a good understanding of the scriptures, so long as I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior?" As startling as it may sound, the bulk of Biblical text is not devoted to the message of redemption, but rather to how one pleases, serves, honors, and comes to understand the eternal God after having become a believer. Being a child of God is not in question here. The question is: Are we being conformed to Biblical standards of worship and are we maturing in the principles of God's divine nature or do we insist on perpetuating our own traditions? This is not to say that all Christian traditions are bad, but if and when they negate Biblical principles they are unacceptable and expendable.
Question: Is the refocusing of our attention on the church's Judaic heritage fostering legalism and a potential return to religious bondage? It is possible but not inevitable. These fears are often expressed by many when one does something that smacks of Jewishness. When Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law (Mt 5:17), He was not advocating the continuation of the old legalistic system for achieving righteousness, but neither was He attempting to terminate the law that serves as a guideline or pattern for moral discipline, worship, and Biblical teaching. He was, in fact, defending himself against the continual accusation from the Jewish leadership of abandoning the historic institutions of God. The writer of the book of Hebrews cautioned the Jewish believers that Jesus had only reformed Judaism (Heb 9:10); He had not utterly replaced it. At bottom, true Christianity is a Jesus kind of Judaism. Unfortunately, there is a tendency for the Church to view Judaism as being synonymous with legalism. It is worth suggesting at this point that much of the inordinate fear of legalism that has historically permeated the church might well be balanced with some rational fear of the persistent "illegalism" in the church which has precipitated far greater damage. The idea of a "lawless grace" borders on the bizarre. Contemporary Judaism, as with contemporary Christian theology, is indeed fraught with some distortion and excess. However, we have nothing to fear from the New Testament, Messianic form of Judaism that was instituted and defended by Jesus (Yeshua).
In his book Traitor, Dr. Jacob Gartenhaus makes this profound observation "false Christianity--as is nominal Christianity--and false Judaism--as is nominal Judaism--are not and cannot be reconciled, can never be blended together. But true Christianity and true Judaism are one and the same thing." When this is fully understood and the "fear factor" toward Jews and things Jewish is eliminated, the Church is going to see an accelerated restoration of Judeo-Christian values manifested in the lives of its people. The occasional indictments of being Judaized will diminish because it will be clearly understood that the blood of Christ is the only answer to the sin question. However, authentic Judeo-Christianity is the answer to Biblically enriched praise, worship, and teaching.
May God hasten the day when something is judged, not by whether it is Jewish or Christian, but whether it is Biblical and Christ centered.
"An over-Hellenized, over-Latinized Christianity needs a re-Judaizing process to bring it back to its founding Jewish roots and RENEW it more in keeping with its own inherent ideals." (Edward Flannery)
Discerning Christian scholars are beginning to recognize the record of Holy Scriptures and the truth of history. In a very real sense, Gentile Christians have been historically discriminated against by their own leadership. They have been denied their right of equal access to the Judaic heritage guaranteed them by the New Testament (Eph 2:11-13). Presbyterian scholar Harry E. Gaylord described it this way; "The Christians, as they were eventually called, did not have a uniform approach to Jewish law, but they were not trying to break away from Judaism. They were a group within Judaism trying to make their views normative. First-generation Christianity was a part of Biblical Judaism, but the next generation read us out of it."
The New Covenant of grace not only brought redemption but guaranteed all men, Jew and Gentile, the right of equal access to the promises of God through Abraham:
That the blessings of Abraham might come on the Gentile through Jesus Christ..." (Gal 3:14)
That at that time ye (Gentiles) were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise... But now in Christ Jesus ye who were sometimes far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." (Eph 2:12-13)
Since the inherent Jewishness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was so apparent in the first century, the question arises: "What brought the massive divorcement of Christianity from Biblical Judaism? For the answer, one need only trace the course of history. After the death of the apostle Paul and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, subsequent Christian generations, which included more and more Gentiles, made concerted efforts to remove all traces of Jewishness from the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the Church became increasingly Hellenized (Greek) and Latinized (Roman), many of the concepts of polytheism (other gods) began to appear, gained prominence, and became entrenched in Church doctrine. Today, the Church remains a victim of many of these unscriptural elements. However, restoration and doctrinal renewal of the Church to it's Hebraic foundations are on God's prophetic agenda (Dt 32:2). Many are beginning to "...ask for the old paths, where is the good way (Jer 6:16). They desire to be the kind of people of whom it is said "And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in" (Isa 58:12). Conceivably, Judeo-Christian restoration (in general) and a reaffirmation of Judaic principles (in particular) could very well constitute the FINAL RENEWAL of the universal Church in preparation for the coming King and the Kingdom age.
Of Jesus, it was proclaimed:
"He shall be great, and shall be called the son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Lk 1:32-33)
Today Jesus (Yeshua) serves as our High Priest, tomorrow the King. If, indeed, as the foregoing scripture declares, Christ's Kingdom is a "Davidic Kingdom," we can reasonably conclude that the system and pattern of things that He will employ in that age will be those that came from God through the Jews to the Church. When the Church awakens to these Biblical principles and they become well integrated into the spiritual value system of the Church, only then will the Church be equipped to inherit the Kingdom, reign with Christ over all the earth and continue to fulfill the great commission to "disciple the nations" (Rev. 5:10; Mt 28:19). This is the final renewal!
Eternal truth came from God,
through the Jews, to the Church,
for the world, by Jesus Christ.
Judah (Hebrew, Yehudah) is a word meaning "praise," and "ism" is a suffix meaning system. Hence, Judaism suggests the idea of God's "Praise System." Therefore, as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus authored the divine principles that bring praise to God through the reflections of the Jewish Faith.