Posted by: gmscan | February 9, 2011

Standing With Israel

By Greg Scandlen

Yesterday I attended a meeting of Christians United For Israel (CUFI) in Reading, PA. I was drawn to it by my firm conviction that Israel is besieged and must be defended.

Instinctively I have felt that as a Christian, I am also a Jew. Why?

  • I believe in the Jewish Bible.
  • I believe in the Jewish God.
  • I believe that the Ten Commandments are still the law of God.
  • I believe that Israel is the Holy Land, blessed by God.
  • I believe that my Savior was a Jew.
  • I believe that He died for my sins as much as theirs.
  • I believe that their sins are no worse than mine.
  • I believe that judgment for sins belongs to God and not to me.
  • I believe that Christ is the fulfillment of, not the rejection of, the Jewish prophesies.

The speaker at this meeting was Pastor Victor Styrsky, who is the Eastern Regional Coordinator of CUFI. He gave a riveting presentation about the centuries-long persecution of the Jews by the Christian church, and the continuing threats to them today, mostly by Islam. The current turmoil in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Jordan is simply the latest chapter. Similar hatred is being espoused on American college campuses every day. My own denomination, the Presbyterian Church USA, is joining in the persecution, much to my shame.

Attendees at the meeting were provided with a copy of “Standing with Israel,” by David Brog, the executive director of the organization. Mr. Brog is a believing Jew who worked for a long time for Senator Arlen Spector. His essential argument is aimed at modern Jews. He tells them that their long and well-deserved suspicion of Christians is out-of-date. Today, evangelical Christians are the best friends of Israel and of the Jewish People. His book details the theological history of Christians towards Jews, and is helping me gain some perspective.

Very, very briefly, he says that for most of our history, Christians believed in “replacement theology,” that is, that God’s covenant was transferred from the Jews to gentile Christians after the Jews rejected Jesus. This idea gave the Christian church a license to brutally suppress all Jews.

But in the past 150 years a newer idea has taken root, that of “dispensationalism,” which argues that God’s covenant with the Jews still applies and all his promises to them will be fulfilled. But on top of that is a new “dispensation” with Jesus’s church, which promises ultimate fulfillment at the End of Days.

I find all this fascinating and it fills in a lot of the gaps in my understanding. But I am still skeptical that this schism between Christians and Jews is necessary. It seems to me that it is all one, unified story. Jesus was the fulfillment and confirmation of Jewish prophecy. Yes, many Jews rejected him, but so do many Gentiles. Even many social “Christians” don’t really believe in Jesus, and every one of us, Christian and Jew, is a sinner. The only difference is that some of us have accepted Jesus and many others, Gentile and Jew, have not — at least, not yet.

So, I am doubtful that God made one promise to the Jews and another to gentile Christians. It seems to me that he has made the same promise to all people, and we are all brothers and sisters in our struggle to understand and worship the Lord.

In any case, CUFI was organized exactly five years ago and already has about half-a-million members throughout the United States. It is holding many similar meetings across the country and will be holding a “Washington Summit” July 18-20.  Please go to their web site to check it out.

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Responses

  1. I agree that we must all stand politically by Israel for many reasons. I do not agree that our faith and salvation are equal in some sense. That is tryingto force a sense of religious unity where critical differences exist.

    I believe that God’s covenant with the Jews was replaced with his new covenant provided through Jesus as the savior. Jews and Christians have similar laws and principles for living in peace and harmony with others on earth. Jews do not reject Jesus as much as they have not yet accepted him as the fullfillment of the promise for salvation. He is still there for them. He came not just for the Jews, but for all. It seems as though the gentiles of the times accepted him in greater numbers and more readily.

    We can stand together with Jews for political and earthly compatibilities, but eternal salvation and the grace of God applies to those who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, not just a significant historical figure or teacher.

    The statement that some Christians do not accept Jesus is redefining a non-christrians as a part of the faith of Christians – ridiculous. There are not Christians and “Real Christian” there are only those who accept Jesus as the son of God and their Savior. The separation of Christianity into the different denominations is to me somewhat artificial with insignificant differences, except potentially for the argument that Catholics must have an intermediary to talk to God.

    • Catholics are not “required” to “have an intermediary to talk to God”. We can talk to him at our will. If perhaps you are writing about the confession and the forgiveness of sins, please read below:

      From The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

      1422 “Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.”4

      1441 Only God forgives sins.39 Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, “The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” and exercises this divine power: “Your sins are forgiven.”40 Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.41

      1444
      In imparting to his apostles his own power to forgive sins the Lord also gives them the authority to reconcile sinners with the Church. This ecclesial dimension of their task is expressed most notably in Christ’s solemn words to Simon Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”45 “The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of the apostles united to its head.”46 Matthew 16:19:

      Therefore, when a penitent person asks God for forgiveness, his (or her) sins are immediately forgiven. However, the sacrament is multifold and first and foremost makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father5 from whom one has strayed by sin.

      Catholics also believe that when someone sins they not only hurt their relationship with God, they also injure the entire church, the body of Christ.

      Additional verses:

      Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:21-23)

      • “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” God the Father sent Christ to us for many reasons, one of which was to forgive our sins, so Christ sends the Apostles and their successors to, among other things, forgive our sins.

      • Jesus, God the Son, “breathes” on the Apostles. The only other moment in Holy Scripture where God breathes on humanity is in Genesis 2:7, when the Lord “breathes” divine life into man. When God breathes on humans significant things happen.

      • And then and only then Jesus says, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

      Oral confessing of sins is recommended over and over in both the Old and New Testaments:
      • James 5:16
      • Acts 19:18
      • Matthew 3:5-6
      • Mark 1:5
      • 1 Timothy 6:12
      • 1 John 1:9
      • Numbers 5:6-7
      • Nehemiah 9:2
      • Sirach 4:26

      The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation with a priest ordained in the name of Jesus Christ not only reconciles the sinner to God but with the entire church, including you and me.

      Remember all sacraments are encounters with God. This sacrament is a healing encounter between God and the penitent.

      For more information, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, section 1422 and following: http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/pt2sect2chpt2.shtml

      I am hopeful this helps in understanding the Catholic faith and it’s Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

  2. Greg:

    I, too, am disturbed by the reactions of certain branches of “mainline” Christianity (specifically the Presbyterians and the Methodists) regarding the need to support Israel as both a place of reverence (for its history) and as a democracy in the midst of totalitarianism. I might add that I am also somewhat disturbed by some of the theocratic aspects of the Israeli establishment, and would prefer to see a separation of church and state as a core principal but that does not stop me from my strong support of Israel.

    I do disagree with you when you say that Catholics require an intermediary when they wish to talk with God. I talk with Him multiple times during the day and (and I am not afflicted with any mental illness that I know of) I have heard His responses to me (“in my head”) on occasion. Perhaps the fact that I am able to have these conversations is related to the fact that I was born and raised as an Orthodox Jew, and found Christianity as an adult, although I chose the Roman Catholic variant as the “system” which assisted me in getting closer to Christ.

    I know of many other Roman Catholics (and I include “High Church” Anglicans in this group) who have no difficulty maintaining direct conversations with God.

    Best wishes,

    Bob

  3. Greg,
    I pretty much agree with all that you wrote. I don’t agree with dispensationalism,” either. But I do believe the continual existence of Israel reminds us that God keeps his promises. I think it is wrong to think that the uprisings in the Arab countries are all about Israel they are about despotic rulers. The great worry is that such revolutions will be taken over by radical Islamic groups. I’m glad you went and heard Victor. He is a nice guy, who became a Christian during the Jesus movement.

  4. Greg,
    We seem to forget that the initial Christians were all Jewish, and Rome regarded the movement as a Jewish sect. They taught in the Temple and the synagogues. It was later revealed to Peter that salvation through Christ was for the Gentile as well. The promises to Abraham for land and inheritance were made to be fulfilled with his descendants, and that literally was the Jewish descendants. These promises are covenants yet to be fulfilled. Whether the covenants are transferred to the Christian Church, as Ron Bachmann believes, or if they remain with Israel is a matter or our opinion, but the fact remains that they were made to Abraham. The other interesting contention is that the Muslims regard themselves as children of Abraham through Ishmael.
    I would submit that salvation was always through Christ, even before his incarnation. The new covenant transfers the priestly function from the Sons of Aaron to the God-priest. Atonement was transferred from the blood of animals to that of the incarnate God.
    Jerry

  5. Greg and Ron,
    I agree with both of you. Jesus said he came to fulfill the law. On a recent trip to Israel and Egypy (October), our Israeli Jewish guide spoke of Jesus’s miracles as “Here is where he fed the multitude with the loaves and fishes.” I asked him what he thought of Jesus. He said they believe that Jesus was a very charismatic teacher who had many followers.

    I told him that evangelical Christians love Israel and the Jewish people and pray for their country. He said he had come to realize that fact as he has been conducting these tours for over 30 years.

    It is sad to see so many Biblical sites taken over by mosques and to witness the four quarters of old Jerusalem. We walked briskly through the Muslim quarter. I pray that the Jewish people accept Christ as their Messiah because he is the promised one through whom our sins are forgiven.

    In all due respect to our Catholic friend, only through Jesus can we receive redemption from our sins so that we may have eternal life in heaven. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9. Perhaps this study of John 20:21-23 will be helpful. http://www.neverthirsty.org/pp/corner/read/r00027.html

  6. I want to thank everyone for their very thoughtful and serious comments. I certainly would not try to argue that Israel is a model of enlightened politics these days. On the other hand, it lives in a very tough neighborhood and until the threats to its existence are removed I think its policies may be understandable. Let us pray that the current churning in the middle east leads to better tolerance all around. For too many years despotic leaders have stoked the hatred of Israel as a way to retain power, even while impoverishing their own people.

    Greg


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