C. Christian Objections to the Jewish Emphasis on the Law
We now turn to address another general objection presented in an effort to challenge the Jewish emphasis on the Law. In order for us to properly appreciate this Christian objection, we must understand the mind-set within which this objection is rooted.
Christians look at the totality of their belief system as an entity whose primary function is the provision of a path to eternal salvation. They project this attitude of theirs onto other belief systems that they might encounter, including Judaism. Furthermore, Christianity sees two potential paths that might lead to eternal salvation – the path of faith, and the path of Law. They then contrast these two paths, and they find the path of Law lacking.
Christians charge that the path of the Law is an impossible one. “For there is no just man on earth that does good and sins not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Christians assume that if one is guilty for breaking one law it is the same as if one had broken the entirety of the Law. Christians argue that no action on the part of man can count towards eternal salvation – for the scriptures teach that “all of our righteousness are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:5). If salvation were to be wrought through our own actions – “Israel would boast saying – my own hand has saved me” (Judges 7:2). The Christian then concludes that it is only the path of faith that truly leads to salvation, while the path of Law is impossible, futile, and can only lead to pride.
The refutation to these Christian arguments makes up the main body of scripture. The most prevalent theme in scripture is the theme of obedience. But before we elaborate on the scriptural emphasis on obedience, we must analyze the foundations of the Christian challenge to the Law.
The emphasis that Christianity attributes to eternal salvation is not reflected in the Jewish scriptures. There are perhaps a handful of verses throughout scripture which can be read as a promise for eternal salvation. Indeed, Judaism recognizes that God rewards those who obey Him, with an eternal reward. And whichever way you approach it, eternal reward is no light matter. But it cannot be said that scripture emphasizes the concept of eternal reward in any way. God does not demand our faith and obedience on the basis of an offer for eternal reward. The foundational basis of our faith and obedience is simply the fact that God is God and we are but His creations. Before any sin entered the world, and before anyone was in need of salvation, God demanded our faith and obedience (Genesis 2:16). Scripture portrays all of nature coming into existence through obedience to God’s command (Isaiah 45:12, Psalm 33:9, 148:5). Our very existence requires us to obey God. Yes, God does promise eternal reward to those who obey His commandments and preserve His covenant (Psalm 103:17,18), but this is not the basis of our faith and obedience. The basis of our obedience to God’s command, is the very fact that our existence is but an expression of His command.
The Christian world- view which sees faith and observance of the Law as a means to achieve a certain end is inaccurate. Our observance of the Law is not merely a means through which we achieve a goal, but it is also a goal in and of itself. The scripture enumerates observance of the Law as one of the privileges that the nation enjoys in her relationship with God (Deuteronomy 26:18). The nation’s observance of the Law is her life and her joy (Psalm 119:93, 111).
The distinction that Christians see between the path of Law and the path of faith has no basis in the Jewish scriptures. Both faith and obedience count for righteousness before God (Genesis. 15:6, Psalm. 106:30,31). God demands both our faith and our obedience (Deuteronomy 10:12,13). Man owes both of these to his creator. When emanating from a recognition that our faith and obedience belong to God, they will lead to humility (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). And when emanating from a belief that we are sovereign to choose the entity towards which to direct our faith and obedience, both will only lead to pride.
The Christian doctrine that states that one who is guilty to one detail of the law is considered as having violated the entirety of the law – is also without scriptural foundation. Scripture does not attempt to hide David’s sin, yet his obedience is still held up as an example and as a merit that stands for his descendants after him (1Kings 11:34, 15:4,5). It is clear that a sin doesn’t erase the merits of obedience.
The most pervasive theme of scripture is that God values our actions – He treasures those actions of ours which are good, and He despises those that are evil. God chose to recreate the world through the ark of Noah (Genesis 7 and 8). God chose to dwell in a tabernacle built through the love and the dedication of His children (Ex. 25:8). It is difficult to think of a passage in scripture which does not demonstrate the significance of our actions in God’s eyes. Not that our actions are intrinsically meaningful to God (Job 35:6,7). From a perspective of absolute truth – our deeds are no better than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:5), and from a perspective of absolute truth – the world need not exist (Job 34:13). God did create the world, and the world does exist – on the basis of His kindness (Psalm 89:3), and in the realm of God’s mercy within which we exist, our actions are indeed significant (Isaiah 3:10,11, Job 34:11).
Originally posted on: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/the-council-of-my-nation/