By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.
“Thus can be understood the special place Barth assigns to the history of Israel. It is there, and not in China or elsewhere, that God has spoken. When Professor Edward J. Carnell of Fuller Theological Seminary asked if God could be encountered in reading Confucius, as some Chinese might claim, or in Mozart, whom Barth loves, Barth replied in effect that whatever might be encountered in other sacred writings, it is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
“Barth thus stresses the history of Israel as no modernist ever can. Salvation is of the Jews, and the culmination of their history is Jesus Christ and the empty tomb. In opposition to the liberals Barth insists that the apostles did not preach “the historical Jesus” (of Renan or Harnack) nor did they preach “the divine Christ” (Bultmann), but rather the one concrete Jesus Christ our Lord” (http://gordonhclark.reformed.info/special-report-encountering-barth-in-chicago/).
I recently read this from Clark and, aside from the great article as it concerns Barth, one statement his me like a diamond bullet in the forehead: “Salvation is of the Jews, and the culmination of their history is Jesus Christ and the empty tomb.” Jesus ended Israel’s burden under the legislation of Moses. Having done so, he set Israel free to seek after Christ. If any Jewish person living at that time sought after Christ, they knew that this would bring them into direct opposition with those who demanded the obedience of the Laws of Moses (as they are stated) plus Christ.
Paul made this known in his letter to the Roman congregants, many of whom were Jewish. To follow Christ meant to turn ones back on the outward duties demanded by the Nationalists. To follow Christ, the fulfillment of all the righteous requirements of the Law of Moses (Romans 8.4), meant that the “Law of Christ” transcended and superseded Moses. It must have been an offense to many hearing, “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself” (Hebrews 3.3). The Gospel was not “faith in Jesus plus works of Moses”, but “faith in Jesus” which sprouts “fruits of the Spirit.”
The covenant made with Moses by the then people of Israel was cancelled when Jesus inaugurated a new covenant. Yet, the promises made under the previous were not at all made void, but rather now by Messiah they can be fulfilled. Watch this in Hebrews: “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later…” (3.5). Was faithful. Whose house is it when the author wrote? “but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (3.6). The new people of God, joined together with those who lived in Moses’ house while it was (Hebrews 11.1-ff). Moses was faithful and did all that God told him to do. But, Jesus, the Messiah of Israel has come and set aside Moses as if to say, “I’ll take it from here, Moses, my son.” To which Moses would reply: “You got it!” The historical birth that Israel under the covenant of Moses gave us is Messiah. For that, we must always be debtors and in support of those who call themselves followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That God brought forth a new covenant in Jesus does not at all dismiss our love for those of the Jewish Faith. Rather, the new covenant demand of “love” tells us the exact opposite, even if they oppose our faith in Messiah, even if they are enemies (“love your enemies” ring a bell?).
Paul said this 2000 years ago: “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3.24). He spoke this as a Jew. When “Christ came” and died, was buried, and rose again and ascended, “the law” ceased being the guardian. “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian” (3.25). Faith has come.
There was a horrible time of affliction when the Romans finally crushed the City of Jerusalem in the war from 66-70 (and a few years beyond) A.D. National identity was lost. This was the main feature of the Mosaic covenant. Without such a city and temple, the old rites could not be performed. Yet, very clearly, the promises made to Israel as found in virtually every one of her Prophets’ pages, were left unfulfilled. Did the word of God fail? One of the promises was that through the Messiah (often called, “the Branch” and “the Root” in the Prophets) would enlarge the nation of Israel by joining them together with the other nations (the Gentiles). However, this would be accomplished only by instituting a new covenant (as found in the Hebrew Prophet, Jeremiah). The new covenant made obsolete the old boundary created by the Nationalism of Moses’ covenant. This, in turn, allowed for the inclusion of the nations “through the body of Christ” (the body and blood of the new covenant).
Let me put this in contemporary terms. Let’s say that India and its religion of Hinduism were the people of God. In order to become a person of God, one had to join the Hindi Faith and associate themselves to the Nation of India, following their rites, practices and laws. Now, let’s say that you, an American, want to be a person of God. Are you willing to go through all of that? Or, rather, wouldn’t that be a barrier? “Thanks, but no thanks.” Let’s say you want to be Muslim. Sharia Law. Let’s say you want to be a person of God in Christ: faith that Jesus is Lord. Love your God with all your heart. Love your neighbor. Pretty light. If your faith is genuine (a true gift from God), you’ll notice that new desires arise in your heart (fruits of the Spirit). You’ll start acting in ways you didn’t in the past, “putting of the old man and putting on the new.” It just comes. The life you live in the flesh is no longer yours, but Christ is living in you by the Spirit, altering your conscience. Not bad. I don’t even have to chastise myself. He does it for me.
Imagine hearing the Good News as a Roman: you have to be circumcised, you have to go to the Temple three times a year, you have to do this, and that, and always realize that you are not really one of us because we were born this way, so, in some sense, we are superior to you. Jesus obliterated that.
Covenantal racism is defined by the Nationalism of Moses. It is most explicitly found in Ezra 10.10: “And Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have broken faith and married foreign women, and so increased the guilt of Israel.” The solution: “…Separate yourselves from the peoples of the land and from the foreign wives.” Imagine that being applied in the Church (the House of God, Israel, who is the Church) today. Did Paul ever say “divorce your unbelieving husband”? Nope. He said the opposite. “Are you a Persian Christian? You can’t have an English Christian wife!” Nope. Nationalism (the house of Moses) died when Jesus rose from the dead. This is proven by the fact that Peter received a vision of the nations, and that God had pronounced them clean. This is proven by the fact that Paul’s labors among the nations set the foundation for that which has been and is being to this day carried out: The Gospel to “every tribe, language, nation and people.” Paul may not have been able to see from a map makers point of view how many nations actually were in existence during his day. I mean, you had Britannia, Caledonia, Sarmatia, Lusitania (that’s just the west). Germania Magna, The Parthian Empire, and the “silk route” east towards the Kushan Empire and the Han-Empire of China. The Huns had what is now Russia. What about South America and North America? They were inhabited as well during that time, and so was Central America. What, God has no knowledge about these folks? No ambition of finding them out and announcing: Good News! To limit the vision and promises of the Prophets to their time and their concepts of geography is, well, just a shame. Maybe we should see the world as the Holy Spirit saw it, sees it. Maybe as we appear to learn more about how big this “planet” actually is, it would broaden our understanding of just how big God is. Israel’s Messiah was not just for Israelites under Moses. He is for the whole world. Wherever you step your foot on “dirt” (which is terra in Latin, ge in Greek, eretz in Hebrew, and eerde, eorpe, ertha or erde from which we get “earth”) is the stuff of Creation. “Dirt” (earth) is wherever it is found. What was limited in the mind of the biblical authors expanded over time as more was learned “about those people, over there.”
My point is, would such a limited, Nationalism as Moses’ House was ever be able to take on such a world? The New Covenant answered: no. That covenant was geared to bring us to Christ, and Christ has come (and shall come again!). The Presence of Messiah, the man from Galilee that can relate to all mankind because he is one of us, also is Logos, the Eternal Son, God Himself. A human being sits at the right hand of the Father (and that’s hope for us!). A human being, who looks just like one of us in form and identity, is also the Nature of God Himself (and that’s good for us!). The human being, Jesus of Nazareth, by sitting at the right hand of God tells us that God (of whose Nature He also Is) is not finished with us. He saved one of us and raised him from the dead, so when you see one of us broken, frail, shattered human beings you can tell them: it’s not over, yet, so long as you have Today and as long as you have Breath. Here, let me help you….