The first century rabbi, Saul of Tarsus, had impressive credentials. His words, therefore, should not go unheeded. 

St Paul, by El Greco

He was a Jew's Jew

First, he was born into the dependable tribe of Benjamin [i] which remained united with Jerusalem during the divided kingdom. Next, being personally mentored by the celebrated doctor of Mosaic Law, Gamaliel the Elder[ii] who, in turn, was the grandson of the great Hillel the Elder, Saul had immediate access to the best scholarship in the land.  Saul cited an impressive pedigree. He describes himself as a “Hebrew, born of Hebrews [iii]” in such a way that the reference is a more specialized term than “Israelite” or “Jew;”  Thirdly, by his own account, Saul was “as to the law a Pharisee [iv]” according to the conservative faction of the Jewish religion.  Even more forceful is his boast before Israel’s supreme court to be “a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees [v].” The natural sense of this statement is that his ancestors were historically associated with the strictest branch of the Jewish faith.  He was schooled in the heart of Jerusalem, the Holy City, in meticulous accordance to the law of the fathers of his nation [vi]. The man was a Jew’s Jew who knew a thing or two about religious imposters.

Known as Paul throughout the Roman world, he wrote a letter to a group of disciples in Galatia to correct the aberrant teaching spread about by bogus religious instructors. These false teachers were attempting to convince Gentile converts that they must keep the Jewish ritual laws in order to be saved.  True believers, Jew and Gentile alike, Paul argues, enjoy in Christ a complete salvation according to the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant  [vii].  The argument of Paul in the book of Romans is based on the same covenant promises made with Abraham [viii].  Immediately after the fall of man God revealed His purpose to provide salvation for sinners [ix].  This program was gradually unfolded by God to man.  The promise made to Abraham represents a progressive step in this revelation.

Faith in the blood atonement of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, is what truly saves souls. The Christ rose from the dead according to the Scriptures to deliver men from their sin. He Himself frees them from the curse of death and sin forever. There is no need to seek salvation through the works of the law.  The quest for a man to be a perfect law-keeper is, in fact, hopeless, for the law does not save, nor was it ever meant to [x]. The law can only condemn men [xi], and when the law is trusted for salvation it leads only to bondage [xii].  True believers must not, therefore, revert to law-keeping as a ground for salvation or else they will return to slavery [xiii].  The Lord Jesus Christ came to deliver the world from the curse of the Law and sin[xiv], not to convert gentiles into a tribe of pseudo-Jews.

Abraham and his children

The Seed of Abraham was Christ

The rituals and customs of Judaism save no one. It is thus worth our time to hear what the rabbi Paul said about Judaism, the so-called religion of Abraham. Paul decalred that an authentic son of Abraham is not one who is merely a Jew in outward appearance; the true Jew is he who has a heart circumcised by the Spirit of the Living God [xv].  Any man who is born anew  through the Lord Jesus Christ[xvi], Jew and Gentile alike, are the true sons and heirs and beneficiaries of the ancient promise blessing given to Abraham [xvii].   According to the Jewish Scriptures handed down through Moses, all nations (literally: all families of the earth) will be blessed through Abraham [xviii], not just the Jewish nation.  If a man belongs to Christ, then he is a son of Abraham [xix]. The children of the Abrahamic promise are the ones who are the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ [xx].

Lastly, according to Saul the great Rabbi, men and women of Jewish ancestry need to think twice about any unqualified trust in their national heritage.  Not every Jew is an authentic one.  “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel [xxi].”    Did not another famous Jewish preacher of the era say exactly the same thing?  John the Baptist warned, “’… do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘ we have

John the Baptist preaches to the masses

God can make anyone a son of Abraham

Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.’”  Some think that since they are natural ancestors of Abraham they were the only people God has in this world.

Not every Israelite is a son of Abraham [xxii]. Rather, the true descendants and bona fide sons are those who are the children of the Abrahamic promise; this includes both Gentiles and Jews who are in Christ [xxiii]

[i]  Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5

[ii]  Acts 22:3

[iii]  Philippians 3:5

[iv]  Philippians 3:5

[v]  Acts 23:6

[vi]  Acts 22:3

[vii]  Galatians 3:15-18

[viii]  Romans 4:1-25

[ix]  Genesis 3:15

[x]  Galatians 3:19-24

[xi]  Galatians 3:10-12

[xii]  Galatians 3:21-24

[xiii]  Galatians 5:1

[xiv]  Galatians 3:13

[xv]  Romans 2:28

[xvi]  John 3:1-15

[xvii]  Galatians 3:14, 29

[xviii]  Genesis 12:3; Galatians 3:8-9

[xix]  Galatians 3:29

[xx]  Galatians 4:28-31

[xxi]  Romans 9:6

[xxii]  Romans 9:7

[xxiii]  Galatians 3:27-29

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