This question is more complicated than yesterday’s question about Islam because Christianity arose from within Judaism. The apostles claimed Jesus was Israel’s long awaited Messiah, the promised Deliverer who came to keep Israel’s covenants and save her from her enemies. The early apologists said Christians were the “third race,” the climax of both Greek philosophy and Jewish religion. Are you seeking wisdom? Are you serving Yahweh? Then follow Jesus Christ, who completes both.
So when Jews today pray to Yahweh, they are praying to the God who wrote the Pentateuch and the Psalms. But as we saw yesterday, the most important question is not are we worshiping the same God, but whose worship does God accept? When Peter, Stephen, and Paul spoke to Jewish audiences, they emphasized that God does not accept the worship of those who do not accept his Son.
Peter: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” So “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:36-38).
Stephen: “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him” (Acts 7:51-52).
Paul: “The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead…. We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus” (Acts 13:27-33).
As Karl Barth explained, Jewish monotheism may actually be worse than Muslim monotheism, because it was Jewish monotheists who nailed Jesus to the cross (CD IV/1, p. 453).
Judaism is a stunted religion. It started out more or less well, but then balked at God’s progressive revelation of himself. So does it still worship the one true God? Maybe an illustration will clarify.
Consider a young man—let’s call him Gary—who is dating Gloria. Slowly, over a series of dates, he reveals more of himself to her. He tells her about his collection of light sabers. She is still willing to go out with him. He takes her to the Fort Myers Comic Con in his Kylo Ren costume. So far so good. He works up the courage to tell her about his banjo fetish. Deal breaker. She explains that she likes the old Gary but she can’t be seen with this new side of him.
What is Gary to make of this? Would he say Gloria still likes a part of him, or would he feel wholly rejected? I suspect he would say she must accept all of him or not at all.
Isn’t this what Yahweh thinks about Israel? Judaism embraces the oneness of God revealed in the Old Testament but rejects the divine persons revealed in the New. Does God think, “Oh well, at least they partially accept me,” or does he remember the rejection of being nailed to a cross?
The good news is that God hasn’t given up on Israel. A day is coming when God will “gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah.” The entire “earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord,” and “all Israel will be saved” (Isaiah 11:9, 12; Romans 11:26).
Do Christians and Jews worship the same God? We will soon.
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