A gracEmail reader who is weighing the claims of Christ writes: “I cannot hold in scorn humans whom I know to be decent and caring, simply because they have a different belief about salvation. Is my Jewish friend a sinner because he practices his religion? He certainly does many of the very things we ascribe to Jesus as being virtuous.”
* * *
I do not believe we need to hold anyone to scorn. My understanding of Scripture (both Jewish, which we call the Old Testament, and Christian, which includes also the New Testament) is that people sin when they go against God. People feel guilty for sinning when they violate or disregard what they themselves understand that God wants — in their thoughts, words and deeds (Rom. 5:13). I know nothing inherently Jewish which is sinful for that reason. The Jews have received much spiritual light from God (Rom. 3:1-2). Through the Jews came God’s Messiah, the Savior of all nations (Gal. 4:4). The first followers of Jesus all were Jews. Even today, many Jews accept Jesus as the Promised One from God. Despite what many people say and think, it is not anti-Jewish to believe on Yeshua (“Jesus”).
I further understand that all responsible people capable of making decisions — Jesus alone excluded — have sinned in that very sense. That includes you and me and your friend and everyone else we know. At times, we all have gone against what we ourselves knew (whether from reading or hearing the Bible ourselves, from others who reflected Bible teaching, or from God-given intuition or conscience) to be right and wrong, for which we are accountable to God who made us (Rom. 1:18–3:23).
God has dealt with sin decisively and uniquely in the substitutionary, representative life and death of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-21). There is no other arrangement for dealing with sin (Heb. 1:3; 9:28; 10:12-14). The atonement which Jesus brought about is an objective, historical reality, whether we know it or not and whether we accept it or not (Col. 1:19-20). That objective reality which Jesus accomplished is a different question from its subjective enjoyment, so I will comment on each aspect separately in the gracEmail to come (1 Tim. 4:10).