This chapter begins with the same words that we used to start a previous chapter on Judaism – any religion is a particular form of religious worship and practice. The religion of Judaism is the worship of Jehovah and the practice of His law, the keeping of the covenant God made with Israel at Mt. Sinai. In a similar way, Christianity is a religion, a particular form of religious worship and practice. As Judaism is the religion associated with the time of the Jewish dispensation, so Christianity is associated with the Christian dispensation. The proper practice of Judaism was the responsibility of the nation of Israel in their dispensation; in like manner, the proper practice of Christianity is the responsibility of Christendom in the Christian dispensation.
In that earlier chapter, we found that the character of Judaism was also the character of the Jewish dispensation. It also was found to be the character of the Jewish people. In a similar way, we will discover that the same general features may be applied in the new dispensation – the characteristics of Christianity are, in fact, the characteristics of the Christian dispensation, and should be that which forms the character of Christians.
But there is a uniqueness to Christianity which makes it vastly different from all other religions. There is no other religion found in the world that comes close in comparison. Christianity contains many unparalleled features which are impossible to copy or imitate. And if we can highlight these notables in comparison to a worldly religion like Judaism, the peculiarity and extraordinariness of Christianity shines out.
The beliefs and practices of Christianity have a center in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It starts with a mystery which can only be accepted by faith – by the Son, God came into the world and took on human flesh, becoming a man. In humility, Jesus became the God-Man. He is the only example of such a union, and the only one that will ever be. In a certain sense, we may say Christianity begins with believing in the incarnation, the virgin birth, that what was born of Mary was God the Son (Luke 1:35, John 1:14).
The primary purpose for Jesus coming into the world was the work of redemption. He came to suffer and die on the cross, to shed His blood, to give His life, and to be a sacrifice (Heb. 2:9, 10:1–10, Phil. 2:6–8). The only true context that allows understanding of the full scope of this work is by viewing Adam, the first man. His one act of disobedience not only brought consequences upon the entire human race, but also had a defiling effect on all of God’s creation. Jesus is the second Adam, or the last Man. His work of redemption is the means that God uses to rectify and solve all the negative and fallen consequences caused by Adam’s original disobedience. And I have no doubt the implications of this work go beyond even this – all God’s blessings throughout eternity, even the new heavens and earth He will create, have this work as their foundation.
Scripture teaches that Jesus died for the nation of Israel (John 11:50–51), and that His resurrection from the dead secured the sure mercies of David (Isa. 55:3, Acts 13:26–34, Jer. 32:37–41). These are strictly Jewish things belonging to Israel, yet they have this direct connection to His death and resurrection. The millennial restoration of the Jews in the land has the cross of Christ as the basis for such loving grace being shown to them by God. The new covenant which will be established with Judah and Israel, bringing them back together as one nation, has the death of Christ as its source – His shed blood is the blood of this covenant (Jer. 31:31–34, Heb. 8:7–13, 9:15). Also, the reconciliation to God Himself of all created things that are in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, has been provided by the work of this Man (Col. 1:16, 20). None of these things are Christian, for they reach well beyond the practice of Christianity and the time frame of the Christian dispensation.
When we better understand this extended scope of Christ’s redemptive work and the eternal outcomes it has for God’s grace and blessings, we may rightly say that all God’s plans and counsels depend on it for their justification. This is enormous. But it brings us to an important perception concerning Christianity. As a religion, it cannot and does not encompass the entire scope and reach of Christ’s redemptive work or God’s eternal counsels. Certainly, by the measure of grace given to each one of us as Christians, having received the Spirit from God who knows and teaches the things of God, we may glimpse these truths to various degrees. However, if we limit our ideas of Christianity to being a religion – a particular form of religious worship and practice – we cannot bring all the results of the death of Christ under its umbrella.
As we noted in an earlier chapter, things which are characteristically Christian will not spill over into the millennium, but are self-contained in the Christian dispensation. For example, Christianity is a walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7). Also, one becomes a Christian by the grace of God through faith (Eph. 2:8). Now true Bible faith is the substance and evidence of unseen things (Heb. 11:1). All the mysteries of “the kingdom of heaven” (the Christian dispensation) are always matters of faith (Matt. 13:11). Therefore, they concern things not seen or perceived with our eyes or physical senses (2 Cor. 4:18). Jesus has gone away from the earth back to heaven and we cannot physically see Him. But true Christians do see Him with the eye of faith (Col. 3:1–3, Heb. 2:9). Jesus builds His church by the Spirit gathering together those who are blessed by believing in Him without seeing Him (John 20:29). It was more advantageous for Jesus to not stay with us on the earth, otherwise, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t have been sent (John 16:7). The Spirit dwells with us and is in us as Christians (John 14:17), yet we have never seen His form.
What is unseen and of faith characterizes Christianity and the Christian dispensation.
But what was Judaism? A walk by sight. What will be the principle of the millennium? Every eye will see Him (Rev. 1:7).
A Christian is a disciple of Christ; discipleship is the practice of Christianity. I cannot be His disciple unless I take up my cross and follow Him (Luke 14:27). Suffering with Christ is what Christians do now in this world as our portion during the present dispensation (Rom. 8:17–18, 2 Cor. 4:17). But all these – faith, mysteries, suffering, persecution, taking up our cross, turning the other cheek and walking the extra mile, etc., – are things distinctive and limited to Christianity and the Christian dispensation. Christians will not be walking by faith after the rapture. We will be in our Father’s house, conformed into the image of the Son; we will be with Jesus forever and we will see the face of God and be in His glory. We will not be carrying our crosses and suffering with Christ in heaven after the rapture. The practice of Christianity is confined to the Christian dispensation.
The revelation of God as the Father of the Christian is distinctive to Christianity (John 1:18, 14:6–11, Matt. 11:25–27). All believers are made sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26). This is the relationship all true Christians have with God. They are born of God (John 1:12–13); He is their Father and they are His sons (John 20:17, Rom. 8:15–16, Gal. 4:6–7). Jesus was sent into this world for two particular reasons – primary was the work of redemption; but connected with this was to declare the revelation of God as Father in the new Christian relationship. This is peculiar to Christianity and the Christian dispensation.
The worship of God as revealed in the trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is unique to the Christian religion. All who claim to be Christians profess to worship this way and are baptized as such (Matt. 28:19). Christianity is observing and doing the sayings and commandments of Jesus (Matt. 7:24–27, 28:20, John 14:15, 21, 15:10, 12, 14, 17).
One of the best examples of the uniqueness of the Christian religion is in the matter of life. In Christianity, life is given first by God (John 3:16, 6:35, 40, 47–48, 17:1–3). Responsibility (discipleship) is only taken up after the individual has received life and has been made a Christian (Eph. 2:8–10, I John 2:6). The only other legitimate religion in the history of the world was Judaism (as sanctioned by God during the Jewish dispensation). Its founding principle is the man who does them shall live by them (Lev. 18:5, Gal. 3:12, Rom. 10:5) – responsibility first and continuously, then life given at the end. In this principle, Judaism mimics all the other religions of the world, except for Christianity. It is the opposite of this worldly religious principle.
Understanding the character of Judaism afforded us great spiritual insights into the character of the Jewish dispensation. The same will be true by examining Christianity as God’s sanctioned religion in the Christian dispensation. And it is best to do this by the comparison of the only two religions authored by God – Judaism and Christianity – and as associated with their own dispensation.
1.) Responsibility first, then life given at the end as a wage or reward
1.) Life given first, the new relationship established, then responsibility comes from this newly created relationship.
|2.) A walk by sight and physical senses.||2.) A walk by faith as the substance and evidence of things unseen.|
|3.) A religion adapted to the flesh, for man in the flesh (Rom. 8:8). A religion marked by a circumcision in the flesh, made by human hands (Eph. 2:11).||3.) A religion for those in the Spirit, who have been given the Spirit of God to dwell in them (Rom. 8:9). Its true followers are circumcised in the Spirit, without hands (Col. 2:11, Phil. 3:3).|
|4.) A religion which is the perfect measure of the responsibility of fallen man, man in Adam.||4.) The measure of the responsibility of the sons of God by faith in Jesus Christ, the second and last Adam|
|5.) Judaism is the religion of the world; it is a religion for those who are part of the world. It always maintained Israel’s relationship with the world as an integral part of it. Its practice separates the Jew from the Gentiles, from the nations, but not from the world. Israel will eventually become the greatest nation on the earth and as part of the world.||5.) The practice of Christianity is for those who are not of this world as Jesus is not of this world (John 17:14-16) – the believer’s relationship with God through Jesus Christ places him in a position separate from this world. Following Jesus and taking up your cross is the practice of Christianity. Its practical result is separation from this world.|
|6.) The Jews have an earthly calling. Their religion is an earthly and worldly religion. Their destiny is to be brought back into the land and to possess/inherit it from God. In the millennium, those saved of Israel will have a new covenant, the law of God written on their minds and hearts to obey, thereby being blessed by God with every physical blessing. Judaism is the teaching of earthly things (John 3:12).||6.) Christians have a heavenly calling. Their religion is a heavenly religion. Their destiny is to be taken to the heavens in glorified bodies, conformed into the image of the Son (Rom. 8:11, 23, 29), and to sit in heavenly places, enjoying every spiritual blessing from God their Father (Eph. 1:3, 2:6). Christianity is the teaching and realization of heavenly things (John 3:12, Col. 3:1-3).|
|7.) Judaism is the worship of God in the name of Jehovah – the promise and covenant keeping God (Ex. 6:2-8). It is a covenant related to promises God made by covenant to the forefathers of Israel. God will be faithful to fulfill these promises to Israel in the future millennium.||7.) Christianity is the worship of God as our Father (John 4:23), in the new relationship all Christians have with God, established by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 20:17, Gal. 3:26). God is the Christian’s heavenly Father, who promises to conform him into the image of His Son in order to live in His house in heaven (John 14).|
|8.) Judaism was designed to be practiced by the Jews in the Promised land. It requires a temple in Jerusalem and animal sacrifices, priesthood, ordinances, pilgrimages, etc.||8.) Christianity is never limited to a fixed geographic location. It is the worship of God, as the Father, in spirit and truth (John 4:21-24).|
|9.) As the law and a covenant, Judaism was given to the nation of Israel – those born the physical descendants of Abraham from one of the twelve sons of Jacob. Judaism was never given to the Gentiles, but only to the Jews.||9.) Christianity involves the gospel of Jesus Christ, by which the Holy Spirit gathers out of all nations to form one body, one new man, the church, the body of Christ (Eph. 2:13-16, I Cor. 12:12-13). These are born of God, not of the will of the flesh or man (John 1:12-13).|
|10.) God promises to eventually restore Israel in the land and bless them with all prosperity and every physical blessing, so that they will become the greatest nation in the millennial earth.||10.) God promises to glorify all Christian believers, taking them to the Father’s house in heaven (John 14:1-3), where they will be blessed with all spiritual blessings, sitting in heavenly places for all eternity (Eph. 1:3, 2:6-7)|
|11.) Judaism is the means by which God maintained a wall of separation between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14-15). It is the law of commandments contained in ordinances, which built up a wall that always separated the Jews from Gentiles. The distinction between Jew and Gentile is always maintained by the practice of Judaism.||11.) Christianity comes from the abolishing and tearing down of Judaism, the wall of separation, the law of commandments contained in ordinances (Eph. 2:14-16). This is true in the time of the Christian dispensation only. The distinction between Jew and Gentile is lost in Christianity and in Christ (the church – Gal. 3:27-28)|
|12.) In Judaism, Jews always remain as Jews, and Gentiles always remain aliens from the commonwealth of Israel (Eph. 2:11-12). Judaism maintains the earth divided into nations. This was true in the Jewish dispensation, and will be in the millennium.||12.) In the one man formed as the body of Christ, there are no nations or divisions, there are no Jews or Gentiles, etc. (Gal. 3:26-28) – in Christ, all are one. Those redeemed are called Christians, and no longer can be called Jews or Gentiles.|
|13.) Judaism is a religion of the world and is associated with God’s first creation. It maintains all the relationships of the defiled first creation associated with Adam and fallen man. In many respects, the relationships of the first creation are emphasized in Judaism. Therefore, family (tribe), children, natural descent, circumcision, nationality, are primary in Judaism (Phil. 3:3-5).||13.) Christianity is practiced by those who are new creatures in Christ. Jesus, as the first born from the dead, is the beginning of the new creation of God (II Cor. 5:17, Col. 1:18). Christians are associated with the second Adam, the Son of Man, risen from the dead and possessing a new life and existence in resurrection power (Rom. 6:8-10). Christianity emphasizes the new relationships of God’s new creation (John 13:34-35).|
|14. Judaism only gives birth to bondage, producing children in slavery (Gal. 4:24-25, 5:1). It is a religion associated with the weak and beggarly elements of the world (Gal. 4:9). Its practice places a curse automatically on its participants (Gal. 3:10).||14.) Christianity involves a redemption by the blood of Jesus Christ freely given by God to poor sinners through faith (Rom. 3:24-26). This redemption is not just justification from sins, but involves a deliverance from the dominion or mastery of sin (Rom. 6:14).|
|15.) The practice of Judaism brings to the worshipper the constant remembrance of sins, and therefore a guilty conscience before God (Heb. 9:9-10, 10:1-4). With its animal blood and its weak priesthood, Judaism could never perfect the conscience of the worshipper (Heb. 7:11, 19, 23, 27-28, 9:6-10). Its sacrifices are repeated often and its priesthood always stands, for its service is daily (Heb. 10:11)||15.) Christianity has a redemption based on a perfect and eternal sacrifice, which has justified the worshipper from his sins, removing them forever, producing in him a perfected conscience (Heb. 10:5-14). Our High Priest has sat down forever (in perpetuity His work completed) in the presence of God, because His offering for sins will never need to be repeated (Heb. 10:12).|
|16.) Judaism is an administration of death and condemnation (II Cor. 3:7, 9). It had a limited glory associated with it as a religion given by God.||16.) Christianity is an administration of life, the Spirit, and righteousness (Gal. 3:21-22). It’s glory far exceeds that of Judaism (II Cor. 3:9)|
In a general way it is easy to see the transition between the two dispensations by comparing the differing principles that are characteristic of each. The Jewish dispensation, and Judaism, and the law, has as its founding principle human responsibility – do this and live (Lev. 18:5, Neh. 9:29, Gal. 3:12, Rom. 10:5). Under it, God is known as a Judge looking at the works of man. In contrast to this, the dispensation of the kingdom of heaven, the gospel, Christianity, and Christendom as the corporate entity, has as its principle the sovereign grace of God through faith. When we look at God’s grace, we are looking at God’s workmanship, instead of man’s. The Jewish dispensation and the law look to see what man can do for God; the new dispensation and Christianity look at what God has done for man. The hinging point of human history is the cross of Jesus Christ. It is where life, and the means of receiving life, changes principles.
There’s more that we could say in comparison, but this is enough to serve our purpose. As the practice of Judaism was the means for defining the character of the Jewish dispensation, so it is with the religion of Christianity and the Christian dispensation. And God, having ended the Jewish dispensation, no longer acknowledges the practice of Judaism. This truth is clearly inferred in the following passage:
Luke 5:36-39 (NKJV)
36 Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. 39 And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’”
This new wine was the sovereign grace and work of God in the Christian gospel. Its acceptance by faith would result in eternal life given to the believer as the new creation of God, born of God as His own nature. And the grace of God is essential for the Christian to stand and walk as a disciple in this world. These new things can only be associated with Christianity. The new wine could not be put into old bottles. Judaism could not receive and be the vessel of sovereign grace; nor could those entrenched in Judaism easily give it up for what was better. They are blinded to God’s work and truth. So, it is even today.
For now, God has set aside all Jewish things in order to take them up again in a future dispensation (the millennium). But the present time is the Christian dispensation. And the religion sanctioned by God for this present time is Christianity. It is professed to be the worship and practice of all who call themselves Christians. It is the religion which defines the character of the present dispensation.