John 3:3

3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

This is a continuation of the discussion on the difference between Judaism and Christianity. The key verse of this article is also based on the conversation of Nicodemus, a pharisee, a religious and political leader in the Jewish community, and Jesus. An eye witness of Jesus ministry, Nicodemus knew that Jesus was sure to be a teacher sent by God as evidenced by the miraculous signs that Jesus performed. Nicodemus had a sincere heart to know the truth. Knowing that most of his counterparts were against Jesus, he was willing to take the risk to see Jesus, but at night time. This article discusses the following difference that I found in a Judaism web site:

Judaism teaches that God does not change and that the way man has always accomplished a relationship with God is through sincerity and humility of heart, approaching God in repentance and love. Christianity teaches that God has changed and that the original method of relating to God was through the sacrifices, but now Jesus was the final sacrifice and one must claim his blood in order to establish that relationship.

Actually, Christianity teaches that God is unchanged. To see this important point, we can study Hebrew 13:8 which says that Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate, is the same in the past, now and forever in the future. In fact, the immutability attribute of God is important for us to establish faith in Him and His word. For we can trust that God is absolutely reliable and He will hold true His gifts and promises (James 1:17). Therefore, God’s word is synonymous with truth (John 17:17). Truth is true always and will not change with reference to time and circumstances. In fact, Jesus emphasizes that the word of God as revealed in the Law through the prophets will not change even for a tiny little bit (Matthew 5:18).

Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

James 1:17

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

John 17:17

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

Matthew 5:18

18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

It is good to approach God with a humble, repentant and sincere heart. But, we should also know that human feelings are subjective and affected by emotions and should not be taken as a reliable standard to approve our thoughts and behaviours that we think acceptable to God. As prophet Isaiah says that the righteous acts in our eyes are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). After all, it is illogical to expect people in sinful state by transforming themselves by living a holy life no matter how sincere they are because their thoughts and instincts are sinful in the first place. Even prophet Isaiah called himself a sinner when he saw the vision of the presence of the holy God. Isaiah exclaimed with helplessness as a sinful and broken person before God and needed His help to save him from sin. An angel cleansed him in the vision by touching his lips with a live coal (Isaiah 6:5-7). Therefore, we should not approach God merely according to our own thoughts, traditions, feelings, or emotions, no matter how sincere they are. Rather we need to approach God in His terms as revealed through the prophets and written in the Scripture. A commonsense example to illustrate this important point is that we need the tickets issued by the United Airlines to go on board of an United Airlines plane. We will not be admitted according to our own terms and enthusiastic motive to go on board no matter how sincere they are. We cannot certainly make our own tickets to go on board. God’s terms of salvation is the Law. The Law is given through the prophets as a measuring yardstick such that sinful thoughts and behaviours are made clear to us. In other words, the Law makes us conscious of sin and realized the need of salvation from sin. The Law also prescribes sacrifice as the means to receive God’s mercy of forgiveness. In the past, sacrifices with animals are prescribed and performed in the Levitical system. However, we should understand that these sacrifices are only images of the one and only true sacrifice acceptable to God as performed by the Messiah. When Jesus was dying on the cross, He announced, “It is finished. (John 19:30) which signified the completion of His atonement work. Therefore, there is no need of performing any more sacrifices with animals. However, according to Judaism, the teaching of cessation of animal sacrifice but trusting in Jesus is unacceptable for it implies the inconsistency and the change in mind of God about salvation of mankind.

Actually, God has not changed the way of salvation. His way of salvation has been declared right in the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned by listening to the temptation of Satan rather than the words of God. God declared that Satan would cause the offspring of the woman to suffer (bruise His heel), but the offspring of the woman would destroy Satan (bruise the serpent’s head). This was the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah who came as a man, born of a virgin as prophesied in more details by prophet Isaiah (Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14). Satan continues to tempt the descendants of Adam and Eve into sin and blind them lest them see the truth and receive salvation. This results in death for the wages of sin is death. The only possibility of victory against Satan is the grace of God bestowed to mankind by the Messiah Jesus Christ. As apostle Paul said that by the grace and power of God, we can claim victory over the devil (Romans 16:20). As we all know, the Messiah did not come on day one when Adam and Even sinned. According to the plan of God, the Messiah came as a descendant of Abraham who is the father of the nation Israel. Abraham was not born when declares His way of salvation. As recorded in Chapter one of the book of 1 Chronicles, Abraham was born many generations later after Adam. The relevant question to ask is how did the people who lived before the coming of Messiah obtain salvation? By the grace of God, these generations of people were not written off from salvation completely. God always save people by His grace and by faith. To understand this important point, consider Abraham who was a good and decent person in our human standard, but not before the holy, perfect standard of God. Therefore, we can say that Abraham did not obtain salvation by doing good works or living a moral life according to his own conscience or any rules or laws at that time. For no matter how good his works were, they could not stand the holy standard of God. Rather, Abraham was saved by faith in God who accepted Abraham by His grace (Genesis 15:6). How do we know Abraham was a person of faith? The Scriptures record about the acts of obedience of Abraham out his faith in God. Abraham left his familiar home to a strange place which God promised to give to him as inheritance. By faith, Abraham was willing to sacrifice his beloved one and only son Isaac. This inconceivable command made Abraham very sad but he trusted that God was gracious and good and understood that God’s power could overcome even death and He could resurrect Isaac to life somehow. For Abraham trusted God’s former promise that He would establish an everlasting covenant with Isaac and his descendants (Genesis 17:19) and Isaac would surely not die at such a young age without any child of his own. Abraham trusted that God was faithful and He would not contradict Himself. Indeed, we know by studying Genesis that God had prepared a ram in place of Isaac for sacrifice (Genesis 22:13). This story illustrates the importance of faith and the gracious provision of substitutionary death by God (Genesis 22:18). According to God’s holiness and justice, we are all sinners and will have to perish. But, by His grace, He provided sacrifice of atonement such that our sins are forgiven. This grace was first shown to Abraham when He had faith in God. This grace is extended to all nations such that all mankind may receive God’s blessings with faith through Abraham’s offspring whom we know is the Messiah when we study the Scriptures (Genesis 22:18, Romans 4:16). The sacrifice of atonement was performed with animals because the Messiah, who was the offspring of Abraham was not born yet. To use the analogy of Airlines tickets again, the tickets issued by the Airlines company are required to go on board a plane. Then all the sacrifices performed before the coming of the Messiah were like coupons or gift certificates issued by the Airlines company which could not be used directly to go on board a plane but can be exchanged for tickets that are acceptable. This is reasonable for animals and their blood had no value in payment for sin for animals have no intrinsic attribute of righteousness and cannot be used to settle the payment for unrighteousness. Animal sacrifices were symbols of the real sacrifice of the Messiah in which the righteous was punished for the unrighteous. As prophet Isaiah said that we are forgiven and healed by the substitutionary suffering of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:4-5). The sacrifices performed with animals had their merit as a form of worship acceptable to God. Also they had instructional and prophetic significance pointing to the one sacrifice of atonement performed by the Messiah. On the other hand, God points out that the core substance of animal sacrifices per se are not relevant (Psalm 50:13). Therefore, God has not changed His salvation plan. His salvation plan was revealed to the prophets in various times before the coming of the Messiah. In Genesis, we learned the coming of the Messiah (woman’s seed) who would destroy Satan although the Messiah would be afflicted with sufferings by Satan. As time progressed, God revealed more about His salvation plan that the whole world would receive His blessings through the offspring of Abraham. Certainly, the greatest blessing that mankind may have is the forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God. For without the blessing of forgiveness by God, there will be judgement and death. All the other blessings would be impossible and meaningless.

In the book of Isaiah, God revealed the details of the sufferings of the Messiah. He would be pierced and marred beyond human likeness (Isaiah 52:14, 53:5) i.e. tortures, beatings, and crucification for our sins (sacrifice of atonement). However, the Messiah would not be kept in the grave for long, but arose with power and glory i.e. resurrection, and exalted as King of kings, Lord of lords (Isaiah 52:13, 15; Psalm 16:10). Jesus Christ has indeed come and fulfilled His mission of salvation of sinners such that the requirements of the Law are settled and sinners may be set free from sins and be justified by God (Matthew 5:17). There is nothing we can do to redeem our lives: not works performed out of our good intention nor sacrifices of animals. For our righteous acts cannot measure up the holiness of our God. Moreover, the redemption price of a life is too costly and we cannot afford to pay for it by any means (Psalm 49:8). But, God is gracious and He knows that nothing we cannot do to earn salvation nor afford to pay for it. He gives salvation and a new, meaningful and satisfying life acceptable to the Kingdom of God for free (Isaiah 55:1; John 3:3). No one should hesitate to come to Jesus and accept Him as the Saviour and Lord. We really do not know how much time we have or how long we may live. As prophet Isaiah admonishes us that we should value this gracious opportunity that God gives us. While the time of grace has not expired, we should turn to the Lord, the source of living water, with a repentant, and humble heart. He will freely pardon (Isaiah 55:6-7).

Genesis 3:15

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Roman 16:20

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Genesis 15:6

6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Genesis 17:19

Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

Genesis 22:13

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

Genesis 22:18

18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Romans 4:16

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.

Isaiah 53:4-5

4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Psalm 50:13

13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?

Isaiah 52:14

14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him— his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness—

Psalm 16:10

because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

Isaiah 52:13

13 See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. 15 so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Matthew 5:17

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Psalm 49:8

the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—

Isaiah 55:1

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Isaiah 55:6-7

6 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.