And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.(Mark 7:9 KJV)
Although the term Judaism and the Old Testament (or specifically the Law) are virtuously synonymous to most Christians, there is a subtle and critical difference between the two. In this difference lies the catastrophe that has plagued the Jewish people. Furthermore, this plague is slowly eroding its way into God’s Church today. In this devotional, I will briefly review the strange relationships between the Law and Judaism with the parallel being Christianity and Christianism.
God gave Israel the Law, and thus established a religion for the Jews based on this Law. We can call this the religion of the Old Testament—it was true, divine, and good. In this religion, God was in charge as the Head. However, over time, the Jews created a man-made religious system based on the Law but modified it to suit the wants and needs of the people and their leaders. It was a human religion, based on God’s religion, but headed by people, not God. This religion is the root of what would later be called Judaism. The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible defines Judaism as the “religion and culture of the Jewish people from the beginning of the postexilic period (538 BC) to modern times”.
There are crucial differences between Judaism and the religion of the Old Testament. However, I will mention three important points for the sake of this brief devotional. First, Jesus consistently reproved Judaism while affirming the Law and the Prophets. Second, Judaism did not recognize the God of their religion when He came amongst them in Jesus. Third, and the most heart-wrenching of all, Judaism continues to ferociously reject the Messiah as no other system on earth today; however, the coming Messiah is the central theme of God’s established religion of the Old Testament.
Christianity, broadly speaking, is the religious system born from the New Testament but rooted in the Old. Just as God gave the Jews the Law, He has given the Church grace in Christ. As the Jews created a system of religion based on the divine Law, so our human religious ingenuity has fabricated religious systems based on Christianity but established on human needs, wants, and control. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Christianism as “the religious system, tenets, or practices of Christians”.
Christianism differs from true Christianity in one fundamental aspect: it removes Christ as the Head of His Church. As the Head of the Body, Christ is the Lord, the final Authority, the One who makes decisions. In Christianism, Christ has little to no say about what is done in His Church: what is right or wrong, what should or should not be done, etc. At the root of Christianism is the rejection of Jesus as Lord—people liking the idea of Jesus as Saviour but refusing to accept His authority to control their lives. Christianism is the bedrock upon which the apostate Church will be built: a Church that is called “Church” but ultimately rejects Jesus both as Saviour and as Lord, but serving the needs, wants, and desires of people.
As Judaism is anti-Messiah, so Christianism—our human creation from Christianity— rejects the Lordship of Jesus. In Christianism, the desires, needs, wants, and will of the people reign; the people, the leaders, the denominations, or organizations are the lords, while Jesus takes the back seat. We are in serious trouble when our wants, needs, and desires overshadow Christ’s authority and make us distort His Word in ways that suit what we want. Those who live this way will finally form a “Church” that has fallen away from the real Church and is headed by the coming antichrist and his false prophet.
Keep your eyes always on Jesus as your Saviour and Lord.
What is the difference between Judaism and the religion of the Old Testament?
Apply the Word
How much of our daily Christian lives, ministries or churches are controlled by Jesus today? Who is really lord, Jesus or us? I cringe when I think about this in my own life and ministry; I do not want to seize control of my life and ministry from the Lord’s hand. May the Lord help us by His Spirit to yield our hearts to His lordship at all times.
Ask the Father to help us not to create our own system out of what He has given to us.