do Christians and Jews worship the same God?

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.

22 Comments

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  1. I fully agree with you. I think some Christians get confused on this because of the passages you quote at the end of your article regarding God saving all Israel. Some would point to these and say, “See, God saves the Jews in the end.” What they fail to realize is that the Jews mentioned in these passages are saved because they embrace Jesus as the Messiah.

  2. I am still trying to bifurcate a certain Gary from your ‘fictional’ one! Otherwise, helpful article…thanks!

  3. Mike, they are tragically the same.

  4. In many ways Jews and Muslims are so similar in their monotheism, in practice of law, in works based worship. Many can’t see the similarity because of our natural positive bias towards Jews, and negative towards Muslims. It does stand however that Muslims have a much more positive concept of Jesus, calling him Messiah, the spirit and word of God, acknowledging his miracles etc. Is it enough? are they closer? It’s irrelevant when you brilliantly turn the whole issue on its head by asking “what worship does God accept”
    Not only will a remnant of Jews return, but many of the ‘people of the East’ … biblical Ishmael (Sheba and Kedar) Egypt, Sudan (Cush), Assyria… nowadays who are Arab and Persian Muslim… are specifically prophesied to have a great awakening as well. (Is 19, 42)

  5. Elden Stielstra January 5, 2016 — 4:49 pm

    If the Old Testament was accepted as part of the Holy Scriptures by those that came after Christ so what it teaches about the person of God must be true and in harmony with the NT writing and revelations. The Spirit plays a large role in the OT and the God-head is often referred to in the plural (Gen 1:2 and Gen 1:26). “The judgement of Israel for not accepting Christ as the Messiah does not cancel her election. Israel will be saved. But she will be saved through a judgement that will remove the dross and purify her once and for all (Rom 9:27-29; Isa. 1:24-26)” S. Motyer.
    Paul throws out the idea of the Jews losing their salvation, so that no one should think God’s promises through Abraham are now abrogated(Calvin). Maybe this is what St.Paul means when he writes, “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.(“Rm. 10:12,13) The Divine Trinity is alive and well in both testaments.

  6. The Reformers warned about reading the Trinity back into the OT. All the same, you are right that we must read the OT as Christians. If you’re right, then Jews who reject Jesus are even more culpable.

  7. When I brought this up, it had a link attached with a picture of Marilyn Manson, and the caption: “Stars who haven’t aged gracefully.”

    I don’t know what the true definition of irony is, but I think you just won again, Dr. Wittmer!

  8. Went to high school with Marilyn, er Brian. He did look more like himself back then.

  9. Putting the “AntiChrist Superstar” aside, this is a good question. I have a good friend at work who is Jewish; tonight she showed me where to get yamakas with Batman and the cast of “Friends” on them. How I wish I was kidding. Jesus seems to be the object of humor to her, and I struggle with an angle to witness when He is merely the punch line of her jokes.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, Pope Francis’ God gets more loving everyday. We’re all going to heaven. To quote Jim Morrison: “Strange days have tracked us down.”

  10. Muslims follow Muhammad. Most Evangelicals follow Paul the Pharisee.
    We SHOULD follow the Jesus of the Gospels, who came to fulfill the Law of Moses and the Prophets, not abolish them.

    Poem – What is love?

    Two men came to Jesus
    With different motivations.
    They asked Him the same question
    Relevant to all the nations:

    Which is the Most Important?
    The answer was the same.
    Jesus did not manipulate
    He was not there to play a game.

    “Love the Lord your God” said Jesus
    as He quoted from The Law –
    to fulfill and not abolish
    was His purpose, full of awe.

    Jesus did not make all Scripture
    Into one new great commandment.
    He summarized The Law and Prophets
    “First and Greatest” and “The Second.”

    The Love of God is higher
    Than the love of any man.
    Receive from God, give back to God-
    Then to others, that’s His plan.

    The Love of God involves much more
    Than simply “love your fellow man.”
    Worship, trust, and pray to God,
    and obey Him – that’s His plan

    To worship and pray to neighbors,
    Whoever they may be,
    Or trust and obey our enemies
    Would be idolatry.

    The love of God is first and greatest,
    And the love of man is second.
    “All we need is love” are words
    of dead Beetles on the pavement.

    “The entire law is summed up in a single command”
    are not the words of Jesus our Salvation.
    It’s false teaching of Paul the Pharisee
    an “accuser of our brethren.”

    “Love” without God is Satan’s word through Paul
    in his chapter to the Corinthians.
    “I will show you the most excellent way”
    is the road to eternal perdition.

    Where is God in Paul’s chapter on love?
    Nowhere in view of the eye.
    Paul sings about himself like a Mexican Mariachi
    “I, I, I, I.”

    Jesus is The Most Excellent Way
    Not the words of a Pharisee.
    The words of Jesus are very clear.
    Jesus said, “You must follow ME.”

  11. Many self-professed “Bible-believing Evangelicals” won’t listen to the words of Jesus, because they are brainwashed through reciting their “mantra” – “all scripture is God-breathed.”

    This “Evangelical Mantra” has been accepted by the collective subconscious mind of “The Evangelical Church” without thought, question, reflection, or even 2 witnesses from the Scripture itself. It’s based on a misinterpretation, out of context, of one verse in one letter written by one man, Paul the Pharisee, who was unfamiliar with the personal ministry and teaching of Jesus.

    But, “Once an idea has been accepted by your subconscious, it remains there and it governs your behavior until it is replaced or changed.” [ as a pastor named Bishop Dale C. Bronner observed in one of his sermons]

    (Definition from the American Heritage Dictionary.) Mantra (noun) (Hinduism.) A sacred formula believed to embody the divinity invoked and to possess magical power, used in prayer and incantation.

    When cult members repeat their mantra, it makes them deaf to the voice of God, unable to hear God. Instead, it puts their focus on their one “special man” above all others – his personality, words and teachings, character, life example, feelings, experience, intentions, mind, will, emotions, etc. Their cult leader is their hero – he is always right, could never be wrong about anything specific, and he must be obeyed in all things and never questioned. He will give himself a special title, write at least one special book, and claim special authority, with no need for a second witness to back him up.
    Here are 3 examples.

    .1) Fuhrer. The title of Adolf Hitler as the leader of the German Nazis, author of “Mein Kamph”. Mantra: “Heil Hitler.”

    .2) The self-appointed Prophet Muhammad, author of The Koran. Mantra: …..”and Muhammad is his prophet.”

    .3) Paul the Pharisee, the self-appointed Apostle to the Gentiles, whose 13 letters comprise one third of what, today, we call the “New Testament.” (The first, original “New Testament” was composed by the second century heretic Marcion, and he coined the term “New Testament.” His new “book” contained nothing except 10 of Paul’s letters and an abbreviated Gospel of Luke. There were no other “New Testament” books, and the Hebrew Scriptures were the “Old Testament” which was irrelevant, according to the heretic Marcion.) Mantra: “All Scripture is God-breathed….”

    I got my Masters Degree at Dallas Theological Seminary. I was attracted to the school because they put Paul’s mantra of “All Scripture is God-breathed” above everything else, and I wanted to heed Paul’s command and “Preach the Word” like Paul….

    This mantra is a misinterpretation out of context of 2 Timothy 3:16. It ignores the previous verse, 2 Timothy 3:15, which clearly indicates that Paul was NOT referring to his own letters when he wrote the words “All Scripture.”

    Paul was probably making reference to some of the Hebrew Scriptures, quite likely including the Law and the Prophets. We cannot be completely certain exactly which “Scriptures” Paul meant in “All Scripture”, and what Paul meant by “God-breathed.” Why can’t we be certain?

    Because we must establish a matter by the testimony of two or three witnesses, especially something as important as “What is the Word of God.” No one else in the pages of the Bible besides Paul ever said anything like “All Scripture is God-breathed”. And Paul only said it here, one time, in the middle of a personal letter.

    The Apostle Peter made reference to “Prophecy of Scripture,” not “All Scripture,” and no it’s not the same thing at all. Jesus never said anything like that. And no one, not even Paul, ever said that all Scripture was equal.

    I remember the general approach to the Bible at Dallas being that “every word in the 66 Books is the Word of God”….. and we should interpret it based on “the intended meaning of the author in the historical grammatical context.”

    That is the basic idea of the heavy-duty seminary language we were being trained in. It sounds so right, so intelligent, so professional, so “godly”….. but it is fundamentally flawed.

    When we look at Paul’s teachings and testimony about himself, (in his letters that make up 1/3 of the New Testament,) we should NOT immediately ask ourselves; “what did Paul say, what did Paul mean, and how does this apply to my life?” The fundamental question is NOT “what was in the mind of Paul?”

    Before any of that, the FIRST question to ask is; “does Paul agree with Jesus, who came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets?”

    Paul contradicted himself, and his teachings and testimony about himself don’t harmonize with the teachings of Jesus (or with Luke’s record of his life.) Let’s not waste our time with endless debates about “what Paul really meant” with his wacky teachings about “baptizing the dead” or “there is neither male nor female.” Paul was wrong. Jesus reminds us from The Law “at the beginning, the Creator made them male and female.” [Matthew 19:4, Genesis 1:27]

    As to the question of “whether the Bible is ALL truly Gods WORDS”…

    The underlying unspoken assumption is that “The Bible” (66 Books) was given to us by God as “one book” and it’s all “equal” in level of authority, priority, and importance. This comes from unconsciously believing Paul’s mantra, the “Evangelical Mantra”, that “All Scripture is God-breathed”, and falsely assuming Paul was referring to every word in the 66 Books of the Bible. Yet even here, not even Paul, not even once, ever said that “All Scripture is EQUAL” in authority, priority, and importance.

    No one in the pages of the Bible ever said or wrote that “all Scripture,” or “the Bible,” is “all truly God’s words”. Jesus never said anything like that, and Jesus did not see it that way. Jesus did not see even the Hebrew Scriptures, what we call the “Old Testament”, as a whole unit or book that was all equal or “all truly God’s words.” Jesus spoke of The Law, or The Law and the Prophets, holding these 2 sections of the Old Testament above the third, least important sections the “Writings.” And Jesus held the Psalms, the first book of the “Writings” section, above the other books in the “Writings” section in importance, since some parts of some Psalms are prophetic.

    Obviously, the New Testament Scriptures were not written when Jesus was walking the earth. But if we want to get closest to The Source, Jesus himself, it makes sense that we should look first to the eyewitness testimony of two of His appointed Apostles who walked with Him faithfully for over 3 years, Matthew & John. (Also to other eyewitness testimony, recorded by Mark and Luke.) This is more accurate, important, and authoritative than personal letters written by Paul the Pharisee, who never knew Jesus personally, had no part in His ministry, and had no eyewitness testimony.

    We should follow the Jesus of the Gospel writers. We should not follow the “jesus” of Paul the Pharisee or Muhammad or any other man, who had their own ideas of who “jesus” was and what He did.

  12. Why follow PAAL instead of following Jesus of the Gospels, who came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, not abolish them?

    BOSS PAUL THE PHARISEE
    [sing it to the tune of “Rapture” by Blondie]

    I’m Boss Paul, the Pharisee
    My hypocrisy’s plain for the world to see
    I travel the land and travel the sea
    to make a convert who is just like ME

    “All have sinned” – we know that’s true
    but it never means ME – it only means YOU
    My sins are all theoretical
    “I’m the worst of sinners”- but don’t ask where

    To be more like Jesus is what some strive
    except for me – I’ve already arrived
    I’m the perfect model since the road to Damascus
    What were Paul’s sins? Don’t ask us!

    I justify everything I do
    If I testify about myself it MUST be true
    I’m the only man in all history
    whose testimony doesn’t need two or three

    If I did something it MUST be right
    Don’t use the Scripture to shed any light
    Don’t do as I say, do as I do
    and then you can be a Pharisee too.

  13. Most self-described “Bible-believing Evangelical Christians” really worship Paul the false apostle.

    But in truth,
    “What is an Apostle?”
    Here is the answer based on the original sources:
    The words and actions of Jesus and the Original Apostles in the text of the New Testament.

    .1) Gospel of Mark – time lag between being appointed and being sent
    “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him…” [Mark 3:13-14]

    Three chapters later,
    “Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.” [Mark 6:6-7]

    .2) Gospel of Luke – time lag between being appointed and being sent
    “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon…..” [Luke 6:12-14]

    Again three chapters later,
    “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” [Luke 9:1-2]

    .3) Gospel of Matthew – which is organized by theme, not necessarily in chronological order.
    “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon…” [Matthew 10:1]

    Without any clear time reference, continuing on the theme of the Apostles, Matthew does record “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions…” [Matthew 10:5] Matthew never said that the Apostles were “sent out” immediately after being appointed. If we didn’t also have the clear records in Mark and Luke, it would be a fairly logical assumption that Jesus sent them out right away, but it would still be just an assumption. In this case, that assumption would clearly be wrong. The Twelve Apostles were absolutely NOT sent out right away after being appointed Apostles, according to Mark chapters 3 through 6, and Luke chapters 6 through 9.

    So being an Apostle of Jesus involves being sent by Jesus, yes. But that isn’t the only meaning, or even the first and primary meaning. The first thing was “that they might be with Him” personally, together, for His entire earthly ministry, from the time of John the Baptist until Jesus rose to heaven. Jesus poured his life into the 12 Apostles for 3 ½ years very personally training them to be the leaders of the church, and Jesus chose Peter as first among equals.

    The NIV translation inserts the heading “Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas” for the passage Luke wrote in Acts 1:12-26]. The NIV headings were not part of the original text, and sometimes they can be misleading, but in this case I believe the heading is right on.

    Jesus and the Original Apostles knew what an Apostle is better than anyone else in the world. Why is this a strange idea? Why do so many people frequently attack and tear down and dismiss the Original Apostles, particularly Peter, as if they were all incompetent, stupid, and wrong in so many ways, and they didn’t even know what an “Apostle” was? The answer to that question is, they have been listening to the voice of Paul, rather than the voices of Jesus and the Original Apostles.

    As we consider the question “what is an Apostle”, we should carefully listen to the words of the leader that Jesus personally appointed as first among the Apostles, and trained personally for 3 ½ years, Peter.

    “It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” [Acts 1:21-22]

    Neither Paul, nor James, nor Luke were with Jesus and the Apostles the whole time, so they were not qualified to be a “witness with the Apostles of Jesus’ resurrection”, which is what it means to be an Apostle. Matthias was qualified, appointed, and later recognized as part of The Twelve. No one except Judas ever lost his apostleship.

    Responding to a question from Peter,
    “Jesus said to them:
    …you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” [Matthew 19:28]

    We cannot prove that Judas was present at that time, and we cannot prove that Matthias was absent at that time when Jesus spoke those words. Even if Judas was physically present, as we all realize now, he was not a true follower of Jesus. And even if Matthias was physically absent at that particular occasion, Jesus is still establishing the basic qualification for having one of the twelve thrones as being “you who have followed me,” not someone who will follow Jesus in the future, like Paul, James, Luke or anyone else in the world.

    At the Last Supper, Jesus said to His Apostles:
    “You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred on one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” [Luke 22:28-30]

    Was Judas present when Jesus spoke those words? Even if someone wants to be argumentative and say we can’t prove that Judas wasn’t there at the time, we certainly can’t prove that Judas WAS there. Judas obviously didn’t stand by Jesus in his trial, as the whole world knows. But that was the requirement Jesus gave to “sit on thrones:” “You are those who have stood by me in my trials.” “You”, speaking to His 11 Apostles who had been walking with Him faithfully for 3 ½ years. Not others in the future who will follow the risen Jesus Christ. Notice that at the Last Supper, when Judas lost his throne and Matthias was definitely absent, Jesus chose to speak of “thrones” rather than “twelve thrones” as he had previously.

    The Apostle John recorded about the New Jerusalem,
    “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” [Revelation 21:14]

    The Apostles are 12 faithful eyewitnesses who walked with Jesus during His entire earthly ministry, and Matthias is the 12th. That’s the short version of my definition of “what is an Apostle.”

  14. Wow. This really struck a nerve with you, huh? Six months later, you’ve really gotta let some of this go.

  15. Jeremy,
    I think that GOD gets to define which commandment is the “most important one.”
    Jesus is God. Paul the Pharisee is not God.
    Jesus had one opinion.. Paul’s opinion was different.

    Jesus was asked twice which Commandment is the greatest or most important one, (Matthew 22 and Mark 12)
    Both times Jesus answered quoting the same two commandments, from the Law of Moses.

    Jesus said that one of these two commandments is the first and greatest most important one. Which one is it? The one in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, or the one in Leviticus 19:18 ?

    “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “ is this: ‘Hear, of Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ [Mark 12:29-30, Deuteronomy 6:4-5]

    Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” [Matthew 22:37-38, Deuteronomy 6:5]

  16. Matthew,

    I am not arguing with you. I don’t see anyone else arguing with you on this blog, either.

    I am concerned because I think this might be harming you. If you would like to speak privately, I would be happy to continue this on my personal e-mail. But, please, rest easy… We aren’t attacking you!

    Jeremy

  17. Knowing the most important commandment might be harming someone?

    Which one is it? The one in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, or the one in Leviticus 19:18 ?

  18. No, not at all. A continual need to post about something six months months later, when no discussion is happening, is an indicator to me that you might be fixated on proving a point. Jesus is more important than Paul. We understand. Can you please move on, now? I am going to! Thank you!

  19. Jeremy,
    It’s been 3 months 10 days since my first post, to be exact.

    Why are you ashamed to publicly agree with Jesus, as He quoted the Law, telling us which one is the most important commandment? Because, in truth, you are really worshipping Paul. To admit Jesus is right would prove Paul wrong, and since Paul is your god, you think Paul couldn’t be wrong about anything.

    You know what Jesus said about people who are ashamed of Him and His words……

  20. Paul is not my God. I am not ashamed of Jesus. There are more than 66 books in the Bible. And there is no way to please you. I am done with this conversation, Matthew. I wish you well, brother.

  21. So Jeremy “stopped believing” in Jesus of the Gospels – at least he doesn’t believe enough to listen to the voice of Jesus and affirm what Jesus said is literally the “most important.” My Bible does have only 66 “books” to use our common term today – although a number are simply personal letters…..
    Is there someone here who has the courage to open his Bible and affirm that Jesus is right?

  22. Matthew, what do you want us to do? What will make you happy? I will gladly do it if you will stop posting.

    The fact that Martin Luther took books of the Bible and put them in an appendix, which was later thrown away, and you accept it shows me that Martin Luther is your God.

    I’m tired of this and I’m sorry I ever engaged you. Keep posting every couple of months to no one. I am done with you. You cannot be appeased. I already agreed with you twice.

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