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Category Archives: Israel

Zeal is not Enough

Zeal is not Enough

In our journey through the book of Romans, we now find ourselves in chapter 10. Paul is continuing to explain the place of Israel in God’s plan. However, a lot of what he says can be applied to us. He’s speaking out against self-righteousness.

He starts chapter 10 with a brief summary of what he’s been saying.

Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.

Romans 10:1-2

Here we get a look into Paul’s heart for Israel. Paul’s greatest prayer is for Israel’s salvation. That’s an important statement. The assumption is that they’re not saved. They have no spiritual exemption simply because they’re the physical seed of Abraham.

We need to take that to heart. Our children are not saved simply because they grew up in church. There are some who call themselves “Christian” merely due to the fact that they attended Sunday School throughout their childhood.

That’s not enough. Every individual has to choose to serve Jesus Christ for themselves. I’m a prime example.

I grew up in a Christian home. I was a third generation Italian Pentecostal. From my earliest recollection, I never missed church on a Sunday. My parents even took us to church when we were on vacation!

I knew all the Bible stories. I memorized all the verses I was given. I never rebelled against church. But, that wasn’t enough – I was still not saved.

There came a day when I had to make the decision for myself to serve Jesus Christ. In July of 1966 I was sent to a Christian summer camp. It was called Camp Woodhaven in West Boylston, Massachusetts.

They would have a service every night and a prayer meeting directly after it. We were in the boy’s bunkhouse. I was kneeling next to my bed. My counselor came over to me and asked if I had ever made Jesus the Lord of my life.

He then explained to me God’s plan for salvation. He tailored it to my level. That’s when I said “Yes” to Jesus Christ and my counselor led me in a prayer that forever changed my life.

Even before that day, I was zealous for God. But, as Paul says in the above verse, zeal for God is not enough. I had to know and agree to God’s plan for my life.

That’s also how it is for the Jewish people. They need to recognize and follow God’s truth. What is it that they need to recognize?

Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Romans 10:3-4

They needed to come to an understanding of God’s righteousness. It’s a righteousness that’s by faith in Him. They zealously sought to stand in their own righteousness. While at the same time refusing to put themselves under God’s righteousness.

Here’s the problem with that kind of thinking. The second verse literally says that Christ is the end of the line for the law. The law stops with Christ – He’s the focal point of everything in the Old Testament.

Think of it as a train ride. All who believe get off at this station. The station is righteousness by faith in the finished work of Christ. But, there are some who refuse to leave the train. Among them are the Jews, and some who call themselves Christians.

That’s why we need to constantly be on guard against self-righteous legalism in our lives. It can destroy our walk with God. We need to be aware of God’s work in us – the only way to true righteousness.

Question: How did you choose to follow Christ?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Legalism, The Gospel

 

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Pursuing By Faith

Pursuing By Faith

Going through Romans, Paul has been talking about the place of Israel in the plan of God. He has been using Old Testament prophecies to explain it.

It is just as Isaiah said previously: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.”

Romans 9:29

Here Paul quotes another prophecy from Isaiah (Isaiah 1:9). This verse tells us that Israel is not totally gone. There remains a seed. This seed was protected by God. And, from what I can see through history, they remain protected.

So in talking about the Jewish people, they have a special place in God’s heart and in Paul’s as well.

However, their salvation is the same as ours. It can only be through faith in Christ. Right now, their calling and ours is the same. We are called to salvation in Christ, then, we submit to the Holy Spirit to as He brings us to mature sonship.

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it.

Romans 9:30-31

Now Paul summarizes what he said so far. The Gentiles did not pursue righteousness, yet, when given the chance, they eagerly seized and possessed it. But what kind of righteousness is it? It’s a righteousness that has its origin in faith.

Israel, on the other hand, pursued a law of righteousness, yet never arrived at it. The Gentiles grabbed righteousness as it was springing out of their faith. But, if you chase it by law, you can never catch it.

Here’s the reason…

Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

Romans 9:32-33

Their righteousness was not coming from faith. They were pursuing as if it could spring up from their works.

This is also a problem many Christians have. We expect the blessings of God to spring from our works. If I just try harder, then God will notice my efforts and reward them.

That’s what tripped them and it trips us as well. It’s what Paul refers to as the stumbling stone.

In Paul’s quote of Isaiah, he actually uses two verses (Isaiah 8:14; 28:16) The first gives us an interesting word picture. He literally says that it’s a stone of stumbling and a rock of trapping.

The picture of a trap is of a bent tree with a rope trap. The rock holds the tree down until the trap is sprung.

The second verse deals with a perfect foundation stone. I believe that Paul put these two Old Testament verses together by the Holy Spirit. He’s actually giving us three choices.

It could be a little rock that causes you to trip and fall, making you embarrassed. Or, it could be a large rock that traps you and you’re hanging upside down, again embarrassed. Finally, it could be a foundation stone that you stand on, secure, and never put to shame.

The real question before us is; what is he talking about? It’s all about pursuing a righteousness that originates in faith. That’s the only way to please God.

Any other way brings shame and disappointment. When I try to please God with my own efforts, I end up frustrated and without hope. I have to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about change in my life.

Question: How have you tried to serve God in your own strength?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Legalism, Spiritual Walk

 

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The Call to Everyone

The Call to Everyone

We’re continuing through Paul’s letter to the Roman church. He’s talking about Israel’s rejection of the Messiah and the calling of the Gentiles.

As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.'”

Romans 9:25-26

Here Paul quotes a prophecy from Hosea (Hosea 2:23, 1:10). In context it’s about Israel being called to repentance. At that time, Israel joined with the Gentiles in their unbelief and caused judgment upon themselves.

Now, this same spirit of unbelief opened the call of salvation to us as Gentiles. Because, as Paul said, not all “Israel” is true Israel. The call to “not my people” can apply to everyone, Jew and Gentile alike. We can all go from “not His people” to sons of the living God.

That’s the journey that Romans, chapters 1-8, was all about. It’s the path to mature sonship in Christ.

At this point the path is the same for Jew and Gentile. It must be through faith in Christ. There are no special exemptions for the Jew. Actually, that’s why the book of Hebrews was written.

At that point many Jews were being saved. They came under intense persecution for following Christ. As a result, many wanted to go back to the old way under the law of Moses. Hebrews was written to let them know that there was no going back.

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

Hebrews 10:15-18

The call to sonship in Christ is for all, both Jew and Gentile alike. Now we turn to the prophet, Isaiah.

Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”

Romans 9:27-28

Here the prophet is clearly speaking to Israel. In this quote there are some interesting things. First of all, the Old Testament verse (Isaiah 10:22-23) says they will turn around. Paul quotes the verse by saying they will be saved. (Actually, I’ve found many times where Paul quotes an Old Testament verse with a New Testament twist.)

But the real question before us is; what is true Israel. He said that Israel would be like the sand of the sea, but only a remnant saved. Right now you can find Jews in every part of the world. Yet how many are saved?

Some teach that they go to heaven simply because they’re Jews. That’s not what Paul, or the writer of Hebrews preached.

Verse 28 is the key. It’s not really a part of the Isaiah verse. I believe that it’s Paul’s comment on the subject. It literally says that the Lord will fulfill this word with a short cut.

How did He do that? The short cut is through Jesus Christ. Salvation through the Messiah, Jesus is much easier than the Old Testament law of Moses.

Through Jesus Christ, both Jews and Gentiles have been given a great gift. We have the ability to be saved simply by believing that Jesus is the Christ and accepting Him as Lord and Savior.

Question: How did you hear about the grace of God in Christ Jesus?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2021 in Faith, Israel, Sonship, Spiritual Walk

 

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Israel – God’s People

Israel – God’s People

I’m continuing my walk through Paul’s letter to the Roman church. As we start chapter 9, Paul is transitioning to a new subject. It’s like a parenthesis in the letter.

He’s now going to talk about Israel as God’s chosen people. What’s their place in the era of the New Covenant?

I speak the truth in Christ — I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit — I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.

Romans 9:1-4a

Up to this point, Paul is talking about the great work that God is doing in us as believers. As he does so, he starts to reflect on the condition of his own people.

How does the New Covenant affect the nation of Israel? What does it mean to be His chosen people? Throughout his writings, Paul refers to the church as the elect – the chosen. How does that fit in?

The fact is that Paul has a love for his people. He loves them to the point of great sorrow over them. This love is not without reason.

Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

Romans 9:4b-5

There is a great heritage that we receive from Israel. They were the first to be adopted as sons of God. That’s clear from Scripture.

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.”

Hosea 11:1

They were the first to walk in the glory of God. They were the first to cut covenant with God. They actually received God’s written law.

Remember, from our look at Galatians, that the law is different than the covenants. The law was an addendum to the covenant and was not a new covenant in and of itself.

The people of Israel were the first to establish an organized religious service to God. They were the first to receive the promises of God.

In essence, they’re our fathers in the faith. When Christ took on human flesh, His ancestry is traced from Israel. He is our God.

Based upon this foundation, Paul wants to explain their condition.

It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

Romans 9:6-8

He literally says that the Word of God did not go off course, or fail. Not all who come out of Israel are Israel. What he’s saying is that in God’s eyes, Israel is not merely a genetic group.

Just because they’re related by bloodline, doesn’t make them true children of Abraham. As proof, he offers Isaac and Ishmael.

Paul explains that there are two different types of children. There are the natural children, the children who are born of the flesh. These are not necessarily the children of God.

It’s the children of the promise that are inventoried as Abraham’s true seed. This is the basis for the rest of Paul’s teaching about Israel. As believers, we really need to understand the place of Israel in the scheme of things. That’s especially true now that we’re in the last days before the return of Christ.

Question: How do you view Israel, as God’s people, in these last days?

© 2021 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2021 in Israel, Return of Christ, The Church

 

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