The Book of Life

I’m currently reading “The Lord Will Gather Me In,” an autobiographical sketch by David Klinghoffer, an editor at National Review.

The book traces David’s journey from being a secular Jew to an observant (Orthodox) one, and along the way he’s got some harsh things to say about many of his fellow Jews — and some misinformed things to say about Christianity. Very misinformed.

One such thing that lept off the page was this: (page 119, hardback edition):

…the salvational theory used to explicate the crucifixion of Jesus: “He died for our sins.” Christians say: Doesn’t Judaism maintain that a person must himself pay the price required of him?

The context, which compares Torah (written and oral) and Christian thought, strongly implies that Christians don’t have to worry about deeds; Jesus has paid the freight, no matter what.

There are, to be certain, a rather large number of Christians who may still believe in antinomianism. It doesn’t matter what I do in the here and now; Jesus’ blood will wash me clean in the end. This is true, but we’ve got to pull our weight.

What we do in this life very much does matter. Our Lord has told us to do two basic things (Matthew 22):

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38T his is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

By “love the Lord your God” it is reasonably clear that Jesus meant carry out God’s commandments. Commandments, as in the Law, the very self-same law that Jews observed, and still observe. Jesus did not excuse us from the Law (Matthew 5:18); He insisted that observance merely for show meant nothing. It was hypocrisy that Jesus condemned. Not Torah observance.

As for whether Christians are saved merely by having faith, as opposed to also doing God’s will in this life, there is Revelation 20:12

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.

Perhaps the whole business about ignoring the Law, and, for some Christians, ignoring their actions, is Paul’s fault. After all, wasn’t it Paul who made it easy for pagans to sign up?

Right; Paul did all that. But he also made it crystal clear what is expected of those who would call themselves disciples of Christ. And it’s every bit as hard as anything in the Law, and, wonder of wonders, is wholly consistent with the moral underpinnings of Torah.

“Wonder of wonders” is sarcasm, of course. Paul was brought up under the Law, and this is what he knew. When God stirred Paul’s heart on the road to Damascus, and those scales fell from his eyes, it was then that Paul could know that Jesus was the Christ, the fulfillment of messianic prophecy.

Jesus is the Messiah, but not at all a negation of what God had also told us about what He expected of us. Rather, its fulfillment.


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