Who is the Messiah, and why does it matter?
This is something that has been on my heart for a while is because it dictates every aspect of our existence. Our interpretation of this pivotal point effects everything. It impacts how we understand and respond to the Gospel. It influences our priorities and how we set our goals. It changes our perspective towards the Word. It directs our attitude in regards to obedience. It directs our steps, day to day, in our pursuit, or lack of pursuit, of the Father, himself.
The Messiah is about grace and freedom.
The Messiah is about blessing the nations.
The Messiah is about eternal salvation.
Yes. But, so much more. Covenants, righteousness, relationships, the Kingdom, good fruit and, ultimately, the Father. Accepting the gracious gift of salvation is merely the beginning for faithful believers. This is where true and abundant life is born.
It saddens me to witness the Messiah being preached as merely the way to eternal salvation. Don’t misinterpret me, that is nothing insignificant. But the issue is that this narrow view of the Messiah leads us to believe that nothing else matters after our salvation. We believe that when we have faith and are saved, our actions, or lack of action, won’t be counted against us. In living this way there is no reason to earnestly seek God’s ways. We do not work out our salvation with fear and trembling, because we don’t feel the need. If we are saved, and our sin will not ultimately impact our standing in eternity, we have little motivation to impart any effort into obedience.
And beyond that, it is a common sentiment among Christians that any requirement, or even insinuation that a believer should do something, is an attempt to earn salvation through personal righteousness. This is greatly frowned upon. The necessity of obedience defies grace, we are taught. Especially when it is obedience to the Law of God, specifically as He instructed to His covenant people.
How completely absurd! The Father of Lies had trapped us in a web of lawlessness by our own choosing, because we have upheld grace as more important than the pursuit of our Holy God.
But our life is not about escaping hell. Our purpose is not just to receive redemption and wait patiently for our future glory. Our life is about our relationship with the Father. It is about drawing near to Him, walking daily with Him. Not just by reading the Word and being thankful for grace, but living with power! And the Messiah has shown us the way to the Father, though the example of his life and through the sacrifice of his death. Both now and forever.
I first want to share in very simple terms what I have come to understand about the Messiah, Yeshua.
In the very beginning, man walked with God. They communed. I can’t even imagine. Wandering through Eden with the King of the Universe, heart to heart, without any separation. All relationships were right, between man and God and between man and woman. It was good!
Enter, sin. The immediate separation brought fear, shame, the curse of death and a continued pursuit of sin. From that point God set in place a plan to conquer the curse and begin the process of drawing man back into communion with himself. He wanted man to once again walk with him, heart to heart, without separation.
So, the Seed was promised. This Seed of man would crush sin for all time, and in doing so restore the relationship between God and man. The wait began. Man began seeking, searching, and hoping for the One who would set man free from this curse of death. As the generations passed, they all died. One after another. Where was this Seed, this descendant, the Savior?
But God had a very specific plan of salvation that reached far beyond the realm of comprehension of man. Not only was God going to restore man’s relationship with him, but He would create a Kingdom where the faithful would live with him for eternity. God had planned from the beginning to send himself, in the flesh, in the form of a baby named Yeshua.
Yeshua is God in the flesh. He is fully God, while being born of woman. He is an Israelite, a Jew. He, in his life and his teaching, is the perfect example of a righteousness. This means that he wholly walked out the law and instructions given by God. Yeshua is the Seed that was promised, the Messiah, who came to crush sin and death. He also came so that the faithful of the nations would have access to the covenant promises.
By the time the Yeshua, of Nazareth, came onto the scene Israel had been chosen as the covenant people of God. God had promised that the Seed would come from this people. God had given very specific instructions to his people to enable them to be in communion with him. This was not sufficient to fully restore the relationship, because the curse had not yet been destroyed. In addition, after thousands of years of human interpretation, the leaders of Israel had put up barriers and laws preventing gentiles from partaking in the covenant.
God had promised that Israel would be a people through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Up until this point, largely, that was not the case. This covenant, that in part promised salvation to the people of Israel, could not be accessed by gentiles unless they converted to Judaism. There were some aspects of life that they could participate in, but the gentiles were not full heirs. They did not have the status of “son” or “daughter” in the family of God. Yeshua, changed that.
Yeshua did this not by annulling the covenant, but by correctly interpreting the terms. He spent much of his time showing what was truly meant by the law. He often used the phrase, “you have heard it said…” and then follows the instruction with “by I tell you…”. Yeshua was not giving a diffrerent set of instructions but a perfect way of interpreting them. He tore down the dividing wall of hostility, that was built by the law of man, so that Jew and gentile could both stand before the Father, as one family of faithful believers.
Yeshua’s purpose was this: to defeat sin and death for eternity, to reinterpret cultural understandings of the Word in order to usher in the inclusion of faithful gentiles into the covenant promises, and to walk perfectly in accordance to the law as an example for his followers.
All of this leads to one overarching goal, that I think we often forget. Yeshua’s purpose in our salvation is that we may draw near to God. That once again we may walk with Him, heart to heart. God sent the Messiah, not just so we have access to eternal life with him, but so that we can walk with him now.
So, now, how does this understanding of the Messiah’s purpose impact our view of the Gospel?
The Gospel is not just about one of the aspects of the Messiah’s work but about all of it. He came to save his people eternally. But he also came to bring abundant life. For the first time we have the perfect example of how to walk in relationship with the Father. We see how the law was meant to be walked out. And, as gentiles, we are given the blessing of being included in the covenant as full members.
The Gospel is not just about grace. That is what is being preached; the gospel of grace, where there is no need for the Law, and no need for the righteousness previously outlined by God. It is taught that the new law of grace has come. However, grace is not the gospel. The full work of the Messiah is the Gospel, and he points us back into a righteous relationship with the Father.
The Gospel is that the Promise, the Messiah, has finally come. The Seed has crushed sin and death for eternity. He has brought the full and true interpretation of the Law, which includes the blessing of the Gentiles from among the nations. All true sons of Abraham are united under the Messiah, now in one family with one Father. Through the Messiah our failing attempts to walk rightly with God are covered. As we pursue the Father and walk in his ways, we are no longer penalized for our inadequacy. All faithful followers are given the power of God’s Spirit to desire His ways and the power to do it just as promised. This is the good news.
In light of all that the Messiah has done for those called by his name, we can reject the truth or respond rightly.
We can live in the power and truth of the whole Gospel. We can confidently walk after Yeshua, the Messiah, imitating his life and following his interpretation of the Word of God. We can passionately love the whole Law because it leads to life and is applicable to every aspect of our lives. We can persevere in faithful obedience to the commands of the Father because through them we learn of the heart of God. We can boldly take hold of all the promises of the covenant because we are now adopted into the family of Israel, as full sons and daughters.
Our understanding of the Messiah and his purpose directly impacts so many areas of our lives.
Understanding of the Gospel:
- Do we see the Gospel as merely an outpouring of grace and proclamation of freedom from the Law, where eternal salvation is of utmost importance?
- Do we view the Gospel as the provision of grace that enables us to live lives passionately following after the Law, where God, himself, and His ways are of utmost importance?
- Is the point of accepting the grace of the saving work of the Messiah our highest goal?
- Is our goal to persevere in righteousness according to God’s ways so that we can walk heart to heart with Him?
Perspective Towards the Word:
- Do we see the Word as something old and outdated, for a different era and different people, something that the Messiah canceled?
- Is the Word our instruction from the Father, that reflects the Promised Messiah, and enables us to be drawn into relationship with Himself?
Attitude About Obedience:
- Do we obey by “loving”, in whatever way we interpret that to be, while refusing to walk in the commandments because we have been saved by grace?
- Do we desire to walk in the ways of God because he instructed them to be the way of life for his people, for all generations, not as a means of salvation, but out of loving obedience?
Pursuit of the Father:
- Does our pursuit of God all but end when we have attained salvation because we believe that is the ultimate goal of the Messiah?
- Do we continually pursue God through obedience, because it is through following His ways we grow in our knowledge and love for Him?
The Messiah is much more than grace. His goal is more than freedom from condemnation. Yeshua, the Messiah came as the Promise to make possible the way. He defeated the curse, not just for the eternal ramifications, but so that we can confidently live our lives in the greatest pursuit there is, dwelling in the presence of our God. Grace should not stop us from passionately pursuing obedience to the commandments, but grace makes it possible.