|On the Relations between Judaism and Christianity|
|Written by Belgian Protestant Council for the Relations between Judaism and Christianity|
|January 01, 1968|
[The Belgian Protestant Council for the Relations between Judaism and Christianity is a commission of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Belgium.]
When we study the mystery of the church, it becomes evident that the church as community of the disciples of Jesus Christ is intimately linked to the Jewish people who are of Abraham's stock.1 The church confesses that all those who have faith in Christ are Abraham's sons by faith. In fact, the apostle Paul teaches that those previously separated from Israel by the Torah have obtained full citizenship through Christ (Eph 2:12-13). They have been incorporated with the people of God and have become co-citizens with the saints and members of the family of God (Eph 2:19-20).2 Therefore, both are now heirs to the promise, the sons who received the Torah3 and those who received the faith of Abraham, who for that reason may be called the father of both.4 That is how the church, linked to Israel, has become a part of the single people of God.
God namely has chosen the people Israel from among all the nations of the earth, that it may be to Him a precious people (Deut 7:6; 10:15; 14:2; 1 Kgs 3:8; Isa 41:8; 44:1; [49:7]; Ps 32:12; 134:4).
The church confesses that in Jesus Christ the Promise is fulfilled and that it must be realized in the world.5 The apostle Paul designates as remnant those Jews who came to believe in Jesus Christ and through whose mediation salvation is actually given to the nations, without however denying Israel the right to call itself Israel or, just as acceptably, to remain the unique people of God (Rom 9:27; 11:5), without transferring the name of Israel to the nations. In fact, God has not rejected his people; Israel remains the people of God, the Beloved (or those beloved) on account of the fathers (Rom 11:1, 28-29; 9:4-5).
There is only one people of God, the holy people of Israel. The "remnant" represents Israel; and so Israel in its totality continues to be the people of God, precisely because a remnant has converted.6 It is the part for the whole. We must not lose sight of the fact that in the word of God the meaning of the term "remnant" is more nuanced than Christian theology often teaches. It may also mean those who escaped catastrophes and wars as well as those who kept the faith; and in different periods it may be applied to still other groups.
Thus the apostle Paul applies the term to the Jewish disciples of Jesus of Nazareth.7 We ourselves can apply it to those who escaped the Nazi terror and to those who remained true to the faith of the fathers, as well as, with Paul, to those Jews who accepted faith in Jesus as the Messiah. In their own way, all of these represent Israel and manifest the inviolable fidelity of God toward all of Israel.
Christians from among the gentiles may now consider themselves co-heirs in Christ, forming one single body with Israel and taking part in the promise through the Gospel (Eph 3:6), to constitute one single body with Israel, one people of God, just as there is only one God who is the father of all of us (Mal 2:10; 1 Cor 8:4-6). That means the church must give up all pretentiousness and recognize humbly and gratefully that, in conformity with hope in the promise according to which the gentiles will participate in salvation and in the glorification of God, she represents all those who in Christ and with Israel (the "remnant" in all its nuances) are the revelation of the one people of God.
The words "The kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit" (Matt 21:43) must never be interpreted in a heavy-handed and simplistic manner as if they expressed an historical law or an inevitable fate of the Jewish people. Rather, these words must be left in their parenetic and warning context, as a call to this unique people as a whole, that is, addressed also to the church as a part of the single people, and not exclusively to Jews.
Within this single people of God parenesis must function with a feeling of unity that is truly ecumenical; it must manifest itself in reciprocal responsibility: not only the church vis à vis Israel, and Israel vis à vis the church, but also the responsibility of the Christian who lives in the certainty of Jesus' messiahship9 vis à vis the Christian who, by his life or his theology, dishonors this messiahship. In its totality as this single people of God, the Jewish people and the church march together toward fulfillment, when God will be all in all (Rom 11:25; 1 Cor 15:28), and they must put into practice their joint responsibility to manifest the kingdom of God in the world.10
Neither in the scriptures nor in the apostolic writings11 is there a break between "old" and "new." "New" means the "accomplishment," "fulfillment," "flourishing," "actualization" of that which already is in existence. What is new is this: a single people of God, Israel and the church, begins to walk toward realization of the promises of the word of God (Torah, Prophets, Writings, Apostolic Writings) in regard to Israel and the nations.12
In sorrow, Christians must therefore repent of any hostility on their part, of any enmity between Christians and Jews, between the church and Israel. By his death on the cross, Christ wanted to bring to an end the hostility between Israel and the nations, between Jews and non-Jews (Eph 2:14-16). That is why the church must imitate her Lord, must begin her battle against such enmity, and do all she can to reveal the authentic links between the church and Israel. Only in this way can Jews really understand the meaning of the words, "Christ is our peace and has made the two into one" (Eph 2:14). That indicates the church's full solidarity with Israel. The church confesses with all her heart that the deliverance of the people of God from slavery in Egypt is fulfilled in the redemption by the Messiah on the cross.13 The church must therefore put into practice this confession of faith by condemning and actually fighting any kind of persecution, oppression and violence. This will be not only in respect to Israel but also in regard to any other group, community or nation – all antisemitism inside or outside the church – by defending the peace with and for Israel, and for the world. In this way the link between the church and Israel will have ecumenical character and will manifest itself in the joint study of God's revelations and in true communion between Jews and Christians, with charity and understanding.