In the context of “legalism” as in abiding by the letter of the Law, the Old Testament Jews did not want to break the law, but more specifically the “thou shalt not kill” commandment, (Exodus 20:13 and Deuteronomy 5:17), even though the high priest and others desired to kill Jesus.
Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. John 11:47-53.
By his authority in representation of the entire Jewish nation as a people in observance of the letter of the Law so as not to break it, the High Priest named Caiaphas solicited the assistance of the Romans (non-Jews) to kill Jesus. At the request of Caiaphas, again, on behalf of the other priests and the entire Jewish nation, the Romans crucified Jesus even though they found no fault in Him. See John Chapter 19 and Luke Chapter 23. Most likely many of the Jews had disagreed with Caiaphas and his leadership on this issue, and/or his subsequent actions enlisting the Romans to kill Jesus. However, all Jews were lawfully bound by Caiaphas’s decisions. He was their Chiefest of priests. His decisions were binding on the entire nation of people to whom the Law was given.
Because the Romans did the killing, the Jews did not break the letter of the Law, but they did violate the spirit of it–God’s will! Simply stated, when God said, “Thou shalt not kill”, He did not mean it was okay to have others kill for you. By their actions, the Jews rendered their own Law moot as being disconnected from the will of God, and yet God by His own mercy brought us a better way–the New Covenant for all mankind. Moreover, similar to the penalty on all mankind as a result of the transgression of the first man, the sacrificial death of Jesus benefits all of mankind providing man acknowledges this great gift of grace. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Romans 5:15-17. More simply, grace itself as a gift came (was given) to mankind by Jesus the Christ! For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. John 1:17.
Technically and legalistically speaking, by operation of the letter of the Law given to the Jews and by their enlistment of the non-Jews (Romans) to do their (Jews) killing, the non-Jews were now in a position of legal privity with the nation of Israel. For us to better understand how this “holy and legal privity” came about, we need a closer look at how the flesh of Jesus could be a suitable blood sacrifice for the sins of mankind in complete satisfaction of the Old Covenant (Testament) atonement sacrifice.
Because the Jews disobeyed the will of God and by operation of their own Law, they separated themselves from the spirit of His Word (i.e., the will of God). They were also disconnected from His will in the context of the underlying promise of salvation. Recall, with respect to the first man’s sin, God’s Word was literal, but man disobeyed His Word in unbelief and rejected His will. Under the Old Covenant, the Jews believed His Word, albeit legalistically, and ignored His will while believing His Word. What then happened? They were “cut-off” and lost their salvation. The Bible describes the cutting off of the Jews in the context of an “olive tree”.
Under the Old Covenant during Old Testament times, the entire nation of Israel was referred to as the sacred “olive tree” with each Jewish person a branch thereof. As every person is an individual branch of the olive tree, they are broken off. Meanwhile, the nation of the Gentiles (non-Jews) was referred to as a “wild olive tree” with each person being a branch thereof. The branches of the wild olive tree (non-Jews) were being grafted into the sacred olive tree by their faith in Christ Jesus and the New Covenant.
For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: Romans 11:15-20. (Emphasis added).
Accordingly, under the New Covenant of faith, each person must account for himself or herself individually. When the Old Testament Jews rejected Christ and the New Covenant, they became believers of a law for salvation unto themselves just as the Gentiles were under the old covenant. As the branches that were “broken off,” i.e., those who reject Christ and the New Covenant as the only way to salvation for ALL mankind, they are the people whose names are blotted out of the book of Life (Revelation 3:5). But note, just as some of the original olive branches were “broken off” because of unbelief of the pure Word, so too can anyone grafted in (non-Jews) if they stop believing the pure Word.
For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. Romans 11:21-25 (Emphasis added).
Anyone broken off at any time loses their salvation in unbelief of the pure Word, and their name is blotted out of the Book of Life as per the Word. Stated another way, a loss of salvation is by the Word even if people don’t believe it. Many, many, self-professing believers mess up today when they look to the Word in the Bible for the “do not” aspects of it to guide their lifestyle decisions. When they do not find a prohibition against their desired conduct, they automatically impute their will on God even though the spirit of His Word–the will of God itself, prohibits their conduct.
At this point we begin to appreciate the better ministry of reconciliation with God and man’s renewed need for repentance. By the unique perfection of the blood shed “atonement death” sacrifice of His body according to the will of God, AND in satisfaction of the letter of the Law of the Jews, Jesus was and is the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant of works through the sacrifice of His own flesh. The fleshly works to earn salvation as the premise for that old promise literally and figuratively expired with the body of Jesus. The Old Covenant (Old Testament) means for salvation was rendered moot by the death of Jesus, however, the Law is still good as God’s Word, and by it we may identify sin today if we apply the Ten Commandments to man’s conduct. With the Old Covenant (Testament) fulfilled, we need that which gives Him life after death!
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