|True Believer (1)
by Skip Moen, D. Phil.The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. Acts 3:13 NASB
The God of – What God do you serve? Perhaps this is really the most important question of all. Don’t be too quick to answer. Consider the antiquity of Peter’s declaration before you jump to respond. Peter claims that Yeshua is the servant of “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” If you do the research, you will find the same connection with Moses (Exodus 3:6) and with Yeshua Himself (Matthew 22:32). Of course, you will also discover the same identification in the prophets and the writings. The God of the Way is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
But what does this mean? Does it simply mean that there is a commonname? Does it mean that all those who claim to follow YHWH are followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Would Catholics and Protestants claims to be followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob like Jews who make this claim? Ah, but now you see that it isn’t quite so clean. Jews claim to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When they make this claim, they are saying that the God who revealed Himself to these patriarchs is the same God that they worship. How do we know this? Because they live according to the instructions given by this God to His servant Moses. Since Hebrew thought focuses on actions rather than words, to be a follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob means to do what Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did. And for Jews, this means to express their faith in the way that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob instructed them to do so through His servant Moses (who, by the way, served the same God).
This raises an interesting question. Yeshua claims to serve the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Peter claims that Yeshua did so. Peter claims to serve the same God (as does Paul). In Jewish thought, this means that these men act according to the revelation that this God gave to Moses. The chain is unbroken. They do not claim to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob because they know His name. Knowing what to call Him means nothing unless you do what He says. The identification is determined by practice, not documents or doctrines. If the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob names you as His child, then He is your authority and you do what He says. That’s how I know I follow Him.
But something very odd happened after the first century. When Christianity speaks about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it doesn’t mean following the same unbroken chain. It claims that because of Yeshua’s death, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not the same God who revealed Himself to Moses or to the patriarchs. Oh, the name is the same, but everything about the practice is different. In other words, the definition of the term has changed. Now the concept of identification through action has changed to identification through declaration. I serve the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob because I say so, regardless of whether my behavior is aligned with His revelation through the prophets. In fact, if I actually follow what the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob said to the patriarchs and the prophets, I am not a true believer according to Christianity. I am a legalist, an incomplete Jew, a heretic. A true believer is one who recognizes that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob isn’t the old God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is now a God that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob might not even recognize. He is now the God of the Church.
Running to the Scriptures to resolve this odd conclusion will not help much. The reason it won’t help is because the issue isn’t about the text. It is about the paradigm that converts action into declaration. It is about the difference between definition in behavior versus definition in statement. The Scriptures can be made to fit either point of view. The question really is about what the author meant by the terms he used. So, let’s go back to Peter. When Peter said that Yeshua is the servant of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, what do you think he meant? Did he mean that Yeshua identified this God according to His name, or did he mean that Yeshua followed the same revelation given by this God to the patriarchs? Was Yeshua a card-carrying member of the Church, or was He a follower of Jewish practices? It seems rather obvious when we put it like this. He practiced the faith of the Fathers. So did Peter.
So when did these men change their minds and decide that they could serve the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but not do what this God asked of their ancestors? In other words, who is a true believer, the one who claims the name but ignores the actions or the one who acts according to the revelation but doesn’t claim the name of “Jesus”?
There’s a bit more to this. Tomorrow.