Unless I go away

“Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’  Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:5-19).

These words capture the essence of the Christian message and herein too lies the essential difference between Judaism and Christianity.

Christianity is about death and resurrection, mortality and immortality, flesh and Spirit. And it all rests upon our participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ through receiving the same Spirit who dwelt in him and who raised him from the dead.

The very term “Christian” (from Khristos the Greek translation of Messiah meaning anointed one), conveys the concept of those who belong to the Anointed One, (i.e. Messiah), and who are anointed with the same Spirit.

The essential difference between modern Judaism and Christianity is that the former depends on adherence in varying degrees to an external law given through Moses while the latter depends entirely on receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit who changes the person inwardly (1 Jn 2:20,27).

The difference too in the approach to sin, as expressed by the following authors, is instructive: “In Judaism, original sin is not a problem. The notion that we are born sinners is not a Jewish one. Each person is born innocent. He or she makes his or her own moral choice to sin or not to sin” (The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism by Dennis Prager & Joseph Telushkin, chapter 4: How Does Judaism Differ from Christianity p.84).

Evidently King David did not concur with this view of Judaism since he acknowledged that he was sinful from the very moment he was conceived: Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. …  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me (Psalm 51:5-6;11).

The Holy Spirit brings us under the conviction of sin. Under the Old Covenant only certain individuals were anointed with the Holy Spirit. When these men were filled with the Holy Spirit they were all the more conscious of their own sin and unworthiness.

King David, being an anointed one, and a forerunner and type of the coming Anointed One (Messiah), was, in that sense, a christian. But as the prophet Joel had revealed, a time was coming when the anointing would no longer be reserved for a few chosen ones but would be poured out on all flesh.

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.” (Joel 2:28-29)

But what would necessarily precede the outpouring of the promised Holy Spirit?

The Spirit had come uniquely before as the prophets, judges, priests and kings were anointed by God to speak concerning the coming of the Messiah. However, the Spirit of God would not contend with sinful mortal men forever. For the wages of sin is death…,

Jesus said, “Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you”.

The life-giving Spirit could not and would not come into this world to give life to mortal sinners unless the Messiah first died for their sins and was raised from the dead.

Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Holy One of Israel who alone was filled with the Spirit without limit. However, not even he was spared from death. If it pleased God according to his eternal purpose that he should die for the sins of the world, then what would make any person imagine that they should be spared from the death penalty for their own sins? …if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! (Galatians 2:21)

… but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

To participate in that eternal resurrection life the sinful nature must first be put to death. The Spirit was not given to give life to our sinful nature. On the contrary, the Spirit circumcises our sinful hearts, putting our old sinful nature to death and raises us to new life through our identification with Messiah’s atoning death on the cross.

In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead (Colossians 2:11-12).

Christians – those who belong to Christ who are anointed with the Holy Spirit – share in his eternal life because they have participated in his death, having been baptized in his name and having received the same Spirit who raised him from the dead. If their faith is genuine then they have died to the old and have been raised to new life so that they no longer live according to the old sinful nature.

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you (Romans 8:5-11).

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10-11).

The Spirit did not come in order that the death sentence for sin would be removed. Rabbinical Judaism may deny that all people are sinners by nature. However, all people are destined to die and the Spirit will not contend with mortal men who deny their sin and guilt which makes them deserving of death and condemnation.

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

The opposition of Rabbinical Judaism to Christianity represents the opposition of the flesh to the spirit. Stephen, one of the first Jewish disciples of Christ, rightly accused his fellow Jews of being the descendants of those who always persecuted the prophets and resisted the Holy Spirit!

“You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him– you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.” (Acts 7:51-53)

Jesus died, not so that sinners may escape death, but that we may no longer fear death as we know that through faith we already participate in the resurrection and new life through the Holy Spirit who has now come to us.

I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable… For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality (1 Corinthians 15:51,53).