Are you grace-based?

Are you a Ben Shapiro fan or a Ben Shapiro despiser? If you haven’t heard of him, you will.

Mr. Shapiro is an outspoken political conservative, but he was also an early voice in the Never Trump movement. He is a Harvard Law grad, former Breitbart News editor, and now edits The Daily Wire. His brilliant mind and sharp social and political commentary make him a high-demand speaker, but he arouses such left-wing loathing and sometimes violent antagonism that a recent speaking gig at UC Berkeley cost the university $600,000 in security services. Seriously!

He is also an Orthodox Jew. In a recent interview in WORLD magazine, he gave interviewer Sophia Lee his take on two central differences between Judaism and Christianity: “My own view of Jesus, as is Judaism’s, is that God does not take human form. . . . It makes more sense to me that you take responsibility for your own sins, as opposed to Jesus’ dying for your sins. In Judaism you’re constantly atoning for your own sins. I’m works-based; Christianity is largely grace-based.”

On one hand I resonate somewhat with his point of view. Christians who are careless with their day-to-day lives, rationalizing their bad behaviors that “all is forgiven in the end,” are deluding themselves with what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.” The apostle James reminds us that such “faith” without works is dead (2:14-26). On the other hand, this bright young lawyer is not paying attention to his religion’s own Scriptures. The Jewish prophet Isaiah predicted how the virgin’s Son would be Immanu-el, “God with us” (7:14). He would be a “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God” (9:6). God did indeed take human form.

Mr. Shapiro also does not give enough attention to the central teaching of the worship life of Israel: the sacrifices of animal victims as substitutes for guilty people. Nowhere do the Hebrew Scriptures teach that people must perform their own atonement before God. The blood of the covenant (Exodus 24:8) comes from the slain substitutes, not from the people themselves. Those animals were all placeholders until the blood of the Lamb, God in human form, was shed.

Christians owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Jews, for our faith in our Jewish Savior was proclaimed and written by Jewish apostles. Our most loving response will be to help our Jewish friends to hear and believe the testimony to Christ in their own Scriptures. This was St. Paul’s aching prayer: “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:1-4).

Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of several books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.

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