There are many people who believe that “believing in Jesus [Heb. Yeshua] makes one ‘a Christian,'” and for many centuries, that was the only available alternative given. However, things did not begin that way, nor are they that way today. When the “New Testament” was being written, there was only one religion, and that was Second Temple Judaism. In this religion, there were many sects or groups, and the disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) called themselves “The Way” (probably short for “The Way of the LORD” (or in Hebrew HaDerekh Adonai), or others called them “Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5), no relation to the modern-day Christian denomination. Today, you can believe in Yeshua (Jesus) and instead of being “a Christian,” there are other options available to you. For example, you could be “a Messianic,” “a Natzarim,” “a Rabbinic Jew,” or “a Christian.” There are those who claim to be in one of these four groups, and yet they also believe in Yeshua (Jesus). However, mainstream Christians will tell you that “believing in Jesus makes you a Christian,” just as mainstream Rabbinic Jews will tell you that “you cannot be a Jew and believe in Yeshua (Jesus).” Neither position is true anymore. So if believing in Yeshua (Jesus) does not necessarily make one “a Christian,” then what does? I would say that if you believe in the following beliefs, then these beliefs are what places you securely within the “Christian” camp.
The New Testament Supersedes the Old
If you believe that the Bible has been divided into two parts – “Old Testament” and “New Testament” – and you believe that the “New Testament” has “superseded,” “annulled,” or even “replaced” the “Old Testament,” then this means that you are a Christian. When I am speaking to people that claim to be “Christian,” this is the one consistency that I have found. If I mention something from the Hebrew Scriptures, they’ll say, “Oh, that’s ‘Old Testament,’ we’re not under that anymore.” In opposition to this, I don’t believe that the Bible should ever be divided up to where we believe that any part of it has “superseded,” “annulled,” “set aside,” or “replaced” any other part of it. Instead, I believe that what has been called the “New Testament” is God further defining, developing, and elaborating upon the prophecies of the “new covenant” seen, for example, in Jeremiah 31:31-34. Therefore, we should believe in one continuous revelation from God that was written for all people for all time. Thus, the “new covenant” should be seen as another part of the Hebrew Scriptures, or even as a companion text to it, but not as one that “supersedes” or “replaces” the first part of the Bible.
The Law Does Not Apply
Another characteristic of “a Christian” is that they do not believe that the commandments given to Mosheh (Moses) on Mt. Sinai (called the Torah) applies to them. Now I know that there are a few denominations that believe that some aspects of the Torah, such as the “Ten Commandments” (Baptists), or even “Sabbath Keeping” (such as Seventh Day Adventists), but these are the minority in comparison to those Christians who believe that “the Law” (Heb. Torah) ended at the cross; therefore, they believe that anyone who believes in keeping God’s “Law” is doing so is involved in “legalism” or “works righteousness.” On the other hand, I do not believe that the Crucifixion of Messiah had anything to do with “ending the Law of Moses;” instead, it opened the way for us to have a relationship with God; it addressed the promise that God made with Abraham; it dealt with “the law of sin and death;” and it provided the basis for the redemption and restoration of Israel. I do believe, however, that obedience to God’s Word, specifically His “Law” (or Torah), is how we show God we love Him by obeying His Word, just as He says in His word – the Bible – a number of times – “If you love Me, keep My commandments”
Sunday Has Replaced Saturday Sabbath
A third characteristic of “a Christian” is that they believe that because Yeshua (Jesus) rose from the dead on the first day of the week (Sunday), then this means that “Sunday” has replaced Saturday as the “Sabbath.” As a result, this is the day that Christians view as their day of worship, except for the Seventh Day Adventists, who still worship on the biblical day of the 7th day, or “Saturday.” In contrast to this, I do not believe that Yeshua (Jesus) rose on the first day of the week to replace the 7th day Sabbath, rather He rose on the first day of the week in fulfillment of the biblical feast of First Fruits, which according to the Torah, is “the day after the Sabbath,” or “Sunday” (Leviticus 23:11). Therefore, did His resurrection on Sunday replace the 7th day Sabbath? No, it did not not. And instead of keeping the biblical feast of First Fruits, which His resurrection did fulfill (or “fill full of meaning”), Christians will argue that the day of worship should be Sunday because of “Jesus’ resurrection.”
There’s No Need to Keep the Biblical Feasts
Another characteristic of a Christian is also tied to the belief that Yeshua’s (Jesus’) death ended the Torah at His death, and that is that they do not keep the biblical feasts. They have replaced “God’s biblical feasts” – Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Weeks/Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles – with those of their own making: Christmas, Lent, and Easter, as well as adapted the cultural holidays as well. In contrast to this, I do not observe Christmas, Lent, or Easter, and I do observe the biblical feasts as laid out in the Torah.
There’s No Need to Keep the Biblical Dietary Restrictions
A final characteristic of someone being a Christian is that they do not believe that they need to follow any of the dietary restrictions, or “the Dietary Law,” set down in the Torah, but that they can eat whatever they want. As a result, we see the same sicknesses and health issues in the Christian church as we see in the rest of society. In contrast to this, I follow the dietary restrictions set down in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14: 3-20. Christians argue that following them is “legalism” and “bondage,” but then they claim that they can ignore the commandments of God and at the same time “obey God.” This is logically inconsistent.
In summary, then, I would say that believing that the following beliefs is what makes one “a Christian,” rather than a belief in Yeshua (Jesus)-
- The “New Testament” supersedes or “replaces” the “Old Testament”
- The Law does not apply
- Sunday has replaced Saturday Sabbath
- There’s no need to keep the Biblical feasts
- There’s no need to keep the Dietary Law
These five beliefs, I believe, is what indicates that one is a Christian and not just one’s belief in Yeshua (Jesus). Instead, there are many more options available today for one who believes in Yeshua (Jesus) than just “Christianity.” One can believe in Yeshua (Jesus) and be one of the following –
- A Messianic Believer
- A Natzarim
- A Rabbinic Jew
- A Christian
So yes, “a Christian” is one of the four options, but it is not the ONLY option, so let’s not “cookie cut” people by assuming that just because they say that they “believe in Yeshua (Jesus)” that this automatically makes them “a Christian.”