Introduction: The purpose of this article is to look at the foundational truths of our faith in regard to Jews and Gentiles as ‘being one’ in calling, being saved and our standing before the God of Israel.
Here perhaps is the first truth – God is known as the God of Israel (the Jewish people), He is the God of Abraham (the first Jew), Isaac and Jacob. All His ‘Covenants’ are towards Israel including the New Covenant, which in context is towards the House of Judah and the House of Israel. (This one promise of Jeremiah 31:31 does away with ‘replacement theology’ even before its exponents try to defend it!).
Proposition: As always our answers lie within the pages of the Holy Bible. It is the Scriptures and the Scriptures alone that we must look to for guidance. It is our hope that a biblical look at this subject will clear up misunderstandings between individuals be they Jew or Gentile. What we shall do is search the Scriptures together to find all the jigsaw pieces to build and give us the full picture.
Teaching: What is in a name? Much when we return to the grammatical and historical context!
Was Jesus a Jew? Of course He was and He wasn’t called Jesus! He was called Y’shua. Luke 1:31. The name means more than just salvation or saviour, it means He will save His people. Matthew 1:21. But there is nothing wrong in using His English equivalent or any other – God has honoured His name.
But we must see and accept that God sent a Jew to the Jews, that is why Pilate entitled Him, King of the Jews – John 19:19. It may come as a bit of a shock but things haven’t changed, He is still that! However, He is also Lord of the Nations because one day they will all bow the knee to Him.
What of the Gentile Nations then? Quite simply many are to be grafted in!
Now begin the problems of culture, with regard to language and customs etc. Sha’ul gives an apostolic (foundational truth – see Ephesians 2:20) warning to the Gentile Believers in Romans 11:18 – "do not boast against the branches…."
As the Gentiles pour in we see an outnumbering and a taking over. The first 15 elders/bishops of Jerusalem were Jewish believers, but then in time a ‘false Church’ grew up and the Popes took over. This is not to say that Gentile believers could not come into leadership, but to completely take over was a mistake. Suddenly all sorts of new names, and teachings have become our ‘ecclesiastical traditions’ that plague the ‘true Church’ to this day. It took the Reformation Period to get back to our ‘foundational truths of the faith’ and a correct understanding towards unsaved Israel. We need look no further than the teachers of Rome for amillennial theology and anti-semitism. Paul the Jew sent by the King of the Jews to teach the Gentiles being ‘grafted in’ writes of keeping the traditions I have taught you. Not those of men since then.
Do we have a Jewish or a Gentile Church?
We have both but the foundations are Jewish, from Adonai Y’shua and through His Jewish Apostles. Our Lord said, "salvation is of the Jews." John 4:22.
When Y’shua spoke to Sha’ul on the Damascus Road it was in Hebrew – see Acts 26:14. He could have spoken to him in Greek, the Gentile international language of the day, as both Jesus and Paul knew and spoke it.
Today we use the international language of the world – English and in doing so try to push certain names onto Jewish believers and insist on their usage, and yet they are the natural branches!
Paul writes of becoming a Jew unto the Jews -1 Cor 9:20 that he may win them for the Messiah. We need to stop and think for a moment. Jewish evangelism is not at all easy! Since the Messianic Movement started in the 1960’s we have been trying to do away with 1900 years of anti-semitism! This takes love, patience, showing friendship and then educating so that substitute words do not cause offence. We are not to cause our brother to stumble in anyway or over anything. Romans 14:13.
Let us now look at 3 names – CHRIST, CHRISTIAN and CHURCH.
CHRIST. This is clearly the name used by most in referring to our Messiah. It is derived from the Greek word Christos, meaning the anointed one, which is what Messiah means in Hebrew. The Hebrew name then is Moshiach and in Jewish outreach it must certainly be used along with Messiah as Christ will offend and create a barrier immediately. Again let us stop and think, for at least 1600 years the Jewish people have suffered insult and have been hounded in the name of Christ. How would you like to be called a Christ killer as a young Jew growing up. Childhood hurts are the hardest for all pastors to deal with, let alone evangelists! Sense and sensibility needs to be seen and used. Now to
CHRISTIAN. The believers were first called Christians at Antioch – Acts 11:26. This was a Gentile city and the name was being used in a derogatory way. The unsaved were saying they were followers of the Christ. Theologically then it would be correct to say that is what Jewish and Gentile believers are, followers of the Messiah. Notice the name shift from Christ to Messiah. Why should we always have to follow the Greek influence on our Faith, when it comes from a Hebraic Root System. We are grafted into a Jewish Olive Tree whose chief tap root was a Jew (Y’shua) and whose root system was Jewish (Avraham, Yitzak ve Yacov) and whose branches were Jewish – Acts 4:32-37; 6:7; 21:20.
There were and still are several names for us before the name Christian – Acts 11:26 came along. Believers – Acts 5:14. Saints – Acts 9:13. Brethren – Acts 6:3. Disciples – Acts 9:1.
Today we have believers called Messianic. They believe in their Messiah and ‘His Messianic Age or Rule for 1,000 years’. So once again it would be theologically correct to call all believers Messianic.
We should not split hairs or fall out over terms such as Hebrew/Messianic Believer. Messianic Jew. Fulfilled Jew. Hebrew Christian or Jewish Christian etc. It would be the reverse of Galatians 2:14.
Again let me ask you to stop and think. Let us say you are a Jew who goes home and announces, "I have become a Christian!" The Hebrew root meaning of the word ‘convert’ means you have just cast away your family, culture etc. etc. We can all imagine the wailing that would be going on!!! Add to this the religious problems and hey, welcome to tribulation and have a blessed and good day in Christ!
CHURCH. Imagine my surprise when I picked up a theological book and found out that the word Church is not found in the Greek manuscripts. Our scholars have formed the word from two words meaning Lord’s House. So our Lord Jesus promised to build the Lord’s House.
I have personally always found the words Church and Synagogue to be rather cold names giving thoughts of a building. The name Fellowship seems to denote something more personal and warmer and more in keeping with ‘living stones being built together’ -1 Peter 2:5 and Ephesians 2:21.
It is within chapter 2 of the Ephesian Epistle or Letter that Sha’ul gives us (the called out ones – Greek word ecclesia) our name, ‘The Commonwealth of Israel’. For all eternity we shall be known as the Israel of God – Galatians 6:16. No where in The Book of Revelation do I see the name Church used within the eternal order of things. No where do I find Rome or any other Gentile City name being used. But yes, we do find the New Jerusalem coming down out of the sky, our new home – Revelation 21:2. She is our mother in heaven – Galatians 4:26. Not, I hasten to add Mary!
Conclusion: The Corinthian letter tells us we all look through the glass dimly. 1 Cor 13:12. Illumination of the Holy Scriptures is a process of time and study with the Holy Spirit. We seem to go ‘beyond what is written’ – 1 Cor 4:6.
Once we lose sight of our root system (Romans 11:15-18 and verse 25) along with the ‘one new man’ principle of Ephesians 2:14-18 we are off the narrow path of truth and sadly into our own thinking! We are to love one another, bear with one another and uphold one another in the One Faith. Amen.
Date : 30/11/-0001