POSTED 15 SEPTEMBER, 2016
“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.’ ‘THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS’ [Isaiah 59:20-21; Isaiah 27:9; Jeremiah 31:33-34]. From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
Romans 11:25-29 has an important salvation history trajectory to it: “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). No one in today’s broad Messianic movement denies that involved with this will be a significant salvation of the Jewish people in the Last Days, which we have already started to witness via the presence of the modern Messianic Jewish movement. In writing to the non-Jewish Believers in Rome, Paul urged them not to “be wise in your own conceits” (Romans 11:25, KJV). This is because Israel has been partially hardened, until a point in the future when “the fullness of the nations” has entered in. Much of what is to take place, he notably labels as a “mystery,” which might require some unconventional thinking.
In just reading through Romans 11:25-29, some key questions need to be considered, including:
- What have those of the nations “come in” to (Romans 11:25)?
- Who are “the fullness of the nations” (Romans 11:25)?
- What is supposed to take place (Romans 11:26-27)?
- What is the irrevocable calling (Romans 11:29)?
It is not difficult at all, to see how the Apostle Paul’s assertion in Romans 11:29, “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable,” has stirred some strong emotions among various leaders within Messianic Judaism. Obviously, the Apostle Paul believes that the Jewish people have a vocational calling placed upon them, which no matter what they might do, is something that has not only not been revoked or nullified—it will never, nor can ever, be revoked or nullified. Such a calling, I believe, is the foundational vocation upon Ancient Israel to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6), serving as representatives of Israel’s God to the world. There are many Messianic Jewish teachers and leaders, who would concur with this.
When the question is raised, however, whether or not non-Jewish Believers get to participate in this calling as well, via their Messiah faith (cf. 1 Peter 2:9-11)—and the need to express God’s grace and mercy to all unredeemed human beings—it is can then be asserted that such a calling is something that they decisively do not get extended to them. Here is a sampling of some thoughts, by some voices of note, within contemporary Messianic Judaism:
- Mark Kinzer (2005): “[T]he New Testament regards the Jewish people as recipients of a particular calling and as servants with a distinctive role and mission in the divine purpose. They are not elevated above Gentile Yeshua-believers, but they are distinguished from them. Whatever the distinctive calling, role, and mission of the Jewish people may be, it is not transmitted or absorbed by the multinational ekklesia as a whole.”
- Daniel C. Juster (2007): “The inclusion of Gentiles through the New Covenant does not invalidate Israel’s calling. However, it extends the priesthood and the meaning of being the people of God to those called from all nations. Those from the nations are grafted into a Jewish olive tree (Rom. 11:24)…[T]here are separate callings for Jews and Gentiles and these have both parallels and differences.”
- Boaz Michael (2013): “The prophets envisioned an eschatological scenario in which Gentiles, members of the nations, join together with Israel and worship the God of Israel together—yet retaining their distinctive roles. This prophetic vision requires both Jew and Gentile to apprehend and live out their unique role and calling….Messianic Gentiles must embrace their identity as believing members of the nations and not conflate their identity with that of the Jewish people.”
Of the three leaders quoted above, the most Biblical observations actually come from Juster. He is correct that the calling originally upon Israel is not revoked per a widescale Jewish rejection of Yeshua. He is also correct in how the power of the New Covenant “extends the priesthood and the meaning of being the people of God to those called from all nations.” Is this not what Bible readers encounter later in 1 Peter 2:9-11 when the titles of distinction and honor, regarding Ancient Israel, are applied equally to Jewish and non-Jewish Believers: “A CHOSEN RACE [Isaiah 43:20, LXX; Deuteronomy 7:6; 10:15], A royal PRIESTHOOD [Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 61:6], A HOLY NATION [Exodus 19:6], A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION [Isaiah 43:21, LXX; Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 4:20; 7:6; 14:2]”? Is this not an expansion of the original calling upon Ancient Israel to be a royal priesthood and holy nation, to the redeemed of the nations as well, as Jewish and non-Jewish Believers are actively serving the fallen world, so that all might turn in repentance to God? Surely, this should Biblically not be taken as a replacement of the Jewish people, but instead an expansion of the mission of God.
Unfortunately, due to various fears and phobias present in sectors of the modern Messianic Jewish movement, to suggest that a calling which can never be removed from the Jewish people, does get to be shared to some degree with non-Jewish Believers—or even that “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26) pertains to the culmination of the Messianic Kingdom, involving the fullness that the Jewish people will experience (Romans 11:12), and the Messiah’s return, and His reign over the entire Earth in the Millennium—one, such as myself, might actually get a label of “supersessionism” or “replacement theology” haphazardly slapped and thrown at himself.
Even with the vocational calling upon the Jewish people never at all to be revoked, we may consider how it would be necessary for non-Jewish Believers, as part of being “the fullness of the nations” (Romans 11:25), to accomplish this priestly calling (1 Peter 2:9-11) as vessels of mercy and grace to Jewish people who need Messiah Yeshua (Romans 11:31). Far from God transferring His gifts and calling to another, non-Jewish Believers being part of a kingdom of priests and holy nation, must employ such virtues precisely with the intent of seeing that those to whom they were originally given might be redeemed (Romans 11:11)! When accomplished properly as such “fullness,” this should then bring about the full restoration of Israel and the consummation of the age.
My approach to Romans 11:25-29 is examined in the following excerpt, from my book When Will the Messiah Return? (2012), in Chapter 5, “The Restoration of All Things and the Emergence of the Messianic Movement” (pp 115-136):
One of the most important passages of the New Testament, for generally all of today’s Messianic movement, is understandably Romans chs. 9-11. In this vignette, Paul expresses some of his deep anxiety and concern for his fellow Jews, who by this time in the mid-First Century, appear to be widely rejecting Yeshua as Savior. In communicating to the Roman Believers, whom he is preparing to visit, he emotes many of his concerns for the salvation of his countrymen, rightly recognizing how God is not at all finished with them—but also how the good news has been widely embraced by the nations for some special Divine purpose. Romans chs. 9-11 speak very salvation-historically, as Tanach passages from the history of Ancient Israel are appealed to. Within this absolutely “loaded” section of text, Paul states something very poignantly to the non-Jewish Believers in Rome, many of whom run the serious and absolutely deplorable and condemnable risk of gloating over the widescale Jewish non-acceptance of Yeshua. Paul warned them to be quite sober, careful, and aware of the negative potential of what many of them were thinking. While acknowledging that the redeemed of the nations have been grafted-in to the olive tree of Israel, the non-Jewish Believers were not to be arrogant or spiteful toward the Jewish people or the natural branches:
“I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?” (Romans 11:11-24).
The Apostle Paul asked the non-Jewish Believers in Rome a direct question about the then-present, widescale Jewish rejection of Messiah Yeshua: “If their tresspass means riches for the world, and their impoverishment means riches for the nations, how much more will their fullness mean!” (Kingdom New Testament). If the corporate rejection of the Jewish people to the Jewish Messiah results in the world coming to a saving knowledge of Him, posō mallon to plērōma autōn, “how much more their fullness” (TLV)? Here, the term plērōma is best taken to mean “that which is brought to fullness or completion” (BDAG), which when applied to human beings in the Pauline letters, generally regards ethical, moral, or spiritual maturity. When the time comes in history for the Jewish people to experience their fullness—a fullness that only the Messiah Himself can bring to them—one can only imagine the spiritual power and abilities which can be accessible for them! (And indeed today, when one encounters a Jewish Believer who has been truly changed by the Living Yeshua, the supernatural power present can be most awesome to witness.)
The ancient First Century challenge, which has widely persisted throughout the centuries, has been that far too many non-Jewish Believers have not recognized that too many of the natural branches of Israel’s olive tree have been broken off. Quite the opposite of the Apostle Paul from being absolutely mortified over his own Jewish people widely rejecting their Messiah—many Christians throughout the centuries have gloated over it, or have just been downright prideful and anti-Semitic. Far too many Christian people have just haphazardly dismissed Paul’s personal distress over the widescale rejection of Yeshua on the part of his own Jewish people: “For I would pray that I myself were cursed, banished from Messiah for the sake of my people—my own flesh and blood, who are Israelites” (Romans 9:3-4a, TLV).
While the calling of Israel to be a Kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Romans 11:29; cf. Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 42:6; 1 Peter 2:5, 9) is something that can be shared with the redeemed of the nations who are grafted-in—there is no justification for anyone to claim that it has been taken away from the Jewish people and totally given to someone else. If, in the event that Believers from the nations have to mainly accomplish the calling of being a light of God to the world at large, more than the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—such is a result of circumstance, and not at all something to be excited about. Yeshua Himself expressed the thought that even rocks could cry out, declaring of Him (Luke 19:40), meaning that redeemed human beings from the nations at large declaring of Him—as priests and a holy nation—can certainly take place.
Paul’s word of Romans 11:25-27, which he notably does label as a “mystery,” presents some questions to each of us, which have started to be seriously considered in our day:
“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB. THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS’” (cf. Isaiah 59:20-21; 27:9; Jeremiah 31:31-34).
The complete restoration of Israel, decisively seen in the word “all Israel will be saved”—and by this we can safely assume that this means what will result from the return of the Messiah—will not occur “until the fullness of the nations comes in” (Kingdom New Testament), achri ou to plērōma tōn ethnōn eiselthē.
What is this “fullness of the nations”? A wide variety of English Bibles, reflecting a Calvinistic interpretation of a specific number of people predestined to eternal salvation, communicate “the full number of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:25, RSV/NIV/NRSV/ESV/HCSB). However, if the immediate, previous usage of plērōma in Romans 11:12 is taken into consideration—regarding the spiritual fullness that the Jewish people are to have when they recognize Yeshua as the Messiah—then some kind of spiritual, ethical, and moral fullness (and likely also intellectual fullness) of those from the nations who have also acknowledged Him, can also be posited.
What has been one of the most difficult things for non-Jewish Believers, over many centuries, to really consider regarding their relationship with the Jewish people who have widely rejected the Messiah? Consider Paul’s word in Romans 11:30-31:
“For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.”
One of the statements, which should immediately jump out at us from the text, is not just how Believers from the nations have been shown mercy—widely because of a Jewish rejection of the Messiah—but how “through your mercy they also may obtain mercy” (KJV). What if the “fullness of the nations” arriving on the scene of history does not involve some kind of predestined number of non-Jewish Believers coming to salvation, or some other proposed group of people—but instead a spiritually mature group of Believers from the nations who are grand vessels of mercy to the Jewish people? Consider how difficult it has been to see this manifested in human history. Holding to “the fullness of the nations” entering in, being a group of Believers of an excelsior spiritual, ethical, and moral variety—and thusly bringing about the full restoration of Israel’s Kingdom realm, consummate via the Messiah’s arrival—is probably the most difficult interpretation. And it is not difficult because it accounts for how plērōma appears in either Romans 11:12 or 11:25; it is difficult because it challenges all of today’s non-Jewish Believers to evaluate whether or not they are truly demonstrating the mercy of Yeshua the Messiah, and significant empathy and understanding, toward their Jewish brothers and sisters. This involves, on the part of today’s non-Jewish Believers, a great deal of effort, spiritual, intellectual, and philosophical reasoning to strive to understand the Jewish struggle throughout history—as opposed to some of the arrogant and obnoxious trends which have been witnessed in recent years.
Thankfully, via the emergence of today’s Messianic movement, and Jewish and non-Jewish Believers striving to put a complicated past widely behind themselves, many of the mistakes that Paul warned the Romans about are being solved. It is not an easy process to be sure, and various voices within our broad Messianic faith community have made some severe mistakes along the way—especially in being welcoming to all people—but progress is being steadily made. As it is made, we should be able to witness the completion of the Tanach or Old Testament prophecies which Paul made reference to in Romans 11:26-27 (cf. Isaiah 59:20-21; 27:9; Jeremiah 31:31-34), which when decompressed from their wider cotext, include the important words:
“‘A Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,’ declares the LORD. ‘As for Me, this is My covenant with them,’ says the LORD: ‘My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring’s offspring,’ says the LORD, ‘from now and forever” (Isaiah 59:20-21).
“Therefore through this Jacob’s iniquity will be forgiven; and this will be the full price of the pardoning of his sin: When he makes all the altar stones like pulverized chalk stones; when Asherim and incense altars will not stand. For the fortified city is isolated, a homestead forlorn and forsaken like the desert; there the calf will graze, and there it will lie down and feed on its branches. When its limbs are dry, they are broken off; women come and make a fire with them, for they are not a people of discernment, therefore their Maker will not have compassion on them. And their Creator will not be gracious to them. In that day the LORD will start His threshing from the flowing stream of the Euphrates to the brook of Egypt, and you will be gathered up one by one, O sons of Israel. It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD in the holy mountain at Jerusalem” (Isaiah 27:9-13).
“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. ‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more’” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
These are the specific prophecies referenced by the Apostle Paul, although there are surely other key, related oracles. Yet, we should most especially be able, when considering the above quotations, to understand the tenor of his doxology in Romans 11:33-36:
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR [Isaiah 40:13, LXX; Job 15:8; Jeremiah 23:18]? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN [Job 41:3]? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”
When the Messiah does finally return, and we can be informed directly from Him of all of the aspects of the mystery of which Paul spoke—then we will truly express our wonder at the great mind and purposes of our Eternal God. Until then, we can only continue to probe and inquire of what the Lord’s purposes actually are.
While there are aspects of Romans chs. 9-11 which will continue to evade or perplex many readers and examiners, being a part of the grand mystery of God widely withheld to mortals—and which will hopefully drive us to Him for understanding; there is one thing which is no great mystery to God’s people:
we need to each have salvation in Yeshua, be vessels of God’s grace and mercy to one another, and in so doing eagerly anticipate the Messiah’s return.
How do we learn how to do this? Much of it regards the difficulty of applying the thrust of Philippians 2:4 to our own personal lives: “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” In my own experience, a great burden of proof has been placed on not only today’s non-Jewish Believers who love Israel and the Jewish people—but specifically non-Jewish Messianic Believers, who are convicted that they are a part of the community of Israel along with their fellow Jewish Believers, yet might be experiencing some trials with them at present.
Speaking for myself and what I can do as a teacher, much can be solved by each of us seriously considering the tenor of Ephesians 5:21, “be subject to one another in the fear of Messiah,” as Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in today’s Messianic community learn to love and appreciate one another. For indeed, many of the contemporary challenges and growing pains we have encountered, have their decisive resolution in the Messiah’s own direction, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, TLV). Yet the most challenging to be sure, especially as it regards the anticipated end-times, is our Lord’s word: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). In spite of the many challenges and difficulties we have to overcome in the days in front of us—will we be willing and able to make the ultimate sacrifice for one another? I actually believe that many of us will care for one another, to the point that we will…
“[W]ho for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the [assemblies] of the Gentiles.”
Romans ch. 16, the closing greetings of Paul’s letter to the Roman Believers, is often overlooked by many readers, but it actually contains important demographic details about the composition of Paul’s Roman audience, as well as the composition of the First Century Body of Messiah. This can aid readers of the Epistle to the Romans a great deal, especially in terms of the Jewish Believers, Greek and Roman Believers, those from the higher or lower classes, and even those from different home fellowships which might be spoken to in his letter. There is a huge amount of debate over Romans 16:7 and the gender of the apostle named Iounias, which a wide, growing number of scholars will rightly admit is the female apostle named “Junia” (CJB/TLV).
One verse, which as to my knowledge is not widely emphasized in more academic Messianic discussions regarding bilateral ecclesiology—but which is referred to by a selection of Internet bloggers, and those who widely (and perhaps inappropriately) employ social media (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) to express their views—can be Romans 16:4. In this single salutation, the Apostle Paul makes a reference to “the churches of the Gentiles” (ESV). To various advocates of bilateral ecclesiology, mostly laypersons, “the congregations of the Gentiles” (The Messianic Writings) must be a separate grouping of Messiah followers, independent of other assemblies and fellowships of Jewish Believers.
What is interesting to be aware of, about the clause hai ekklēsiai tōn ethnōn, is how it is actually translated in two Messianic Jewish Bible versions of note. The Complete Jewish Bible has, “the Messianic communities among the Gentiles,” and the Tree of Life—The New Covenant has, “Messiah’s communities among the Gentiles.” Rather than translating the genitive (case indicating possession) tōn ethnōn as just “of the Gentiles/nations,” a preference toward “among the Gentiles/nations” is definitely seen.
There are a variety of potential types of genitives which tōn ethnōn could belong to, as classified by Daniel B. Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. These include: a genitive of material [made out of, consisting of], a genitive of content [full of, containing], a genitive of source (or origin) [out of, derived from, dependent on], a genitive of place/space [where or within which], a genitive of association [in association with], or perhaps a genitive of destination (a.k.a. direction) or purpose [destined for, toward].
In reviewing Wallace’s categories here, in my evaluation, the closest to be considered, allowing for tōn ethnōn to be translated as “among the Gentiles/nations,” would appear to be the genitive of association. As he defines it,
“The genitive substantive indicates the one with whom the noun to which it stands related is associated. This usage is somewhat common, but only in certain collocations.”
Wallace goes on to indicate how within a genitive of association, one should expect a rendering along the lines of: “For of supply with, or in association with.” One example that he lists, which should pique the attention of today’s Messianics, is Ephesians 2:19: “you are fellow citizens with the saints,” tōn hagiōn. If, as a genitive of association, tōn hagiōn were rendered as “among the saints,” the same intention would be conveyed: non-Jewish Believers get to be a part of the same community as Jewish Believers, the saints. However, in the case of tōn ethnōn being rendered as “among the Gentiles/nations” in the JNT/CJB and TLV, the intention of being “among” takes on a definite locational quality.
An important sentiment to be aware of, is probably witnessed in the book To The Ends Of The Earth: How the First Jewish Followers of Yeshua Transformed the Ancient World, by Messianic Jewish teacher Jeffrey L. Seif (2012). He makes the important conclusion,
“Paul is observed making his way around the Greco-Roman world, where he frequents synagogues and tells of the life and teachings of Yeshua. He advocates for a community of Jews and Gentiles together. He makes friends and enemies in the process.”
If a wide variety of today’s Messianic Jewish leaders and teachers, such as those who have participated in the Tree of Life, Messianic Jewish Family Bible Project (including Seif)—really wanted to emphasize bilateral ecclesiology and force it upon Messianic people—then why does a Bible version like the TLV have “Messiah’s communities among the Gentiles,” for Romans 16:4? Unlike the JNT/CJB by Stern, which is largely the product of a single expositor—the TLV has over fifteen different Messianic Jewish ministries and organizations on its board of reference! And, this does include those who (strongly) adhere to a bilateral ecclesiology of the Commonwealth of Israel being composed of the Jewish people/Messianic Jewish community and the Christian Church.
A rendering like that seen in the TLV, “Messiah’s communities among the Gentiles,” actually provides more support for mixed assemblies and fellowships of non-Jewish and Jewish Messiah followers, than two sub-communities of Messiah followers separated out. Taking tōn ethnōn to mean “among the nations,” of course, makes this being a locational setting, perhaps as a genitive of association, within the Mediterranean basin outside of the Land of Israel/Roman province of Judea.
1 Corinthians 10:1-11, 18
“For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Messiah. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY’ [Exodus 32:6]. Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come…Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?”
The Epistle of 1 Corinthians certainly presents many challenges to readers, particularly in terms of the composition of the epistle as likely the second, in a series of at least three, directed to the Corinthians (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:9), the factionalism in Corinth, the libertinism practiced by many, and generally a disregard for authority and acceptance of sin. Much of what Paul has to argue to the Corinthians in this letter, is done widely on the basis of logic alone, and whether their current course of action and behavior is at all profitable and constructive. In 1 Corinthians 10:1-11, a definite appeal is made to the example of Ancient Israel, and the incident of the golden calf, of an idolatrous event that should never be repeated by any succeeding generation of God’s people. So significant is this, that it cannot be ignored how tupikōs, in 1 Corinthians 10:11, is rendered by a version like the RSV as “warning.” It is not just enough to take instruction from Ancient Israel’s indiscretions; there are warnings in them to be strongly heeded.
No reader of 1 Corinthians denies that a significant part of the readership of this letter was non-Jewish, as Ancient Corinth was a metropolitan city of Greeks, Romans, and many Easterners. This afforded a community of Messiah followers in Corinth composing Jewish Believers, and likely those from Greek, Roman, and other backgrounds. Paul actually told this mixed audience of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:1). In referencing the Exodus generation, Paul could have spoken in terms of “those from ancient times,” “those in the wilderness” (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:5) or “at the mountain,” or even just the obvious, “my fathers.” But Paul does not do this. To a mixed Corinthian audience, he labels those of the Exodus generation hoi pateres hēmōn, or “our ancestors” (1 Corinthians 10:1, NRSV/TNIV). The reference to the Exodus generation as the ancestors of the Jewish and non-Jewish Corinthians—needing critical instruction—is something which surely plays some role in ecclesiology.
There is no comment in a resource such as Stern’s Jewish New Testament Commentary, per what “our fathers” (1 Corinthians 10:1, CJB) is to mean. Shira Lander, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament, simply identifies those in view as, “Ancestors, Israelites, the Corinthians’ spiritual forebears (Gal 3.7).”
Obviously, a majority of the people in the Corinthian assembly were not physical descendants of the Exodus generation. But, in referring to them as “our ancestors,” this was something that seemingly invited the non-Jewish Believers to tangibly view themselves, as though they had experienced the Exodus. If they were to learn lessons from the Exodus generation—not to be repeated—then what other lessons, from the same Exodus generation, were not to be repeated? And certainly to be considered, if Paul referred to the Corinthians’ “ancestors” as those of the Exodus generation, could he actually have perceived of the non-Jewish Believers being a part of some separate “Church” entity, as opposed to an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel, welcoming in those of the nations?
While there has not been too much Messianic discussion pertaining to the assertion of 1 Corinthians 10:1, that the Corinthians “ancestors” were those of the Exodus generation, the statements which have been made in some popular books are worth noting. A very early statement made in Grafted In by Lancaster (2009) says,
“At the beginning of 1 Corinthians 10, Paul referred to the generation of Israelites who followed Moses as the ‘forefathers’ of the Corinthian believers. To Paul, the Corinthians were part of Israel….Gentiles in Messiah must belong to a broader definition of Israel.”
Further on in Grafted In, Lancaster further specifies,
“As Paul wrote to the mixed multitude at Corinth (a congregation of Jewish and Gentile believers who were proving to be no less a headache for him than the exodus generation had been for Moses), he made a passing comment about this passage of Torah. He said, ‘I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were immersed into Moses in the cloud and in the sea’ (1 Corinthians 10:1).
“Paul refers to the generation that left Egypt as the ‘fathers’ of the Corinthian believers. He regards the Corinthian believers, both Jews and Gentiles, as children of Israel.”
Lancaster’s colleague, Toby Janicki, while noting what is stated in 1 Corinthians 10:1 about the mixed assembly in Corinth approaching the Exodus generation as their ancestors, describes how only a connection to Israel could make this possible for non-Jewish people. As he says in his book God-Fearers: Gentiles and the God of Israel (2012),
“If the nations were going to find a place at the table of God, it would have to be done within the context of the family of Israel….[W]hen addressing the mixed congregation in Corinth, [Paul] even refers to the Israelites that came out of Egypt as ‘our fathers’ (1 Corinthians 10:1). This indicates that the Patriarchs and the Exodus from Egypt have now become a part of the Gentile believer’s spiritual heritage.”
The conclusions, asserted by both Lancaster and Janicki, provided here, are consistent with my own. 1 Corinthians 10:1-11, while being used to chastise the behavior of the Corinthians, makes the claim that the Ancient Israelites of the Exodus are their “ancestors.” The best way that this is to be understood, is that both Jewish and non-Jewish Believers are, together, part of an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel, which welcomes in those from the nations who recognize Messiah Yeshua.
A further statement made by Paul, not to be overlooked, is in 1 Corinthians 10:18, where he asks his audience, “Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?” (NKJV). While commonly rendered as “the nation Israel” (NASU), ton Israēl kata sarka is more literally something like “Israel according to the flesh” (LITV), for First Century purposes, the known physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the Jewish people. To some readers, this might be something not too important, as it pertains to how the priests of Israel have a Torah right to eat a portion of the Temple sacrifices. In his book Grafted In (2009), though, Lancaster has taken the reference to “Israel according to flesh,” and makes what he calls a distinction between “legal Israel” and “Kingdom Israel”:
“…[W]hen writing to the Corinthians—a community composed of both Jewish and Gentile believers—he says, ‘Consider Israel-according-to-the-flesh. Are not those who eat from the sacrifices part of the fellowship of the altar?’ (1 Corinthians 10:18, my translation).
“In this verse, Paul refers to Israel as a group distinct from the Corinthian assembly. He speaks as if the Corinthians are on the outside of the group. He also adds a qualifier to the term Israel: he calls it ‘Israel-according-to-the-flesh.’
“In 1 Corinthians 10:18, Israel-according-to-the-flesh is composed of those individuals who may eat of the holy sacrifices. In Paul’s day, that group consisted only of those who were halachically (legally) Jewish. Paul was defining Israel-according-to-the-flesh as those who were born Jewish or who had undergone a legal conversion to Judaism: ‘both Jews and converts to Judaism’ [Acts 2:11].
“Why did Paul feel it necessary to add the qualifier ‘according to the flesh’ when describing those who were legally Jewish? Why not just say ‘Israel’?
“The qualifier must have been necessary because the Corinthians also had an identity in the generic term Israel. If there is an ‘Israel-according-to-the-flesh,’ there must be an ‘Israel-not-according-to-the-flesh.’ The not-according-to-the-flesh version would have been the believers, including the Corinthians.”
One does not have to totally agree with all of Lancaster’s reasoning, to recognize the Biblical reality of how ultimately, ton Israēl kata sarka or “Israel according to the flesh,” is not as important as those who constitute the Commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-13), Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), who are grafted-in as either wild or natural branches to Israel’s olive tree (Romans 11:16-24). Membership in a restored Kingdom of Israel, ruled by Messiah Yeshua, is imperative—and must come ultimately via a transformed heart. Membership in the Messianic Kingdom, while most imperatively intended for the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is also very much intended for the nations of the world as well.
“But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.”
Adherents to a bilateral ecclesiology of the Commonwealth of Israel composing the Jewish people/Messianic Jewish community, and the Christian Church, will often make some kind of appeal to the meeting held between Paul, and the pillars Peter, John, and James, in Galatians 2:7-10. It needs to be recognized how there is no agreement among interpreters, as to whether the Galatians 2:7-10 meeting is actually the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15, or is Paul’s relief mission of Acts 11:28-30. If it is the former, then it presents some issues pertaining to the incident with Peter in Antioch, which follows in Galatians 2:11-21, where what the Apostolic council agreed upon would be immediately put into jeopardy by some hypocritical actions of a main leader in the Body of Messiah, Peter himself. If it is the latter, and Galatians 2:7-10 is a relatively private meeting between Paul and the Jerusalem assembly leaders, then the Epistle to the Galatians largely helps resolve issues, which would have been finally handled at the Jerusalem Council, regarding the inclusion of the nations in the Body of Messiah.
No reader of Galatians 2:7-10 denies how the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter, both had some distinct vocational ministry callings upon them from the Lord to proclaim the good news of Yeshua. Paul asserts how, “the same God who was at work in Peter as a shaliach to the Jews, also was at work in me as a shaliach to the Gentiles” (Galatians 2:8, TLV). This is preceded by the claim, “they saw that I had been entrusted with the Good News for the uncircumcised just as Peter was for the circumcised” (Galatians 2:7, TLV).
Are the ministry duties of the Apostle Paul going to the nations, and the Apostle Peter going to the Jewish people—to be reckoned on the basis of their unique gifts, talents, skills, and most of all, their specializations? Or, are the ministry duties of the Apostle Paul going to the nations, and the Apostle Peter going to the Jewish people—to be reckoned on the basis of a distinct message of salvation going to the nations, and another distinct message going to the Jewish people?
In the view of a Messianic Jewish teacher and leader like Kinzer, Galatians 2:7-10, and the ministry activities of Paul and Peter, should be taken as clear evidence of a bilateral ecclesiology. He views “the circumcised” (Jews) and “the uncircumcised” (the nations) as two widely separate communities of Messiah followers, even though they are to recognize some degree of relation to one another:
“The agreement demarcates two distinct corporate spheres of responsibility: the circumcision (the Jewish people) and the uncircumcision (the non-Jewish nations). It implies, not only two distinct missions, but also two distinct networks of communities resulting from those missions and two distinct leadership structures overseeing those missions and communities….The one ekklesia of Messiah Yeshua is not made of individual Jews and Gentiles, mixed together in an undifferentiated collective, but of two distinct corporate entities joined in what should have been an indissoluble bound of love and mutual commitment.”
There is no question that Kinzer’s model of a bilateral ecclesiology, with Galatians 2:7-10 offered as proof, is something that has found increasing support in various sectors of the contemporary Messianic Jewish movement. Not only this, but there are many Messianic Jewish individuals (and even some non-Jewish individuals), who have been led to think from this, that there are perhaps even two different gospel messages: one for the uncircumcised, and one for the circumcised. While there should be no doubting the fact that some ancient Jewish people, who were a part of the Body of Messiah, may have likely believed that the good news was a bit different for them, Paul’s own words to the Corinthians should be seriously considered:
“[E]ach one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Messiah.’ Has Messiah been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 11:12-13).
While it is more likely to hear various Messianic Jewish laypersons, who adhere to a bilateral ecclesiology—claim that there is a distinct “gospel for the uncircumcised” and another “gospel for the circumcised”—Paul made it clear that there was only one people of God, who were to be found in the Messiah. Paul being widely entrusted with the ministry calling and responsibility of declaring the Messiah of Israel to the nations, would obviously mean that there would be some different emphases or approaches, as the needs of people in the Ancient Mediterranean world were considered. Yet the basic message of salvation via God’s grace and mercy were the same. Peter acknowledged it as such: “God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:8-9).
Even with Paul having a specific commission to go to the nations, and Peter having a specific commission to go to his fellow Jews—no honest Bible reader can deny how Paul did declare the good news to his fellow Jews, and Peter declared the good news to Greeks and Romans. Shaye J.D. Cohen observes, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament, “Acts 10 depicts Peter as bringing the Gospel to Gentiles (cf. Mt 28.19), and Acts 13 depicts Paul as first evangelizing Jews.” To also be considered, if the Epistles of 1&2 Peter are properly recognized as having a mixed Jewish and non-Jewish Diaspora audience, is how Peter would reach out to those of the nations in later ministry service, following the Galatians 2:7-10 meeting.
In his 2011 book, The Holy Epistle to the Galatians: Sermons on a Messianic Jewish Approach, where he is, in some places, friendly to some various aspects of bilateral ecclesiology, Lancaster at least partially recognizes how missional specificity is in view for Galatians 2:7-10:
“The apostles in Jerusalem saw that Paul had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, meaning that they acknowledged that Paul had been given a mission by God. They recognized that God had given Paul grace and favor to declare the message of the gospel to the Gentile world. They recognized his calling; they endorsed his message, and they endorsed his apostleship to the gentile world. One might say, they ordained him….
“This is not to say that Paul would never again declare the gospel of Yeshua to Jewish people. His first calling, mission, and goal, however, was to minister to the Gentile world…
“Simon Peter, on the other hand, as head over the Twelve, worked primarily among the circumcised, that is, among Jewish people and proselytes to Judaism. His apostleship (and that of the Twelve) was first and foremost to the Jewish people. Not that Peter would never present the gospel to non-Jews. He certainly did….”
Hegg’s perspective on this part of Galatians, in his 2002 commentary, appropriately emphasizes that the message declared by either Paul or Peter, is the same gospel, even if there is some specificity of emphasis to be considered by different audiences:
“Paul does not consider his apostleship any less or greater than that of Peter’s, nor visa versa. The point is simply that the same gospel (though delivered from two different angles) was empowered by the same Spirit to the end that both Jew and non-Jew were born again to a living faith in Yeshua. Here Paul comes back to his primary theme: the gospel he was preaching was no different than the gospel Peter had proclaimed. But in both cases, it was a gospel that had at its core element faith in Yeshua, not the fulfillment of ritual. And it was a gospel that knew no ethnic boundaries, for it was not ethnically or culturally based, but it was the good news ‘to all who believed, to the Jew first and also to the Greek’ (Rom 1:16).”
Paul’s calling as given to him by the Lord was, “for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15). The primary people grouping mentioned by Yeshua is enōpion ethnōn, “before nations” (YLT). To some degree this was much more difficult than Peter’s call to simply proclaim that the Messiah of Israel had come to his fellow Jews. Peter would not have had to largely understand the pagan religions and customs of the time, and somehow hope that his audience would understand their need for redemption in the Holy One of Israel.
Paul wrote the Galatians, “For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles” (Galatians 2:8, NIV). Paul recognized that Peter had been chosen by God for a unique mission, just as he had also been chosen by God for a unique mission (cf. Romans 11:13). The primary calling upon the Jerusalem Apostles was to reach out to their fellow Jews, but Paul’s visit here was to discuss how that calling was expanding beyond Jerusalem as Yeshua had said (Acts 1:8). Paul recognized and blessed the unique diversity in specific calling for service that exists.
Anyone in ministry today should not only recognize what God has called them to do in service to Him, but recognize God’s calling upon others who have been called to do different things. The key is that we all recognize that He is at work in each other. This is the issue of Galatians 2:7-10, not that of a bifurcated Body of Messiah, of two sub-communities to be separated out from one another.
“For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”
In contemporary discussions of Messianic ecclesiology, a great deal of importance will often be attributed to a closing remark made by the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians. He informs his audience, “And as many as order their lives by this rule, shalom upon them and mercy, and upon the Isra’el of God!” (Galatians 6:16, CJB). There is much debate surrounding the identity of the group classified as “the Israel of God.” Many view this as a reference to either the Jewish people, or at least the First Century Messianic Jewish Believers. Others, in past history, have identified “the Israel of God” as being the New Testament Church, which has apparently superseded Old Testament Israel as the new people of God. In today’s Messianic community, we encounter those who interpret “the Israel of God” as either composing the Jewish people and/or Messianic Jewish Believers, or as those who possess membership in the restored Messianic Kingdom of Israel, be they Jewish or non-Jewish.
To consider what Galatians 6:16 communicates, much is actually contingent on how one chooses to approach the clause eirēnē ep’ autous kai eleos kai epi ton Israēl tou Theou, and specifically the placement of the conjunction kai. Although there are many exceptions in the Apostolic Scriptures (and Septuagint) to be sure, all contingent on contextual usage, the conjuction kai is most often rendered as “and.” Those who might choose to see the “Israel of God” as something separate, could offer the placement of the conjunction kai in kai epi ton Israēl tou Theou, “and upon the Israel of God,” as evidence of their view. Alternatively, a common usage of the conjunction kai can regard how it is “explicative; i.e., a word or clause is connected by means of [kai] w. another word or clause, for the purpose of explaining what goes before it and so, that is, namely” (BDAG). The Brown and Comfort interlinear actually renders eirēnē ep’ autous kai eleos kai epi ton Israēl tou Theou along these lines: “peace upon them and mercy, even upon the Israel of God.” The NIV, which one may be more common to encounter, has “Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.”
Another alternative, as provided by Vincent’s Word Studies, is that the conjunction kai is to be viewed as connective:
“The [kai] and may be simply collective, in which case the Israel of God may be different from as many as walk, etc., and may mean truly converted Jews. Or the [kai] may be explicative, in which case the Israel of God will define and emphasize as many as, etc., and will mean the whole body of Christians, Jewish and Gentile. In other words, they who walk according to this rule form the true Israel of God. The explicative [kai] is at best doubtful here, and is rather forced, although clear instances of it may be found in 1Co 3:5; 1Co 15:38. It seems better to regard it as simply connective. Then [hosoi, those] will refer to the individual Christians, Jewish and Gentile, and Israel of God to the same Christians, regarded collectively, and forming the true messianic community.”
Linguistically, it should be observed how the presence of the conjunction kai, in the clause kai epi ton Israēl tou Theou, can relate to the whole community in view. And with this conclusion, “and upon the Israel of God,” such a community composes Jewish and non-Jewish Believers who are fellow citizens of the Messianic Kingdom of Israel. It is notable, that if the Greek of Galatians 6:16b read with ekklēsia, producing a rendering such as, “And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the church/assembly/congregation of God,” there would be absolutely no debate as to whether or not “the ekklēsia of God” were a separate entity, to be differentiated from those who walk by “this rule” (Galatians 6:15-16a); “the ekklēsia of God” would be viewed as a description of the entire community of redeemed, with a specific blessing for those who walk by “this rule.” Only because some group of people, is defined as “the Israel of God,” is there a debate over ecclesiology. Could the Apostle Paul at all be altering the commonly perceived parameters as to who does, or does not, compose a group labeled with and associated with the name “Israel”?
What have some voices of note within our contemporary Messianic community, specifically said about Galatians 6:16? It cannot be avoided that many of them have acknowledged, on various levels, that “the Israel of God” does include some kind of mixed faith community of both Jewish and non-Jewish Believers. Stern, who is notably committed to a (form of) bilateral ecclesiology model in his works, still has to reluctantly conclude in his Jewish New Testament Commentary,
“[H]e is indeed talking about genuine believers, both Jewish and Gentile—the Messianic Community—but polemically (not didactically), as a concerned pastor writing against the Judaizers who threaten his work for the Gospel…Believers are the Israel of God, God’s people, God’s ‘Israel,’ so to speak.”
Stern goes on to conclude, though, “Nevertheless, ‘Israel’ refers to the Jewish people, not the Church.”
However, it should be interjected at this point, that those such as myself who reject bilateral ecclesiology do not hold to a separate entity of elect called “the Church” existing. As discussed in our previous deliberations on Matthew 16:18-19, Yeshua the Messiah came to restore and rebuild the assembly of Israel, which would not only bring restoration to His Jewish people—but would see the borders of Israel’s Kingdom realm expand to incorporate the righteous from the nations.
Cohen, in the rather liberal Jewish Annotated New Testament, is a bit more honest than Stern, in assessing the people who compose “the Israel of God.” He concludes that it really does involve both Jewish and non-Jewish people who have recognized Jesus as the Messiah:
“This is the first time Galatians uses Israel, and the only time anywhere that Paul qualifies Israel with of God, a locution never found in the Hebrew Bible. Elsewhere Paul argues that ‘not all Israelites truly belong to Israel’ (Rom 9.6); ‘Israel according to the flesh’ (Gk, 1 Cor 10.18) is not the same as the ‘real’ Israel, what Paul here calls the Israel of God. Presumably Paul’s opponents argued that if the Galatian Christians wished to be part of God’s chosen, the people Israel, they need to be circumcised and observe the Torah. Paul argues that the old distinction between circumcision and foreskin, between ethnic Israel and ethnic Gentile, no longer obtains (3.28), because the true Israel, the Israel of God, consists of all those who are a new creation in Christ (cf. Rom 2.29; Phil 3.3).”
Obviously, today’s Messianics might not totally agree with all of the specific details stated by Cohen above, but he does conclude that “the Israel of God” composes a mixed group of Jewish and non-Jewish people.
Those Messianic people today, who are not committed to a bilateral ecclesiology, are likely to agree with the thoughts of Hegg on Galatians 6:16, from his commentary (2002):
“…[T]he ‘Israel of God’ has eschatological ramifications, for the ‘Israel of God’ envisions the final gathering of Israel to faith…[T]he followers of Yeshua, both Jew and Gentile alike, joined in faith within Israel, would eventually be used by God as the means of Israel’s national salvation. The Israel of God is therefore not a group ‘other than’ those who walk by this rule, but the larger covenant community in which the believing remnant exists. And this view of Israel, that it includes those Gentile[s] who have joined her throughout the centuries, is in accordance with the promise of the Abrahamic covenant which is the central focus of Paul in this epistle. The Gentile believers are not a new entity now blessed by God, but have expanded Israel as the covenant promised [Genesis 12:3].”
Paul’s reference to the “Israel of God” really is a reference to all of those who are redeemed—both Jewish and non-Jewish—but who are most especially truly accomplishing the mission that God originally gave to Ancient Israel. They are the ones who recognize themselves as composing the new creation (Galatians 6:15), and are those who should not only have grace and mercy issued to them—but should be about seeing grace and mercy issued to all in the world who need the salvation of Yeshua. In the case of the First Century Galatians, they were a small group of the many more who would come to redemption in the Messiah of Israel, which will eventually culminate in how “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26), involving the resolution of some important Tanach prophecies (Romans 11:27-28; cf. Isaiah 59:20-21; 27:9; Jeremiah 31:33-34). Most imperative, for today’s non-Jewish Messianic Believers to consider here, is how those from the nations, who have received the salvation of Israel’s Messiah, are to be vessels of mercy and grace to the Jewish people who have widely rejected Him (Romans 11:31).
There is valid reason to think that when Paul issues eirēnē…kai eleos or shalom v’chesed (Salkinson-Ginsberg), that this is actually his adaptation of a Jewish blessing that would later be integrated into the traditional Shemoneh Esrei prayer. This blessing, repeated in countless synagogues and many Messianic congregations, should be every familiar: oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’ase shalom aleinu, v’al kol Yisrael, v’imru: Amein, “He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace upon us, and upon all Israel. Now respond: Amen.”
Of course, Paul’s wish of “peace and mercy” upon Israel is also easily derived from Psalm 125:5 and 128:6:
“But as for those who turn aside to their crooked ways, the LORD will lead them away with the doers of iniquity. Peace be upon Israel [shalom al-Yisrael]” (Psalm 125:5).
“Indeed, may you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel! [shalom al-Yisrael]” (Psalm 128:6).
There has been some more, key discussion, regarding the identity of “the Israel of God,” by those who are (partially) friendly or sympathetic, to bilateral ecclesiology—yet who have to definitely conclude, on the basis of the Biblical text and the thrust of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, that “the Israel of God” composes the Messianic Kingdom of Israel ruled by Yeshua. Lancaster details in his book Grafted In (2009),
“The use of the term ‘Israel of God’ in Galatians is remarkable because it comes at the conclusion of a long treatise on why it is unnecessary for Gentile believers to become circumcised as proselytes…Paul uses the term ‘Israel of God’ to imply something more than simply legal Israel in the conventional sense. It may also imply that Paul would not have been comfortable telling the Galatian Gentiles, ‘You have a place in Israel,’ without further qualification. Instead, he would say, ‘You have a place in the Israel of God.”
Similar conclusions are further seen by Lancaster, in his book The Holy Epistle to the Galatians (2011),
“[I]n Paul’s theology, Gentile believers have come to be, through association with Messiah, part of a larger Israel, the Israel of God….The ‘Israel of God’ is Paul’s broader, eschatological community of Israel. He regarded his God-fearing Gentile believers as spiritually part of that broader Israel. It was not a flesh relationship, nor was it a literal or legal identity. Rather, it belonged to the realm of faith, a matter of the Spirit, and a part of the inheritance of Messiah.”
Lancaster’s conclusions are most appreciable, and they generally represent my own views of “the Israel of God” representing the eschatological people of God, all of whom are members in the Messianic Kingdom of Israel ruled by Yeshua as sovereign.
In the future, as discussions and debates over Messianic ecclesiology become more pronounced, the terminology “Israel of God” is likely to be thrown around as a talking point, by those of multiple sides. Those who adhere to a bilateral ecclesiology will likely insist that “the Israel of God” only composes the Jewish people and/or Messianic Jewish community. Those who adhere to an ecclesiology of an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel composing a restored Jewish people and the righteous from the nations, will insist that “the Israel of God” represents the redeemed Messianic Kingdom ruled by Yeshua. Suffice it to say, even with there being strong support for the latter being what is in view, the fact that “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16) is mentioned in a closing salutation, should indicate that this expression should never be used isolated by today’s Messianic Believers. If people choose to refer to members of Yeshua’s Messianic Kingdom of Israel as “the Israel of God” from Galatians 6:16, it should be quickly joined with concepts such as “grafted-in” (Romans 11:16-17) and “the Commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:11-13).
Ephesians 2:11-13; 3:6
“Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision,’ which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah…[T]he Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Messiah Yeshua through the gospel.”
Ephesians 2:11-13 and 3:6 are some of the most important verses for people in today’s broad Messianic movement, and no one from any side denies how they definitely play a role in understanding ecclesiology. There are some notable interpretations present in contemporary Messianic Judaism as they concern what “the Commonwealth of Israel” actually is (Ephesians 2:12), what the “one new man/humanity” is supposed to be (Ephesians 2:15), and what it means for non-Jewish people to be fellow heirs along with the Jewish people (Ephesians 3:6). There are methods of interpretation and application which tend to be inclusive, welcoming non-Jewish Believers into Messianic congregations and assemblies as fellow brothers and sisters—and then others which are exclusive. How are these verses to be approached? Given the complexity of the issues present, and important points to consider, I thought it best to go ahead and adapt much of the examination here for Ephesians 2:11-13 and 3:6 from my commentary Ephesians for the Practical Messianic (2009/2012), which you can read for further referencing all of Paul’s letter. I have amended it where necessary with further quotations from various Messianic publications, and perspectives of various leaders of note. While I believe that the concept of “the Commonwealth of Israel” speaks to an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel, there are others who will disagree with this.
Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:11 are directed to non-Jewish Believers, by him saying, “remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh” (NASU). What this specifically means has been disputed among many non-Jewish Believers in today’s Messianic community (especially with the rise of the Two-House sub-movement), who make a strong point to claim that they are “former Gentiles.” The clause under close scrutiny is pote humeis ta ethnē en sarki, “once you the nations in [the] flesh” (my translation), and specifically what pote relates to. Pote has a variety of lexical definitions, including “once, formerly, at one time; ever, at any time” (CGEDNT).
Some would say that pote relates to these people no longer being “the nations in the flesh,” meaning that their ethnicity or race somehow changes after receiving salvation. This would be a problem because one’s ethnicity in the flesh certainly does not change because of a proclamation of faith in Yeshua; Paul’s principal audience still remained “Gentiles by birth” (NIV), and they could not change who their immediate parents were. One’s status in regard to the corporate people of God, however, does change because of a proclamation of faith in Yeshua, and so only in that sense can one’s status be changed from “of the nations,” those without the God of Israel and Yeshua the Messiah, to “of Israel” (cf. Ephesians 2:12; Galatians 6:16).
It would be best for readers to connect pote with the following words in Ephesians 2:12: hoti ēte tō kairō ekeinō, “once…that you were [at] that season” (my translation). Any issue of these people regarding “formerly you,” relates to their separation from Israel from the time of birth now having been rectified via salvation, not their DNA being rewritten once they receive Yeshua. One’s race or ethnicity or gene pool should never, ever be grounds for inclusion or non-inclusion within the Kingdom of God! And, if non-Jewish Believers are indeed a part of the community of Israel via their Messiah faith, this does not automatically make them culturally Jewish.
Paul’s principal point in Ephesians 2:11-12 is to focus on the condition of his largely non-Jewish audience prior to knowing Yeshua, and their condition after knowing Yeshua. A status of being removed from Israel’s Messiah, Israel’s polity, Israel’s covenants, and being without the hope and knowledge of the Creator God—is what is really considered to be the former status for the non-Jewish Believers addressed in Ephesians. This is one which has been fully reversed. The non-Jewish Believers in Asia Minor now know Israel’s Messiah, they are a part of Israel’s polity, they now benefit from Israel’s covenants, and they are truly known by the Creator God. This is a condition that is connected to the concept of the Commonwealth of Israel.
Paul’s own Jewish brethren had some negative things to say about those of the nations. He indicates that the nations “are called ‘Uncircumcision’ by the so-called ‘Circumcision.’” One status is akrobustia or “foreskin” (LS), when compared to peritomē or “circumcision.” “Foreskin” was used as a derogatory term—when compared to “circumcision” as a self-inflated covenantal term. Paul has “circumcision” as a reference to status in mind, as opposed to a physical procedure, as easily seen by his description of it as en sarki cheiropoiētou. F.F. Bruce renders this clause as “the so-called man-made external circumcision” (NICNT), and Ben Witherington III has “the circumcision handwrought in the flesh.” This is to be understood in light of Paul’s parallel remarks in Colossians 2:11, where “in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Messiah.” The circumcision requirement for inclusion among the people of God in Paul’s teachings is emphasized to be the circumcision of the heart (Deuteronomy 30:6; cf. Romans 2:29; Philippians 3:3), something enacted by one’s faith or trust in Yeshua via the gospel.
The adjective cheiropoiētos, “made by human hands” (BDAG), is used most frequently throughout the Greek Septuagint in relation to idol-making. The styled label of “circumcision,” described by Paul in Ephesians 2:11, regarded what his own Jewish brethren called themselves when compared against the nations. Paul in no uncertain terms considers this “Circumcision in the flesh made by hands” (KJV) to be akin to those in rebellion to God making idols. Did this ritual procedure as offered by the religious authorities enhance or retard Israel from being a light to the nations? This is not a remark made against the value of circumcision as a physical procedure, or even as the memorial sign of the Abrahamic Covenant—but would have had more to do with circumcision as the ritual of a proselyte being the only entryway for those of the nations to have membership among God’s people, perhaps made more important to faith or belief in God. And as it can be validly pointed out, if circumcision and removal of foreskin is really the only way to enter among God’s people, what then did the women have to distinguish them? Such a circumcision had become a symbol of significant pride and thus also of problems.
Being circumcised was the pinnacle of Jewish identity in the First Century. T.R. Schreiner indicates, “in the intertestimental period circumcision was typically required for one to become a proselyte to Judaism…any diminution of the rite would naturally inflame both the cultural and religious passions of the Jews.” In Romans 4:9-10, the Apostle Paul makes it clear that the Patriarch Abraham was in righteous covenant status with God while in uncircumcision, in that it was his faith in God which accorded him such righteousness (Genesis 15:6), something that many Jewish people of his time had forgotten. He received circumcision at a later time at the age of ninety-nine (Genesis 17:23-24) as a seal or physical reminder of his faith (Romans 4:11). Much of the First Century Jewish handling of “circumcision” was certainly to be expected given the onslaught of Hellenism and of uncircumcision imposed by the tyrannical reign of Antiochus Ephinanes during the Maccabean crisis (1 Maccabees 1:15), and it became more of a national sign of identity than a simple affirmation of the Abrahamic promise (Genesis 17:4-5).
Circumcision construed as a strong national sign for the Jews of the First Century is seen in both Jewish and classical sources. The Jewish historian Josephus expresses the opinion that the reason God gave Abraham circumcision was “in order to keep his posterity unmixed with others” (Antiquities of the Jews 1.192). The Roman historian Tacitus says, “They have introduced the practice of circumcision to show that they are different from others,” specifically as something “Proselytes to Jewry adopt” (The Histories 5.5). This is a circumcision that kept, perhaps a majority of the Jewish people separate from the nations—impeding Israel from being a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6)—and was something that Paul himself likely advocated prior to encountering Yeshua (cf. Galatians 5:11). The proselyte conversion “circumcision” caused a great number of problems, putting the proverbial cart before the horse in many cases, as a ritual procedure for membership in Israel could widely have been given precedence over one’s trust in the God of Israel. Such a practice was not that unlike fashioning a god of human hands, and Paul implies that this kind of circumcision drove a wedge between the Jewish people and the nations that needed to be removed.
The former status that Paul calls his audience to remember is specified: “remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12, NIV). These “nations in the flesh” (Ephesians 2:11, YLT) were once “alienated” (RSV) or “estranged” (CJB) from the Messiah in their previous condition. The verb apallotrioō is only used one other time in the Apostolic Scriptures, in Colossians 1:21 where fallen humanity is “alienated [apallotrioō] and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds.” Paul will later say in Ephesians 4:18 that the world is “darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.”
Because of not knowing Yeshua as Savior, the nations were “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel.” As previously stated, Jews in the First Century did admit non-Jewish proselytes via ritual circumcision, but it was not an easy process by any means. Those undergoing this ritual procedure were often made to take vows “to keep the whole Law” (Galatians 5:3; cf. Nehemiah 10:28-29), being subject to extreme scrutiny by the community they were entering into. This was not the Lord’s original intention when He told Abraham “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3; cf. Galatians 3:8). He desired a community that would fulfill a mandate of being a blessing, not being grossly suspicious of its members!
Without Israel, salvation cannot be brought to the nations. Yeshua Himself is undeniably clear that in His day, “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). People who are outside of this Israel have no Messianic expectation, they do not know of the blessings of being Israel and of the promises made to Israel (i.e., Genesis 15:18; 17; Exodus 19:5-6), and most significantly they do not know the One True God. From the status of being atheos or “godless” (Lattimore), one from the nations was separated from the promises of Israel’s God and the promises of a Redeemer to come. These people were truly “alienated” from the blessings available in Israel.
So what has the nations’ acceptance of Yeshua brought to them? Peter T. O’Brien remarks, “Being separated from the chosen people of Israel was a serious disadvantage since it meant being outside the sphere of God’s election and isolated from any covenant relationship with him.” This is something that was tantamount to being “dead” (Ephesians 2:1-2), to which the gospel so profoundly speaks and provides an answer for. Witherington’s opinion is to the point: “in light of v. 13 it is reasonably clear that Paul is saying that Gentiles have become a part of the community of God’s people through Christ.” But what is this community? A valid question should be asked when interpreters such as Ralph P. Martin conclude, “Paul sees these covenant promises fulfilled in Christ in the church.”
Paul uses ancient political terms to describe what his largely non-Jewish audience had been separated from. Prior to their faith in the Messiah, they were removed from tēs politeias tou Israēl. The key term here is politeia, “the right to be a member of a sociopolitical entity, citizenship” (BDAG). Yet, now having access to this citizenship, they have to start considering another part of politeia: “behavior in accordance with standards expected of a respectable citizen, way of life, conduct” (BDAG), something which surely dominates Ephesians chs. 4-6 (and has a definite Torah background).
Many of today’s Messianic Jewish leaders have not denied that non-Jewish Believers in Israel’s Messiah are indeed a part of “the Commonwealth of Israel.” But how they have approached and defined such a Commonwealth of Israel, can be a bit varied.
A rather general definition for “commonwealth” is encountered in the 2011 Tree of Life—New Covenant glossary:
“a community founded for the common good of its members. Israel enjoys the privileges of being God’s nation, called to covenant relationship at Sinai. In Ephesians 2:11-14, Paul tells his Gentile readers that they have joined the commonwealth of Israel as fellow citizens through the reconciling work of Yeshua. (Ephesians 2:12)”
In his Jewish New Testament Commentary, David H. Stern remarks how non-Jewish Believers being part of the Commonwealth of Israel, “implies an obligation to observe a godly life that has its origin in God’s relationship with the Jewish people. More than that, it implies an obligation to relate as family to the Jewish community to whom their faith has joined them…” He considers Ephesians 2:12 to relate to the inclusion of individuals like Ruth (Ruth 1:16) among Israel, and that it requires non-Jewish Believers “being involved with the Jewish people, both Messianic and non-Messianic.” It would imply that non-Jewish Believers should have a relationship not only with their fellow Jewish brothers and sisters who have acknowledged the Messiah, but that they should take a keen interest in the well being of those Jews who have not yet acknowledged the Lord Yeshua.
Stern is absolutely right to say that non-Jewish Believers “who regard Jewish Christians as the strangers and themselves as the rightful possessors and those who accept Jewish believers but reject nonbelieving Jews, are not submitting to the message of these verses.” Non-Jewish Believers, as made clear by Paul’s words, had no hope and were without God in the world without Israel. As the origin of their salvation is Israel, when bad things happen to the Jewish people, bad things happen to all of those who believe in Israel’s Messiah. When good things happen to the Jewish people, non-Jewish Believers should rejoice with their Jewish brothers and sisters. Non-Jewish Believers are called to befriend the Jewish people and be grateful to them, not only because of the spiritual heritage they have in the Synagogue, but also for the great contributions the Jewish people have made to the world.
Stern is proper to emphasize that non-Jewish Believers should not regard the Jewish people as alien or strange. But what happens when Jewish Believers treat non-Jewish Believers, who desire to grasp hold of their responsibilities as members of Israel’s Commonwealth, as strange or second class? This is a great dilemma, and one that has arisen in the past decade or so because of the significant growth of the Messianic movement among evangelical Christians. Taking hold of their Hebraic and Jewish Roots, non-Jewish Believers have often been treated with extreme suspicion, if not hostility at times, by some Messianic Jews. Is this appropriate? While non-Jewish Believers are to surely respect and support the Jewish people, what if Jewish people who know Messiah Yeshua (and presumably have been transformed by His love) do not treat them with such respect in return? Why at times do Messianic Jews not recognize them as a part of or even related to the “community of Israel” (NEB)?
While the spiritual roots of why some Messianic Jews might not recognize non-Jewish Believers in their midst as their equals is a complicated, and rather difficult subject to diagnose—the theological roots are quite easy to diagnose. There is often a large misunderstanding and application of the term politeia, as employed here in Ephesians 2:12. Throughout various Messianic Jewish theological materials, it is taught that the Commonwealth of Israel is actually to be viewed as something similar to the post-World War II, Twentieth Century and post-Imperial, British Commonwealth of Nations—a Commonwealth of Israel made up of two sub-groups: the ethnic Jewish people and the Church.
If you have ever heard this point of view, but have never seen it documented before, then note how it widely goes back to the writings of Messianic Jewish pioneer Daniel C. Juster, as he expresses in his book Growing to Maturity (1987):
“The biblical understanding of the relationship of the church to Israel is more clearly understood by the concept of commonwealth. Israel is the national center of the worldwide commonwealth under her king Yeshua.
“Thus, all who become true Christians from all lands become signs of the future order of the Messiah’s worldwide rule. Ephesians 2 describes them as once lost, strangers to the covenants, but now having been brought near, made recipients of the promises, and members of the commonwealth of Israel (RSV). The church has sometimes forgotten its Jewish roots and often lost sight of this, but that makes it no less true. Christians are recipients of the benefits of covenant by being under the beneficent rule of Israel’s king and have all the promises of Scripture, except those which would not benefit or apply to them, such as the promise to live in the land of Israel.
“The New Testament presents a mystery, previously unrevealed, that Israel the nation does not accept her own king. This can be illustrated in this way: The church is the people of God, the commonwealth, in and from all nations. Israel is the nation and all nations, as nations, will join the commonwealth when Messiah returns.
“Let’s use an analogy of England under King George. Suppose England rejected the rule of King George, while the nations of the British commonwealth continued to accept his rule. There would be a British commonwealth without its central member. King George would continue to fight to reestablish his rule over England. As an Englishman, he would even say he had chosen England as the center of his rule. It is possible that the other nations in the commonwealth might feel they had replaced England, even though the commonwealth is rooted in England. The king, however, would have none of this talk. Even though he had established his rule in other nations, he would continue to woo and pressure England until he was finally received and could rule his empire from London. In the meantime he would extend his rule over other nations.
“So it is with Yeshua the Jew. He is the rightful King of Israel. Though accepted in the commonwealth and rejected in Israel, He has chosen Israel to be His people. She is beloved for the fathers’ sake and will be wooed and pressured and kept until she turns to Him. This is the prediction of Zechariah 12:10 and Romans 11:26. The king of England would not destroy or forsake his homeland. Neither would Yeshua destroy or forsake His homeland and people.
“When Israel accepts her king, the commonwealth will be in the order ultimately intended for it. God’s blessing will thus flow out to all nations (Zechariah 14). The great mystery of the age is that the commonwealth of Israel, under the Messiah Yeshua, is extended during this age without Israel itself being under the Messiah’s rule.
“…Gentiles become partakers of the covenants of God with Israel. They are no longer strangers to the covenants, but joint heirs. Through the Messiah, they are now attached to Israel and the nourishment of the sap of the tree feeds them (Romans 11:18, 24). Israel’s acceptance of Yeshua’s rule should be the concern of the whole commonwealth, since it will bring greater blessing to the whole commonwealth. Reading Romans 11 in the light of the commonwealth concept is a great joy; the passage speaks naturally with no violence done to its intended meaning. This fulfills the promise to Abraham that his seed (Messiah and Israel) will be the source of blessing to all nations.”
Recognizing how there are various Christian interpreters, namely dispensationalists—who have insisted that non-Jewish Believers are decisively not a part of the Commonwealth of Israel—Juster’s proposals were absolutely subversive to a 1980s dispensationalist, who was likely to support Messianic Jewish ministry on some noticeable level. Granted, Juster did make the mistake of many Americans in his discussion, and actually equates “England” with “Great Britain” (much to the chagrin of Irish, Welsh, and Scots, who also compose the home nations of the United Kingdom). Still, his intention was to see Christians connected to Israel and the Jewish people, beneficiaries and joint heirs with them (Ephesians 3:6). He only specified here, at least, that the only non-applicable instructions for them from the Law would be things like living in the Land of Israel—which is obviously only granted to members of Israel’s Twelve Tribes, and those select few of the nations who will get to live among them in the Millennium (Ezekiel 47:22).
Whether or not the Commonwealth of Israel can be likened to the British Commonwealth of Nations—where those who recognize the British monarch are still relatively independent states who share a common head of state (i.e., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Bermuda, the Bahamas)—would principally regard uses of the Greek term politeia and its cognates, as seen in Scripture and ancient Jewish and classical literature. Messianic Jewish scholar David Rudolph, is one who claims that politeia “in the first-century Greco-Roman context could mean a community of nations or ethnic groups sharing a common allegiance to a monarch.” He considers the Commonwealth of Israel to be a broad federation or confederation made up of two groups: Israel and “the Church,” and that “commonwealth” is an ideal rendering of politeia, being “a relatively simple way of describing the relationship between the Church and Israel.” Rudolph is obviously following the conclusions drawn by a Messianic Jewish forbearer of his like Juster.
While the English term “commonwealth” may allow at times for one thinking of the people of God as akin to a British Commonwealth of Nations, with multiple independent states, the Greek term politeia in its classical usage does not easily allow for this. The Liddell-Scott lexicon, chiefly interested in classical Greek, defines politeia with:
- the condition and rights of a citizen, citizenship
- the life of a citizen, civic life
- as a concrete, the body of citizens
- the life and business of a statesman, government, administration
- civil polity, the condition or constitution of a state
- a republic, commonwealth
While these definitions surely do allow for an internally diverse community of people who should contribute to the well being of all, they do not lend support for a collection of multiple, largely autonomous and independent communities which make up a broad “commonwealth.” Consider the following examples from ancient classical and Jewish sources, which employ the term politeia. You will not see a single monarch ruling over a collection of separated, largely independent states implied:
POLITEIA IN ANCIENT USAGE
|remember that you were at that time separate from Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.||He was one of the souls who had come from heaven, having lived his previous life in a well-governed state [en tetagmenē politeia], but having owed his goodness to habit and custom and not to philosophy… (Plato Republic 10.619c).
A constitution [or politeia] may be defined as ‘the organization of a city [or polis], in respect of its offices generally, but especially in respect of that particular office which is sovereign in all issues’. The civic body is everywhere the sovereign of the city; in fact the civic body is the constitution itself [to politeuma tēs poleōs, politeuma d’ estin hē politeia] (Aristotle Politics 3.1278b).
The term ‘constitution’ [politeia] signifies the same thing as the term ‘civic body’ [politeuma]. The civic body in every city [polis] is sovereign [to kurion]… (Aristotle Politics 3.1279a).
|And to set before their eyes the injury that they had unjustly done to the holy place, and the cruel handling of the city, whereof they made a mockery, and also the taking away of the government of their forefathers [tēs progonikēs politeias] (2 Maccabees 8:17, KJV).
Among other things, we made known to all our amnesty toward their compatriots here, both because of their alliance with us and the myriad affairs liberally entrusted to them from the beginning; and we ventured to make a change, by deciding both to deem them worthy of Alexandrian citizenship [politeia] and to make them participants in our regular religious rites…[T]hey not only spurn the priceless citizenship [politeia], but also both by speech and by silence they abominate those few among them who are sincerely disposed toward us; in every situation, in accordance with their infamous way of life, they secretly suspect that we may soon alter our policy (3 Maccabees 3:21, 23).
The Jews also obtained honours from the kings of Asia when they became their auxiliaries; for Seleucus Nicator made them citizens [politeia] in those cities which he built in Asia, and in the Lower Syria, and in the metropolis itself, Antioch; and gave them privileges equal to those of the Macedonians and Greeks, who were the inhabitants, insomuch that these privileges continue to this very day (Antiquities of the Jews 12.119).
The classical Greek meaning of politeia (which I was certainly taught at the University of Oklahoma as a political science undergraduate), also witnessed in ancient Jewish works, does not imply a kind of citizenship where a single monarch rules over a collection of separate states, but rather speaks of either a single government or a way of conduct within a society (sometimes within the context of a city). Of critical importance to us are those notable places where politeia, and a related term like politeuma, appear in the Apostolic Scriptures, designating citizenship:
“The commander answered, ‘I acquired this citizenship [politeia] with a large sum of money.’ And Paul said, ‘But I was actually born a citizen’” (Acts 22:28).
“For our citizenship [politeuma; ‘commonwealth,’ RSV] is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Yeshua the Messiah” (Philippians 3:20).
Anyone who would try to equate the Greek term politeia with a kind of multiple nation-state commonwealth in mind, does not have strong support either from classical usage or Biblical usage of the term.
What Paul describes as Believers possessing politeuma in Heaven, should not escape our notice. No one would honestly argue, for example, that born again Believers have different kinds of “citizenship” within the Kingdom of Heaven; it is all the same citizenship. Some might represent themselves as citizens of God’s Kingdom better than others, and some Believers do not always take advantage of all the spiritual benefits of being citizens of God’s Kingdom—but all who profess Yeshua are still citizens of the same Divine state. The difficult concept that many Believers have to recognize is that God’s Kingdom happens to be Israel. Today’s Messianic Jews need to understand that while they are honored and respected members of this Israel to be sure (cf. John 4:22; Romans 3:1-2; 11:29), they are not at all the only members. The Commonwealth of Israel is to be viewed as a single state ruled by the King Messiah, but one which is internally diverse in terms of its ethnic makeup. The non-Jewish Believers were at one time “strangers to the covenants of promise” plural, tōn diathēkōn tēs epangelias, and having been integrated into the community of Israel are to look at Israel’s story as their own story (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1). According to Paul, those from the nations “are no longer strangers and aliens, but…fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19).
Similar to this perspective, are some of the remarks made by D. Thomas Lancaster, in his 2009 book Grafted In:
“[I]t is not Israel that is joined to the church; it is the church that has been joined to Israel. Gentile Christians are adopted into Israel with the rights of sonship. We are adopted into Israel, not vice versa. Moreover, because the biblical adoption is absolute, we have real standing in the commonwealth of Israel. We are not second-class citizens. We are not stepsons or even grandsons. We are as much a genuine part of the family as are the Jewish people and legal converts to Judaism. After all, Paul tells us, even the natural born Israelite is an adopted child, adopted by God [Romans 9:4].
“This does not mean that Gentile believers are Jewish. But it does mean that we have as much a place in Israel as our Jewish brothers. It means that we have a right to celebrate the Sabbath. It is part of our inheritance in Israel. We have a right to keep the festivals. They are part of our inheritance in Israel. We have a right to follow the Torah. It is part of our inheritance in Israel. We have a right to say, ‘Abraham our father,’ ‘Isaac our father,’ ‘Jacob our father,’ because we have been joined to the family of Israel.
“The good news for Messianic Gentiles within Messianic Judaism is that we no longer should feel compelled to find that elusive Jew in our genealogy. We don’t need to find some external validation for our participation in the community of Torah. The inheritance is already ours. We don’t need to pose. We don’t need to feel like pretenders. We have full participation.
“To be a genuine part of Israel, we don’t need to tell Yiddish jokes, eat gefilte fish, or wear a yarmulke. (Although I recommend the fish; it’s not too bad.) Our position is guaranteed in Messiah. Our role is to grab hold of the fringes of his garment. He gives us standing among the tribes of Israel.
“Paul called himself the apostle to the Gentiles—the apostle to those who are strangers and aliens to God’s people Israel. The good news is that through Messiah, we are strangers and aliens no more. We who were far away have been brought near. We who had no share or claim in Israel have been granted the status of citizenship in the commonwealth of Israel. We are citizens of Israel through Messiah. This is not just symbolic status. This is a real position in and among the people of God.”
For many in today’s Messianic Judaism, claiming that non-Jewish Believers being a part of “the Commonwealth of Israel”—means having citizenship in Israel’s Kingdom realm, and that non-Jews are a part of Israel too—is a somewhat provocative claim. Perhaps this is why Lancaster has had to craft his remarks in the sense of “the Church joining Israel.” And, even with non-Jewish Believers from the nations having no sizable claim to ever really live in a Promised Land only reserved for the physical descendants of the Patriarchs—these people keeping things like the seventh-day Sabbath or appointed times, is not always liked by various Messianic Jews.
Lancaster’s own colleague in ministry, Boaz Michael, in his later publication Twelve Gates (2012), reflects a somewhat different perspective on what the whole “Commonwealth of Israel” concept is in Ephesians 2:12-13. His statements reflect far more of a bilateral ecclesiology, especially with a direct appeal made to a Messianic Jewish theologian like Rudolph:
“…Paul is not necessarily arguing that Gentile converts are citizens of Israel; rather, taken together, these Gentile converts and Jewish people constitute the ‘commonwealth of Israel,’ which David Rudolph describes as ‘a multinational expansion of Israel proper that has emerged in the form of the Church.’ It must be further noted that these Gentile converts are called ‘heirs together with Israel’ in Ephesians 3:6 [NIV; author’s note: Greek source text notably does not mention the proper name Israel at all], again implying that they do not take on the identity of Israel.
“To reiterate, had Paul desired to make his readers believe they were a part of Israel, or Israelites, he would have surely made it clear. However, the one time he comes close to teaching this in Ephesians 2-3, he uses distancing language—‘commonwealth of Israel’ rather than ‘Israel’; ‘together with Israel’ rather than ‘as a part of Israel.’”
By 2013, it has become controversial in various quarters of Messianic Judaism, to affirm that the Commonwealth of Israel is a single, Divine state, with King Yeshua as its sovereign—made up of citizens who are natural born descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and those from the nations at large. Some leaders have obviously forced various writers and publishers to change or alter their theological positions. So, if various parts of today’s Messianic Judaism continue on a path toward wanting the Commonwealth of Israel to be defined in terms other than being a single yet internally diverse people of God, how much will it really achieve for Him? It may achieve some things, but surely not as many as it could.
There is a significant phenomenon of non-Jewish Believers entering into Messianic things—with a great deal going against them—and nobody should surely want to be in a position of going against salvation history, and the nations coming to Zion to be taught God’s Law (Micah 4:1-3; Isaiah 2:2-4) and joining with the Jewish people (Zechariah 8:23). These are all people in the Diaspora, who attend Messianic congregations and fellowships every week on Shabbat, similar to how things in the First Century Body of Messiah were (discussed further).
In Ephesians 2:12, Paul has just said that prior to knowing Yeshua, the nations “were estranged from the national life of Isra’el. You were foreigners to the covenants embodying God’s promise. You were in this world without hope and without God” (CJB). But now that they know Yeshua, a significant change has taken place: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:13, RSV). The sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah on behalf of humanity at large has caused something to break, enabling the audience of Ephesians to be “brought near.”
What does it mean to have been far off? Paul has just said that being “far off” is “having no hope and without God in the world.” Yet, as Isaiah 57:19 says, “‘Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will heal him.’” Restoration is available equally to the one who is near, and to the one far away. Preaching at Shavuot/Pentecost immediately following the resurrection of Yeshua, Peter declared, “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2:39). Likewise, the Messiah called Paul, “For I will send you far away to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21). Being far off is obviously being estranged or alienated from the Creator God, and all the negative consequences that such a state entails.
In Ephesians 2:12, Paul has just made the point of describing not one—but two—things that his non-Jewish audience suffered from: (1) their alienation from Israel (2) led to their not knowing the One True God. Israel, after all, was to be the holy nation that gave a witness for this God in the world. Not having access (or at least easy/easier access) to Israel, surely a bad state, led to the worst state possible by being alienated from the Creator.
In spite of this having transpired, with Yeshua having arrived on the scene and via the work of Paul’s own ministry, their negative fortunes have now reversed. The sacrificial work of Yeshua has brought the nations “near.” But what does it mean to be “brought near,” specifically? Some have suggested that Paul is turning proselyte language up on its head, as the Jewish people of his day made such a process the only way of entering into Israel, against God’s original intention. Andrew T. Lincoln indicates, “it is surely along the lines of traditional proselyte terminology that the writer of Ephesians has formulated his statement of the change that has taken place.” Those administrating the ritual proselyte circumcision to Judaism would say that their converts were “brought near” via their circumcision. But here, the Apostle Paul asserts that the nations have been “brought near” via the Messiah’s sacrifice.
But what have the nations been “brought near” to? Certainly they have been “brought near” to God; every interpreter of Ephesians is in agreement with this. Yet, the assertion that the nations have been “brought near” to Israel and incorporated into Israel’s Commonwealth—thus being citizens of the Kingdom along with their fellow Jewish Believers—is not fully agreed. Significant divergences take place between today’s Messianics and most Christian interpreters. Dispensationalists, for example, commonly argue that being “brought near” to the Commonwealth of Israel does not mean being made a part of it, but perhaps is just an observation that today’s Christian Church must appreciate its Jewish origins.
The problem with being “brought near” not meaning that non-Jewish Believers who receive Yeshua are a part of Israel, is that it does not align with what the Tanach tells us about being “near.” Being “brought near” to God does not mean that a person is not a part of His people. Isaiah 56:3 gives us an important clue: “Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, ‘The LORD will surely separate me from His people.’” One who is “brought near” to God is surely a member of His own. There are scores of references in the Tanach that physical non-Israelites who join themselves to Israel are to be treated with honor, and afforded the same basic rights as the native born. Such imperatives are no doubt in the mind of Paul as he tells his largely non-Jewish audience that they have been “brought near” to the God of Israel. Stern’s observations in How Jewish Is Christianity? 2 Views on the Messianic Movement, are especially worth noting:
“After Yeshua it became clear to believers in him that Gentiles who believed in him had joined God’s people….The term ‘brought near’ doesn’t mean ‘brought close but still outside’; rather, it means ‘brought all the way into the national life of Israel.’ This is clear from the following verse (Ephesians 2:14).”
The nations being “brought near” to God was nothing less than them having the same status before God that Israel itself had as described in the Tanach. Psalm 148:14 declares, “He has lifted up a horn for His people, praise for all His godly ones; even for the sons of Israel, a people near to Him. Praise the LORD!” Deuteronomy 4:7 puts it even more clearly, as the nations are to look to Israel for a nation that is close to God: “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him?” Being “brought near” to God is by no means being a part of some separate “Church”; it is being brought near to God by being incorporated into His own—even if this is to be regarded as an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel, with a restored Twelve Tribes at the center, and Israel’s borders expanded to welcome in the righteous from the nations (Acts 15:15-18; Amos 9:11-12).
The difficult concepts that interpreters, Christian or Messianic, often have difficulty balancing are the facts that the Lord is surely the God of all the Earth—but Israel is the vehicle by which His purposes are to be accomplished. One side sees Israel giving way to a separate ekklēsia, and the other can often downplay the worldwide mandate the Lord has placed upon Israel.
Christian interpreters have an especially hard time with being “brought near” to God as being made participants in the Commonwealth of Israel, because the responsibility of heeding/following the Torah inevitably would come with such a status. It is not insignificant that various Ephesians commentaries assert something like, “the ‘now’…does not speak of Gentiles joining the commonwealth of Israel” (Pheme Perkins), because the Torah cannot be factored out of the equation if such were/is the case. However, such views often ignore the fact that the expectation of Paul’s mission among the nations was something truly “in accordance with the Law and what is written in the Prophets” (Acts 24:14; cf. Exodus 19:4-6; Deuteronomy 7:6). This salvation of the nations, anticipated in the Tanach, is sometimes de-emphasized or under-played in some branches of Christian theology, and is a definite sign of much of the Church’s ignorance of the Old Testament (or at least ignorance on the part of some New Testament specialists). Christopher J.H. Wright reminds us, though,
“God did not choose Israel that they alone should be saved, as if the purpose of election terminated with them. They were chosen rather as the means by which salvation could be extended to others throughout the earth…his people should be the instrument through whom God would gather that multinational multitude that no man or woman can number.”
Paul himself disagrees with many theologians today who say that non-Jewish Believers are not made a part of Israel’s Commonwealth. He previously told non-Jewish Believers in Rome that they were “grafted in” (Romans 11:17). They do not replace natural born Israel, or the Jewish people, but as Witherington concludes, Ephesians 2:12-13 reflect “a sort of incorporation theology that one already finds in the discussion of Jew and Gentile in Romans 11.” In his olive tree metaphor, he compared the “wild olive” of the nations to the “natural branches” (Romans 11:21) of his own Jewish people. It is not as though one species of plant is grafted into the trunk of another, violating the principle of sowing two kinds of seed together (Leviticus 19:19; Deuteronomy 22:9). Paul is describing different kinds of olives composing the tree of God’s faith community, as opposed to multiple species of fruit growing from the same tree. The nations in a very real sense become a part of Israel via their faith in Yeshua the Messiah.
Moving forward to Ephesians 3:6, the Apostle Paul asserts, “the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Messiah Yeshua through the gospel.” Because of the good news of salvation, the nations are to be sugklēronoma kai sussōma kai summetocha. Here we see three terms that begin with the prefix sun-, generally meaning “with.” Sometimes sun- can be used in Greek as “two together or by twos… like Lat. bini, terni, etc.” (LS). The Williams New Testament renders this as “the heathen through union with Christ Jesus are fellow-heirs with the Jews, are members with them of the same body, and sharers with them of the promise through the good news.” Here, we see a complete equalization of status for both non-Jewish and Jewish Believers—one which had not necessarily been available for the foreigner or stranger who was welcome into Israel, a foreigner or stranger who was still to some degree treated as alien, at least from a social standpoint.
The mystery was not about non-Jewish people being made a part of Israel, as that had always been a feature of the Tanach and was certainly an expectation held by the First Century Synagogue. The mystery was that they were a part of the Body of Messiah—something new in that it went beyond mere national identification. While the original promise to Abraham was “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3; cf. Galatians 3:8), the mystery of the Messiah coming and making all equal in Him regardless of ethnicity was certainly something radical for Paul to say. It was not inconsistent with the prophetic expectations of the Tanach, but was undoubtedly an unforeseen trajectory for many. Witherington makes the important point, “Syssōma is not found elsewhere in Greek literature and seems to have been coined by Paul himself.” If this is indeed true, then the significance of the mystery of Messiah is only heightened with Paul having to invent new words to describe what Yeshua has brought! Messianic Believers cannot be in complete disagreement with the dispensationalists, as Harold W. Hoehner is right to say,
“Thus the mystery is not something mysterious, but is a sacred secret hidden in Ages past but now revealed. This is made possible through the gospel: believing Jews and Gentiles are in one body. The mystery is not that Gentiles would be saved, for the Old Testament gave evidence of that, but rather that believing Jews and Gentiles are joined together. That was a revolutionary concept for Jews and Gentiles alike!”
Paul has already detailed in Romans that the nations would be blessed by God via the gospel, justifying this with a large litany of Tanach quotations:
“[A]nd for the [nations] to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, ‘THEREFORE I WILL GIVE PRAISE TO YOU AMONG THE [NATIONS], AND I WILL SING TO YOUR NAME’ [2 Samuel 22:50; Psalm 18:49]. Again he says, ‘REJOICE, O [NATIONS] WITH HIS PEOPLE’ [Deuteronomy 32:43]. And again, ‘PRAISE THE LORD ALL YOU [NATIONS], AND LET ALL THE PEOPLES PRAISE HIM’ [Psalm 117:1]. Again Isaiah says, ‘THERE SHALL COME THE ROOT OF JESSE, AND HE WHO ARISES TO RULE OVER THE [NATIONS], IN HIM SHALL THE [NATIONS] HOPE’ [Isaiah 11:10]” (Romans 15:9-12).
That the nations could become a part of Israel is something seen in the Tanach. That the nations would be the equals of their fellow Jewish Believers in the Messiah was something largely unexpected and unanticipated. The classic situation of the Jewish proselyte is seen in the Mishnah, who while undergoing circumcision and pledging himself to the God of Israel, “when he prays in the synagogue, he says, ‘God of your fathers’” (m.Bikkurim 1:4). In direct contrast to this, Paul asserts “our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:1). The mystery of all Believers being equal in Messiah is something that is in full alignment with God’s original calling of Israel, but does include some elements that were only to be fully manifest after the Messiah’s ministry on Earth.
With the advent of the Messianic movement in the past thirty to forty years (1960s-present), many Messianic Jews today are willing to concede that non-Jewish Believers have a faith connected to Israel. This is a step forward to the type of unity Paul envisions in Ephesians. However, many Messianic Jews are not willing to accede such non-Jewish Believers an equal status and responsibility within the Commonwealth of Israel. Is this in alignment with Paul’s words of how the nations are to be sugklēronoma kai sussōma kai summetocha, “joint heirs and fellow members of the same body and co-sharers” (TLV)? With the Messianic movement preparing to enter into a new chapter of its spiritual and theological development in the 2010s-2020s, significant changes are in store—first with some tension, likely to be second followed with controversy, and then third followed with genuine progress.
In today’s Messianic movement, when many non-Jewish Believers have made a point to claim an equal status within an enlarged community of Israel along with Jewish Believers, can come some severe hostility on the part of Jewish Believers. There are many reasons as to why this can be the case, some of them being legitimate. High among the list of reasons is non-Jewish Believers in the Messianic community expressing little or no regard for mainline Jewish traditions, or in some way belittling the historic Jewish people with no degree of honor expressed toward them, as though they actually have nothing legitimate to contribute to the restoration of Israel’s Kingdom. Joined with this is often an equally deplorable level of hostility demonstrated toward the Christian Church, as though it has made no contributions for the Kingdom of God, ever, in human history. There are anti-Jewish and anti-Christian attitudes which have manifested, which definitely border on violation of the Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16).
A fair-minded way of applying Ephesians 3:6 can often elude today’s Messianic Believers, and we all need to learn to constructively approach various issues when they are presented. Better understanding much of what it means for all of us being a part of the same body, is not going to be easy, because the current Messianic generation is conditioned too far and too much by a complementarian view of God’s people, stressing differences and not commonality first. We know this is the case, because in recognizing that Ephesians 3:6 says that Jewish and non-Jewish Believers are part of the same body, Messianic Jewish leaders and teachers tend to immediately compare their unity together like that of husband and wife, and where the so-called “distinct roles” emphasized is clearly based on a patriarchal reading of Scripture, and not an egalitarian reading of Scripture:
- Russell L. Resnik: “Just as husband and wife have distinct roles within God’s ideal of a unified, joyful whole, so it is with his calling of Israel and the nations.”
- Mark S. Kinzer: “[T]he unity of Jew and Gentile does not imply the elimination of all distinction between the two, any more than the unity of husband and wife eliminates all gender differentiation….[I]f Jew and Gentile blend together in such a way that the distinction between them is utterly effaced, how can their unity be a sign of anything?”
No relatively conservative, egalitarian reader of Scripture believes that men and women in Messiah lose all of their distinctives because of their faith in Yeshua—because each certainly has different reproductive anatomy. We hardly believe in the emergence of some unisex person in Christ. But, both man and woman do have the same equal amount of brainpower and intelligence, the same abilities to have spiritual gifts, and they should be afforded opportunities to learn and teach the Bible. An egalitarian reader of Scripture does strongly believe that a woman can be a leader in the Body of Messiah, the same as any man.
An egalitarian reader of Scripture, quite different to the complementarian, is going to emphasize the common bonds between husband and wife, as co-leaders of the home and family, to raise and discipline children, without any sense of rigid hierarchy—but as husband and wife as equal partners. An egalitarian reader will read Ephesians 5:22-33 in light of Ephesians 5:21: “be subject to one another in the fear of Messiah.” And, an egalitarian would have different readings of passages like 1 Timothy 2:12, 15, at the very least in approaching it from the perspective of the Ephesian false teaching that Paul’s disciple Timothy had to see stopped (although more likely via different translations of some controversial terms and clauses), and not at all speaking of universal circumstances. As egalitarian perspectives are considered and welcomed more and more by today’s Messianic people, the kind of arguments made above by Resnik and Kinzer, are not going to have as much influence as they would want them to have.
The widespread Messianic Jewish concern is whether non-Jewish Believers are going to cancel out their distinctiveness, by entering into the Messianic movement and becoming Torah obedient. I can say that for myself, as a Scottish American—that even though I keep Shabbat, observe the appointed times, and eat a kosher style diet—I have not at all given up on my cultural background, from any side of my family (Scottish, English, French, Dutch, German, Irish). Obviously, there are many good and wholesome things from my family’s largely British background, yet there are various parts of it laden with sin, which do not align with the ethos of Scripture, and should be totally jettisoned. When every Messianic Jew I have ever encountered meets me, he or she assumes that I am not a Jew. He or she knows that even when worshipping in a Messianic congregation on Saturday morning, that they are in the presence of a tall man from the nations—even with me wearing a yarmulke for synagogue protocol. He or she assumes that I am not going to try to run off to live in Israel, making aliyah—or even down to the local non-Messianic synagogue to become a member. He or she assumes that if I take them home with me, that my office, while full of religious books, is not stock full of Judaica items from Israel. He or she assumes that I am fully content in my ethnic and cultural background—even with partaking of my Biblical heritage in God’s Torah, and respecting and valuing the Jewish heritage of a Messianic Jewish style of worship on Shabbat and congregational commemorations of the moedim.
The broad Messianic movement has a way to go, in recognizing the egalitarian trajectory of Scripture (i.e., Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:3-4; Galatians 3:28)—where common faith in the Messiah is more important than natural distinctions—and it is unlikely that enough Messianic people will be able to see its importance in the short term. We are not all exactly the same. But the religious culture, where our differences outweigh our common values and faith in God, is one which prevails too much in today’s Messianic world. It might really be a while before we understand Paul’s word, “to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10, NRSV).
“[L]ooking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Messiah Yeshua, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”
As I know from conducting my 2010-2011 Wednesday Night Bible Study on the Pastoral Epistles of 1&2 Timothy and Titus—while the Pauline letters generally receive a low amount of attention from today’s Messianic people, these letters, in particular among the Pauline corpus, receive the lowest amount of evaluation and attention to detail. This is especially true of the Epistle to Titus, to which a rather miniscule amount of contemporary Messianic examination, of any kind, has been given. Much of this, whether today’s Messianic teachers and leaders—across the spectrum—wish to really admit it or not, is due to the fact that Titus was a Greek Believer in Yeshua, and that he was given considerable responsibilities in overseeing fellowships of Messiah followers on the island of Crete (Titus 1:5). The fact that Titus, a Greek, and one who was uncircumcised (cf. Galatians 2:3), would be afforded with such responsibility, is something that a wide selection of today’s Messianics choose to generally ignore.
It is quite easy for today’s Messianic Bible readers to just overlook the Epistle to Titus, as though it really has no bearing on their contemporary spirituality. Yet, as it concerns the question, Are non-Jewish Believers really a part of Israel?, the statements of Paul in Titus 2:14, need to definitely be factored into our deliberations. The evitable Apostle, making some observations on the return of Yeshua the Messiah, strongly asserts how “He gave Himself for us so that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and so that He might purify for Himself a chosen people, zealous for good deeds” (TLV). In the notes for a Messianic version like the TLV, Exodus 19:5-6 and Deuteronomy 26:18 are referenced. Yet, there are some more, key Tanach concepts to be considered. My following statements are largely adapted from my commentary The Pastoral Epistles for the Practical Messianic (early 2012).
Paul exhorts Titus on how Yeshua the Messiah “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14, ESV). The verb lutroō means “to free by paying a ransom, redeem” (BDAG). Past (Titus 2:11) and future (Titus 2:13) redemptive acts are both in view within the argument here. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom [noun lutron] for many.” 2 Clement 17:4 further elaborates, “For the Lord said, I come to gather together all the nations, tribes, and languages. Herein He speaketh of the day of His appearing, when He shall come and redeem us, each man according to his works.” The concept of redemption is deeply rooted within the deliverance of Ancient Israel from Egypt (Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 7:8; 2 Samuel 7:23), as it not only involves individuals being freed from their sins but also Divine intervention as God’s people are freed from the oppression of their enemies.
More of the current aspects of redemption are described in Titus 2:14, as individuals and the people of God as a whole are to live responsibly, reflecting the salvation that Yeshua has provided them. The main reason Yeshua was sacrificed was to deliver people apo pasēs anomias, “from all violation of Torah” (CJB) or “from all lawlessness” (ESV/HCSB). Yeshua the Messiah frees born again Believers from what they have done contrary to God’s Torah, as “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4), as He was sacrificed for those who stood under the Torah’s condemnation (Galatians 4:5). It is easy to see connections between Titus 2:14 and Tanach assertions about how Israel’s sins will be remitted by the Holy One:
“And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities [Heb. MT: m’kol avonotayv; Grk. LXX: ek pasōn tōn anomiōn autou]” (Psalm 130:8).
“They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions [Heb. MT: u’v’kol pish’eihem; Grk. LXX: apo pasōn anomiōn autōn]; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 37:23).
Titus 2:14 continues, detailing of the Messiah, kai katharisē heautō, “and might purify to himself” (YLT), with the verb katharizō meaning “to purify through ritual cleansing, make clean, declare clean” (BDAG). To a degree, Paul and Titus declaring to the Believers that true cleansing is available in Yeshua would subvert whatever the Cretan troublemakers had said about being pure in whatever they espoused (Titus 1:15-16), as this is a supernatural cleansing only available in the gospel. Parallels between this and Tanach promises that Israel will be purified can be seen, such good news having been anticipated many centuries earlier:
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness [Heb. MT: u’teharttem m’kol tum’oteikhem; Grk. LXX: kai katharisthēsesthe apo pasōn tōn akatharsiōn humōn] and from all your idols” (Ezekiel 36:25).
“Moreover, I will save you from all your uncleanness [Heb. MT: m’kol tum’oteikhem; Grk. LXX: pasōn tōn akatharsiōn humōn]; and I will call for the grain and multiply it, and I will not bring a famine on you” (Ezekiel 36:29).
“Thus says the Lord God, ‘On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities [Heb. MT: m’kol avonoteikhem; Grk. LXX: ek pasōn tōn anomiōn humōn], I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt’” (Ezekiel 36:33).
These linguistic connections between Titus 2:14 and Ezekiel chs. 36 and 37 regarding Yeshua’s salvation activity, point to the fact that all of those who acknowledge Him—Jewish or non-Jewish—as Savior are not only reckoned a part of the community of Israel, but they are also somehow to be participants in Israel’s restoration. The most important stage within Israel’s restoration is seeing people cleansed of their sins, and restored to a right relationship with the Creator. The Ezekiel 36:25-27 promise is most important, because when coupled with Jeremiah 31:31-34, it is the New Covenant imperative that with remission of sin will come the supernatural capacity on behalf of God’s people for them to truly follow His Torah/Law.
The ones who are specifically purified are stated to be laon periousion or a “special people” (LITV). This is a definite description of Ancient Israel in the Tanach directly applied to all born again Believers who recognize Israel’s Messiah (Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 4:20; 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; cf. 1 Samuel 12:22; 2 Samuel 7:24; Psalm 135:4). It is referenced as such, by Jennifer L. Koosed, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament:
“People of his own, lit., ‘chosen people’ (‘laon periousion’), only here in the NT but five times in the LXX (Ex 19.5; 23.22; Deut 7.6; 14.2; 26.18; see also Ezek 37:23) to refer to Israel’s election. The (predominantly Gentile) church sees itself in continuity with Israel.”
That those Messiah followers on the island of Crete, largely non-Jewish Believers—could be regarded as being a chosen people, called out by God as special and purified—means that they should be regarded as people who do not replace historical Israel, but are rather part of a community of Israel enlarged via the Messiah’s work and inclusion of the nations.
With born again Believers making up the Commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-13) or the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) via their trust in the Messiah, a mature man or woman of God is to be zēlōtēn kalōn ergōn, “a zealot for good works” (Titus 2:14, WBC). This concurs with Ephesians 2:8-10, where Believers are saved by grace through faith, but they are saved for the purpose of demonstrating good works as a positive result of their redemption, something brought about by the cleansing work of the Messiah (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 8:1-9; Galatians 5:17-18).
Today’s Messianic community experiences fewer challenges than today’s Christian Church, as Jewish and non-Jewish Believers brought together recognize themselves—in some form or fashion—to be a part of the community of Israel in Messiah Yeshua. There are hurdles and obstacles still to be overcome for certain, especially regarding missiology and making sure that we perform the array of good works that our Heavenly Father wants us to have. Nevertheless, we have been uniquely positioned to help see many Jewish people come to saving faith in Messiah Yeshua and help evangelical Christians gain a new appreciation for their Hebraic Roots.
1 Peter 2:9-11
“But you are A CHOSEN RACE [Isaiah 43:20, LXX; Deuteronomy 7:6; 10:15], A royal PRIESTHOOD [Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 61:6], A HOLY NATION [Exodus 19:6], A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION [Isaiah 43:21, LXX; Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 4:20; 7:6; 14:2], so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY [Hosea 2:23]. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.”
It is not difficult, in reading through 1 Peter 2:9-11, that there is a wide variety of some significant titles of honor and distinction—which are directly taken from the Tanach or Old Testament—applied to the audience of the letter. These titles are principally directed to stimulate good and proper behavior, becoming of born again Believers, which reflect upon the righteous character of God. It is most convenient to see a figure like the Apostle Peter apply these titles to Jewish Believers, as they involve not only the vocational calling upon Ancient Israel to be a Kingdom of priests and holy nation, but also God’s plan to restore Israel in the eschaton. However, a wide number of examiners of the Epistle of 1 Peter, including people in contemporary Messianic Judaism, are forced to recognize how this letter, at the very least, had a mixed audience of First Century Jewish and non-Jewish Believers. That non-Jewish Believers could be described with honorificates designated for Israel, surely has a bearing on ecclesiology.
The audience of 1 Peter is stated to be a wide grouping of Messiah followers in Asia Minor. The Apostle Peter also goes on to acknowledge how, at least a major part of his audience, were once engrossed in paganism—which decisively means that a huge number, of those who received 1 Peter, were non-Jewish Greeks and Romans. Their condition as “aliens” is one of sojourning on Planet Earth, in anticipation of the return of the Messiah:
“Peter, an apostle of Yeshua the Messiah, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen…As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY’ [Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7]. If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah” (1 Peter 1:1, 14-19).
Obviously, the call to holiness is one which is issued to all Messiah followers. Yet, when reviewing 1 Peter 2:9-10, and recognizing that the intertextuality seen describes not only behavioral holiness but also the restoration of Israel’s Kingdom—that Jewish Believers and non-Jewish Believers, are participants in all of this together, is certain. Here are some of the main Tanach passages quoted in 1 Peter 2:9-10, appearing in order:
- “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6).
- “Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 10:15).
- “‘[A]nd you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel” (Exodus 19:6).
- “But you will be called the priests of the LORD; you will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast” (Isaiah 61:6).
- “The people whom I formed for Myself will declare My praise” (Isaiah 43:21).
- “But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today” (Deuteronomy 4:20).
- “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2).
- “I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!’” (Hosea 2:23).
The role that 1 Peter 2:9-10 has for today’s emerging Messianic movement, and what it specifically communicates, is one which is most important. Not only are we to be a holy people who faithfully serve the Lord in the world, but it cannot be avoided that the Apostle Peter applied a prophecy of the exiled Northern Kingdom of Israel/Ephraim coming back to Him (Hosea 2:23) to a mixed audience of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers. Similar to the challenges of interpretation present with Romans 9:23-29 (previously addressed), so are there some challenges of interpretation present with 1 Peter 2:9-10.
Many of today’s populist Two-House teachers will just quickly conclude that Peter’s non-Jewish audience were “Ephraimites” of some sort, which Peter does not say. The focus of Peter himself is on the vocational calling of Israel—which is not limited to his own Jewish people exclusively, or the nations. He applies a restoration of Israel prophecy, in the process of being fulfilled, to non-Jewish Believers—but more in the sense of all Believers being participants involved in it. And, the ethical and moral aspects of this are more imperative. From a standpoint of ecclesiology, all Believers, Jewish and non-Jewish, are part of the Kingdom realm of Israel where these prophecies will take place—meaning that non-Jewish Believers are hardly a part of some separate “Church” entity. From a standpoint of missiology, all Believers, Jewish and non-Jewish, are to live holy and upstanding lives, reflecting the love and righteousness of God to the world.
Recognizing some of the challenges present in 1 Peter 2:9-10, the titles which involve Ancient Israel and the restoration of Israel, and the audience of the Epistle of 1 Peter—what have various voices and resources of note, in Messianic Judaism, said about this?
Stern, albeit reluctantly, recognizes in his Jewish New Testament Commentary that Jewish and non-Jewish Believers are addressed in 1 Peter 2:9-10, with the latter being addressed, in his estimation, a bit metaphorically. However, he spends more time focusing on the mistakes of replacement theology, than considering the ramifications of non-Jewish Believers being labeled with honors, presumably only intended for Israel, and what it means for ecclesiology:
“In the Tanakh these terms are applied to the Jewish people, Israel. Kefa applies them to the readers of his letter, who, according to 1:1N, are, firstly, Messianic Jews and, secondly, Messianic Gentiles who truly identify with them…Many Christian theologians have used this verse [1 Peter 2:9] as evidence that the Church (the Christians) has replaced Israel (the Jews). If I am right about who the readers of this letter were, then these Christian theologians are wrong. Even if I am wrong about the readers, Replacement theology is inconsistent with Ro 11:17-26, Ep 2:11-22, and other references at Mt 5:5N. I would put it this way: Christians are indeed a chosen people, priests for the King, a holy ‘nation’ (in a metaphorical sense), a people set aside for God to possess—not by way of superseding the Jews as God’s people, but by way of being joined to them by faith in the same God and in the Jewish Messiah. A so-called ‘Christian’ who opposes or looks down on the Jews merely as God’s ‘former’ people has missed the point altogether and is probably not a Christian at all.”
A much more textually and missionally engaged approach, to what the Epistle of 1 Peter communicates, is seen in the brief introduction to 1 Peter in the Tree of Life—The New Covenant (2011). It is appropriately stated that non-Jewish Believers, being described with the same titles of honor as Israel, is not at all some sort of replacement theology, but is instead a fact of how the Kingdom realm of Israel has been enlarged to incorporate the righteous from the nations:
“Peter was known as the shaliach [apostle] to the Jewish people, but perhaps that was not his only audience. In 2:12, exactly who should keep their conduct honorable among the Gentiles? Jewish readers in Diaspora who have contact with non-Jewish people? Gentile believers within the communities? Much of Peter’s letter does seem to address Gentiles who have joined the believing community—[given the] talk about the futile way of life (1:18) and advice to stop past pagan lifestyles (1:14; 4:3-5).
“Peter includes Gentiles in the people of God by applying to them the language of the Tanakh. His readers in 1:4 have an inheritance; in 1:15 they are called as kedoshim [saints] to be holy; in 2:9 they are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation; in 4:17 they are the family of God. This is not the church ‘replacing’ Israel. It is the enlargement of Israel to now include Gentiles according to God’s plan. It is the same idea we find in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (2:12-13).”
While I am perhaps most comfortable, personally, with the TLV language such as, “It is the enlargement of Israel to now include Gentiles according to God’s plan,” and focus on non-Jewish Believers possessing citizenship and membership in an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel—Lancaster actually goes even further in his book Grafted In (2009):
“‘Chosen people,’ ‘royal priesthood,’ ‘holy nation,’ and ‘people belonging to God’ are all titles of Israel. They are the very roles God offered to Israel at Mount Sinai if only she would ‘hear his voice and keep his covenant.’ Now the Gentiles have…entered that covenant, to keep it through the auspices of Yeshua. They have become a part of Israel the bride.
“As Gentile believers, we find our position in Israel spelled out here. We are no longer to be regarded as merely Gentiles. We are part of the people of God. We have become a ‘chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.’ We have been so made on the basis of an ‘imperishable seed’ planted in us ‘through the living and enduring word of God,’ not a perishable seed inherited from distant ancestors, nor on the basis of a legal conversion. We have become a part of the people of Israel.”
What is most provable, from evaluating the audience of 1 Peter (1:1, 14-19) and the titles of honor directed to them (1 Peter 2:9-10), is that a mixed Jewish and non-Jewish group of people in the First Century, were all to fulfill the vocational calling originally placed upon Ancient Israel—as well as be participants in the restoration of the Messianic Kingdom. This was not replacement theology, but rather an expansion of the borders and activities of Israel’s Kingdom. Would such words, applied to non-Jewish Believers, truly indicate that they were a part of some separate entity called “the Church”—or the assembly of Israel that Yeshua came to build anew via His work? It is hard to see the Apostle Peter applying titles of honor, originally concerning Ancient Israel—to a mixed audience of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers—unless he considered both of them to be a part of the same community of God.
Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6
“[A]nd He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:6).
“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth” (Revelation 5:10).
“Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Messiah and will reign with Him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:6).
In passages like Revelation 1:6; 5:10; and 20:6, it is witnessed that all of those who recognize Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), as their Lord and Savior, are to be regarded as some sort of priests. This has its wording and mission rooted within the Tanach or Old Testament, as Exodus 19:6 originally instructed the Ancient Israelites, “you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Also to be considered should be Isaiah 61:6, “But you will be called the priests of the LORD; you will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast.” In his Jewish New Testament Commentary, Stern recognizes it as much: “The language comes from Exodus 19:6, Isaiah 61:6.” Yet, the statement by David Frankfurter on Revelation 5:10, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament, is even more of note:
“Kingdom and priests, Ex 19.6 is here democratized from Israel to all people (cf. 1 Pet 2.9).”
That the understanding, of what the Kingdom of Israel composes, is reworked a bit around its King, Yeshua the Messiah, is something undeniably present in Revelation 1:6; 5:10; and 20:6. It is not at all that the original Twelve Tribes of Israel get replaced, because they do not; it is that the original Kingdom of Israel composed of those twelve tribes reaches out to all people of the human race, so that they might have redemption in Israel’s Messiah, serving the Creator God for His glory. Even with some specific details necessarily needing to be worked out as these oracles take shape in future history, Isaiah 66:18-21 foretells that many persons from the nations, who helped regather the scattered descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob back to their homeland, will actually be made into priests and Levites by God:
“‘For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Rosh, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations. Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,’ says the LORD, ‘just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,’ says the LORD.”
Revelation 1:6; 5:10; and 20:6, and its assertion that Messiah followers are to be a kingdom of priests, is ultimately tied into the vision of the New Jerusalem, with its twelve gates for the Twelve Tribes of Israel. This is a city which is not closed to anyone, except those unredeemed persons who are eternally exiled from God’s presence:
“It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:12-27).
Even with some of limitations, Michael has to acknowledge the inclusive component of the New Jerusalem—which welcomes all people of all nations, into Israel—in his publication Twelve Gates (2012):
“The day is coming when the holy city, the New Jerusalem, will descend, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. The twelve gates of the city will be open, day and night. Three look to the east. Three to the north. Three to the south. Three to the west. Each gate is made of precious stone. The names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel are inscribed upon the gates, just as they were inscribed on the twelve stones of the high priest’s breast piece.
“Through which gate will you enter?
“The Bible teaches that in Jesus, ‘the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and members of the same body’ with the Jewish people (Ephesians 3:6), and ‘fellow heirs with Christ’ Himself (Romans 8:17). The point of the vision of the New Jerusalem is not to exclude the non-Jews from the city; rather the gates of Israel stand open to the Gentiles, beckoning them to enter into the eternal reward that God has prepared for His people. The vision of New Jerusalem is not one of exclusion but inclusion, as it says, ‘the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day…They will bring into it the glory and honor of the Gentiles.’”
That the Kingdom of God is to ultimately be represented by the city of New Jerusalem—and its twelve gates, inscribed with the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel—is something absolutely profound.
Three gates, representing Canada, Australia, and South Africa, currently surround Buckingham Palace in London. Only two of those three countries today still recognize the British monarch as their head of state (with Australia notably having had a republic referendum in 1999, to abolish the Crown, which narrowly lost). Their relationship with the original, colonial and imperial power, is not at all what it used to be.
Quite contrary to this, the New Jerusalem, with its entry ports inscribed with the names of twelve Biblical figures—some of which were not always honorable people, but who have undoubtedly affected the world in more ways than they could have ever possibly known—bears an undeniable testimony to the purposes of our Eternal and most Loving God to work through some of the most unlikeliest of people, that He might bring His redemption to all.
As inclusive as the New Jerusalem will be, welcoming in “the glory and honor of the nations” (Revelation 22:26, TLV), this city will possess an eternal distinction, as those who enter in will encounter the names of Israel’s twelve tribes. However, as those who enter in must pass through a gate labeled after Israel’s twelve tribes, the redeemed from the nations must reckon themselves as a part of an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel—brought to fruition via the work of the twelve Apostles (Revelation 21:14)—not some separate “Church” entity. Otherwise, the gates should be named after the Apostles, and the twelve foundation stones after the Twelve Tribes.
Ten Taking Hold Versus Making Proselytes
There is no doubting the reality, that when one surveys a selection of most Messianic Jewish congregations, in the Diaspora—and mainly in North America at that—that a majority of the constituents are likely to be non-Jewish. While exact numbers vary from assembly to assembly, the total numbers of Jewish people in a Messianic congregation might be one-third or less. Understandably, in anticipating the future growth and expansion of the Messianic movement, various Messianic Jewish leaders are a bit concerned. A Messianic Jewish movement which originally began as an evangelical outreach to fellow Jews—while seeing many Jews brought to faith in Yeshua the Messiah—has also seen many evangelical Believers enter in, and embrace their Hebraic Roots and a lifestyle of Torah observance. Will the Messianic movement actually emerge into a movement, where there are little or no Jews?
There are some very big controversies about the demographics of the Messianic movement, which have been brewing and stewing for years (and for which there are no easy answers). This largely relates to whether or not the Messianic movement is going to remain something relatively homogenous to Jews, or become more heterogeneous to other people groups. It involves issues of leadership in the local assembly, as well as more intimate subjects such as intermarriage. Many individual Messianic Jews, think that it is a good thing that non-Jewish Believers have become a part of their assemblies—obviously putting a complicated past history of anti-Semitism, and much misunderstanding toward Judaism, behind them. Many Messianic Jewish leaders, though, have been less-than-excited about non-Jews, seemingly swelling their numbers.
How are we to sort through much of this? One way would be to obviously consider that some important prophetic oracles are taking shape in the midst of our faith community, according to the predestined will of God. Another way would be to limit the activity of God’s Spirit, and see people corralled and sub-divided, with non-Jewish Believers indirectly pressured that being part of a Messianic congregation is not really for them. Yet, even with the decisions of various leaders and teachers trying to limit the activity of non-Jewish Believers in the contemporary Messianic movement—they seem to still just “keep coming.” Even when not always welcome in Messianic Judaism, some place in a less-than-formal independent Messianic fellowship or home group is found, rather than a return to a standard church setting.
A significant passage from the Prophets, Zechariah 8:20-23, is something that I have heard spoken, repeated, exposited on, and even speculated on, by many people in the Messianic movement. This includes many Messianic Jews, when they consider how non-Jewish Believers have been drawn into their midst, in some way, to be exposed to their Jewish Roots or the Biblical feasts. While some of these people might not be attending Shabbat services in a Messianic Jewish congregation every week, many of them do absolutely tend to swell services during the appointed times, such as at a congregational Passover gathering or the Fall High Holidays. What does Zechariah 8:20-23 tell us?
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘It will yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one will go to another, saying, “Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts; I will also go.” So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD.’ Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’”
Here, it is said that people from all over the world will come to Jerusalem, seeking the God of Israel. They will follow after a Jew, knowing that the Creator God is with him. This passage bears some similarities to the oracle of Micah 4:1-3 and Isaiah 2:2-4, about the nations coming to Zion to be taught God’s Torah. The reality is, whether today’s Messianic Jewish leaders wish to admit it or not—is that all of these prophecies are taking place in their very midst. Many non-Jewish Believers are decisively turning to God’s Torah, and are attending Messianic Jewish congregations. Many non-Jewish Believers are taking a hold of the proverbial garment of a Jewish person, knowing that his or her destiny lies with Israel.
Eli Cashdan, in the Soncino Books of the Bible commentary, observes on Zechariah 8:23, “Many men of different nations will press round a single Jew in their eagerness to join him in the worship of God, or to be recognized with him as belonging to the people of God.” Is this not what we have in many Messianic Jewish congregations today? Not only do we often see a diverse number of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers—but the demographics on the non-Jewish side are widely diverse themselves. It is not at all, as though the overwhelming majority of non-Jewish Messianics are white Caucasians; there really are non-Jewish Messianics from all nations.
Zechariah 8:23, “Thus said the LORD of Hosts: In those days, ten men from nations of every tongue will take hold—they will take hold of every Jew by a corner of his cloak and say, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (NJPS), is a prophetic word which is occurring in our midst today. We see it happening in Messianic congregations all over the Diaspora. While many Messianic Jews are a bit upset, disappointed, and distraught over non-Jewish Believers outnumbering them in their congregations—this is precisely what the Bible says is going to happen. The ratio of Jewish-to-non-Jewish people might end up being one-to-ten. Yet as prophecy is taking shape, the non-Jewish people have a conscious responsibility to be highly respectful, inquisitive, and recognizing of the Jewish leadership (cf. Romans 3:1-2), irrevocable calling (Romans 11:29), and that salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22). The only way you can really be in a Messianic Jewish congregation, which is almost one-hundred percent Jewish, is to be a part of one in the modern-day State of Israel.
While it is a bit stark to consider the reality that non-Jewish Believers might end up outnumbering Jewish Believers ten-to-one, in Diaspora assemblies—this does not all of a sudden mean that legitimate Messianic Jewish spiritual and theological issues go away, that concern for events in the Land of Israel go away, or that all Messianic Jewish children are going to all be intermarried away. If it is recognized that those from the nations are depicted as principally joining with Jewish people in worship, in Zechariah 8:20-23, then what we are basically looking at is a sharing of “sacred space” for spiritual fellowship, several times a week. A good teacher will always elaborate on Jewish spiritual and theological concerns. A good leader will make sure to present a potential married couple, with all of the various issues that may face them in marriage (which might discourage a wide amount of possible intermarriage).
While there are Messianic Jewish congregations—and certainly various independent Messianic expressions—which are honest with the thrust of a passage like Zechariah 8:20-23, there are others, in notable parts of the Messianic Jewish movement, who will be offering other alternatives. Among those who adhere to a bilateral ecclesiology of the Commonwealth of Israel composing the Jewish people/Messianic Jewish movement and the Christian Church, it is widely thought—that other than some limited contact here and there between Christians wanting enrichment from their Hebraic Roots—that the Messianic movement is not a place for non-Jews. A definite sentiment of many who adhere to bilateral ecclesiology, is to see the Messianic Jewish movement acknowledged as a formal branch of Judaism. A major practice, of all branches of Judaism, is to offer non-Jewish people the option of proselyte conversion.
The issue of proselyte conversion was one of various topics debated in the 2001 book, Voices of Messianic Judaism. Michael Wolf argued against offering Messianic Jewish conversions, and John Fischer argued in favor of offering Messianic Jewish conversions. In the past decade or so, while there continue to be debates over whether or not Messianic Jewish denominations, or groups with such denominations—should offer non-Jews the option of becoming Messianic Jewish “proselytes”—the fact is, is that there is a growing acceptance of it. In his 2009 work, Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology, Harvey referenced how “the innovations of the Hashivenu movement within the UMJC…welcomes the conversion of Gentiles to Messianic Judaism.” The Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council, founded in 2006, is a group of Messianic Jewish leaders who have endorsed the idea that offering proselyte conversions for non-Jewish people in their congregations, might be a good thing. Others in positions of influence in the Messianic community, while once being rather opposed to the option of Messianic Jewish proselyte conversions, have now demonstrated a more open position toward it.
Much of the growing acceptance of non-Jewish proselytes to Messianic Judaism, while being spurred from the demographics of non-Jewish Believers outnumbering Jewish Believers, has been due to a total misevaluation of the Apostle Paul’s word of Galatians 5:3. As it appears in the NASU, Paul says, “I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.” It is hence concluded by many Messianic Jewish leaders, on the basis of this verse, that only native-born Jews and circumcised proselytes are those who are required to keep the Torah, specifically things like the Sabbath, appointed times, or dietary laws. Non-Jews who want to feel like they should keep these things, probably need to consider looking into proselyte conversion.
There has been little examination with the surrounding cotext of Galatians 5:1-4, where a loss of God’s salvation in Yeshua is in view. Galatians 5:4 actually says, “You have been severed from Messiah, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” This is hardly the word one would have issued to a Greek or Roman Believer of the First Century, if some kind of “obligated” Jewish identity were the presumed issue. Alternatively, given the more literal rendering of opheiletēs as “debtor” in Galatians 5:3 (KJV/NKJV), the commitments made by the person seeking proselyte circumcision, likely pertained to various oaths and vows issued to keep the whole Torah as a part of the conversion process/procedure (i.e., Nehemiah 10:28-29; 1QS 5.7-13), and also an acknowledgement to incur curses/penalties for ever breaking it. A debtor is one who can have penalties claimed. Because Yeshua is to have decisively broken the condemnation of Torah breaking for those who are in Him (Galatians 3:13; cf. Isaiah 24:5)—an ancient Greek or Roman Believer becoming a proselyte, was most likely to nullify His salvation, by claiming such curses, reverting back to a life of slavery to sin (Galatians 5:1).
Sadly, there has not been a huge amount of examination on Galatians 5:1-4 seen by any of today’s Messianics, thinking through the implications of the verses, or considering the source text in any detail. That opheiletēs could mean “debtor,” has often not even appeared on the radar or sonar of some rather capable examiners in the Messianic movement—much less been factored in to the spiritually complicated implications of Galatians 5:1-4.
What will an acceptance of non-Jewish proselytes to Messianic Judaism mean for our broad faith community? It is surely not the plan of God for proselytes to be made of the nations. Ancient proselytes to Judaism, who received Yeshua in the First Century C.E., were acknowledged and accepted as-is—but you never see the process employed by the Body of Messiah itself. (The circumcision of Timothy in Acts 16:3 was hardly a case of proselyte conversion, because he was already half-Jewish; it was a medical procedure to stop any potential conflict with non-believing Jews, given that he had a Greek father.)
While it is unknown what the definite procedures will be for any kind of Messianic Jewish conversion—if it at all involves presumed Believers claiming curses of the Mosaic Covenant, what would this mean for someone who has presumably had such curses broken via Yeshua’s salvation? Are we not to be people of the New Covenant, with decisive forgiveness and atonement for sin (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27)? What negative spiritual dynamics could be unloosed upon us if various Messianic Jewish denominations embrace non-Jews becoming proselytes via their auspices? Is this consistent with Zechariah 8:20-23; Micah 4:1-3; Isaiah 2:2-4? While Messianic Jewish groups offering proselyte conversion would enable them to have identification with the larger Jewish Synagogue—Yeshua the Messiah did not look favorably on the process (Matthew 23:15). And, an acceptance of Messianic Jews making many non-Jews into proselytes—especially so that they can “stay” in their congregations—might not look that unlike the steady acceptance that homosexual marriage and ordination of homosexual clergy has had in various liberal sectors of Judaism and Christianity.
The First Century Non-Jewish Believers, and the Messianic Movement Today
There is a general sense, in much of the broad Messianic movement, that what was present in the First Century Body of Messiah, is something which is most ideal and beneficial to try to recapture. While this should not include returning to a Mediterranean culture dominated by an oppressive power such as Rome, or include the presence of deplorable practices such as slavery and the oppression of women, or even Believers in Yeshua suffering public humiliation by the state—it does mean returning to the sense of unity and interconnectivity presented to us in the Book of Acts, with Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in camaraderie and solidarity with one another, as fellow brothers and sisters, sharing “sacred space” on a weekly basis with one another. While these people surely had their issues—as all human beings do—trying to recapture some of what they had, is an admirable goal, and one which many feel is present in today’s mixed Messianic congregations of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers.
The Apostolic decree of Acts 15:19-21, 29, issued by James the Just, made it quite clear that the new, non-Jewish Believers coming to faith in the Mediterranean basin did not have to be ordered to be circumcised as proselytes, or keep the Torah to be saved (Acts 15:1, 5). There were some non-negotiable entry requirements to be observed by them, however, for table fellowship, given their new associations. When followed, abstinence from idolatry, sexual immorality, strangled meats, and blood, would have had the effect of seeing Greeks and Romans severed from their old spheres of social and religious influence. This would in turn make the Jewish community, and fellowships (be they formal or informal) of Jewish Believers, their new spheres of social and religious influence. There are examples in the Book of Acts and Pauline letters, where the Apostolic decree was certainly followed, and there was a wide degree of involvement on the part of Greek and Roman Believers in the local Jewish community. There are also examples where the Apostolic decree was followed, and there was a wide degree of exclusion, because of Messiah faith, with many Jewish Believers actually removed from the Jewish community. And, there are examples of where the Apostolic decree was not followed, and where sin abounded. While there is variance, the Apostles’ intention was to surely see the new, non-Jewish Believers, attached to a community that recognized Israel’s One God.
Today’s Messianic Believers are in wide, general agreement that the First Century ekklēsia did not practice Sunday “church,” and that there was no Christmas and Easter, certainly as holidays as we now know them today. These observances, which have made contemporary Christianity doubtlessly distinct and in contrast to Judaism, did not begin to emerge until the Second Century and after the death of the Apostles and some of their immediate successors. While today’s Messianic Believers rejoice over the fact that Yeshua was born in Bethlehem, and that He was sacrificed and resurrected for our sins—most of them do not celebrate Christmas or Easter in their homes.
The inclusion of those from the nations in the Body of Messiah, as noted by James the Just, was predicated on the basis of “the words of the Prophets agree” (Acts 15:15). While including the oracle of Amos 9:11-12 quoted thereafter (Acts 15:16-18), many more Tanach prophecies involving the nations turning to Israel’s God and people, had to have been in his mind. We see no forced Torah observance of the nations, as was sought by some (Acts 15:1, 5), because the course of prophecy instead needed to be fulfilled. This would have involved oracles like Micah 4:1-3 and Isaiah 2:2-4, about the nations coming to Zion to be taught God’s Law. It surely involved Joel 2:28 and kol-basar or “all flesh” (RSV) receiving God’s Spirit (Acts 2:17-21). Consequently, a major work of God’s Spirit is to supernaturally write His Instruction on the hearts and minds of His people, as part of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Hebrews 8:8-12; 10:16-17). No one, even Jewish Believers, needed to be forced to obey God’s Law—when the supernatural compulsion of His own Spirit can work absolute wonders. For, only the Spirit imbuing a heart and mind, can enable transformed men and women to truly have love for God and neighbor.
While there is every indication in the Messianic Scriptures, that the Apostles believed that the righteous from the nations were participants in Israel’s restoration along with them—there is no indication that the nations could participate in every single aspect of such restoration. They were part of an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel, with a restored Twelve Tribes at its center, and with the borders of Israel expanding themselves, as envisioned by the Tabernacle of David oracle appealed to by James the Just (Amos 9:11-12). Those of the nations would doubtlessly be welcome to visit the Land of Israel and express honor and respect to different sites of importance—but the territory of Israel’s Twelve Tribes for permanent residence, was largely to be reserved for ethnic Israelites alone. While the new, non-Jewish Believers in the First Century would have to be purged of their paganism, there would still remain ethnic distinctions between Jewish, Greek, and Roman Believers. There would also still remain various cultural distinctions, simply by virtue of Greek and Roman Believers being conditioned by the geography and climate of diverse areas outside of the Land of Israel. While certainly needing to be reformed and influenced by a Biblical ethos, various types of clothing, cuisine, music, artwork, entertainment, architecture, and even literature, would certainly not all be synthesized to look and feel like First Century Israel or Second Temple Judaism. I cannot totally disagree with Mark S. Kinzer, who asserts,
“[T]he leadership of the Yeshua movement determined at an early stage that the ekklesia as an eschatological extension of Israel was to be an essentially transnational reality in which the cultural peculiarities of different regions and ethnicities would be expressed within the broad framework of Israel’s messianic faith.”
Kinzer goes on to properly acknowledge how a great majority of the early, non-Jewish Believers in Israel’s Messiah, were wide participants in the Jewish community with them:
“At first, Gentile Yeshua-believers apparently expressed their solidarity with the Jewish people by participating along with Jewish Yeshua-believers in the wider Jewish world. They attended synagogue gatherings and experienced Jewish life directly. Only Yeshua-believing Jews would have accepted them as equals and as sharers in Israel’s eschatological blessings, but this need not have prevented them from active involvement with the rest of the Jewish community.”
Most probably as an observation of what would come in the centuries following, increased anti-Semitism in the Roman Empire, and later forced conversions of Jews to Christianity, with Jews having to give up their heritage—Kinzer concludes that only a Body of Messiah composed of two sub-communities will work in our time. Today, what this equates to is that the Messianic Jewish Synagogue and largely non-Jewish Christian Church, should remain largely separate. This is the only way, in his mind, that Jewish distinction can be adequately preserved. So, unless a non-Jewish Messianic has thoughts of a Messianic Jewish proselyte conversion, he or she probably needs to consider returning to a standard church setting.
A slightly less stark position is presented by Resnik, speaking on behalf of one Messianic Jewish denomination, where he does acknowledge how “Messianic Judaism is not an exclusively Jewish movement, but includes a subgroup of uniquely called Gentiles who share in the life and destiny of the Jewish people. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine today’s Messianic Jewish community apart from the faithful and visionary participation of many non-Jewish leaders and members.” Quite contrary to the actual circumstances of many congregations and assemblies on the ground, and the sentiments held by both people and various leaders, Resnik concludes, “We do not portray ourselves as an ideal restored first-century community…We do not…encourage Christians to leave their church in order to attend a Messianic congregation.”
What is happening today, with many evangelical Christians entering into Messianic congregations—while it may wish to be slowed or stopped by various Messianic Jewish leaders—is something that cannot be halted, if it is indeed a genuine move of God’s Spirit and salvation history. Even with some protestations that the Messianic Jewish movement is not trying to recapture some sort of First Century ideal, this is what a majority of people in the broad Messianic movement believe is happening. Even with many, many details needing to be sorted out, the notion that God is restoring all of us to the ancient paths (cf. Jeremiah 6:16), is an unavoidable reality. As many non-Jewish Believers join with their Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters, in mixed assemblies—and this continues to get bigger—how will this be joined with other prophecies concurrently taking place (i.e., 2 Thessalonians 2:3a)?
Being Careful and Watching One’s Terms
The position defended in this publication, is one which is adhered to by many people across the broad Messianic spectrum: non-Jewish Believers do have citizenship within the community of Israel, along with Jewish Believers. They are a part of the Commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-13), fellow heirs (Ephesians 3:6), grafted-in to Israel’s olive tree (Romans 11:16-17), members of the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). But what are some of the implications of this?
There has doubtlessly been opposition from various Messianic Jewish leaders, as well as evangelical Christian leaders, when an alternative to a bilateral ecclesiology has been presented. When non-Jewish Believers being a part of Israel has been opposed by those of “the establishment,” it is often been responded to with some less-than-constructive behavior, by non-Jewish Messianics. A widescale dismissal of mainline Jewish tradition in Torah observance, for example, is one of many negative things that has manifested.
While it is inspiring and moving to see non-Jewish Believers, via their connection to the Messianic movement, reconnect with their Hebraic and Jewish Roots—non-Jewish readers of the Bible need to exhibit caution, when reading the accounts of Ancient Israel in the Torah. They should not simply personalize what they encounter, but instead be able to read such accounts as primarily being ancient stories involving ancient people. Non-Jewish Messianics should be surely encouraged to look at such accounts as a part of their spiritual heritage—the consequences of Ancient Israel’s sin being endemic to all of humanity, and thus Yeshua’s sacrifice rightly affecting everyone—but the Torah is not a part of their ethnic or cultural heritage, unlike Jewish Believers.
While non-Jewish Believers are participants in the restoration of Israel via the return of Israel’s sovereign King Messiah, the promised return of the descendants of Israel to the Promised Land will not directly involve today’s non-Jewish Messianic Believers. This is because the tribal territories in the Holy Land (Joshua chs. 15-21; Ezekiel 47:13-48:35) are very specific to the Twelve Tribes of Israel (and a handful of outsiders in the Millennium). Non-Jewish Believers may be regarded as a part of a Kingdom of Israel with a restored Twelve Tribes at its center (cf. James 1:1), whose borders have widened themselves, but they are nonetheless not ethnic Israelites and are not entitled to permanent habitation in a rather small Land of Israel.
While non-Jewish Believers should consider themselves a part of an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel (Amos 9:11-12), this does not make them ethnically or culturally Jewish. They can legitimately claim the Biblical story of Israel and the Jewish people as their own story (1 Corinthians 10:11); they cannot claim the post-Second Temple Jewish experience as their own story, as important as that story is to know and appreciate. As much as non-Jewish Messianics can all learn from and appreciate Jewish tradition and culture, and even integrate it into their praxis of faith—most likely in congregational activities—it should never take away from the unique backgrounds and virtues of non-Jewish Believers’ own ethnic heritage. We are not all going to be exactly the same. There are, as the Apostle Paul says, “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18), which can be taken as all of the gifts, talents, and skills imparted to each of us by our Creator, by which we are to bless and enrich one another. Many of these qualities come directly from one’s own ethnic and cultural background, which while likely to have been molded by a Biblical ethos, might have some useful perspectives which are different than those seen in contemporary Jewish culture.
Non-Jewish Believers should never expect, because of being granted citizenship in the Israel of God, to similarly be granted citizenship in the modern-day State of Israel. Even when Yeshua returns, and with Jerusalem and the Land of Israel as the major global hub of activity, there is no indication that all Messiah followers will, in total, ever live in the Land of Israel (cf. Isaiah 19:23-24; Zechariah 14:16-19). Yet, the “nations” we see in the Millennium will be submitted to the rule of the Messiah and Jerusalem, and should be rightfully considered to be distinct ethnic groups, not independent political states.
Non-Jewish Messianic Believers should never call themselves some sort of “Israelites”—most especially because “Israelite” is most closely associated not only with ethnic descent from the Twelve Tribes of Israel, but the pre-exilic period of Ancient Israel’s history. Even when non-Jewish Messianic Believers associate the proper term “Israel” in reference to themselves, in the company of Messianic Jewish Believers, some sensitivity needs to be employed. A non-Jewish Believer should not readily say that he or she is “Israel”—which is likely to confuse or offend various Messianic Jews—but instead say something like “I am a part of Israel too.” This should then be immediately explained by appealing to concepts such as the Commonwealth of Israel or being grafted-in to Israel’s olive tree.
While more caution and tact need to be employed by more of today’s non-Jewish Messianic people, many Messianic Jews themselves need to exhibit more sensitivity when interacting around non-Jewish Believers. Messianic Jews need to be historically accurate, in terms of not referring to the Ancient Israelites at Mount Sinai as either “the Jewish people” or “the Jews,” when the term “Jew” (Yehudi) was not readily employed until after the Babylonian exile. Calling those at Mount Sinai “the Ancient Israelites” is what is historically correct, and is something that cannot be refuted by anyone in Biblical Studies. Messianic Jews also need to be rather careful with those non-Jewish Believers in their midst who may be offended at the term “Gentile,” taking it to always mean “pagan,” and try to expel some degree of effort of employing valid alternatives like “the nations.”
The Final Stages of Salvation History
The final stages or phases of salvation history, with God’s plan to fully restore the Kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6), are beginning to take shape. This has involved both the arrival of the Messianic Jewish movement, and seeing many Jewish people brought to faith in Yeshua—as well as seeing many non-Jewish Believers exposed to and embracing their Hebraic Roots and spiritual heritage in Judaism. There should be no denying the fact that the Messianic movement is going to play a very prominent role in end-time events, culminating in the return of the Messiah. It should also be no surprise to see—if the Messianic movement is going to play a major and much more prominent role in future things—why there has been so much division, confusion, suspicion, and even some outright hatred among brothers and sisters. The enemy does not want to see God’s intentions come to pass.
The final stages of salvation history are likely a little further out than not, and so in the more immediate future, we face the next big phase of development within a Messianic movement having modern roots going back to the early Nineteenth Century. One definite option, which is often advocated by Messianic Jewish leaders who adhere to a bilateral ecclesiology, is to see Messianic Judaism be steadily and more formally acknowledged as a branch of Judaism. Cohn-Sherbok, a somewhat progressively-minded Reform Jewish scholar, recognized it as much in his book Messianic Judaism. He describes, “Today there no longer exists one monolithic form of Judaism; instead there are seven distinctly differently Judaisms, each with its own ideology. These branches of Jewish faith converge as well as diverge from each other at central points: they are united at the base, but separate in their expressions of the Jewish faith.” He then goes on to display a chart, loosely based on the menorah:
Given the fact that Messianic Judaism could only possibly be recognized as a formal branch of Judaism, per the existence of hyper-liberal branches such as Reconstructionist or Humanistic Judaism, may not serve the cause as much as some Messianic Jews may think.
Now there is no problem, on my part, of Messianic Jews wanting to be recognized as Jewish by their own people. Messianic Jewish individuals being integrated to a wide degree with the greater Jewish world should not be an issue. But should being recognized as still “Jewish” by fellow Jews, take place formally or organically? Orthodox Jews generally consider non-Orthodox branches of Judaism apostate. There will always be Jewish individuals who have a mistrust of Messianic Jews, because they believe in Yeshua, and are to some degree going to be associated with Christianity. And, even among Jews who acknowledge that Messianic Jews can still be regarded as Jewish, the issue of Yeshua as God, will be debated, and there will be Messianic Jews who will deny Yeshua’s Divinity to make Him more “palatable,” so to speak, for other Jews. Being recognized as another branch of Judaism, for the next stage of Messianic development, has many potential risks.
Alternatively, and far more consistent with the Holy Scriptures, the next phase of Messianic development will not involve some formal recognition as another branch of Judaism—but will instead involve really considering prophetic words such as Zechariah 8:20-23; Micah 4:1-3; Isaiah 2:2-4. It will involve trying to recapture much of what was lost in the Second Century C.E., when emerging Christianity and post-Second Temple Judaism largely went their separate ways. It will involve seeing the Messianic community emerge into something more inclusive, for Jewish and non-Jewish Believers, and will seek to meet the diverse spiritual needs of all.
Over the next two to three decades (late 2010s-2030s), far more Christian people, than ever before, will be absolutely exposed to the Messianic movement and their heritage in Judaism—and they will be far more open to considering the value of Torah study and obedience, than those of the preceding generation. This is principally to do with the fact that not only, given the steady decline in morality, will there be a steadfast need to return to a Biblical ethic rooted in the Old Testament—but that the next generation will not have most of the anti-Semitic social hangups, which many of this generation still tend to have. In the meantime, there is much work still to do, to theologically prepare for the greater masses which will be coming into the Messianic community. The fundamentalism, complementarianism, and overall disengaged approach to issues that was demonstrated in the 1990s-2000s, are going to need to find themselves fading away in the 2010s-2020s.
If today’s Messianic people sincerely desire to see our faith community used by God in the future, then among the sectors of the broad Messianic movement, there is going to have to be some significant housekeeping. Many people are going to have to make some concessions, and give some things up, which they are largely not going to want to give up at present. Given current controversies of ecclesiology, there does need to be some soul searching, and a retaking of spiritual inventory. As a definite shifting of the generations has begun, many of those who came before teachers like me were responsible for not only polarizing the theological options of Messianic people—but also being responsible for a spiritual culture where extreme, overly-emotional positions and views, were only those which were to be heard and considered.
Non-Jewish Believers Really Being a Part of Israel…
Reviewing the condition of the broad Messianic movement, today in 2012-2013, too many Messianic Jewish leaders—some for theological reasons, and some for religious-political reasons—cannot and/or will not, break out of some mentality that there is a kind of separate “Church” entity. In this publication, we have adequately defined the Commonwealth of Israel as an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel, composed of a restored Twelve Tribes of Israel at its center, and the righteous from the nations at large incorporated as fellow citizens along with them—thus meaning that no separate “Church” entity at all exists. Yet, we have hopefully, in the process, preserved the uniqueness of the Jewish people, for whom the heritage of the Tanach or Old Testament is not only a part of their spiritual, but also their ethnic and cultural birthright. Even with many non-Jewish Believers today following the Torah along with their fellow Jewish Believers—both as the power of the New Covenant writes God’s commandments onto their hearts—the latter have a definite impetus to observe it as a part of their heritage, far more than those of the nations generally.
Is it at all possible to offer Bible readers and interpreters, a feasible, non-supersessionist alternative, meaning a non-replacement theology alternative, to either dispensationalism or bilateral ecclesiology? It is possible to present an alternative to many individual people in the current Messianic community. Because of the complicated religious politics of today’s Messianic movement, it is likely not too possible among all leaders—but is surely possible among many individual people and families.
Any non-supersessionist alternative of ecclesiology, the study of God’s elect, which is to be presented, has to recognize three valid points:
- The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was according to Bible prophecy (Isaiah 66:8), as is the return of scores of Jewish people to the Land of Israel. Non-Jewish Believers have a Biblical responsibility and duty to support the State of Israel, and stand up against anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism in our world.
- Ethnic Jewish people or ethnic Israelites alone, have a Biblical right to permanent residence within the Holy Land (cf. Joshua chs. 15-21; Ezekiel 47:13-48:35), with a few small exceptions likely only determined following the return of Yeshua (cf. Ezekiel 47:22-23).
- Non-Jewish Believers in Israel’s Messiah are to be regarded as incorporated into an expanded or enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel (Amos 9:11-12; Acts 15:15-18), rightly considered to be the Commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-13) or the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), specifically likened unto the wild branches of Israel’s olive tree (Romans 11:16-24).
In his 2005 work Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism, Kinzer was entirely right to recognize,
“When the ekklesia contained a visible Jewish nucleus, its right to claim continuity with Israel was reasonable and not necessarily supersessionist. When that nucleus disappeared, the claim to direct continuity with Israel became spiritual and abstract, and easily morphed into a claim to be a replacement for Israel.”
While it may sound quite rudimentary to many of the people, Jewish and non-Jewish, involved with today’s contemporary Messianic movement—and most especially persons such as myself, and my immediate family—it is not as rudimentary as one may think to the more independent, maverick, and substantially rogue sectors of the Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement:
You cannot have an authentic restoration of Israel without the salvation of the Jewish people, and Jewish men and women coming to a saving knowledge of Yeshua the Messiah, retaining a noticeable degree of their Jewish religious, cultural, and ethnic heritage.
One of the main reasons why many of today’s Messianic Jewish leaders are likely to think of those widely independent, non-Jewish led Hebrew/Hebraic Roots groups, as being some sort of aberration—may not be because they are trying to be places of fellowship welcoming of all of God’s people—but instead because legitimate Jewish, spiritual concerns, are not at all being met. When no sensitivity is at all present toward the complicated Jewish struggle throughout history—compiled with so-called “traditions of men” rhetoric, issued against mainline Jewish customs and traditions—an environment is not exactly facilitated, by which distinct Jewish issues can be legitimately appreciated, recognized, worked through via the good news of Messiah, and resolved. What does it at all mean, for example, when a presumed, largely non-Jewish “Messianic congregation” as it were, claims some kind of solidarity with the Jewish people and Israel proper—but profusely speaks forth the Divine Name of YHWH/YHVH against New Testament practice and custom, and observes the appointed times on a quantitatively different calendar than that of the Jewish and Messianic Jewish communities? It means, to a family like mine at least, that such an assembly does not really care that much about bringing unity to Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Messiah Yeshua—and has widely misdiagnosed those areas to decisively and truly disagree with many of today’s Messianic Jewish leaders (cf. Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).
A wide number of today’s non-Jewish Believers—who have been Divinely directed into today’s Messianic movement—should not at all try to make aliyah to the Holy Land, and claim something that is not legitimately theirs by ancestral right. Yet, in spite of some of the limitations present in our day, such non-Jewish Believers are not at all trying to grossly outnumber, outposition, outmaneuver, and totally stamp down today’s Messianic Jews—to the point that the legitimate, recognizable, and most edifying contribution of Messianic Jewish Believers to the Body of Messiah is somehow nullified, erased, and completely disregarded.
With the considerable majority of the broad Messianic movement present in the Christian West, most of today’s contemporary non-Jewish Messianic Believers—in common cause—wish to put centuries of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism behind them. They widely believe that the Lord, in these final stages of salvation history, has actually given His people a “second chance”—as it were—to be as close to the spiritual experience of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in the ancient Mediterranean, as was intended by the Apostles in the First Century. Such was not a faith community where the differences of Jewish Believers in Yeshua HaMashiach, and Greek and Roman Believers in Iēsous Christos, as a single, albeit internally diverse body of men and women, in worship before the Eternal Creator (cf. Romans ch. 12), was something rigidly and strictly emphasized.
In spite of some of the protestations, and various human agendas, it is a fact that more and more non-Jewish Believers, in our day, are going to continue to be led by the Lord to embrace their Hebraic and Jewish Roots in a very real and tangible way, as the final stages of salvation history (Ger. Heilsgeschichte) manifest themselves. Many of these people, even in spite of some of the pressures against them, are going to enter into today’s Messianic Jewish congregations, either as regular visitors or even, in some cases, as registered members of such assemblies. While part of them being a part of Messianic Jewish congregations is so that they may be in fellowship and solidarity with Jewish Believers, another part of them being there is to fulfill Tanach prophecy. Even with a strong disapproval issued toward them, on the part of various Messianic Jewish leaders of note in the current generation, no mortal can ultimately stop God’s Word from being fulfilled, or His plan for a larger restoration of Israel from being achieved.
This publication has offered some strong evidence, particularly from the Apostolic Scriptures passages considered, which indicate that non-Jewish Believers are not at all to be regarded as part of some separate “Church” entity—but are instead a part of an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel. In spite of some of the detail to attention, various Hebrew and Greek issues, and intertexuality with the Tanach presented—most of the current generation of Messianic Jewish leaders, which tend to be somewhat welcoming of non-Jewish Believers, are still, on the whole, not too likely to embrace an ecclesiology of an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel. This would be an ecclesiology which would decisively deny the existence of some sort of “Church,” as a second group of elect. Why these persons would deny a definite and clear thrust of Scripture, is likely due to: (1) a fear of reprisal from fellow Messianic Jews, (2) the fear of reprisal from Messianic Jewish-friendly Christian colleagues, and (3) the fear of a loss of significant evangelical Christian (financial) support for Messianic Jewish ministry.
In spite of the various religious-political elements which today’s Messianic generation is plagued with—which people like me have the definite responsibility and necessity of seeing the succeeding generation work beyond—Biblically and exegetically speaking, non-Jewish Believers are not a part of some separate “Church” entity. Alongside of their fellow Jewish Believers, non-Jewish Believers might not have a right to permanent tribal residence in the Holy Land, and they may (rightly) maintain a (high) level of their own ethnic and cultural background, purged of its sin laden effects to be sure—but they have citizenship in the Kingdom of Israel the same as any Jew. They are a part of the restored, Messianic, Kingdom of Israel alongside of their fellow Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters. And if such non-Jewish Believers, or even various Jewish Believers, or even a great majority of contemporary Protestant Christian leaders—fail to recognize such Biblical truth from a reasonable and fair reading of the Holy Scriptures—it does not mean that our Eternal God, all of a sudden, does not see all of His redeemed ones as a part of the same, overall, assembly of elect.
Much of the challenge for our Messianic future concerns a definitive change in the ideology, philosophy, and overall worldview of our faith community which is required: Are we going to be a move of God based on social differences, or common faith first? The current generation has largely answered, incorrectly, in favor of the former option; the next generation must answer, correctly, in favor of the latter option.
And so, all I can say, is let the necessary work of change begin… Let us understand what it means to place our common bond of being human beings, made in God’s image, and in need of redemption via Yeshua the Messiah—at the center of all we do!
 Kinzer, 97.
 Daniel C. Juster, The Irrevocable Calling: Israel’s Role as a Light to the Nations (Clarksville, MD: Lederer, 2007), pp 2-3.
 Michael, Tent of David, pp 24, 102-103.
 Juster, The Irrevocable Calling, 2.
 BDAG, 829.
 D.S. Lim, “Fullness,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993), 319 concludes that for Romans 11:12, it “suggests moral or spiritual consummation.”
 Aland, GNT, 551.
 Be aware of some of the translation differences in Romans 11:31 regarding to humeterō eleei, hina kai autoi [nun] eleēthōsin, rendered by in the LITV as “so that they also may obtain mercy by your mercy.” Here, the dative clause to humeterō eleei is taken to be “your mercy.”
In the view of Jamieson, Fausett & Brown’s Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1961), 1173 Paul “seems to mean that it will be by the instrumentality of believing Gentiles that Israel as a nation is at length to ‘look on Him whom they have pierced and mourn for Him,’ and so to ‘obtain mercy.’” This would support the premise that only by non-Jewish Believers being “the fullness of the nations,” fullness representing a spiritual and ethical maturity, and be vessels of mercy to the Jewish people, that the restoration of all Israel will finally commence.
 There has certainly been a great deal of controversy caused in some Messianic sectors, between a possible connection between the Greek to plērōma tōn ethnōn and the Hebrew melo-ha’goyim, used by the Patriarch Jacob (Genesis 48:19). Yet, none have really probed the ethical, moral, and spiritual aspects of “fullness.”
 This would involve leaders and teachers in Messianic Judaism, the One Law/One Torah, and Two-House sub-movements, and their associated religious politics, maneuvering, and slandering of each another via various position statements (as opposed to actual theological analyses, exegesis papers, and commentaries on books of the Bible).
 Making some useful references on the greeting of James 1:1, Douglas J. Moo, Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), pp 49-50 references some appropriate Tanach passages to also be considered: Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 31:8-14; Ezekiel 37:21-22; Zechariah 10:5-12:
“Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Behold I am bringing disaster on them which they will not be able to escape; though they will cry to Me, yet I will not listen to them. Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they surely will not save them in the time of their disaster’” (Isaiah 11:11-12).
“‘Behold, I am bringing them from the north country, and I will gather them from the remote parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and she who is in labor with child, together; a great company, they will return here. With weeping they will come, and by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, on a straight path in which they will not stumble; for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.’ Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare in the coastlands afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him and keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’ For the LORD has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he. They will come and shout for joy on the height of Zion, and they will be radiant over the bounty of the LORD—Over the grain and the new wine and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; and their life will be like a watered garden, and they will never languish again. Then the virgin will rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old, together, for I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow. I will fill the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people will be satisfied with My goodness,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:8-14).
“Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms’”” (Ezekiel 37:21-22).
“They will be as mighty men, treading down the enemy in the mire of the streets in battle; and they will fight, for the LORD will be with them; and the riders on horses will be put to shame. I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them back, because I have had compassion on them; and they will be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the LORD their God and I will answer them. Ephraim will be like a mighty man, and their heart will be glad as if from wine; indeed, their children will see it and be glad, their heart will rejoice in the LORD. I will whistle for them to gather them together, for I have redeemed them; and they will be as numerous as they were before. When I scatter them among the peoples, they will remember Me in far countries, and they with their children will live and come back. I will bring them back from the land of Egypt and gather them from Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon until no room can be found for them. And they will pass through the sea of distress and He will strike the waves in the sea, so that all the depths of the Nile will dry up; and the pride of Assyria will be brought down and the scepter of Egypt will depart. And I will strengthen them in the LORD, and in His name they will walk,’ declares the LORD” (Zechariah 10:5-12).
The greeting of James 1:1, “Jacob, a slave of God and of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, To the twelve tribes in the Diaspora: Shalom!” (TLV) is further evaluated for its First Century dynamics in the author’s commentary James for the Practical Messianic (forthcoming in paperback 2013). The wider subject matter, reflected in the prophecies referenced above, are considered in the author’s work, Israel in Future Prophecy: Is There a Larger Restoration of the Kingdom to Israel?, where the specific significance of Tanach passages like Isaiah 11:12-16; Jeremiah 31:6-10; Ezekiel 37:15-28; and Zechariah 10:6-10, and the controversy they have caused in the contemporary Messianic movement, is fairly considered.
 Consult the author’s entry for the Epistle to the Romans in A Survey of the Apostolic Scriptures for the Practical Messianic.
 Peter Lampe, “Junias,” in ABD, 3:1127; Bonnie Thurston, “Junia,” in David Noel Friedman, ed., Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), pp 756-757.
Among Romans commentators of note, this includes C.E.B. Cranfield, International Critical Commentary: Romans 9-16 (London: T&T Clark, 1979), 788; F.F. Bruce, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 258; James D.G. Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary: Romans, Vol. 38b. (Dallas: Word Books, 1988), 894; Douglas J. Moo, New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), pp 921-924; Ben Witherington III, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Historical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), pp 387-390.
Hegg, Romans 9-16, 449 also recognizes this apostle as a female.
For a further evaluation, consult the author’s blog-editorial, “Jumpin’ Junia!”
 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), pp 91-92.
 Ibid., pp 92-94.
 Ibid., pp 109-110.
 Ibid., pp 124-125.
 Ibid., pp 128-130.
 Ibid., pp 100-101.
 Ibid, 128.
 Jeffrey L. Seif, To The Ends Of The Earth: How the First Jewish Followers of Yeshua Transformed the Ancient World (Clarksville, MD: Lederer, 2012). [eBook for Amazon Kindle]
 Shira Lander, “The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians,” in The Jewish Annotated New Testament, 302.
 Lancaster, Grafted In, 3.
 Ibid., 69; cf. Ibid., 166.
 Toby Janicki, God-Fearers: Gentiles and the God of Israel (Marshfield, MO: First Fruits of Zion, 2012), pp 19, 22-23.
 Lancaster, Grafted In, pp 2-3.
 For a further evaluation, consult the author’s article “The Message of 1 Corinthians.”
 Kinzer, pp 163, 164.
 Shaye J.D. Cohen, “The Letter of Paul to the Galatians,” in The Jewish Annotated New Testament, 336.
 D. Thomas Lancaster, The Holy Epistle to the Galatians: Sermons on a Messianic Jewish Approach (Marshfield, MO: First Fruits of Zion, 2011), pp 72, 73.
 Tim Hegg, A Study of Galatians (Tacoma, WA: TorahResource, 2002), 56.
 The TLV has the similar, “Now as many as live by this rule—shalom and mercy on them and on the Israel of God.”
 Cf. LS, 391; BDAG, pp 494-496.
 BDAG, 495.
 Brown and Comfort, 667.
 E-Sword 9.9.1: Vincent’s Word Studies. MS Windows 9x. Franklin, TN: Equipping Ministries Foundation, 2011.
 Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, 576.
 Cohen, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament, 344.
 Hegg, Galatians, 234.
 The UBSHNT has the similar, yet slightly different, shalom v’rachamim.
 Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, pp 572-573; Hegg, Galatians, 232.
Cf. Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Churches in Galatia (Philadephia: Fortress Press, 1979), 321; F.F. Bruce, New International Greek Testament Commentary: Galatians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), pp 273-274.
 Nosson Scherman and Meir Zlotowitz, eds., Complete ArtScroll Siddur, Nusach Ashkenaz (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1984), pp 430, 431.
 Lancaster, Grafted In, 4.
 Lancaster, The Holy Epistle to the Galatians, pp 275-276.
 Barclay M. Newman, Jr., A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies/Deutche Bibelgesellschaft, 1971), 148.
 Take important note that pote is used once again in Ephesians 2:13, again describing the previous status of “the nations in the flesh”: humeis hoi pote ontes makran, “you who once being far away” (my translation).
 LS, 30.
 F.F. Bruce, New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 291.
 Ben Witherington III, The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 251.
 This does not make physical circumcision unimportant (i.e., Romans 2:25 and 1 Corinthians 7:19, Grk.) for Believers today, just that neither it—and especially not ritual proselyte circumcision—should ever be considered the grounds for inclusion among God’s people, as that is reserved only for belief in God and the Messiah He has sent.
 BDAG, 1083.
 Leviticus 26:1, 30; Isaiah 2:18; 10:11; 16:12; 19:1; 21:9; 31:7; 46:6; Daniel 5:4, 23; 6:28 (all LXX).
 Bruce, pp 292-293.
 T.R. Schreiner, “Circumcision,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, 138.
 Flavius Josephus: The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, trans. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1987), 40.
 Cornelius Tacitus: The Histories, trans. Kenneth Wellesley (London: Penguin Books, 1992), 273.
 “Circumcision” primarily relating to the ritual of a proselyte is discussed more affluently in the author’s commentary Galatians for the Practical Messianic, as it is not specifically mentioned any further in the letter of Ephesians.
 As Witherington notes regarding this verse, “A close examination of Ancient Near East covenanting procedures, including those followed by the Israelites, shows that the sign of a covenant was often connected with oath curses that went with the covenant” (Ben Witherington III, Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998], 366), lending support to the view that Galatians 5:3 has an oath-taking procedure of a Jewish proselyte in view.
Consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Galatians 5:2-3.”
 Ralph P. Martin, “Ephesians,” in D. Guthrie and J.A. Motyer, eds., The New Bible Commentary Revised (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 1111.
 Peter T. O’Brien, Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter to the Ephesians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 189.
 Witherington, Philemon-Colossians-Ephesians, 258.
 Martin, in NBCR, 1111.
 BDAG, 845.
 Tree of Life—The New Covenant, 492.
 Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, 582.
 Daniel C. Juster, Growing to Maturity (Denver: The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations Press, 1987), pp 221-222, 223; cf. David H. Stern, Messianic Jewish Manifesto (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1991), 57; Daniel C. Juster, Jewish Roots (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 1995), 35.
 Juster also did not specify here which King George he was referring to, as a presumed “Englishman,” considering the fact that George I and George II were both born in Hanover (Germany), and that George III, the monarch who lost the American colonies, was the first British monarch born in Britain itself, never left Southeastern England.
It was George V who actually renounced all German titles and changed the official name of the royal family to the House of Windsor during the Great War/World War I. (This is the same King George for whom King George Street in Jerusalem was named after.)
 To use the presumed analogy to Great Britain, tribal inheritance in the Land of Israel—for physical descendants of Israel’s Twelve Tribes proper—can be likened unto the “landed estates” of British aristocracy. Only those who have a long standing ancestral claim on certain quarters of land, i.e., the Promised Land of Canaan, can legitimately claim them as their own.
 David Rudolph, “Mashiach” Verge Vol. 2, Iss. 2, February 2010:2.
 The first definition of “commonwealth” in Webster’s New World Dictionary and Thesaurus (Cleveland: Wiley Publishing, Inc, 2002) is, however, “the people of a nation or state” (p 123), implying a single body politic.
 LS, 654.
 Plato: The Republic, trans. Desmond Lee (London: Penguin Books, 2007), 366.
 Aristotle: Politics, trans. Ernest Barker (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 97.
 Ibid., 100.
 The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, 315.
 Meaning, “the business of government, an act of administration” (LS, 654).
Often together, the related terms “[politeia] and [politeuma] are said to have the same force” (Andrew T. Lincoln, Word Biblical Commentary: Ephesians, Vol. 42 [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990], 137).
 Maxine Grossman, “The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians,” in The Jewish Annotated New Testament, 348 notes,
“Citizens, enfranchised members of God’s household; cf. 3.15; 5.21-6.4; 1 Tim 3.15; 1 Pet 4.17.”
 Lancaster, Grafted In, pp 60-61, 130-131.
 The source text of Ephesians 3:6 actually reads:
einai ta ethnē sugklēronoma kai sussōma kai summetocha tēs epangelias en Christō Iēsou dia tou euangeliou.
“[that] [are] to be the Gentiles joint-heirs and a joint-body and joint-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the good news” (Brown and Comfort, 674).
 Michael & Fronczak, Twelve Gates, 51.
 O’Brien, 191.
 Lincoln, 139.
 Exodus 12:48-49; 20:10; 22:21; 23:9, 12; Leviticus 17:8, 10, 12; 19:33-34; 20:2; 22:18; 24:16, 22; 25:6; Numbers 9:14; 15:30, 15-16, 29; 35:15; Joshua 20:9; Ezekiel 47:22; Malachi 3:5; Psalm 146:9.
 David H. Stern, “Summary Essay: The Future of Messianic Judaism,” in How Jewish is Christianity: 2 Views on the Messianic Movement, pp 189, 190.
 O’Brien, 191.
 Pheme Perkins, “The Letter to the Ephesians,” in Leander E. Keck, ed., et. al., New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 11 (Nashville: Abingdon, 2000), 11:398.
 Christopher J.H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006), pp 263, 264; cf. pp 260-262.
 Witherington, Philemon-Colossians-Ephesians, 258.
 LS, pp 765, 766.
 Cf. Genesis 12:3; 2 Samuel 7:19; Psalm 2:8; Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; Amos 9:11-12.
 Witherington, Philemon-Colossians-Ephesians, 266.
 Harold W. Hoehner, “Ephesians,” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), 629.
 Cf. Aland, GNT, 560.
 Margaret Wenig Rubenstein and David Weiner, trans., in Neusner, Mishnah, 167.
 Kinzer, pp 170, 171.
 Concurrent with this, egalitarian readers of Ephesians 5:23, tend to approach the term kephalē, speaking of “head,” as being akin to “source” or “origin,” per the Apostle Paul’s word, “husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:28), as Adam was the head/source of his wife Eve, and was to love and cherish her, as she originated from him (cf. Genesis 2:23).
For further consideration, consult the author’s commentary Ephesians for the Practical Messianic.
 Of particular notice, should be how the verb authenteō can be legitimately rendered as “usurp authority” (1 Timothy 2:12, KJV), and how the clause dia tēs teknogonias is quite literally translated as “through the childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15, LITV), in reference to the Incarnation of Messiah Yeshua (cf. Genesis 3:15).
For further consideration, consult the author’s commentary The Pastoral Epistles for the Practical Messianic.
 For general consideration, consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Women in Ministry.” Also consult the useful publications James R. Beck, ed., Two Views on Women in Ministry (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005); Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009).
 Note that this is in spite of one or two family lines purporting to have some distant Jewish ancestry from the Middle Ages.
 About the only item of prominence I have is a paper model of the Second Temple, which I acquired in Israel in November 2004.
 One of the most important statements surrounding the Divinity of Yeshua the Messiah, is how Titus 2:13 does say, “We wait for the blessed hope and appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Messiah Yeshua” (TLV), tou megalou Theou kai Sōtēros hēmōn Iēsou Christou.
Important discussions on the Granville Sharp rule, which requires the rendering “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (ESV), are detailed in David Alan Black, Learn to Read New Testament Greek, expanded edition (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), pp 181-182; David Alan Black, It’s Still Greek to Me (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 80; Wallace, pp 270-290.
 Tree of Life—The New Covenant, 378.
 BDAG, 606.
 BibleWorks 7.0: Lightfoot’s Apostolic Fathers in English. MS Windows XP. Norfolk: BibleWorks, LLC, 2006. CD-ROM.
 It may surprise some Messianic Bible readers that there is really not a word in the Hebrew Tanach for “lawlessness,” as avon is typically translated “iniquity” (i.e., Jeremiah 31:34).
 Cf. Philip H. Towner, New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Letters to Timothy and Titus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 761.
 BDAG, 488.
 Cf. Towner, 762.
 Jennifer L. Koosed, “The Letter of Paul to Titus,” in The Jewish Annotated New Testament, 400.
 William D. Mounce, Word Biblical Commentary: Pastoral Epistles, Vol. 46 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), 420.
 Aland, GNT, pp 788-789.
 For a further evaluation of this controversial subject matter, consult the author’s book Israel in Future Prophecy: Is There a Larger Restoration of the Kingdom to Israel?
 Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, 747.
 Tree of Life—The New Covenant, 413.
 Lancaster, Grafted In, 103.
 Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, 807; cf. Ibid., 845.
 David Frankfurter, “The Revelation to John,” in The Jewish Annotated New Testament, 474.
 This is detectable in Michael & Fronczak, Twelve Gates, 56 and their statement, directed to non-Jewish Believers, “Work within the calling to which God has called you” (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:20). They have misinterpreted “calling” (klēsis) as a vocation or station in life here, and not a calling to salvation and sanctification.
The issues surrounding 1 Corinthians 7:17-24 are examined further in the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “1 Corinthians 7:17-24.”
 Eli Cashdan, “Zechariah: Introduction and Commentary,” in A. Cohen, ed., Soncino Books of the Bible: The Twelve Prophets (London: Soncino Press, 1969), 302.
 Michael Wolf, “Conversion of the Gentiles—‘No Way!’”, in Voices of Messianic Judaism, pp 133-139.
 John Fischer, “The Legitimacy of Conversion,” in Ibid., pp 141-149.
 Harvey, 38.
 Lancaster, The Holy Epistle to the Galatians, pp 2-3, 239.
 LS, 580.
“For freedom Messiah has set us free; stand fast therefore and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Messiah will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every person who receives circumcision, that one is a debtor to do the whole Torah. You have been severed from Messiah, you who would be justified by the Torah; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:1-4).
The point made is that born again Believers are not supposed to be those who are debtors to do the Torah; they are to rather be fulfilling the Torah by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 6:2; Romans 8:4).
 This is examined in further detail, in the section “The Implementation of the Apostolic Decree and Acts 21:17-26,” in the author’s commentary Acts 15 for the Practical Messianic.
 Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; cf. Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8.
 Kinzer, 152.
 Ibid., 153.
 Ibid., 152.
 Resnik, Introducing Messianic Judaism and the UMJC (p 22).
 Ibid (p 23).
Resnik’s statement, “We are not offering an alternative to the supposedly ‘pagan’ Christianity around us…We do not indulge in church bashing,” is appreciable. I have a longstanding, personal loathing, toward the many “Christianity is pagan” over-statements which litter the independent Messianic and Hebrew/Hebraic Roots world. While there are various practices of contemporary Christianity which are non-Biblical, there are many evangelical Christian virtues and perspectives that need to be highly lauded and embraced—by today’s Messianic people, no less.
 An equally disturbing statement is seen in Janicki, God-Fearers, 127, where he says “We do not have any indication that the apostles reinvented Judaism or objected to contemporary interpretations, seeking to restore a Moses-era interpretive model.”
While there is no doubting the fact that the Apostles of Yeshua were First Century Jews, who widely adhered to mainline customs and traditions in Second Temple Judaism—to argue that they basically followed Judaism without any deviations of any kind, is an unsupported supposition.
 “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first…” (2 Thessalonians 2:3a).
 This is detailed more fully in the author’s article “Addressing the Frequently Avoided Issues Messianic Encounter in the Torah,” appearing in the Messianic Torah Helper (forthcoming).
 Ezekiel 47:22-23.
 Cf. J.A. Sanders, “Jew,” in George Buttrick, ed. et. al., The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 4 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 2:897; W.W. Gasque, “Jew,” in Geoffrey Bromiley, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 2:1056.
 Cohn-Sherbok, Messianic Judaism, 212.
 In my estimation, viewing the broad Messianic movement, this includes the following:
- Messianic Judaism, while rightly emphasizing the Jewishness of Yeshua and that Jewish Believers do not have to give up on their Jewish heritage, is going to have to dispense with bilateral ecclesiology, and recognize non-Jewish Believers as their equals in the Lord, fellow citizens in an enlarged Kingdom realm of Israel.
- The Two-House sub-movement, while rightly acknowledging that there are unfulfilled prophecies involving the descendants of the exiled Northern Kingdom of Israel/Ephraim, is going to have to stop promoting the unsupportable idea that just about every non-Jew in the Messianic movement, must be one of those descendants, and instead look to pockets of people groups which sit within the sphere of influence of the old Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian Empires.
- The One Law/One Torah sub-movement, while rightly emphasizing that God’s Torah should be heeded by all of His people, is going to have to decisively recognize some post-resurrection era realities and changes, which have been directly affected by Yeshua’s sacrificial work, and recognize much of the judgmental legalism it has been responsible for promoting.
 This group, “the strangers who dwell among you, who will bear children in your midst; they shall be for you like the natives among the Children of Israel; they are to be alloted an inheritance with you, among the tribes of Israel” (Ezekiel 47:22, ATS), are considered by me, at least, to be a very small, specialized group of non-Israelites—who have no physical descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—yet who during the Millennial reign of Yeshua the Messiah are, for various unique reasons, likely as a reward given to them by the Lord, permitted permanent residence in the Land of Israel.
 Cf. Jeremiah 11:16-17; Hosea 14:1-7, where Israel is described as an olive tree.
 Kinzer, 43.
 Grk. tēn paradosin tōn anthrōpōn; the inclusive language “human tradition(s)” (NRSV/CJB/TNIV) should be more preferable.
 Little care has often been taken for how while Yeshua the Messiah did condemn some human traditions adopted by the Rabbis of His day, the majority of these pertained to how various practices subtracted from the Torah’s ethical and moral imperatives. A clear example would be claiming to use family finances as an offering unto God, while failing to use those monies and provide for the well being of one’s aged parents (Mark 7:8-13).
 Consult the FAQ on the Messianic Apologetics website, “Yahweh, Should We Use.”
 Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-3; Zechariah 8:20-23.
 Matthew 16:18-19; John 10:14-18; Acts 1:6; Acts 2:36-39; 15: 15:-18; Romans 2:28-29; 9:3-6, 23-29; 11:16-24, 25,-29; 16:4; 1 Corinthians 10:1-11, 18; Galatians 2:7-10; 6:15-16; Ephesians 2:11-13; 3:6; Titus 2:13-14; 1 Peter 2:9-11; Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6.