Who Am I ?
The Question of Gentile Identity

| Dr Daniel Juster, Director |

As we walked past the Egyptian exhibit in the Museum of Art History in Vienna, I noted the great importance placed upon memorials for the dead. The wealthy took great pains to prepare proper tombs and memorials. Embalming to preserve the body was of prime importance. Why did the Egyptians do this?

It was a way of declaring significance in the face of death. Human beings want to believe they are significant in the scheme of things. Anthropology teaches us that traditions concerning death and the dead almost universally declare life after death. These traditions affirm the significance of human life in the face of death. The reasons for belief in significance vary, but no religious system gives the quality answer that we find in the Bible, where we learn that human beings are created in the image of God, for an everlasting life of fellowship with Him and with other human beings.

This is the beginning point for the question of identity: Who am I ? Am I of worth ? Many people experience great doubt concerning their worth. They experienced terrible rejections in their growing up years, or tragic events that gave rise to deep questions concerning their own worth.

Identity was defined in ancient times largely by one's ties to family and tribe, and one's place in an ancestral line. The Bible does NOT disregard these ties in the question of identity and worth. Indeed, the prophets call Israel to faithfulness based on their worth according to their ancestry going back to Abraham. "Look to the rock from which you were hewn ... look to Abraham your father" (Isaiah 51:1,2 NKJV).

IDENTITY CRISIS

I believe that some Gentiles in the Messianic Jewish movement are having an identity crisis and are not solving the problem the right way. The Messianic Jewish congregational movement is a movement of Jews and Gentiles who have joined together in the calling and for the salvation Israel. Both enjoy and participate in Jewish life patterns. They are one in the Messiah. Most Christians are not called to become part of Messianic Jewish congregations though all are called to support the salvation of Israel. Some are called to the Jewish people as a primary life focus. Their heart is bonded in a unique way with the Jewish people.

At the same time, and with a tender heart, I observe that some Gentile believers are attached to the Messianic Jewish movement out of motives other than a heart burden for Israel and the Jewish community. Rather they are joined to it as an answer to a personal identity crisis. They read the promises in the Bible concerning Israel and her future glory. Romans Chapter 9 begins with a list of the benefits of being part of Israel in answer to the question of what advantage being Jewish provides. Theirs are the covenants, the patriarchs, the giving of the Law, the Temple, the priesthood and the glory. Isaiah states that in the future, Israel will blossom and bud and fill the whole world with fruit. So a Gentile believer who does not know himself adequately in Messiah thinks that it would be better to be Jewish or an Israelite. He thinks that if he is not, he is second class. This has led to amazing diversions.

DIVERSIONS IN THE MESSIANIC JEWISH WORLD

One group says that those who come to faith in Yeshua, from any nation, are physical descendants of the lost tribes (the Ephraimite Movement). They are seeking status in Israel as permanent residents without the usual benefits of the State. It is as if they are saying, "If I am a lost tribes person, then I am an equal Israelite and have equal worth." Another group says that they may not all be physical descendants, but that there are enough who are descendants that the whole is Israel (the more moderate Ephraimite Movement). This is a partial replacement theology (that the Church has replaced Israel and is a new and true Israel). These folks still affirm the identity of Jews, whom they call the tribe of Judah.

Another group is touting one new man in Yeshua, and lives a Jewish life pattern in some ways, but it is said that they are beyond Jew and Gentile as a new type of humanity. This is seen as a great new revelation, but it is not understood that this is exactly like the third race replacement theology of the early Church. Many of these groups disparage the Church, even the Reformation churches, as pagan. This is another way of superior identity assertion. It betrays a sad lack of understanding of the theology and practice of the churches.

A BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING OF WORTH AND IDENTITY

The problem in all of these movements is a failure to understand worth and identity from a Biblical perspective and to enter into it. Jews do have a worth according to God's promises to Abraham. Through the work of Yeshua, however, Gentiles who come to faith in him also become the children of Abraham. Baptism incorporates the Gentile fully to become the seed of the Messiah and hence the seed of Abraham. This happens by a creative miracle of the Holy Spirit. In addition, one can now redeem one's ancestry by forgiving what was bad and receiving with gratitude that which was good. So one can be a Norwegian seed of Abraham, as well as French, Chinese or Russian. I do not wrestle with the fact that my ancestry is both Jewish and Norwegian as if this makes me lesser and only a half Jew. I am a Jew, but I appreciate both, and both become full of meaning in the Messiah. Indeed, different Church traditions of worship and life patterns are enriching from this perspective. All of us share the rich value of being created in the image of God and being a new creation.

ONE NEW MAN

The "one new man" of this theology is the one new humanity. It is not homogenization. It is the complement of mutual blessing as in a marriage. In Messiah, with regard to worth and spiritual acceptance, there is no male or female. But male and female in the Messiah continue and produce the amazing personal enrichment of a marriage in Messiah. In the same way, Jew and Gentile are to enrich one another. Instead of seeking to prove that one had a Jewish ancestor way back when, or that one is from the lost tribes, it is much better to bring our uniqueness in the Messiah for mutual blessing. It is much better to embrace one's ethnicity in the Messiah by dying to any idolatry of it. We all write life stories out of the background we have been given, whether an African tribesman or a Japanese warrior.

Identity issues are solved for Gentiles in realizing that they are created in the image of God, each with his own unique ethnic and cultural heritage. They are now the seed of Abraham through the Messiah. They are part of the one new man, His glorious bride. There is nothing better than this. There are different callings, but without status superiority in the Body. Israel's promises are glorious, but not more than the promises of glory for all in the Bride of the Messiah. All peoples can enter into this as full participants. The Gospel is preached to all nations. In the Messiah we together form an amazing wholeness out of the variety of peoples that make up God's multifaceted body. It is with this understanding that the call of Gentiles to serve in Messianic Jewish contexts is such a blessing. Identity is based on memory and purpose, which is future oriented. That memory includes a healthy ancestral dimension. In the Messiah all can come to their fullness of meaning and identity.

By Daniel Juster

 

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Comments:
11:52 7Dec04 anonymous -
This is a great article. Thank you for being so clear on this issue. So many people are confused. As a jewish believer in Messiah, I find it strange to hear and see gentile believers trying to become more Jewish in their life style. I believe these people are not comfortable with who they are and want to become Jews. Some even convert to rabbinic judaism. How sad. If only they could understand that God and Messiah loves and accepts them for who they are and not for what nationality they represent.

13:45 7Dec04 James Wagner -
This article brought up some problems that I was not aware of. It is helpful in understanding where things are going today in the Messianic Jewish movement, and the right relationship of Gentile Christians to Messianic Jews (they are one in Christ) and to Israel (should pray for and support). It also points out areas where one could see the Devil would like to get in and cause confusion or spin off little cult-like groups. Thank you.

19:43 7Dec04 Shirley Defendorf -
It is an excellent message that the Lord has given you and is just what it needed to be heard today as so many are trying to be conformed to some other image and likness than His and for some other purpose than His.

20:21 7Dec04 Carole Brown -
I am Gentile with a tender heart toward the Jewish people. The L-rd has as you state above "bonded my heart in a unique way with the Jewish people." I love the Jewish people as though they are my ancesters, I love Israel with my whole heart and wish I could live there. I know that my ancestory is not Jewish and that the L-rd does not have near future plans for me to live in Israel if not ever. I make no pretense of these facts. The L-rd simply put has given me a heart filled with love for His chosen people. I do so appreciate this article. It helps understand my feelings and thoughts on this matter.

20:46 7Dec04 Jim Elsbury -
Thank you for a balanced and mature treatment of questions I have asked myself.

14:19 10Dec04 Jill -
I really appreciate your thoughts on this subject. I am a gentile raising a jewess in a messianic congregation. She is a Bat Mizvah and embraces her jewish identity heartily. My gentile backgound has been a tough subject through the years. I came to our congregation 10 yrs ago a new believer. I had one year of church under my belt when the Lord planted me here. I feel more of a jewish orientation than a christian one. I know that does not make me jewish simply because I have chosen to cast my lot with the jewish people. I do have an understanding of what a gere or gereim is. I know I fit more in that category than the term gentile...But when a stranger asks are you jewish? I find there is not an off the cuff answer that fits. I'm still working on the short answer. It's a thoughtful subject that you handled well!

09:24 09May05 Catherine Neumann -
Yes, I have an identity crisis! I am a Messianic Believer, the great-granddaughter of Orthodox Jews. Their daughter married a gentile and was 'dead' to them. She was a branch broken off two generations ago. I was grafted back into the Messianic fellowship and this graft is still weak, an older person, single, and alone. I was not raised in a Jewish life style and want and need a Jewish Mishpoha (sic) to help me belong. I am on the fringe not feeling like I belong as am a not a part of a Messianic Jewish family. With tears of sadness.

01:02 12Jun05 Manuel Correa -
I've been thinking about the theme you treat here and it makes me recall some questions on myself. I came from a Gentile heritage in many ways, for example, a non believer in Yeshua. Also I wasn't aware about Brit Hadasha's jewishness. Since I was a child I knew that Jewish people -like some friends at school- had something special and that had to be with G-d. In my most inner thoughts I wanted to be a Jew. And talking with my mother who was a Christian, while I was a non-believer, I told her once that if I wanted to search for G-d any time that should be by the way of Judaism, because Yeshua was a Jew. And some years later, when the L-rd came into my life He used a Messianic Rabbi! Now I am a Messianic believer and I embrace Jewish heritage and identity in Yeshua. But something strange arises when someone tells me that I must say I am Jewish or a Gentile... Maybe both words have a tremendous background in a cultural, historical, religious or any other context that doesn't help to seek truth in ourselves as believers in Yeshua. Maybe some of us do not have to seek this identity but in Adonai's commandements, in our L-rd Yeshua as you well say. 09:22 24Jul05 - Messianic Gentile -
Great article! I'm glad to be a Gentile, and know that G-d still loves me as who and what I am. Although I love the Jewish people, and recognize the Children of Israel as the Chosen People with a very special mission and calling, why would I want to be Jewish? If I wanted Jewishness, I could easily convert and join the Jewish people. Then I would be Jewish too! But I'm so happy to be a Gentile, and be able to worship G-d as a non-Jew, within my own culture and in my own language, at the same time as I am ONE with all fellow Believers - both Messianic Jews and fellow Gentile Christians.

12:40 03Aug06 David Niles Jr -
I agree with this article wholeheartly, but differ in some things. We as believers in Jesus the Messiah need to let Him (Jesus) define us, not a church, a congregation, or a denomination. I think all of the Body of Yeshua needs to let Yeshua define us, the Bible defines as well. Christianity and Messianic Judaism are very divided. As Yeshua said "a house divided against itself will not stand". So true, So true.

04:47 07Aug06 A. Dorado -
The diaspora is a reason for much of the confusion, no one really knows the full effects of it but Adonai. Thanks be to Adonai, Shilo has taken The Sceptre and He will decide who is who. Meanwhile I'll imitate my Rabboni Y'Shua. 13:01 10Oct06 anonymous -
It seems that in our case, Jewish identity is finding it's calling on our lives even though we are "removed" by 2 generations but still considered Jewish according to halacha or Jewish law. What does one do in the case in which one was raised "christian" but is certainly Hebrew with Jewish grand and greatgrandparents? Being a minority is never easy and there's always the temptation to join the majority and slip into anonymity due to fear of some persecution. Unfortunatly, anti-semites are in the Church but Christ welcomes all. With that said, having had experience with the messianics and rabbinical Judaism, there's something in liturgical worship that is calling me to it. I've personally tried to let it go but it calls me back to remember. A Jewish soul is forever and that calling certainly feels irrevocable. But are we according to scripture gentiles or Jews? This issue does not seem to have a clearcut answer.

19:57 03Nov06 Adriana Griffith -
Praise the Lord for your ministry. My heart rejoice in Yeshua for ministries like yours. Thank you for the article, it is a confirmation of a comment I had made to my former Pastor Joshua of "Adonai Christian Church" in Rockland County. The Lord had enlarged our territory by bringing my heart, my husband's heart and my children's heart into the Mesianic Jew identity. As a gentile my heart has been always drawn to Israel since I was very young back in Colombia S.A. and with God's mercy we as a family are blessed by knowing we are one in Yeshua. Yeshua prayed for the unification of all his choosen people in John 17. We try to be obedient to His word and His will. We all as a family congregate in a Mesianic Jew Synagogue and it has been wonderful. We as gentiles need to have more education on our identity (Hopefully in Spanish). Thank you again and the love and peace of the Lord will be with you alwyas.

19:54 09Dec06 Avri Todd Vanbeuren -
This is an excellent and concise document. Your anointed explication and considerations, offer relevant solutions to the current phenomena. Many Christian believers feel in an awkward position, mainly when it comes to defining identities, since the behavior of the "Christian" Church for the past centuries, not only toward the Jewish people, but toward true followers and believers in Yeshua, was extremely obnoxious. I propose the name "Messianic Gentiles" to aleviate the stigma being carried from the past. That way, we'll have "Messianic Gentiles" who may better understand their own roles and priviledges in Messiah, putting aside their atrocious past, even in the name of "Christians". And "Messianic Jews" who are now one in Yeshua even as His chosen people. Now, both as the "one new man" in Messiah. Your clear and straightforward message is greatly appreciated in Yeshua. Thank you.

12:03 14Jan07 Clifton J Tracy Jr -
I am in full agreement with your article being a Gentile myself. I wrote a book "A New Look At An Old Book" and since I published the book I was introduced to a Messianic Jewish congregation where I attended the lecture you gave on Paul. Like it said (Titus 3:9): avoid foolish genealogies, and that I try to do.

20:16 22Jan07 Caleb Zimmerman -
I found it odd that Dan Juster would write this, after reading what he has written in regard to the Mosaic Law in the life of the present-day Believer. I've known a number of Gentiles who point to Juster's writings as justification for their wearing tzit-tzit all the time, growing their beards, davening, etc., etc. Until the covenants are taught correctly many Gentiles will do exactly what is elaborated upon here. Indeed, some have identity issues ... but I've known a number of my fellow brothers who drop their jaws at the title of "Christian." Such a title is evidently "gentile." Be it identity issue, or paranoia, mutual forebearance needs to be learned and expressed. Romans 14 is clear.

17:12 22Feb07 O'Connor -
This is one of the best articles I've seen on the subject. What a relief it was, the day I realized that being a GENTILE is okay. No more "lying" to myself by calling myself a "Messianic" and belonging to a "Messianic congregation". I'm a Christian Gentile, who now know who I am, and while I still attend a Messianic JEWISH synagogue and I'm a strong supporter of Torah-observant, Spirit-filled Messianic Judaism, I have found my place, I have reclaimed my identity as a Gentile with my own unique cultural heritage.

18:53 25Jun07 Kathy -
I just read your article. I'm sorry but I don't feel like a poor little gentile who wants to be jewish. Poor ME! I am a Christian. According to Paul there is no Jew or Greek, no bondsman or freeman. It does not matter what I was born. I and you also have no control over what our ancestery is. The word says if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the lord Jesus and believe in thing heart that God hath raised him from the dead thou shalt be saved. period. Don't get me wrong I pray that all Israel might be saved right along with everyone else. I just feel people are missing the point when they think their heritage (which they had NO control over) somehow makes them special. They could have just as easily been born a Gentile or visa-versa.

11:20 26Jun07 Jonathan -
It is certainly true that each of us has no control over our ancestry, but God does and surely that is what makes each of us special - whether Chinese, African or Jewish. It is interesting, isn't it, that the Gal 3:28 verse you partially quoted is often used to teach that Jew and Gentile have ceased to be distinct when it actually teaches exactly the opposite: that the distinctions are meant to remain while united in Christ. You see, Paul uses three categories of people where it is impossible to blur the differences between them in order to make the point that despite those differences, all believers in Messiah Yeshua share the same spiritual blessing and standing before God. Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free were all totally distinct and non-negotiably different in Paul's time. While today there is very little open evidence of slavery (although visiting some Arab or African countries might suggest otherwise), it took 1800 years for slavery to be abolished; men don't have babies and then nurse their offspring; Jew and Gentile remain totally distinct in their calling and purpose in the kingdom of God while being one in Messiah. We read in Revelation that before the throne of God there will be people of every tribe and tongue and nation - that includes Jews too!
But you are right, it isn't our ancestry that makes us special, it is what we do with it that matters. God calls Gentiles to be the best Gentiles they can be; He calls Jews to be the best Jews they can be; both are to walk out their God-given calling to the best of their ability, as the body of Messiah, supporting each other in their unique walks. Praise God for our unity in Messiah, and praise Him too for the differences He has made in and between us.

14:56 11Jul07 Jane -
From Daniel Juster's essay above: "It is much better to embrace one's ethnicity in the Messiah by dying to any idolatry of it." A person's ethnicity may define an appearance before men, but not before God. The fact that ethnicity (Jew or Gentile) has become a topic of debate (and even contention) among men, proves this argument to be nothing more than a distraction from the true things of God and Scripture. Men may see an African tribesman, a Japanese warrior, and a Jewish moreh; God sees three men who need His mercy and Grace.

13:56 10Sep07 Amber Harris -
I enjoyed reading this article and the comments that followed. I am not a Jew by birth but I don't feel that I have any sort of identity crisis. I have been grafted in to take part in my Hebraic roots. My fruit might be a little different but my roots are the same. It is interesting to me that there is such distinction between brothers. We have the same Father. We have, at the root of Christianity, Judaism. Yeshua was a Jew, His disciples were Jews, and they taught out of Torah. Somewhere that heritage was lost, but we are returning and the besorah, the good news, has been proclaimed. We are to sit down and eat together as one, in unity. I want to rehearse the returning Messiah and know and understand in plasma screen, surround sound, taste-and-see-that-He-is-good, real-life application. This is my identity. I am the grafted-in branch of a very old vine, and I was selected because I was bearing good fruit. Praise HaShem Elohim! So what do I answer when asked what I am? I am a servant of the Most High, YHVH Elohim. If I look a little Jewish, well, my Master is Jewish. What can I say? He is providing my everything. Speak to my Master.

23:23 25Sep07 Sarah -
Timely. I was asked today whether I was Jewish. But, I'm more confused than ever now. I never called myself a "Jew" because I'm not ethnically a Jew, and yet ... I follow the Torah to the best that I am able, and there are few commandments which delineate "this for the Jew, and this for the other people" so ...
There seems to be a conflict here, since some Messianics would put me on as second class without the right to participate fully in the congregation (which I think carries some heavy red flags), and then others will say that there are no gentiles in the Kingdom since we are all Yisra'el. There are some individuals who would say that Messianic Judaism is only for Jews - period. That gentiles should go find protestant churches ... that seems wrong to me.
So, some say I shouldn't follow Torah because it is only for Jews (where does it say that in scripture?), while others say - different. Confusion. Elohim is not the author of confusion ... it seems to me that there needs to be more cohesion within the Messianic community as a whole so that folks like myself aren't so easily confused. In addition, I'll just stick - as a gentile - to doing what I can do best in following Torah, and if someone will claim that I'm "pretending" to be Jewish merely by following God's commandments - well, I'm sorry for that perception, but I can't let that sway me until I have some scripture claiming that I'm not to follow it.
I shall see elsewhere online if there is something to clear away the cobwebs here. What I know for certain is what Paul taught after he said that the true Jew is one who is so inwardly (and I think that is an important scripture right there, actually, in terms of Torah observance). If we are no longer foreigners (according to Ephesians), then perhaps we are not considered Gentiles after the flesh any longer, but I digress. I'm still pondering that point. Paul mentioned the "advantage" of being a Jew is this: that they were entrusted with the Words of Elohim.
As is written also in the prophets, that through the Jewish nation the Torah will go out to the gentiles, and perhaps, *if* we are going to speak upon ethnic distinctions - that is the true distinction right there. I'm going to do more reading on this subject.

19:12 01Nov07 Richard -
I have been walking with the Lord for only two years now. When I first got saved, I was (and still am) heavily influenced by a Messianic group of believers. Some are Jewish, others are not, but they all love Yeshua so much and it is evident in many facets of their life. I feel a real connection with them and they were there to teach me and provide fellowship when I first called upon the Yeshua. They keep Torah and the dietary laws, keep the Shabat on Friday nights and Saturday, and study with an emphasis from a Jewish perspective. I have learned so much and really love and identify with this. I recently started going to a traditional Christian church, a Calvary Chapel in southern CA, and I have recieved almost harsh rebukes from people saying it is wrong for Gentiles to follow Torah, that it takes away from the grace and love of Yeshua's ministry to follow Torah and the dietary laws, that the rules and the law of Moshe are for Jews alone, and that we are not to follow such things. I feel mixed up and I am not sure what to do. I love keeping the Shabbat and the High Holy Days, but I am doubting myself because of the influence of my Christian church. What should I do?

  -- Dr Juster replies: The best way to understand the New Covenant Scriptures is to understand that they make a distinction between universal Torah that is for all and the specifics of Torah for Jewish calling. The universal is best typified by the application of Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount. Acts 15 and Galatians show us this distinction especially in urging Gentiles to not be circumcised. However, some Gentiles are called to Jewish ministry and to live their lives before and with the Jewish people. This can be expressed in a Messianic Jewish congregation as part of this. When this call is embraced, the Gentile embraces Torah that is not required of him; celebrates the Sabbaths and Feasts and more. This is a matter of being led by the Spirit. Rabbinic Judaims eventually by the end of the second century embraced this idea of universal Torah and specific Jewish responsiblity Torah under the idea of Noahide laws and Jewish Laws. There are important scholars who have written about this. Marcus Bauchmuel of Cambridge and Peter Tomson in Paul and the Jewish Law.

15:52 15Nov07 Ruth - Oy Vey! All this dialogue sounds like my congregation. I'm gentile (with possible Jewish heritage), "a church kid", and grew up with an interest in history, scripture and Jewish boys. I began attending Messianic congregations back in the 1990's. One past Rabbi told me, it doesn't matter what your heritage is, what matters is how you live for Jesus now. The congregation I am attending now has a healthy mix of Jew & Gentile. And we all ask many questions. Mine has been: okay, we are in the age of grace, but grace from what???? Some in the congregation say that we MUST obey Torah, that means absolute Sabbath observance, etc. Grace is the fact I can observe Sabbath, worship and then go to a family event that my non-messianic clan is having. God knows my heart. He knows what I want to learn and do and understand. He doesn't answer our questions immediately, it is a lifetime study. But that's the joy of scripture. If we knew all the answers now we wouldn't be asking these questions. It is part of our relationship with God. Another aspect of grace is accepting differences in others. As God has shown grace to us, we need to show grace to others. None of us will be completely on the same page until Jesus comes back and fully answers our questions. Enjoy the fellowship! Let us reason together! Hinei ma tov umma nayim, shevet achim gam yachad. Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together. Ps. 133:1.

02:18 18Mar08 Eduardo -
Hey, the question of Torah observance and not so much Torah observance should clearly be based on the text. When Israel came out of Egypt it was a mixed multitude that went up (Ex 12:38) and that same mixed multitude that later said "Yes" to the whole of Torah. The Hebrew word 'ger' is a stranger or foreigner who has joined themselves to the people of Israel. The ger was granted full citizenship in Israel with both the responsibilities and the privileges. The foreigner who joined Israel had to keep, to name a few: Shavuot (Dt 16:10-11), Yom Kippur (Lev 16:29), Sukkot (Dt 16:13-14). The foreigner took part in sacrifices (Lev 22:17-18). The truth is whether Jew or Gentile the whole of Torah applies to you if your desire is to honor the God of Avraham, Yitzack and Ya'akov. The words of Yeshua are that "If you love Me you will obey My commands". Which ones ?? All of them. For Yeshua has not come to destroy the Torah or the prophets but to fulfill. Fulfill does not equal abolish. So to all who are joined to the vine of Hashem observe the mitzvot (commandments). Also kosher laws still apply. The vision Peter had on the roof was to teach him that if he can deduce from Torah that eating unclean meats is forbidden then he should deduce from Torah (and Torah alone) that Gentiles are not unclean and he can speak and eat in the house of Cornelius because the rabbis taught that Gentiles were unclean.

  -- Dr Juster replies: The problem here is a failure to note that the covenant is with the Nation Israel and that some at that time could join it. In the New Covenant, once cirumcision is no longer encouraged, but strongly discouraged, we see a change. This is the expected change in Torah application forseen by the Rabbis. So for Jews the whole Torah applies but we no longer bring sacrifices to a Temple - application change. In the same way, in the New Covenant as the Gospel goes to the nations, the Torah applies differently. If not, then Galatians, Acts 15, Col. 2 make no sense. There is no way to avoid the implications of these texts. The difference betwween the universal dimensions of Torah that apply to all and the specific Jewish calling dimensions was known in 1st century Judaism and codified in the idea of the Noachide laws for Gentiles.

17:14 23Apr08 Carl Haggard -
While I see where you are going, I question how diversity in teaching and practices make us one new man. Paul asserts a certain oneness in Ephesians: One body, and one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all. Maybe outside these "ones" there can be more than one. Too much diversity can be confusing too.

04:59 22Jul08 Marion -
This is excellent - and very well written - thank you. It gives a balance to things that have concerned me for a while [I have been connected to Messianics and Hebrew roots and interest for over 25 years, even though a 'Gentile'], soon after coming to faith, but extremists are beginning to spoil what I have learned and appreciated and support.
I hate legalism with a passion [for my first calling is to non-believers and I see the damage it does to them], so the growing extremism in 'the Messianic Movement' and all the various factions, and the disregard and lack of love for the One Body in Messiah really grieves me so much.

08:40 09Sep08 - Robert Hoffmann - South Africa -
I am a German gentile out of the Lutheren church. My wife and myself have prayed to Adonai to allow us to be grafted into His olive-tree like Ruth did. We try to keep to all Adonai's instuctions. We download and listen to sermons out of a synagogue every Shabbat. There is no one to lead us but the Ruach ha Codesh. If you were to adopt a child into your home, would you allow him/her to follow a different set of rules? When Meshiach ben David returns He will sort out the "problems".

  -- Dr Juster replies: When a person is called to the MJ community, they live the same life as the rest of the members who are Jewish.

09:55 13Sep08 Cheryl Ann Miller -
Absolutely love, appreciate and want to pass on this valuable understanding of the Messianic Jewish movement and the Gentile idenity. I feel that this is important to say to both and all for the complete understanding of Eph 3:14-22.

21:09 22Sep08 Kisha -
Why is there so much confusion when Paul, in Ephesians chapter 2, clearly describes what happens to a "Gentile" once they believe? Vs. 19 "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and ARE of God's household" This the same picture given to us in the Torah. The strangers and the aliens were to be counted as a natural born citizen of Israel. (Ex. 12:49; Lev. 19:34; Lev 24:22; Ezek. 47:22,23) This is not replacing the Jewish people -- it is joining with them! Most (or all) of this 'identity' confusion is due to man's teachings and doctrines, not the bible. The bible is very clear until we let men (with good intentions no doubt) distort the word. Galatians, Acts 15, Col. 2 are not trump verses to support one sort of Torah life for the gentile and some other Torah life for another group. This goes against the rest of scripture and keeps the 'dividing wall' firmly in place. Why? Because some really love that dividing wall! Go back and read Galatians, Acts 15, Col. 2 and ask yourself if Paul or any other apostle/disciple of the Messiah intended to have one set of values and laws for "gentiles" and another set for "Jews". My bible says that God is not a respector of persons. For example, the God of our Father's Abraham, Issac, and Jacob doesn't expect Jews to keep "kosher" and yet at the same time expect the "gentiles" to eat whatever they want. With this logic, we could assume that the Jew's stomach must be completely different than the gentiles. Sound ridiculous? That's because it is. There is and always has been: "one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all." (Eph 4:4-6) Why do we continue to make it difficult for those coming into the kingdom?

  -- Dr Juster replies: What can I say? There are different callings and the New Covenant Scriptures are clear. Galatians 5 is quite simple and applies this to circumcision and this implies to Jewish life in general. These texts are a trump card.

20:19 09Oct08 Susan -
Just wonderful! A good balanced commentary with new life, I wish we would finally get it--I think we're getting there!!

09:46 30Oct08 Steve -
The article is good, but in some ways does not discuss one vital issue. That issue would be the One Torah idea, which sees the Torah given at Sinai as being for the nation of 'Israel' and the strangers (non-Jews) attached to them.
When we see passages in Ephesians about those born not of Israel's ethnic DNA being strangers to the covenants of promise, and the later verse saying that in Christ we have been brought into (and therefore able to partake) the covenants of promise, it is easy to see why some gentile believers can believe Torah is for them as readily as Torah is for Israel.
Breaking of bread becomes a major issue when discussing this, as Jesus' "last supper" was according to all accounts a "passover meal". Yet we are told to take part as often as we remember him. If it was a passover meal, then according to Torah it is for the circumcised only.
Another awkward issue is that Jesus says he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Does this mean that his teachings are for Jews only, and the writings of Paul are only for gentiles ... what stupidity!
We need to look again at the One Torah idea and re-appraise from scratch. The real question is thus ... can a gentile observe Torah?

09:30 11Nov08 Stephanie Simpkins -
I still have questions that are unanswered. First as background, as far as I am aware, I am a Gentile (non-Jewish by birth). I accepted Jesus as my Savior at the age of 15. I have attended church (various mainstream protestant denominations) very faithfully, eventually teaching Sunday school classes, vacation Bible schools,ladies Bible studies, and even working at the headquarters of an international ministry. I greatly enjoyed studying the scriptures and was often perplexed by questions like, why there were not three days and three nights from Good Friday to Easter Sunday ... I had many such questions, but few answers from my church leadership. As young adults, my husband and I began studying the origins of some of the church traditions/festivals. So many were clearly pagan. Over the course of many years, with much study, we made the deliberate decision to one by one stop doing the church traditions that were contrary to scripture. This process took over five years. Eventually, we came to the question of which day was the Sabbath. When we found the origins of Sunday worship from the Catholic Texts, and could find no evidence of a change in the scripture themselves, we were lost. We knew of no other people who saw the scripture this way, and we were begging God to show us our error, or to show us what to do next. It was then that the Lord introduced us to Messianic Judaism. Our route was not because we loved Israel (I even had some antisemitic habits to break) but because we sought the most biblical truth we could find. I am now 53 years old, and we have been active members of the Messianic community for over 12 years. But I still do not have a word/name to answer those who ask what I am. I was born Gentile, but I'm not a Christian. I am Biblically Jewish in lifestyle, but not born Jewish. So I have two questions: First, in your opinion, would be a good identity name for someone like me to answer those who ask? And second, I know from our studies that what is Biblically true in Christianity is essentially Biblical Judaism. All that makes Christianity a distinctively different faith that has pagan origins. So please explain why you believe Christians would be encouraged to stay in Christianity rather than to eventually grow from there to a more biblical faith?

  -- Dr Juster replies: We use many names. Messianic Gentile, Jewish Roots Christian, and more. I think the title is not that important of itself, but how God wants you to see yourself before Him and the community where He has placed you.
And yet the Church has been a great source of blessing and has made many positive steps forwards in our knowledge of God and His ways in spite of their error. God is using the Church to accomplish a different but inter-linked purpose alongside the Jewish people. Some correction is certainly needed, and people who are open to hear the Spirit will move and grow as He directs them. In spite of the presence of error - and the Jewish community is not exempt from the same charge - God is still using and speaking through people of faith in both communities.

13:38 29Nov08 Monty Stratton, D.Min. -
I see the One New Man as a Kingdom Stew, made up of Messianic Jews & Gentile Christians all of us as 'joints of supply'(FLAVORS IN THE STEW) ...Eph.4:16. It's NO LONGER ABOUT US ... it's about the stew(KINGDOM)!!We become 'the man in the glory'!!!

02:03 06Feb09 Leonard Michiel Fernig -
I recognize both the question on identity as well as the temptation to the Ephraimite movement thinking. Now I understand I can resist by taking a stand in Jewish identity by serving the body from this position and not try to claim anything.

08:19 17Apr09 Henry Bronkhorst -
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." Romans 11:17-19

03:45 27Sep09 Rick Arii -
Excellent thoughts. A big problem between and within the various sects (opinions?) is judging each other. I love Paul's statement in Romans 14:5 - "One indeed esteems a day above another day; and another esteems every day alike. Let each one be fully assured in his own mind." This seems to indicate there will be differences of opinion, and that is ok, but we need to be "fully assured," not following our whims. I am encouraged by what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12 - "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall fully know even as I also am fully known." We must be content to "see in a mirror dimly" at least for now ...

11:15 30Dec09 Bonnie -
If we are all to be One New Man in Messiah, and we are to be focusing our identity on the future, then why do we still make the distinction between Jew and Gentile? If the New Testament term "Jew" meant "believer in Adonai," and the gospel is to the Jew first, then shouldn't it be going to all of the believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, regardless of their ancestry? Shouldn't all believers now simply be called Israel?

18:00 31Dec09 Webmaster -
We make the distinction between Jew and Gentile because Rav Sha'ul makes that distinction: For their is neither Jew or Greek, neither male nor female, neither slave nor free, for you are all one in Yeshua the Messiah (Gal 3:28). By using three examples of things that it is impossible to blur or mistake, Sha'ul is saying that in spite of those permanent differences, yet believers all share the spiritual status in Messiah: sons and heirs. You are mistaken in assuming that the term 'Jew' was ever intended to refer to Gentiles; that is why Sha'ul says that the gospel was first to the Jew and also to the Gentile - both together but with a Jewish-priority. The term used for all believers is the Body of Messiah, never Israel, which is a term explicitly and only used for the Jewish people, not including Gentiles.

13:41 21May10 N.S. -
This is so refreshing! I have seen all of the unfortunate digressions mentioned in this article operating in the Messianic Movement. The Gentiles I see who are truly embracing their calling to the Jews have a humility that seems to be born of their embracing the sufferings that come with identifying with and loving the Jewish people. Very often they experience the same kind of rejection and persecution from family and friends that a Messianic Jew does. In others I have also seen much of the unresolved anger toward the church that gave them the Gospel, though may not have preached about their Jewish roots. But when a Gentile is able to lovingly embrace the Jewish people, the church and their own culture and ethnicity, that is a sight to behold! Someone like that is able to be a true comfort to Israel. As a friend once told me, when a peach branch is grafted into a plum tree, it still produces peaches! But it shares in the life giving root with the natural branches. May God grant grace to us all to accept the person God created when he created and chose us.

15:07 03Aug10 Gavriela -
Thank you! Yeshua is the uniting factor and the cord that binds.

12:08 22Aug10 MK -
This article has cleared up many questions and misgivings I have had recently about the Messianic Movement. I have felt that I had to give up my "former" ways of doing things and after a while that became a nuisance to me on a personal level. Now I see that we are a "blending" together of the "new man" and not just the acquisition of acting "Jewish" or practicing Jewish customs etc. This has helped me a great deal.

12:52 19Sep10 Michael Sanders -
Not much to say but "Thank you!" Short, sweet and right to the point! As a Gentile in a Messianic Congregation and as an Elder/Teacher I appreciate you and your work. So many Gentiles want to be "Jewish" and miss the sheer awesomeness of what Adonai has done in tearing down the wall and calling us together. Why isn't that enough for some? I agree with your insight! But what about those predominately Jewish congregations where Gentiles are second class members? I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on that!!! We simply wish to worship and serve in a manner as close to that of Yeshua as we can find - both Jew and Gentile in Him.

  -- Dr Juster replies: My argument is that a MJ congregation consists Jews and Gentiles who have a primary call to the Jewish people, to live their life of witness before them. While it is good for the Gentiles to not act so as to give the false impression that they are Jews (their ceremony at age 13, for example, would not profess responsibility to be Jewish but loyalty to Yeshua), in general there should be full acceptance on both sides of the Jew-Gentile equation. This includes, in my view, leadership positions. It is a matter of calling.

10:10 28Sep10 Ryan Micklewright -
This is an interesting perspective. I came across Daniel's name by referral from a friend of mine who is running CMJ (Messiah's People) here in South Africa. I had several Jewish friends while at University in South Africa and later, as a Christian, my attraction to Jewish people got stronger ... I have been looking for a Jewish Messianic fellowship in Johannesburg to no avail as yet and I have been investigating how to study the Bible from a hebraic perspective. Until now I had not thought that I might have a calling to a fellowship or to minister to the Jews ... I just had a desire to worship with them, study with them and observe the festivals that are still right for us to observe in these New Testament times. But perhaps I do and there is a higher purpose at work here.

07:02 24Mar11 Raymond E. Wiggins Sr. -
Your terse statement sums it up very well: "There are different callings, but without status superiority in the Body." There is nothing like "spiritual clarity" which is like the "shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day!" Proverb 4:18

00:45 24Jul11 Leslie Springs -
This is an excellent article. I have experienced the "elitist" mentality of the Messianic movement. Six years ago, after being saved 20 years, I was amazingly and supernaturally called to love the Jewish people. A burning in my heart to see them come to love Yeshua as their Messiah. But I've gone through a very hard time finding a Messianic Church to attend. I've been told I will end up being Jewish, or that I have to become Torah Observant. Either one is wrong, we are to come together, in our uniqueness, and serve the One True God.

  -- Webmaster replies: Your last sentence sums it up well: we are to come together, in our uniqueness to serve G-d. We must not lose our distinction as Jew and Gentile, because otherwise the One New Man isn't new, but just a copy of one or the other.

19:31 10Sep11 Ms. Yvonne Hendricks -
I believe that the reason why so many Gentile Christians may be looking at the Jewish life style is because they have come to realise that many things that they have been taught e.g. Easter, Christmas etc. has its roots in paganism and they would prefer to follow the true Biblical ways, feasts, etc. They realise that the substance is in the roots - meaning the Jews have the way but at the same time the Jews need the branches - their Gentile fellow believers - this makes us one through Adonai our Messiah.

15:46 09Jan12 CR -
I am glad you wrote this. I have seen what you could call "super-Jewish Gentiles" who feel inferior as Gentiles and seem desperate to be Jewish and because of that go the way of Rabbinic observance to the extreme. Then I have seen Jewish-by-birth believers who have been embittered by the traditional religious and have rejected any traditional observance - saying the service at shul is "too Jewish" - and have embraced church culture with the exception perhaps of Shabbat and the High Holidays, and maybe b'nai mitzvah for their kids; these give the impression of selling their birthright like Esau did to some. I have seen Gentiles come in and complain about the Jewishness of the service (um, it's a synagogue?), too, but at least they're okay with being Gentile, though one wonders why they insist Jewish believers can't stay Jewish in their practices? Then I have seen Gentiles who have adopted and adapted some traditional practices but for whom it is a more natural thing, ranging from slightly observant to the level of wearing peyot. I am a second-generation Messianic believer. I went through this identity crisis but have started to see it's like with Ruth and Naomi and there are stages of being grafted in; my husband is second-gen too but until we married had trouble accepting that it's okay for him not to be ethnically Jewish but we can still practice. I know some who insist they are Jewish if they have any ancestry at all. Well, Timothy was sort of ... My only sadness is that I could not make aliyah officially since I only have some ancestry on my father's side.

11:55 17Mar12 Dennis Cavitt -
Paul wrote the following in 2Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
This is a guiding scripture for me and my walk with my Master, Yeshua. When Paul wrote this, the only scripture available was the Tanak. As I understand this passage, the Torah was used to teach new believers how to live righteous lives in an unrighteous world. The Torah, God's Instruction, should be separated from the consequences of the legalism that many follow. As I understand it, the purpose of studying Torah is to truly know our Creator. This is why my family and I study Torah. It is through knowing Him that we can truly be the one new man in Yeshua.

05:03 25Mar12 David Waterman -
This is a good article, not that I necessarily agree with every word, but that does not stop it being a sound addition to the ongoing discussion. Dr Juster's standing in the Messianic world is widely known and deserved.
I came to the Messianic world about 2 years ago, after many years of Christianity, although regular church attendance has not always been possible.
Although I think our family has some Jewish history, I am not Jewish according to halakha. Yet I am so drawn to Judaism it is incredible. I do not mean because of influence, or because I "like the lifestyle" or for any other reason, it has to be of G-d as it is so strong and all consuming.
I am a "Messianic gentile" perhaps is the term to use. I perhaps differ from some here in that I simply believe that the Church was meant to evolve from our Jewish roots not destoy its past. That means, for me, not abandoning the Biblical feasts for :"Christian" ones (anybody argues with this just ask them to point to the Scriptures that tell us to observe Easter and Christmas) and following Torah, (not Rabbinically as Jews cannot either, there is no Temple). For a good example of how modern Jews cope with these issues may I suggest you look at Reform Judaism as your guide, not Orthodox sources. At the same time, many of my teachers are Jewish; as a student of Torah, as a believer in a messianic faith that fully accepts both Jew and Gentile, and as a student of Jewish thought I believe this is not inappropriate. >br> Accept all, and let us leave each other space for our own interpretation, under G-d's guiding light

07:02 29Sep12 Greg Wells -
It's interesting how the comments evolve over an eight year period. The real point is: One Torah. Of course we are not all Jews ethnically. But we all have and follow One Torah! 'If you love me, keep my commandments.' It's very simple, 'Saved by grace to obey by love'. Noachide laws, Christian theologians, Rabbinic thought, it;s all summed up in John 14:15. Thank you Dr. Juster for your bridge-building, but respectively One Torah will be what Yeshua returns to in the body of Mashiach. It is very clear to me that this is what it has always been and what it is re-evolving to. Thank you.

06:31 23Mar13 Teresa Dixon -
What do you fully mean by "partnering together for the full RESTORATION of Israel and the church? There is confusion for me concerning this word "restoration". Do you mean just the reality of Jew and Gentile as One New Man in Messiah OR that we will make the world a better place for Yeshua to return to? I want to understand what you mean and not walk in fear.

  -- Dr Juster replies: We mean much more than just the one new man. Our book "Israel, the Church and the Last Days", as well as the book "That They May be One", give our sense that before Yeshua comes back we will see a true believing Church world wide that will be in unity, empowered by the Spirit and living out the Gospel in profound holiness and power. It will also include the five fold ministries of Ephesians 4. We join with all to foster this restoration, for this kind of Church will be a key to Israel's salvation. Yes, this Church will be joined in love toward Israel. However, the restoration of Israel is to faith in Yeshua, to their land and their destiny among the nations.