Messianic Jewish Identification with the Body of Believers
| Dr Daniel Juster, Director |
Nothing is more common among us than the call for Jewish believers to identify with their people and the Jewish State of Israel. This is crucially important. However, it is also very important for Messianic Jews to identify with the larger Body of the Messiah. There are reasons why Messianic Jews struggle over this, but these reasons must not be allowed to prevent this important identification. Why? Because this identification is crucial for the salvation of Israel and the nations.
Why is it a Struggle to so Identify ?
There are many reasons. Here are a few. One is the false teaching about the meaning of One New Man in Ephesians 2. Some teach that this means the distinctive callings of Jews and Gentiles are eliminated in Messiah. Some teach that the One New Man is to look very Jewish; others teach the opposite. Both teach a kind of homogenized One New Man. However, if we believe that God is creating the great personalities and peoples to uniquely enrich the Kingdom of God (as John Dawson in Healing America's Wounds), then homogenization is wrong. The irrevocable call of Israel continues in the New Covenant. Messianic Jews are part of it. As male and female still exist in Messiah and have distinctive callings, so the unity of Jew and Gentile is more parallel to marriage in covenant than to homogenization. Messianic Jews sometimes do not identify with the larger Body of the Messiah because they react against the false one new man teaching. They fail to see the importance of living out the true meaning of One New Man (Humanity).
Others teach that the Church is pagan and that we can not identify with it. This is a great stretch when speaking of Protestantism. Worship on Sunday and celebrating the birth of Yeshua do not constitute paganism. There are some Greek orientations that need correction; there is a need for Jewish context in understanding the Bible. However, the dismissal of the Church as pagan is simply wrong. The Church was given liberty to not follow specifically Jewish laws and has creatively developed much that is uniquely beautiful.
Others fear that identification with the Body of the Messiah will compromise their witness to Jews. However, it is better to be honest and say that we are one with all committed followers of Yeshua, while also following a unique Jewish calling. Fear of rejection is not a good motive. The power of God is the essential issue in witnessing, and being forthright about the truth is a key to this power.
Why is it so Important to thus Identify ?
An essential part of the proof that Yeshua is the Messiah is that He is bringing the nations to the knowledge of God (Gen. 49:10b; Is. 49:6). The testimony that we are one with Gentiles who follow the Messiah is a key part of our authentic witness. It is proof of His work that the separation barrier no longer affects Jew and Gentile in the Messiah (Eph. 2).
In addition, the demonstration of reconciliation releases the power of God. This has been proven again and again by John Dawson in his writings. Where believers stand in unity the power for successful witness is released. This is also the case in the unity between Jew and Gentile.
The Bible teaches that prayers, witness and deeds of kindness on the part of Gentile followers of Yeshua, will be key to our people embracing Yeshua (Romans 11:11-14). This witness is undercut when we live as if we are not one with Gentile followers of Yeshua. It is the team of Jew and Gentile together that most affects the salvation of the Jews. There the balance of the Messianic Jewish witness to continued Jewish life and calling, is joined with the power of Gentile love for the Jews. Great depth of discipleship will be needed for both Jew and Gentile to accomplish this.
It is important that we see the truth that the Body of the Messiah in the nations is the child of the Jewish nation. It was born out of the evangelistic faithfulness of Jews who took the Good News to the Gentiles. While the Church has sometimes seemed a wayward child, those congregations that truly seek to follow Yeshua are our corporate spiritual children. Continued loving relationship is a key. Some prophets have rightly seen that there is an application here of Malachi 3:24 in which the hearts of the children will be turned to the fathers and the fathers to the children.
In the Messiah both Jew and Gentile share a common faith in a divine Messiah who died and rose again. We know that salvation is procured by His atonement. We know He is coming again. We partake of the same Spirit and are called to practice the same gifts of supernatural grace.
How can we Show We are One ?
Every Messianic Jewish Congregation can show the unity of Jew and Gentile by having as members those Gentiles who have a special life calling to the Jewish people. These members are crucial to our New Covenant authenticity and will sometimes be our most effective witnesses. In addition, Churches can encourage their Jewish members to continue to live a Jewish life. Jewish oriented home groups, which integrate into the Jewish community, special services and more are possible when a Church has such a Jewish contingent. Much discipleship will be needed to see such a vision fulfilled. However, this is not sufficient.
It is crucial to see that Messianic Jewish leaders join in leadership fellowships in their region. Joint services and joining together in the activities of the Church of the City are important too. We need to not only teach our Jewish members our call to distinctive Jewish life, but to teach concerning the wonderful cultures and expressions of the Church. Messianic Jews can then appreciate the richness of the larger Body of Believers and the miracle of what God has wrought. In this the Church can appreciate its own Jewish roots and our Messianic Jewish expression.
We have a stake in the success of the whole Body of Believers. I have noticed over many years that when the Body of Believers in a region is strong and in some kind of cooperative unity, there is much greater success in sharing the Good News with Jews. There is a change in the heavenlies. The task of the salvation of Israel can not be accomplished without the whole Church. This leads to the redemption of the World.
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