Dan Juster

Director
Restoration From Zion
 
 
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"...we were not prepared for the enormity of Gentiles entering the Kingdom through the Gospel and constituting a Holy Priesthood though faith in Yeshua!"
 
 

"Circumcision has value if you observe the law." (Romans 2:25)

"Circumcision is nothing and un-circumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what is what counts." (I Corinthians 7:19)

What ?! Romans and First Corinthians 7 seem on the surface to be contradictory!

Romans 11 affirms the continued calling of the Jewish people, even that their acceptance in the Gospel will lead to life from the dead, the resurrection itself (11:15). The text is a ringing affirmation of the continuing role of the Jewish people including the fact that Jewish followers of Yeshua are still part of their people and constitute the saved remnant of Israel. The redemption of the world is tied to the destiny of the Jewish people.

In this light, the statement in I Corinthians 7:19 is strange. Circumcision is nothing? How can this be since circumcision is the act that enters sons (and hence future families) into God's covenant with the Jewish people? Indeed, circumcision is a commandment of God, so how can it be contrasted with keeping the commandments of God? And as we noted, Romans 2:25 says that circumcision is of value (present tense) if one keeps the law.

To reconcile the two verses, we can therefore understand I Corinthians 7 as asserting that we should in general remain in the ethnic context we were in at the time we came to Yeshua. It looks as though Paul is asserting that within the One Body of the Messiah, in the Ephesians 2 "One New Man" or "Humanity", there are still legitimate distinctions of ethnicity and calling. But then how can Paul contrast circumcision with the commandments of God since it is a commandment of God given to Abraham?

Universal Torah

First of all, I believe that Paul's emphasis goes back to the teaching of Yeshua. After reproving the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23, Yeshua speaks about tithing mint, dill, and cumin, but having neglected the weightier matters of the Law, justice, mercy and faithfulness. Indeed, Yeshua's teaching was always much more about universal Torah or the weightier matters of the Torah (Matthew 5-7).

Therefore we understand Paul to say, "Circumcision and un-circumcision are states that are comparatively unimportant in comparison to keeping the universal commandments of God which must be the center for both Jew and Gentile" (my paraphrase). In Romans 2, Paul's critique of the Jewish people for Torah violation also stresses the universal dimensions of Torah.

The Radical Change: Who Constitutes the People of God?

Some passages seem to downplay the importance of the markers of Jewish identity such as the feasts and purity laws (Colossians 2:16,17, Romans 14:15-23). These are in the context of emphasizing the universal Torah that applies to all people and the importance of the unity of God's people in the Body. This emphasis on the universal is part of the enormous change that has come though the Gospel. It is the expansion of the Kingdom of God to the gentiles. It is a change of the boundaries of who constitutes God's Holy People (Saints).

Previously, to be part of God's Holy People, males had to be circumcised, join Israel and embrace the markers of Jewish identity. Albeit the prophets had glimpses of the nations coming to the knowledge of God and some special people from the nations living in Israel and being chosen as priests (Isaiah 66:21). However we were not prepared for the enormity of Gentiles entering the Kingdom through the Gospel and constituting a Holy Priesthood though faith in Yeshua! They enter into an equality of status alongside the Messianic Jews, and are joined to the Messianic Jews, as God's Holy People. They are raised with him to heavenly places, at the very throne of Yeshua (Ephesians 2:6). This is the highest status one can conceive.

Yet if Jewish calling and identity remain important, then the markers of Jewish identity remain important, including our language, land and culture (based in Torah and first developed for life in the Land). The importance of Jewish identity and the markers of Jewish identity become qualified by our joint identity in the Messiah and our joined-together status as raised with Him and seated with Him in heavenly places. And of course, Gentiles are not called to embrace a covenant responsibility for the markers of Jewish identity, living in the Land of Israel, circumcision and the pattern of Jewish life.

Israel and the Church: Right Alignment and the Redemption of the World

It has been very hard for both Christians and Messianic Jews to get this right. On the one hand to emphasize our equality in the Messiah, our One New Man-ness, and our shared status in Him; while at the same time affirming the importance of the Jewish people and the identity of the Church as including the people form all nations who have become connected to Israel and her destiny. Getting this right is a key to the alignment of the whole Church in the last days and for our fully sufficient participation in those events that will usher in the return of Yeshua.

By Daniel Juster
Dan Juster is on the board of Tikkun International and oversees the Tikkun America network of congregations. Donate to Restoration from Zion.
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Comments:
10:56 28Dec15 Mark McLellan -
This area of theology, however we understand and define it, will determine how much practical oneness we as Jews and Gentiles in Messiah experience. Your article on this subject matter (one new man) is the best one to date. Things are getting a little clearer.

In your article you mention a "universal" Torah. You then qualify this in reference to the "weightier matters" of the law. My question is this: do you consider the 10 commandments as being part of the "weightier matters" of the law? When Paul states that Jewish ethnic status and Gentile ethnic status does not matter, but covenant faithfulness does (keeping the commandments), would this not at least include the 10 commandments? It seems that Covenant status is primary and ethnic status is secondary in this particular passage (1st Cor. 7). However, it is clear that Paul is advocating for Jewish and Gentile believers to keep the commandments of God. Would this include the big 10?

My point: the 4th commandment deals with the Lords appointed weekly holy day of rest and corporate worship - The Shabbat. If the Gentiles were encouraged to "keep the commandments of God" and thus keep Shabbat

  -- Dr Juster replies: The issue is that the Sabbath functions as a covenant sign between God and Israel. Though you are generally right. There is no exhortation known from the apostles either in Scripture or post apostolic tradition on what the apostles taught to say they taught the Sabbath this way.

11:31 28Dec15 Jay Axtell -
These statements of yours are so important: "The redemption of the world is tied to the destiny of the Jewish people ... Getting this right is a key to the alignment of the whole Church in the last days and for our fully sufficient participation in those events that will usher in the return of Yeshua." It seems to me that life comes through distinction, even as in (traditional) marriage. Your succinct delineation here not only gives eschatological hope, but also track to run on with a correct mindset. Great article!

11:46 28Dec15 JM -
It is interesting and will hopefully make many think. Having been raised in Catholic church, and then crossing over to christianity, and now leaving that, to seek and walk in the truth of Scriptures, I have seen and heard many things. God (YHVH)/Yeshua has been opening my eyes to see how Scriptures fit together from Gen - Rev. YHVH/Yeshua never changes (Heb 13:8, Mal 3:6, Jas 1:17). There is one law for the native and the foreigner (Ex 12:49). Yeshua came for the divorced sheep of Israel (Jer 3:8, Mt 15:24). I was considered a gentile. The only way for me to become a part of the Covenant YHVH made with Israel is to be grafted in (Ro 11). I then cross over, like Abraham, Caleb, Ruth, Rahab and become Hebrew, as I walk in obedience to the same commands given to Moses (either directly or in principle). Mainstream christianity teaches that "Jesus" came to start a new religion called christianity, to change the commands of YHVH, to abolish the law of Moses, to replace the Sabbath and Feast days with pagan days, and that Paul agreed, and taught all these changes. These are all lies, and keep most Jewish people from accepting Yeshua as the Messiah. To believe these lies, as many do, would require them to ignore Paul's own words that we uphold Torah (Ro 3:31) and the words of Yeshua who said if you love Me, obey me (Jn 14:15, 21, 23; 1 Jn 2:3-6). The church has not replaced Israel and is actually made up of the called out ones (out of paganism, idolatry, the world's ways, man's traditions, religion) both Jew and Gentile, who have accepted ALL the terms of the Covenant/Marriage Contract (Gen - Rev) and walk in faithful obedience and set-apartness to YHVH/Yeshua. This is spiritual Israel (Ro 9:6-9:8). Those who refer to themselves as "christians" need to begin seeking the truth of the Scriptures, what sanctification/being set apart means, and come out of those man-made systems which will leave them separated from YHVH/Yeshua. Come out we are told (Rev 18:4).

  -- Dr Juster replies: I understand your view. However I do believe the evidence distinguishes Jewish specific Law and universal law.

03:51 30Dec15 Bruce Sillence -
A very thought provoking question and one that I would like answered. I see the state of things today so far removed from what the book of Acts talks about that only divine intervention can bring God's people together as Yeshua prayed for in John 17. Denominations are a curse to God's work as Paul states 1 Co 11:13. Most people want others to join our church, until there are a group of people who only want to be joined to Yeshua and worship the Father in sirit and in truth then God cannot pour out His spirit and Yeshua will return, that is what I believe.

  -- Dr Juster replies: I mostly agree. However the anti-denominational thrust does not produce unity but more fragmentation as every church or stream produces its own Kingdom. Denominations can preserve distinctive styles which is great, but all should be in real cooperative unity.


Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Asher Intrater: Light in the Midst of Darkness
Eitan Shishkoff: En Español!
Shavei Tzion: Japanese Culture
Moshe Morrison: Where Does God Live?
Asher Intrater: Covenantal Order of Gifts of the Spirit?
Cody Archer: Interdependent End Time Generation