"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
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?
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
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
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.
Dan Juster is on the board of Tikkun International and oversees the Tikkun America network of congregations.
to Restoration from Zion.
Let us know what you think - why not comment to this
The authors of these articles are often involved
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Tikkun reserves the right to publish only those comments we
feel are edifying in tone and content.
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
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
-- 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