What is the One New Man?
by Eitan Shiskoff, Executive Director, Tents of Mercy Network
"For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father" (Ephesians 2:14-17)
Just what IS the one new man? The phrase is being used so much now it's difficult to locate the original intent of its author, Shaul the Shaliach (Paul the Apostle), in his epistle to the Ephesians.
To illustrate the relevance and immediacy of this question, I just returned from a five day consultation on this subject, held in Europe, involving representatives from numerous cities around the world. These ministry leaders are grappling with several issues emerging from two remarkable developments of the last 40 plus years. One development is that Jews are again following Jesus and living a biblically Jewish life - in numbers far greater than at any time since the first century. This historic (and I would add, prophetic) trend has led to a second development within some portions of the worldwide body of Messiah. Christians are being drawn to investigate the Hebraic background of the New Testament. Jesus and His disciples were incontestably Jewish, native citizens of Israel in the first century. An unbiased reading of Scripture makes it clear that they lived, celebrated, and worshiped in the context of normative Jewish life, based on the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) and the Prophets.
OK, until now no huge controversy. The problem arises, however, when Gentile believers - enthusiastic about this restoration of the "Jewish roots" of the New Covenant - want to enter the life practices of the first apostles, and begin adopting the framework of Torah as their own. To play with the term ... Is this kosher?
What is the Context?
First, it's always appropriate to check the context of a Bible passage in order to grasp its intent. The "one new man" phrase occurs in Ephesians 2:15. The apostle is addressing Gentile believers, reminding them that they were once "without Messiah, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:11, 12). This statement alone links the salvation of the nations (Gentiles) to God's divine order of bringing salvation through Israel. It is a strong reminder, similar to that found in Romans 11:18: "... remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you."
Next comes the (especially in the first century) monumental announcement in verse 14, that Yeshua "has broken down the middle wall of separation." This can be seen as a reference to the barrier in the Temple precinct physically separating Jew and Gentile, keeping the Gentile excluded from the inner courtyard. The author, a renowned rabbi of his era, atttributes this reconciliation to the crucifixion of the Messiah. He identifies the "law of the commandment" as the "enmity" being removed (Ephesians 2:15) from between Jew and Gentile. He is not calling the law an enemy. Rather, he is referring to the Gentiles being released from Israel's obligation to abide by that law. Paul brilliantly applies the conclusion of the Acts 15 council.
What is the Mystery?
In the following chapter, Paul terms this phenomenon a "mystery" of the ages, and defines the mystery as Jews and Gentiles being "fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Messiah through the gospel" (Ephesians 3:4, 6). The One New Man is us together - His united body. The language is crystal clear about our joint position of Kingdom citizens and heirs of eternal life through faith in Yeshua. What is less clear is: "How Jewish is the Gentile man within the one new man; and how Gentile is the Jewish man within the one new man?"
Here, the Jerusalem Council decision is helpful. In that historic discussion, the apostles and elders concluded that the Gentile believers were not obligated to observe the Law of Moses. OK, not obligated. That's clear. So, apparently the difference in our practices (holidays, diet, etc.) are not something that separates us. The Gentile does not become Jewish, nor the Jew become Gentilish - "Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised" (1 Corinthians 7:18). Our full fellowship is not based on the outward aspects of celebrating our faith, but rather on the priceless blood of our Messiah.
Then how are we to walk out this full fellowship? It is again a matter of calling. There are non-Jewish disciples who are called to participate in Messianic Jewish congregations either in the Diaspora or in Israel. In such cases, the vision of the specific congregation will guide the worshiper, while there is yet no need to formally "convert". At the same time, a Jewish believer needs to feel at home in any assembly of Yeshua followers in the world. In that Christian church, he can enjoy the rich, common life of the Spirit, while his Biblical calling as an "Israelite" is not being threatened.
The Lord's Feasts Express our Oneness
I believe that a key to walking together as the "one new man" is the biblical framework of the feasts of the Lord, as set forth in Leviticus 23. While these celebrations are overtly given to "b'nai Yisrael", the children of Israel, God also weaves them into the whole fabric of Scripture. Yeshua's first century disciples celebrated these feasts with Him and each one has a Messianic fulfillment in addition to its original purpose in commemorating Israel's history.
By discovering these twin applications of the feasts, the New Testament believer can enjoy the ancient roots of his faith without adhering to all 613 Mosaic commandments. Through the seven seasonal feasts (with Shabbat preceding all of them), we are able to rejoice together in God's great provision.
While the above may still leave specific questions unanswered, it is offered in hopes of providing basic clarity. The exciting thing is that God has brought back the Messianic Jews, as natural branches re-ingrafted (per Romans 11:16-24). This brings resurrection power to the world-wide Church (Romans 11:15) and is a signal of Yeshua's soon return (Matthew 23:39).
For further exploration of this subject, please make use of Eitan's book "What About Us? - The end-time calling of Gentiles in Israel's Revival". It can be ordered on Amazon.
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