Last week an article appeared in Israel Today Online concerning some prominent western Church Fathers in past history who Hellenised the scriptures and removed ‘Christianity’ from its Jewish roots. It also addressed the matter of some of these early Latin and Greek Church fathers who were responsible for separating the Lord Jesus from His Jewish roots. We do know that the term ‘Christians’ was a nick name given to the followers of the Lord Jesus who were known as People of “The Way.” (Acts 9:2) The term ‘Christian’ has been used by Christendom down through the centuries to distinguish Christianity from Judaism.
When you look at history no one doubts the persecution that the Jewish people have faced, not only from secular powers, but from Christendom. We also need to keep in mind that in the first century it was the religious Jews that persecuted believers in the Lord Jesus. The New Testament affirms this fact. Even today in Israel the persecution of believers in the Messiah is primarily coming from many of the religious Orthodox Jewish communities. One can understand that in many cases the religious Jews see ‘Christianity’ as a Gentile invention and it is fuelled by the fact of the Holocaust was seen by many Jews as ‘Christians’ putting Jewish men, women and children into the gas chambers and ovens. Martin Luther wrote against the Jewish people, and many believe he was responsible to a great degree for Hitler’s hate and anti-Semitic views that led to the Holocaust.
This division of course between believing Jews and Gentiles in the Messiah was a form of spiritual deception masterminded by Satan to cause a split to occur between them, a split that is with us to this day. It was an issue that Paul had to deal with in some of his letters. Having said this, the New Testament does not make a distinction between believing Jews and Gentiles in the Messiah. They are all “One new man” in Him. The middle wall of partition, separating Jew from Gentile, has been broken down in the Messiah. In Ephesians chapter two the Apostle Paul shows that one’s ethnicity is not what counts but one’s relationship with God the Father through His Son the Lord Jesus and with fellow believers in Him. (See also Galatians 3:28)
In Ephesians Paul saw the wider Gentile Body of the Messiah, by extension and inclusion, a part of the Commonwealth of Israel not as a separate entity from it. In his other letters he did not insist that Gentile believers follow all of the Jewish customs and laws and the ceremonial aspects of the law (Torah) While the New Testament makes no distinction between a believing Jew and Gentile it allows for their cultural and ethnic backgrounds (not their pagan religious backgrounds of course). Jewish traditions and even the feast days were not mandatory on Gentile believers.
In Acts Chapter 15 James, the apostles and the elders in Jerusalem were told this was the case by the Holy Spirit directly. The main issue they had to deal with was the fact that some Jews had come from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers that they needed to be circumcised and that without this they could not be saved. After prayer and consideration the apostles and elders at Jerusalem received specific guidance directly from the Holy Spirit Himself. The Holy Spirit revealed four things that Gentile converts were to abstain from and nothing more. (See Acts 15:28-29) Yes the Gentile believers at Antioch could hear the Law of Moses read in the synagogues and this was an option they had and recognised and affirmed by James and the other apostles in Jerusalem but it was not mandatory for Gentile believers to follow the Jewish ceremonial aspects of the Torah that Jewish believers kept especially circumcision. (Colossians 2:16-17)
As for the spiritual, moral and ethical commands of Torah these are mandatory for all believers and are summed up in loving God with our whole being and our neighbour as we would ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-40) God’s law (the Torah) and commandments to righteous and obedient living have been written in the hearts of every believer by the Holy Spirit. (Jeremiah 30:33-34) This obedience is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:5) Our faith as believers is one of a trust in God that results in obedience to his laws and commandments. (Romans1:5; 16:26) A faith that does not result in obedience is not saving faith. While all of us as believers at times do disobey, the desire of our heart will be to keep pressing on with the help of the blessed Holy Spirit. Apart from His enabling power we cannot obey the commandments of the Torah and the New Testament. (Zechariah 4:6)
When you read the Book of Romans it is clear that there was a division between Jewish and Gentile believers at Rome. Paul addressed this matter by mentioning that all are lost whether they are Jew or gentile and needed salvation. (Romans Chapter 2) He identified Abraham as the father of faith and of all who believe regardless of their ethnicity. (Romans 4:16-17) In fact he deals with the relationship between Israel and the Church specifically in Romans chapters 9-11. As in his other epistles Paul saw believing Jews and Gentiles in the Messiah as one family having the same kind of faith that Abraham had and on the basis of that same faith were made righteous in God’s sight. (Romans chapters 3-4)
The Roman Emperor Claudius had expelled all of the Jews from Rome and of course this meant that Jewish believers had to go as well. This left a Gentile Assembly of believers. When Nero came to power he brought the Jews back to Rome. After all they excelled in business and this was good for the economy of Rome. In the interim period when the Jews were not in Rome the Gentile believers had started to have an early form of replacement theology where they thought they were spiritually superior to their Jewish brothers and sisters. This was the main reason for writing to the Assembly at Rome.
In fact Paul clearly shows how Gentile believers in the Lord Jesus are grafted in among the Jewish believers in the Messiah. They are grafted into Israel (the Olive Tree) but the root that supports the Tree and the braches connected to the Olive Tree is the true vine the Messiah. He is “the root of Jessie” that supplies the spiritual nourishment to the Olive tree and causes its branches to bear spiritual fruit for God. (Isaiah 11:10) (John 15:1-8) (Galatians 5:16-18)
No one can deny that in the past centuries that some of the western Greek and Latin Church fathers went too far in separating ‘Christianity’ from its Hebraic roots and this today is clearly seen in those ‘Churches’ that advocate replacement theology and those into kingdom dominion theology. As far as God is concerned there is no Jew or Gentile in the Messiah but one family in Him justified by faith in the Messiah, redeemed by the blood of the Messiah and indwelt by the Spirit of the Messiah. All who believe are children of Abraham and inheritors of the blessings God gave to him. They are all family. (Ephesians 2:18-19) (Galatians 3:14)
Having said these things, in no way does away with God’s end-time Prophetic purposes and promises to and for Israel as a nation. Their national restoration came in 1948. It is a partial national restoration because as yet they do not possess all of the land given to them by the LORD. They do not have all of the land from the Wadi of Egypt to the Euphrates River given to Abraham and his physical descendants the Jewish people. (Genesis 15:18-19) The nation is yet to pass through the time of Jacob’s Trouble and encounter their Messiah. (Zechariah 12:10-14) They will go into this time of Great Tribulation but be saved out of it. (Jeremiah 30:1-7) A faithful spiritually purified remnant will come forth (Zechariah 13:8-9).
In that day under the Messiah’s sovereign rule they will “possess their possession” and “possess the gates of their enemies” and Israel will be for them “an everlasting possession.” (Genesis 17:7-8) The Lord Jesus will be ‘David’ their king. (Jeremiah 30:8-10) To this the prophets testify! Why will Israel be fully restored nationally and spiritually? Because; “God’s Gifts and His call are irrevocable.” In that day “All Israel will be saved!” (Romans 11:25-29)
We live in a time when the Body of the Messiah both Jew and gentile need to get their act together! It’s time to stop this ever widening rift. The time of Great Tribulation is coming for Israel and for the wider Body of the Messiah and fellowship will be vital for all true believers. Jewish and Gentile distinctions will not really matter but only fellowship in the Lord Jesus and in the Holy Spirit. If we cannot stand together as the Body of the Messiah we will never stand alone.
When we read the Book of Acts we are not only reading the past history of the Body of the Messiah but future history as well. The future ‘face’ of the faithful Body of the Messiah will not be what we see in the somewhat ponderous denominational structures we see now. In the end these ‘structures’ will all go to ‘Babylon.’ If we have been justified by faith, redeemed in the blood of the Messiah, born again and set apart to God by the blessed Holy Spirit, in fellowship around the Word of God and worshipping the Lord Jesus in the Spirit and in truth, then we will be the ones that God always seeks to worship Him. (John 4: 23-24) Whether we are a Jewish or Gentile believer in the Messiah we must always keep in mind that we are one new man in the Messiah. (Ephesians 2:14-16)