[DISCLAIMER: to my Jewish friends who are not Messianic, to my Arab friends of Muslim and Christian background and to those of my friends who are atheists, this is not meant in anyway as an offence to you. This is really written for those that are Gentile Christians; to better understand what a Messianic Jew is and is not].
This is also not meant as a theological discussion as to who is or isn’t a Jew or one about who are the “children of Abraham” with respect to covenant promises. If you are interested in that, please look at my earlier blog on this topic.
In light of yesterday’s article about the discipline of an IDF soldier for how he responded to a presentation by a Messianic Jew, this seems as good a time as any to clear up some confusion about Messianic Jews. While not by any means a homogeneous group, what I am about to describe pertains to most of the Messianic Jews I know, including myself and my family.
Firstly as Messianic Jews, we didn’t ‘convert’ to anything. We are Jews. We are, as the Jews in the first century were (like Paul, Matthew, Mark, etc) ‘Jews that believe’ that Jesus (Yeshua as many of us call Him) is the promised Messiah. We were born Jews, are Jews and will die as Jews. The term “Christian” is only used 3 times in the New Testament in reference to Gentiles who came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 11:26, 26:28, 1 Peter 4:16).
When Jews believe in the Jewish Messiah we become part of the Kehillah (or congregation of believers) what the New Testament refers to as the the Church. Gentile believers who also believe that Jesus is the Messiah become grafted into salvation and are one (equal) with Jewish believers; and together form “one new man”; the unified Kehilah, the Church.
[Note: for a fuller understanding of this, I highly recommend DG Dunn’s book “New Perspective on Paul”]
It is this equality that Paul is speaking about when he says there is no Jew or Gentile; we are equal. That is, Gentiles are not second class citizens in the Church (Dunn does a beautiful job explaining this). Just as there is no difference between male and female (same passage!) there is no difference between Jew and Gentile in Messiah. Clearly there is a “difference” between male and female (“vive la difference”!) and likewise between Jewish believers / Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians; we are equal but distinct. Gentiles are ‘grafted in’ with respect to salvation; but don’t by virtue of this, suddenly inherit the promises made to physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Neither do they need to keep the Jewish ceremonial customs by virtue of belief in the Jewish Messiah. This was dealt with clearly in Scripture. As well, Messianic Jews don’t become something other than Jews. They are ‘Jews that believe’; free to keep any part of their cultural heritage just as any other person and remain inheritors to the promises given to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; nothing to do with salvation — but the promise of an everlasting people and everlasting land.
When a woman marries and becomes part of a new household with her husband, she still has her inheritance in her birth family. Messianic Jews are one with Gentile Christians; equal yet distinct and don’t in any way forfeit their identity and inheritance as an everlasting people and having an everlasting physical land (see Genesis 17) under the Abrahamic Covenant. The nations of the world (Gentiles) are grafted in under the “all nations clause” of the Abrahamic Covenant (“in you all the nations of the earth will be blessed”) — actually the word in Hebrew for “nations” here is literally “gentiles” — ha goyim).
Jewish believers (Messianic Jews), as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob remain inheritors of the Land under the Abrahamic Covenant the same as non-Messianic Jews; a land given to those descended from the offspring of Israel (Jacob) — a Covenant God swore by Himself to keep. The Jewish people will always be a people as long as their are stars in the sky and will always have a land (although have been exiled 3 times for our disobedience, as He said would happen — and were returned just as He promised in the Old Testament). This does NOT mean that Gentile Christians or Arabs or people of other faiths aren’t welcome. By no means! The Jewish people have always welcomed amongst them any person who desires to live with them in peace. That’s never changed. It is for this reason that the General in the news story below would not allow the Jewish IDF soldier who discriminated against the Messianic one, to remain in training to become an officer.
Messianic Jews are just that; Jews; Jews that are part of the everlasting people and part of those that have the land as an everlasting possession; indistinguishable in that respect from non-Messianic Jews. We are not better or less than our fellow non-Messianic Jews and not better or less than our Gentiles brother and sisters.
I do hope this helps clear up some confusion.