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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

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Friday, June 17, 2005

The Real Identity of the One New Man

Repeatedly and often Scripture portrays God’s ultimate purpose for Israel in terms of a national return to covenant faithfulness as manifest in Torah obedience. As we saw last week, the Torah is something of a marriage contract between God and the people of Israel. It is a document that records how God will take responsibility for his people, and how the descendants of Jacob should in turn love, honor and obey. As Ahavat Zion Congregant Michael Friedman said just weeks ago, at Sinai the Jewish people said "I do." They did this when they said, "All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do," and, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." And as we saw last week, in Hosea 2:17, God longs for the day when "she shall respond as in the days of her youth, When she came up from the land of Egypt." God longs for us to say "I do" once again.

Throughout the Scriptures, God sees Israel as a wayward bride, failing to honor her covenant commitment to Him, her Divine Husband. This covenant commitment is a life of devoted adherence to Torah, the ketubbah which Israel agreed to at Sinai. Obviously we could not be faithful to the God and Father of Yeshua our Messiah, while deciding to ignore those covenant obligations because we find them strange or inconvenient. As we said last week, the meaning of our life should be seeing that God’s dream is fulfilled. That dream, repeated many times in Scripture, is well expressed in Jeremiah chapter two, "I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness."

Just as the Church is the bride of Messiah, so Israel is the Wife of Hashem. There are strong overlays between our relationship with Hashem and what God says of the relationship of the Church to Messiah. With these overlays in mind, there are certain aspects of faithfulness which are unique to us as the remnant of Israel. That includes honoring the terms of our ketubbah, Torah, the wedding contract between the Lord God and Israel. The question is, will we be faithful? And underlying this question is the issue of whether Jewish congregations of Yeshua-believers remain a part of Israel, obliged to honor Israel’s covenant responsibilities.

Our study in Romans 9-11 reminded us that Jewish Yeshua-believers are part of the remnant of Israel, and have a distinct identity, role and covenant obligations growing out of that identity. We are meant to be a sign, a demonstration and a catalyst of God’s purposes for Israel in these pivotal times.

As we learned in our study of Romans 9-11, God has a coordinated yet diversified purpose for Israel and the nations. He calls the Church from among the nations "grafted in branches," but the people of Israel, even apart from faith in Messiah, "natural branches." He talks about a hardening in part taking place among Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles, the other nations, come in, after which "all Israel will be saved." Paul has no problem coordinating and distinguishing God’s purposes for Israel and the nations. Many people do not get this. Many Yeshua-believers imagine that we all become the same in Messiah. This results in two kinds of supersessionism, also known as "replacement theology." In the first kind of supersessionism, when we all become the same in the Body of Messiah, distinctively Jewish prerogatives, such as Jewish liturgical life, ritual life, and Torah-ordered living are dropped away as vestigial, because we Jews who believe in Yeshua have now become something "better" and something else. Many people are happy with that viewpoint; but not me, and I think not most of you, and I am convinced, not God.

The second form of supersessionism is where we imagine that everyone becomes Jewish or must practice a form of Judaism when they believe in Yeshua. Even though this is flattering to Jews, and even though some people find prooftexts to support this, it is also supersessionism, because the distinctives of the Jewish people as "a people dwelling apart, who shall not be numbered with the nations" [Numbers 23:9] is lost. In each case, the distinctiveness of the Jewish people is obliterated. I believe, and we have been learning intensively in recent months, that this is wrong. But for too many of us, the assumption is strong and pervasive that in Messiah we all become the same whether through transcending ethnic identities and become a homogeonized "third race" as the Epistle to Diognetus said it in the third century, or through everyone becoming Jewish. Both of these are not only wrong but damaging to the glory of God. .

I would like to address this issue this morning by looking at the major passage which is misused to teach the idea that in Messiah we all become the same, and we become something other than Jews, and people from the other nations.

Paul speaks of God’s diversified purpose for Israel and the nations in Ephesians, where he speaks of "One New Man." Paul is writing here to a Gentile congregation, emphasizing with them that they are no longer outsiders to the community of God’s people, no longer strangers to the covenants of promise, but they are now insiders and family. But does that mean that there is no distinct identity, role and destiny for the Remnant of Israel, specifically communities of Jewish Yeshua-believers living as Jews? Let’s see.

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men) - 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Messiah, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Messiah Yeshua you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Messiah.

A. What are the assumptions made in the above passage concerning the Jewish people concerning their base-position in the purposes of God? That the Jewish people are the people of God, the people of the covenant.
B. What is the assumption made concerning how Gentiles were positioned prior to the work of Messiah? That Gentiles were without hope, without God in the world, and strangers to the covenants of promise.
C. Who are the people who are assumed to be near, and who are the people who are assumed to be far off? The Jews are assumed to be near, the Gentiles afar off. How are the nations brought near? Through the cross of Christ--through His atoning work.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Messiah Yeshua himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

D. The above passage is based on a metaphor—"the dividing wall of hostility." This is a term Paul is using for the dividing wall that formerly existed in the Temple precincts keeping Gentiles back from approaching God. They were permanently consigned to the role of spectators only, and had to stay within the Court of the Gentiles. Paul suggests that this division between insiders and outsiders has been removed. The term "hostility" might also be understood here as "antagonism." In verses 14-18, how is this "wall of hostility" removed?

E. Remember that Paul is dealing here with matters of status. He is not saying that Jews and Gentiles become the same in Messiah, rather he is saying that in Messiah, Gentiles become one with Israel [not the same as Israel] as part of a new community—the ekkelsia. The New Living Bible, which does a generally bad job with Ephesians 2, get this concept almost right, but saying "His purpose was to make peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new person from the two groups." The actual intention here is that God has made in Messiah something new, which he terms "One New Man," and this is One New Man consisting of two groups who formerly lived in theological enmity, with one group being insiders and the other outsiders to the Presence of God [as represented in the construction of the Temple courts].

F. Notice in verses 14-22 language cues that speak of unity--oneness.

G. Now find the language cues that speak of diversity—two-ness. Notice that Paul delicately balances BOTH factors here.

H. This understanding of Paul, that he is speaking of a new community comprised of two communal expressions formerly at odds, is borne out in his summational statement in the next chapter [read below].

3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Messiah Yeshua for the sake of you Gentiles – 2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Messiah, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Messiah Yeshua.

I. What is the mystery formerly hidden but now made known, which Paul alludes to here? "That through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Messiah Yeshua."

J. Notice especially verse 6. Notice the structure of the verse, where three times Paul emphasizes the distinctions between Israel and the other nations, while also emphasizing the new in-Messiah unity. And what word does he repeat three times in this verse, and how does even that one word remind us of the composite unity [rather than the absolute unity or homogeonized unity] of the One New Man? That one word is "together." In the Greek, Paul is using one of his favorite compound prefixes, Robertson's Word Studies comment as follows: "Paul is fond of compounds with sun and here uses three of them. {Fellow-heirs} (sunkleronoma). . . {Fellow-members of the body} (sunswma). . . .{Fellow-partakers} (sunmetoca)." So we see that the NIV translation's threefold use of the word "together" nicely reflects the meaning of this three-fold "sun" prefix . But the matter of import to us, of course, is that in order to have "together" one must have at least two distinct entities.

Some detractors who seek to discredit this position would accuse me and people like me of speaking of two "separate" entitites. But this is wrong. Paul is not saying they are separate, but rather that they are distinct and united in the One New Man.

What Does This Mean For Us?

1. It reminds us that it is wrong for Jewish believers to assume an elitist posture, or for others to attribute to Jewish believers an elite status.

2. It reminds us that the Messiah did not come to make us all the same, but to make us one in Messiah.

3. It reminds us that speaking of a distinct role for Jewish Yeshua-believing congregations in the purposes of God is not a contradiction of the One New Man teaching of Paul because Paul is careful to preserve the distinct identity of Israel, even when speaking of the unity of the ekklesia/Body of Messiah. To remember the balance of this teaching, especially take note of Ephesians 3:6, which speaks of how "through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Messiah Yeshua.

4. This passage is not teaching the wisdom of One New Man congregations where distinctions between Jews and Gentiles are obliterated. Rather it is speaking of how the purposes of God for the nations and His purpose for Israel, culminating in Messiah, involve a reconciliation to God and to one another of both Israel and the nations. Togetherness does not mean sameness.

At 6/26/2005 8:50 AM, Anonymous Menachem Ben Yoel said...

Ephesians 2:11 3:12 identifies a unique prophetic role for believers from non Jewish background that Jewish believers cannot fulfill. From the time of the tower of Babel in Gen 11 and the subsequent call of Avraham Avinu in Gen 12 the non Jew was seemingly fated to be a stranger from "the covenants of promise"(Eph 2:12).

However Ephesians 3 identifies the drawing close of the non Jew to G-d with the "mystery" of the messiah which serves as a visible sign of something fudamental about G-d's nature and a vindication of his plan in the sight of the "principalities and powers" (3:10).

James seems to hint at this in Acts 15:16 when he describes this drawing close as the necessary precondition to the fullfillment of the messianic hope of the Jewish people for themselves as well.

The scripture seems to imply that a visibly distinct group of Jews and a visibly distinct group non Jews need to be coexisting to show forth these prophetic truths. If non Jews lose their identity within the body then their precious testimony to plan of Hashem is lost. All the more reason for them to preserve their culture and heritage within Christianity. Where would we be without the Wesleys the Bachs the Martin Luther Kings the Spirituals the Watchmen Nees the abolitionists? And what Jew could quibble with the moral lessons taught in Dickens "A Christmas Carol?" The Jew can recognize the moral grandeur of "spiritual Israel" and see with the Rambam that indeed the message of the Torah has been spread to the ends of the earth through Gentile Christianity.

However in order for the Non Jewish believer to assert their identity , we Jewish believers need to be all the more discerning and cautious to build the proper fences around our identity to fulfill the scriptural command to "guard" the commandments of the Torah.

 
At 6/26/2005 9:19 AM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Excellent comment. One cannot emphasize enough the propriety of people from among the nations being loyal to and proud of their own ethnic/cultural identity, and serving the Living God within that arena. As Mark Nanos points out so well in "The Mystery of Romans," Hashem is the God of ALL the nations, not simply of the nation of Israel. Therefore, for Gentiles to be embarassed about or regretful of their non-Jewish origins actually detracts from God's glory.

Messianic Jews should encourage their Gentile friends to glorify God within the compass of their own ethnic/cultural identity. Messianic Jews should also embrace Jewish prerogatives at a deep, rather than surface level, especially a life of Torah-based living, and not become absorbed into other cultures. And we should have in our movement a high-threshhold respectable conversion procedure for *some* non-Jews to embrace Jewish identity and covenantal responsibilities with integrity rather than on an ad hoc, idiosyncratic basis.

Thank God for Gentiles. Thank God for His work among the Gentiles. Thank God for the rainbow of cultures that will be gathered around His throne. Let us not exchange the rainbow for a one-size fits all elitist culture or an ersatz Messianic Jewishism that bears only a fragmentary and superficial relationship to any Judaism that ever existed anywhere! Is it too much to ask that we have a Messianic Judaism that is truly a Judaism, rather than Camp Meetings with Shofars added? Let us rejoice, as increasingly in our days, more and more Messianic Jews are doing the hard work and personal growth necessary to more truly reflect the distinct texture of being the Remnant of Israel within the beautiful historical tapestry of Jewish life and community.

 

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