I see this has gotten out of hand.
I debated a long time before putting my fingers on the keyboard, but in the end, I can’t allow this misunderstanding to go unanswered.
It has been said by one individual that I believe Gentiles (i.e. Christians) are excluded from the New Covenant. Frankly, as the kids say, “that’s crazy talk.” Nevertheless, my recent blog posts Unity in Messiah: A Commentary on One Law and the Gentiles and Walking in the Dust of the Footsteps of Moshiach have inadvertently made me and my blog something of a minor lightning rod. That was hardly my intent.
I wrote these blogs, first of all, to speak of and expand upon some of the concepts behind a recent commentary on Torah Portion Shelach published online by First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ). Actually, that was the motivation for the first blog post. I wrote the second in response to some online misinterpretation of my intent and motives, but that only made things worse.
It seems I need to restate my beliefs about the New Covenant and the place of the nations in relation to Israel. That won’t be easy to contain in a single blog post, since the information is vast. It took me eleven or twelve blog posts to work through my original investigation and D. Thomas Lancaster covered the New Covenant material in five sermons on four CDs in his What About the New Covenant series.
Here’s the “Reader’s Digest” version:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (emph. mine)
–Jeremiah 31:31-34 (NASB)
The direct objects of the New Covenant are the House of Judah and the House of Israel, the descendants of the object of the Sinai Covenant, the Israelites. The nations are not mentioned in the New Covenant language so they (we) are not directly connected. Then how are we involved at all? Consider the Abrahamic Covenant:
- Genesis 12:1-3 – God promises to make Abraham into great nation, bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him, and all peoples on earth would be blessed through Abraham.
- Genesis 15:18–21 – God promises to give Abraham’s descendants all the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates, and this area is later referred to as the Promised Land or the Land of Israel.
- Genesis 17:2–9 – God promises to make Abraham a father of many nations and of many descendants and the land of Canaan as well as other parts of Middle East will go to his descendants.
- Genesis 17:9-14 – God declares that circumcision is to be the sign of the covenant for Abraham and all his male descendants and that this will be an eternal covenant.
Notice that only portions of the first and third condition have anything to do with any other people besides Abraham’s descendants through Isaac and Jacob. The first condition promises that “all peoples on earth” will be blessed through Abraham, and the third condition states that Abraham would be a father of many nations. Of course that last part speaks to the wives of Abraham and the children he had with them after Sarah died, so that condition doesn’t really figure into how all of earth’s people will be blessed.
Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.
–Galatians 3:15-16 (NASB)
We have to go to the apostolic scriptures and Paul’s epistle to the Galatians to understand how to interpret Genesis 12:1-3, but we see that the blessing to the nations comes through Messiah. He is the “mechanism” by which we Gentiles may be “grafted in” to the promises, not making us Jewish converts without a bris, but beneficiaries of the blessings such that we too can approach God as sons and not strangers (Ephesians 1:4-5).
Some things have been said about me ignoring that Israel is to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6). The idea is that the Gentiles were to be attracted to that light (Deuteronomy 4:6) and then be prompted to join the nation, assimilating into the tribes and clans and becoming one with Israel.
I refer you back to FFOZ’s One Law and the Gentiles article for the details about what it was to be a “Ger” both in the days of Moses and in the time of the apostles.
Well over a year ago, I wrote Building My Model, which was my prior attempt at summarizing Gentile inclusion in the New Covenant. I reduced everything down to five points:
- God creates a provision in his covenant with Abraham that allows the Gentiles to be blessed through Messiah (Abraham 12:1-3).
- The New Covenant (Jer. 31, Ezek. 36) renews, affirms, and amplifies all of the previous covenants God made with the people of Israel and the people of Judah which, by definition, includes the Abrahamic covenant.
- Messiah alludes that the (new) covenant is poured out in his blood (death), (see Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20) for all people.
- Paul interprets the Abrahamic covenant provision referring to Gentiles as Messiah being our connection to God (see Galatians 3:15-16).
- Paul describes the process of Gentiles being made co-heirs to the Messianic promises through Messiah as a mystery (Ephesians 3:1-13).
There are multiple portions of the Prophets that mention Gentiles, the Temple being a house of prayer for all peoples, Gentiles holding fast to observing the Shabbat and the Festivals, and ten men of the nations taking hold of the fringes of a Jewish man’s clothing to go with him and to be near to God.
All of those passages speak to Gentile involvement alongside Israel in being devoted to God in the future Messianic Age, but in sending the Messiah the first time, God sent a message and a gift, a foreknowledge and guarantee of the coming Kingdom and confirmation that God will fulfill all of the New Covenant promises.
The coming of the first Gentiles into relationship with God by receiving the Spirit (Acts 10) just as the Jews did (Acts 2) is one of the signs of that promise and guarantee. The prophesies of Joel (Joel 2:28) must have come to Peter’s mind as he saw Cornelius and his household receive the Spirit, and when Paul, as Messiah’s emissary to the Gentiles, brought vast numbers of former goyishe idol worshipers to the God of Israel through faith in Yeshua, it must have seemed as if the Messianic Age was close to fruition, and that the New Covenant times were about to burst into completion.
That hasn’t happened yet, but we are in the midst of that process. The fact that Gentiles continue to be drawn to Messiah by the Spirit and to desire to learn about the Jesus of the Jewish scriptures is clearly a sign. Of course, we Gentiles are involved in the New Covenant, but only through Israel for the Master said “salvation comes from the Jews,” (John 4:22).
I’ve tried to compress a great deal of information about a very complex topic into one short article and I hope I’ve been successful. For a more complete picture of my understanding of the New Covenant, go through my eleven part series, starting with part one: The Jesus Covenant: The Foundation, and then click through the subsequent parts until you get to the end. Afterward, you should also read Gifts of the Spirit Poured Out on all Flesh which filled in one last piece of my investigative puzzle.
I hope this puts a few frenzied souls to rest. I also want to remind everyone reading my blog that my opinions are solely my own. I may quote from First Fruits of Zion and similar resources, but that doesn’t mean I work for them or am their “mouthpiece.” I also quote from Aish.com and Chabad.org but that doesn’t make me an Orthodox Jew or Chabadnik. Like any researcher, I utilize different sources to support my commentaries. You can bug organizations like the UMJC if you want, but I am not affiliated with them in any way so my comments should not be taken as representing them. Nor do they (or any other organization) have the ability to censor or repudiate me.
Now will people please calm down? It’s OK to disagree, but any level of adult emotional maturity should enable a person to have differences of opinion with others without personalizing conflict. Otherwise, all we’re doing is engaging in “spitting contest” and I hardly think that sort of behavior is for the sake of Heaven.
“The world doesn’t care how many times you fall down, as long as it’s one fewer than the number of times you get back up.”
-Aaron Sorkin, American screenwriter
38 thoughts on “Briefly Revisiting Gentiles and the New Covenant”
I have recently been accused of the same thing on another blog (i.e., that I believe Gentiles are excluded, are 2nd class citizens…yadda, yadda, yadda.)
I finally had to put the person on ignore because from my perspective, it was indeed “crazy talk.”
I’m working on some material for Gentiles (like me!) to hopefully orient them to their (our) own holy calling and identity, which is vital for the plan of redemption and the “consummation”, as R. Kendall Soulen says.
Upon further reflection, I think my “misfires” are based on certain assumptions, stipulations if you will, that I figured all believers have, which are:
1. God is good. He is very, very good. And He loves all of His creation. (John 3:16 anyone?)
2. God is sovereign, and knows the beginning from the end.
The Jewish people aren’t “plan b” implemented as a correction to creation, who went their own way and became entirely wicked, and Messiah isn’t “plan c” due to the failures of the Jewish people to “get it right.” Hence, “the Church” also isn’t “plan d“, i.e., the “final solution” to the “Jewish problem.”
3. We humans don’t have the right to redefine God’s definitions. We cannot legitimately redefine His definition of sin anymore than we can redefine who He Covenanted with, that is, the literal, physical descendants of Jacob.
4. It is impossible to please God without TRUSTING Him, and if you don’t already believe these minimum things about Him, I don’t think trust is even possible.
The long and short of it is that we were made for mutual blessing! A review of R. Kendall Soulen’s book “The God Of Israel And Christian Theology” sums it up well:
“The blessing of God is available only through the blessing of an other; but the blessing of an other is built into the very constitution of humanity as Jew and Gentile. The beauty of this notion is breathtaking. –The Scottish Journal of Theology
I wonder how long it will be before you have to rename your blog ‘My Morning Medications.’ 😉
Now that’s a funny response! Let me first begin by stating the true meaning of the title gentile: of nations/pagans/idolaters. How is it possible to take part in the “new” covenant unless one has received a “first” covenant?
The “mixed multitude” in Exodus became the “people” when Moshe read God’s requirements. After agreement with the covenantal terms, the “people” were referred to as “Beni Israel”.
People who leave the nations “spiritually” and come to Yeshua through faith, are no longer gentiles. By what name should they be called? It does appear that believers become “Beni Israel” and as such, are partakers in the “new covenant”. Upon receiving Ruach HaKodesh they are neither part nor parcel in the gentile world.
As you may have noticed, you are commenting on blog posts that are years old and no one is responding. I have been approving your comments but frankly, I don’t have to. You’re saying the same thing over and over again, and over the years, I’ve come to a different conclusion than the “one law” opinion. Ultimately, God will do what God will do without human beings having a say about it. What you consider so important now may be quite trivial in the end.
Thanks for sharing this. I was wondering about this subject and you share some good insight that brings some clarity on the subject for me.
@Sojourning: I especially like when you said, “We humans don’t have the right to redefine God’s definitions. “ Regardless of how we or others feel about the Jewish people being especially chosen and unique, even among the body of Jewish and Gentile believers, it’s God’s call, not ours.
@Steve: Kind of like the name I have now, although I’d suggest that meditation can also be medicinal and healing.
@Joshua: You’re welcome. Remember, I wrote this particular blog post as a brief summary of a complicated topic that in the past, I took a lot more time to describe. The New Covenant is a fantastic concept to explore in the scriptures, especially when you read from the Torah and Prophets forward rather than from Paul backward. It presents as something entirely different than what we’ve been taught about in church, and for me at least, makes the Bible a more unified and consistent whole where the Jewish people and Israel is always central to God’s plan of redemption for the world.
I have recently been accused of the same thing on another blog (i.e., that I believe Gentiles are excluded, are 2nd class citizens…yadda, yadda, yadda.)
I finally had to put the person on ignore because from my perspective, it was indeed “crazy talk.”
Oy…yea… I’m a racist don’t ya know…. Because I believe in the irrevocable calling and identity of the Jews/Israel. Oh yea, i’m a Hebrew xtian, a purtian xtian, and every other derogetory defamation you can imagine that deals with NOT being Jewish enough for the TOGIM. “oh he’s Jewish..he’s just a CHRISTIAN jew… A hebrew CHRISTIAN… But he’s surely not following JUDAISM……”
I find them mostly …irrational, hateful and spiteful. I have endeavored to humbly discuss this to no end only to be mocked at every turn.
When you turn the other cheek, they see that as cowardice and your defeat. If you don’t engage them in like kind, or agree with them, you are cannon fodder, a target waiting to be pearced. All in the name of God too.
I don’t think it cured the frenzy. They saw blood and are planning a blood liable for you. Sad, very sad. I completely understood your context. That of accruing a curse for forsaking Israel. Well, that is what is being done. A redefining of Israel according the the minds of men. And if it was good enough for certain pharisees to be cursed by Messiah, why wouldn’t it be good enough for modern day pharisees? Who twist the gospel for their own profit and glory.
I believe we have come full circle, only with a twist in the bar. So what was one way in the beginning is the mirror opposite way in the end. Such is the way of witchcraft. Mirror images, counter claims, ‘torah doesn’t mean……. it means…..’ commandments don’t mean,……it means…. And oh, by the way, you all have had it wrong for 2000yrs, and the Spirit has just enlightened ‘this’ generation’ because well, they are the called out ones……. As I said, irrational…and wicked. Not of the Truth.
Either we are coming full circle or we have been repeating this same issue throughout time. (going in circles)….. Maybe each generation has to deal with this? It seems each generation we have a blow-out as it concerns ‘the Jews’/ Israel. Maybe, just maybe, Israel is the winnowing fork used to thresh the world?
3. We humans don’t have the right to redefine God’s definitions. We cannot legitimately redefine His definition of sin anymore than we can redefine who He Covenanted with, that is, the literal, physical descendants of Jacob.
I’m gonna memorize this. I had a conversation just last night that I could have recited this sweet recitation.
@Shimshon: I just read an article written by Paul E. Meier for issue 116 (Summer 2014) of Messiah Journal called “Christian Theology and the Old Testament”. It doesn’t exactly speak to the issue I’m addressing in this blog post, but it speaks volumes for how our theological biases, especially regarding the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures, although technically, the whole Bible should be called the Hebrew Scriptures) color our entire perception of ourselves, Israel, and God. Without a truly Hebraic view of the scriptures, we are going to encounter all sorts of disagreements and divisions among believers.
Meier’s article is worth the cost of the current issue of Messiah Journal alone (though it contains many other find articles), and I’ll probably write something of a review on it, since Meier’s conception of the Bible is a lot like mine (except he has the educational and experiental background to article his points much better than I do).
@EstherIrwin: Yes, Sojourning made an excellent point.
@James — From your opening statement above, and the responses here, it appears that there is some vehement activity going on in some place I don’t monitor, presumably on someone else’s HR blog. I sympathize, though certainly it cannot be surprising to see a negative reaction from folks who have been taught all their lives to believe that they are full-fledged recipients of the new covenant. Telling them that the covenant was actually made with someone else and that they cannot be a part of it, but can only receive blessings from it, is to pull out the rug from under them. Under such circumstances the shock would tend to blind them to the actual non-covenantal mechanism by which they are not denied any blessings except perhaps pride of ownership. Suddenly they are told there is an elder brother to whom belongs the “double portion” of inheritance while they feel demoted to the status of just another member of the family. In joining themselves to the Messiah they felt they were walking personally in his Jewish sandals and not merely alongside him. Suddenly the fear implicit in Is.56 begins to become tangible and personal, whereby HaShem must reassure the eunuchs that they are not merely dried-up trees and the “b’nei-nechar” (“foreigners”) that they will not be separated from His people or cut off (though that seems to be exactly what occurred with post-Nicene Christianity).
Admittedly, I was shocked when I first discovered that there was no direct covenant connection between “the Church” and God. It’s amazing what happens when you actually read all of the Bible and have enough understanding to realize that it doesn’t say what you’ve always been taught it says.
I can see why both sides of the coin, which in this case is the Christian Church and the Hebrew Roots movement, have a difficult time when they encounter this “inconvenient truth.”
…there was no direct covenant connection between “the Church” and God.
Don’t leave it at that, it’s incomplete and leaves you open to misinterpretation. As PL further defined “they cannot be a part of it, but can only receive blessings from it,” Which obviously refers to Acts 3:25.
You do realize your coming across as saying the nations are not included in the covenant with God? They only receive the blessings of Israel being in this new covenant with God. Which would be eternal life in Messiah Yeshua. Was this not offered to all who believe? And did this offer not make the nations (gentiles) ‘sons of God’? Just like the Jew?
What about the ‘adopted into the commonwealth’? What about Galatians 3? Is our Jewish inheritance NOT the promises made through Messiah? Instead of ‘the law’?
The promise was given to the nations as well no? I always understood the promise to be greater than the law.
26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Maybe this last verse is key? ‘according to “the promise” ‘, not according to the law. As I see it, the covenant law realates to Israel/Jews, the promise relates to Messiah. Gal 3:16-18 seems to ‘contrast’ between the law-covneant and promise. The law did not annul the former covenant and it’s promise. That always told me that the Torah given Moses did not annul the covenant made with Abraham, so as to void out the promises made in that covenant that refered to Messiah. Meaning the covenant made with Israel at Sinai has nothing to do with the promise of Messiah and how he blesses the nations with the same blessing he blesses us with. Eternal life. Which comes not through any observance of Torah, nor through being in covenant with God through the Torah given Moses. It comes through the promise given Messiah as spoken in the covenant made with Abraham.
That said, is it not foolish to grab onto this promise and demand that it includes you into the covenant made at Sinai 430 yrs later? The Torah observant gentiles are mixing covenants arn’t they? They are taking the promise from the covenant made through Abraham and demanding it places them within the covenant made through Moses 430 yrs later….
All this said to say, I do understand what you mean that the covenants are made through Israel, and the promise is given as a blessing to not only Israel but the nations of the world. The blessing being eternal life by faith in Messiah Yeshua. For all who beleive, Jew or Gentile.
I’m just pointing out that without dealing with or mentioning the verses I brought up you run the risk of sounding like your saying that Gentiles have no relationship with God outside of some crumbs of blessings that the Jews are receiving. When I know the blessing is for both, unequivicably. And that, at least Paul, states ‘all who believe are counted as sons of God’ (paraphrased). That this status comes by faith, and is offered to both Jews (those who God made a covenant with at Sinai) and Gentiles. Both are offered the position as ‘sons of God’ through the promise.
Guess I’m just hyper sensitive to any movement too far in one direction, Yes, Israel has a special role to play within the Kingdom of God. This fact is and always has been ‘my’ focus within Messianic Judaism. The people of Israel live. God has promises, many, laid out for her that have not happend yet. The church is steeped in supersessionism. But the path (to me at least) is straight down the middle. And the more others try to divert the path into their direction, the more I have to say…no…back to the middle. I see the middle road as the hard and narrow road, because everyone else is trying to ‘widen’ their path to their side…My spiel I guess…
First of all, there’s a difference between the covenant and the Torah. The Torah mitzvot are the specific conditions of the Sinai covenant, but they aren’t the covenant itself. The Sinai Covenant, in short, is “Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” (Exodus 6:7).
The Torah then defines the conditions of obedience and disobedience, the blessings of the former, and the consequences of the latter.
Most people in Christianity including Hebrew Roots don’t seem to get the distinction. Even the head Pastor at the church I attend thinks the Old Covenant is the Old Testament (Tanakh) and the New Covenant is the New Testament (Apostolic Scriptures). That couldn’t be further from the truth, which is why it’s so difficult to articulate what the New Covenant is, what its conditions are, who it applies to, and particularly how is is applied on different people groups.
Seeing how all of the covenants apply to Israel is easy. It’s all spelled out in different portions of the Tanakh. But with the Gentiles, it’s a different story. Part of the problem is that all believers are taught that the New Covenant, all of it, is contained in the pages between Matthew 1:1 and Revelation 22:21. But while the New Testament contains commentary on the New Covenant and clarifies some issues, the main texts describing what the New Covenant is are all contained in the Tanakh, primarily in the Prophets.
If you look at those texts, especially Jeremiah 31 starting at verse 31, you’ll see that the nations of the Gentiles are not even mentioned. Yes, you have sections of Isaiah, Joel, Amos, and other prophets that do mention Gentiles, and of course, you have sections in the New Testament that mention the Gentiles prominently in relation to the New Covenant, but the hard part is making everything connect up in a (more or less) linear fashion so you can see how Jeremiah 31 is associated with Mark 14 and with Galatians 3, for example.
That’s no easy task. I know. I struggled with it for months and months.
I mentioned in the body of this blog posts going through all of my articles that chronicle my investigation into the New Covenant and how Gentiles are involved, starting with Part 1 and also reading The Gifts of the Spirit Poured Out on all Flesh. You could also read my five part review (links to all five articles can be found by clicking that one link) of D. Thomas Lancaster’s sermon series What About the New Covenant, which maps fairly well to my conclusions but contains additional details.
This isn’t an easy topic to investigate and discuss because the New Covenant and how it applies to the Gentiles is not what we have been taught to expect. Gentiles are only involved and connected to the New Covenant blessings through Israel. However, those blessings allow us to be adopted as sons and to share equal access to God, salvation, eternal life, and other abundant blessings. We must, however, not do what the Church has historically done, reverse causality, and think of ourselves or “the Church” as the root. We are not. We’re grafted in and only that by the grace of God.
I hope that helps.
“Gentiles are only involved and connected to the New Covenant blessings through Israel.”
I have to disagree, gentiles are involved and connected to the New Covenant and its blessing through JESUS/ YESHUA, the Messiah. It is through Him and in Him. HE is the mediator of the New Covenant, not Israel.
And it is also only through Jesus/Yeshua that Israel will enter the New Covenant.
So, according to Jeremiah 31:31, with whom Did God make the New Covenant…Jesus? No, God made the Covenant with the House of Judah and the House of Israel, which today is the collected Jewish people. Messiah is the “agent” or “mechanism” by which the New Covenant is inaugurated, but that mechanism doesn’t disconnect the Jewish people from the Covenant that God made with them as Christianity would make it seem.
Since the Jewish King is the active agent in beginning to bring the New Covenant into our world, he is the logical, natural, and Biblical “next step” in God’s relationship with Israel, a covenant relationship that has been in existence for thousands of years. It is through the blessings that King, the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), and our faith in him that we from the nations of the world can also be included, but make no mistake, Jeremiah 31 makes it clear that the object of the covenant is Israel…you and I are grafted in by mercy and grace alone, through faith. We have no room to brag.
God established the New Covenant through Jesus and He is the way into the New Covenant for both Jew and gentile.
The ONLY way.
There is no New Covenant without Jesus
Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant, but assuming you read Jeremiah 31, you’ll see God made the New Covenant specifically with Judah and Israel. No mention of God making the New Covenant directly with the Gentile nations of the world. We’re included through our faith in Messiah as “grafted in” or “attached”, not as direct object of the covenant. As far as I know, the only covenant God made with the entire world was in Genesis 9. All other national covenants were made with Israel, that is, the corporate body of the Jewish people.
if the rvealtion given by God ended with Jeremiah your point may have been valid. But His revelation of the New Covenant didn’t end there.
Yes gentiles access the New Covenant through Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. But the access for Israel is exactly the same – through Jesus their Messiah and Him alone.
To amend a statement you made above:
Gentiles are only involved and connected to the New Covenant blessings through JESUS (not through Israel as you stated).
And Israel is also ONLY involved and connected to the New Covenant blessings through Jesus. There is no entry to that covenant apart from Him.
As you note gentiles are grafted in through faith in Messiah – but equally, unbelieving Jews have been broken off.
The Jeremiah prophecy that you mention relates to a future time when ALL Israel will be saved. A time when all of Israel AT THAT TIME will recognise and accept their Messiah.
It is not a prophecy LIMITING the New Covenant to that future time – the Covenant started with Jesus, and the apostles of the Lamb were the first to be part of it.
Well, the covenant was inaugurated with the death and resurrection of Jesus but it hasn’t fully entered the world again. After all, we don’t live in an era of universal peace where no one sins, so you can’t say that the New Covenant is a “done deal” in present time.
You’re also dancing dangerously close to unwriting Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36, that is, you decoupled Israel from the New Covenant and made them outside the flow of covenantal promises, just as any other nation would be. I’m not saying there’s two ways of salvation, one for the Jew and one for the Gentile, but we can’t always depend on long-held Christian traditions for how to understand the New Covenant, since they were originally created to substitute the Gentile Christian Church for the Jesus-believing Jewish ekklesia.
I agree that Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant, but in order for the Gospel message to actually be good news for Jews, it can’t say “give up being Jewish, throw the Torah in the trash, and convert to goyishe Christianity, then start going to church.” Jesus as Messiah and deliverer of the initial gifts of the New Covenant age was and is the next step in Jewish faith in God. D. Thomas Lancaster wrote about this and gave a sermon explaining how it actually works. Here’s a link to my write up based on his work. I hope you’ll find it illuminating: https://mymorningmeditations.com/2014/06/08/if-you-believe-in-god-you-will-believe-in-his-servant/
“You’re also dancing dangerously close to unwriting Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36, that is, you decoupled Israel from the New Covenant and made them outside the flow of covenantal promises”
No James, I totally accept that those prophecies relate to Israel and Israel alone – but they speak of Israel’s FUTURE, a time when ALL of Israel at that time will enter the New Covenant, but that will only come when that future Israel as a whole comes to recognise and accept their Messiah.
But the New Covenant itself is NOT future. It was established by Jesus through His death, burial, and resurrection. The (Jewish) apostles of the Lamb were first to enter it, followed by those Jews who responded to the gospel message they preached; later gentiles, starting with Cornelius and his household, also entered that Covenant.
Currently the majority of Israel IS “outside the flow of covenantal promises” – as Paul said they were broken off because of unbelief (but if their unbelief ends they can be grafted back in).
The arrogance of the gentile church is in the attitude that the broken off branches are irrevocably lost and that “the church” are irrevocably saved. But Paul made it clear that broken off branches can be restored and grafted branches can be removed again. The condition of being part of the olive tree (as a natural branch or a grafted branch) is an ongoing faith in Jesus, the Messiah, the Deliverer.
“I agree that Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant, but in order for the Gospel message to actually be good news for Jews, it can’t say “give up being Jewish, throw the Torah in the trash, and convert to goyishe Christianity, then start going to church.”
That is FAR from anything I’ve said or meant. Jews remain Jews – just as Jesus remains a Jew. Believing in a Jewish Messiah doesn’t cut a Jew off from his Jewish identity. The idea that a Jew must convert to “Christianity, then start going to church” is something we both recognise as a lie. I believe that attitude held by so much of “the church” throughout history is one of the things that have been used to harden Jews against Jesus.
But in acknowledging the unique place of Israel in God’s purposes should not lead to making them the focus of God’s purposes. His plan has always been to bless all nations and to bring them into His Kingdom. The means to doing that has always been through Israel, but specifically through their King, Jesus. It is through Him and Him alone that the New Covenant can be accessed.
One more thing about Jews relative to accepting or not accepting Jesus as Messiah: the “parable” Lancaster tells that I quote in this blog post illustrates very well the function of Messiah as deliverer of good news and better promises.
I feel that this exchange requires a response, but I’m not sure how to articulate it. Onesimus seems to be lacking an understanding of what is this new covenant that Rav Yeshua is mediating. The entire content of this covenant is for Jews to fulfill the ancient promise that we will hear and we will obey the Torah that was delivered into our hands once and for all at Sinai. This fulfillment includes the circumcision of the heart that is described in Deuteronomy and reflected in HaShem’s promise to Jeremiah to write this Torah on Jewish hearts so that it will be an entirely internalized reality, so that it will be a kind of “second nature” to us to know HaShem through this natural conformity with His instructions to our people. This is the covenant that Rav Yeshua is mediating, with its better promises. Gentiles are nowhere in view in it, and absolutely no promises are made to them in it.
So how can gentiles benefit from it at all? They bear no obligation to the Torah, as such. Acts 15 re-iterates this quite clearly. Simply, as Rav Shaul wrote to the Roman assemblies, when gentiles affiliate with Rav Yeshua and perform “instinctively” the precepts of Torah, they are a Torah unto themselves (cif: Rom.2:14). In other words, they demonstrate for themselves or “instruct” themselves about what are the benefits and blessings that derive from the Jewish Torah. They receive the nourishment that a grafted wild olive branch receives from the root of the tree into whose trunk they have been grafted; and it may be hoped that they then bear the fruit of such nourishment. They receive blessing from the hands of the natural descendants of Avraham who preserved the “oracles” of HaShem (i.e., blessings promised at the Akedah) and they benefit as children of the faith of Avraham that was demonstrated before he received HaShem’s covenant. In trusting Rav Yeshua’s teaching, they too can experience the cleansing and sanctification of life that rescues them from being separated from HaShem caused by their falling short of His requirements for human behavior and attitude. But they do not actually do this by participating in the new covenant described by Jeremiah, nor by participating in any covenant at all except that given to Noa’h. This is why the Acts 15 decision so resembles some of the Noa’hide principles to invoke their implications. Further, gentiles benefit from the Torah’s assignment of responsibility to Jews to be “a light to the nations”. This also is implicit in Acts 15:21.
Now, as for domestic branches having been broken off from their native tree due to “unbelief” — let us clarify that the belief in question does not include conformity with the religious outlook or behavior or doctrines of gentile Christianity. It does not even include explicitly a belief that Rav Yeshua is the Israeli Jewish Messiah. The unbelief that separates Jews from HaShem is a dismissal of His Torah precepts that outline atonement and redemption. It is a dismissal of His “salvation” for the Jewish people. This can be reflected, certainly, in dismissal of Rav Yeshua and his salvific role as the ben-Yosef messiah, but it is much broader than that. However, not all Jews can be painted with the broad brush of rejecting “salvation”, even if they reject the “Jesus” of the gentiles for all the evil that they have done and for their distortion of the Jewish Messiah into an unrecognizable and unacceptable demigod. There is an inherent devotion to HaShem’s “salvation” in Judaism, that may be accounted by HaShem in ways that are entirely invisible to Christian eyes, such that faithful Jews are, in fact, still approaching HaShem through the “door” of His “Yeshua”. However, this blog response is hardly the place to explore or elaborate the subtle soteriology suggested by such a speculation. A more certain approach is through conscious affiliation with Rav Yeshua as fulfilling the “ben-Yosef” messianic role and pursuing greatness in the “kingdom of heaven” in accordance with the implications he suggested in Mt.5:19.
Nonetheless, Rav Yeshua’s mediation of Jeremiah’s better covenant with better promises does not include gentiles in that covenant, even in whatever degree that covenant is currently in operation pending its ultimate fulfillment in the millennial kingdom. The salvation and sanctification of gentiles is not a part of that covenant, though it is enabled by the same metaphorical sacrifice by which that covenant also provides forgiveness and atonement for Jews.
Onesimus, I more or less agree with what you said except that the coming of the New Covenant is a long process, not a point event. It was inaugurated with the death and resurrection of Jesus, but it’s certainly not here yet. Technically, we’re still in the time of the Sinai covenant, since the Torah is still written on scrolls and not on the heart.
Also, Israel has always been the focus and still is. Israel was supposed to be the light of the world, so by focusing on Israel, God was indeed carrying forward His plan to bless the whole world. Jesus also called himself the light of the world, indicating that he was and is the realization of God’s plan for Israel. He also called his disciples the light to the world, indicating that God’s plan for Israel to be a light to the nations was extended through Jesus and to his followers across the generations.
In the end, it will all come back to Israel and through them and their King, that is Jesus, the whole world will be blessed. You’re right, according to the New Covenant language, all of Israel’s sins will be forgiven and all of Israel will be saved.
Considering the disdain being shown for “the behaviour or doctrines of gentile Christianity” I wonder what Paul meant by this:
How did salvation come to the gentiles? And how will broken off natural branches be regrafted in? And what currently prevents or delays that from happening?
@Onesimus — Clearly you do understand the failures of gentile Christianity that have driven Jews away from any proper understanding or appreciation of Rav Yeshua and the defense of messianic claims on his behalf. Hence you do understand why Israel as a whole has not been provoked toward the jealousy/zealousness of which Rav Shaul wrote. He also considered Jewish hardness/callousedness or partial blindness against Rav Yeshua as something which HaShem had produced in order to give gentiles an opportunity to take responsibility and to help that portion of the Jewish community which was hardened to see HaShem’s graciousness to redeem non-Jews. Would non-Jews have seen the first-century miracles which they did if there had been no need to impress some subset of hard-headed Jews? It’s hard to say; but it does appear that this Jewish failure resulted in (spiritual) riches or benefits to gentiles that they might not have experienced otherwise. Nonetheless, clearly Rav Shaul was not referring to the doctrines of a gentile Christianity that did not yet exist and would not exist for more than another century.
For those analogous branches that were broken off to be re-grafted back into their native tree, it would seem rather obvious that the “unbelief” problem that caused them to be broken off must be resolved. A demonstration of actual successful “salvation” among gentiles, including redemption and restoration of the value of life, and societal cleansing of values and behavior, would have contributed greatly to resolving Jewish skepticism and “unbelief” in Rav Shaul’s era. It could still do so even in our own — particularly if coupled with a solidly respectable demonstration by communities of Jewish messianists that knowledgeable faithful Jews have discovered answers to previously unresolved questions about how messianic redemption works for Jews (secular ones as well as religious ones).
The tens of thousands of Torah-zealous Jews cited in Acts 21 were likely making great inroads into the skepticism or hardness cited by Rav Shaul to the Roman assemblies; and he probably did not expect that later events would extend this problem (and exacerbate it) for another two millennia. Perhaps in our time we may learn to reverse prior errors and pursue the redemption described herein.
PL said: “…clearly Rav Shaul was not referring to the doctrines of a gentile Christianity that did not yet exist and would not exist for more than another century. “
I have no interest in the “doctrines of gentile Christianity”. I have been referring to the writings and revelation given through the apostle Paul and other writers of the NT scriptures and the gospel THEY present which is centred on JESUS.
Without Jesus there is NO way to God, not even for Israel.
@O — Your final statement in your last post: “Without Jesus there is NO way to God, not even for Israel.” is one of those doctrinaire positions that is patently wrong just on the face of it. It ignores entirely all Jewish history prior to Rav Yeshua and is subject to question even afterward. Since “… all Israel will be saved”, assuming for the moment that this was the aspect of a “way to G-d” you had in mind, then one must consider mechanisms by which the vast majority of Jewish people may have or may yet come to have a relationship with Rav Yeshua or with the “salvation of our G-d”. For most of us, this will need to occur, or to have occurred already, outside of our current space-time frame or in some other subliminal manner. If, on the other hand, you were thinking of other “ways” of approaching HaShem, you must consider His prior definitions for approaching Him, both when the Temple was in operation and during exile. Of course, the apostolic writings about Rav Yeshua are centered on his role in enabling or facilitating a proper approach to HaShem; however ALL aspects of Torah are still valid, as Rav Yeshua himself emphasized in Mt.5:18. His role must be understood in context and perspective when considering passages that suggest that there is no other way.
@O (cont.) — In reading over my last post, I realized that I wrote it while rushed to do something else and I didn’t quite finish my thought. Let me continue it by saying that if there is only one “way” to approach HaShem (and I agree that there is only one), then we must consider in what way Rav Yeshua represents or embodies that way. Thus we might begin to understand in what way the ancients who approached HaShem by the means He had defined and provided were approaching Him in this same way. In doing so, we might obtain a deeper understanding of how the sacrifices worked, and how faith works to accomplish the purposes of redemption. We might even obtain a glimmer of understanding about how faithful Jews have continued to approach HaShem and thus they may be considered to be approaching HaShem through the name (i.e., the “sake”) of “Yeshua” even without being able to recognize or acknowledge his name due to Christian misrepresentation. This does, however, also raise the matter of faithless Jews among the faithful ones; but answering the question about how HaShem may be able to deal with them is a matter beyond the scope of this blog.
Yes, Paul said that all Israel will be saved. But in the same section of scripture he said: “ they are not all Israel who are of Israel”.
Physical descent from Israel isn’t the only factor in play and doesn’t guarantee salvation.
@O — Indeed there are multiple factors in play; and Rav Yeshua raised the same question about reliance upon physical descent when he responded to one group, who invoked their physical descent from Avraham, to say that if he truly were their “father” they should behave as he did. This response relies on an artifact of Hebrew idiom whereby the father-son relationship refers even to inanimate objects which share common characteristics. In modern Hebrew, for example, a repairable object is “bar-tikun” (a “son of repair”). Hence, Rav Yeshua was chiding his interlocutors that they should be rejoicing over the salvation from HaShem that was right before their noses if they would have considered the message that Rav Yeshua was presenting about the immediacy of the kingdom of heaven, because Avraham also rejoiced even in the promise of it that he could see because of his trust that HaShem would bring it to fruition. It is this sort of metaphorical or symbolic “son-ship” that is challenged in this passage and also by Rav Shaul, because it is this characteristic faith that is essential to the salvation of Israel or of anyone else.
Nonetheless, the use of this metaphor does not deny or counter the physical reality of membership in the people of Israel or HaShem’s irrevocable promise to all of them because of Avraham. So we must be careful not to limit our notion of “all Israel” to something as meager as “only faithful Jews”, because that would rip the guts out of HaShem’s promise to Avraham as well as deny the principle that He remains faithful even when we are faithless. How shall it be that even those of Israel who don’t behave with the faith of Israel shall be redeemed? That will be a glory for HaShem to demonstrate; and it will, no doubt, be marvelous in our eyes.
PL ,said: “So we must be careful not to limit our notion of “all Israel” to something as meager as “only faithful Jews”, and “as well as deny the principle that He remains faithful even when we are faithless.”
If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him,
HE ALSO WILL DENY US
If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
HE CANNOT DENY HIMSELF (2 Tim 2)
Does that mean He remains faithful to us even if we are faithless towards Him?
The preceding statements make that every clear. If we deny Him He will deny us. He remains faithful to HIMSELF and His word.
My dear “O” — Rav Shaul’s letter to Timothy included this passage as an exhortation to a disciple, not as a general principle applied to skeptics. Thus one must consider what sort of “denial” is in view relative to someone like Timothy. The principle of HaShem’s faithfulness to Himself, and thus faithful to fulfill His promises to Avraham, even in the face of Jewish faithlessness, is demonstrated throughout Israel’s entire history. That’s not any sort of justification of faithlessness nor should it be considered an encouragement to be faithless; but it is an encouragement toward confidence that HaShem is still working on His plan to fulfill those ancient promises and that the final analysis will demonstrate His success.
It is not for us to envision an exclusive club or to imagine who we think should be excluded, but rather to consider how HaShem has graciously opened the doors to include all who will come to Him and to cleanse them from all that inhibits such an approach.
In additon to my previous comment I would also have to ask why Israel hasn’t yet been provoked to jealousy. The clear reason being that the gentile have not yet displayed anything worthy of provoking jealousy – in fact I believe the example shown so far by the gentile “church” has been a major factor in hardening Israel against the gospel.
Throughout history, by its actions, the gentile church has denied Jesus – especially a JEWISH Jesus who is the ONLY way for anyone, Jew or gentile to be restored to relationship with God. Without relationship with THAT Jesus, there can be no relationship with the One true God.
Hey James, so I’m taking your advice and reading a few blogs on the covenant. After reading Galatians 3:15-16, A few verses of scripture came to me: Romans 9:6 and John 8:44. Would you agree that these verses show that God is looking for Spiritual seeds of Abraham and Jacob and not physical? Here it is, even though the pharisees practiced the law, it was of no value because they did it out of tradition and mindless repetition. It’s obvious they lacked heart felt, sincere, Spirit lead observance. Wouldn’t you agree that the real circumcision God was looking for is found in Deuteronomy 30:6? In fact isn’t the covenant of circumcision based on the circumcision of the heart in the first place? Of course, in the Old Covenant both had to happen. I believe Paul agree’s with this idea that I am hinting at, by what he writes in Romans 2:28-29. He goes on to say in Romans chapters 3 and or 4, that Abraham was justified before he was circumcised and that his circumcision was a seal of that justification. Now according to the New Covenant wouldn’t the New type of circumcision that now acts as a seal to our belief be found in Colossians 2:11-12? I whole heartily believe that the New Covenant is most definitely baptism in the Name of Yeshua. (For the forgiveness of our sins found in Acts 2:38) I believe that the indwelling of The Holy Spirit of God is the manifestation of the promise that you had brought up when you posted Jeremiah 31:31-34. We know through Scripture that a sign is always followed by a promise or covenant. (The rainbow shown to Noah comes to mind) In fact, Pentecost is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Holy day of Shavot.(Feast of Weeks) This is the same day Moses brought down Mitzvah from Sinai. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that on this very same that day God pours out His very Spirit and establishes the New Covenant on this same day. (Not doing away with the old, but revealing it.) It doesn’t stop there, according to Torah, we know that 3000 Hebrews died on the original day of Shavot. Now if we fast forward a few thousand years to the day when the New Covenant is established, as we read in Acts chapter 2 we see that 3,000 Jews gain life on this very same day! Anyways, James this is a great topic, I’ll be looking forward to your reply!
I’d agree that it’s important to read scripture within it’s larger context, not just the immediate chapter which contains a particular verse, but the overarching intent of God as expressed in the whole Bible.
The Sinai and New Covenants were both made with Israel. Period. Only through a single element in the Abrahamic covenant can any person from any other nation be grafted in through faith in Abraham’s seed, Jesus.
It’s a common misconception that all Pharisees were corrupt and without faith, and yet Nicodemus was a Pharisee and so was Joseph of Arimathea and they were both disciples of Jesus. For that matter, the Apostle Paul never stopped being a Pharisee and the Jewish religious stream of “the Way” was largely to completely Pharisaic with just a few small variations, such as it’s rather liberal policy about admitting non-Jews without having them undergo the proselyte rite.
Yes, some of the Pharisees majored in the minors, putting the rote performance of the commandments ahead of faith in God and intent to do good, but you’ll find hypocrites in any religion. Jesus was aware of the problem and he was calling his people back to repentance and faith.
I agree that it has always been God’s intent to circumcise the heart if His people Israel (Ezekiel 36:26) but the fact that Jewish people were Jewish and had a unique relationship with God was also important to Him (Romans 3:1-4). Both Jeremiah 31:34 and Romans 11:25-26 declare God’s intent to redeem “all Israel”. Romans 11:29 tell us that God’s calling (choosing) of the Jewish people and his covenant promises to them are irrevocable. That is, they can never, ever be taken back or removed.
Colossians 2:11-12 (again, the larger context needs to be considered) is just a restating of the New Covenant promises that God will circumcise the Jewish heart (and faithful Gentiles are more or less along for the ride through faith in the accomplished work of Messiah) so I don’t find any sort of substitution going on or invalidation of God’s promises to Israel.
My understanding of baptism is that the act of being immersed in water doesn’t redeem anyone any more than performing any other act. We are redeemed by faith through grace. Baptism is the formal declaration that we are immersing ourself in the name of Messiah as disciples, our old natures undergoing a sort of “burial” and as we come out of the water, this symbolizes our new identity in Christ. Think of it as analogus to the Israelites agreeing to their end of the Sinai covenant that all God said, they would do, a vow of fealty to the King (see Exodus 19:8 and 24:3).
You are correct that the giving of the Holy Spirit is the sign of the New Covenant. And yes, I’m aware that Pentecost and Shavuot are the same Biblical observance, and that Shavuot is also the celebration of God giving the Torah to Israel at Sinai.
3,000 Israelites died on the day the Torah was given at Sinai? Can you give me the reference? I don’t recall that event.
3,000 Israelite’s died when Moses came down from Sinai. Exodus 32:28. I agree that we are saved by grace. God did not have to come in the form of a man and die for us. Keep in mind that faith is like “believe” it is active. I’m going do be doing a blog on the “remission of sins.” My intent is to prove with Bible that the baptism (ritualistic purity bath that is basically similar to the Jewish mikveh) is actually how we apply what Jesus did for us. (How the blood is applied, this idea is parallel to the blood on the door posts in the Exodus story. The blood saved the first born, not the act of putting the blood on the doorpost, although in order for the blood to save, the blood had to be applied via an act of faith. (We must mix God’s word and faith for results.).Anyways, when I’m done with my newest article on my blog,, I will post you a link. I just started writing this year…mainly to get my pressing thoughts out. Here’s what I have so far, feel free to check it out. http://drybonesarise.weebly.com/
Thanks for getting back to me so promptly btw!
Barry, I went ahead and approved your comment even though I’m dubious about allowing you to include a link to your blog, since I don’t really know you. I do want to say that my allowing the link to appear here in no way implies any endorsement of your blog’s contents on my part. Religious opinions are quite plentiful in the blogosphere.