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