Ariel Ministries' Messianic Bible Study # 007:

Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum

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     A. Jewishness: Who Is A Jew?
         1. A Public Opinion Poll
         2. The Hebrew Christian or Messianic Jewish   
     B. Gentile: Who Is A Gentile?
     C. Christianity: Who Is A Christian?
     D. Hebrew Christianity or Messianic Jewishness:
          Who Is A Hebrew Christian or Messianic Jew?
     E. Conclusion of Definitions
     A. The False Views
          1. Gentile Believers Are Spiritual Jews
              a. The Meaning of Spirituality
              b. Biblical Passages
          2. No Difference Between Jews and Gentiles             
     B. The Evidence for Distinction
          1. Bond and Free
          2. Male and Female
     C. Conclusion         
     A. The Abrahamic Covenant
     B. The Doctrine of the Remnant
     C. The Doctrine of the Olive Tree
     D. The Doctrine of the Israel of God
     E. Conclusion

Editor's note: Division I of "Jews, Gentiles, Christians" was presented in Shofar 13. Division 2 is presented herein. Divisions III will be presented in Shofar 15.



Author: Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum

and I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make
your name great; and you shall be a blessing.
- Genesis 12:2


Christians can become highly emotional when something they have held as truth is challenged. Often this is good, especially when it is a doctrine vital to faith that is in question. At other times, such emotional responses can blind one to what the Bible may really say in contrast to what is held to be true. One particular area involves the idea of a Messianic Jewish distinctive in the Body of the Messiah. Many times when the idea that the Bible distinguishes between Jewish and Gentile believers is postulated, verses are quickly quoted to the contrary, often out of context. "Galatianism" is the accusation often thrown against the one making the distinction, although few who make the charge really know the exact nature of the Galatian Heresy.

I well remember an incident that occurred in homiletics class during my school days. It was my turn to preach. The sermon I had prepared had nothing to do with Messianic Jewishness in any way, but in an illustration which I gave, I used the term "Hebrew Christian" only once in passing. This was enough, however, for the professor to become aroused. When I finished, the professor challenged my use of the term "Hebrew Christian." His attack began with, "I wonder what Arnold would say to ..." and then he quoted a favored text about there being no difference between Jews and Greeks. When he finished his discourse, he quickly continued with the class and gave me no opportunity to satisfy his "wondering." Yet, as we shall see, the Bible does teach that there is a Messianic Jewish distinctive in the Body of the Messiah.

A. The False Views
Emotionalism is not the only problem that prevents an understanding of this doctrine. Two false views, which only tend to confuse the issue, are circulating among many believers. One false view is that Gentiles, when they become believers in the Messiah, become "spiritual Jews." The second view is that when a Jew and a Gentile become believers in the Messiah, all distinctions between the two are erased. The Gentile loses his "Gentilism," to coin a word, and the Jew his Jewishness, for there is no difference between the two whatsoever. Before the basis of
the Messianic Jewish distinctive can be fully understood, we first need to deal with these two false views.

1. Gentile Believers Are Spiritual Jews
The first false view is that Gentiles become "spiritual Jews" upon believing in the Messiah. Logically, if believing Jews are spiritual Jews and believing Gentiles are spiritual Jews, then in the Christian realm there are no distinctions, since all are spiritual Jews. Yet the Bible presents no such picture.

a. The Meaning of Spirituality
Perhaps the greatest problem with the term spiritual Jew is its use of the word "spiritual" to indicate some kind of national or racial transformation of the Gentile to a Jew. However, the Bible never uses the word "spiritual" in this sense.

What is spirituality? Spirituality involves three things: first, regeneration, second, the Holy Spirit, and third, time. This means that spirituality only involves the believer; it is produced by the Holy Spirit who brings the believer into a mature relationship with God; and, obviously, this takes time. As Dr. Charles Ryrie states, "Spirituality is a grown-up relation to the Holy Spirit."

A spiritual person is a believer who is under the control of the Holy Spirit. It is nothing more than that. So, if a Gentile is under the Spirit's control, he is a "spiritual Gentile." Likewise, a Jew who is under the Spirit's control is a "spiritual Jew." There is no crossing of national lines; a Gentile remains a Gentile, and a Jew remains a Jew. Their spirituality is based on their relationship to the Holy Spirit.

b. Biblical Passages
But some will argue that all this is mere semantics and will use certain Bible texts to show that in some way Gentiles become Jews, whether by spiritual transformation or by some other mystical act. One of these passages is Galatians 3:6-9: Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Know therefore that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the
Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying, In you shall all the nations be blessed. So then they that are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham.

Thus, if Gentile believers become "the children of Abraham by faith," does that not make them spiritual Jews? Not at all! Even in the physical realm, not all the children of Abraham are Jews. Arabs are as much the descendants of Abraham as Jews, but in no way can they be classified as Jews. What is true of the physical realm is also true of the spiritual realm; being children of Abraham by faith is not enough to make one a Jew.

What, then, is the meaning of this passage? To begin with, it should be noted that the context is concerned with the question of whether salvation is by works or by faith. The Hebrew term for "children" or sons often has the meaning of "followers." The point is that Abraham was declared righteous on the basis of faith and not on that of works. The true followers of Abraham, then, are those who are considered righteous on the same basis as Abraham, who practiced faith rather than works to attain salvation. The Gentile Galatians were never said to become Jews, rather, children of Abraham. Being a child of Abraham is not enough to make one a Jew.

Another verse often used is Galatians 3:29: And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise. Since Gentiles become part of "the seed of Abraham," does this not in some way make them spiritual Jews? Again, the answer is negative; there are members of the physical seed of Abraham who are not Jews. The same is true in the spiritual realm.

The meaning of this verse can best be understood if compared with Ephesians 2:11-13: Wherefore remember, that once ye, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision, in the flesh,
made by hands; that ye were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ.

And Ephesians 3:6: to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

These Ephesians passages clarify what is meant by the Galatians statement of becoming heirs to the promises. It does not mean that Gentile believers become Jews in a mystical way, but rather that they become partakers in the blessings of the Jewish covenants and receive this privilege by faith. This act does not make them spiritual Jews, but spiritual Gentiles. Even by being partakers, they do not share in all the facets of the covenants but only in the spiritual blessings involved in them. Things such as inheritance of the Land and circumcision, among others, are not appropriated by believing Gentiles. These elements are exclusively for the Jew.

The third passage for this idea is Romans 2:28-29: For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
Since a "true Jew" is someone who is so inwardly, does not a believing Gentile meet that standard and so, inwardly at least, become a Jew? But to say this of Romans 2:28-29 is to ignore the entire structure of the Book of Romans. The basic outline of the first three chapters is as follows:
Salutation 1:1-7
Introduction 1:8-15
Theme 1:16-17
Gentiles 1:18-2:16
The World Under Condemnation: 1:18-3:30
Jews 2:17-3:20
Conclusion 3:21-30
The section in which Romans 2:28-29 is found is strictly a Jewish context; the Gentiles are nowhere in view, for Paul has finished with them in 2:16. This verse can be better understood if taken as the words of a believing Jew speaking to non-believing Jews. In doing so, he is using a play upon words. "Judaism" has the root meaning of
praise. What this Messianic Jew is saying to non-Messianic Jews is that outward Judaism is not enough to make one righteous before God; this requires a "Judaism of God." The verse can be paraphrased: "Whose Judaism is not of men, but of God." The true Jews are those Jews who are so, both "outwardly" and "inwardly."

2. No Difference Between Jews and Gentiles
The first extreme argues against all distinctions by saying that all believers are Jews. This second extreme tries to make all believing Jews into non-Jews; usually by employing, out of context, one or more of three passages, having a phrase to the effect that "there is neither Jew nor Greek." But a careful study of the very same passages, in their
contexts, will show that the distinction between Jews and Gentiles is erased only in certain areas and not in all. Furthermore, a study of the text in the light of related passages clearly indicates that, in other areas, the distinction is still very much in effect, even within the Body of believers.

The first of the three passages is I Corinthians 12:12-13: For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit.
The clear teaching of this passage is that entrance into the Body is by Spirit baptism. This is the only way, and it is true for all, both Jew and Gentile. There is no difference. This is all that can be deduced from this passage, and no more.

The second passage is Galatians 3:28: There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus.
The context of this passage deals with the matter of justification by faith. This is the only way anyone can be justified, whether Jew or Gentile. So in justification, there is no distinction between the two. That alone can be deduced from this passage, and no more.

The third passage is Colossians 3:11: where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all.
The context is again the key to understanding this passage. Verses 5-11 are concerned with "putting off the old nature and putting on the new nature." This is the true and only way toward maturity and spirituality for any believer, Jew or Gentile. Again, no more than that can be deduced from this passage.

The conclusion we are drawing is obvious. In the areas of justification, membership in the Body, and growth toward maturity, the procedure is the same for Jew and Gentile without distinction. However, this does not mean that in every area the distinctions are forever erased between the two.

B. The Evidence for Distinction
As stated earlier, the study of these very same passages in the light of related passages will show that instead of teaching against all distinctions, the reverse is true. When critics of the Messianic Jewish distinction refer to the above three passages, often only the "Jew and Greek" statement is cited, and the rest are ignored. My homiletics
teacher used this technique. But these verses not only state that there is no difference between Jews and Greeks, they further state that there is no difference between bond and free, male and female. Yet the custom is often to avoid quoting the latter portion for reasons which will become apparent as we proceed. Now let's consider what the
Bible has to say about the two latter groups and see if indeed the three passages teach that all distinctions are erased.

1. Bond and Free
There are five passages dealing with the issue of "bond and free." The first passage is Ephesians 6:5-9: Servants, be obedient unto them that according to the flesh are your masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not in the way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as unto the Lord, and not unto men: knowing that whatsoever good thing each one does, the same shall he receive again from the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, and forbear threatening: knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no respect of persons with him.

The second passage is Colossians 3:22-4:1, which reads: Servants, obey in all things them that are your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord: whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the inheritance: ye serve the Lord Christ. For he that does wrong shall receive again for the wrong that he has done: and there is no respect of persons. Masters, render unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing
that ye also have a Master in heaven.

The third passage is I Timothy 6:1-2: Let as many as are servants under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and the doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but let them serve them the rather, because they that partake of the benefit are believing and beloved. These things teach and exhort.

The fourth passage is Titus 2:9-10: Exhort servants to be in subjection to their own masters, and to be well-pleasing to them in all things; not gainsaying; not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

The fifth passage is I Peter 2:18: Servants, be in subjection to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

In all of these passages, the believing slave is to be in subjection to his master, even when the master is himself a believer. The believing master is never commanded to release his believing slaves, which would be the practical outcome if all distinctions have indeed been erased. But the believing freeman is still a freeman, and the believing
slave is still a slave. How, then, are these passages consistent with the three verses cited earlier? Consistency is no problem. As far as membership in the Body, justification, and spirituality are concerned, the way is the same for the freeman and the slave. But once in the Body, these distinctions still exist.

2. Male and Female
Seven passages of Scripture show that all distinctions between male and female certainly have not been erased. Subjection is the keynote to them all, as seen in position and function.

I Corinthians 11:3-10 points out that the woman should keep her head covered in the assembly: But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head unveiled dishonors her head; for it is one and the same thing as if she were shaven. For if a woman is not veiled, let her also be shorn: but if it is a shame to a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be veiled. For a man indeed ought not to have his head veiled, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man: for neither was the man
created for the woman; but the woman for the man: for this cause ought the woman to have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels.

In I Corinthians 14:34-35, women are forbidden to speak in the church. This is to the extent that if she has any questions at all, she is to seek answers from her husband at home: let the women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as also says the law. And if they would learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home: for it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church.

Ephesians 5:22-25 points out the key idea of subjection: Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it.

In Colossians 3:18-19 we again have the idea of subjection. The husband is admonished to love his wife as the means of subjecting her. Wives, be in subjection to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love
your wives, and be not bitter against them.

In I Timothy 2:11-12, women are forbidden to teach men, for in so doing they are exercising authority and overstepping their place of subjection: Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness.

In Titus 2:1 and 3-5, the teaching of younger women to be in subjection to their own husbands is part of sound doctrine, and violation results in the word of God being blasphemed. Verse 1 states: But speak you the things which befit the sound doctrine. Verses 3-5 state: that aged women likewise be reverent in demeanor, not slanderers
nor enslaved to much wine, teachers of that which is good; that they may train the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sober-minded, chaste, workers at home, kind, being in subjection to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

I Peter 3:1 again points to subjection: In like manner, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, even if any obey not the word, they may without the word be gained by the behavior of their wives. Verse 7 states: Ye husbands, in like manner, dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint-heirs of the grace of life; to the end that your prayers be not hindered.

Now if all distinctions between male and female are erased, there would be no need for all these separate rules and injunctions. Do these passages, then, contradict the others, which indicate no distinction between the male and female? Obviously not. Again, in the areas of membership in the Body of the Messiah, justification, and spiritual
maturity, the formula is the same for both. There is not one way of salvation for the man and another for the woman. Spiritual maturity does not have separate systems, one for the male and another for the female. Both have entered the Body in the same way. But once in the Body, the man is still a man, and the woman is still a woman; and they differ in position and function.

C. Conclusion
To summarize, we have seen that the Bible does not support the idea of Gentiles becoming "spiritual Jews" when they believe. Rather, they are "spiritual Gentiles" when they are controlled by the Holy Spirit. Spiritual Jews are Jews who believe and who have a proper relationship to the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, the Bible does not say that all distinctions between Jew and Gentile are erased when they believe. While it is very true that the way is the same for both, this does not mean that all other distinctions have been eradicated as well, any more than all distinctions between bond and free, and male and female, have ceased to exist. The way of salvation, Body membership, and spiritual maturity is the same for both Jews and Gentiles, but in other areas, distinctions remain.


If you enjoyed this Bible study, Dr. Fruchtenbaum recommends these Messianic Bible Studies, which may be obtained from Ariel Ministries:

mbs-003 The Basis of the Second Coming of the Messiah
mbs-011 The Suffering Messiah of Isaiah 53
The Messiah of the Old Testament
What the New Testament Says about Yeshua
mbs-014 Why Did Messiah Have to Die?
Nicodemus, A Rabbi's Quest
Zionism: What It Is and What It Is Not
The Book of Romans and the Jews

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Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Th.M., Ph.D., is founder and director of Ariel Ministries.

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