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Ariel Ministries' Messianic Bible Study # 007:
JEWS, GENTILES, CHRISTIANS

Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum

1983, 2005 Ariel Ministries. All rights reserved. This manuscript is for your personal use only. No part of this manuscript may be reproduced in any form, except in brief quotation in a review or professional work, without written permission from the publishers. Email: Homeoffice@ariel.org. Website: www.ariel.org.

This manuscript is herein reprinted by special permission of Ariel Ministries.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION
I.   DEFINITIONS
     A. Jewishness: Who Is A Jew?
         1. A Public Opinion Poll
         2. The Hebrew Christian or Messianic Jewish   
             Definition
     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
II.  THE BIBLICAL BASIS FOR THE MESSIANIC JEWISH
     DISTINCTIVE
     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         
III. THE MESSIANIC JEWISH DISTINCTIVES
     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

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JEWS, GENTILES, CHRISTIANS

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 -


INTRODUCTION TO JEWS, GENTILES, CHRISTIANS

This study is titled "Jews, Gentiles, Christians." We are going to try to carefully define what all these terms mean and try to draw distinctions where the Bible does and erase distinctions where the Bible does. The whole issue in definitions of Jews, Gentiles, Gentile believers, and Jewish believers has a tremendous amount of confusion.

Divisions I and II of "Jews, Gentiles, Christians" were presented in
Shofars 13 and 14, and may be accessed through our Library.
Division III, which concludes the series, is presented herein.

 

III. THE MESSIANIC JEWISH DISTINCTIVES

The question that now remains is: "What are the Messianic Jewish distinctives in the Body of the Messiah?" In what way, by position and function, does the Jewish believer differ from the Gentile believer? The basis of the Messianic Jewish distinctive lies in four lines of biblical truth: the Abrahamic Covenant, the Doctrine of the Remnant, the Doctrine of the Olive Tree, and the Doctrine of the Israel of God.

A. The Abrahamic Covenant
The Abrahamic Covenant is found in various passages in Genesis. In Galatians 3:15-18, a unique distinction is drawn between the Abrahamic Covenant and the Law of Moses: Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a man's covenant, yet when it has been confirmed, no one makes it void, or adds thereto. Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He said not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to your seed, which is Christ. Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, does not disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise: but God had granted it to Abraham by promise.
The point being made here is that the Law of Moses did not disannul the Abrahamic Covenant. The human illustration used is that of a human contract in antiquity. Once it was signed, it could not be changed. While additions could be made later, these additions could never nullify any point in the original. The Abrahamic Covenant was signed by God Himself when He appeared in the form of fire and walked between the animals, which Abraham had prepared (Gen. 15:17). While the Mosaic Law, coming 430 years later, added to it, the Law could in no way change it. Through the cross, however, the Mosaic Law, the addition, was rendered inoperative, but the
Abrahamic Covenant, the original, is still very much in effect.

It is the continuity of the Abrahamic Covenant that provides the first basis of the Messianic Jewish distinctive. The Covenant had four primary features to it. First of all, God promised to make a great nation of Abraham; this means the Jews as a whole. The Jews, then, are a nation because of their origin from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Secondly, to this nation God has promised a Land, once called Canaan, often called Palestine, but now the Land of Israel. It is totally irrelevant whether the Jews are in the Land or outside the Land, or whether anyone else may control it by conquest or any other means; the Land belongs to the Jews by divine right. Thirdly, those that bless this nation will be blessed, and those that curse it will be cursed. This perhaps can be viewed as God's foreign policy to the Gentiles in their relationship to the Jewish people. Finally, the sign of the covenant for the members of this nation was circumcision, to be performed on the eighth day after birth.

Since the Abrahamic Covenant is still very much in effect, these four features also involve the Messianic believer both in his position and function. First of all, Messianic Jews are still Jews, for they, like other Jews, are descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Secondly, the homeland for the Messianic believer is the Land of Israel, and this is where his primary loyalty should be despite his place of residence. Believing Jews are in the Diaspora, but they are also in the Galuth, the Exile. Thirdly, the Gentile relationship to the Jews in the blessing and cursing aspects are as true for Jewish believers as for other Jews. Messianic believers who are blessed or cursed because of their Jewishness will find the blessers blessed and the cursers cursed. Finally, there is the matter of circumcision. Since Jewish believers still fall under the other provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant, they fall under this one as well. It is my conviction that Messianic Jews should have their sons circumcised on the eighth day.

But does not the Book of Galatians argue against the practice of circumcision? Yes and no. Circumcision for Gentiles, circumcision on the basis of the Mosaic Law, and circumcision for justification or sanctification are all wrong. The Book of Galatians condemns circumcision as a means for justification. Except for health and medical reasons, there is never any need or requirement for Gentile circumcision. Furthermore, Messianic believers who circumcise on the basis of the Law of Moses are also wrong, since the Law ended with the Messiah. But this same book clearly states that the Abrahamic Covenant is still very much in effect with all its features, and this includes circumcision. So circumcision on the basis of the Abrahamic Covenant is right and proper, and it is my conviction that it is still very much in effect for Jewish believers. Paul, who taught the Gentiles not to circumcise, did not so teach the Jews; this is clear from Acts 21:17-26, and from Acts 16:1-3 when he had Timothy circumcised. It was not circumcision per se that was ruled out, rather, circumcision on the basis of Mosaic Law.

B. The Doctrine of the Remnant
The second basis of the Messianic Jewish distinctive is described in Romans 11:1-7. The question here is whether or not God has cast off his people Israel. Paul answers in the negative. His proof is himself; he is a Jew who believes in Yeshua. The critic may argue that the Jews who believe are a very small minority; so does it not follow that the nation has indeed been cast off? Again, the answer is negative. What is happening now, Paul explains, is what has always happened throughout Jewish history; that is, it is always the Remnant that believes. This was true in Elijah's day, and it is true today. The fact that the majority do not believe is not evidence enough that the whole nation has been cut off. The point is that in Israel, past, present and future, it is the Remnant that is faithful to the revelation of God. This is also true in this present Dispensation of Grace; the Messianic believers are the Remnant of Israel today. The Remnant is always in the nation, not outside of it; the Messianic Jews, the present-day Remnant, are part of Israel and the Jewish people. Their Jewishness remains distinct.

Isaiah 1:9 and 65:8 point out that it is the Remnant that is keeping Israel as a whole alive. Because of the Messianic Jewish Remnant, God did not permit the success of the many attempts throughout this age to wipe out the Jewish people. Again we see position and function in this basis of the Messianic Jewish distinctive.

C. The Doctrine of the Olive Tree
The third basis of the Messianic Jewish distinctive is found in Romans 11:16-21 and 24. In this tree there are two types of branches representing Jewish believers and Gentile believers. The Jewish believers are the natural branches; that is, we correspond to the very nature of the tree, it is as if the tree and the natural branches have the same blood type. The wild olive branches are the Gentile believers. It is clearly stated that the presence of these branches in the tree is contrary to nature, the blood type is different. There is an obvious composite difference between the two, which makes them distinct from each other.

D. The Doctrine of the Israel of God
The fourth basis of the Messianic Jewish distinctive is seen in the narrow use of the term Israel. It should be pointed out that the term Israel is never used of Gentiles, whether they are believers or not, nor is it used of the Church; it is used only of Jews. In Romans 9:6-8, Paul states something significant. For a proper understanding of this passage, it is important to keep it in its strictly Jewish context. The point being made is that there are two Israels: Israel the whole composed of all Jews; and Israel the elect, composed of all believing Jews, which is the "true Israel of God." Both groups are Jews and both groups are called "Israel," the difference being that the Jews who are of Abraham by faith as well as by flesh are the true Israel. Israel the whole, the Israel of the flesh, failed; but the elect of Israel, the Israel of God, have not failed. Jewish believers, then, are part of Israel the whole, but in particular, they are the Israel of God. Gentile believers are not in this group. It is a position that is distinct with Messianic Jews.

In Galatians 6:16 Paul says: And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. The Book of Galatians is concerned with Gentiles who were attempting to attain salvation through the Law. They were deceived by thinking they had to be circumcised on the basis of the Law of Moses. Paul states that the important thing for salvation is faith. He then pronounces a blessing on two groups who would follow this rule of salvation by faith alone. The first group is the them, the believing Gentiles, to and of whom he had devoted most of the epistle. The second group is the Israel of God. These are the believing Jews who followed the rule of salvation by faith alone.

E. Conclusion
It is clear, then, that the Messianic Jew is a distinctive element in the Body of the Messiah, and this distinctiveness is based on four lines provided in the Scriptures. The distinction involves position and function. All are equal, yet distinct. Both Jews and Gentiles are on equal footing with God, because God is not a respecter of persons. We are different only in position and function.

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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
mbs-012
The Messiah of the Old Testament
mbs-013
What the New Testament Says about Yeshua
mbs-014 Why Did Messiah Have to Die?
mbs-016
Nicodemus, A Rabbi's Quest
mbs-026
Zionism: What It Is and What It Is Not
mbs-087
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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