Updated: Jan 3
Having said that…
Once we have the revelation of equality in Messiah, then we can speak of distinctions without it leading to pride or elitism. Paul himself speaks of male headship in the home. Without equality, we can see in the Muslim world (and in other cultures) how this leads to abuse. However, with equality, the husband leads his home as a servant, not as a tyrant. He lays down his life for his wife, as Messiah did for us. As much as we hate to admit it, there are clear and obvious differences between males and females.
When it comes to Israel and Jewish believers, there is a unique call on what Dan Juster coined as “the saved remnant of Israel.” The Jewish people were set apart with a specific role:
To be a priestly nation to the rest of the world. (Exodus 19:6)
To bring forth the revelation of the one true God through the scripture. (Deut. 6:4, Ps. 67)
To be a light for the nations. (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6)
Of course, the promises and functions to ethnic Israel are extended to the commonwealth of Israel (the Global body/One New Man/Olive Tree), including priesthood and many other functions. But there are many things that only the saved remnant can do. For example:
The saved remnant of Israel holds back judgment on the nation of Israel. God established the principle that he will spare a nation based on the faithful obedience of a few. He was willing to spare Sodom and Gomorrah, completely wicked cities, if He could just find 10 righteous people. In 1 Corinthians 7, we see that God will declare a whole family holy, based on the faith of one spouse. And of course in Romans11:5 God speaks of a remnant of Jewish believers that stands in the gap for the whole of Israel. “So too, at the present time, there is a remnant chosen by grace.” (Rom.11:5) In Romans 11:16 God can declare the whole tree holy based on the root. So, the saved remnant of Israel stands in the gap for the nation of Israel.
Secondly, only the Messianic Jewish remnant can be a witness to the world that God is still with Israel. By God's grace, she reveals God’s faithfulness to the nation of Israel as still elect by declaring this from the reality of being the saved remnant of Israel. Not just the restoration of the physical nation, but the fact that there is a growing number of born again Jews tells the world that God is still with Israel. (Even though some Christian groups shockingly shy away from the Messianic remnant in Israel—for fear of offending their Jewish friends.)
When we live out Torah in the Land, honoring the Sabbath, observing the Feasts, we foreshadow the coming kingdom. It is a type of intercession. The Feasts were never meant to be cold, dead works—but they speak to the coming kingdom. Just as Passover, First Fruits and Shavuot looked to His first coming, Yom Terurah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot point to his return (Zech. 14:16).
Messianic Jews testify through their lives (and teaching) to the Jewish roots of the New Testament and the Hebraic nature of the coming Kingdom. This is something that only they can do, as for 2,000 years, without a Jewish witness, the Church was almost completely “theologically” cut off from her Hebraic roots and persecuted the Jewish people. Our witness testifies that replacement theology is a lie. The nation of Israel testifies that the prophecies of her restoration in the last days were not allegorical, but literal. We are part of that nation.
Messianic Jewish Israelis are the fulfillment of both the physical and spiritual restoration. Since Gentiles cannot make aliyah (for the most part) only Messianic Jews are both part of the people of Israel and the household of God—the ecclesia.
Messianic Jews in Israel are living testimony of New Testament faith to Israelis.
But let's be clear, none of these are reasons for ethnic pride! God forbid! They just reveal the unique calling on the Messianic remnant. It does not make them better or more significant. Just unique in their calling.
I was recently told by a Bible school professor that the unique calling on Israel is only on unbelieving Israel. Once a Jewish person comes to faith, he no longer has that call as he is now part of the body of Messiah only. So, when Paul says to the Romans that the call of God on Israel is irrevocable (Romans 11:29), he is only referring to lost Israel. When you find Yeshua, according to him, you lose that calling. If it is irrevocable to unbelieving Jewish people, how much more to the saved remnant? Paul seems to include himself in that calling, as he says in the beginning of the chapter, "I myself am (not was) an Israelite" (Rom. 11:1).
The First Christian Anti-Semitism
However, Romans was written to Gentiles about their poor treatment of believing Jews. I wrote about this here. When Jewish believers like Pricilla and Aquila came back to Rome from exile, it appears the Gentiles did not receive them. This is why Paul writes in Romans about the significance of Israel so strongly. He is rebuking the Romans for their treatment of the returning Messianic Jews after the death of Claudius.
First, she is not rejected (Romans 11:1,11), and, second, she is still called (Romans 11:29). Third, God's heart breaks for her and longs for her return (Romans 9:1-5).
As a Messianic Jew, I base my right to citizenship in the land of Israel on the fact that I am Jewish. If we lose that at salvation, then believing Jews would have no right to live in the state of Israel. Of course, that is absurd.
It was the Jewish apostles who had the calling (Acts 1:8) to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. This is a clear extension of Psalm 67:
May God be gracious to us (Israel) and bless us (Israel) and make his face shine on us (Israel)— (Why?) so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. (Psalm 67:1-2)
That calling is not exclusively to Israel, as we are all called to be light and salt. Yet, there is a unique anointing on Jewish believers for this. Paul quotes Isaiah 42 and 49 about being a light to the nation in Acts 13:47:
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 13:46-47)
Paul clearly saw the unique calling on Israel as continuing, if not intensifying, in the New Covenant.
In addition, Paul clearly sees himself as a Messianic Jew—a member of the “One New Man” and also still connected to Israel and to Israel’s irrevocable call (Romans 11:29) How do we know? In his defense of Israel, that she is still loved, chosen, and called, he asks:
I ask then: Did God reject his people (Israel)? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. (Romans 11:1)
By saying I am he is saying that he is still very much connected to the irrevocable calling on the Jewish people.
Who does God task with taking the gospel message to the whole earth before judgment? It is the 144,000 Jews from each tribe. And in Acts 15, when the Jewish apostles hear from the Holy Spirit that they are not to command the Gentiles to worship as Jews, there is no hint that they are not still called to worship according to Torah. We do not see the apostles eating non-kosher food or encouraging Jewish believers to live as non-Jews after this. In fact, when Paul was accused of this, the apostles in Jerusalem declare that there was no truth to this rumor.
[The apostles] said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”
If Jewish believers are no longer part of that irrevocable call in Romans 11:29, why is Paul living in obedience to the law? Why does he go to make the sacrifice in Acts 21, if not to prove that there was no truth in the rumor that he was teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs? Shouldn’t he have said, "No friends, I am no longer part of Israel, now that I am a believer. We are one in Messiah—which means, no such thing as Jew or Gentile.”
But he doesn’t.
One more point on this. The same scriptures that predict the ingathering of Jewish people from all over the world, predict that when they come back to Eretz Yisrael—the Land of Israel, many will also experience New Testament salvation. The clearest prophecy is Ezekiel 36:24ff. He starts by speaking of the return of the Jewish people to their own land, but quickly speaks of a spiritual revival that will take place at the same time!
“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.
Are those who are part of the present remnant, who have both returned to Israel and found their Messiah, no longer part of Israel? It makes no sense. They were irrevocably called in sin, but not after they come to faith? (Other passages that speak of this end-time awakening in Israel are Jer. 31:31-33, Hosea 3:4-5, Zech. 12:10, 13:1, Matt. 23:39, Rom. 11:26, Rev. 1:7)
Hear me, the root of replacement theology is not anti-Semitism, but jealousy. Replacement Theology was a jealous response to what the church did not understand in Scripture. It was a failure to realize that God could both have a unique calling on Israel and love the nations. Some Gentile believers read the Old Covenant and became jealous of Israel (I don’t know why—look at how we suffered!). Their answer was to say, The Church has replaced Israel. We get their promises. Many of the church fathers looked the Jews—their temple had been destroyed, along with the Jerusalem, and thought, surely God has rejected them.
But in this hour, we find more and more mature Gentile believers, who do not feel inferior to Jewish believers—and they shouldn’t—and yet appreciate the unique calling on Israel.