Updated: Jan 3
What about the Gentiles?
When we emphasize the unique calling on Israel, it is easy for non-Jews to feel left out. But if we read the Scriptures correctly, we see a God who deeply desires the nations to know him.
The calling on Abraham is to bless the whole world. (Gen. 12:3)
The calling on Israel is to bring salvation to the “ends of the earth.” (Is. 42:6, Acts 1:8)
The Gentiles are called to "provoke Israel to jealousy." (Romans 11:11)
Psalm 67 speaks of God’s heart for the whole world, not just Israel, to know Him. It declares that the Gentiles will find Him through Israel.
Isaiah 49:6 says that it is too small a thing for God to just bring salvation to the Jewish people, but “that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
You have to understand, God called Israel because of His love for the whole world. Just like God sets Eph. 4:11 leadership gifts in the congregation for the sake of the congregation, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry,” not for the leaders themselves, He also didn’t call Israel for herself, but for the sake of bringing the nations, whom God loves, to salvation.
Ethnicities in Heaven?
Your ethnicity, whether Jewish or Irish is important to God. Believe it or not, you are stuck with it for a while. That is a good thing. I believe every nation, just like every person, has a unique calling or prophetic purpose from God. When Isaiah prophesies, he often speaks to nations like Sodom, Gomorrah, Assyria, Edom, Moab and the Ammonites, as well as Israel and Judah. Our job is to find that prophetic purpose and, by the grace of God, fulfill it.
We see God’s love for the Gentiles in Joseph’s coat of many colors. Those colors represented the nations and the coat itself was symbolic of the mantle on Joseph to rule the nations. He was a type of the Messiah.
And—this might blow you away—but when John visits heaven and sees the souls of those who have passed away, he doesn’t just see a group of generic white people. He sees, “a vast multitude that no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, was standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9) He sees their ethnicity after death!
This leads me to believe that 1) our ethnicity is really important to our personhood and calling and 2) that we retain it in the age to come. Indeed, we know that the nations will exist in the millennium from Isaiah 2:2 and Zechariah 14:16, as well as from many other verses. It would appear that emissaries are sent out from Jerusalem to the nations and many from the nations come to Jerusalem.
Do Jews have authority over Gentiles?
Recently a leader accused our ministry of believing that the relationship between Jewish and Gentile believers is like that of a husband and a wife and that we see Jewish believers as having authority over Gentiles. (The accusation went so far as to claim that we teach the entire gentile church must be submitted to Jewish apostles in Jerusalem!) To be clear: that is ridiculous and complete nonsense! It is the reason I have written this.
There is a mystery regarding the ecclesia, as Paul states many times in Ephesians 3. The One New Man is made of believers of Jewish descent and from the nations. We fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. But to claim that one has authority over the other is not biblical. There is no longer a centralized government over the entire church. Catholicism teaches this, but we certainly don’t.
The Ruth/Boaz relationship is a beautiful picture of Jews and Gentiles coming together to make up the One New Man, but all analogies have their limits. It doesn’t mean that Jewish believers play the role of the husband, and that Gentile believers must submit to them, as a wife. That is ridiculous and something I have never taught! Yes, the nations show a special love, and dare I say, honor to the older brother for bringing them the gospel message. But that honor is undeserved on merit and only because of God’s order. Remember, not only is the gospel to the Jew first (Romans 1:16), but so is judgement.
There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:10-11)
And I do not remember hearing of too many Gentiles not named Casper Ten Boom clamoring to be considered Jewish in Nazi Europe. As Reb Tevya said in Fiddler on the Roof, “I know, I know, we are your chosen people. But, every once in a while, couldn't you choose someone else?” It is not always so 'in' to be Jewish.
While ethnicity is important to God (He created us with ethnicity—how can it be insignificant?) and the continued call on Israel is “irrevocable,” nowhere in the New Testament do we see any mandate for Jewish believers to have authority over non-Jews. The leaders in Acts 15 were all Jewish, but that is only because there was not a n abundance of Gentile leaders yet.
(Ironically, though there were roughly 120 Jewish bishops of the 1,800 in the church in 325 CE, the Jews were excluded from the council of Nicaea. Dr. Jen Rosner notes, “From all accounts that we have, these Jewish Yeshua-believing bishops were not present at the council of Nicaea, and moreover, they were not invited—which we can understand from Constantine’s posture towards the Jewish people.”)
The reason that Jerusalem had authority in Acts is because the gospel was birthed there. The reestablishment of the ecclesia in Jerusalem is absolutely prophetic and should be awe-inspiring to believers everywhere—but not to the point of reestablishing apostolic authority from Jerusalem over other nation’s, denominations and networks. That restoration will happen ONLY when Yeshua returns. (Zechariah 14:3-4, 9)
Yes, part of what we have referred to as 'alignment,' is the global church coming to a place of honoring Israel as the elder brother in God’s household, repenting for 2,000 years of persecution and seeking to provoke Israel to jealousy. But that does not mean the global church submits to Messianic Jews. Not at all!
And if you struggle with this, so do I. As I Jewish believer I have no desire to compel Gentile believers to “honor” me. This language makes me very uncomfortable. But then I read Paul’s word in Romans, where he harshly rebukes the Gentile believers in Rome for becoming conceited or arrogant towards the Jewish believers.
Do not consider yourself to be superior to those other (Jewish) branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you… [the Jewish branches] were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. (Romans 11:18, 20-21)
Paul sees that this arrogant attitude towards the ones who brought them Yeshua, could result in them being cut off (vv. 21-22) completely from the olive tree. And what is the opposite of being arrogant? Honoring. For what? For being the nation that gave the other nations Yeshua, the Bible and the concept of one God. Paul does teach that the nations should bless Israel in return (Romans 15:25-27), and let’s not minimize the price Jews have paid to be that people, having suffered through 52 attempted genocides including the Holocaust, and it is not over! The Antichrist is going to target Israel (Romans 16:16, Zech 14:1-2). So yes, it does seem that God expects some sort of deference towards Israel, but not idolizing Israel or Jewish believers , as we have sometimes seen—and definitely not submission.
And wherever I go to minster, people seem to think it is not just a random thing that the body of Messiah has been resurrected in Israel, but a fulfillment of prophecy. They want to do something to honor Israel. I am actually writing this from a conference of believers from the Pacific Islands that have come to Israel to honor the “elder brother.” They feel compelled. And God has graced the Gentiles with an ability to bring Jewish people to Yeshua by, dare I say it again “provoking them to jealousy.”
This Gentile honoring of Israel has brought many Jewish people to Yeshua. I just had dinner tonight with an Israeli believer who came to faith in a Pentecostal church in America in 2012. He said that one of the main things that caused him to embrace Yeshua was the love the Gentile Christians in the church showed him. In the end, it is mutual love, respect and honor inside the One New Man between Israel and the nations. It is a mutual love, respect and honoring of one another.
The purpose of these blogs was to emphasis that equality must come before distinctions. We can celebrate one another’s distinctions, whether Jew, Gentile, male or female, only when we see ourselves as equal before God.
*Originally published on November 22, 2019