What are you?

It has finally happened. People in the Messianic Jewish congregation I’ve been fellowshipping with have finally started to ask me which direction I’m coming from. They want to know if I am Jewish or Gentile. I counter with “Why does it matter?” and they get sheepish. It shouldn’t matter to them, because it doesn’t matter to God.

When the angel announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, the message was for “all people”

“10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:  11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.” (Luke 2:10-11)  

The prophet Isaiah tells us that foreigners who follow the ways of God will be welcomed.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord minister to Him, love the name of Yahweh and become His servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold firmly to My covenant— I will bring them to My holy mountain and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:6-7)  

Peter says the same in Acts 10:34-35
34 Then Peter began to speak: “Now I really understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, 35 but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him. (HCSB)

A little later in that story, we find that the Holy Spirit has chosen people who are not Jewish –
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers[h] who had come with Peter were astounded because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speaking in other languages and declaring the greatness of God. Then Peter responded, 47 “Can anyone withhold water and prevent these people from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for a few days. (Acts 10:44-48)

King Solomon says the same.

  32 Even for the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel
but has come from a distant land
because of Your great name
and Your mighty hand and outstretched arm:
when he comes and prays toward this temple,
33 may You hear in heaven in Your dwelling place,
and do all the foreigner asks You.
Then all the peoples of the earth will know Your name,
to fear You as Your people Israel do
and know that this temple I have built
is called by Your name.          
(2 Chronicles 6:32-33) 

Peter, the one upon whom Jesus built his church, noted with astonishment that the Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speaking in other languages and declaring the greatness of God. Then Peter responded, 47 “Can anyone withhold water and prevent these people from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for a few days.  (Acts 10:44-48)

His viewpoint was that if God chose these people (the Gentiles), then who where they (the Jews who believed in Jesus) to refuse them the sacrament of baptism.

We are all one in Christ – there is no distinction.

Peter also says

34 Then Peter began to speak: “Now I really understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, 35 but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him.  (Acts 10:34-35)

If God doesn’t show favoritism, neither should we.

After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them: “Brothers, you are aware that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the gospel message and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them by giving the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.  (Acts 15:7-9)

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians says –

27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ like a garment. 28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.  (Gal. 3:27-29)

Likewise, Paul says in his letter to the Colossians –

11 In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all. (Col. 3:11)

To the Ephesians he says –

The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Eph. 3:6)

Jesus says we are equal, like brothers – with nobody greater than another. Jesus came for many people –

In John 10:14-16 (HCSB) we read

14 “I am the good shepherd. I know My own sheep, and they know Me,15 as the Father knows Me, and I know the Father. I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 But I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Jesus “has other sheep that are not of this fold…” – that means that he knows he was called to non-Jews as well.  We are to be one flock, with no distinctions between us.

The disciples often argued about who was more important among them –

46 Then an argument started among them about who would be the greatest of them. 47 But Jesus, knowing the thoughts of their hearts, took a little child and had him stand next to Him. 48 He told them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me welcomes Him who sent Me. For whoever is least among you—this one is great.” (Luke 9:46-48)

And the letter to the Romans –

28 For we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 29 Or is God for Jews only? Is He not also for Gentiles? Yes, for Gentiles too, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then cancel the law through faith? Absolutely not! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (Romans 3:28-31)

 

In Acts 15:6-11 we read

Then the apostles and the elders assembled to consider this matter. After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them: “Brothers, you are aware that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the gospel message and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them by giving the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why are you testing God by putting a yoke on the disciples’ necks that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus in the same way they are.”

 

And likewise, just after the first Lord’s Supper –

24 Then a dispute also arose among them about who should be considered the greatest. 25 But He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles dominate them, and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’  26 But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving. 27 For who is greater, the one at the table or the one serving? Isn’t it the one at the table? But I am among you as the One who serves. (Luke 22:24-27)

 

Jesus didn’t care if someone followed him in the way he taught.  What was important was that they do the work of God.  That was how you knew they were OK.

49 John responded, “Master, we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him because he does not follow us.” 50 “Don’t stop him,” Jesus told him, “because whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)

Jesus tells the Jewish religious authorities that they aren’t guaranteed into the kingdom of heaven in the Parable of the Tenants.

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
       has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.   (Matthew 21:42-43   ESV)

Similar  –

John the Baptist gets angry with Pharisees in Matthew 3:7-10.

7 When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the place of his baptism,[b] he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance.  9 And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones!  10 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

He says that it doesn’t matter if you are related to Abraham.  God can do anything, and can make children of Abraham without the need for human involvement.  What matters most is that you produce fruit of the Spirit.  Blood doesn’t matter at all, but action.

 

Note 1 Samuel 2:27-30
27 A man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Didn’t I reveal Myself to your ancestral house when it was in Egypt and belonged to Pharaoh’s palace? 28 Out of all the tribes of Israel, I selected your house to be priests, to offer sacrifices on My altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in My presence. I also gave your house all the Israelite fire offerings. 29 Why, then, do all of you despise My sacrifices and offerings that I require at the place of worship? You have honored your sons more than Me, by making yourselves fat with the best part of all of the offerings of My people Israel.’
30 “Therefore, this is the declaration of the Lord, the God of Israel:
‘Although I said
your family and your ancestral house
would walk before Me forever,
the Lord now says, “No longer!”
I will honor those who honor Me,
but those who despise Me will be disgraced.

and Matthew 12:46-50
46 He was still speaking to the crowds when suddenly His mother and brothers were standing outside wanting to speak to Him. 47 Someone told Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to You.” 48 But He replied to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother.”

 

 

Solomon prayed to the Lord when he dedicated the Temple, naming specific kinds of people who might pray there, asking the Lord to listen –

41 Even for the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel
but has come from a distant land
because of Your name—
42 for they will hear of Your great name,
mighty hand, and outstretched arm,
and will come and pray toward this temple—
43 may You hear in heaven, Your dwelling place,
and do according to all the foreigner asks You for.
Then all the people on earth will know Your name,
to fear You as Your people Israel do
and know that this temple I have built
is called by Your name.

This is in 1 Kings 8:41-43.  It is also in 2 Chronicles 6:32-33

32 Even for the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel
but has come from a distant land
because of Your great name
and Your mighty hand and outstretched arm:
when he comes and prays toward this temple,
33 may You hear in heaven in Your dwelling place,
and do all the foreigner asks You.
Then all the peoples of the earth will know Your name,
to fear You as Your people Israel do
and know that this temple I have built
is called by Your name.

 

The prophet Hosea tells us  – (Hosea 2:23)

I will sow her (Israel) in the land for Myself,
and I will have compassion
on No Compassion;
I will say to Not My People:
You are My people,
and he will say, “You are My God.”

 

The prophet Joel tells us – (Joel 2:32)

Then everyone who calls
on the name of Yahweh will be saved,
for there will be an escape
for those on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
as the Lord promised,
among the survivors the Lord calls.

 

Isaiah 25:6-8

The Lord of Hosts will prepare a feast
for all the peoples on this mountain—
a feast of aged wine, choice meat, finely aged wine.
On this mountain
He will destroy the burial shroud,
the shroud over all the peoples,
the sheet covering all the nations;
He will destroy death forever.
The Lord God will wipe away the tears
from every face
and remove His people’s disgrace
from the whole earth,
for the Lord has spoken.

 

Revelation 5:9-10

And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth.

John 1:12-13

But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.

 

 

(All translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible unless otherwise noted)

Down the rabbit hole with the Bible

I was looking up one verse, which referenced another, which referenced another. Let’s see where we end up. I was using the Tree of Life version, which I’m coming to like better than the Holman Christian Standard Bible. This isn’t for everyone because there are a lot of Hebrew words in it.
I think it is interesting to note that the Christian Bible is a translation from the very beginning – that the New Testament was written in low Greek (common, everyday Greek) but the people who are being quoted were speaking in either Aramaic or Hebrew. It was written in Greek to appeal to the most people – to try to reach the majority of people with the message, but in order to do this, it was a translation.
Feel free to follow along in whatever translation you like, and to read these in context. The “Bible Gateway” website is very helpful for this because it has hyperlinks to the additional verses at the bottom of each page.

This is where I started –
Psalm 2:7
I will declare the decree of ADONAI.
He said to me: “You are My Son—
today I have become Your Father.

Which referred to this –

MT 3:17 (This is just after Jesus is baptized by John)
And behold, a voice from the heavens said, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased!”

Which referred to this –

Prov. 30:4
Who has gone up into heaven, and come down?
Who has gathered the wind in the palm of His hand?
Who has wrapped the waters in a cloak?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name and what is the name of His son—if you know?”

Which then refers to three different places – (JN 3:13, Eph 4:8 and Rev 19:12, in that order. I’ve changed the order because there are verses mentioned with the Ephesians verse. I’ve also expanded the Ephesians reference to give it context.)

JN 3:13 (This is Jesus speaking)
No one has gone up into heaven except the One who came down from heaven—the Son of Man.

Rev 19:12
12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and many royal crowns are on His head. He has a name written that no one knows except Himself.

Eph. 4:7-10
7 But to each one of us grace was given in keeping with the measure of Messiah’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When He went up on high, He led captive a troop of captives and gave gifts to his people.” 9 Now what does “He went up” mean, except that He first went down to the lower regions of the earth? 10 The One who came down is the same One who went up far above all the heavens, in order to fill all things.

Eph. 4:8 refers to Psalm 68:19
You went up on high.
You led captivity captive.
You received gifts from humanity,
even from the rebellious—
so that God might dwell there.

And Eph. 4:10 refers to Isaiah 44:23
Sing, O heavens, for ADONAI has done it!
Shout, depths of the earth!
Break forth into singing, mountains,
forest, and every tree in it!
For ADONAI has redeemed Jacob
and will be glorified through Israel.

And relevant to all of this is the entire first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Hebrews –

At many times and in many ways, God spoke long ago to the fathers through the prophets. 2 In these last days He has spoken to us through a Son, whom He appointed heir of all things and through whom He created the universe. 3 This Son is the radiance of His glory and the imprint of His being, upholding all things by His powerful word. When He had made purification for our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. 4 Thus He became as far above the angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are My Son.
Today I have become Your Father”?
And again,
“I will be to Him a Father,
and He will be to Me a Son”?
6 And again, when He brings the firstborn into the world, He says,
“Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
7 And regarding the angels He says,
“He makes His angels winds,
and His servants a flame of fire.”
8 But regarding the Son He says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
and a scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your Kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your companions.”
10 And,
“In the beginning, ADONAI,
You laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the works of Your hands.
11 They shall pass away, but You remain.
And they will all wear out like clothing.
12 And like a robe You will roll them up,
and like clothing they will be changed;
but You are the same,
and Your years shall never end.”
13 But to which of the angels has He ever said,
“Sit at My right hand,
until I make Your enemies a footstool
for Your feet”?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out for service to those about to inherit salvation?

——- Which itself has many references within it. You may feel that you are getting drawn into a maze – but know that you aren’t getting lost. At the center of that maze is the One who calls you, who knows you by name.

On Gentiles and Messianic Jews

I want to learn more about Judaism, but I don’t want to become Jewish. Well, in the way that Jesus meant, yes, I do want to be Jewish. In the way that Judaism is now, no, I don’t. I can’t give up Jesus.

It isn’t out of fear that I say that. Years ago it would have been easy to walk away from Christianity, and with it, Jesus. Years ago I thought I was Christian because I believed that Jesus was the son of God, was God in human form. I still believe that but there is so much more to it now. Now it seems like every month I get closer to understanding who Jesus is, not who he was.’

Because I see Jesus as alive and present in my life, I can’t cut him out of it. This wasn’t so ten years ago.

Part of how I’m coming to know Jesus is through his culture. If I made a friend from say, Uzbekistan, I’d try to learn more about her by learning more about where she came from. What are the foods, the dances, the songs that she grew up with? What are the values she was raised with? This will help me to understand her better. Her idioms will make more sense. Her habits won’t seem out of place to me. Sometimes, to understand “where someone is coming from” you actually have to understand where they are coming from.

Now, Jesus is Jewish. There is no way around that. He was born and lived as a Jew. So I want to learn more about Jewish culture.

I’ve been reading about Judaism but I want to experience it. It is the difference between reading a recipe versus actually cooking it. So I need to interact with people who are Jewish and participate in their customs, rituals, and holidays.

But the last thing I want to do is make them feel uncomfortable. It is super important that they understood that I’m not there to convert them, nor am I there to convert to becoming Jewish.

So I thought, how about a Messianic Jewish congregation? This seems ideal. Since I live in a major city there has to be one. I’ve found one listed online and it seems exactly what I want. These are Jews who see Jesus as the Messiah, yet retain the Jewish customs that are in harmony with Jesus’ teachings.

Now I have to admit that I’m a little amused by the term “Messianic Jew”. If you are from any background and you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, then you are Christian, by default, right? There are some people these days who are Christian and add extra adjectives to that term to separate themselves from mainstream Christians, but they are still Christian first. But I digress.

So this congregation looks ideal. And then I read the fine print. They say essentially they believe that Jews and Gentiles are equal, but Jews are more equal. Gentiles are welcome to worship with them, and have a role to play, but the role is to help convert more Jews to their side. But still, the Jews, by virtue of being Jews, are better.

I cannot handle that attitude. It isn’t in line with the teachings of Jesus at all.

Jesus erased all distinctions. In Jesus women and men are equal. All races are equal. There are no leaders or subordinates.

If they truly believe that there is a distinction between Jews who believe in Jesus and Gentiles who believe in Jesus, then they have missed the whole message of Jesus. It isn’t about blood, or genetics. It isn’t about history or ancestry. It isn’t about the past. It is all about the present. It is about who you are, right now, and how you have chosen to live your life. If you have accepted Jesus as the Messiah, then you are equal with every other person who has done the same.