Irrevocable Calling?

For the gifts and the calling of God is irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29)

Stumbling Block

Many Christians struggle over the assertion that Messianic Jews are called to live a distinctively Jewish life as part of their faith and calling in Yeshua. It goes without saying that adherents of replacement theology reject any idea of Jewish life in the New Covenant. According to their theology, the Church is now the Israel of God and has taken the place of ethnic Israel as God’s elect people; thus all Jews who believe in Yeshua simply need to become Christians just like everyone else. “Get used to it and get over it!” However, we find that even some Christian Zionists, who are committed to the nation of Israel and the Jewish people, struggle with the idea that Messianic Jews are called to a distinctive Jewish life.

Why?

First of all, their support is for Israel and Jews who do not know Yeshua, whereas Jews who become followers of Yeshua are expected to blend in and become like other Christians. Secondly, many assume that in the Age to Come, there will be no more Jewish or other ethnic identification. These underlying assumptions explain why in a meeting with the leaders of one denomination there was an acceptance for Jews deciding to live a Jewish life as an acceptable choice of Christian liberty, but the idea of a covenant responsibility to live a Jewish life was rejected.

Homogenizing Equality

The calling of Jewish followers of Jesus to live a distinctive Jewish life is a challenge because it conflicts with the “homogenizing” understanding of justice and equality in the West. Yet this idea of an homogenizing equality is not a biblical idea of justice. Rather, justice is connected to God having a good destiny for all peoples and every individual, even though these destinies and callings are not the same. Our response is to simply return to the Bible and submit to the meaning of the text.

Recognizable

We note that the Jewish people are called to be a distinct nation among the nations forever, as a testimony to the Word of God and His covenant faithfulness, and to be an instrument for the salvation of the world. This begins with Genesis 12:3 where Abraham is told that it is through his seed that all the nations of the earth will be blessed. It continues in the prophets who repeat again and again that there will come a day when Israel will be delivered, redeemed and affect the world’s recognition of the truth. All nations will come to believe (Zechariah 14:9). Indeed, being able to recognize Jewish believers as Jews will be critical to them fulfilling their role:

“In those days, ten men from the nations shall take hold of the robe of a Jew and say, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you'” (Zechariah 8:23).

Yes, it is true that Jewish believers in Yeshua have an equal partnership with those called from the nations who embrace Yeshua as the Lord. They together are a priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and become part of the One New Humanity in Him (Galatians 2:15). Yet the Jewish believers in Yeshua are also still the saved remnant of Israel (Romans 11:5, 16). This continued Jewish identity in Yeshua is a testimony to God’s covenant faithfulness.

Connecting the Dots: Calling Entails Responsibility

It should be easy to connect a very few dots. The Bible says that the Jewish people are still elect though they are enemies of the Gospel. They have an irrevocable calling (Romans 11:28, 29; Jeremiah 31:36). Does this calling of witness and intercession include the Jewish believers? It is clear that they are described as still part of their people. It behooves them to live a Jewish life, including a responsibility to apply the pattern of life that is in the Torah in ways that are fitting to the New Covenant order. Connecting to tradition and culture is commended where they are good, beautiful and true (Philippians 4:8). All must be subject to the centrality of Yeshua and New Covenant realities.

Rich Variety in the Age to Come

In the first stage of the age to come, the Millennial Age, we read that the Jewish people will attain the promises of peace and prosperity in their own Land and the whole world will become a wonderful place of human fulfillment (Isaiah 11). All nations will go up to Jerusalem to learn the Word of God (Isaiah 2).

Finally, after the Millennium, the richness of ethnic variety will still be preserved. God desires this great variety of peoples –from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9) – distinct and recognizable, each in their own way. Therefore, we see that the names of the twelve Jewish apostles are on the foundation stones of the city. The names of the tribes of Israel are on the twelve gates of the city. Yes, Israel and the nations will be preserved forever. Every nation has a distinctive glory that it brings into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:24-26).

Let us leave the limitations of the view of homogenization and embrace both the everlasting preservation of the Jewish people and also the richness of all nations as part of God’s Kingdom forever.

This article originally appeared in Return to Zion’s Newsletter, July 2016, and reposted with permission.

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Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.