If anyone has been converted from one thing to another, it is Gentiles who have been converted to the Jewish faith in the God of Israel. They have adopted the Jewish holy Scriptures, the Jewish understanding of God and his ways, and have been accepted and saved by the Jewish Messiah. It is Gentiles who have left paganism with false ideas of God (or gods) into the truth about the One Living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who made heaven and earth, as revealed in the Jewish Scriptures.
The book of Romans likens this Gentile “conversion” to the agricultural grafting process:
“And you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree… remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.” (11:17-18)
It makes no sense to talk of a Jewish person being converted. It has been their faith all along, if you believe that Yeshua is the Messiah spoken of in the Hebrew Scriptures.
The faith is rooted in Judaism. When a Jewish person accepts Yeshua they have a fuller understanding of their own faith, not somebody else’s. And that is what we in ONE FOR ISRAEL are seeking to see.
At the beginning, the early believers were entirely Jewish. The disciples were all Jewish, the leaders were Jewish, the teaching was Jewish, and they were focusing only on Jews as their audience (Acts 11:19). The disciples were first known as “Christians” in Antioch (Acts 11:26) when Gentiles had also been brought into the kingdom. Were these “Christians” only Gentile? No. Did they believe something different theologically? No. Their sense of duty towards the law might have been different, but the New Testament is full of the message of freedom and a new way of relating to God. It is the new wineskin, and the old wineskin would burst if you put the new wine into it.
Although we know that every word of the Law still stands and has been fulfilled in Yeshua, it is a struggle today, as it was back in Acts, to understand to what extent Jews and Gentiles who believe in Yeshua should be obliged to the mitzvot of the Torah. There are a variety different perspectives on this, but suffice to say that the New Testament emphasises freedom of conscience (see Galatians, 1 Corinthians, Acts) over forcing your own convictions on others. In Galatians 3 Paul talks about the law as a guardian, keeping custody over the Jewish people until the Messiah came:
“Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Messiah came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
He then goes on to say this famous assertion of inclusivity:
“So in Yeshua the Messiah you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Messiah have clothed yourselves with Messiah. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Yeshua the Messiah. If you belong to the Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Now, I am a woman, and just because I belong to Yeshua does not mean that I am no longer a woman. I still very much a woman! But my standing before Father God is no less than that of a man.
Our gender identity remains, and so does our ethnic identity. Jews and Gentiles remain as they were born (despite the foolishness of Gentiles trying to be Jewish and Jewish believers being wrongly told that they are now Gentiles) but our right to stand in the presence of our Father is equal because of Yeshua.
We can rejoice in the identity God gave us, knowing that we have been made ONE BODY together in Messiah. Men and women do not lose their gender because they have been made one flesh in marriage – rather it is their difference that makes their union so glorious, and Jews and Gentiles do not lose their ethnic identity because they have been made one body in Messiah. It is a glory and a marvel that God has brought us together as one.
Again, in Ephesians 2:14-18 shows us God’s plan, desire and intention that we would be ONE:
“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”
What God has joined together, let not man separate! Years of persecution at the hands of the church has made it difficult for Jewish believers to call themselves “Christian” but God does not see two different streams in his body. He sees one body. We might have different culture and terminology but the essence of our beliefs and the basis of our salvation is exactly the same. Gentiles have been grafted in and are in the same tree. Not a different one.
It is God’s desire to reach out to all nations with salvation and his way of accomplishing that was through the people of Israel carrying the Scriptures, the experiences and the precious Seed of God. It is through the Jews that salvation has come, but this salvation brings us all into the one root, as he purposed from the beginning of time.