This article follows on the previous article posted on the blog, “Zionism & Anti-Zionism“. My intention with this follow up article is to once again emphasise how God’s holy, redeemed nation of Israel has been expanded beyond the exclusivity of the Jewish people to people called out from all nations. It has been expanded beyond the former narrow geographical borders of the Promised Land. Israel has been reconstituted through the making of the New Covenant ratified by Jesus the Messiah-King.
In the time of Moses, the assembly [read “church”) of Israel became divided between those who trusted Moses and those who rebelled against Moses. Israel is again divided between those who trust in and are faithful to Jesus the King and those who believe they are still very much a vibrant part of Israel in spite of their rejection of Jesus the Messiah. We cannot stand in solidarity with
Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram , sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” (Number 16:1-3).
The new Israel of God is composed of a completely new, non-racial, spiritual humanity who are called into the obedience that comes from faith. Genuine faith is expressed in love through submission to God and Jesus, the King of kings. Apart from faith in Jesus, the rest of humanity in the flesh, whether Jew or Gentile, remains under God’s condemnation on account of their own sin and unbelief.
Whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed (John 3:18-20).
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:5-12).
It is generally believed that the Scythian people were a particular enthnic group who made up a part of the ancient Iranian people which also included the Alkans, Bactrians. Dahae, Khwarezmians, Medes, Pathians, Persian, Massagetae and other ethnic people of Western Asia, Central Asia, Easter Europe and the Eastern Steppe. The Scythian people were markedly different in culture, heritage and appearance to the Hebrew people whose culture was largely influenced by the Law of Moses through which they were kept as a separate nation.
In other words, the Scythian people would have been regarded quite starkly as pagan, Gentile sinners excluded from God’s covenant with Israel. Their being made one people with God’s holy, redeemed nation, through being called out of darkness into the light of Jesus the Messiah emphasises the powerful, life-changing transformation by the Holy Spirit into a completely new humanity.
Under the Old Covenant, through which the Hebrew people kept themselves distinctly set apart from the gentiles, It would have been virtually unheard of that a Scythian could convert and become a fellow Israelite, counted as if he had been born and raised in Zion.
The transformation of multinational, multi-cultured humanity into one new humanity in Jesus Christ is God’s perfect way of eliminating all previous racial barriers and hostilities between different people groups.
It is indeed the good news of the expansion of the kingdom of God to the extent that former barriers are broken down and have become irrelevant as far as God’s purpose for the redemption of humanity. For any people, the Jews included, to cling to ethnicity which divides, or to intentionally set up barriers on racial grounds, is to oppose the kingdom of God and the spirit of unity in the Messiah. The transformation of Gentiles through faith in Jesus is as if they were born in Zion and sharers in God’s promises to Abraham.
He has founded his city on the holy mountain. The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are said of you, city of God: “I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me— Philistia too, and Tyre , along with Cush— and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’” Indeed, of Zion it will be said, “This one and that one were born in her,and the Most High himself will establish her.” The Lord will write in the register of the peoples: “This one was born in Zion.” As they make music they will sing, “All my fountains are in you” (Psalm 87:1-7).
All humanity in the flesh, including Old Covenant Israel, which has not died in Christ and been created as a completely new humanity by the power of the Holy Spirit, now stands condemned by the Law on account of their sin.
The only way of being set free from sin is through faith in Jesus the Messiah, which includes the death of the earthly nature and the transformation by the Holy Spirit.
Peter, having himself been transformed into a new humanity through faith in Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit, slipped back into the former Jewish identity with its barriers in the flesh that once existed between Jew and Gentile. For shrinking back from the New Covenant faith and unity in the Spirit, Peter was harshly rebuked by the apostle Paul for once again standing condemned in the flesh. Old Covenant Judaism was restricted to rules and regulations applying to the flesh but was void of the power of the Holy Spirit.
Having started to live by faith in step with the Holy Spirit, it is indeed a case of falling away from the faith to revert to the former way of life in the flesh which always stands condemned.
Evidently, many professing Christians perhaps did not even begin their walk of genuine faith in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit because the gospel had not been adequately explained to them from the start. An inadequate “Christianity” may be similar to Judaism as a religion of rules and regulations which are not as extensive and binding as the Law of Moses, yet void of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
Judaism and parts of professing Christianity may indeed have an outward appearance and form of godliness but denying genuine power of the Holy Spirit power.
We are told to have nothing to do with such people whose hearts are not changed (see 2 Timothy 3:5).
The believers at Galatia, who had begun the walk of faith through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, had reverted to religion like that of Judaism governed by rules and regulations but void of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Paul rebuked them and questioned their faithfulness.
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? (Galatians 3:1-4).
Those who revert to a life in the flesh, neglecting the new life in the power of the Holy Spirit, once again fall into condemnation. No flesh will ever be justified. Religion which tries to impose discipline and righteousness in the realm of the flesh is always directly opposed to Christianity even if they seemingly espouse similar values. Genuine Christianity is a completely new life in the spirit through which the old former life in the realm of the flesh is crucified in Christ. Religion may indeed establish a separateness from other sinners, while yet still resisting or even denying the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and the new humanity in Messiah.
When Cephas came to Antioch, I [Paul] opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?
“We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
“But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
The apostle Peter once said to the Roman centurion, Cornelius, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean” (Acts 10:28).
Under the Old Covenant and according to the strict requirements and interpretation of the Law, there was a form of apartheid through which Jews kept themselves completely separate from Gentile sinners. However, through religious tradition and peer pressure, Peter and Barnabas once again began to separate themselves from Gentile Christians – even though there was no longer any distinction to be made between Jew and Gentile.
To this day, there are still Jewish Christians who feel the need to still identify themselves essentially as Jews (in the flesh) and make some distinction between themselves and Gentile Christians, (even referring to themselves as “Messianic Jews”. By their confused mingling of the New and Old Covenants, they make an unwarranted, and divisive distinction between so-called “Messianic Judaism” and
New Covenant Christianity through which there is now only one holy nation with no distinction remaining between Jew or Gentile.
Why did Paul rebuke Peter so harshly even saying that he stood condemned?
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile —the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:12-13).
Quite ironically, Jews who still strictly identify themselves as “Jews”, are in actual fact testifying that they have not been reconciled to God, (through faith in the Messiah-King) and that they remain slaves to self-righteousness and pride in the flesh to some extent. The flesh must be counted as fully crucified in Christ and not preserved in any manner for any reason.
No matter what guise and motivation there may be for separating the identity of Jews distinct from Gentiles, whether as believers or as non-believers, it is a manifestation of some degree of pride in the flesh and a failure to appreciate the full extent of what Jesus accomplished through his death on the cross through which he destroyed all former racial barriers. In separation in the flesh is opposed to the work of the cross which is to put a complete end to the former life controlled by the flesh.
Jewish identity was once only ever valid in the realm of the flesh under the Old Covenant. However, now, under the New Covenant which has made the Old obsolete, identity in the realm of the flesh counts for absolutely nothing other than a testimony of remaining in slavery to sin.