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Who Is A Jew?

By Lionel Leslie, February 22, 1997 Printer Friendly Version

Now all things are of GOD, Who has reconciled us to Himself through YESHUA Ha’Maschiach, [JESUS, the Messiah], and has given us the ministry of reconciliation: that is, that GOD was in Messiah reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them and has committed to us, the word of reconciliation.  Therefore we are ambassadors for Messiah, as GOD were pleading through us. 
This text in 2nd Corinthians chapter 5 verses 18 to 20 leads me to two particularly pointed questions:  What is a Christian? Who is a Jew?  Stereotype definitions are many, but it is amazing how few people there are who can correctly tell you what is a Christian, and who is a Jew. It is usually considered that a Jew is one born of a Jewish mother, who has not converted to another religion; and that a Christian is a Gentile, a Catholic, a Protestant, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.  These are stereotype definitions and are the leading causes for much confusion among us.  Both the terms, Jew and Christian, carry with them a theological and hence, a Biblical expression.  In order to properly define them, one must assume by faith, the existence of GOD.  Therefore, we should know that the term ‘Jew’ is derived from the name ‘Judah’, meaning in Hebrew ‘the praise of GOD’.  In general usage the term ‘Jew’ came to represent the people of Israel, descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The term ‘Christian’ is derived from the word ‘Christos’ a Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word ‘Messiah’.  It simply means ‘Messiah like’ or follower of Messiah.

What does Scripture say?  No correct understanding of these terms is possible without giving proper consideration to their theological and Biblical usage.  In Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 10, verse 32, we find that GOD classifies humanity into three major groups of people: 1) the Jew; 2) the Gentile; 3) the Christian, or Church of GOD.  In the Scriptures, not only do the words ‘Jew’ and ‘Christian’ have theological meanings, but likewise ‘Gentiles’, ‘goyim’ in Hebrew.  This is a term which is applied to all people who are not Jews.  We thus have an interesting relationship within these three groups into which humanity is divided.

Membership in two of them, mainly Jew and Gentile, is involuntary, while membership in the third, Christianity, is entirely voluntary.  Biblically, both Jew and Gentile are ethnic terms.  Christian is not.  One who is born a Jew will die a Jew.  One who is born a Gentile will die a Gentile.  Regardless of his ethnic background, a Jew may become a Christian, or a Gentile may become a Christian.  Neither will lose his ethnicity; rather, each adds a spiritual dimension of faith GOD intended for him to have.  Thus a Jew by faith, may become a Christian, but still remain Jewish.  Likewise, a Gentile by faith, may become a Christian, yet still remain a Gentile.

And how do we know who is what?  To love one another in YESHUA, JESUS, is surely the identifying quality of all true Christians, and we know that a personal relationship with GOD is only possible through the faith in the LORD JESUS, the Messiah of Israel, and all the nations.  This relationship by faith further changes the life of both Jews and Gentiles, giving them a new love for one another.  It gives to them a revived motivation and direction to living.  Therefore, a true Christian, whether Jewish or non-Jewish, can be identified by his love for GOD, and his love for one another.  But regrettably, much misunderstanding has occurred.  It has mistakenly been thought that Christian and Gentile are synonymous, because so many Gentiles have assumed the title of ‘Christians’.  This is not so.  For many Gentiles who call themselves Christians are not Christians at all.  Mere membership of any denominations or institutions cannot necessarily qualify them.  Therefore, says the LORD in Matthew 7, verse 20: By their fruits, you will know them. 

Historically, because of this misunderstanding in the use of the term ‘Christian’, the Crusades, Inquisition, pogroms, concentration camps, and all anti-Semitism have often been labelled, the actions of Christians.  We know as Believers, this accusation is not correct.  But can we expect the unbelieving Jewish people to understand this fact?  Only the GOD of Israel can change the actions and attitudes of a life.

Our text from 2nd Corinthians 5 exhorts us to a ministry of reconciliation. Fellow Believers, I don’t think we can ignore GOD’s call without trepidation, lest we grieve the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, we are His ambassadors in this sinful world, and our example counts for much.  Therefore, I would encourage you Christians, to learn more about your friend, the Jew, so that GOD’s will for them and for you may be quickly fulfilled according to His Word.  For they are the apple of His eye. We, as a Messianic Congregation of Jewish and non-Jewish people, find that by gathering together in fellowship and studies, enhances our appreciation of one another, and creates a close bond, like a three-stranded cord, the LORD Himself tying the knot.  And we know that His arms are outstretched; one hand for the Jew, and the other for the Gentile.  Together we are united as one body, which was His plan of redemption from the very beginning, for all mankind.  Shalom.

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