The Importance of Being Jewish

“Jewish? What do you mean Jewish? I’m a Christian!”

This is not how the early church thought. The first Christians were Jewish. They had been waiting for the Messiah for hundreds of years, and so why would any of them stop being Jewish just when he arrives? Of course, not everyone accepted that Jesus was the Messiah, and this split the Jewish community into those who believed and those who did not. It was the former group who eventually became known as Christians, while the latter group developed into the Rabbinic Judaism that we know as ‘Jewish’ today.

However, as the church became increasingly gentile in the first few centuries, we seem to have forgotten our Jewish roots. Even to the point of seeing Judaism as our enemy. As a result we have lost our moorings and allowed ourselves to become shaped by the surrounding culture. Consider some of the things the early church wrote:

I have great sorrow and anguish for my fellow countrymen, who are Israelites. To them belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from them came the Messiah. But not all those who are descended from Israel are truly Israel. Has the potter no right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special use and another for ordinary use? As he says in Hosea: “I will call those who were not my people, ʻMy people,ʼ and those who were unloved, ʻMy beloved.ʼ” (Romans 9:2-5, 21-25)

Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among them and participated in the richness of the olive root, do not boast. Remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. (Romans 11:17-18)

I am the true vine. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown out, dries up and thrown into the fire. (John 15:1-6)

Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, so those who believe are the sons of Abraham. Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who believe are blessed along with Abraham the believer. Messiah redeemed us in order that in Messiah Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles. (Gal 3:6-14)

Therefore remember that formerly you were without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Messiah. So then you are no longer foreigners and non-citizens, but you are fellow citizens and members of Godʼs household. (Eph 2:11-13, 19)

Now this secret was not disclosed to people in former times as it has now been revealed, that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Messiah Jesus. (Eph 3:5-6)

I have taken only a few extracts, this is not an incidental part of our gospel. We are part of a renewed Israel, reformed in and around the Messiah. For sure, we would confuse people if we call ourselves Jewish today as the meaning has changed, but it is important as to how we see ourselves. These are the moorings we need to become the people we are called to be.