The Relevance of Jewish Identity for Ecclesiology -- By: Seth Postell

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 21:3 (Summer 2004)
Article: The Relevance of Jewish Identity for Ecclesiology
Author: Seth Postell


The Relevance of Jewish Identity for Ecclesiology

Seth Postell

Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies Student
Southeastern College at Wake Forest
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587

Introduction

Does Jewish identity cease to exist when a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob professes faith in the promised Messiah of Israel and joins himself to the Body of Christ? Do the Scriptures affirm the continued existence and preservation of a distinctly Jewish remnant within the church? What purpose or function would a physical remnant of Jewish believers serve in the church? What would biblical Messianic Jewish distinctives look like? The purpose of this paper is to explore these questions holding the Bible as the final authority to faith and practice. It is the premise of this paper that Jewish identity does hold an important place within the doctrine of ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church.

For the majority of Christians today, these questions are not even on radar. By nature, these questions seem irrelevant to many believers at the least, dangerous and divisive at the worst. In their estimation it is impossible to maintain a Jewish identity within the church without being divisive, erecting once again the middle wall of partition that Christ came to destroy (Eph. 2:14–16).

For the Jewish person who comes to a personal faith in Jesus Christ, however, these questions remain a major concern. During the past two millennia both the church and the Jewish community have agreed on at least one principle of faith: “You cannot both be Jewish and believe in Jesus!” With one mouth this has been the common confession of Jew and Christian alike. What does a Jewish person do with his Jewish identity, an identity which has survived at least five major empires, the Inquisition, the Crusades, expulsions, pogroms, and the Holocaust, when he comes to faith in Jesus Christ? Though this question may seem a bother for many Christians, if more pastors and laymen would allow themselves to understand this inner battle for biblical identity that rages in the heart of a “physical son of Abraham,” it would give much comfort and blessing to the Jewish Christian who finds himself more often than not lost and confused on a vine that he is no longer able to recognize (cf. Rom. 11:24).

Israel and Historical Theology

The fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts records the first major dissension in the church regarding Gentile participation in the Body of Christ:

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ...

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