In my personal quest to share thoughts on clear definition I discovered some uncommon views defining identifying who Jews and Gentiles are. I won’t go into defining it again, I have done so with my previous blogs here and part 2 here.
One of such is British Israelism, also known as Anglo-Israelism. It says that Ephesians 2:11-22 is talking about the reuniting of the twelve tribes of Israel. Their major thesis is that American believers, are part of the northern kingdom of Israel. British Israelism teaches that the “lost ten tribes” of Israel travelled to Europe and then to England. They believe that they became the primary ancestors of the British people and, also, the United States. The doctrine often includes the tenet that the British Royal Family is directly descended from the line of King David.
British Israelism was made popular by the Worldwide Church of God and Herbert Armstrong, but other groups have held the doctrine as well. The primary goal behind British Israelism is to claim that England and the United States have inherited the covenant promises God made to Israel.
The error here is connecting bloodline to the covenant instead of faith.
Notice what Paul says in:
Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands. Ephesians 2:11 NASB
Paul is making a comparison here between Jews-the circumcised, and Gentiles-uncircumcised. A growing teaching maintains that “Gentiles” refers only to the northern kingdom of Israel.
This excludes us from the blessing spoken of in this passage unless you hold to British Israelism, then you are the northern kingdom of Israel and these blessing are yours.
Another view a from website about the Hebrew heritage says
“Yahshuah said he was not sent to Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists etc. He was sent to the true Hebrews a.k.a. African Americans.” Notice that they don’t say he was sent to Africans, but African Americans. If Jesus was sent to African Americans, He came at the wrong time and to the wrong place.
“Israylite Heritage” goes on to say, “The same love you have for Yah and Yahshuah is the same love you must have for True Israel, so-called African Americans. You as a Gentile can be grafted into the family of Yah, and become part of the commonwealth of Israel. You must follow the laws Yah gave to Israel through the mouth of his servant Moses.”
This view emphasizes that we become part of Israel through Law keeping. Which I find very strange. In Ephesians 2 the Apostle Paul, who was a true Hebrew, says:
But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13 NASB
We are brought near, not by the keeping the Mosaic law, but by the blood of Christ.
The “Israylite Heritage” website also says, “There are Gentiles who KNOW AND PREACH THE NAMES OF YAH AND YAHSHUAH, THEY KNOW ABOUT THE FEAST DAYS AND KEEPING THE LAWS. BUT THEY DON’T KNOW AND EXCEPT THAT WE SO CALLED BLACKS ARE THE BIBLICAL ISRAELITES.” According to what was previously said, it is not just blacks that are Israel, but American blacks.
So we have British Israelism saying that white Europeans are the true Israel, and we have “Israylite Heritage” website saying that Blacks are the true Israel. Interesting how these teachings go to focus on men instead of the reality that is found in Christ.
Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— Ephesians 2:11 NASB
Paul describes the former condition from two very different perspectives. The first is from the point of view of the self-righteous Jew in verse 11.
The second is from the perspective of God Himself, and of His word verse 12.
“Therefore”—with this emphatic “therefore,” Paul connects what he has written to what he is about to say. Paul is saying, “In light of the fact that you have been brought from death to live by God’s grace, remember the place from which God brought you.”
“Remember”—this is not a suggestion as Paul is telling his Gentile readers to “remember” where they came from.
“That formerly you Gentiles”—the word “formerly” is the enclitic particle indicating time. It is indicating the same thing as we see in verse 12, “were at that time,” which are contrasted to the “now’ of verse 13. Paul is talking about their pre-conversion state.
“Gentiles”—the first 10 verses of chapter 2 speak to both Jews and Non-jews alike, but here Paul focuses on the Gentiles. Paul is writing these things to the Non-jews as a group. For 2,000 years, from Abraham to Christ, God chose to work almost exclusively with the Jews. If you were a Gentile, the only way that you could know the LORD, the one true God, was to be circumcised and follow the Jewish rituals and sacrificial system. Even then, the Jews considered you a second class citizen.
“Gentiles in the flesh”—the context here demands that “in the flesh” refers to circumcision, which was a sign in the flesh. These Non-jews were referred to by the Jews as the uncircumcision:
“Who are called ‘Uncircumcision'”— The word “uncircumcision” is from the Greek akrobustia, which means: “foreskin.” With contempt the Jews considered “the Gentiles in the flesh” as those with foreskins. This implied that they did not belong to the covenant people of God; they didn’t have the surgical sign that marked Israel as God’s covenant people. And in the lips of the Jews it was expressive of a self-righteous loathing of the Gentiles as unclean and profane.
You remember what David called Goliath?:
Then David spoke…For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” 1 Samuel 17:26 NASB
David is calling him an unclean pagan! One without covenant backing.
The Jews viewed Non-jews as unclean “dogs.” Jewish men prayed every morning, “Lord, thank You that You didn’t make me a Gentile or a woman.” The Jew said that the Non-jews were created by God to be fuel for the fires of Gehenna. The barrier between Jew and Non-jews was absolute. If a Jewish boy or girl married a Non-jews, they held a funeral because touching a Gentile in anyway physically like that is tantamount to death. It was not even lawful to render help to a Non-jews woman in childbirth, for that would be to bring another Non-jews into the world. The common motto for the Jew toward the Non-jews was this: “The best of the serpents—crush them, and the best of the Non-jews —kill them!”
Notice what Peter said to the Gentile Cornelius:
And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. Acts 10:28 NASB
Then when Peter got back to Jerusalem his fellow Jews give him a hard time about meeting with Cornelius:
And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” Acts 11:2-3 NASB
In times past not only did the Jews hate the Gentiles, the Greeks hated the Jews. The Greeks saw themselves to be the peak of all humanity. They saw their culture and language as superior to all others. They called others, “Barbarians,” a term that made fun of the way that foreign languages sounded to the Greeks. As far they were concerned, they couldn’t even speak Greek, the language of the gods! Cicero once wrote, “As the Greeks say all men are divided into two classes, Greeks and Barbarians.”
Plato said that the Barbarians were their enemies by nature. It was said that the Greeks waged a truce-less war against people of other races—against the Barbarians.
The long history of animosity between the Jews and the Gentiles is well documented. In the Book of Acts (see Acts 10 and 11), we see the Jewish “believers” resistant to the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles. And even when God’s purpose of saving the Non-jews was accepted, some insisted that the Gentile converts must become Jewish proselytes in order to be saved:
Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Acts 15:1 NASB
The early Church was in danger of being split into separate Jewish and Gentile Churches. They easily could have maintained the split by saying, “We have different customs and preferences as Jews and Gentiles.” Paul fought so hard for them to be unity, to see themselves one in Christ.
To the Jews, circumcision was a sacred ceremony that marked out a man as a true son of the covenant. They believed that circumcision of all the rites and all the rituals was the most important. For them circumcision was what made a man acceptable to God.
In the Midrash it is said, “God swore to Abraham that no one who was circumcised should be sent to Gehenna.”
In the Jewish mind, circumcision was salvation. So the objection to Non-jews being saved by faith alone hit the streets early in the days of the First Missionary by the disciples.
The Judaizers said, “Believing the Gospel of Christ is not enough, you need to be circumcised or you will not make it to heaven.” The Jews couldn’t even conceive of an uncircumcised person being acceptable to God.
Notice what Paul says about them:
But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves. Galatians 5:11-12 NASB
This is one of the strongest statements Paul ever made. The word Paul uses for “mutilate” is apokopto, it means: “to amputate or castrate.” Paul presses the matter: “if cutting off a little flesh is good, cutting off much flesh is even better. Why not be so pious as to castrate oneself?”
So the matter of circumcision played a very, very important role in the preaching of the Gospel to the Jews and to the Gentiles in New Testament times.
Now notice that Paul calls them the “So Called” Circumcision—Paul was pointing to the fact that though the nation of Israel had the outward sign of physical circumcision, they did not have the circumcision of the heart that God called for them to have.
This is a constant theme in the Scriptures, but Paul points out that for the most part, those “called the circumcision,” while being circumcised in the flesh, were obviously not circumcised in the heart.
Paul addressed this in Romans 2:
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. Romans 2:28 NASB
Here Paul makes a distinction between the outward/physical and the inward/spiritual.
Once the New Covenant arrived, the only true Jews were those who trusted in the Christ:
But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. Romans 2:29 NASB
In this context, Paul uses “Jew” as the people of God, those chosen by Him, those shown God’s favor, and those in covenant with God. What Paul says here in Romans, he says throughout the New Testament.
It is very clear from these blogs that the scriptures do not favour an Israel-Only doctrine. With proper and objective reflection on the scripting of the scriptures, it is clear that God had a plan through Abraham to bring all the families of the earth into His divine will through Jesus Christ. He is the true Israel of God.