Unity in Messiah
By Sam Nadler
It’s not always easy to accept and serve with others. Building the Body of Messiah is a bit like recruiting players for a ball club. Though each of us is saved individually by personal faith in Yeshua, God’s desire is that we live out our salvation as part of His ‘team’.
In Romans, Paul teaches that Jewish and Gentile believers are:
. not to judge, but accept one another (14:1-12);
. not to stumble one another (14:13-23);
. to bear one another’s weaknesses (15:1-6).
Paul teaches that because of our new life in Messiah, Yeshua is our example of how to accept one another. Romans 15:4-7 states, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Messiah Yeshua; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Therefore, accept one another, just as Messiah also accepted you to the glory of God.”
When we see the word “therefore” we need to see what it’s there for. Paul had just taught them to accept God’s Word, His will and His work in Messiah, in order for them to accept one another. God’s Word expresses His will and His work in Messiah, in order for them to accept one another. God’s Word expresses His will that just as He has accepted us in heaven, we are to accept one another here on Earth. In verse 7, the word “accept” is a command. We are commanded to accept, or welcome one another. Why? Because a fragmented congregation can’t help a fragmented world. God is glorified in our unity when we accept each other as Messiah has accepted us: by grace. In Romans 15:8-13 we see a picture of this grace for Jew and Gentile alike.
God’s Work for the Jewish People
“For I say that Messiah has become a servant to the circumcision (the Jewish people) on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers” (Romans 15:8).
Note that Paul says Messiah has become a servant to the circumcision. The concept of circumcision from Genesis 17:5-12 speaks of the Abrahamic Covenant. Messiah becoming a servant to Israel establishes the promise of the redemption of the world through Abraham’s seed in Genesis 12:2,3, “And I will make you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
The Servant to Israel
God made redemptive covenants exclusively with the Jewish people. Therefore, Messiah came as a Jew to fulfill the prophesies and confirm the promises to Israel. Yeshua said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Messiah came as Israel’s servant. Why? Paul explains that it was on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers in order to fulfill and confirm Israel’s calling. The call couldn’t be fulfilled apart from Messiah. When Paul writes that it was on behalf of the truth of God, he means that Messiah’s work was to vindicate the character of God. This ministry to His own people was in the interest of “God’s truth” in the sense of God’s fidelity to His Word, specifically His promises made to the patriarchs (Romans 9:4, 5, 11:28, 29), demonstrating that God has not forsaken His people (Romans 11:1). God can be trusted. “For I say that Messiah has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers” (Romans 15:8).
In the Greek the phrase “has become” is in perfect tense. This means Messiah’s service has a past action with a continuing and present activity. He became and continues to be a servant of the circumcision. This is Messiah’s ongoing service to Israel. For believers today, our service and ministry to the Jewish people demonstrate God’s eternal faithfulness to Israel. Paul specifically writes that Yeshua’s ministry was not to conclude or cancel the promises, but to confirm the promises to the fathers. The point is, Israel is not less secure, but even more secure through Messiah’s service to them (see Jeremiah 31:35-37)! Remember, the Abrahamic Covenant promised that Abraham’s seed -Messiah- would bless the world. This is what Paul means in Galatians 3:14, “Messiah redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Messiah Yeshua.” What Yeshua did, we now proclaim to all nations.
God’s Mercy to the Gentile People
“And for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy as it is written, “therefore I will give praise to you among the gentiles, and I will sing to your name” Again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles with His people.” And again, “praise the Lord all you Gentiles, and let the peoples praise Him.” Again Isaiah says, “There shall come the root of Jesse, and He who arises to rule over the Gentiles, in Him shall the Gentiles hope” (Romans 15:9-12).
These promises are direct quotes from the Old Testament of the Tanakh: The Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings.
Romans 15:9 is taken from the Prophets – 2 Samuel 22:50. Romans 15:10 is taken from the Torah – Deut. 32:43.
Romans 15:11 is taken from the Writings – Psalm 117:1.
Romans 15:12 is taken from the Prophets – Isaiah 11:10.
Paul is stating that all of the Hebrew Scriptures testify to the idea of Gentiles ministering alongside the Jewish people.
As an apostle to the Gentiles, Paul’s ministry represented Israel’s calling in the Abrahamic Covenant to bless the nations. God’s plan is for Israel to preach His mercy to the Gentiles, that we all may worship the Lord together! In confirming the promises to Israel, Messiah made salvation available for Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy. It is God’s confirmed promises that continue to validate ministry to the Gentiles. If God’s calling to Israel were to cease, then His mercy to the Gentiles will cease. God’s ministry to Israel was and is God’s way of reaching the world: “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). Thus if the promises to Israel are canceled, ministry to the world is canceled. We have unique unity when Jewish believers accept the confirmed promises to reach out to the Gentiles and when Gentile believers accept the confirmed promises to Israel, and minister mercy back to them!
God’s Hope for all People
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13). As followers of Messiah, our work is to be modeled according to His work. All authentic spiritual work is “incarnational;” that is, Messiah living His life through us by His Spirit. As the Father sent Yeshua into the world, Yeshua sends us into the world (John 20:21).
As Gentile believers follow Messiah’s example and minister to Jewish people, they are confirming the promises to the fathers. How? God uses saved Gentiles to serve Israel and make them jealous through the mercy they have received (Romans 11:11, 31). Just like Paul, we can become all things to all men; to the Jews I became as a Jew that I may win Jews! (1 Cor. 9:20). Our unity is centered in the truth of Messiah, that He is the God of hope, the hope for Jew and Gentile alike. May you be filled with joy and peace in believing. Shalom.