“…Rav Yeshua’s gentile disciples don’t actually participate in any covenant whatsoever,” Comment from “Proclaim Liberty” quoted by Messianic Gentile blogger James Pyles in the opening of his post entitled “The Non-Covenant Relationship with God”, from: http://mymorningmeditations.com/2016/03/10/the-non-covenant-relationship-with-god/#comments
“We [gentiles have] no formal relationship with [the God of Israel]….[W]e Gentiles are merely ‘resident aliens’ among Israel… We have no rights. We are granted guest status just because God’s a ‘nice guy,’ so to speak… That should make you feel a little insecure. I feel a little insecure,” James Pyles, from: http://mymorningmeditations.com/2016/03/10/the-non-covenant-relationship-with-god/#comments
Given that Mr. Pyles’ blog is promoted by the UMJC (MessianicGentiles.com), from time to time I feel the need to respond to certain posts. So I’d like to briefly address 2 issues raised by Pyles: (1) are Gentiles merely guests or are they actual members of the family? (2) do Gentile Believers have no rights or do they become citizens in Israel (i.e. the family of G-d)?
ISSUE 1: MERE GUESTS OR ADOPTED MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY?
In ancient Hebraic culture, an adoption was a big deal. It involved a covenant–a solemn agreement made before G-d whereby one person agrees to treat another person like family. And you simply couldn’t violate a covenant. To break a covenant would be invoking the curse of death upon oneself.
Throughout Paul’s writings, he talks about Believers being “adopted as sons”. Here’s a few examples:
“4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. 8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods,” Galatians 4:4-8
“4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Yeshua the Messiah, in accordance with his pleasure and will,” Ephesians 1:4-5
“14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’,” Romans 8:14-15
Does that sound like mere guest status to anyone?
ISSUE 2: DO GENTILE BELIEVERS HAVE NO RIGHTS OR ARE THEY TO BE CONSIDERED AS CITIZENS IN ISRAEL?
In Ephesians 2, Paul uses the rhetorical technique of antithesis in order to contrast former pagan status with current covenantal status. The negatives of the former status were as follows:
- Separation from Messiah
- Exclusion from citizenship in Israel (politeias tou Israel)
- Unaffiliation with the covenants (xenoi ton diathekon)
- The state of being hopeless
- The state of being without G-d
- The state of being far off
- The status of being “foreigners and strangers” (xenoi kai paroikoi)
Now, a quick word about the above Greek terms.
Regarding “politeia”, some have argued that this term should be translated as “commonwealth”. However, (1) there is no classical reference in which the term politeia refers to a commonwealth; (2) in classical references, politeia refers to citizenship and its cognate concepts; (3) Paul himself uses the term to refer to citizenship: “The commander answered, ‘I acquired this citizenship [politeia] with a large sum of money.’ And Paul said, ‘But I was actually born a citizen,'” Acts 22:28.
Regarding xenoi (foreigner/guest), this is a word used in the Septuagint to translate nokri, a term for foreigner–literally someone who was unrecognizable. Hence, we see a clever play on words in the Book of Ruth:
“Then she fell on her face, and bowed down to the ground, and said unto him: ‘Why have I found favour in thy sight, that thou shouldest take cognizance of me, seeing I am a foreigner (literally not recognizable)?[veanokhi nakhriya]'” Ruth 2:10
Regarding paroikoi, this is a term that probably originates with the perioikoi of ancient Sparta, the conquered Peloponnessians who had no political rights, a term derived from oikiein “to dwell” and “para” which means “beside”–i.e. the paroikoi do not dwell in the “house” of the national family.
In the Torah, paroikoi would be those gerim (sojourners) who were not members of the covenant. The lack of covenant status for these paroikoi is indicated as follows. The Torah says that it’s a sin for a ger to eat nevelah (Lev. 17:15-16); Yet the Torah says a ger may indeed eat nevelah (Deut. 14:21). This apparent contradiction was resolved by Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Torah written by the Sanhedrin). The Septuagint translators, understanding that the Torah cannot contradict itself, reasoned that it must follow that there are 2 different types of gerim. And to that end, in passages where the context indicated that the ger was not a member of the covenant, the translators used the term “paroikos” (literally “one who is outside of the house”) to translate the term “ger”.
To sum up, the terms paroikoi and xenoi convey a negative former status in which one was outside of the covenant, outside of the house/family–literally they were unfamiliar to G-d.
And so we’ve looked at the negatives of the former status. Now let’s look at the positives of the new status:
- Nearness to G-d via the blood of Yeshua as opposed to being far off from G
- Fellow citizens (sympolitai) as opposed to being excluded from citizenship in Israel
- Members of the household (oikeioi tou Theou) as opposed to being outside of the house (paroikos)
- Affiliated with the covenants of promise as opposed to unaffiliation with the covenants (xenoi ton diathekon)
- Hopeful as opposed to hopeless
- Being recognizable as family as opposed to being unrecognizable foreigners
When we consider the covenantal language that Paul uses, the “adoption as sons”, the nearness via the blood of Yeshua, a reference to “the new covenant in my blood” (1 Cor. 11:25), the fellow citizenship in Israel, the explicit statement that Gentile Believers are now included in the covenants of promise, it’s astounding that James Pyles, the UMJC’s apostle to the Gentiles, can say something as blatantly anti-Scriptural as “We [gentiles have] no formal relationship with [the God of Israel]….[W]e Gentiles are merely ‘resident aliens’ among Israel… We have no rights. We are granted guest status just because God’s a ‘nice guy,’ so to speak… That should make you feel a little insecure.”
May the UMJC one day come to its senses and stop sending people like James Pyles to discourage us, literally telling us to feel insecure, that we are excluded from the People of G-d.
Blessings and Shalom to the True Brothers and Sisters in Yeshua,
Source: Orthodox Messianic Judaism (http://goo.gl/tTgTQM)