Redefining One New Man (Lane)
Redefining One New Man
by Lonnie Lane
Periodically I receive emails with a question or a statement about “one new man” (ONM) asking for comments. Sid once told me, for every person that writes, there are 100 with the same thoughts who didn’t write. So for those of you who wanted to know but were afraid to ask, or even if you’re just curious about ONM, perhaps this will provide some insight you may not have been aware of.
To begin with, “one new man” in Hebrew basically translates as am echad hadash a “new united people” or “a single new humanity.” Paul used the term in Ephesians 2:12-16 (specifically :15) talking about a “middle wall of partition” being broken down in order to make Jewish and Gentile believers in Yeshua a new, as in a never-to-have-been-before (Spirit-indwelt) humanity, one that lives in peace with God and with one another. This “oneness” or unity is in complete contrast to the separation and alienation that generally characterize the world’s societies as a result of the Fall. To understand what Paul envisioned by the “middle wall,” such a wall, called a m’chitzah, is a divider or partition that separates the men from the women in an Orthodox synagogue even today. There existed the same kind of partition in the Temple, which separated the area where only Jews could enter from the Court of the Gentiles. The Gentiles were not allowed for fear of death to enter into the area that was for Jews only. It was basically a stone partition about five feet high. Yeshua made access to God available to everyone who seeks to obey Him, not just Israel. Since we all now have the same access to God through Yeshua, regardless of our background, we come together as “one new people-group.”
Now we can move on to some of these questions and statements that have recently been presented to me.
Q. Scripture portrays a first-century form of Judaizers. Weren’t those Jews who thought the believers should keep the laws Jesus wanted to do away with? How is “One New Man” not a return to Judaizing?
A. First of all, the term “Judaizers” is not in the New Testament. This question indicates that the one who asked it assumed that it was. This is a term that the church has traditionally used meaning Jews who wanted the believers to keep Torah when in fact they were Jews who were under some extra-Biblical legalism that exceeded Torah. Yeshua never contradicted Torah! (Neither did Paul.) Yeshua spoke against the yoke of added legalistic expectations the rabbis had put upon the people (and themselves) that put them in a bondage the Torah never intended. But because of the church’s ignorance of Torah and the anti-Jewish stance after Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, it interpreted those Scriptures in which Yeshua is criticizing the additional laws as Him saying that anything from Torah, that is to say anything Jewish, was to be avoided by the church.
The original purpose of those added laws was meant to insure that Israel obeyed God’s Torah. When Israel found themselves having been conquered by the Babylonians and transported out of their own land for not keeping God’s ways, their leaders, rabbis and some prophets, including Ezekiel, devised rules meant to restore Israel’s obedience to Torah. But those added laws grew and became burdensome so as to distort what God was asking them in the first place. The Sabbath is a good example. It was meant by God as a day of rest and enjoyment of family and time to be with Him. But the added laws turned it into rules (in a list of 39 categories) defining which work was to be avoided. So instead of resting, they were preoccupied with trying to avoid violating the list. This is why they were so concerned about Yeshua violating what they saw as keeping the Sabbath. It wasn’t Torah itself He was violating, but their added laws. They had lost sight of the distinction. Yeshua said it like this: ”Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the traditions of men” (See Mark 7:6-9).
Their original intention was right (to be obedient) but they misinterpreted God’s intention which is what often happens when we operate according to our natural minds rather than by the Spirit. The church has done the same thing in adding traditions that exceed what was written in Scripture. It could be why we don’t look like the church in the book of Acts. That’s also in part why we have denominations. Some say, “Do it this way” while others say, “No, it shouldn’t be done that way” and those rules divide us when He said we are to be one. Yeshua’s last prayer on earth was, “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us” (John 17:21).
Q. Didn’t Messiah come to establish a Christianized form of Judaism?
A. It sounds like you are saying Messiah Yeshua came to establish a non-Hebrew or non-Jewish form of Judaism. That’s a non-sequitor — one thought that doesn’t logically follow the first thought. The very foundation of the New Testament is that Yeshua established the fullness of God’s intention for Judaism, including Torah. He never intended to establish anything other than a Torah-by-Grace based faith (in freedom). Yeshua “fulfilled” Torah (Matthew 5:17), which means not the end of it but the satisfaction, realization, fruition or perfection of Torah. And it was He about whom the prophets also spoke. As He told the disciples on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection, “And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).
The whole idea of a “Christianized form of Judaism” would have no meaning to a first-century believer because, a) the term “Christian” was unknown to them, just as the concept was unknown to them. Faith in the Messiah of Israel could only be Jewish! To think of Him as non-Jewish would have been preposterous to them — and should be to us! b) What developed as “Christian” by A.D. 325 so deviated from Judaism and was so antagonistic to the teachings of Torah, which is the foundation and life of Judaism, that it could no longer be seen as a “form of Judaism.”
Thank God that today Jewish believers in Yeshua do not have to assimilate into a foreign culture in the church and lose their Jewish identity, and that Gentiles who wish to worship in the original context of the faith which was entirely Jewish or Hebrew can do so as well, just as they were able to join Israel in the first century.
Q. Didn’t God establish covenant with Abraham for a new race of people to live according to faith and not by observing the Torah/Law?
A. God’s covenant with Abraham was indeed by faith and trust in God to fulfill His promises to Abraham. It was meant for Abraham’s physical seed first, but the door was always open for any who chose to follow Abraham’s God in the ways that God required. That faith in Yahweh was always opened to others than Abraham’s descendents is seen throughout Torah, beginning with Genesis and with Abraham himself who, of course, was a Gentile to begin with. So, as you say, long before there was a Torah, one came to Abraham’s God by faith, just as Abraham did. We still come into covenant with God by that same faith and not by observing law. As a further thought, no one could be accused of legalism before there was law. For Abraham there was no concept of law keeping; he simply believed God and wanted to honor Him with his life. Torah came later to teach Israel how to walk out their faith in God in practical ways, to say it simply. But faith is always to precede and super-cede law. We are saved by faith alone! “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Yeshua Messiah” (Romans 5:1).
Q. Please comment on that there is neither Jew nor Gentile but a new “species” (ONM, i.e., Kingdom believers).
A. A reference for this would be, “There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:11; also see Gal 3:28). The “one new man” that Paul spoke about in Ephesians 2:14-16 means that Jews and Gentiles have both been made righteous by the blood of Yeshua and can come to God together in righteousness through Yeshua as a new humanity, a new unified “species” if you will. Salvation is open to everyone, regardless of their identity. But these verses have often been taken to mean that Jews are to no longer act or look like Jews. Should any Jews come into the church either by forced conversion or on rare occasion by faith (prior to 1967), their Jewish identity was required to become invisible or non-existent. They needed to act like the Gentiles they were associating with, with the idea that the church is not tainted by culture. But it is impossible for humans to be culture-less. Neither does the church have a neutral culture. The church always reflects the culture of the nation or ethnic group in any given place. I attended a seminary in which people from 22 different nations often shared their ways of worship in Chapel services. It was wonderful to see the many different expressions of worship from the different countries and cultures. Africans, Japanese, Dutch or Malaysian do not worship in the same way — some dance, others sit quietly, some sing loudly and demonstratively while others hold to older hymns sung with quieter reverence. Some pray spontaneously, others only pray silently. But all love the Lord and express it in their worship in some manner, Messiah Yeshua being “in all.”
However, from early on in the church, post-Constantine, if you were Jewish, you had to abandon your culture entirely — the very culture God brought Israel into. Ironic, isn’t it? Over the centuries any Jewish practice was cause for excommunication or even death by torture for observing anything Jewish or Hebrew. Let’s keep in mind that these practices were done under the direction of a succession of corrupt church leaders and it is distinctly questionable as to whether these men were born-again. That’s why the Reformation was so significant — once people began to come to the Lord by faith, they were born-again and this changed the mentality of the church entirely. Even so, the church or believing community has still been basically devoid of anything really reminiscent of Jewish practice for over 1,800 years until recently. Not until the emergence of modern-day Israel have Jews been able to maintain their Jewish identity as believers in Yeshua. So the “new species” does not mean the differences are obliterated (I am still female), but that together we form on righteous people in Yeshua.
Q. What would you say to the many Gentiles who have an identity crisis when endeavoring to pursue Jewish Roots, Jewish lifestyles, Torah observance, learning Hebrew, etc., in order to have a sense of being and self-worth, and to be a part of a special people who have God’s promise of future restoration.
A. First of all, every believer in Yeshua has the promise of future restoration to the fullness of God’s eternal Kingdom. Secondly, to want to or to attempt to be other than what God made you is rejecting who He made you to be. It’s a form of rebellion because you’re dissatisfied with what He’s given you. There will never be any satisfaction in that but will only lead to frustration and more striving to try to be what you’re not. A religious spirit operates on just such an attempt to gain God’s favor through what we do and that spirit will never let you rest. You will never “do enough.” On the other hand, to feel led to or desirous of being a part of the restoration God is bringing about of His ways as the early church experienced them out of a love for Him is valid and can give one a feeling of peace and completeness. It’s not a matter of what you do but the motive behind it. No one will ever have more self-esteem by trying to be like someone else they think of as more esteemed than themselves. The bottom will eventually fall out and it will be found to be hollow. But to respond to God’s love in appreciation of His ways and truth, or even to work toward that restoration for His honor can only enhance your relationship with Him. Are you “doing” to get Him to like you more? Or doing because you are at rest in His love and want to do what pleases Him, what brings Him honor and makes His heart smile.
That God is restoring Israel is not because He likes Israel better. He’s made it clear He did not choose Israel because they were powerful in number or might, but because they were least (Deut 7:7). Israel is no more special than anyone else. Any good in Israel is because God has ordained that the world would be blessed through her. He does it. God has accomplished His Word to Abraham and Israel has been a blessing to the world in many ways, the best of which is Messiah and that His “salvation is of [through] the Jews” (John 4:22). It’s all about Him. It’s only God who is special! God chose Abraham because He knew Abraham would teach God’s ways to his children. That was it. Obedience. Any believer is capable of that, by God’s grace. So while Israel holds a special place in God’s plan, in His heart He is still has no favorites. “God shows no partiality and is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).
We love and honor Israel because God’s name is upon her and it is in the fear (reverence) of the Lord that we love and honor Israel. He said for anyone who speaks against Israel He will take it personally and respond as if they spoke arrogantly against Him (Gen 12:3). But He feels the same way about all believers and those who come against them: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” (Acts 9:4). He takes personally any persecution or curses against those in His Body as if it was against Himself!
A friend of mine was saying something to me just yesterday about how special the Jewish people are. I appreciate her heart in loving what God loves and He does love Israel. He loves her because she is least and God is for the least ones. He shows the world His might and goodness by revealing His power and goodness to and through those whom the world sees as without might or goodness. “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 2:27). All this is to say that our “sense of being and self-worth” is gained in Yeshua, not in trying to be more like the Jews.
Q. Some see the ONM view as a “”superior identity assertion,” a form of “third race replacement theology.”
A. To look at One New Man askance as “third race replacement theology” is to miss Paul’s whole paradigm of the church. Paul, first of all, was a Torah believing Jew from the get-go and throughout His life. He fully understood that Messiah Yeshua was the embodiment of Torah — so much so that by the profound revelation he was given by God, Paul saw all believers as the very body of Messiah and Yeshua as the head of that same body. I personally believe He was shown something in heaven we can take as literal in the spirit realm. We really ARE the Body of Messiah, living out His will on earth. My body does nothing that doesn’t come either consciously or subliminally from my brain, e.g. my head. So in that way we are to be so connected with, in communication with, and responsive to Lord Yeshua. “He is…head of the body, the church” (Col 1:19; see also 2:18). That’s Paul’s vision and understanding of the church and in that he saw that both Jews and Gentiles are a new humanity entirely unique and distinct from all other people groups on the earth — because Yeshua lives in us, and we in Him. That certainly makes us distinct.
As for having a “superior identity assertion,” it is possible that some Gentiles who are now keeping things such as Shabbat or the feasts, etc. may be seen by those who do not understand why they are doing so as having a superior attitude. We then must be especially Messiah-like in how we present our beliefs. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18) “and Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). We must all be careful of self-righteousness, whether we’re on the “we do” or the “we don’t do” side of the fence. Either can serve to look at others who don’t see things as we do with a less-than attitude. Whether I’m being accused of pride or accusing others of it, I had better check my own humility-meter and be sure I’m operating out of a grateful and humble heart of love toward others including those who don’t see things as I do. None of us has all the pieces of the puzzle on our own, or even our own group. Which leads to the next question:
Q. Would it be correct to see ONM as a combination — not a homogenization — of Jew and Gentile as a marriage, thus maintaining their distinct ethnicities/cultures?
A. This question relates to the one about cultures. To continue those thoughts, I have often marveled that God created so many different kinds of folks, and so many tongues and nations, each with a distinct language and with unique and diverse cultures. I love how they all are reflective of Him. God is so multi-faceted, so vast in complexity and expression. How could one group of people express Who He is? It takes all the peoples who have ever lived in all the myriad of differences that have existed on the earth to make up His Body.
Picture this if you can: “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes” (Rev 7:9).
Awesome! We get to be a part of that. Whooeee! It takes folks from every tongue, tribe and nation that ever lived to make up His body. Yes, combined and not homogenized. Homogenization removes very essential nutrients and lessens the value of the original product. When we attempt to be just like the other guys, we lose some very valuable spiritual “nutrients” that are needed by the Body. Our distinctions are expressions of Yeshua Himself. Look for Him in those who aren’t like you and see what you learn of Him in and through their perspectives. Ask Him to show you. Let’s not be so self-protective of our own ways so as to want others to be just like us. He made us different. Let’s appreciate those differences. Evidently we will take them into eternity with us because we are all, somehow, expressions of His glorious nature. Think about this in terms of “oneness” in the Body. Oh what we have to look forward to!!!
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Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.