The weekly meeting was about to start and Sarah was agitated.
“Dr. Kaplan, I just told a Christian friend that I’ve accepted Yeshua as my Lord and Savior and he asked me a question. “Sarah, when did you convert from being a Jew to being a Christian?” Frankly I was flustered and didn’t know how to answer. I know that there are many Jewish people today who would tell me that I’m no longer a Jew because I believe in Jesus, but I did not expect this from a Christian.
“Dr. Kaplan, what should I have said to my friend?” asked Sarah.
“Is your friend Jewish?” asked Ben Kaplan.
“No,” replied Sarah.
“Is he a believer in Yeshua? Has he been born again?” asked Ben.
“Absolutely, Dr. Kaplan,” said Sarah.
“Did you sense any animosity toward the Jewish people in your friend’s question?” said Ben.
“No. Jordan loves the Jewish people and has stood up for them at a cost to himself,” said Sarah.
“Sarah, your friend Jordan and many other Christians don’t understand that a Jewish person doesn’t stop being a Jew when he or she accepts Jesus as Savior. This misunderstanding is in part due to Galatians 3:28 and several other verses like it in the New Testament,” said Ben. “Let’s look at that verse. I think the New International Version translates it best.”
28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
“Sarah, you are still a Jew because you are a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You are now a Jewish believer in Yeshua, or Jesus. Some people would call you a Messianic Jew. Others might call you a Jewish Christian or Christian Jew, or just a Christian. When I am asked what I am, I usually say I’m a Jewish believer in Jesus, so I’m a Christian or better yet, I’m a follower of the Messiah, but I’m OK being called a Christian. I haven’t stopped being a Jew. That would be impossible. Do you get the idea, Sarah?” asked Ben.
“I’m not sure,” Dr. Kaplan.
“But what about Galatians 3:28?” asked Matt.
“Matt, the Bible divides all people into two groups. The two groups are Jews and Gentiles. When a Jew or Gentile accepts Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior he or she is converted from a Jewish or Gentile unbeliever into a Jewish or Gentile believer in Jesus and there is then spiritually no difference between members of these two groups. They are both members of one body,” explained Ben. The key phrase in Galatians 3:28 is in Christ Jesus.
“So Galatians 3:28 is saying that there are no differences between Jews and Gentiles, in Christ Jesus and since all born again people are in Christ Jesus there is no difference between them in Him. Jews and Gentiles are both saved the same way, through faith in Jesus, and God hears all of our prayers the same way. However the verse is not saying that there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles,” said Ben.
“I’m confused, Dr. Kaplan. Can you explain further?” said Sarah.
“Sarah, you are a woman, and Matt, Josh, and I are men. In a physical sense we are quite different. However, in a spiritual sense we are not different. Does that help?” said Ben.
“Yes,” responded Sarah.
“Before we continue with our discussion we need to briefly digress. I need to say something now, about the sexes, that even a dozen years ago I would not have needed to say. The Bible recognizes a person as being either male or female. There are no other sexes. God did not create transgender people and He assigned our gender to us before we were born. God also did not create homosexuals or bisexuals. This is not our focus today but it is important and you all need to remember it,” said Ben.
“Got it Dr. Kaplan.
“So just as there are differences between the sexes, there are differences between Jews and Gentiles although those differences are not physical and are not as obvious as the differences between a man and a woman. But in Christ Jesus, meaning spiritually, there are no differences,” said Josh. “Is that right, Dr. Kaplan?”
“Exactly right, Josh!” said Ben. “In fact Paul’s letter to the Romans talks about an Olive Tree. It’s a spiritual Olive Tree. It has natural branches which are Jewish believers and wild branches that have been grafted in which are Gentile believers. We believers in Jesus are all branches in the same Olive Tree.”
“So what are the differences between Jews and Gentiles, Dr. Kaplan?” said Matt.
“Dr. Kaplan, can I just ask one other question before you answer Matt’s question? Do some believers fail to understand that there are differences between Jews and Gentiles, even born again Jews and Gentiles?” asked Josh.
“Yes, Josh! Sarah’s friend Jordan is one of them. There are many people who fail to understand that there are differences,” said Ben.
“Does what they say or think matter?” said Matt. “I mean, are we making a big deal over nothing?”
“No, Matt, because God made certain everlasting promises to the Jews, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God is going to keep those promises,” said Ben. “He did not make those promises to Gentiles,” said Ben.
“Do the promises have to do with the Jews being God’s Chosen People? What exactly does that mean? And are the Jews still the Chosen People?” asked Josh.
“Before the Jews entered the Promised Land the LORD, through Moses, said this to them:
Deuteronomy 7:6 (NASB) For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
“And He said it again:
Deuteronomy 14:2 (NASB) For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
“And this Chosen status of the Jewish people has never been taken away. God has not canceled it,” said Ben.
“Now I’m going to say something that sparks outrage on the part of many Jewish people when they hear it. But I have to say it because it’s true and Jewish people need to know this truth. If they don’t know this truth they could spend eternity separated from God. They could perish. And we do not want that to happen!
“This truth is that not all of the Chosen People are Jews in God’s eyes. A Jew in God’s eyes is a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who has had circumcision in the flesh as well as circumcision of the heart,” said Ben. “A Jewish person who has not had his or her heart circumcised will not inherit the things that God promised to the Jewish people. Moses spoke about this as did the prophet Jeremiah and the prophet Ezekiel, ” said Ben.
“Can you please give us the Biblical evidence for this, Dr. Kaplan? I mean, this is really heavy stuff. I have a Mom and Dad and two sisters who need to know and understand this. I don’t want them to perish,” said Sarah.
“Sure, Sarah. Let’s start with three verses from the Old Testament,” answered Ben, as he adjusted the computer projector to bring the verses up on the screen.
Deuteronomy 30:6 (NASB)
“Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.
Jeremiah 4:4 (NASB)
“Circumcise yourselves to the Lord
And remove the foreskins of your heart,
Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
Or else My wrath will go forth like fire
And burn with none to quench it,
Because of the evil of your deeds.”
Ezekiel 36:26 (NASB) Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
“Wow! Those verses are pretty clear! Circumcision of the heart is equivalent to being born again! Are there any verses that talk about this in the New Testament?” asked Sarah.
“Yes, Sarah. Let’s take a look at Romans 9:6-7, where the apostle Paul is anticipating an objection or question that some readers of his letter will raise. I’m going to paraphrase the question. “Why are the Jewish people, the Chosen People, seemingly no longer in God’s favor as they were in the time of Moses, King David, King Solomon, etc? Did God’s promises to His Chosen People, given in the Old Testament, fail? Did God renege on His promises?” Here is Paul’s answer:
Romans 9:6-7 (NASB) But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.”
“Paul is saying that Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, but Abraham’s descendants were named only through Isaac. The same principle applies to God’s Chosen People, Israel. God is saying, through Paul, that not all who are descendants of the Chosen People are Chosen. In this very same chapter of Romans, Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah,” said Ben.
Romans 9:27 (NASB) Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved;
“Wow! Are you telling us that there is a subgroup within the Chosen People, the remnant, that are the true Israel, the true Chosen People and that only they will be saved?” asked Matt. “They are the ones with circumcised hearts, right?”
“Exactly, Matt. You’ve got it,” said Ben.
“Doesn’t that seem unfair?” said Sarah.
“It’s not unfair, Sarah. God is never unfair except in His grace to us. He graciously does not give us what we deserve, which is eternal separation from Him because of our sins. That’s why He sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins,” answered Ben.
“But what about Christians? Are all Christians truly Christian? Is everyone sitting in church on a Sunday morning a Christian?” asked Sarah.
“Now that’s a great question! In fact, not all who claim to be Christian are Christian. Many, maybe even most, sitting in church pews are not Christians. They are not born again and they will spend eternity separated from God. This overall group who profess to be Christians can be referred to as Christendom. Only a subgroup, a remnant, of Christendom will be saved. Christendom is in a way comparable to the Chosen People. Only a remnant of the Chosen people will be saved.
“Many Jewish people say “I was born a Jew and I will die a Jew”. That is true. But many who say this don’t understand that a Jew who is not saved, who is not part of the remnant, will spend eternity separated from God. Jewish people need to know this truth,” said Ben.
“What do we do with this knowledge, Dr. Kaplan?” asked Josh.
“That’s another great question! Let’s look at what Jesus said about that in Luke’s Gospel.
Luke 19:12-13 (ESV) He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’
“Jesus is speaking a parable and it has to do with the fact that He went away, back to heaven, 2,000 years ago and He is going to return, soon. He has given each of us gifts, represented by money in the parable, and He expects us to “engage in business” until He returns. I understand that to mean that we are to share the Good News of Salvation by faith in Jesus Christ, the Gospel, with everyone He calls us to share it with, until He, Jesus, returns. We are to share this Good News with Jews and Gentiles and we are to share with Jews first whenever possible just as the Apostle Paul did,” said Ben. “And we must share this Good News because it is the only way a person, any person, can be saved.”
Romans 1:16 (ESV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
“How do we do that Dr. Kaplan?” said Sarah.
“Let’s make that the focus of our next meeting, OK?” said Ben.
“We can’t wait!” said Matt. Josh and Sarah nodded their agreement.