Am I Still A Jew After I Accept Jesus?

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.

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Rabbi Greenberg Accepts Yeshua as Lord and Savior

Rabbi Jonah Greenberg approached the reception window in Ben Kaplan’s office and was greeted by Denise.

“How are you Rabbi? I wasn’t expecting to see you today,” said Denise.

“Well, Denise, I have something exciting to tell Ben and his students. I know that today is the day of their weekly meeting and I didn’t want to wait another day to share my news,” said Jonah.

“Rabbi, please come with me. I’ll take you back to Dr. Kaplan’s consultation room,” said Denise.

“Thank you, Denise. But first a question for you if you don’t mind,” said the Rabbi.

“Of course I don’t mind, Rabbi.”

“Denise, do you believe in Messiah Yeshua?” asked Jonah.

“I most certainly do, Rabbi. Why do you ask?” said Denise.

“Because I’ve just accepted Yeshua as my Lord and Savior,” said the Rabbi.

Denise looked at the Rabbi. Within seconds tears of joy began streaming down her cheeks. She could not speak. Instead she hugged Jonah, hard, and then took him by the hand and led him in to Ben’s consultation room.

*

“It’s great to see you, Jonah. How is everything?” said Ben.

“I have some news, Ben. I’ve accepted Yeshua as my Messiah, my Lord, and my Savior,” said Jonah.

Susan, the Jewish student who had originally invited Jonah to come to these meetings, was overwhelmed. “That’s just wonderful, Rabbi!” said Susan, who promptly embraced the Rabbi and kissed him on the cheek.

“Wow, Jonah! What incredible news! The angels are rejoicing!” said Ben as he warmly embraced Jonah. “What finally convinced you?”

“There were many things that contributed to my decision, Ben. But two things in particular convinced me as I asked God to show me the truth. The first is that Yeshua is unquestionably God. Permit me to read from the prophet Jeremiah,” said the Rabbi.

Jeremiah 23:5-6 (ESV) “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

“Could you please explain how this verse helped you decide, Rabbi?” said Josh.

“Sure, Josh. The Branch, or tzemach in Hebrew, is a title used for the Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures. He is a righteous descendant of King David. And in these verses God Himself, the LORD, Yahweh, expressly states that this Branch, the Messiah, has a name and that name is the LORD, Yahweh, our righteousness. Isn’t that staggering? The Messiah’s proper name is Yahweh! This is absolutely so wonderful that it’s mind-boggling to me!” exclaimed Rabbi Greenberg.

Matt had a question. “Rabbi, how can Yahweh, who is God the Father, say that His Son, the Messiah, will also be called Yahweh?”

“I think that I finally have the answer to that, Matt. The Father and the Son are equal and they are both Yahweh. They are equal and together with Yahweh Ruach Hakodesh (God the Holy Spirit), these three equal personalities are One God, whose proper name is Yahweh!” replied Jonah.

“Rabbi, that is staggering! That is mind-boggling! But, do you know what Rabbi?” said Matt.

“Please tell me, Matt,” said Jonah.

“I believe it! It makes perfect sense!” said Matt.

“It most certainly does, Matt!” agreed Ben Kaplan heartily. “Jonah, you said that there were two things in particular that helped you decide to accept Yeshua. Would you tell us what the second thing is?”

“Sure, Ben. It’s what Gamaliel said in the fifth chapter of Acts in the New Testament when the apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin. I’d like to read it to you if I may,” said Jonah.

“Absolutely,” said Ben.

Jonah picked up his Bible and read.

Acts 5:34-39 (ESV) But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (italics added)

“Ben, I know from my own research that the New Testament is historically reliable. I have absolutely no doubt about that. That being the case, I am confident that Gamaliel said what he is recorded as saying in the fifth chapter of Acts, and Gamaliel was among the most famous of Rabbis. In fact Saul, before he was chosen by God to be His Apostle, studied under him. So Gamaliel is to me an unimpeachable source. And Gamaliel said that what Peter and John were teaching would not be overthrown if it is of God. Well, 2,000 years later it has not been overthrown!

“Now Ben, these were just the final pieces of the puzzle for me in my quest. All that we’ve spoken of in our two previous meetings, and a great deal more, have combined to give me unshakable faith and assurance that Yeshua, Jesus, is my Lord and Messiah!” said Jonah.

“Rabbi, this is so wonderful! Who ever said that a Jew cannot believe in Jesus!” said Josh.

“You won’t ever hear that from me, Josh!” said Sarah.

“Can we all please lay hands on Jonah? I have some anointing oil here. Jonah, may I anoint you before we pray?” said Ben.

“By all means, Ben,” said the Rabbi.

Ben anointed Jonah and then they prayed.

“Father, Lord God, please bless this Son of Israel who has come to faith in You today through Your only Son, Yeshua, our Lord, Savior, and Messiah. Please show Jonah what to do next. Lay out your path for him that he may know the way to go. Please use him mightily in bringing others, both Jew and Gentile, into your kingdom. We pray in Yeshua’s Name. Amen.”

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Who is the Messiah? Part 2

This post is dedicated to Lynn Wright and Aaron Hyman.

My dear Jewish brothers and sisters, I think you know by now that I have an unshakable conviction that Yeshua, Jesus, is our Messiah. If I have this unshakable conviction, why is it that so many Jewish people refuse to believe that Yeshua is the Messiah? I practiced medicine for 46 years and my specialty was making the correct diagnosis in difficult cases. I was successful at it, and to be successful at it, I had to analyze data and weigh evidence constantly. Weighing evidence is a significant part of what we need to do when we approach a question such as “Is Yeshua the Messiah?” Nevertheless, there are reasons why most Jewish people do not believe Yeshua is The Messiah, and in attempting to find out why, I had to sift and weigh a great deal of evidence, both positive and negative. An important piece of negative evidence is something that is important in Judaism today. It is the 13 Articles of Faith formulated by a rabbi who has had a profound influence on Jewish thought and belief for the past approximately 900 years. His name is Maimonides, and there is no rabbi held in greater esteem today by Jewish people all over the world than Maimonides.

Maimonides, also known as the Rambam, an acronym for Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, was born in Spain, where his father was a prominent rabbi. The family was forced to leave Spain because of severe persecution from the Almohades Islamic Dynasty which ruled in Spain and in Western North Africa. The family relocated to Fez, Morocco, where persecution from the very same Islamic sect again forced the Rambam and his family to depart. After a brief stay in Palestine, Maimonides settled in Egypt where the Almohades Dynasty did not rule, and due to his brilliance, kindness, and love for his people, the Jewish people, he became head of the Jewish community in Egypt. It should also be noted that The Crusades started not long before Maimonides was born. So Maimonides lived at a very turbulent time and, in fact, things were so bad for the Jews that there was at that time great yearning for the coming of The Messiah so that peace would reign and persecution would cease. I think it would have been very hard for Maimonides to accept the belief that The Messiah, Yeshua, had already come and would come again at a later date. Maimonides had been taught that when the Son of David, The Messiah, came there would be world peace and that the Jews would never be persecuted again.

This brilliant young rabbi, Maimonides, codified Jewish Law from the Hebrew Scriptures and the Talmud in his monumental work, the Mishneh Torah. It is from the Mishneh Torah that we get the 613 laws that we Jews know about today. The Mishneh Torah is revered by rabbis all over the world.

Maimonides also authored the 13 Principles of the Jewish Faith, mentioned above, which in his eyes every true Jew should know and believe. In fact, The Principles are recited in synagogues around the world today in the form of the Yigdal prayer found in the Siddur. I have it in my very own Artscroll Siddur1. Each of the 13 Principles begins with “I believe in perfect faith”. These Thirteen Principles are taken very seriously indeed. Although Maimonides lived about a thousand years after Yeshua’s time, understanding the Rambam’s 13 Principles can help to explain why many Jewish people today refuse to believe in Yeshua.

I want to talk with you now about one of The Thirteen Principles, namely the Third Principle. The Third Principle is the negation of corporeality. God cannot have a body. Since Jesus had a body and said that he was God the Third Principle makes Jesus a liar and a scoundrel. Jesus also said that he was the Messiah. How could a Jewish person accept a scoundrel and a liar as The Messiah? There is no way! Except for one thing: the Rambam, as great and good as he was, was dead wrong. Let me show you the evidence for this by looking at a portion of Scripture with you from the New Testament that shows us that Maimonides’s Third Principle is absolutely incorrect. This Scripture portion will show us two things: that Yeshua was, and is, God, and that God can be corporeal, meaning that God can have a body. Here is the Scripture portion:

“And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home.” Matthew 9:1-7 (ESV)

So what happened here? A number of things:

  1. Yeshua said to a paralytic, who could not walk, “your sins are forgiven”.
  2. Because only God can forgive sins, Yeshua was saying that he is God.
  3. This was clearly recognized by some of the Jewish scribes because they said “This man is blaspheming”.
  4. When a person is forgiven of his or her sins there is no immediate way to know that that has occurred. There is no outward change in the person’s appearance that can be observed.
  5. Therefore, Yeshua offered proof to the scribes that he had authority on earth to forgive sins by doing a miracle which was much more difficult to do than proclaiming “Your sins are forgiven” to a person and which could be verified by an easily observable external change: Yeshua told the paralyzed man to pick up his bed and go home, and the man immediately did this. He was healed.

Please also note that Yeshua referred to Himself here as the Son of Man:

But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—

Yeshua did this to call attention to the fact that not only is he God, he is also human, and that would of course be obvious to anyone who saw him. He was and is a man. But because he could and can forgive sins, he is God. He is the God-Man. He has two natures: he is perfectly human in every way, except for the fact that there is no sin in him (unlike each and every one of us) and, he is God, the Son of God, with all the attributes of God. He had to have both natures, that of God and that of man in order to save us. Because to save us required the ultimate blood sacrifice and that means that Yeshua had to die, and as God he could not die. He had to have the nature of man in order to die and the nature of God in order to forgive sin by becoming the perfect blood sacrifice. Please remember that the Torah makes it clear that a blood sacrifice is required to make atonement for sin (Leviticus 17:11) and please also note that the blood of animals could not provide permanent forgiveness of sins. That is why animals had to be sacrificed again and again. Yeshua’s one blood sacrifice provides permanent forgiveness of sins for anyone who will accept it by faith.

Please note one other thing. Jesus proved he is God. God does not lie. Jesus said he is the Messiah. Therefore, he is The Messiah..

So, my dear Jewish brothers and sisters, can you see how Maimonides’s Third Principle can seriously discourage a Jewish person from accepting Jesus as Messiah and God? And can you imagine the effect that this Third Principle could have on a modern Rabbi, who’s job it is to teach people the truth, but who may be unwittingly teaching his people an untruth embedded in this Third Principle? And do you know that because this Third Principle is so embedded in our prayerbooks, teachings, and culture, that you, as a Jew today, can be affected by it even if you have never heard of Maimonides or his 13 Principles of the Jewish Faith? Let me say it once more: The teaching that God can not have a body is incorrect (more about this another time; our Hebrew Scriptures spell this out clearly also). And saying, and believing, that God came to earth as The Messiah and God, as The God-Man (there is only One!), does not make you a heretic. On the contrary, it makes you a truer Jew than you could ever otherwise be!

We will talk about these things more in future posts because there is much more to say. But in the next post, we’ll switch gears and talk about something different. We will talk about something that Yeshua paid the price for us to escape from, if we have faith in Him. We will talk about something called The Time of Jacob’s Trouble and we will also talk about something called The Rapture.

Hope to see you next time!

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