On Gentiles Doing Israelitish Things

Most Christians today view the practices from the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) as not being valid or binding on believers today. I would disagree. I look at our position in Messiah a little differently from several scriptural points:

First, the “mixed multitude” that came out of Egypt with the Hebrew slaves during the Exodus (Ex. 12:38) were bound up in the covenant with God at Sinai (Deut. 29:14-15, which I believe also looks forward to us believers in the future).

Moses said there would be “one law” for both stranger and countryman (Ex. 12:49; Lev. 24:22; Num. 15:15-16; Deut. 31:12).

Paul continues this thought in Romans by stating that those who keep the righteousness of the law inwardly, even gentiles, are really considered “true” Jews (Rom. 2:26-29).

Additionally, as believers in the Jewish Messiah, gentiles are “grafted in” to the roots of the Hebraic instruction, partaking of the “root and fatness of the olive tree”, i.e, Israel (Rom. 11:17). I believe this is why the apostles at the Jerusalem council mentioned that gentile believers would not need to convert to Judaism through circumcision, but that they did need to abstain from idolatry, sexual immorality, and two food laws of eating things that are strangled or that still have blood in them. These basic Torah requirements would be necessary for Jews to have fellowship with gentiles as the gentiles came to faith in the Jewish Messiah and joined with the local Jewish synagogues to learn more about him.

How do we know that they joined with the synagogues? The very next verse in Acts 15 states:

21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

I believe that this indicates the gentiles were being instructed to immediately forsake the four “fellowship-separating” practices, and then continue on in learning Torah and about their Messiah. The gentiles could not engage in full fellowship unless they were clean from idolatry, pagan sexuality and “non-kosher” foods. (I deal with dietary issues in another article).

Why would this be necessary, to continue to learn and practice the Hebrew scriptures? Paul says in 1 Cor. 10:6, 11 that “these things” (meaning stories from the Torah) were examples or admonitions for us, to not fall into the same unrighteous behaviors as those whose lives have been recorded for us. He also establishes in Romans that our faith doesn’t suddenly negate the law (3:31) and that “…the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good,” (7:21).

Most importantly, Yeshua upholds this principle in Mat. 5:18, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” I reckon we gentiles should not be so hasty to throw out 3/4 of our bible.

While not conclusive in and of themselves, I believe these scriptural points, at a minimum, indicate our privilege as gentiles to participate in appropriate and purposeful Israelitish practices without violating any principles of God.

To drive the point home, I would suggest that the very covenant we claim as our own “Christian” heritage, the “New Covenant”, was not made with gentiles, but with Jews, and is promised not to the gentiles specifically, but to Israel:

Jer 31:31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:

Yet this is the very covenant we claim Yeshua established at the last meal of our Messiah. So, if this is “our” covenant, we must somehow be linked to the nation of Israel. I would suggest Paul’s illustration of “grafted in” branches makes the point very clear.

What Paul explains as the “mystery of the gospel” was that gentiles would become heirs with Israel (Rom 11:25). To me, this means we gentiles have a lot to learn from those Hebrew foundations; but we must be careful to sift the truth from traditions, and not accept everything blindly just because it seems like a “Jewish” thing to do.

For much more thorough treatment of this same topic, visit this in-depth article at Set Apart People.