If Any Man Be In Messiah
“If Any Man Be In Messiah”
By Dr. John Garr
The first official apostolate to the Gentile nations featured the ministry of Paul, the Pharisee, a student of Gamliel, the grandson of Hillel the Great, one of Israel’s finest sages. He was proud of his pedigree and of the fact that concerning the Torah (law) he was blameless. He was an impassioned defender of mainstream Judaism of his day. Despite a Hillelian education in pluriformity and tolerance, his zeal for the Torah and for rabbinic tradition had been fanned into a rage of violent confrontation with the talmudim (disciples) of Jesus.
Having just supervised the execution of one of the Jesus movement’s leading apologists, he was on his way to Damascus of Syria to further efforts at suppressing this emerging sect that was challenging Pharisaic control over doctrine and practice in Jewish society. Suddenly he was blinded by a profound light that left him virtually paralyzed, able to whisper only a feeble, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply was just as stunning as his condition: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.”
In Paul, God found a man of unbridled zeal and fervor for the Word of God, a man who needed only a reorientation to become one of the greatest witnesses to the good news of the emerging Kingdom of God. When the Holy Spirit that knocked him off his high horse had finished with him, Paul would be a “new creation.”
Suddenly, Paul was “in Messiah,” and Messiah was in him by the Holy Spirit. Instantly, everything changed as he experienced a paradigm shift of cosmic proportions. All that he had aspired to be in the Ioudaismos (Judaism) of his fathers suddenly paled in comparison to the radiance of the One who was the Sun of Righteousness. All his training in Torah ,Nevi’im ,Ketuvim , and Mishnah took on new meaning as he beheld the wonder of their very essencethe living, incarnate Word himself. He never discarded his Judaic heritage, but he channeled all of his erudition into proclaiming the Good News that the God of the universe has become incarnate, suffered and died for the sins of mankind, ascended in glory, and will come again to establish his Kingdom.
This Pauline lesson is one that should be learned by all believers in Jesus, particularly those who seek to recover the Hebrew foundations of the Christian faith. “If any man be in Messiah, he is a new creation and everything has become new” (I Corinthians 5:17). Paul summed up this revolutionary understanding: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Race, color, ethnicity, nationality, gender, stature, handicap simply do not matter any more after one is “in Messiah.” The only thing that is important is “the new creation.” Despite this profoundly obvious truth that is central to Christian faith, there have always been those in Christian circles who somehow have not felt that it was adequate simply to be among the Notzrim, the Messians or the Christians. Something more is required!
For some Gentiles, it has been conversion to Judaism, even obviating the sacrifice of Jesus in their quest for self identity. For others, it has been the siren song of esoteric knowledge that sends them on a neo-Gnostic ego trip. For still others, it has been an often convoluted attempt to establish some genetic, genealogical link with the people of the first covenant. This thirteenth tribe, the Wannabes, has emerged to claim for themselves special status. More often than not this subtle, soulish exaltation of flesh manifests itself in separatism, exclusivity, and elitism, which are little more than idolatry.
While God still maintains his irrevocable covenant with the physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, the New Covenant has renewed and extended that Abrahamic covenant to “every creature,” on equal terms; therefore, it is of no consequence whether one is of Judah, Benjamin, Levi, Ephraim, Manasseh, Simeon, Cherokee, Apache, Zulu, Mossai, Hunan, Hindi, Sammari, or Aborigine. The real truth is that everyone on earth likely has some trace of Abraham’s DNA. But, even that is of no consequence.
This is why Paul warned not to engage themselves in “endless genealogies,” and engage in logomachy to no profit. These exercises offer no advantages, but they do pose grave dangers both to the believer and to the body of Messiah. One needs look only as far back as the Third Reich to see what the spirit of elitist idolatry can produce. Anglo-Israelites, Black Jews, and others are honest in their desire to identify themselves with the People of the Book, and they may well find some oblique connection; however, their efforts, though often full of sound and fury, signify nothing. The case is closed. The verdict is in: In Messiah is the new creation. Who could or would want to improve on that!
Dr. John D. Garr, founder and president of Restoration Foundation, has pioneered research, writing, and teaching on the Hebrew foundations of Christian faith for more than thirty years. His international ministry has enlightened believers of numerous communions, teaching them the historical and theological emergence of Christianity from the matrix of biblical Judaism. John, his wife Pat, and their sons, John, Timothy, and Stephen, are working to promote Restoration Foundation. Dr. Garr’s web site is: www.restorationfoundation.org.