One New Man Up Close and Personal
One New Man Up Close and Personal
By Lonnie Lane
To be sure, one thing every Hebrew had always known was that they were called to be unique among the peoples of the earth, separated unto the Creator Himself. God had made it abundantly clear to them that they were not to hob-knob with the Gentiles around them, lest they adopt any of their ways: Don’t worship their gods, don’t make alliances with them, don’t marry them, don’t even eat with them!
It was at great cost to Israel that they learned these lessons. From Abraham to the Roman conquest, Israel’s Biblical history bears this out again and again. Yet, the result of the coming of Messiah seems to violate this very mandate. Indeed, this Messiah often tended to do things that went against the grain of what their expectations of God and His expectation of them were altogether.
For 15 years or so after His death and resurrection, believers in Messiah Yeshua were almost exclusively Hebrew and everything about Him was seen as a fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures. But then, in 70 A.D., the Believers were thrust out of their beloved city of Jerusalem along with all its other surviving Hebrew citizens when the Romans destroyed the Temple at the cost of 1,000,000 Jewish lives. Wherever they went, they took the message of their Messiah with them.
And so the Gentiles began to come to faith in Yeshua and came to know the God of the Hebrews too. This was a radical departure from what God had imposed upon the Hebrews from Sinai forward and took some adjusting and thinking things through. The Apostles’ meeting in Jerusalem in Acts 15 was the working out of some of the issues involved. It wasn’t just the Jews who had to adjust. Both Jews and the Gentiles were confronted with having to go through changes of great magnitude.
We are familiar with the term “one new man” or perhaps more literally, “a united and renewed humanity” but rarely do we understand what our first century brothers and sisters went through to get there. The term “one new man” defines two or more groups of persons with very diverse and alienated cultures who were so renewed in their paradigms and perspectives as to come together in agreement and practice to share their very lives. This arose as a result of having come to faith in the Son of God.
To Yeshua, that oneness was a paramount goal for His people. He expressed His prayer and desire when He asked His Father at that last Passover supper meal, “That they may be one just as We are one.” (John 17:22) Ultimately, to the extent we are “one” with God, we will be “one” with our brothers and sisters. Apparently those “one new man” folks were able to bridge the gap between them enough to greatly impact the world as a united people. To more fully appreciate how radical a change took place, some understanding of what life was like for both the Hebrew and Gentile cultures would be helpful.
Belief in the one true God is obviously Hebrew and the dominating characteristic of their entire culture. Every aspect of life for the Hebrews was God-infused by His own design. Once the realization of Who Yeshua is became a reality to these Jewish Believers, all that Moses and the prophets had imparted to Israel as a nation became more deeply than ever imbedded into their hearts.
Contrary to our Western individualistic point of view, salvation had always been a corporate matter for Israel, that is, salvation was a matter of the whole nation being saved. The Covenant history of Israel bears that out. We read where the sin of one or several affected the entire nation. This was certainly true of whether their kings were righteous or not. That still held true for the first Messianic Believers who expected that in Yeshua salvation would extend to every Jew resulting in the entire nation of Israel being made whole, righteous and wholly restored to God. But they also found that this could be experienced individually.
Further, no longer was the Holy Spirit only for the prophet, priest or king He was within each and every one of them, transforming them from people who attempted (or didn’t) to keep God’s laws in external performance, into those who now intrinsically responded to God in wanting to do His will. They began to have a whole new sensitivity to and understanding of good and evil, of clean and unclean, of righteous and unrighteous as it was imparted to them by the Holy Spirit. They responded from the abundance of a heart of love as they came into a personal relationship with the Living God. They could worship as King David worshipped with all their hearts.
In the security of their born-again relationships with God their “political” perspectives began to change. The Kingdom of God was no longer something to be anticipated as coming with cataclysmic judgment as the prophets often portrayed (and which may yet happen at the very end of the age when God finally does away with sin and rebellion.) Promises which God had given in His interaction with Israel over the centuries could now be personally and corporately experienced here and now. The arrival of the Kingdom of God wasn’t an earth-changing future event; it had already come and was instead people-changing!
Their King had not overthrown Rome and re-established Israel’s political sovereignty as she had been under the reign of David and Solomon. His had come humbly, dying for them, and now reigned as King in their hearts. Now they could see it in the Scriptures. Now they could see that the Torah and the prophets confirmed Yeshua as Messiah. He was right there in their writings all the time. And He had been right there with them in their midst where he had spoken to them, listened to them, touched them, fed them, loved them…and forgiven them. Yeshua is indeed the Holy One of Israel and they rejoiced that He had finally come and they knew Him personally!!
But with all that, there was no outward change of culture for them. They remained part of the nation of Israel set apart by God for Himself. They still worshipped in the Temple and paid their Temple tithe, but now their worship was intimate; God was close and tender, and intensely personal. They maintained their same sense of being a people set apart for God but now their fellowship with Him and each other was in great joy in His presence. They still observed the Sabbath and Feasts that God had given to Israel, but with a renewed and prophetic sense of how Yeshua fulfilled each one of them. The bursting cry of their hearts as they sang together was, “Emanu-el.” God (is) with us!
Contrast all this with the life of a Gentile. He too is surrounded by “religion” but in the form of “worship” of a plethora of gods and goddesses, some more powerful than others, each representing a different aspect of life. Idols, sometimes hundreds if not thousands of them, were “worshipped” in various ways as the people sought to gain some control over the forces in their lives.
Superstition and witchcraft permeated their daily lives in continual attempts to placate the gods so as to avoid disaster or get them out of some trouble, or to try and insure some comfort, healing or security. Those are, after all, the reasons we need God, right? So, being “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God,” (Eph. 2:12) they tried to fill their god-shaped holes with fake-gods, unaware that they were fake.
From what we know through the recovery of ancient writings or archaeology, there appeared to be a chronic fear of displeasing the gods which might lead to some dreaded consequence, though occasionally the gods were known to ‘bless’ people. Prayers were made to the idols in hopes that the pleas of the petitioner would be heard. However someone may have longed for the gods to speak to them or give them some sense of being in their favor or impart some security that they were being taken care of by the gods, none came. None could have. But still, many went through the obligatory motions, lest they anger the gods by ignoring them, while others fervently petitioned the gods in hyper-vigilant religious activity.
Though no doubt many may have wondered if these recalcitrant idols of stone, wood or bronze were actually gods who heard their prayers, to question was, uh well, out of the question, lest you anger them further.
Idolatry was a significant aspect of all pagan societies. Sacrifices were continually made to them in the form of money, gifts, food or flowers. As we look out upon these people now, from inside the Kingdom of God, we know those folks were actually and unendingly seeking to pacify or persuade demons who were behind the whole pagan system. Entire cultures are still based on the worship of false gods with no concept of that demonic reality. May the One True Creator-Sustainer, good, gracious, loving and sovereign God grant them revelation of Himself. Amen.
In certain cultures “worship” took the form of sacrificing children or virgins in various inhumane ways, including setting them on fire while they were still alive, in order to mollify the gods. Sex was thought of as a spiritual experience so worship was often expressed in union with temple prostitutes who were regarded as priestesses. Orgies, be they hetero- or homo-sexual in nature were considered in some cultures as a group-religious experience. In at least one culture, in order to prepare a bride for her husband, a week before the wedding she was sent to the temple for a week’s “training” by the gods in the role of a priestess, that is as a temple prostitute. We might be more inclined to call them brothels than temples of worship, more in league with demons than anything godly.
So here we have the Gentile with no concept of the One True and Holy God Who is the same yesterday, today and forever. These are concepts entirely alien to him. He experiences no relationship with his idols as they never interact with him personally or speak to him. He has ascribed power to idols from which he has derived no dependability. His gods are capricious, that is, they are subject to unpredictable (and human-like) weaknesses and one never knows from one day to the next what they’ll be pleased or be displeased with. They seem to change like the weather. He has no security in his gods. His religion is soulish, carnal and spiritually unsatisfying. Unbeknown to him, he is trafficking in demons and there is certainly no rest in that. One thing the devil cannot imitate is God’s peace so there is no real peace for this Gentile who is far from God.
Correspondingly, the society reflects the same chaotic aloofness that their gods exude. Among Roman citizens, for instance, marriage was a travesty. In many cases, marriage was for producing children while sexual pleasures were freely experienced outside of the marriage. At the same time, should one become bored with or displeased with one’s spouse, one could have as many as 9 or 10 marriages, divorces being common. Both men and women could divorce their spouses.
Time, identified by events rather than numbers, might be counted as “the year I had my 3rd husbands 2nd child” as easily as counting it as “the 5th year of that particular king’s reign,” as we see it described in the Bible. Little fidelity existed for long between husband and wife. The children would be chronically confused as to who their parents actually were and whose discipline to heed, though that would have seemed natural to them.
Roman fathers held authority over their sons as long as they lived, to the point of even being able to order the death of a son if the father felt the son violated some code of honor. Imagine the overbearing control some fathers might have over even their adult sons. Perhaps that’s why Paul would later write, “Fathers, do not provoke your children.” (Col. 3:21) With all this marriage and remarriage, adoption was also common which would give the father control over children of a previous marriage. At the same time, compassion seemingly non-existent, unwanted babies were often left to die out in the open, even in the market square. After people began to come to the Lord, it was the Christians who often rescued the babies and raised them as their own.
Rome, having conquered the known world, had more slaves than Roman citizens, numbering in the millions. The consequence was that Roman citizens did almost no work, the slaves did it all. If you were a slave, you might have a merciful and kind master; you might not. Regardless, your life was not your own; you belonged to your master and you were subject to his whims and directives.
However, as a well-to-do Roman citizen, one must do something with one’s time, so pleasure and entertainment became the quest of the day. An overindulged, sensually motivated, lazy and unfulfilled society often passed the time in the baths while being pampered or being entertained at The Games while watching Gladiators murder one another. These Gladiator Games originated in the Etruscan rites of sacrifice due the spirits of the dead and the need to appease them with offerings of blood. They were subsequently introduced in Rome as funereal offerings of blood upon the death of a loved one. In time, they became a source of influence and amusement having more to do with the political power of the ones footing the bill for the Games rather than from religious motives.
They involved watching men fighting one another until one was killed, shouting with glee at bloodshed. A wounded man’s fate was in the hands, or rather the thumbs of the spectator crowd who would indicate whether they wanted him left alive or killed. Thumbs down meant let him live and thumbs up, as in the thrust of a knife into his rib cage, would indicate their desire for him to die. If he lived this time likely he’d be quickly thrown into another battle where, weakened as he was, he would have little chance of survival. One special favorite of the crowds was when hungry lions or bears tore at human flesh and ate them.
Usually these men were slaves or prisoners, sometimes many fighting at once, in one case up to 640 of them at a time (meaning at least 320 would die.) To survive a battle only meant you would likely be thrown into the next one. There was, of course, no concern as to the suffering or agony it would bring to those forced into this. All this went on while acrobats cavorted around the arena and “background” music played to heighten the excitement.
Lest you think women were protected from such horror, under Nero and Domitian women were also brought into the arenas to fight either with one another or with dwarfs. And Christians who refused to renounce their faith were consigned to the Games with absolutely no hope of survival. Not all were forced into the Games, however. There were men who volunteered to be Gladiators, training extensively, and reveling in the victory and the esteem it brought them. (Think Spartacus.) These men were considered as heroes and sex symbols and received the adoration and favors of women that such a titles would provide.
And so, violence in the society of Rome was a matter of valor, an art form, a means of enrichment and a high form of entertainment. They loved “the gore and the glory” of it all. This was the mind set of the average Roman citizen. This was life in Rome, like it or not, whether you enjoyed it or were victimized by it. Rome ruled! With this pervading atmosphere of violence, it is no wonder then that the Romans “invented” such a cruel and tortuous form of punishment as crucifixion.
(Note #1: I do not tell you this for dramatic effect, but rather to help you understand how radical a change took place regarding the value of life and life-style for those who came to know Yeshua from what they’d known before.
Note #2: Barbaric as all this may seem, ask yourself what we as Americans, young and old, put before our eyes for entertainment.)
Of course, Rome did have its points of valor. There existed a high form of government from which we get our concept of Senators. They effectively ruled the world which they had conquered providing great advancements in the quality of life for many, including roads and other civil improvements throughout most of the empire. Sophisticated commerce existed with business often carried out by faithful slaves for their masters as astute business men. Honor was highly regarded. Loyalty was to Rome and to the Emperor. The Emperor, however, had absolute rule over the empire as a god himself though there existed a pantheon of under-gods which the Romans had adopted from the Greeks and renamed to make them their own.
Now consider that into all this comes a sprinkling of Hebrews with the message that they know the One True God who not only created the entire universe and all that is in it, but He is in fact Lord over it all, including over Rome. He is not only knowable, He knows everything. And even so, He is willing to forgive all who will come to Him. Many welcome this Good News and with awakened hearts embrace this Yeshua as their own, rejoicing that God has reached out to them and brought them to Himself. They received His forgiveness and while they may not have even had a concept of sin previously, they now experience a release and a spiritual “cleanness” that had never entered their minds before, which now enabled them to come before holy God Himself.
Experiencing being born-again, they are transformed and find that though they didn’t know the Torah God had given to the Hebrews, their values begin to change so that, though they may not be familiar with the texts, they are beginning to conform to God’s Torah, because it’s written “on their hearts.” (Jer. 31:33) They find they can no longer involve themselves in the practices in the pagan temples, nor could they bow to what they now saw as false gods. The Games suddenly seem horribly cruel and inhumane.
True they did need to be made aware and reminded periodically of what God requires of them so that prophets and teachers, all Hebrews at first, travel to bring instructions to the new Believers. In time, letters and accounts of Yeshua’s life on earth are written by the Apostles in order to correct errors that have crept in and to better inform the new Believers of what God has done through Yeshua. Among those writings is Paul’s letter to the Ephesians expressing how God has done the miraculous by breaking “down the middle wall of separation” between them (Eph 2:14), making the Gentiles “one new man” with the Hebrews so that they are together the people of God.
Stay tuned for Part II.
Lonnie would enjoy hearing your response to this or her other articles. You may send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be glad to respond to you. Use this same address to contact Lonnie about speaking engagements. Please put “To Lonnie” in the subject line.
Scripture marked NKJV taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships one with her brother Michael Lane in the Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked.” She is the Producer of Messianic Vision’s radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision’s intercessors.