In this series we will publish extracts from a new book by Johannes Fichtenbauer, an Austrian Archdeacon and part of the Charismatic Renewal of the Catholic Church.
The Jewish Remnant
Thanks to Paul’s explanation that salvation was ‘first to the Jew, then to the Gentile’ (Romans 1:16), some Apostles began to recognize that the atonement of the Messiah was not just for the Jewish people. They had seen some of the Gentiles thirsting for God much more than many Jews did. …We find many passages referring to this debate among the Jewish disciples of Jesus (Acts 15:1-35; Phi 3:1-4; Gal. 2:11-21). Paul’s letter to the Galatians (2:11-21) observes that there was strong disagreement between Peter and Paul over this issue.
The ‘First Council of Jerusalem’
To resolve the differences, the Apostles decided to hold a conference, later called by historians the ‘First Council of Jerusalem’…From that day on, the Body of Messiah consisted of two components, one people. There was the Messianic-Jewish component, which in the New Testament is called ‘the Ecclesia of the Circumcision’(see Eph. 2:11). And there was the Gentile component, which was formed by all the non-Jewish believers from the nations.
… There were Jewish and Gentile congregations, and there were many mixed congregations. And though there were two different components, it was still one united people. To gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between these two parts of the Body of Christ, we need to reflect on Romans 9-11. Interestingly enough, these three chapters are little known by the majority of Christians. Not understanding these three chapters and the theology behind them means Gentile Christians miss an important truth: The only way for the Gentiles to fully participate in the redemptive plan of God is to be in harmony with the believing part of Israel.
Understanding the Mystery of the Olive Tree
To demonstrate this fact of the life-giving connection of the Gentile believers with Israel, Paul uses the analogy of the olive tree (Rom 11: 13-24):
- The roots and the trunk of the olive tree symbolize the Fathers, the Covenants, the Torah, the Promises, and even the Messiah Yeshua himself (Rom. 9:4-5). These are the elements that make up the Nation of Israel at its best, into which the Gentiles have been grafted like ‘wild’ olive branches (Rom. 11:13-24);
- The Gentiles only have a position in salvation history because we are part of God’s People linked to Israel through the Jewish part of the Church (Rom. 11);
- The realization of this link between the Gentile believers and Israel only functions well when the Messianic Jewish movement acts as the bridge between the Gentile Church and the Jewish people. As Gentiles, we should not take from the Jews what is particularly theirs. We should not become like them, but we should relate to them in unity and harmony. This relationship of the Gentile believers with all Israel is made possible and activated through the Messianic Jews, the believing remnant from Israel (Rom. 11:5, 6);
- As Jewish believers, they are still part of all Israel. At the same time, as disciples of Yeshua, they are also part of the Body of Christ. In their double nature, they are the link between Israel and the Church. Without the Messianic Jewish part, the Gentile Church is amputated and doesn’t have full access to the Olive Tree. If there is no Messianic Jewish part of the Church, our spiritual health as Gentiles is limited.
Gentiles depend on Israel – Israel depends on the Gentiles
According to Ephesians 2:11-22, Jesus broke down this wall of separation between Jewish and Gentile believers so that they would be able to work together hand-in-hand. The blood of Christ brought near all who were far off. He made out of the two one Church. He reconciled the two peoples into one Body (v. 14). By this act, God potentially healed a broken mankind into one New Man. That is why God never intended to divide the Jewish part of the Church from the Gentile part of the Church. For Him there is only one Church, composed of both peoples.
Extract prepared by Paddy Monaghan, founder of Christian Friends of Israel, Ireland.