Today I’m going to tackle what could possibly be one of the most perplexing theological questions of all time.
Who or what is a “spiritual Jew”?
The reason this is such a challenging issue to wrestle with is because it goes to the very core of our self-identity, who we feel we are in God.
And let’s face it, we all want to feel like we are one of God’s chosen family regardless of our background.
How we feel God perceives us is directly connected to our very own sense of self-worth and self-esteem as a human being.
So before I get into the thick of things, a quick disclaimer here.
Be advised that I reserve the right to be wrong.
What I’m about to share is based on many hours of prayer and study on this topic, but when all is said and done, I am aware that there are going to be disagreements, which I fully accept and understand.
So let’s open up this can of worms.
Basically there are two different perspectives as follows:
A “spiritual Jew” is any born-again believer regardless of one’s ethnicity.
For obvious reasons, this is the position most popular among non-Jewish believers.
A “spiritual Jew” is ONLY referring to an ethnic Jew (one whose father or mother or both is Jewish) who has been born again by accepting Yeshua.
Or to put it simply, a “spiritual Jew” is a Jewish believer period.
In other words, this is simply an ethnic classification among believers.
This position seems to be prevalent among many Messianic Congregations.
In fact, the Rabbi of the Messianic congregation I used to attend in San Francisco told me that you cannot apply the terms “spiritual Israelite” or “spiritual Jew” to a non-Jewish believer.
So who’s right?
Well, I need to start by going into an obvious but extremely important point, one I briefly touched on in my last post.
And that point is this:
Long before there ever was a nation of Israel or a Jew, God’s laws and principles existed in heaven.
I don’t think there is anybody that would disagree that point.
Before Mount Sinai and before God’s rulings were ever engraved on those tablets of stone that Moses held, God’s laws and principles existed in heaven.
So if God’s laws originated in the heavens, then by definition they are spiritual right?
The Scripture says that God is spirit (John 4:24).
In Romans 7:14, the Apostle Paul says “We know that the law is spiritual“.
BEFORE ISRAEL WAS EVER GIVEN GOD’S LAWS, THESE COMMANDMENTS WERE SIMPLY ABSTRACT DIVINE IDEALS.
It was only when these laws of God were first given to the Israelites at Mount Sinai and literally engraved on a piece of stone that they became physical manifestations so to speak.
However, just because God’s laws took on a physical form does NOT mean the spiritual reality ceased to exist.
Think of Yeshua.
The Scriptures say in the beginning He was the Word and that the Word became flesh.
So Yeshua also was only a spiritual entity or ideal until he took on physical form and was born as a baby in Mary’s womb.
Look at this verse from Romans 2:25-26.
“Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised?”
In this context, one who is circumcised is a Jew and one who is not circumcised is a Gentile.
So is not Paul saying here that if you break the law (which is spiritual), you might as well be considered a gentile?
And, on the other hand, if a Gentile keeps the law (which is spiritual), will he or she not be considered a Jew?
According to Paul’s argument here, isn’t the whole purpose of being a physical (meaning circumcised) Israelite or Jew to be a person who embodies and walks out these spiritual ideals?
Based on this reasoning, wouldn’t it be safe to say that God views ANYBODY regardless of ethnic background who embodies and obeys His spiritual ideals as the truest form of a Jew or Israelite?
Is not Paul saying here that there is no distinction between people who wholeheartedly give themselves to the God of Israel?
Now check out these verses.
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate from Messiah, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.”-Ephesians 2:11-12 (NIV Translation)
Note it says “formerly” you who are Gentiles?
So if a Gentile who comes to faith in Yeshua is no longer a Gentile, then what is he or she?
Also, note the wording “excluded from the citizenship of Israel“.
So if a Gentile becomes a citizen of Israel, what does that make him or her?
(And keep in mind, in this context Paul means becoming a full-fledged member of the Kingdom of God, not becoming a citizen of the physical nation of Israel.)
Though not physically circumcised (meaning not ethnically Jewish), this person has been circumcised in the heart and now walks in the divine ideals of YAHWEH.
What appropriate term would you use to describe this person?
He or she is not Jewish but not really a Gentile (meaning an unbeliever) anymore either.
So what would you call this person?
Based on everything I said thus far, couldn’t this person be considered a “spiritual Israelite” or a “spiritual Jew”?
I mean what the hell else are you gonna call this person?
I guess you could say “spiritual gentile” but from a Scriptural perspective that just seems downright weird, because scripturally “Gentile” is a term used to refer to the unbeliever.
Here’s another major nutcracker.
Check out these verses.
“But it’s not as though God’s word has failed. Not all who are descended from Israel are part of Israel. Not all of Abraham’s children are called Abraham’s descendants, but instead your descendants will be named through Isaac.”-Romans 9:6-9
“Not all who are descended from Israel are part of Israel”???!!!
I may be wrong (and when I say “I may be wrong, I’m not being sarcastic”) but isn’t Paul implying that ultimately it’s not one’s physical ethnicity that matters but one’s faith, which is a spiritual NOT physical matter?
Okay, I have a feeling that I may be seriously irritating some of my Jewish readers.
Look I’m not saying I become Jewish upon being grafted into the commonwealth of Israel (the Kingdom of God) via my faith in Yeshua.
It’s not like my genes somehow magically transform from being Japanese-French to those of an ethnic Jew.
Even the Apostle Paul says that being Jewish has many advantages, since it was to physical Israel that God entrusted His Word.
Yours is an eternal Godly heritage that will never be taken from you.
Remember the gentile believer is grafted into Israel, NOT vice versa.
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“You are all God’s children
through faith in Messiah Yeshua.
All of you who were baptized into Messiah
have clothed yourselves with Him.
There is neither Jew nor Greek;
there is neither slave nor free;
nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.
Now if you belong to Messiah,
then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants,
heirs according to the promise.”