What is a Messianic Gentile?

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If you have been on my site for more than 5 minutes you have probably become familiar with the term “Messianic Jew”. In case you are not, I will explain below. But what is a Messianic Gentile and how do they differ from a Christian? How are they very different from say the Hebrew Roots or “One Law” movement?

There is a pretty clear distinction between them and in this article we are going to tell you what a Messianic Gentile is and the important role they play in the Messianic community.

What is a Messianic Jew?

Before I can adequately explain what a Messianic Gentile is, I need to define what a Messianic Jew is. This is pretty easy as I am one myself! We are not just “Jewish Christians”. We are observant Jews who live out our Jewish heritage and Jewish identity while following the Jewish Messiah of Israel, Yeshua.

However, I am going to use the definitions crafted by people I respect to make defining it easier.

The Basic Statement by the UMJC (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations) states:

The Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) envisions Messianic Judaism as a movement of Jewish congregations and groups committed to Yeshua the Messiah that embrace the covenantal responsibility of Jewish life and identity rooted in Torah, expressed in tradition, and renewed and applied in the context of the New Covenant. Messianic Jewish groups may also include those from non-Jewish backgrounds who have a confirmed call to participate fully in the life and destiny of the Jewish people. We are committed to embodying this definition in our constituent congregations and in our shared institutions.

UMJC HTTPS://WWW.UMJC.ORG/DEFINING-MESSIANIC-JUDAISM

Their Expanded Statement, should you choose to read more…

Jewish life is life in a concrete, historical community. Thus, Messianic Jewish groups must be fully part of the Jewish people, sharing its history and its covenantal responsibility as a people chosen by God. At the same time, faith in Yeshua also has a crucial communal dimension. This faith unites the Messianic Jewish community and the Christian Church, which is the assembly of the faithful from the nations who are joined to Israel through the Messiah. Together the Messianic Jewish community and the Christian Church constitute the ekklesia, the one Body of Messiah, a community of Jews and Gentiles who in their ongoing distinction and mutual blessing anticipate the shalom of the world to come.

For a Messianic Jewish group 1) to fulfill the covenantal responsibility incumbent upon all Jews, 2) to bear witness to Yeshua within the people of Israel, and 3) to serve as an authentic and effective representative of the Jewish people within the body of Messiah, it must place a priority on integration with the wider Jewish world, while sustaining a vital corporate relationship with the Christian Church.

In the Messianic Jewish way of life, we seek to fulfill Israel’s covenantal responsibility embodied in the Torah within a New Covenant context. Messianic Jewish halakhah is rooted in Scripture (Tanakh and the New Covenant writings), which is of unique sanctity and authority. It also draws upon Jewish tradition, especially those practices and concepts that have won near-universal acceptance by devout Jews through the centuries. Furthermore, as is common within Judaism, Messianic Judaism recognizes that halakhah is and must be dynamic, involving the application of the Torah to a wide variety of changing situations and circumstances.

Messianic Judaism embraces the fullness of New Covenant realities available through Yeshua, and seeks to express them in forms drawn from Jewish experience and accessible to Jewish people.

UMJC Theology Committee; affirmed by delegate vote, July 20, 2005.UMJC HTTPS://WWW.UMJC.ORG/DEFINING-MESSIANIC-JUDAISM

So that defines Messianic Judaism quite clearly. I could quote many more definitions but this post is about Messianic Gentiles so I will move along.

An image of a flowering tree that has been grafted and the Worth Beyond Rubies logo at the bottom with text overlay that says What is a Messianic Gentile and What They Are Not

What is a Messianic Gentile?

So now that we know what a Messianic Jew is, what is a Messianic Gentile? Aren’t Messianic Gentiles just gentile Christians?

Well, not exactly. There are some fairly significant differences, just as there are some significant differences between Messianic Jews and Jewish believers who are of Jewish descent but who enjoy attending church. Maybe they have intermarried and decided the church environment is better suited for their family. Perhaps they grew up in a home that didn’t have that Jewish identity and so the church is all they have known.

So again, I am going to turn to some scholars and organizations to help define what a Messianic Gentile is and what they are not!

We saw in the UMJC’s Basic Statement above that they said:

“Messianic Jewish groups may also include those from non-Jewish backgrounds who have a confirmed call to participate fully in the life and destiny of the Jewish people.”

UMJC HTTPS://WWW.UMJC.ORG/DEFINING-MESSIANIC-JUDAISM

Keep in mind the words “confirmed call” and “participate FULLY” in the life and DESTINY of the Jewish people.

Let’s look at what my two favorite YouTubers, Two Messianic Jews, say about the definition because I think theirs is my favorite one of all:

“A Messianic Gentile is a non-Jewish member of a Messianic synagogue who affirms the teachings of Messianic Judaism and has committed to worship and live according to the norms of the synagogue they have joined. Meaning, they do things like keep kosher and attend synagogue on Shabbat and during festivals while decidedly remaining non-Jews.

The idea of the ideal Messianic Gentile is modeled in the sojourner who dwells among you mentioned in Torah. These were not Jewish converts. Ruth the Moabitess continues to be known as the Moabitess while she committed her life to the God of Israel and the people of Israel as a non-Jew. There are also the God-fearers mentioned throughout the Book of Acts who were non-Jewish participants in synagogues in the early century CE such as Cornelius in Acts 10.

TWO MESSIANIC JEWS HTTPS://WWW.YOUTUBE.COM/WATCH?V=P_GUUQB7MEA
Let’s look at what my two favorite YouTubers, Two Messianic Jews, say about the definition of Messianic Gentile because I think theirs is my favorite one of all! Click To Tweet

I bolded the words “live according to the norms of the synagogue they have joined” because I think this is SO key to being a Messianic Gentile vs what we see in Hebrew Roots or One Law or just someone who wants to live out the Jewish roots of their faith. There are no standards, no order to Hebrew Roots. There’s no structure. One group may do something completely different from the next!

Messianic Gentiles are gentile believers who have the covering of Messianic Jewish synagogues and the leadership of a Rabbi. They are being taught and led. They are not just picking and choosing things to follow that they THINK come from Torah but are in fact coming from the cultural identity of the Jewish people.

Having good, solid leadership and learning and MODELING the Jewish norms of their synagogue is what makes a Messianic Gentile FULLY participate in the life and destiny of the Jewish people.

Let’s look at another definition by one of my own MJTI teachers, Rabbi Elliot Klayman, along with Dr. David Rudolph from one of my textbooks from my Introduction to Messianic Judaism course with Dr. Jen Rosner….“Messianic Jewish Synagogues” in Introduction to Messianic Judaism. 47-48:

“’Messianic Gentiles’ are non-Jews who are called by God to participate in the life and destiny of the Jewish people. They have a special love for the Jewish people, involve themselves in the Jewish world, learn Hebrew, honor Jewish customs, and serve as members of Messianic synagogues for decades.”

RABBI ELLIOT KLAYMAN AND DR. DAVID RUDOLPH, “MESSIANIC JEWISH SYNAGOGUES” IN INTRODUCTION TO MESSIANIC JUDAISM. 47-48

So Who is NOT a Messianic Gentile?

So a Messianic Gentile is NOT Hebrew Roots or One Law.

To quote Two Messianic Jews:

Hebrew Roots and One Law adherents believe Gentile followers of Jesus who are in the church are obligated to follow the Torah to express their faith in God, including kashrut, the feasts, Shabbat and in some cases circumcision.

Two Messianic Jews – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_GuUQB7mEA

The key difference here between Hebrew Roots and Messianic Gentiles is found in the words I bolded…who are in the church.

These are people who believe gentile Christians are obligated to follow Torah from within the church. The guys from Two Messianic Jews go on to say:

Messianic Gentiles on the other hand understand that Jews have a unique responsibility to keep the Torah which non-Jews do not have. 

Two Messianic Jews – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_GuUQB7mEA

So the key differences here are Messianic Gentiles are under the covering of a synagogue and a Jewish Rabbi and are learning Jewish practice in Jewish space from Messianic Jewish leaders and the other is in church, following Torah without proper instruction in Torah and without an understanding of the Jew’s unique role in keeping Torah.

Understanding and learning here are key. When you do not have those from the proper place, you risk teaching and spreading false doctrine rather than Biblical truth and sound doctrine.

One’s expression of faith needs to be rooted in sound doctrine and these movements are often steeped in replacement theology which teaches that the church has now replaced Israel as the people of God rather than joined WITH Israel through the Messiah of Israel, our Messiah Yeshua.

Understanding and learning here are key. When you do not have those from the proper place, you risk teaching and and spreading false doctrine rather than Biblical truth and sound doctrine. Click To Tweet

Many, while not all, believe the Christian faith is now the one true faith and that the Jewish festivals and Torah belong to them, even going to the extent of appropriating Jewish culture.

While I believe these people are well-intentioned and have a desire to follow God, they are doing great damage and alienating their Jewish brothers and sisters in the Messianic movement.

As noted in the definitions above, if one has a true calling to participate fully in the life and destiny of the Jewish people and are called by God to participate in the life and destiny of the Jewish people and live according to the norms of the synagogue they have joined then one is welcome!

The UMJC has a list of congregations you can attend and speak with a Rabbi about becoming a part of that community.

For much greater detail on what is a Messianic Gentile, I highly encourage you to watch this video from my friends at Two Messianic Jews. It is very informative and could even be life-changing for some with topics such as:

  • Distinguishing from Hebrew Roots/One Law
  • Other Hebrew Roots Errors
  • Unhealthy and Healthy Messianic Gentile Attitudes
  • Are you led to join a Messianic synagogue as a non-Jew?