God loves unity! “And the two shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). God modeled unity in the Garden of Eden with the marriage of the first man and woman. The Apostle Paul quoted this verse to teach that Jesus and the Church were like husband and wife, united in one flesh (Eph. 5:22-32). The greatest demonstration of love the world has ever known was when the Bridegroom laid down His life for the Bride. And the greatest love the Bride can show for the Bridegroom is to submit her life totally to Him. Unity is all about love.
Unity is the essence of the God we believe in. “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4)! God proclaims the unity of the Godhead, so, of course, He expects unity in His covenant people. That word, “one,” is echad in Hebrew. It is a compound word. Christians can see the Trinity in that word. Jesus made the bold claim, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). Paul ends his second letter to the Corinthians with this benediction, affirming the Trinity, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (II Cor. 13:14). Yes, amen!
Jesus wants His followers to be in unity. He prayed to the Father right before His arrest and crucifixion that those who believe in Him would be one just as He and His Father are one. He prayed that His followers would be included in the divine oneness. That marvelous witness of unity would be what the world longs to see! (John 17: 20-23). Who could resist the allure of a Church who truly loves its own enough to die for them? That is the divine strategy for winning the lost – unity!
The Church today needs to understand just who Jesus was referring to in His high priestly prayer for unity. The average Christian who reads John 17 most likely thinks of divisions he is familiar with, such as racial, ethnic, parent-child, husband-wife, employer-employee, political, religious, educational, or economic divisions. Those types of division are real and touch everyone on the planet. No doubt Jesus grieves over these divisions, but the division he most longs to see healed is that of Jew and Gentile. The original Church was totally Jewish for ten years, with Jewish bishops in Jerusalem. The first church split happened in the second century between Jewish and Gentile believers, and it resulted in a paganized kind of Christianity that forgot its Jewish origins. This led to anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews during the Inquisition, the pogroms, the Crusades, and right up to the Holocaust, all at the hands of the Church! This is documented history and very tragic. Most Christians don’t know a thing about it! And many in the Church do not even realize the Jewishness of the Head of the Church, Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ).
Jesus made it clear at His first coming that His mission was primarily to His own people, the Jews, not the Gentiles. Jesus sent out His twelve disciples, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” After His death and resurrection that line of division was eliminated when He gave the “Great Commission” to His Jewish disciples – “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). It is significant that He named the Trinity in His command to bring all nations into His kingdom. The big heart of God is longing to bring everyone into His kingdom. He is not willing that anyone should perish! He invites all to be one with the Godhead! Incredible!
God does not show partiality, but He does have order in the way He operates, and the Jews come first. On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit first came to 120 Jews and baptized them with “tongues of fire” on their heads and in their mouths! In Jerusalem the visiting Jews “from every nation under heaven” heard the gospel in their own language, and 3,000 believed! (Acts 2). No doubt they went back home and began discipling others, just as Jesus had commanded.
Paul kept the order Jesus initiated, saying that the gospel was for the Jew first, then the Greek or Gentile (Rom. 1:16). He always first visited the synagogue in every place he went, even after he said on two occasions that he was finished with the Jews and would go to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46; 18:6).
The Church gained more and more Gentiles as Paul went on his missionary journeys. He taught them their Jewish roots, saying to the Ephesians that as Gentiles they “were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one and has broken down the middle wall of separation, … so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Eph. 2: 11-16).
In those days it was a curious thing that Gentiles could join the Jews as part of God’s covenant people. The Jews were in. The Gentiles were out. Paul called it a “mystery” that God had revealed to him, previously hidden in other ages, “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Eph. 3:3-6).
May Gentile Christians rejoice that we, as “wild branches,” have been “grafted into” the Jewish “olive tree.” We should not be conceited and “boast against the natural branches.” We, like the Ephesians, must respect the Jewish roots of the Church and remember “we do not support the root, but the root supports us” (Rom. 11:17-18).
Having this understanding of our Jewish roots, Christians should prayerfully and practically support the nation of Israel, love the Jewish people, and seek to bring them to a knowledge of their own Jewish Messiah. Jesus is longing to see One New Man in His Church!!
By Nancy Petrey, March 1, 2013