Recently, I reread Jim’s commentary on the “one new man” and I believe the teaching is especially important for this new year. I want to share it with you all over the coming few weeks. Over these many years, we have built a community of Christian Zionists who are actively looking to the scriptures for answers. Jim’s One New Man teaching addresses some of the most important questions in many of our minds.
I will be going through his teachings for the next five weeks in our Friday videos. If you would like to have a copy of the original small booklet from 2011, we would love to mail you one from our reserves. Please click here and donate 10.00 and we would be happy to mail it.
One New Man
By Jim Hutchens
One of the least understood, yet most intriguing and stated purposes of Jesus is this: “to create in himself, one new man.” .
Obviously, this begs the question, “What does this mean?” Who is the “One New Man” that Jesus the Messiah intended to create in himself? How can one recognize him? Is the One New Man Jewish or Gentile? Both? Neither? What are the distinguishing features of this One New Man?
Traditionally, the “One New Man” of Ephesians 2: 15 has been interpreted as referring to the “church” and the spiritual oneness of all its members.
However, a closer look at the passage clearly shows that the One New Man is not talking about the “Christian church.” The text is not in a “church” related passage—the term “church” is not even used in this context. No, this is an “Israel” related passage, as we will see. Clearly, the One New Man is inseparably related to Israel.
What is “The Church?”
At this point, and at the risk of inducing a paralysis of analysis, a definition of “church” would serve our purposes well. A foundation to this study must consider a correct understanding of the term “church.” First, “church” is never rendered in Scripture as a proper noun, as “Church” with a capital “C.” Rather, it is always rendered as a common or collective noun, “church” without a capital “c.”
That is to say, the word “church” is never presented by God, Jesus, or the writers of the New Testament, nor is it understood by the first readers in any technical, specialized or formal sense – as referring to an institution, a denomination, a council, or for that matter, a building. These meanings have all been added by men through the ages. Thus, we have today an entire branch of theology known as “ecclesiology,” which means the “study of the Church.”
Ecclesiology comes from the Greek word “ekklesia” which is translated most often in the New Testament as “church.” There are some notable exceptions, however. In Acts 7:38, when Stephen is giving a defense against those opposing him, he refers to Moses’ prediction of a prophet like himself who would come. Obviously, Stephen was referring to Jesus, whom Stephen notes as being “in the assembly in the desert with our fathers.” The translation of “ekklesia” is here rendered “assembly” rather than “church.” Again, in Acts 19:32, 39, and 41, “ekklesia” is conveniently translated “assembly,” not church, when it refers to a crowd that opposes Paul in Ephesus or to a legal court that will determine the crowd’s fate. In Hebrews 2:12, quoting from Isaiah 8:18, Jesus says, “I will declare your name to my brothers in the presence of the congregation.” Here “ekklesia” is translated “congregation” rather than “church.”
Both Acts 7:38 and Hebrews 2:12 are New Testament passages that reference Old Testament scriptures, which if translated consistently would have placed the “church” in the Old Testament. This, of course, would be a red flag to most Christians and Jews. After all, many groups at all costs maintain and teach a distinction between Israel and the Church.
Clearly, the Church is not present in the Old Testament. But the question is, “is the differentiation between Israel and the Church a Biblical view or a man-made distinction?” Our consideration of the One New Man will provide us with the answer. The answer is found in the meaning of the word “ekklesia” and brings us to the second aspect of our parenthesis.
“Ekklesia” is rendered properly when it is translated as “congregation,” “assembly,” “gathering,” or even “community.” Knowing this avoids the technical “institutionalizing” and “denominationalizing” of the term, and thus the theological misunderstandings that have attached themselves to this word through the centuries. We believe this to be the basic and proper meaning of the term as it is used throughout the New Testament. Certainly, it conveys the meaning of its Old Testament, Hebrew counterpart, “kahal,” meaning “congregation, assembly, crowd, the Hebrew communion.”
As a matter of fact, in any Hebrew New Testament, “kahal’ is the translation of the word rendered “church.” Jesus used this when he said, “I will build my church (kahal) and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18). This same word is used in Matthew 18:17, “tell it to the church” (kahal).
In summary, then, we are asserting that the One New Man is a “congregation” or “assembly” or “community” within Israel, not the “Church,” or as we shall see, “the people of faith”-“the Israel of God.”
Now, for a correct understanding of Jesus stated purpose of creating in himself One New Man, we must consider the context in which the phrase is an integral part. Here, I will read Ephesians 2:
“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision”)-remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with Gods people and members of Gods household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
As clear as this passage may seem, many fail to see the full significance and the monumental implications it has today both for the Jews and the followers of Jesus. Join me next week for more observations on this integral text.