Letters to the Editor
In a letter to the editor from Mr. C. R. Harris of Flagstaff, Arizona, our brother questions Dr. S. Lewis Johnson’s use of the term “Jewish Christianity,” and this, in the light of such Scriptures as Romans 3:22 & 23, Ephesians 2:14 & 15, Colossians 3:10 & 11, John 1:12 and 1 John 3:1 & 2. Perhaps others of our readers have also wondered about Dr. Johnson’s use of this term.
It is hoped that the following explanation by Dr. Johnson, excerpted from his letter to Mr. Harris, will clarify the former’s use of the expression, “Jewish Christianity.”
Dear Mr. Harris:
Thank you for your letter which has been forwarded to me from the Editor of Food for the Flock for reply. I am glad that you have taken the time to read the article.
I would not want to risk my neck for the term, “Jewish Christianity,” for I, too, do not wish to claim that it is a specifically biblical term, but simply that, like the term Trinity, it is in harmony with biblical truth.
The point of the term is simply to direct attention to the fact that the New Testament does recognize ethnic origins of believers in Christ in the present age. Paul makes the point plainly in Romans 11:1 where he says, “for I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” And in verse 5 he states, “Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace,” and the term remnant here clearly refers to believing Jews in the body of Christ.
The recognition of ethnic origins in the church does not violate the oneness that all believers have in Christ. The position that all believers have in Christ, whether of Jewish or Gentile ethnic origin, is the same. I believe that is what you seek to show, and with that I have no argument.
The texts you cite are largely irrelevant to the point, it seems to me. They essentially say that we are all sons of God, and that we are one in Christ. That is a common status, a common spiritual position, that all believers have in our Lord. That, however, does not mean that there are no differences between believers that do not pertain to spiritual privilege. To indicate this, let us cite a text that the apostle writes in an epistle to which you did not refer. In Galatians 3:28 he says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” That Paul does not mean that in everything believers are one is plain from his words, “neither bond nor free,” for elsewhere he refers to believers as being slaves in several places (cf. 1 Cor. 7:20-24; Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-25, etc.). And the clinching point is found in his words, “there is neither male nor female,” and I dare say that all believers must admit that, while we are one in Christ in spiritual position, we are not all one in sex. Differences, then, do exist in the body of Christ, but they do not negate the point you wished to make, namely, that in spiritual privilege and position, we are all one “in Christ Jesus.”
Incidentally, Paul’s statement in Galatians 3:28 is quite important for some aspects of the feminist debate of today. In using Galatians 3:28 to try to make the questionable point that in the church there is no place for differences of authority among the sexes, adherents of egalitarianism in the church have missed the apostle’s point. He does not say that there is neither male nor female in the church; he says there is neither male nor female “in Christ.” Paul is thinking of spiritual privilege and position. There is neither male nor female in these things, or “in Christ.”
In the church, however, all the distinctions still hold, including “Jew” and “Greek.”
There is, then, nationality in Christianity, or among Christians, but not “in Christ.” There we all are one.
I hope this clarifies the point that you have raised, and thank you again for your letter.