Grafted in or called out?
Challenging the "two-house" theory
Titus 3: 8. Faithful is the Word: and in these things I would have you also establish them; so that they, who have believed in Elohim, may be careful to cultivate good works: these are the things which are good and profitable to men. 9. But foolish questions and stories of genealogies and the disputes and contests of the scribes, avoid: for there is no profit in them and they are vain. 10. An heretical man, after you have instructed him once and then again, avoid: 11. and know that such a man is perverse and sinful, and self-condemned.
A movement alternately known as the "Ephraimite," "Restoration of Israel," "Two-Covenant Israel," or "Two House" movement has been gaining much ground in Messianic cirlces. The erroneous "two-house" belief (started approximately 40 years ago) insist all Christians who become Torah observant believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob automatically belong to the Tribe of Ephraim...and, using Ezekiel 37 (concerning two trees which become one in the hand of the Most High) as "proof", they have built an entire religion around this train of thought! Some have even gone so far as to place more emphasis on their supposed "tribe membership" than on the fact that through Y'shua we are all ONE in Messiah!
Many, if not most, proponents of this movement contend that members of the "born-again" segment of the Christian church are, in fact, actual blood descendants of the ancient Israelites who were exiled in the Assyrian invasion of Israel in 722 B.C.E. Their agenda is to "prove" that Christians are the northern tribes - which actually detracts from our Savior, Yeshua.
Originally, the Messianic Jewish "movement" was all about bringing Jews to faith in Messiah, nothing more. It was NOT about separating Jews from Gentiles in some sort of a hierarchy of faith. But lately, it has gained ground with myriads of Messianic teachers, who seem to have realized that giving Gentiles a tribal identity via "two house" is a very lucrative business venture.
There is on problem with "two house": It is NOT biblical! (For more on this topic, please check out our article: Ephraimites: A case of stolen identity!
By Rabbi David M. Hargis
Every local congregation that I know uses a title. Most use a title which declares that congregation to be of a certain brand. The brand either comes from association with a larger group or it is indicative of a certain vision, action or doctrine to which that congregation especially relates. Our local congregation is named Mishkan HaMelekh, Tabernacle of the King. We chose this because we have a vision, a desire, to be a dwelling place of the Most High. The result of this desire is our elevation of worship, and because we concentrate on this we are blessed with people who are capable of and enjoy performing worship. However, this is certainly not our only vision or desire, but as a name for the congregation it is indicative of perhaps our strongest general ability. Names are important because they can be a rallying point for unity and purpose in the Body. Names come from spiritual concepts, which is another way of saying "revelation." But taking a certain name may also divide us.
Naming ourselves by our primary vision or revelation is the nature of mankind. We are finite creatures and usually we do not do anything well unless we concentrate on one thing at a time. Being limited in scope helps us to focus on our priorities. If we are scattered in our thinking we usually do not succeed at any task. The result is, usually, we title our group after our most important vision.
Our Creator knows our weakness in this area. His word communicates ideas to us in small pieces, especially by using allegorical examples of concepts. When our Creator does this through His word, He generally does not mean for the allegory to go beyond the single and simple idea He is communicating. So because He uses many allegories, there are many ways of looking at the plan, the purpose and the people of the Creator, depending on the particular meaning which He is wanting to get across in a particular text.
"Grafted in" and "called out"
Such is the case with the concepts of being "grafted in" and being "called out". Both are biblical, but they have different attitudes and purposes for the Body. It is likely that one group may take to the idea of being "grafted in" while another group may prefer being "called out." In actual practice both groups will at times speak of the other spiritual concept (revelation), but always have a preferred concept, which becomes a vernacular, that they come back to again and again. I call this "The Letterhead Syndrome". "The Letterhead Syndrome" is the likelihood that a particular group will better succeed by rallying around a single concept (revelation). The revelation terminology which explains the allegory becomes the vernacular code that causes a sense of unity as adherents use it. This is how religious denominations and movements get started, flourish, grow, and maintain. They lose or decay when either their central vision (faith, concept, revelation, etc.) no longer seems as necessary to their supporters or other concepts become more popular and draw people away.
In any case, it is important that we realize that two or more different concepts (revelations) may all have merit; all may shed light on important perspectives; but one may in fact be superior to the others, according to that which bears the most fruit of righteousness.
Factions are usually caused when a new revelation arises that encourages people to form a new elite group, meaning those who get the concept of a new revelation. Certain revelations are ordained of the Most High, in order to bring His people to a further relationship with Him. These revelations are NOT factions because they do not destroy anything He did before. They only add to the knowledge of His will and purpose. On the other hand, concepts which attempt to destroy, rearrange or confuse what G_d has already established are factions of the evil one. Their revelations are false because they bring into question or war against the goodness of those revelations and actions which have already been initiated and established by the Most High. In other words, G_d never fights Himself. Anything which raises its head against His established truth is fractious.
For example, the rebellion of Israel to leave Moses and go back to Egypt was fractious; the separation of the northern tribes from the southern tribes of Israel was fractious; the introduction of paganism and capitalism to Temple worship by corrupt priests was fractious; the creating of commandments of men by the Pharisees was fractious; the denial of the permanence of Torah by the medieval church was fractious; the belief that Israel has been permanently cast off by G_d is fractious; and on it goes to this day.
Therefore, whatever the revelation, it is fractious if it tries to undermine that which G_d has already established. It is possible to take a perfectly good metaphor and push it too far, thereby creating a doctrine through which a faction can and does arise. This is a regular tactic of the evil one to divide the Body and we are not ignorant of his devices.
The Olive Tree metaphor
The concept of the Olive Tree which is put forth by Rabbi Shaul (Apostle Paul) is one such metaphor that has been pushed by some further than its intention, and from which has come great grief in the Messianic movement. The error is found in the attempt to bring together the prophecy of Ezekiel 37 (concerning two trees which become one in the hand of the Most High) with Romans 11:17,18. Whereas Romans talks about branches coming from another tree and being grafted in to an established tree, Ezekiel is talking about two separate but equal trees becoming one tree. In the case of Shaul, he is speaking of people coming and joining other people: Gentiles joining Jews in the Torah of Messiah. Whereas, Ezekiel sees the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel coming under the authority of Messiah.
Shaul is talking about a spiritual union of faith, while Ezekiel is plainly talking about a union of physical kingdoms. Shaul is saying that the wild branches have to leave their tree and join the tree the natural ones are in. The natural ones are the righteous Jews. Some of them who are cut off from the natural are also able to be grafted in from off the ground where they have been cut off. Therefore, Shaul in Romans 11 is emphasizing the importance of the spiritual flow of bearing good fruit by being grafted into the spiritual tree which G_d intended, and that this comes from trust in Messiah Yeshua and obedience to His Torah. That is his only meaning to the metaphor.
In Ezekiel 37 the two trees are indicative of fully realized physical Israel, Ephraim and Judah and their associated tribes. In Romans 11, the wild branches come away from the wild and enter the natural. It is the Gentiles (wild in sin) becoming aware of the natural (Torah obedient Israel) through the knowledge of Messiah, thereby joining with the stream of life available to Israel. That part of Israel (the Jews) which does not take to the Torah through Messiah is cast off, with the possibility of returning to the Olive Tree.
There is no reason to think that Ezekiel 37 and Romans 11 are speaking of the same metaphor. For, if the wild are Ephraim and the Jews are the natural, then Romans 11 is saying that righteous Ephraim must leave Ephraim and join Judah. Ephraim then is no more. Under that scenario Ephraim is bad and Judah is good, and that just is not the case.
What the Most High is simply saying in Romans 11 is that anyone, Jewish or not, who will be saved, must believe in His Messiah and obey His Torah. This is what it means to be in the Olive Tree. This understanding causes us to seek out the unbelieving Jewish people and the unbelieving Gentiles, and to see them both become one in Messiah. There is no importance given here to anyone's genealogy. They are one body, one people, together in faith and practice if they come into Messiah.
Our Messiah Yeshua chose to use the term "Called Out" to signify His people in Matt.16:19. The Apostles caught this concept and used it most often concerning the followers of Messiah. "Called Out", in Hebrew mikra and in Greek ekklesia, has been mis-translated into English as "church." Yet, it is the concept of being His "Called Out" which Messiah offered to Israel (the Jewish people) first. Those who would follow this Jewish Messiah (the Lion of Judah) would be the "Called Out". In His estimation it is more important to be "called out" than to be "grafted in," since He never used the term "grafted in" or spoke of "two trees" or "two houses." To be "Called Out" is to be brought forth from sinfulness to the life of G_d. Messiah said those of Israel needed to be "Called Out". Apostle Kefa echoed this when he commanded the Jewish people to "save yourselves from this sinful generation."
The emphasis is not about birthright
The emphasis of the good news of Messiah Yeshua is about what you are coming from, not obtaining any earthly birthright. To be the "Called Out" makes all of us who have been created over again one Body, one people, who will receive the reward of all things. We are all the Mikra Kodesh (Holy Called Out Ones) who follow the Torah obedient Messiah Yeshua. This means there is no longer any issue concerning genealogy. In fact, to wrangle over genealogy is sin. That is what Shaul meant when he said there is no more "Jew or Greek." Those in Mikra Kodesh are all one. We are all either from the sinful Jews or from the sinful Gentiles. Whenever we discuss our genealogy we are only pointing to our sinfulness. Sin is sin. We have all been one in sin, and now we are free and live as one Mikra Kodesh, one Called Out Assembly of Messiah Yeshua.
This concept far surpasses anything that has to do with two houses or birthrights, because once we are one in Messiah all things are ours together, with no difference between us. We will all be judged on our faith and on our practice, with nothing said about our ancestry or birthright. Show me where our Messiah declared that our birthright will have any bearing in the judgment! It is our trust and practice that will decide our reward.
So then, our unity is not based on inclusion in Israel, but rather our salvation from sin. Our unity in Messiah Yeshua has been established and dealt with long ago. We are one in Him through His death and resurrection and obedience to His Word. Today is not a restoration of Gentiles becoming Ephraim, but rather a restoration of all who will belong to Him to come into obedience to His Torah. If we are to be one, as Messiah and the Father are one, it will be in obedience, for that is the way Messiah on earth was one with the Father. We must put away all opinions of doctrines which He did not dictate for us. Any teaching is a "wind of doctrine" we must avoid if it takes us away from the unity of purpose in bringing the Torah of Messiah to all.
We should never speak of the joining of "Ephraim and Judah" as an essential part of the plan for new birth and union in Messiah Yeshua because He never gave us instruction to do that. There is nothing in Ezekiel 37 which makes that passage a reference to the salvation of Gentiles through faith in Messiah. There is nothing that says these two trees are the spiritual or physical union of Gentiles and Jews. The Messiah can fulfill Ezekiel 37 quite easily apart from any connection to the union of Gentiles and Jews.
There is nothing in "two house" teaching that adds anything to that which believing Gentiles and believing Jews already have by their covenant with Messiah Yeshua. The covenant in Him is greater than all covenants and includes every covenant benefit in all other covenants of the Most High. There is nothing in "two house" teaching which yields any benefit to anyone beyond what has already been clearly declared by Messiah and the Apostles.
Therefore, "two house" teaching confuses instead of clarifying. It attempts to add where there is no need to add. It commands where there is no commandment. It is an opinion on an interpretation of prophecy which some have made out to be the Torah of G_d. It is not Torah, and it is an error for anyone to make it so.
To reflect on the central issue here: In one sense we are the "grafted in" to the Olive Tree, but more largely, we are "Called Out" from sin unto righteousness. May that be our greater sign.
The above was borrowed and used with permission from Messianic Bureau International.
The bottom line is, there is a difference between discussing the issue in scripture that Ephraim returns, and building an entire religious identity around it! The two-house issue is NON-CORE, non-salvation specific. YHWH never said this issue was to build a separate religion, nor separate Messianic believers into "us and them!" (Jews and Ephraim.) It's not about being "Jews" or "Ephraim"! It's simply about YHWH and being obedient to HIM.
Who CARES what "tribe" we are from? YHWH knows which tribes everyone of us belongs to and we will enter through that particular gate when the times comes (Revelation 21:10 through 22:14). But to insist all Gentiles who become believers are automatically part of the "Northern Tribes" - and more specifically "Ephraim" - is absolutely ludicrous. Yet there are entire factions who believe this, and it's all they EVER talk about. But, where does Scripture tell us all Gentiles who come to YHWH are automatically part of Ephraim?