This is a book review of Grafted In (Israel, Gentiles, and The Mystery of the Gospel) by D. Thomas Lancaster. I picked this book up a couple of months ago at the First Fruits of Zion Headquarters (FFOZ) www.ffoz.org on my way back from a Sukkot celebration in central Missouri.
I have to admit that I should have been through with this book over a month ago but my extra-biblical reading got derailed a bit the last month due to my lack of motivation and general laziness. This seems to happen every so often but fortunately it seems that I’m coming out of the fog once again. Praise HaShem!
The author D. Thomas Lancaster has become one of my favorite bible teachers to listen to and read from. He is the congregational leader of Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship www.bethimmanuel.org and educational director of FFOZ. He has authored multiple books including Restoration and King of the Jews as well as being the main contributor to FFOZ’s expansive Torah Club commentaries.
Grafted In was originally published under the title The Mystery of the Gospel in 2003. Since the original release of Mystery of the Gospel, Lancaster and the team at FFOZ have continued to refine their brand of Torah Theology. Once labeled “One Law”, in 2009 FFOZ publicly made a transition from “One Law” Torah Theology to the self-defined “Divine Invitation” Torah Theology. With this further development of theology came updates to two of Lancaster’s books: Restoration and The Mystery of the Gospel, the latter newly retitled as Grafted In.
Grafted In deals primarily with the questions of Gentile inclusion and relationship with the people and land of Israel such as:
Who is Israel?
What is the Mystery of the Gospel and the Mystery of Messiah?
What is the offense of the cross?
In who should believers find their identity? Messiah? Israel? Both?
What is the Gentiles role within the people of Israel, Messianic Judaism and the Kingdom of Heaven?
These and many more questions are put forth and discussed in this oft-debated and generally misunderstood position of being Grafted In to the Messiah and people of God – Israel.
Who or what can be defined as physical Israel or Israel according to the flesh? Jacob, Jacob’s physical descendents, The Land, United Kingdom/Political Entity under the rule of David and Solomon, The 10 Northern Tribes, The Jews who returned from the Babylonian Exile, Judaism as a whole, and the modern political state and it’s citizens can all be described as physical or legal Israel.
Which of those groups do Gentile believers in Messiah Yeshua fit in?
Lancaster divides Israel into two groups: “Legal Israel” are those who are physical Israelites according to the flesh. “Kingdom Israel” is made up of both physical (Legal) and non-physical (Spiritual) Israelites who are believers in Messiah Yeshua.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 10 Paul is writing to a community composed of both Jewish and Gentile believers. He starts the chapter by acknowledging that “our fathers” were in the wilderness with Moses. On one level Paul equates this community of both Jewish and Gentile believers with the community of Israel as the “forefathers” of even the Gentile believers of Corinth. But in verse 18, Paul makes the distinction with “Israel according to the flesh” and a legal privilege that separates the two groups.
1 Corinthians 10:1-5 For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
1 Corinthians 10:18 Consider the people of Israel:  are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?
When speaking of Gentile believers being included with Israel, Paul didn’t use the terms “Legal or Physical Israel” or even the terms “Spiritual or Kingdom Israel” but rather “Israel of God” and “Commonwealth of Israel”.
Galatians 6:15-16 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.
Ephesians 2:11-13 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
The main borderline between Physical Israel and Kingdom Israel for Paul is not Torah observance but rather a status “in the eyes of men”.
Romans 2:28-29 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
1 Corinthians 7:19 For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.
Acts 15 and 21 is also telling in its distinction made between Jewish and Gentile believers. Acts 15 and 21 affirmed Jewish obligation to Torah but left room for Gentile participation perhaps due to a general misunderstanding of justification. However, the Gentiles were put on the trajectory of Torah since the Apostolic writings were built upon the foundation of Torah. “In Acts 15 and 21, the apostles affirmed that obedience to Torah is absolutely mandatory and binding for Jewish believers. But they granted Gentile believers significant space. The Gentile believers were placed on the trajectory of Torah by Acts 15, the writings of Paul and discipleship to Yeshua, but Paul and the other apostles were unwilling to place the Gentiles under the full obligation of conversion into legal Israel because that was wrongly understood as a prerequisite of salvation.”
Gentile believers do have a place in Israel. That doesn’t mean that they become Israel physically or that they replace the Jewish people who are and will always exist as Israel. The believing Gentiles are joined alongside the believing Jews as the “Israel of God” or “Commonwealth of Israel”. What Lancaster calls “Kingdom Israel”.
Romans 11:11-24 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion  mean! 13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root  of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
The participation in Israel and Torah is the natural mode of faith expression for a member of Israel whether physical or spiritual. Yeshua asked how could we understand spiritual things if we don’t understand the natural. Both Israel and Torah have natural and spiritual components. Both Israel and Torah will play a primary part in the Kingdom. It’s long overdue for us as believers to start trying to understand these things in the here and now for a foretaste of the future.
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the matchless name of Yeshua the Messiah!