Why Former Gentile?
Using the term former Gentile has created its share of controversy. Even amongst some of my closest friends and members of the Congregation. So, why do we use the term “Former Gentile”?
Referring to someone who is not ethnically Jewish as a Messianic Jew is incorrect. While many in the Church, out of ignorance, say all believers are Messianic Jews, that is not the case. Jewishness comes from linage, either Father (Biblically), or mother (Rabbinically). Thus we only refer to a person as Jewish if they have Jewish ancestry (conversion is a topic for another time).
Referring to someone as a Gentile is also problematic if they are a believer in Messiah and especially if they are a Messianic believer. Gentile comes from the Hebrew Goyim, which is used as nations in scripture. Unfortunately it also has the meaning of pagan, as in someone who does not follow the G-d of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. Once a person believes, they certainly are no longer pagan! Also, since believers are grated in to (not replacing) Israel (similar to the Former Gentile Caleb, who with Joshua lead the children of Israel into the promised land!), the term Gentile is in my opinion, improper.
Thus a new term was required to identify non-Jewish, grafted into Israel, believers. The term we chose is “former gentile”, as it celebrates G-d’s miraculous change He has made in their heart. That is why we say “former gentile”.