Tag Archives: messianic jews

A Christian’s Commentary on Jews and Messianic Judaism

Yesterday, the Rosh Pina Project (RPP), whose work in challenging those who support Arab terrorism against Israel I greatly respect, published a blog post called Messianic Jewish “Rabbis”: The New Testament is part of the Torah.

The blog post itself is a very short commentary on the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council’s decisions and self-definition of what it is to be a Rabbi in Messianic Jewish community.

However, what really got my attention occurred in the comments section of that blog post.

I’ve always been a little baffled when Jewish people willingly convert to (Gentile) Christianity, disdain the Torah, the mitzvot, the Shabbat, and the Biblical moadim (festivals) in favor of Christmas, Easter, and the “freedom” to eat ham sandwiches.

OK, I’m being a little snarky here, but remember, I have been married to a Jewish wife for over 30 years (although she hasn’t been “religious” all that time, and even now, her observance isn’t as full as I wish it was), so I have a rather unique perspective on what being Jewish means to her, including her special and precious covenant relationship with Hashem (God).

I don’t know the history or background of most of the people commenting at RPP, but it seems that at least some of them are believing Jews in the vein of “Hebrew Christians,” Jews who attend church along with their Gentile Christian counterparts, adopting the lifestyle and beliefs of the believing “Goyim,” and being Jewish in name and DNA only.

shabbosTo me (but who am I to talk?), a large part of being a Jew of faith is living a life of Jewish praxis, of lighting the Shabbos candles, davening with a minyan, attending the prayer and Torah services in synagogue on Shabbat, donning a tallit and laying tefillin to pray, and many other things that are inexorably intertwined with observing the Torah mitzvot and living life as a Jew.

Even as I’m writing this, one or more comments responding to the one I made at the aforementioned RPP blog post, are being published, so it’s going to be interesting writing this while commenting there.

I feel like I’m repeating myself in making my points, but to believe the traditional Christian view of Galatians 4 that the Torah is slavery or Hebrews 8:13 that the Torah is obsolete, and thus replaced rather than augmented by the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31; Ezekiel 36) means that God lied to Israel when He gave them the Torah at Sinai and when He promised to redeem Israel as Israel in the New Covenant promises.

I’ve written so much about the New Covenant, why it adds to and augments the Sinai and other covenants God made with Israel, why Israel, that is, the Jewish people, have been and always will be special and unique to God, even among the ekklesia of Jews and Gentiles who worship the God of Israel and bring honor to Yeshua, our Rav and King. I don’t want to write it all down again in a single blog post. It wouldn’t be an essay, it would be a small book (and believe me, I’ve thought of collecting certain of my blog series into a book, but who’d publish it?).

To understand my perspective on the nature of the New Covenant as summarized in a single blog post, read The Jesus Covenant Part 11: Building My Model.

I went through something of a crisis of faith a few years back when I realized that there is nothing whatsoever in the New Covenant language that promises salvation or a place in the world to come to non-Jewish, non-Israel people who believe in Jesus. The fact that Yeshua mentions the New Covenant in his blood in Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, and Luke 22:20 has no apparent connection to Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 at all.

new heartSo I spent somewhere around nine months or so complaining in the blogosphere, asking for help from anyone I thought would/should know how to make that connection. Ultimately, I made it myself through a lot of study and investigation. No wonder most Christians just take the “this is the new covenant in my blood” statement and how to interpret it for granted. If you really look at it, the statement is like a castle built on air if you don’t understand how all of the covenants work together. The Church doesn’t teach that part. You have to dig it out for yourself.

Recently, I wrote a blog post that clarified how we non-Jewish disciples do not have a covenant relationship with God at all, but rather, we rely on faith and trust alone to assure us that God’s great mercy and grace allows us to participate in blessings of the New Covenant without being named parties.

But for the Jews, it’s a different matter. Acts 15 makes it clear that our participation in God’s blessings does not require the same rigorous involvement in covenant mitzvot as God requires of the Jewish people and nation. Nothing in the New Covenant language states that it replaces the old.

Paul’s Hagar and Sarah midrash in Galatians 4 challenges the traditional Christian interpretation of Torah as slavery, and my review of D. Thomas Lancaster’s sermon Glory to Glory clarifies the meaning of a previous covenant becoming old and growing ready to disappear. It’s not the conditions and requirements of the Sinai covenant (Torah) that are disappearing, it’s the difference between the Torah being external and internal. In the Messianic Age, Jews will have the Torah written on their hearts; wholly internalized so it’s natural for them to be obedient to God in performance of the mitzvot, thus it will be humanly possible to serve God without sin.

I think I know where the fine folks at RPP are coming from. A month or so ago, I wrote Exploring Reformed Theology: The Fallacy of Covenant Equality Between the Church and Israel. Doing this investigation actually helped me understand why Christians think it’s logical and Biblical to believe that Jesus observing the Torah mitzvot perfectly “fulfilled righteousness,” and thus rendered it unnecessary for Jews to continue to be Torah observant, and eliminates the requirement for the Sinai covenant.

divorceI just happen to believe that interpretation is in error and was ultimately created as a consequence of the ugly divorce that happened between the Gentile novices and their Jewish teachers and mentors within the first century or less after Yeshua’s ascension, and ended up becoming the Christian Church’s two-thousand year old mistake.

I know from a traditional Christian point of view, the continued practice of Rabbinic Judaism for the past nearly twenty centuries, is considered to be the “mistake.” From that point of view, Jews should have abandoned Jewish praxis, if not Jewish identity, and converted to Christianity the way Paul did in Acts 9 (except he didn’t convert, he just changed Ravs and took on a more Judaically enlightened perspective and purpose based on his supernatural revelation).

To my way of reading the Apostolic scriptures, the Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua did not cease Jewish practice, did not cease the traditional prayers, did not cease offering Korban at the Holy Temple, and did not renounce the Torah.

You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law…

Acts 21:20 (NASB)

I don’t have the time to pull in all the necessary quotes from the Bible to illustrate my points, which is why I’m peppering this blog post with links to many other of my essays. However, when Paul was falsely accused of “teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs,” the thousands of Yeshua-believing Jews who were all “zealous for the Torah” doubted Paul because of these rumors. Paul had to do something to convince these Jews and their non-Yeshua-believing brothers, that he had never turned away from Torah or Temple and had never taught other Jews in the diaspora to do the same.

Unfortunately, that didn’t work out as planned, but if you follow the progression of trials Paul went through as depicted in Luke’s Book of Acts, you’ll see that Paul never agreed with the false accusations against him. He always maintained his innocence and repeatedly stated that he never committed a crime against Roman law or Torah.

Apostle Paul preachingAn excellent book describing Paul’s trials is John W. Mauck’s Paul On Trial: The Book Of Acts As A Defense Of Christianity which I reviewed in part in this blog post. Even Christianity Today published an article some years back stating that Paul was not anti-Judaism, and I’ve written a commentary on their viewpoint as well.

Last year, I wrote a response to challenges against the viability of Messianic Judaism as a Judaism, and a couple of years back, I championed the necessity of Messianic Jewish community as a fully-realized Jewish community.

I agreed with Rabbi Stuart Dauermann that the “Jewish people are ‘us’ not ‘them,'” meaning that Messianic Jews are part of the larger community of Jewish people, not “Christians in kippot” who see non-Yeshua believing Jews as something alien and apart.

While I’m throwing in links, let me direct you to the excellent volume compiled by Mark Nanos and Magnus Zetterholm called Paul within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle. There is a growing movement of Jewish and Christian New Testament scholars (and that’s a pretty amazing statement in and of itself) who are re-examining the writings of Paul without peering through traditional interpretive lens of the Church, investigating Paul’s intent and meaning as a Pharisaic Jew rather than a Christian convert.

The results are quite enlightening and, since we depend on Paul for much of our understanding of early “Christian” theology and doctrine, if we reconstruct him back into his Jewish environment and then re-read his letters, we get a very different view of the Apostle to the Gentiles and what he was actually trying to communicate.

Christianity, as we understand it today, was invented by a Gentile majority population within the ancient and short-lived Jewish religious stream of Yeshua believers once called “the Way”. Christianity had to occur in order for these Gentiles to “divorce” themselves, not only from their Jewish teachers, but from the wholly Jewish and Israel oriented message of the Messiah, re-interpreting the ancient Jewish writings to say what they were never intended to say. Only two-thousand years of Christian dogma make it seem as if replacement or fulfillment theology is at all reasonable, let alone Biblical.

Spirit, Torah, and Good NewsThe “good news” of Yeshua has always been about the coming of the New Covenant, the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, to restore them, to restore the Temple, to restore the Levitical priesthood (start reading at Jeremiah 31 and go forward through the subsequent chapters…it’s all there). It’s always been about good news for Israel first, and then because of that, also good news for the people of the nations, that is, the rest of us.

But if Jewish people, Jewish praxis, Jewish covenant connection with God, and Judaism as a lifestyle and expression of the covenants goes away and is replaced by Gentile Christianity and a Gentile Jesus, not only does Israel’s “good news” go up in a puff of smoke, so does ours. Gentile salvation and reconciliation to God only happens because of Israel’s covenants with God. If you replace them, then you drive the Jews away from God for all time and you destroy any hope the rest of the world has, because we depend on Israel’s covenant linkage to God to metaphorically link us (graft us in), too.

I’m sorry. I know there are many good and faithful Hebrew Christians in the Church and they really do believe the Torah is not only obsolete, but actually an error. It’s incredibly sad, because a Jew is the only person who is born into a covenant relationship with God, whether he or she wants to be or not. For them to be erroneously taught that their unique identity and relationship with God through the Sinai and other covenants, including the New Covenant, has been done away with, is to cause them to stumble in that relationship with Hashem and with Messiah.

It was this sort of Christian eisegesis that finally resulted in me leaving the Church.

In John 4:22, Yeshua famously said that “salvation comes from the Jews” and he wasn’t kidding. If the Church got her wish and converted 100% of the worldwide Jewish population to Gentile Christianity causing them to abandon the mitzvot and the covenants, we would not only be risking Israel’s future but our own.

synagogueThe Jewish people have been living out their covenantal lifestyle against the constant threat of genocide for thousands of years. Don’t let conversion and assimilation finish what Haman and Hitler started. There is another way, a better way for a Jew to accept the revelation of Yeshua as Rav and Messiah. That way is to accept Jewish devotion to Yeshua and worship of the God of Israel as a Judaism, not Christianity.

No, we non-Jews don’t exactly practice “Judaism,” even when we accept the Jewishness of Yeshua-faith, but we do recognize that Jewish people do have that obligation, even as we come alongside of them in the ekklesia. If you are a non-Jewish Christian, then it is your duty to support observance of the mitzvot among the Jewish disciples of Yeshua. If you are a Jewish disciple in the manner of the Hebrew Christians, at least consider idea that your connectedness to God is much more than what you’ve been taught, that you are more unique and precious to God as a Jew than the Church will ever be willing to admit.

If nothing else, right before the sun goes down this coming Friday evening, say the blessings and light the candles to welcome Shabbos into your home as a Jew. Judaism isn’t an all or nothing religion. It happens one mitzvah at a time. Turn your heart back to the Torah and thus back to God, and He will certainly turn His heart to you.

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What am I, Chopped Liver?

For the conductor with the neginos, a psalm, a song. May God favor us and bless us, may He illuminate His countenance with us, Selah. To make known Your way on earth, among all the nations Your salvation. The peoples will acknowledge You, O God; the peoples will acknowledge You — all of them. Regimes will be glad and sing for joy, because You will judge the peoples fairly and guide with fairness the regimes on earth, Selah. The peoples will acknowledge You, O God; the peoples will acknowledge You — all of them. The earth will then have yielded its produce; may God, our God bless us. May God bless us, and may all the ends of the earth fear Him.

Psalm 67 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

Forgive the somewhat whimsical title for today’s “morning meditation” along with the equally whimsical “featured image.”

When I read the above quoted Psalm on Shabbat, I was reminded that God has a redemptive plan, not just for Israel, the Jewish people, but for all the people of all the nations of the earth, that is, the Gentiles.

I suspect God has had this plan since before the creation of the universe, but we definitely know He had it when this Psalm was written, long before the birth of Yeshua (Jesus).

I strongly advocate Jewish return to the Torah mitzvot, whether they are Jews in the Messianic movement or otherwise. I strongly advocate for Jewish places of congregation and worship in Messianic Judaism, synagogues and communities by and for Jewish disciples of Messiah. I strongly believe in and advocate for the idea that without God’s plan of redemption for Israel, there can be no hope of redemption for the goyim.

All that said, there are times when I feel all of that Judaism weighing heavily upon me. In advocating for the Jewish right to cleave to their Messiah King and to have possession of their own Land and their own Torah, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that God also recognizes and loves the rest of humanity, a non-Jewish humanity.

prayingGranted, there’s nothing in that Psalm that directly says “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), but it does say that the (Gentile) regimes will “be glad and sing for joy” because God will judge among us fairly. We will all acknowledge the God of Israel and the “earth will then have yielded its produce.”

The harvest is great, but the workers are few.

Matthew 9:38 (Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels)

Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

1 Corinthians 15:18-20 (NASB)

“Produce.” “Harvest.” “First fruits.” It seems that it is not only the Jews who are counted among the harvest, but the rest of us as well, all of us who trust in the promises of God as demonstrated by Messiah.

A person who comes to Torah on his own volition does so because of the beautiful and elevated ideas he hears about Torah principles. He made his decision on the assumption that those who follow the Torah will act towards him in accordance with all the Torah laws pertaining to interpersonal relations. If someone cheats him financially or in any other way wrongs him, he will not only suffer a monetary loss. Rather, he might also feel disillusioned with his decision to accept Torah as a way of life.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Act with love and kindness towards converts,” discussing Bamidbar (Numbers) 5:6
Commentary on Torah Portion Naso, p. 312
Growth Through Torah

While Rabbi Pliskin is discussing converts to Judaism in this above-quoted statement, and while I don’t believe we “Messianic Gentiles” are called to Torah obligation in the manner of the Jewish people, I don’t think it’s entirely inappropriate or inaccurate to say that, in a way, we also come to the Torah, as it applies to us, “because of the beautiful and elevated ideas” expressed in the “Torah principles.”

I don’t feel put upon or mistreated by any Messianic Jews as such, but I do need to remind myself periodically that we non-Jews also have a role to play. More than that, I need to provide some much-needed perspective to who we non-Jews are in Messiah.

While I recently wrote that the identity of the Messianic Gentile, both in ancient and modern times, may be ill-defined by design, I’ve also offered my opinion on what I think we’re here for.

desert islandBut in addition, I believe that even one non-Jewish disciple of Yeshua could be stuck on a deserted island with nothing but his or her Bible, yes, adequate food, water, and shelter, but no other human companionship, Jewish or otherwise, and still have a relationship with a loving and caring God because of the faithfulness of Messiah. I think there are times when Messianic Jews should advocate for Gentile devotion to God and express the clear knowledge that God does cherish even the goyim. I believe the door should swing both ways within the ekklesia of Moshiach.

It is easy to focus on the differences among people and to consider yourself as separate from others. Truly no two people are exactly alike. But there are many common factors among people. By focusing on the fact that every human being is created in the image of the Almighty you will have greater identification with others and this will lead to greater unity.

-Rabbi Pliskin
“With unity there is a blessing,” p.316
Commentary in Torah Portion Naso, discussing Bamidbar (Numbers) 6:24

I suppose when Rabbi Pliskin wrote “differences among people,” he could and probably did mean “differences among Jews,” but in saying that “every human being is created in the image of the Almighty,” he opened the door to all of humanity, Jews and Gentiles alike.

While I have advocated for a strong recognition of the covenant distinctions between Messianic Jews and Gentiles, we also must counterbalance that knowledge with our unity in Messiah’s ekklesia. We may be in many ways separated from each other by those covenant distinctions, but while we are not a homogenous population, there aren’t two Messianic ekklesias, there is one, just as God is One and yet has many diverse names and many distinctive qualities.

Recently, Derek Leman wrote what I consider to be a pair of “bookends” on his blog: Why Non-Jews Are Drawn To Messianic Judaism and On Messianic Judaism As A Home For Jewish Believers.

Each blog post advocates for its named subject, Gentiles in one and Jews in the other.

In both Jewish and non-Jewish zeal to promote and elevate the Jewishness of Messianic Judaism, I’m glad to see some noteworthy Messianic Jewish writers and teachers specifically addressing both sides of the coin.

I think one of the reasons Gentile believers exited Jewish community nearly twenty centuries ago and why there are some Hebrew Roots promoters in the modern age who not only advocate but demand equal obligation to Torah as some sort of right, is as an attempt to create a significant and meaningful Gentile identity in the body of Yeshua-believers.

In the end, the first and second century believing Gentiles may not have been able to find that identity in Jewish community, so they made the worst possible decision and not only separated from the Jews, but “demonized” everything Jewish, reimaging the Jewish Messiah as the Gentile Christ, and warping everything ever taught by Yeshua and the Apostles, specifically Paul’s teachings.

the crowdI believe that many so-called “One Law” advocates cling to their views because the dissonance of differing and distinct roles and identities of Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic ekklesia is too difficult to bear. This probably also explains why a number of we Messianic Gentiles have mistakenly converted to some form of Judaism, Messianic and otherwise, in an attempt to find meaning and purpose in the service of God among Jewish community.

However, as a non-Jew and a devotee of the Jewish Messiah King, I do have meaning and purpose in the redemptive plan of God for our world. Yes, it’s first to the Jew and only afterward, to the Gentile, but it is to the Gentile at a specific point in that plan.

The plan has already entered our world and it has been slowly unfolding for the past two-thousand years. That plan has included an untold number of Gentiles and as important as Jewish Torah observance and devotion to Moshiach is, the plan will never be complete without the rest of us.

I just needed to remind you and especially me by saying all this. Thanks for reading.

Messianic Jews and the Torah

I know I’m probably opening up a big can of worms here, but I’ve read a couple of things online today (yesterday as you read this) that really have me scratching my head (in puzzlement, not because I have an itch).

The first was from the “Ask the Rabbi” column at Aish.com. Someone asked:

I get upset when I see different Jewish denominations at odds with each other. Why doesn’t everyone just accept everyone else? Or perhaps is there a way to know which of the denominations is the most correct?

I’ll only quote part of the Rabbi’s answer:

Historically, any Jewish group which denied the basic principles of Jewish tradition – Torah and mitzvah-observance – ultimately ceased to be part of the Jewish people. The Sadducees and the Karites, for instance, refused to accept certain parts of the Oral Law, and soon after broke away completely as part of the Jewish People. The Hellenists, secularists during the Second Temple period, also soon became regarded as no longer “Jewish.” Eventually, these groups vanished completely.

Early Christians were the original “Jews for Jesus.” They accepted the Divine revelation of the Torah, but not the eternal, binding nature of the commandments. Initially, these Jews were reliable in their kashrut, and counted in a minyan. But the turning point came when Paul, realizing that Jews wouldn’t accept the concept of a dead Messiah, opened up membership to non-Jews. At that point, these “Jews” experienced a total severing of Jewish identity.

My understanding of the early Jewish disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) puts me at odds with this Rabbi. The Rabbi pre-supposes that Paul “opened up” membership into the First Century CE Jewish religious stream once called “the Way” to the Gentiles because “Jews wouldn’t accept the concept of a dead Messiah.” Except the record in the Apostolic Scriptures shows that Yeshua (Jesus) commanded his apostles to make disciples of the Gentiles (Matthew 28:19-20), and that he later commanded Paul to be an emissary to the Gentiles (Acts 9). The Biblical record also doesn’t present the issue of a “dead” (resurrected) Messiah as one of the objections some synagogues had to Paul’s message.

In fact, based on the following, a great many Jews initially accepted devotion to Messiah:

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

Acts 2:37-41

As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.

Acts 13:42-43

You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law…

Acts 21:20

The Jewish PaulI don’t perceive that Paul switched his emphasis of going first to the Jews with the good news of Messiah and then only to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16), nor that he was encouraging Jews to abandon the Torah (as he was falsely accused of). And yet these seem to be common themes that run through most Jewish objections to Yeshua and particularly to Paul.

I do think the Rabbi is somewhat correct in saying that the large influx of Gentiles into the ancient Messianic movement ultimately resulted in a messy Jewish/Gentile schism that did not remove Jewish identity from Jewish Yeshua believers, but did transform the movement into the new Gentile religion of Christianity (which was done by the early Gentile “church fathers,” not by Paul). Jewish participation in Yeshua-devotion as a Judaism subsequently dwindled and finally was extinguished for many centuries.

But the Aish Rabbi said something else that is interesting if not entirely accurate:

Early Christians were the original “Jews for Jesus.” They accepted the Divine revelation of the Torah, but not the eternal, binding nature of the commandments. Initially, these Jews were reliable in their kashrut, and counted in a minyan.

My opinion based on scripture is that the early Yeshua-believing Jews very much did accept the Divine revelation of the Torah and the eternal and binding nature of the commandments.

There was no dissonance between Jewish identity and performance of the mitzvot and the revelation of the resurrected Messiah.

(I suppose I should say that yet another typical misconception many Jewish people make is equating the specific organization Jews for Jesus with both the ancient and modern Messianic Jewish communities.)

That was pretty much going to be my point for today’s missive, but then I read an article on the Rosh Pina Project’s blog called Rabbi Telushkin: If Jews believed Messiah has come, they wouldn’t keep Torah. The title alone is baffling and I hope I’m reading this wrong, but I truly don’t understand what’s being said here:

Here at RPP, we very much believe that Messianic Jews are free to observe the Torah, or not to, according to their consciences. There is certainly no obligation to keep Torah.

Some Messianic Jews still keep Torah as a “witness” to other Jews. If we keep Torah, the logic goes, Orthodox Jews will realise that it’s okay to be Jewish and believe in Jesus. When it comes to “witness”, however, we think that continued Messianic Jewish Torah observance has the opposite effect.

It sends a mixed message to the Jewish community. According to Judaism, when Messiah comes the Torah is abolished. Messiah’s followers now keep to a new law, not Torah.

So when Jews see us claiming the Messiah has come, but we should still keep the Torah, we are sending a mixed message. We are saying Messiah has come already, but we’ll act as if nothing has changed by continuing to keep Torah.

According to Judaism, when Messiah comes, there is no more Torah.

In order for Messianic Judaism to act consistently with the values of Judaism, Messianic Jews would have to abandon Torah.

TorahUm…since when have Jews believed that when Messiah comes they will stop observing the mitzvot? I’ve never heard of such a thing before. In fact, according to this Jewish source…

The King Messiah and the Sanhedrin will restore the Sabbatical system and the Jubilee (which involve seven-year counts and a fifty-year count), as well as all other Commandments that we are unable to fulfill today. He will uphold and restore complete performance of the commandments and complete obedience to Hashem and His Torah. He will cause all Jews in the entire world to fulfill the Commandments of the Torah, and to uphold and strengthen the one and only true Judaism. Likewise, he will succeed in getting all the nations of the world, everyone alive, to acknowledge and serve the One True G-d, Hashem. This does not mean that they will convert and become Jews. It means that they will keep the Seven Laws that Hashem commanded the children of Noah.

The King Messiah will be extremely learned in Torah and absolutely observant of all the Commandments as taught and explained in the Oral and Written Torah.

The Messiah will not need to perform any miracles to prove who he is. Nor would the miracles be very significant. The Messiah’s purpose is to bring about the return of the Jews from exile, to restore our united practice of the Commandments of the Torah, to raise our conciousness to a high level of fear and love of Hashem, and to reinstate the Jewish kingdom in the Holy Land of Israel as Hashem originally established it under King David. Those are the Messiah’s essential purposes. Even bringing peace and affluence to the world will be only so that the world will be able to peacefully pursue our purpose of serving Hashem through Torah study and prayer — Jews as Jews, and Gentiles as Gentiles. Performing miracles is not particularly meaningful, since the Messiah will be an obviously righteous man, and the Torah commands us to obey the righteous.

What I’m driving at here is that all the miracles in the universe do not make someone Messiah, if he is not righteous. jesus, who contradicted the Torah, could not have been the Messiah, no matter how many miracles they claim he performed. The real Messiah, when he comes, may or may not perform miracles, but he will certainly not contradict the Torah in any way, shape or form.

-from the article “What the Messiah is Supposed to Do”
BeingJewish.com

Sorry about the really long quote, but I wanted to make sure that I got the point across (and to that end, I bolded the word “Torah” above) that the Jewish understanding of Messiah does not require the removal of Torah observance and in fact, Messiah and Torah are inexorably intertwined. The RPP writer is entitled to their opinion, but I really don’t see that such a viewpoint is sustainable based on the Tanakh, Apostolic Scriptures, or Jewish traditions.

Jews, Messianic or otherwise, are required to observe the mitzvot because the mitzvot are eternal. Even the Master is famously quoted as saying so:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:17-19

Restoration
Photo: First Fruits of Zion

You should also watch this thirty-minute episode of First Fruits of Zion‘s television program The Torah is not Canceled (free to be viewed online).

I say all this in support of Jewish Torah observance, whether Messianic, Orthodox, or otherwise. Messianic Jewish observance of the mitzvot isn’t a “witness,” it is obedience based on covenant obligation. The Jewish view of the New Covenant makes this plain.

I’m forced to disagree with both the Aish Rabbi and the RPP author that Jewish devotion to Yeshua results in loss of Jewish identity and abandoning Jewish covenant responsibilities to Hashem (or making Torah observance optional for Jews). Granted, in the long history of Christianity, the Church has required that Jews surrender their identity when coming to faith in Messiah, but all that has changed. Gentile Christianity no longer is the sole keeper of the Keys to the Kingdom, and Jews now have an avenue by which they can reclaim their own King and their own Kingdom and remain Torah observant Jews.

I realize that I’ve most likely really offended a bunch of people by writing and publishing this and certainly that’s not my intention. I am quite aware that opinions differ widely within Messianic Judaism as to just how “Jewish” Jews in Messiah should be. I suppose some would see me as a radical for my belief that Messianic Jews should remain firmly rooted in Jewish identity, Jewish community, and Jewish devotion to Torah and to keeping and guarding the commandments. Yes, I’m speaking of an ideal state of the movement rather than the fractured reality of today’s Messianic Judaism, but I believe there will come a time when all Jews will be drawn back to the Torah by Messiah.

If anything, and I’ve said this just recently, the job of Gentiles in Messiah is to help facilitate Jewish observance of the mitzvot. A Christianity (or Messianic Judaism) that preaches otherwise denies the New Covenant promises God made to Israel.

The Necessity of Messianic Jewish Community

Orthodox Judaism is the approach to religious Judaism which adheres to the interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Tanaim and Amoraim and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and Acharonim.

-from the Wikipedia page on Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Judaism is not a unified movement with a single governing body, but many different movements adhering to common principles. All of the Orthodox movements are very similar in their observance and beliefs, differing only in the details that are emphasized. They also differ in their attitudes toward modern culture and the state of Israel. They all share one key feature: a dedication to Torah, both Written and Oral.

-from Jewish Virtual Library

Note that the image above and all other images of Jewish people in this blog post are not specifically Messianic Jews. I say this so there will be no mistaken attributions assumed.

There have been some conversations going in the discussion sections of a number of my blog posts. They’re too numerous to reference here, but the general themes have to do with Messianic Jewish community, the role of Gentiles within a Messianic Jewish community space, Bilateral Ecclesiology, and just how “Jewish” Messianic Judaism should be.

Opinions span a broad spectrum as the Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots movements do themselves, but this morning, I read a rather interesting article that got my attention:

The Orthodox Jewish community has a certain mystique.

Whether it’s because we look, act or believe differently, people are intrigued by stories about the Orthodox Jewish community. Media outlets often oblige but whenever I read these stories, they don’t quite resonate with me. They don’t look like the Orthodox community I know. So I’d like to share a few things that happened to me over the last year that give a more accurate insight into the real Orthodox Jewish community.

My wife and I have experienced fertility problems. We thankfully had been blessed with two children but as they grew older we had been trying for some time to have another child to no avail. One day I was speaking with my rabbi about our situation and I conveyed to him that my wife and I wanted to pursue fertility treatments but because of the steep cost, we were having second thoughts. A few days later my rabbi said that he spoke with an anonymous individual with means in the Jewish community who had agreed to sponsor fertility treatment for young Jewish couples if they could not afford it. He would not know who we were and we would not know who he was. He was motivated purely out of a sense of loyalty to the continuity of the Jewish People.

That’s the Orthodox community I know.

-Shimon Rosenberg
“The Orthodox Community I Know”
Aish.com

As I read through Mr. Rosenberg’s story about “the Orthodox Community I know,” I was struck by how different this would probably seem to most people who aren’t part of this community, and especially to Christians. Even those Christians who are supportive of the Jewish people and of Israel, don’t always understand (how could they?) Orthodox Judaism in general and the devotion of individual people in Orthodox Judaism to their community, lifestyle, and commitments in specific. And even most Jewish people who are not Orthodox don’t always understand the Orthodox.

Seven years ago, had I encountered the woman I am today, I would have pitied her: long sleeves and an ankle-length skirt in the middle of summer; no driving, writing, talking on the phone or cooking from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday; recently married to a man she’d never touched — not so much as a peck on the cheek — until after the wedding. I’d have cringed and dismissed this woman as a Repressed Religious Nut. Now my pity — or at least a patient smile — is for that self-certain Southern California girl I was at 25.

-Andrea Kahn
“What’s a Nice Cosmo Girl Like You Doing With An Orthodox Husband?”
Aish.com

See what I mean?

Christians especially see Orthodox Jews as rule-bound, rigid, odd (to say the least), and on a path that will certainly lead them to Hell. After all, no one can be made righteous through their own acts as we see here:

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Isaiah 64:6 (NASB)

Derek Leman
Derek Leman

On that point, Derek Leman recently wrote a blog post called Our Deeds Are Not Filthy Rags which illuminates this matter and adds quite a wrinkle to the traditional Christian interpretation of the Isaiah verse. Also, Jacob Fronczak’s article “Sola Fide” in the latest issue of Messiah Journal deepens the exploration into this important topic.

I’m not trying to create a commentary on the nature of “salvation” and the differences between Christianity and Judaism, I’m just saying that we can’t automatically dismiss how Orthodox Jewish people (or any Jewish community) see their own relationship with God.

My friend Gene Shlomovich made a similar observation today on his blog:

So, the reason G-d chose Israel is because He already loved them and has promised their forefathers that He will take care of them. Does it make Jews somehow better than any other people? Not at all and it’s not the reason behind G-d’s love for Israel. After all, one parent’s child is not inherently better than a child of another parent. Your child is no more deserving of love than someone else’ – she is just yours. G-d loves Israel not because He has some grand plan and purpose for Israel (even though He does) or because Israel will proclaim her G-d and His Torah to all nations (which she certainly will). Neither did G-d set His affections on Israel because, as Christianity claims, “Israel was chosen to give birth to Jesus” and “to give nations the Gospel”, a useful tool that can be discarded once the chief purpose has been accomplished. No, these are all conditional reasons. G-d didn’t set His love on Israel because Israel was somehow capable of earning G-d’s love by her performance. Instead, G-d loves Israel because He loves Israel – that’s all there’s to it.

Depending on which denomination of Christianity you belong to or to which Christian doctrine concerning the Jewish people and Israel you adhere, you may actually believe that God still loves Israel and has future plans for her, but it’s really all about “the Church.” God may still use Israel, but their relationship isn’t what it once was, and God really loves the Church best.

I’m oversimplifying that viewpoint of course. I don’t have time to go into all of the details and you don’t want to read a ten-thousand word blog post.

But look at this:

Nine months later we gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.

The excitement began early Friday morning and as the day progressed I started thinking about Shabbat. What would we eat? How would I recite Kiddush? Light candles? I remembered hearing about an organization called Bikkur Cholim which means “visiting the sick.” It’s a volunteer-driven charity that looks after the needs of people in hospital. I called them and within a couple of hours someone came to our hospital room with literally bags of food, grape juice for Kiddush, electric candles to serve as Shabbat candles, even spices for havdallah. The food is free and the person delivering it is a volunteer. In the few moments I had to speak with him I learned that he was just a regular guy — an accountant — who takes off Fridays from work to volunteer for Bikkur Cholim. I asked him why he does it and he replied simply that it’s what God wants of us.

That’s the Orthodox community I know.

-Rosenberg

I’m talking about not just God’s love for Israel, but within the Orthodox Jewish community, one Jew’s love for another as well as the community’s love for one Jewish family.

I asked him why he does it and he replied simply that it’s what God wants of us.

Jewish Man PrayingThat’s the Orthodox Jewish community most of us, particularly in the Church, don’t see.

No, I’m not saying Orthodox Judaism as a practice or a community is perfect. The fact that it contains human beings means it will, by definition, be imperfect, just as any other form of Judaism will be imperfect, just as any of the estimated 41,000 Christian denominations and their members will be imperfect, just as any human community anywhere across time and space was, is, and will be imperfect.

Jews don’t need to be perfect for G-d to be on their side – G-d already loves them as His own people and nothing can ever change it. No doubt, He has disciplined us when we sinned, and He did that many times. However, at the same time, He’s very merciful. He promised that He will not be angry with us forever (Isaiah 57:16). As that Deuteronomy prophecy promised us G-d Himself will “circumcise” the hearts of all Israel after He brings them to the Land. When He does, all Jews will be Torah-observant, to the last one.

-Shlomovich

The statement that Jews don’t need to be perfect for God to love them, particularly in Orthodox Judaism, might take some Christians by surprise. It is generally thought by some of the Christians I know that Jews believe they have to perform the mitzvot perfectly in order to please God.

Again, I’m steering clear of the whole “salvation” issue, and I’m instead talking about love. Please don’t try to “bust my chops” about Christians being saved and Jewish people not being saved. It’s not what I’m writing about and I won’t approve any comments on the topic.

But what does all this have to do with Messianic Judaism?

It has been argued by many non-Jews affiliated in one way or another with Messianic Judaism or Hebrew Roots, that the “Jewishness” of Messianic Judaism should be toned down a bit. Those Jewish people in the Messianic movement who advocate for wholly Jewish communities for disciples of Yeshua as Messiah are putting Judaism first and Messiah second. I myself have quoted Troy Mitchell of Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship as saying:

“One who romanticizes over Judaism and loses focus of the kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a carpenter who is infatuated with the hammer, rather than the house it was meant to build.”

Of course, I usually aim that quote at non-Jews who are so enamored with Jewish practices that they leave faith in Jesus entirely and convert to Judaism, usually Orthodox Judaism. You’d think, given that, I wouldn’t be trying to paint such a rosy picture of Orthodox Judaism here.

But, on the outside looking in, we often criticize things we don’t understand. It’s easy for Christians or just about anyone else to be critical of Orthodox Judaism because we are outsiders. We aren’t like them. We’ve been taught that we should never be like them, and if we tried (by converting or otherwise affiliating with the Jewish community), we would lose our salvation and God’s love.

From an Orthodox Jewish point of view (not that I have that point of view, I just quote articles), God loves Orthodox Jews and, referencing Shimon Rosenberg, Orthodox Jews love each other.

Applied to the Jewish people within the various circles of Messianic Judaism, they are also loved by God and they are also Jews who love each other, both within their specific Jewish communities, and identifying with larger and even worldwide Jewry. That doesn’t mean Yeshua plays second-fiddle to Messianic Judaism anymore than Hashem plays second-fiddle to Orthodox Judaism. From an outsider’s point of view, it seems like an Orthodox Jew’s devotion is to the “rules” first and the will of God second, but as I quoted above:

I asked him why he does it and he replied simply that it’s what God wants of us.

The mitzvot, especially those that are performed for the well-being of other people, are done because ”it’s what God wants of us.”

JewishMost non-Jews in Messianic Judaism and Hebrew Roots, and probably not a few Jewish people in those groups believe that it’s unBiblical, racist, and just plain wrong for Jews in Messianic Judaism to desire a community that is primarily or exclusively Jewish. The fact that Gentiles are “grafted-in” to the Jewish community, once called “the Way” and are considered equal co-participants in God’s love make it almost unthinkable that God would still reserve a “specialness” for the Jewish people and that God would not only tolerate but expect that Jews feel a “specialness” for each other.

Gentiles feel excluded by this sentiment among believing Jews. They (we) feel like we are rejected, inferior, second-class citizens, and “back of the bus” riders traveling on the road to the Kingdom.

To counter this, I can see at some point, a Messianic Jewish writer composing and publishing a small article called ”The Messianic Jewish Community I Know,” describing why it is important to have such a Jewish community for Messianic Jews. Granted, the uniqueness of Messianic Judaism when compared to the other Judaisms in our day (or historically), makes it more difficult to operationalize Jewish community within the larger community of disciples of Messiah, and I think we’re still working that out.

But the consequences of failing to support Jewish community within Messianic Judaism can be (and have been) disastrous.

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.

Romans 11:13-16 (NRSV)

According to Mark Nanos in his classic text The Mystery of Romans, the problem Paul was addressing in his letter were Gentiles who were flaunting their “freedom” (not being obligated to Torah observance to the level of the Jews) to the Messianic and non-Messianic Jewish populations of local synagogues in Rome, acting as a “stumbling block,” especially for the non-believing Jews who, because of Gentile arrogance, were inhibited from considering, let alone accepting, faith in Yeshua.

While the Nanos view would be considered controversial by many Christians, it does explain Paul’s rather harsh rebuke or even threat (Romans 11:21) to the “grafted in” branches. Paul was passionate for his people, the Jewish people, even his opponents, and Paul said he would surrender his own salvation if it would save some of them (Romans 9:3).

The Jewish PaulPaul never abandoned his people and God never abandoned Israel. We, as non-Jews, may not understand Jewish “choseness” but it exists. We, as non-Jews may not understand the need for Jewish people to have community specifically within a wholly Jewish context, but it exists. I live it out. I live with a Jewish wife. She needs to be a part of our local Jewish community and even though it is sometimes uncomfortable for me, she needs for me to not be a part of that community.

Admittedly, other intermarried couples share synagogue life, even within Orthodox Judaism (look at Chabad), but given my background in Hebrew Roots and my current relationships within different aspects of Messianic Judaism and normative Christianity (and the fact that our little corner of Idaho makes it difficult to be anonymous), it’s best for her that we have a clean line separating me from that part of her life.

I think it’s because I can see that line on a highly personal level and that I’ve gone through the struggle of making it OK for that line to exist and even to be necessary for my Jewish wife, that I can see the necessity for an exclusively Jewish community within the body of Messiah, too.

Humanity, when completely unbound by G-d’s Laws, when unrestrained by fear of Him, when viewing their fellow human beings not as created in G-d’s image but as an unprofitable animals to be destroyed is at its absolute worst. Unshackled from the divine, humanity is driven to satisfy the desires of its lower, animalistic nature. In such a state, human beings have the capacity to do much evil in their rebellion against the Almighty. Since there’s nothing they can do to G-d Himself, evil people can only resort to rejecting, despising and destroying everything that G-d loves and holds dear. This is why, I believe, Jews have suffered so much during the Holocaust and have been an object of hatred everywhere they went and to this very day. Their identification as the people loved and chosen by G-d has made them the perennial target for the worst humanity has to offer.

-Shlomovich

Gene wrote that in response to the question, ”If G-d is with Jews, why did the Holocaust happen?” Maybe I’m being extreme applying it to the current context, but I believe just because we don’t always understand the relationship God has with the Jewish people and that the Jewish people have with each other, we shouldn’t discount it, either. And as Christians, we absolutely should do nothing to destroy Jewish people and Jewish community. We have been warned.

In Jeremiah 31:3, God said to Israel ”I have loved you with an everlasting love,” and in John 13:34, Jesus gave his Jewish disciples a new commandment to love one another as he loved them. Christians generally apply that “new” commandment to themselves (ourselves), the commandment of self-sacrificial love, but I don’t want to set aside the immediate context in which Jesus uttered these words. He was talking to Jewish disciples within his Jewish community. He knew each and every one of them would suffer and all but John would die in excruciating ways for the sake of Heaven. That’s the kind of love the Jewish Messiah and Rabbi from Nazareth wanted each member of his Jewish community to have for all the other Jewish members.

Again, that doesn’t mean this commandment doesn’t have wider implications, but even Paul, the emissary to the Gentiles went ”first to the Jew” (Romans 1:16 for instance), because the Gospel message, the “good news” of the Kingdom of God, belongs first to the Jew and then also to the rest of the world.

In a comment on one of Derek Leman’s blog posts, I said:

That gets back to the one statement you made among your list of questions: “Maybe what they were impassioned about was the hereafter, the blessed age to come, not so much the Messiah.” In my opinion, the focus really wasn’t so much about the afterlife or eternity, but the restoration of Israel under the Messianic King, who would return the exiles, rebuild the Temple, teach Torah, and bring peace to all the nations of the world, with Israel as the head.

That’s something to be impassioned about in my humble opinion.

Christian and JewishIt’s not comfortable to belong to a group where certain members are more special than you are, especially if their being special has to do with an inborn trait such as, in this case, being Jewish. There’s no way to acquire being Jewish except through conversion, so we can never attain that particular position of being special. We can never fully belong to that group in a way that is identical to what the members of that group have between each other.

We Christians balk at that, in part, because anyone can become a Christian and Jewish Christians in the church (as opposed to Jews in Messianic Judaism) are just like everyone else, identical in role, function, and identity. That’s actually not a good thing, and I have had more than one Jewish person tell me that Jewish conversion to Christianity is just finishing the Holocaust that Hitler started.

Which is a really good reason why Messianic Jewish communities for Messianic Jews is so important and so necessary.

I have no desire to participate in any attempt to remove Jewish people as a distinctive people and community from the face of the Earth. That would be like wanting to remove the Jewish identities and specialness of my wife and three children, and frankly, I wish they were more observant and more mindful of their distinctiveness as Jews. This isn’t to say that I don’t want them to also embrace Messiah, but that’s out of my hands for lots and lots of reasons. I must trust in God that He loves my wife and children, not just because He loves human beings, but because He loves Jews.

Paul said “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). He also said ”If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy” (Romans 11:16), meaning (I believe) if the first fruits, that is, the first Jews to come to faith in Yeshua are holy, all Jewish people, all the branches, are holy. While the Church struggles with the plain meaning of that text, I find it gives me some strength and assurance that God won’t throw the Jewish people in general and my Jewish family in specific under some cosmic bus just for giggles. I trust the Apostle Paul that he was using those words to caution arrogant Gentile believers in the Jewish synagogues in Rome that the calluses on the Jewish heart for Messiah will one day be made smooth and they will be healed.

In the end, all I have is my faith in God that, for the sake of the Jewish people, my Jewish people, my family, they will also be healed and saved.

In the meantime, I accept that there are some places my wife must go that I cannot and should not follow. And as objectionable and offensive as some members of my readership (and beyond) find the term “bilateral ecclesiology” and the concepts behind it, I ask that you try to see Jewish people and Jewish community requirements from my point of view, even if you can’t see it from theirs.

A Brief Introduction to Tent Builders

The church is the biggest stumbling block for the people of Israel to see the true message, the redemptive message of the Messiah.

The church is fundamentally good but the church needs to change.

-Boaz Michael
from a short video introducing his
Tent Builders Seminar

I have inserted the link to the YouTube video at the bottom of this page, so you can see Boaz’s entire presentation below. It’s not quite seven minutes long, so it won’t take much of your time to review.

I’m writing this for a couple of reasons. The first is that I received a DVD in the mail from First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) that contains an eighty-two minute “sampler” of Boaz’s eight-hour Tent Builders Conference, which he presented in various venues across North America (registration is now closed so I assume there’ll be no additional conferences).

This is, or was, the training companion piece to Boaz’s book Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile, which I most recently reviewed last October 6th and October 10th.

I haven’t had a chance to view the DVD yet, but I feel it’s necessary because in spite of all of my efforts and my reading and re-reading of Boaz’s book, something’s still wrong.

I’ve gotten this sense of “wrongness” most recently from writing the first part of my review on MacArthur’s sermon series From Judaism to Jesus. If you’ve read that review, you know that I’m appalled and dismayed at MacArthur’s approach not only to the early Messianic Jews of the apostolic era, but to their modern-day counterparts, the Messianic Jews of the twenty-first century.

Boaz MichaelI’ve already read the second part of MacArthur’s three-part series and have written the review (it will appear online next Sunday morning). I can’t say my opinion of John MacArthur or any of his perspectives on Judaism has improved. More’s the pity, because Pastor MacArthur is one of the significant voices if not “the voice” of the modern Evangelical Fundamentalist movement in Christianity today. He’s been writing and preaching for over forty years and even though I had never heard of him before  last year, his name is practically a household word among the members of many churches.

I wanted to view the Tent Builders DVD sampler but only have the ability to currently hear Boaz’s brief introductory video on YouTube. He describes Tent Builders as a missionary effort which provides a purpose in which each Christian can participate. The “mission field,” so to speak, is the Church. Christians in the church or “Messianic Gentiles” who have left the church, can find in Tent Builders, a path back, a path that can lead to teaching that the church must see itself in partnership with Israel, not in competition with or as a replacement for Israel.

Another question that comes in…in relationship to something that’s happening in our current church scene today is explain why we have Messianic Jewish temples. What is the need for them? Are you familiar with this? Recently, there has been a…a…a surge of Messianic Jewish temples.

But what’s happened is, I think that many well-meaning Christian people, evangelical people, are catering more to a sociological minority movement than they are to the Word of God. Because the Bible would never tolerate a Jewish church and a Gentile church.That is the one thing that the Apostle Paul spent the last months of his ministry trying to resolve…

Dr. Feinberg said to me one day, he says, “I don’t know why everybody thinks because we’re Jewish Christians, we’re something special. We’re not.” Something special to God. Something marvelous to be Jewish, but not something for which you deserve an entire church all to yourselves. And now they have Christian bar mitzvahs. What is a Christian bar mitzvah?…You know, there were some people who filled out applications to go to Talbot Seminary, and they applied because they wanted to become Christian rabbis. Dr. Feinberg said to me, “What is a Christian rabbi?” They’re out of their mind. They think a church wants a Christian rabbi? They think a synagogue wants a Christian rabbi? No, neither want either.

So you know what they do? They start their own Messianic temple. Some of these dear people really mean well; and I…I pray God that they’ll win people to Christ; but that isn’t what it’s all about.That’s, in a sense, Judaizing. I don’t see any need for that at all. I praise God for the Jewish people in our…in our church. All you have to do is read Acts chapter 13, and you read about the five pastors there. Some of ’em were Jews. Some of ’em were Gentiles. Some of ’em were white. Some of ’em were black. Read it, Acts 13. They all pastor the same church. We don’t have the Grace Community Irish-American Church. Don’t see the point.

-John MacArthur
“Bible Questions and Answers, Part 5”
Grace to You: Unleashing God’s Truth One Verse at a Time
scribd.com

Well, tact isn’t exactly one of MacArthur’s strong suits but beyond that, he obviously has definite, though incredibly uninformed opinions about Messianic Judaism. Do you think a few Tent Builders graduates in his church are going to make much headway?

In the video I’m referencing, Boaz does say that the goal is to find receptive churches who may have never considered the Messianic perspective on the good news of Jesus Christ and help them understand what it is to partner with Israel. The implication is that not all churches are going to be receptive based on a variety of factors, not the least of which is the doctrine of the church and how married they are, especially the Pastoral staff and Board of Directors, to said-doctrine.

Boaz says it’s important, even vital to change the church for the sake of Israel.

But what can one person do?

Tent BuildersYes, I did hear Boaz’s “pep talk” in the brief video, how easy it is to get discouraged, how we can be part of the hope for the future in summoning the Messianic Age.

Either God introduced me to a brick wall I’m incapable of breaching in any respect, or He put me in a situation I should be very capable of managing, but instead, I’ve managed to fail.

True, I’m not in John MacArthur’s congregation, but his thoughts, opinions, and presence are written all over the walls of the church I do attend.

How important is it to you that your children follow in your footsteps as Jews and that they marry Jews? If it is important, then you have to realize that you are their role model. Your love of Judaism and things Jewish is what will communicate to your children. You can’t legislate feelings — they are felt and internalized. When Jews came to America and found the difficulties facing them in living Jewishly, the lament was often heard, “Oy, it’s tough to be a Jew!” If it’s tough to be a Jew, then why would your child want to be Jewish? You have to feel the joy, the meaning, the beauty in being a Jew — it’s GREAT to be a Jew! Then you have hope with your kids.

-Rabbi Kalman Packouz
“Shabbat Shalom Weekly”
Aish.com

MacArthur would never understand in a million years that even as a Christian husband and father, it is very important for me that my Children live as Jews. I’ve really dropped the ball on this one, especially when my kids were growing up. If I knew twenty-five years ago what I know now, the course of my life and their lives would be very different, but in a universe created by God, you don’t get “do overs”. There are no time machines, and I can’t send radio waves back to the past to talk to my younger self.

Boaz called the church “the biggest stumbling block for the people of Israel to see the true message, the redemptive message of the Messiah,” but the church, or at least MacArthur’s version of it, is also a stumbling block for me. If he were the only example of what it is to be a Christian when I was about to come to faith nearly twenty years ago, I’d have dropped Christianity like an angry rattlesnake.

Boaz said that if there is not a healthy Messianic community available to a “Messianic Gentile,” they should join a church for the sake of fellowship. After all, the mission of Tent Builders only works in the context of relationship.

But given men like MacArthur and the Calvinistic and supersessionistic shroud he has cast over church worship and teaching, what am I supposed to do with that relationship now? I’m hoping Boaz’s DVD has some answers.

Being Jewish is a Gift

jewish-t-shirtMy great grandparents were born in New York. At the end of a high school Holocaust memorial assembly, students were asked to file out quietly in the following order: those who had parents who were Holocaust survivors, those who had grandparents who were survivors, and finally those who had great grandparents who were survivors. I remained sitting with three other students in the empty auditorium. We looked at each other across rows of empty seats, and I felt shock ripple through me. I didn’t know that most of my classmates’ grandparents were survivors.

On the stage the American flag rippled in the dim spotlights alongside the Israeli flag, and I thought about the refuge that this country has been for so many Jews. My grandmother used to tell the Santa Claus who offered us candy canes at the mall: “No thank you. We’re Jewish so we celebrate Hanukkah. But happy holidays!” I’ll never forget the way her green eyes lit up with her fiery pride for Judaism. As her granddaughter, I grew up believing that being Jewish was a gift…

-Sara Debbie Gutfreund
“Swastikas in New York”
Aish.com

“…being Jewish was a gift.”

I never really thought of it that way before. Being Jewish is precious. There aren’t that many Jewish people relative to the world-wide population, and usually when something is rare, it’s valuable.

Jewish people are survivors, not just of the Holocaust, but of the world. Look at Jewish history going back thousands of years and you’ll almost always find that someone is trying to kill them. Look at ancient, Biblical history. Israelites co-existed in a world with Canaanites, Hittites, Moabites, and a lot of other “ties.” Are any of those other nations or people groups still around?

No. Only the descendants of the Israelites, the Jewish people.

They even continued to exist when they were evicted from their national homeland nearly two-thousand years ago. Who’d have thought that when the Roman empire crushed ancient Israel under its boot, that homeland would be resurrected again in 1948? Who knew that after over six decades, this tiny nation in the middle east would not only continue, but thrive and be an innovator in technology and other industries? Who knew?

Being Jewish is a gift.

Which brings me to Christianity, Hebrew Roots, and Messianic Judaism, all movements that are loosely connected by a mutual worship of the God of Israel and discipleship under the King of Israel and Messiah.

The vast majority of Jews would disagree with the last part of my statement. I understand that. But there are a very tiny minority of halachically Jewish people who have recognized that the man called “Jesus Christ” in the Church is also Yeshua HaMoshiach, Son of David, Anointed One of Hashem.

Of those Jewish people, probably most of them are assimilated into the traditional Christian church and live mostly or completely like their Gentile counterparts, foregoing most or all of the mitzvot that would otherwise identify them as observant Jews.

The “gift” of Judaism is recognized by some Gentile Christians in the Church, prompting them to leave their usual world of pulpits and pews and to join some variation on a Hebrew Roots or Jewish Roots congregation. These groups typically attempt to incorporate some form of modern, Jewish synagogue worship into their Sabbath meetings, spend more time in the Tanakh (Old Testament) than the Apostolic Scriptures, and some even tend to elevate the Torah or the Five Books of Moses, above their former devotion to Christ. They see Judaism as a gift too, tempting some of them to convert.

It’s a confusing world.

churchesAlmost all the Jewish people I know in Messianic Judaism have a previous experience in a traditional Church. Almost all of them are intermarried to a non-Jew. Many of these families live observant Jewish lives, but a few are split, with the Jewish spouse (and perhaps kids) attending a Shabbat service at a Messianic or traditional synagogue and the Christian spouse going to church.

It’s a confusing world.

Does attraction to or involvement in Jewish/Hebrew Roots and/or Messianic Judaism lead to apostasy? Or, for that matter, does such involvement increase the risk of apostasy?

I have no data to draw from. I don’t know if as many, more, or fewer people in the Church (big “C”) leave the faith altogether than people in Jewish/Hebrew Roots and Messianic Judaism. I only have anecdotal information only. Whispers in the dark. Rumors of this family and that who left the worship of Yeshua and converted to Judaism or, if halachically Jewish, returned to an observant Jewish life.

I can say that the temptation is there. I remember my own involvement in Hebrew Roots back in the day. It’s easy to be persuaded that the ritual, the prayer service, the Torah service, donning a tallit, laying tefillin, relating to the Judaism of our ancient faith leads to a closer walk with God. It can generate an enormous pull. Of course, with my wife being Jewish, the thought of conversion was additionally fueled, but that was many years ago. I even toyed with the idea of suggesting to my wife that we make aliyah.

But that seems like another life.

Don’t seek Christianity and don’t seek Judaism. Seek an authentic encounter with God.

That’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received and it cuts to the heart of the problem. Who the heck are we anyway, Jew and Gentile, in the body of Messiah?

There are a lot of writers in the Messianic Jewish space who write about distinctiveness between Jews and Gentiles in the faith, about the obligations to the Torah and how they are applied differently, radically differently to Jewish members and Gentile members. Men like Mark Kinzer, Stuart Dauermann, and David Rudolph write periodically or even regularly about the drive, the need, the absolute requirement for Jews in Messianic Judaism to see all other Jewish people and national Israel as not them, but us.

In other words, Messianic Jews are Jews first and Messianics second. I think that’s what Dr. Dauermann’s statement means. But that statement, while it repairs many an old wound, creates other problems.

How do you balance Jewishness and Judaism against a faith that in any real sense, hasn’t been Jewish (for the most part) in nearly twenty centuries? The very word “Christian” immediately screams “GOY!” in the ears of any Jewish person.

jewish-repentanceBeing Jewish is a gift.

Yeah, I get it. And if a Jewish person comes to faith in Jesus…excuse me, Yeshua, then do they throw away that gift?

I know a few Jewish people in my church. At least one of them has a passing relationship with the larger Jewish community in my little corner of Southwest Idaho, but she’s actually Christian through and through. Did these Jewish Christians throw away that gift?

I know that Kinzer, Dauermann, Rudolph, and other Jewish scholars and writers are choosing to see being Jewish as a gift that being Messianic does not require to be returned to sender. The apostle Paul was Jewish, proud of his heritage as a Pharisee, circumcised on the eighth day, zealous for the Torah. He worked closely with many Gentile disciples, established Gentile congregations among Romans and Greeks in the Diaspora, was aided, shielded, and supported by the Goyishe believers for decades.

If any man had the opportunity to leave Judaism, assimilate into Gentile “Christianity,” and “go native” among the Greeks, it’s Paul.

And he didn’t (I’ll get a lot of pushback from both Christians and Jews on that one).

I’ve gotten just tons and tons of advice since the most recent apostasy scandal hit the Hebrew Roots and Messianic section of the blogosphere. Most of it basically says, “Keep your eyes on Jesus.”

I sometimes wonder where God went, that is, God the Father, the one Jesus could do nothing without, the one who Jesus watched and imitated perfectly, the one Jesus told his disciples to pray to. Jesus said “no one comes to the Father except through me,” but he didn’t say the Father was replaced by the Son. Shouldn’t I be looking at the Son because opening his door, reveals the Father?

Being Jewish is a gift.

jewish-christianAnd there’s a terrible crisis in the Jewish world today. Jews are turning their back on being Jewish and practicing any form of Judaism in droves. Jews in this country are assimilating into Christianity, other religions, or secular atheism at a tremendous rate.

Jewish children are no longer receiving even the most basic Jewish education. They grow up in communities that do not have children knowing that their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents are Holocaust survivors.

I’m not Jewish so I can only imagine this. If you are passionately, religiously, ethically Jewish and also passionately and religiously a devoted disciple of the Messiah who the Church calls “Christ,” then you must feel powerfully torn in two directions.

Except…

…except if devotion to Moshiach was originally Jewish and considered a valid Jewish religious stream in the days right before and then after the destruction of the Second Temple, why can’t it be just as Jewish today? Why do there have to be two opposing directions for a Messianic Jew? Why isn’t it the same direction, another stream of Judaism among many streams of Judaism?

I know…two thousand years of anti-Semitic Christian church history has severely tainted those waters.

For a Messianic Jew, faith is an unavoidable tightrope walk. For non-Jews associated with Messianic Judaism or Hebrew Roots, the draw is there, but it’s different. We weren’t born into the covenant that every Jew who ever existed was born into. We don’t have the same spiritual connection that is infused into our blood, our flesh, our bones, our very DNA. For Jews who turn their back on the covenant of Sinai, I believe there will be an accounting one day.

We from among the nations are not called to that covenant, but we are called to God through the Messiah, through a faith that righteous Abraham demonstrated. Yeshua is the doorway but we must remember that Messiah, not Judaism, not Jewish practice, not Jewish identity, is the key to being reconciled to God. That was Paul’s entire point when he wrote his famous letter to the Galatians.

Being Jewish or not being Jewish doesn’t justify one before God. Faith justifies. However faith and justification doesn’t erase who we are. Men are still men, women are still women, Jews are still Jews, Gentiles are still Gentiles.

Being Jewish is a gift and most of us don’t receive that gift. A few Gentiles become Jewish by choice under the authority of the proper Rabbinic court, but born-Jewish, conversion to Jewish, or born something else, if we turn away from our sins and turn toward God, we must do so as who we are, knowing that our identity doesn’t justify, only faith in God through Messiah does.

prophetic_return1Being Jewish is a gift and I defend those Jews who believe their gift and their identity is being threatened by Christianity, by Gentiles who suffer from identity confusion, or by anything else linked to our religious streams and even how we search for God. I’m not Jewish but I understand that God chose the Jewish people from all of humanity for a special purpose, and as a Christian, I have a unique responsibility to cherish and uphold their purpose and their role, because only through the blessings of the covenants God made with the Jewish people do I have access to God at all.

But…

…but, that purpose and that role isn’t the end of all things. Being Jewish does not grant exclusive rights to enter the presence of God or a place in the world to come. God will do what God will do, but it is only the faith of Abraham that grants anyone righteousness before a righteous God. In that, Messiah is the gift, and he is a gift everyone may receive, to the Jew first and even to the Gentile.