Messianic

While I became a believer almost 34 years ago, I have only been exposed to the Messianic movement in the church nine short years ago; and I am sure that in my studies, I've only scratched the surface concerning the impact this 'move of God' is destined to have on the church.  In fact referring to it as a 'move' does little or no justice to the fact that it is part of the paradigm shift occurring in the Church.

I must admit with so much material to consider in this discourse, justice will only be done to this subject through the tender mercies and grace of God.

It is and will continue to be imperative for Messianic Jews and Gentiles who refer to themselves as Messianic to resolve issues that are raised here.  Relationship, and dialogue are essential for the harvest of souls among the Jewish people who do not yet know that Yeshua is their Messiah.  It is also vitally important to bring forth this discussion within the larger community of believers as well. 

With the grace of Adonai, there is much to be brought by Messianic Jewish believers that would infuse life into the midst of the gentile church.  I do however believe a two way street exists; as truth on the gentile side of the equation would enrich the Messianic Jewish community as well.

While there is a divergence of opinions within this movement, I will try to contain this discussion to the vision for Shilohouse hopefully making a case for why we both stand apart, and yet love and have empathy for  'Gentile led' messianic groups.

Before proceeding, we should define what is a 'Gentile led' Messianic congregation:  It is a congregation where there is no Jewish expression within the eldership and where affiliation with a Messianic Jewish organization is absent.   It is reasonable to assume that even with a hundred percent Gentile eldership; a congregation would be considered 'Jewish led' if there were strong ties with the Messianic Jewish community and direct accountability with Messianic Rabbis concerning the public expression and observance of their faith.  It is equally wrong to assume that having a Messianic Jew in the eldership or serving as oversight is all that is required to be considered 'Jewish led'.  A lack of dialogue and direct accountability with the greater Messianic Jewish community betrays the essence of what community is; since the thought of community in and of itself is one of the core values of the Messianic movement.

We will also discuss why we  believe it is more profitable for the sake of the Gospel among the Jewish people to publicly aligned ourselves and financially support as best we can the 'Jewish led' Messianic movement.

In order to present the issues clearly, it will be necessary to look at the early church from a Jewish perspective. Being somewhat of an amateur historian, it may be possible with the help of the Lord to accomplish this.  Where I have information to do so, I will reference as much as possible.  However because many of the historical points shared will be from multiple sources that I have read, generated dozens of teachings from, and committed to memory over a number of years, I will engage in what the Rabbis call midrash (or telling) based on my personal recollections. (If anyone reading this sees a hint of theirs or someone else's work, please inform me so I can give proper credit.  I strongly believe in giving honor where honor is due)

The need to place this discussion in a historical framework is for two reasons:  1) As a result of the Messianic movement we are dealing with some of the same doctrinal issues that the early church faced.   2) We are also heading towards a 'valley of decision'  that will either alter the course of wrong decisions made in the first 300 years of church history, or we will repeat these tragic events.

The first discussion point can only be addressed through the application of clear doctrine from God's word.   We must be careful that a rediscovery of our Jewish roots does not move us away from the straightforward presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Ironically among believing Jews, the traditions that underscore their 'Jewish-ness' only seem to make the message of Christ even clearer.  In fact, the most profound and clearest presentation of the gospel I have ever seen was in the midst of a Jewish led messianic congregation.  In that environment, their traditions are second nature (the result of a lifetime of observance); and because of this, these traditions effectively set a stage for the message of Yeshua as the gospel becomes interwoven among a timeless story of our Father seeking to draw His children - Jew and Gentile, back to Him.

Jude wrote the first century believers exhorting them to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints."  We should be willing to admit the fact that the very process of rediscovering  these 'Jewish roots' among gentiles only adds emphasis to the fact that the practice of our faith has been drastically altered over two millennia.

In our genuine quest to "contend earnestly for" and walk out "the faith" of our first century brothers and sisters we need to remember the reality of what the bible expresses in Jude 4:  "For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ."

Just as it is a forgone conclusion that legalism exists within the walls of the Gentile Church, we can be certain that there are those among the Gentile Messianic movement who have a vast array of Jewish traditions at their disposal.  These leaders in this hour are using this arsenal to bring many earnestly seeking believers into the bondage of legalism, and not the liberty of Christ.  In short, if we are not careful, if we do not "abide in the doctrine of Christ,"  what we will find at the end of our earnest quest is a "different gospel."

While I am deeply concerned over this issue among some of our Gentile Messianic believers, I have no such concerns among our Messianic Jewish counterparts as it relates to the keeping of Jewish traditions.  In part it is because Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1-2   "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.   Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you."  I am convinced, because of forthcoming additional biblical evidence;  that Paul's encouragement to keep the traditions (of the Jews) was written primarily for Jewish believers. 

In order to better understand this, we need to see this distinction biblically.  We will begin by looking at the unique call of God upon the children of Israel.

The Mission of Israel

In Deuteronomy 32:7-8 the bible says "

Remember the days of old,

Consider the years of many generations.

Ask your father, and he will show you;

Your elders, and they will tell you:

When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations,

When He separated the sons of Adam,

He set the boundaries of the peoples

According to the number of the children of Israel.

Genesis 46:26-27 says  "All the persons who went with Jacob to Egypt, who came from his body, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, were sixty-six persons in all. And the sons of Joseph who were born to him in Egypt were two persons. All the persons of the house of Jacob (Israel) who went to Egypt were seventy  Exodus 1:5 repeats this "All those who were descendants of Jacob were seventy persons (for Joseph was in Egypt already)."

In Israel's time there were seventy nations in the earth.  In other words God separated the sons of Adam (the nations) and set the boundaries of these nations, according to the number of the children of Israel that went down into Egypt.

Exodus chapter 24 mentions "seventy of the elders of Israel" whom God took aside in Numbers 11 and placed His Spirit upon.  Some rabbinic commentaries from earlier centuries say that these seventy elders had a dual purpose, not only carrying the weight of leadership with Moses, but also carrying a charge as witnesses to the seventy nations.  A careful reading of the previous scripture also points this out  "When the Most High divided their inheritance" Who's inheritance? The elders of the previous line.   Of course, because of their refusal to go into the promised land; this charge of being the Lord's witness to the seventy nations was left unfulfilled. 

I believe there is a hint or a reflection of this prior charge to the elders as we consider that in the gospel of Luke it is recorded that "the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go."

It is my opinion then that Jesus (or Yeshua) as the Messiah of Israel;  was rekindling the call upon the Jewish people (and later grafted in Gentiles) when He gave the great commission before His ascension.  He said in part  "....Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;....."

Two other scripture references should clearly bear this out:

Isaiah 42: 6 says -

“I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness,

And will hold Your hand;

I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,

As a light to the Gentiles,

Isaiah 49:6 echoes this -

Indeed He says,

‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant

To raise up the tribes of Jacob,

And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;

I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,

That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

These scriptures clearly refer to Jesus, and yet they also have an undertone that  speak to Judaism as a whole.  Deep inside the Jewish conscience there is a call of God as ancient as the covenant itself.  While Israel was to proclaim God's greatness to the nations of the world, it was not an overt mission.

This call to be "a light to the Gentiles" was fully realized not only by Yeshua, but by His disciples as well.  This rekindled flame or reawakening in the Jewish soul was place on the altar and was used by God to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom to much of the civilized world by the end of the first century.

When we consider our Lord's heart not only towards Israel, but towards all mankind, we can understand His anger when He drove the moneychangers out of the temple.  (I've read several comments that leave the impression that the Jews were too pious to have ever bought and sold in any place within the temple EXCEPT for the court of the Gentiles.  This is why Yeshua was so angry - The Jews by utilizing the court of the Gentiles for the purpose of merchandise clearly demonstrated that they had lost sight of their God-given mission to the world.   They not only lost sight of the mission to bring the light of Adonai to the Gentiles, their merchandising of their faith clearly hindered those who were entering in.

(A Prophetic observation:  Does not the 20 / 21st century church stand guilty before a righteous and Holy God as we hinder those entering in by the merchandising of our faith?)

 The Covenant with Israel

In Genesis 17:3-4 the bible says "Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations." In Genesis 35:11 the Lord is even more specific:  "Also God said to him: “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body."

Here the Lord makes clear that there is one nation (Israel) that is to be the "apple of His eye", (Zechariah 2:8) and yet at the same time Adonai (the Lord) makes clear that he also remembers a covenant made with the people of the earth after the flood recorded in Genesis 9:8-17.

There were then two distinct people groups that God made covenant with.  One was with the nations of the earth established after the flood and confirmed through Abraham, and the other was with the direct descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whom God gave the name of Israel after he had wrestled with the Angel of the Lord and prevailed (Genesis32:28). 

The Lord Jesus (Yeshua) made reference to prophetic writings concerning God's covenant with Israel.  In Matthew 24:29-30, as He talked about "the end of the age"Jesus says "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.  Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."   So then after the tribulation the sun, moon, and stars will no longer operate according to the words of Jesus.  Until then the words of our Lord should serve as a covenant reflection and an authoritative reminder of words written by the Prophets Joel and Jeremiah.

Joel 3:14-16

 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!

   For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.

  The sun and moon will grow dark,

  And the stars will diminish their brightness.

  The LORD also will roar from Zion,

  And utter His voice from Jerusalem;

  The heavens and earth will shake;

  But the LORD will be a shelter for His people,

  And the strength of the children of Israel.

 

Jeremiah 31:35-37

Thus says the LORD,

Who gives the sun for a light by day,

The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night,

Who disturbs the sea,

And its waves roar

(The LORD of hosts is His name):

"If those ordinances depart

From before Me, says the LORD,

Then the seed of Israel shall also cease

From being a nation before Me forever.

Thus says the LORD:

“If heaven above can be measured,

And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath,

I will also cast off all the seed of Israel

For all that they have done, says the LORD.

So then God's word bears witness that He has everlasting covenant with the nation of and all the seed of Israel until the day of the Lord when the earth sees "the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory"

The Land of Israel

Without much elaboration, because none is needed, in Genesis 35:12  God told Jacob (or Israel) "The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land." In Leviticus 25:38 God says "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God." (Numbers 13:29b - "...and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan."  Click Here to see additional biblical proof of Israel's GOD GIVEN HERITAGE.

The Dual Role of Israel

Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

So then Israel as a people is called to be a special treasure or peculiar people in the earth. This has and will continue to manifest in two distinct ways.  The first distinction relates specifically to the nation of Israel, their call to the land and the rebirth of this covenant. Two thousand years ago the Messiah of Israel was incarnate in this earth.  In Hosea 6:1-2 the bible says:   

      Come, and let us (Israel) return to the LORD;

      For He has torn, but He will heal us;

      He has stricken, but He will bind us up.

      After two days He will revive us;

      On the third day He will raise us up,

      That we may live in His sight.

In 1 Peter we get a key that sheds light on this  "But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."

We can see then that after two thousand years, (or "two days") Israel has been revived in the covenant land that God gave to the sons of Jacob, and are in the process of being re-established as a "holy nation."  This is why satan and the fashion of the world are against Israel. There is a sense where we as Gentiles have been "brought near by the blood of Christ" and have a call to the land as well (making us part of this holy nation), but the clear legally binding covenant concerning the land is with the natural seed of Israel.

As you read this; you must bear in mind that when I speak about the re-establishment of a "holy nation,"  I am not talking about the secular existence of modern Israel; but rather the sanctified existence of those whom Zechariah writes of... "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced."

The second distinction concerns the call to be a "kingdom of priests."  This projects us forward to what the bible says in 1Peter 2:9-10 "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy."

Having shared these things, we need to see that while we have been "brought near"; Paul clearly reported that the Holy Spirit has a strategy to bring the Jews to Christ and another strategy to bring the gentiles: "But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised" (Galatians 2:7-9).

Some are wondering 'isn't this a different gospel?'  The answer is: no it is the same gospel, but two distinct strategies. The reason for this is fairly simple to see when we put it in the context of what has already been shared. 

Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-19  "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.   Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Putting this in the correct context, Jesus was speaking this to a JEWISH audience.   Our Lord was also speaking to a Jewish audience in Matthew 23 when He said "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not..."

Does this mean that we as Gentiles are to ignore the words of Christ because Jesus was speaking to a Jewish audience?  OF COURSE NOT!  What we should understand is that while the Messianic movement aids in restoring to the church the richness of what was lost; Gentiles are primarily obligated to keep the righteous requirements of the law. (see Romans 2:25-29). 

What needs to be remembered in the Messianic message to the Gentiles is what Paul taught in Galatians 3:8-9 - "And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”   So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham."

It is critical then, for us to guard against the confusion that satan wants to bring.  Jews and Gentiles must understand this:   While we are both called to keep the righteous requirements of the Law;  Gentiles have been given instructions, that are Torah based and yet different from the instructions that Yeshua re-emphasized in the above scriptures from Matthew.  These are the instructions God placed upon the Jewish people contained in the Law of Moses, so that they might remain as a unique expression in the earth.

Does this mean that the Messianic Jews are required to keep the law in order to be saved?   ABSOLUTELY NOT!

These instructions are given to the Jews and were placed in the hands of those who "sit in Moses’ seat" (i.e., today's Messianic Jewish Rabbis).  While these instructions change absolutely nothing about the essence of the gospel, I would make the case that Jesus has given the Messianic Rabbis authority to shape a Jewish expression in the midst of the body of Christ, and at the same time bring forth "the gospel for the circumcised" to the unbelieving Jews.

This is why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:18-19 "Was anyone called while circumcised?  Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised?  Let him not be circumcised.  Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters."  So then how were the "grafted - in" Gentiles to keep the righteous requirements of the law. In short - one word: Love.  And yet to walk this out as one body consisting of Jews and Gentiles living in community, certain obligations were placed upon the Gentiles as well.

The Second Temple Period

While an exhaustive historical analysis is beyond the scope of this discourse , it is profitable to have some background in order for us to see that the early doctrinal struggles in the church were essentially Jewish in nature.  In fact the first Gentile convert to 'Christianity' is a God fearing Roman centurion by the name of Cornelius (see Acts chapter 10).   While no one can be absolutely certain of this; many scholars believe that the event of Cornelius' conversion (as the first Gentile to be added to the church) did not take place till possibly ten or more years after the Day of Pentecost.

 

The spread of the gospel after the ascension of Jesus is at first then a story of how the Jewish people reacted to the fact that their promised Messiah had indeed come, (at the end of the sixty nine weeks of years prophesied in Daniel 9:25-26) and that they along with the Gentiles participated in His crucifixion. 

 

Upon their realization of this the immediate response of the Jewish people resulted in the widespread repentance and acceptance of Yeshua as Messiah of Israel during the last forty years of the second temple period.  This began on Pentecost which is one of the days when devout Jews from all over known civilization would have 'gone up' for the Feast of Weeks as commanded by the Law or Torah (see Leviticus 23:15-21, and Deuteronomy 16:16).

 

In the Second temple period of Israel (which included the time of Christ),  there was a restoration of Jewish culture and religion within the land of Israel.  Before the coming of the Messiah, and in the time frame of ten to twenty years after the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost; there arose a primary question within Judaism that involved gentile converts.   Variations of this question seem to be  reverberating within the church today as a result of the Messianic renewal. 

 

A brief  historical overview of this time frame would serve to bring a better understanding of how the questions were dealt with in the doctrine brought forth by the apostles and elders; and to demonstrate how this doctrine was in harmony with other factions of Judaism at the time. The question basically was this:  To what degree were the gentile converts / proselytes to Judaism responsible for keeping the law of Moses.

 

In Jewish history there ascended to the presidency of the Sanhedrin;  a Pharisee by the name of Hillel who was very old at the time Jesus was born.  In fact it is well within the framework of the culture of the day to at least speculate that Hillel's  influence (if not his direct input) was in the advice given to Herod as he inquired where Jesus would be born (see Matthew 2:5-6).

 

There arose a  disciple of Hillel's by the name of Shammai (a Pharisee as well) who also came to a position of importance among the Sanhedrin. His strong influence rose to preeminence after Hillel had died.  There was serious division between the two concerning several issues, one being the question concerning gentile observance of the law.

 

The school of Shammai basically believed that a Gentile had absolutely no opportunity of being counted worthy of the afterlife unless he kept all 613 Mitzvot or commandments that the rabbis meticulously counted in the old testament.  His stance was almost a complete 180° turn from the position held by his teacher (Hillel).

 

Beit (house of) Hillel some years earlier came to a totally different conclusion.  The House of Hillel ruled that their were certain (Torah based) restrictions placed upon the Gentiles who came into or became part of the Jewish community.  If a gentile were to keep these, according to Hillel; they had a part of the afterlife just as a Jew would,  having kept no greater commands than what became known as the "Noachide laws."  These 'laws' or governing principles were recorded in Judaism earliest documents.  They outlined God's basic requirements among the Gentile nations of the earth, and included six restrictions and one positive command.  They were prohibited: murder, idolatry, sexual immorality, blasphemy, theft, and eating meat with the  blood.  The positive command had to do with the establishment of courts of justice among the people. 

 

While the bible is silent on his existence, historically Hillel stands as one of the central figures of the second temple period being positioned along side some of the greatest teachers in Jewish history.  This being true; what is the proof text of his decision?  A careful examination of Ezekiel 33 shows that each restriction is dealt with by that prophet:

Verse 15: "if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, (THEFT) and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live"

Verse 17: "Yet the children of your people say, ‘The way of the LORD is not fair.’(BLASPHEMY)

Verse 25: "Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “You eat meat with blood, (SAME) you lift up your eyes toward your idols, (IDOLATRY) and shed blood. (MURDER) Should you then possess the land?"

Verse 26: "You rely on your sword, you commit abominations, and you defile one another’s wives. (SEXUAL IMMORALITY) Should you then possess the land?”’
 

This ruling affirmed through the leadership of Hillel; would have had great influence during his lifetime, even though it began to lose authority following his death. At this point of time, the influence of Shammai rose to prominence and would have had tremendous impact during the time that Yeshua had His public ministry; it being entirely possible that Shammai himself would have died of old age either during the year Yeshua was crucified, or close to this time.

 

Remembering that both Hillel and Shammai led schools of training for the Pharisees; it is in fact possible to see just a hint of this tension carry over to the New Testament as it appears there were Jewish believers from both beit Hillel and beit Shammai in the early church.  The more familiar you become with the bias of beit Shammai the easier it is to see the strong likelihood that it was his former disciples that brought false doctrine concerning circumcision for the Gentiles in the book of Acts and also brought the "different gospel" in Galatians.

 

The Bible says in Acts 15:1 "And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."  Verse 5 makes it clearer who these certain men were... "But some of the sect of the Pharisees (former disciples of Shammai) who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses"

A pattern that emerges a number of times in the new testament points to a group of believers within the church that seemed to be predisposed to the influence of Shammai.  It is even possible that Paul restricted their ability to have access to eldership by requiring elders to be the "husband of one wife", as it appears from some historical documentation that the house of Shammai was known to have practiced polygamy.

 

While the words of Christ and the directives in the New Testament shall always be the benchmark for making decisions within the church, it is profitable to see the influences that operated in the background.  As we discuss the decision of the apostles and elders in Acts 15 and affirm it's authority; we need to remember the following:  The leaders involved in the decision were primarily Jewish, they drew from Jewish teaching on the subject, and the decision was supported and confirmed by the "one accord" witness of the Holy Spirit.

 

The Gentile Community

 

The letter to the Gentile believers in Acts 15 reads as follows:

 

The apostles, the elders, and the brethren,

        To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:

        Greetings.

        Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law”— to whom we gave no such commandment—it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.  For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.  If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.

       Farewell.

It is important to remember that while certain commandments are obviously missing; one should recall the God fearing lifestyle of Cornelius in Acts chapter 10 as framework for this decision since his righteous walk had "come up for a memorial before God."  This story is even recounted by Peter in the counsel of apostles and elders in Acts 15.

 

"For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit..."  These are words that seem to have been forgotten by some within the messianic leadership of today.  This minority through the setting aside of this precept are in danger of discrediting the whole Messianic movement within the body of Christ.

 

With the decision recorded in Acts 15 and the words of Jesus in Matthew 23 as a reference point, I believe the following two statements are within the boundaries of sound doctrine:

 

1) Any Jewish led or Gentile led Messianic group that would require more of the Gentiles for acceptance in the Messianic community than what was originally put forth by the apostles and elders in Acts 15; is in serious breach of what the Holy Spirit directed.  In fact maintaining such a position will move into the realm of a "different gospel" that Paul so strongly opposed in the first chapter of Galatians.

I would encourage you to remember what the Jewish apostle to the Gentiles wrote in Romans 2:26-29:  "Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?   And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law?   For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God."   So keep in mind as you attempt to model these outward expressions that belong to your Jewish brothers; remember it is the inward ..."law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (that) has made me (you) free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2)

 

Also Romans 13:8-10: "Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,”  “You shall not steal,”  “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”    Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

2) Any attempt by the Gentile led portion of the church that would endeavor to curtail Jewish led  Messianic expression within the body of Christ would in fact be attempting to set aside the mandate given by Jesus to Jewish leadership in Matthew 23:1-3a.   "Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do'...."

The New Man (Near and Far)

Referring to Acts 2:39, Peter made a statement under the anointing of the Holy Spirit that I suspect he may not have understood the fullness of what he was saying at the time.   He said "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”  This "all who are afar off"  I am convinced again refers to a separate people (gentiles) who ended up being joined to the God of Israel by faith in His Son Jesus.

Micah 4:3a says  " He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off..."  In Ephesians chapter 2 we find much to support this.  Starting in verse 11 the bible says "Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh — who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands — that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."

In this we see the forming into one body the "nation and a company of nations" mentioned in Genesis 35:11.

Continuing in Ephesians 2:14-18 we read "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.  And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.  For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father."

I believe this expression of "one new man" was the essence of Jesus' prayer for unity in John 17 — I do not pray for these alone, (Jewish disciples) but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; (Jews & Gentiles) that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:   I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me."

We can see then that the Lord's own words imply His desire for Jew and Gentile to walk in unity.  In fact He has given His glory in order that our unity would be "just as" the heavenly unity experienced by Jesus and the Father.

The purpose of this unity is "that the world may know" that the Father sent Jesus and that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

In short then unity between Jew and Gentile displays God's love to a lost & dying world with the end result being - the salvation of souls. 

What then are the obstacles to this unity and how do we overcome them?  Since Christ " has broken down the middle wall of separation" between Jew and Gentile, what are the schemes that the devil has used to rebuild this "wall" leaving the fullest potential of the "One New Man" vision unrealized?

This is difficult at best to answer since the rebuilding of this "wall of separation" was a process that has taken centuries to reconstruct.  The issues are multidimensional and certainly only Jesus Himself can once again level this wall to the ground.

On the Gentile side of the equation, what God intends for richness and restoration as the Messianic message is brought to the church is degrading towards a time much like Paul experienced in Athens when "...all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing." 

Paradoxically, while there is a hunger for the wisdom of the Messianic Jewish rabbis within the Gentile community; the taking on of Jewish traditions, especially the wearing of garments and coverings that have up until this point been distinctively Jewish not only crosses the line of what "seemed good to the Holy Spirit", it clearly has become offensive to many within the believing Jewish community: and has also taken on the form of an additional stumbling block to the unbelieving Jew.

Corporately, the Messianic Jewish mission is to walk within the Jewish community with an authentic expression that places their faith in Yeshua within a historical and cultural framework that is distinctively Jewish.  In the words "to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law."   Whenever and wherever Gentiles use Messianic expressions publicly, I believe the Jewish expression of the Messianic movement among unbelieving Jews is watered down. 

Since their are Gentiles who would attempt to make a case that they are becoming "as a Jew" in order to win Jews; let me ask you: have you become or are willing to be circumcised contrary to what the word of God allows? I.e., ("Was anyone called while uncircumcised?  Let him not be circumcised." 1Corinthians 7:18a)  

The only exception to this in all the New Testament is recorded in Acts 16:1-3:  "Then he came to Derbe and Lystra.   And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.   He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium.   Paul wanted to have him go on with him.  And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek."   

Being a Gentile: on what basis do you feel you can justify using Jewish traditions in a public setting; especially since it hinders the Messianic Jewish expression among  unbelieving Jews? It would be profitable for the Gospel if you would remember that in a corporate sense that "the gospel for the circumcised" has been committed to our Messianic Jewish brethren. 

As Gentiles, taking on Jewish expressions in public assemblies and the wearing of garments associated with the Jewish people in public, does not honor them, in fact it takes away from the uniqueness of their expression.  Having been pursued, robbed, beaten, and murdered for two thousand years the Jewish people have sought refuge in their land once again.  Finding that even in Israel they are murdered, as gentiles; let us not be found stealing the last place of refuge they have - namely their identity as Jews.

Please don't misunderstand, I have a Messianic heart as well and as a Spirit - filled believer, I know you don't want to sit on your hands in the midst of a strictly ordered Jewish led service.  In fact a Gentile friend of mine happens to lead a Messianic congregation.  Personally, my love and respect for this brother has made writing on this subject very difficult.  However I am compelled by my King and Savior to speak the truth in love.

Short of the return of Yeshua, I don't know what the long term solution to this dilemma is.  I suspect that a private setting where the more significant aspects of Messianic faith can be practiced by Gentiles in a Spirit led way may bring a partial resolution to this dilemma.

Private Expressions in the Home

The spiritual confusion in the public arena caused by Gentile led Messianic expression is in sharp contrast to the Spirit led Messianic ministry taking place in private homes.  While potential pitfalls do exist; a private expression as a Messianic Gentile believer in my opinion has none of the negative impact upon the Jewish community that a public expression does.

In fact the strength of what the Messianic movement is meant to be among the gentiles is very much present as believers meet in various homes.  There is common ground among believing Jews and Gentiles that I believe strengthen the unity and faith of all believers. 

Some of this common ground can be found in the brief account of Cornelius, who as "a devout man and one who feared God with all his household" obviously would not have walked in the works of the flesh mentioned in Galatians5:19-21. 

With this truth as a basis, there are several observances common to Jews and Gentiles of the first century that can be effortlessly practiced today.  Beyond what is unique to the Jews and Gentiles respectfully, there are three primary areas where common ground is possible.  These three areas  violate neither "the gospel for the circumcised" or the "the gospel for the uncircumcised," especially when they are placed in the home.

They are:

A) The Sabbath - (or Shabbat)  should be set apart according to the word of God.  As we enter into this day of rest we should remember that Jesus said "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath"  How do you observe Shabbat?  What does the "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" speak to your heart? 

If you feel led to observe weekly Shabbat publicly as understood according to rabbinic tradition then I would suggest a Messianic Jewish congregation.  If you are a Spirit filled believer you need to understand that they typically will keep to an order which reflects what an unbelieving Jew would experience in an Orthodox or Reformed Synagogue.  In other words your opportunities to use your spiritual gifts may be limited.  Remember they have a mandate to present "the gospel for the circumcised" to the unbelieving Jews in their midst.

B) The Feasts of the Lord - recorded  in Leviticus 23 they are:

1) Passover - remembering "For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us"

2) Unleavened Bread - "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

3) First Fruits - remembering "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have  fallen asleep." 

4) Pentecost - remembering fifty days after firstfruits the "two wave loaves" with leaven representing Jew and Gentile before the Lord.  Also recalling the giving of the Torah and the giving of the Holy Spirit being observed on the same calendar day.

5) Rosh Hashanah - A picture of the rapture "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first."

6) Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) - A picture of the great white throne where the apostle John wrote "And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened."

7) Feast of Tabernacles - Ultimately I believe this feast looks to the time when "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God."

 

C) Torah Study - Jesus said to "Go therefore and make disciples..."  Whether you engage in a systematic 'through the bible' reading program, or you walk through the 52 Torah portions annually; to me nothing establishes  a believer like the disciplined study of God's word.

 

A point of discussion:  if any of these observances are a "burden" to you as a Gentile, then according  to the ruling of the apostles and elders in Acts 15 you are not required to keep them.  Personally though I find that these appointed times of the Lord are times of rest, reflection and refreshing and are a gift from the heart of the Father to his children.

 

A word of caution:  remember if you are going to practice your faith in a home fellowship, it is critical for there to be a strong network of accountability outside your immediate group so that false doctrine can be held in check.  Personally each believer in our home church (The Church in Allen and Margaret's House),  has accountability within and outside the home church.  This is not control, rather it is the safety afforded to those who have a multitude of counselors.

Hindrances to the Jewish Expression

Whatever is resolved concerning Messianic home churches, and how accountability may work, I am convinced of this: the more that Gentiles utilize Jewish practices and dress in a public manner, the more "the gospel for the circumcised" is hindered.

What is appalling about this practice is that I am convinced that the exact same tragedy that occurred in the early days of the church is in the process of happening again.  The diagrams in the link below concerning the separation of the faiths should help illustrate what I believed happened to the early church in their relationship with Judaism in the latter part of the second temple period and the decades after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.  As the questions raised are dealt with, hopefully they will help illustrate why the mistakes of the past may be repeated unless we resolve these issues.   While nothing is certain; history often repeats itself unless we heed the lessons of the past.  This being true, the conclusions reached here at the very least merit discussion.

While what has been reasoned here may never be proven; the resources used to reach these conclusions range from the ancient works of Josephus and some historical references in the Talmud, to more modern works covering archaeology in Israel, the lives of various leaders in the second temple period and the political / religious atmosphere of that time. 

The final test for drawing these conclusions involved asking the question of  'Do these conclusions conflict with biblical accounts in any way and / or is there additional biblical evidence lending support to these answers?' 

To read more on the separation of the Jewish and Christian faith - CLICK HERE

As believing and unbelieving Jews are at present in the beginning stages of defining community (and I know this is an optimistic appraisal);  I hope you are able to see that there is strong potential for confusion and animosity to grow unabated,  if they are forced to deal with the ramifications concerning Messianic Gentile expressions of their faith as well.

While the results of what happened in the first century between the sect of Judaism that believed (Messianic Jews), and the rest of Judaism is tragic, I believe it was the Lord's way of preserving a remnant for the church as a whole. It is entirely possible that both sides of the fence within 1st century Judaism may have been acting in accordance with the will of God in order to preserve the Jewish people for His purposes in these last days.  Isaiah 1:9 says:

Unless the LORD of hosts

Had left to us a very small remnant,

We would have become like Sodom,

We would have been made like Gomorrah

 

I believe this remnant is springing forth from the Rabbinic Judaism that God allowed to be preserved.  This remnant is what  we today are calling the Messianic Jewish Faith, and it is an absolute blessing that the leaders within this movement today are seeking to build common ground with those in the Gentile Church. 

The Truth and Heresy about Ephraim

There seems to be much controversy concerning the subject of being an Ephraimite that to ignore the subject totally would in a sense almost be an endorsement of the heresy.

Let me begin by saying what Ephraim is NOT  - Ephraim is not the Northern Kingdom of Israel dispersed into the Gentile nations and somehow regenerated into born again Christians who seem to have a deep love for Israel.   Ephraim is also not a group of believers located in the British Isles.   Rather than attempt an exhaustive study on what is not Ephraim, I will simply defer to an excellent study of this issue presented by the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America or MJAA (see suggested links page).

Without entering into an exhaustive exegetical study,  Ephraim to me is an expression of the biblical reality concerning the spiritual unity between Jew and Gentile.  Drawing from Genesis 49:22 - Ephraim is that branch of Joseph that runs over the wall into the nations being reconciled to God through the blood of Yeshua.  It is this same branch of the wild olive tree being grafted in to the root and fatness of the natural olive tree (Romans 11:17-21).

I believe that it is in these last days that there is an expression of the "New Man" that consists of those "those who were near" and "who were afar off" (believing Jew and Gentile).  Together as we offer the right hand of fellowship to one another, there will be a stirring deep within the heart of Judaism as genuine order comes forth.  Perhaps this will provoke the older brother to jealousy much like the older brother of the prodigal son was provoked (see Luke 15:11-31 & Romans 11:11-14).

One Body / Two Communities

What the Messianic Jews mostly need from the Gentiles is understanding of their call to the unbelieving Jewish world, not hoards of Gentiles copying their faith and publicly bringing confusion to their standing in the Jewish community at large.

To those gentiles who feel they have been given a specific call to the Jewish people, remember: if we are going to have a "one new man" expression, let it be in the midst of our Messianic Jewish brethren, not apart from them.  This fulfills the ancient call upon the Jewish heart to be a light to all nations as expressed by prophecy expressed by the prophet in Zechariah 8:22-23

"Yes, many peoples and strong nations

 Shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem,

 And to pray before the LORD.’

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every

language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying,

“Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’”

 

Revival

Finally as we explore the meaning of the word revive, (which means to bring back to life) it makes sense to look at what the restoration of the Messianic Jewish Faith means in these days.   Romans 11:15 says "For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?"

Revival... "life from the dead"  What we are looking at as we place the Messianic Faith in the midst of everything else that God is restoring, is a revival the likes of which even the 1st century church never experienced.

 

The role of Messianic ministry is only part of the overall vision for Shilohouse. If you came to this web page as a result of a link from another web site; click on "The Vision" link below to learn more about how the vision was given.

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