"The Messianic movement"
There is a central lesson about the gospel of salvation that most Christians and theologians alike often tend to forget or have no concept of at all. Most Christians think the gospel was tailored specifically to their Gentile racial/ethnic background only, and no one else's and that it's always going to be that way. The apostle Paul himself would beg to differ with you, and he even put this in writing. This central lesson is found in Romans 14. The apostle Paul had a real problem in the Church of God in Rome. It was made up of two major and different racial/ethnic groups (and each major group was made up of a couple sub-groups, but we'll stick with the two major groups). One group was made up of Greco-Roman Gentiles, and the other was made up of Torah-observant Messianic Jewish Christians. One group, it is believed, wanted to worship on Sunday or held no particular day as holy for worship. The other group wanted to maintain worship on the Saturday Sabbath, and observe the Holy Days and dietary laws of the Old Testament (Torah). And these two groups were chafing against each other, going at each other. Very clearly Paul restated the principles agreed upon in the Jerusalem counsel in Acts 15, making them even more clear. He stated in Romans 14:5-6, 22-23 that it was OK for each group to worship as it saw fit, according to the dictates of their own individual Christian consciences in secondary doctrinal areas such as days of worship and whether to follow Old Testament dietary laws or not. Few theologians have seen the significance of this legislation, or they chose to ignore it. Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, refining the decisions made in the Jerusalem counsel in Acts 15, was giving the new covenant gospel of salvation the ability to adapt to any and every racial/ethnic group in the world, down through the ages. And we have witnessed it do just exactly that, down through almost 2,000 years of church history. Now very recently we are witnessing the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ re-adapt itself back into the racial/ethnic culture it first came from-the Jewish culture. What we are witnessing in the Messianic Jewish-Christian movement is a direct move of the Holy Spirit to bring the gospel of salvation to all Jewish people and back into the land of Israel--now the Israeli nation. Messianic Jewish Christian congregations (or synagogues) were extant in fairly large numbers, both of the Ebionite (Torah-observant) and "sect of the Nazarene" (non-Torah observant) extraction during the 1st century AD. Subsequent Greco-Roman ecclesiastical suppression eliminated these groups from the scene by the 300s AD. Now, within the last thirty years Messianic Jewish Christian congregations have been forming. Thirty years ago there were only 30 Messianic congregations in the United States. Now there are over 150! Congregations are springing up all over the world, and they're also springing up all over the Israeli nation as well.
Quoting David Chernoff in the spring 2002 issue of SPIRIT of MESSIAH magazine, in his article "Having the Right Messianic Vision", he says: "It is vitally important in this extraordinary movement of Messianic Judaism that we are in tune with God, knowing how He is working and what His plans are for His people and the world.Spiritually speaking, a "vision" is a revelation, discernment or understanding of how God is moving in the affairs of men.If we catch the vision of what God is doing and get in line with it, we will bear much fruit for the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, if we don't have the proper vision and miss the mark, our labor may end up being "wood, hay and stubble.".My parents, Martin and Yohanna Chernoff, labored for many years in Jewish ministry. In the late 60s and early 70s, they caught the "Messianic Vision", founded one of the first Messianic congregations and became a great influence in this modern Messianic movement. In the last 30 years or so, I have seen many leaders and lay people who caught the "Messianic Vision". They went on to win many people to the Messiah [Jesus] and have born much fruit for His Kingdom.Messianic Judaism is a movement birthed and energized by God. We desperately need to look to Him at all times for direction and to make sure we are in the center of His will." He goes on to define the Messianic vision.
THE MESSIANIC VISION
"I see four key elements to understanding the vision of Messianic Judaism. We are:
"A Jew does not become less of a Jew by accepting Yeshua but more; in essence he becomes a fulfilled or completed Jew. Yeshua did not come to start a new religion but to fulfill our Jewish faith. He said, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets, I did not come to destroy but fulfill" (Mt. 5:17). How could I as a Jew become less Jewish by accepting the Jewish Messiah of Israel?"
David Chernoff goes on to warn that in their effort to keep their Jewish identity, Messianics must be careful not to "follow the rabbis (Talmud)", or to or to "err on the side of the Christian Church and think it is our primary job to "build bridges, return the church to its Jewish roots or to "reconcile"." The primary job of Messianics is to bring the gospel of salvation to the Jewish people around the world and within the Israeli nation. This totally fits Jesus' command in Matthew 28:18-20, to take the gospel to all the world, and then to baptize those who respond favorably. All the world also means back to the Jews. For some strange reason we think the Jews are not included in Jesus' statement. Nothing could be further from the truth. All the world means just exactly what it says, all the world. Are the Jewish people and Israeli nation not part of this world???
How much has this particular modern-day movement of the Holy Spirit grown? Let David Chernoff answer that one. "In 30 short years, approximately the length of time I have been in ministry, we have seen this movement grow from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of Jewish followers of Yeshua. Where once this movement was primarily based in the United States, it is now an international body of believers. Where there were only a handful of Messianic synagogues and congregations, now there are probably 400-500 worldwide. Where there was just a tiny group in Israel, today there is a growing thriving, significant movement and presence.
Our future is exciting but we must stay the course, with no compromise. We are the righteous remnant of Israel, the first fruits of Israel's salvation and certainly not the last fruits. We are the spiritual restoration parallel to the physical restoration. We are the head and not the tail of our people.
We have found the Messiah of whom the Law and the Prophets did speak and we want others to enjoy life in Him. Yeshua said, "I have come that they might have life and life more abundantly" (John 10:10).Let us work every day at being that Spirit-empowered, revival movement that God wants us to be, fulfilling our prophetic destiny as we bring our people back to their own Jewish Messiah."
The heart of Dr. Charles Kluge's article in the same magazine stated "Messianic Judaism is multi-cultural, inter-faith and inter-generational. To really reach our people with the wonderful news of Messiah and His atonement for our sins, we must identify with and be part of the corporate Jewish community, building intense and long-lasting ties."
Before the next article I would like to ask a question. How many more Jewish believers would have been added to the body of Christ during the past 1700 years had the Christian church allowed the gospel to remain adapted to Jewish culture for the Jews--while allowing the same gospel going into Gentile peoples to remain adapted to their particular cultures--as the Bible allows for??? If the growth of the Messianic movement both in the first century land of Israel and Asia Minor and today was large and thriving, then I think we have to assume that there would be a huge number of believers that would have been added to the body of Christ over the past 1700 years. The fact that this has not been the case is a black mark on the Gentile and particularly Greco-Roman Christian churches. Why must Messianic believers be forced to adapt to the gospel that has been adapted to Gentile believers for almost 1900 years? Good question. Think for a moment, why were the early "Christians" so powerfully persecuted by the Jews and Saul (who become Paul) in Judea? If they had been like your modern-day Sunday observing evangelical church down the street, the Jewish religious leaders would never have felt so threatened to try to kill off believers in Jesus. No, these early "Christians" were none other than practicing Jews who believed Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah. The early Jerusalem church with the 12 apostles was labeled "the sect of the Nazarenes" by its Jewish detractors. The church was so Jewish in their Sabbath/Holy Day observation and Old Testament dietary practices that the local Jewish leadership considered them an offshoot sect of the Jewish faith, Judaism. They were totally Christian in the essentials of salvation, yet the gospel of salvation for them was adapted to their Jewish culture. Paul wasn't against Messianic congregations, as many erroneously believe. The Jerusalem church under James and Peter was always a Messianic congregation. What Paul was against was Torah-observant Messianics (the Ebionites) trying to shove their Jewish customs down the throats of Gentile churches or congregations (his letter to the Galatians was a direct reaction to that, but what is written in Galatians has to be taken in proper context with the rest of Paul's and the Bible's writings). But we find also in Romans 14 that Paul showed that he was against Gentile Christians denying their Jewish brothers in Yeshua their own religious rights in practices of worship. You don't like what I'm saying? Your argument isn't with me, it's with God who is empowering the Messianic movement with his Holy Spirit. The next article is by Michael Wolf, pastor of Beth Messiah, in Loveland, Ohio. He elucidates on this theme, showing that it was totally within God's will for the gospel of salvation to be adaptive to both Gentile and Jewish culture.
"During my college days in the early 1970's, I took a Jewish History course with a well known academic named Robert Gordis. Gordis had been a primary editor of the post World War Two Hebrew-English Conservative Siddur. I didn't at that time fully understand the heart of this man for the Jewish survival of the post Holocaust generation. Looking back, I can put myself in his place as the horrors of the loss of the six million were followed by suburban American assimilation and apathy. Even his negative response to my Messianic Jewish faith can be partially explained by his "up from the ashes" passion for Jewish survival.
On the first day of class, Rabbi Gordis asked an age-old question that I have heard many times since. "Is Judaism a people or is it a religion?" He fielded answers from around the room; I don't remember the students' responses. But I remember clearly his answer to his own question. That answer, of course, is that Judaism is both a people and a religion. In the privacy of his office Gordis tried to tempt me with an extraordinarily wide variety of alternative Jewish expressions-from near humanistic reconstructionism to highly mystical Chasidism. His apparent regard for the many facets of non-traditional Judaism surprised me, coming from such a staunchly conservative traditional Jew. Later, I realized that for Gordis it is the community that holds the religion together. The sense of unity as a people supplies the glue that joins the variations of practice and belief--a variety, of course, that for him did not include Messianic Judaism.
It turns out that Gordis' stress on the importance of community is quite scriptural. From the time that Joseph's family entered Egypt, and unquestionably, when they emerged from there four hundred years later, it is impossible to go back to a time before community was the shape of Judaism. Perhaps this is the reason certain liturgical prayers cannot be recited in traditional Judaism unless ten men are present, forming what is called a "minyan." Although we as Messianic Jews generally follow the New Covenant example "where two or more are gathered in my name," the message in the minyan of the need for community is not lost on any traditional Jew, nor should we lose it.
Certainly, in the first and early second centuries, the need for Jewish community among the Jewish believers in Yeshua was not lost on the Messianic remnant of the time. There is Biblical and extra-Biblical evidence that such Messianic Jewish community life existed. Ya-akov (James) wrote to the "twelve tribes scattered among the nations" (James 1:1), giving advice on their community life that he assumed was made up mainly of Jewish followers of Yeshua.
In two places in the Book of Acts, James reveals his emphasis on Messianic Jewish community life. In Acts 21:20, he introduces his expectation that Jews should live as Jews.
This concept implies that these thousands of believers were identifying with other Jewish believers in community life, in congregational life. In contrast, in Acts 15:19-21, James tells us that Gentiles should not be pressured to live as Jews, though they are permitted to investigate Jewish life if they so desire.
Schonfield, writing in the twentieth century several years before the modern Messianic Jewish synagogue era, paints a picture of first century Messianic synagogues which amazingly closely mirrors today's movement. He gathers his evidence from various historic sources and comes up with this fascinating description.
"The movement was in every way a Jewish one, and its leaders were closely identified with Jewish affairs. There was no split with the [traditional] synagogue, and it was only natural that the government of the communities should be conducted on current lines. This required the establishment of local synagogues with their officials, president, deacons.,etc.
If indeed this is an accurate picture of the early Messianic Jews, it soon changed drastically. We in the Messianic movement are acutely aware of the subsequent history. Many have carefully researched the periods both before and after the Nicene period of the fourth century, and we know the devastating toll of suppressionism (replacement theology) on both Israel and the Church. That history is not the subject of this article.
Suffice it to say that the change in perspective among Jewish believers from the first century to the nineteenth century, when the Hebrew Christian movement began, was so great that one could hardly recognize that they shared the same roots. The separation of the Jewish believer from all things Jewish was complete. In God's eyes he might have been part of the Jewish remnant for Messiah, but in man's eyes he was a former Jew and any connection with the Jewish community was non-existent.
Though the Hebrew Christian movement (and the founding in 1866 of the Hebrew Christian Alliance of Great Britain) ushered in a "new" concept that Hebrew Christians could and should admit their Jewish heritage, actual Jewish observance was still discouraged. And fellowship with other Messianic Jews in a synagogue setting was totally unacceptable. In 1917, when Mark Levy suggested in a paper to the new Hebrew Christian Alliance of America that Jewish believers keep the national feasts [cf. Leviticus 23:1-44] and customs, the response was quick and clear.
Indeed, the door to understanding the value of our Jewish inheritance and identification remained closed until after World War Two. It took men like Messianic Jewish pioneer Martin Chernoff to revisit the issue and this time facilitate the start of a congregational movement.
Chernoff's journey in this direction was gradual, and began in the mid-fifties with the then very controversial decision to start a home fellowship for Jewish believers, as his wife Yohanna relates.
Over the next several years, leading to the early 1970's, the concept of the Messianic synagogue began to take shape. Sunday and Tuesday night services were eventually abandoned for Sabbat services. Messianic Jewish music began to flower. Young Jewish people came to the Messiah as Jews who hungered for Jewish community, in which they could worship Messiah. Synagogues began to proliferate here, there and everywhere.
What has occurred over the last thirty years in the Messianic Jewish synagogue movement had to occur, just as the stones would have cried out as Yeshua entered Jerusalem if the people had not done so. Long ago, the prophet Jeremiah spoke of Shepherds who in the last days would tend His Jewish people and help them fulfill their call as Jews in the land of Israel.
This placing of shepherds has already begun both in Israel and the nations. It is in Messianic synagogues that these shepherds lead distinctively Messianic Jewish flocks.
In the New Covenant, Paul also realized that Jewish Messianic communities were a necessary and natural development of widespread Jewish revival in any century. That is why he applied the principle that Jews remain Jews when they believe--a principle that quickly vanished [circa 200-325AD, Constantine], and is only now being applied once again as communities flourish. By the way of explanation, Paul's use of the term "circumcised" below could not apply to the physical operation, because a man could not physically become uncircumcised. He is referring to Jewish identity and culture.
Following is the statement of beliefs of Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA), which when read should convince any Christian theologian that Messianic Judaism is a genuine Christian movement--one composed mainly of Jews--one quite similar to the early New Testament Church of God that was created by the Holy Spirit in 31 or 32 AD on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 [which the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem labeled as "the sect of the Nazarenes"]. This revival in the Jewish community is a similar Holy Spirit led, inspired and driven revival.
STATEMENT OF FAITH
MESSIANIC JEWISH ALLIANCE OF AMERICA
INTERNATIONAL ALLIANCE OF MESSIANIC CONGREGATIONS AND SYNAGOGUES
We believe in the resurrection of both the redeemed and the lost: the former to everlasting life and the latter to eternal separation from God, a state of everlasting punishment (Job 14:14; 19:25-27; Dan. 12:2-3; John 3:36; 11:25-26; Rev. 20:5-6, 10-15; 21:7-8).
The Scriptures promised two "comings" of the Messiah:
We believe in God's end-time plan for the nation of Israel and for the world. A central part of Messianic Judaism is the belief in the physical and spiritual restoration of Israel, as taught in the Scriptures. The greatest miracle of our day has been the re-establishment or rebirth of the State of Israel according to prophecy (Ezek. 34:11-31; 36-39; Hos. 3; Amos 9:11-15; Zech. 12-14; Isa. 11; 43; 54; 60-62; 66; Rom. 11:1-34) (see also Scriptures under V. THE MESSIAH).
"Catch the Vision"
The evidence we are seeing points to this, the Holy Spirit has started a movement to bring the gospel of salvation back into the Israeli nation and to all Jews, regardless of whether they accept it or not. In the first century many Jews who heard the gospel when it was presented in a form that was in line with their ethnic background, true Judaism of the Bible or Torah, they accepted Yeshua. They were what would be recognized today as Messianic Jewish believers in Yeshua. Now today, dating back over thirty years, the Holy Spirit has inspired the gospel of salvation to be re-adapted back into the ethnic/religious background it first came from, Judaism. Not the Judaism recognized and practiced in the synagogues for over almost 2,000 years, but true biblical Judaism which you might say hearkens back to David's and Solomon's time--a Judaism that would have recognized Yeshua of Nazareth as Messiah. For the Holy Spirit to inspire the gospel's re-adaptation back into the Jewish culture it first came from can mean only one thing, the Lord is bringing the gospel back into the nation of Israel and to Jews everywhere on earth. There is a prophecy of Jesus which when you consider the statement Jesus is making, can only be taken as end-time, just prior to his 2nd coming. In Matthew 10:17, Jesus starts out by saying, "But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child.And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endures to the end shall be saved. [An almost repeat, word for word, of this speech by Jesus is given in Matthew 24, but Jesus adds something interesting in the next verse--giving this prophecy location.] But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come." Now I know there's a group out there that believe the U.S. and British peoples are the House of Israel, and other Christian groups feel Christians are some kind of spiritual Israel. Well, yes, in one sense, born-again Christians become children of Abraham in a spiritual sense, grafted into the cultivated Olive Tree of Israel. And Paul said Israel, if they remain not in unbelief, will be re-grafted too. But that's not what's important to notice here. Jesus is making a statement and a prophecy, and wording it in such a way so that the people this is going to will recognize it is being spoken to them. Messianic Jewish Christians are living physically in the nation of Israel, the Israeli nation! When Messianic Jewish Israeli's read this in their Bibles they know that Lord is addressing them. It is they who will, just before Yeshua's 2nd coming, be fleeing city to city, preaching the Word and being persecuted as they do so. How do we know this, and that this is the timing for that event? Because Jesus said so in verse 23, "You shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man come." Now Christians have not been going over the cities of Israel for the past 1900 years, preaching salvation to them and being persecuted, in a literal sense. But Messianic Jewish-Christians are now bringing the gospel of salvation into the cities of Israel, actively witnessing even under the threat of jail for doing so. So the Messianic movement is definitely a move of the Holy Spirit, just as the Holy Spirit has moved missionaries to press onward, into all the remote Gentile parts of the world, now beginning to make huge harvests in new believers. Why would the Holy Spirit ignore the Jewish race, while he isn't ignoring the Nalja's in Borneo, or the people of India through Gospel for Asia, or all the people groups being reached by the JESUS Film Project worldwide? Native people groups are being reached in their native ethnic lands and with a gospel that is adapted to or friendly to their ethnic background in secondary areas (allowed for by Romans 14 and Acts 15). But this present move of the Holy Spirit is even more telling. God is bringing the gospel back into the land of Israel, just prior to the 2nd coming of Jesus. The gospel was first held within the ethnic culture of the Jews, and was first aimed at the Jews. The whole gospel of Matthew (written by Matthew Levi) was written for and aimed at Jews. It is full of hundreds of references to prophecies of the Messiah's first coming in the Old Testament, proving the Messiahship of Jesus--not to Gentiles, who weren't all that familiar with the Old Testament prophecies, or who could care less about them--it was written by a Jewish-Levite tax-collector who had a strong analytical mind, and it was written to prove Jesus' Messiahship to Jews. Even the apostle John, aimed his gospel at proving the Messiahship of Jesus to the Jewish audience in Asia Minor. Quoting F.F. Bruce in his introduction to his commentary on the Gospel of John, he says, "But within John's general Hellenistic environment can we think of one particular category of reader that he might have in mind? Whom are the arguments deployed in the great debate of his central chapters designed to convince? These central chapters are largely devoted to one sustained debate between Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem--a debate which was carried on in the following decades between followers of Jesus and the synagogue authorities."
"The destruction of the Jerusalem temple and cessation of the sacrificial worship in AD 70 made little difference to Jewish life in the dispersion. The debate between the disciples and the synagogue authorities reached a critical stage around AD 90, when one of the prayers in the synagogue service was reworded so as effectively to exclude the followers of Jesus. It was probably against this background that the Fourth Gospel was published, in order to bring members of the synagogue congregations in that area of the dispersion where the Evangelist [John] and his associates lived (and in other areas too) to faith in Jesus as Messiah of Israel, the Son of God, the Revealer of the Father. Among members of the synagogue congregations those most likely to be impressed were perhaps the Gentile God-fearers who regularly attended synagogue services. (The record of Acts illustrates how this was so in Paul's mission-field a generation earlier.)" [F.F. Bruce, 1983, The Gospel & Epistles of John, Introduction, p.13, para. 2-3.] So if Matthew, Mark and Luke were written in Judea to a Jewish audience to bring about a large harvest of believers in Judea--and as we have just read from F.F. Bruce that John aimed his gospel at reaching a Jewish audience in Asia Minor thirty to forty years later, Jews who had been dispersed during the first Roman-Jewish war--then why is it so hard for us Gentile Christians to conceive of the Holy Spirit inspiring the gospel to be re-adapted back to its Jewish roots so that it can go back to the Jews--which Jesus said it would just prior to his return? Remember, it was the Holy Spirit who often directed where Paul was and wasn't to take the gospel. Don't feel slighted, you Gentile Christians. You have been used by the Lord to carry the gospel to the entire Gentile world for almost 1700 years. And you must continue to do so with all your might as we see "that day" approaching. But now it's the end-game, and the Holy Spirit is passing some "plays" to the Messianic Jewish Christians. So don't you Gentile Christians come to some false conclusion that your job is over in the area of evangelism. Instead, it's time to redouble your efforts--time is short, the fields are white for the harvest, as Jesus said.
[Below is reproduced another article by Michael Wolf congregation leader of Beth Messiah, Loveland, Ohio. This helps further explain Messianic congregations and the Messianic movement in general. It is part of a very short article written for the winter 2003 issue of SPIRIT of MESSIAH. Christian Pastors and local members should come to understand that Messianic congregations are equal brothers in Christ, equal members of the body of Christ which is composed in Paul's own words, of both Jewish and Gentile believers.]
The Difference Between a Church And a Messianic Synagogue
(Used by Permission)
In this article, I will discuss differences between churches and Messianic synagogues, but first I must mention one important similarity. Just as in the church, rabbinic ministry in the Messianic movement includes a strong emphasis on what both Jewish and Christian seminaries call pastoral care. This emphasis is in agreement with the command of Yeshua to "feed My sheep." Therefore much of the time spent by Messianic leadership in growing synagogues involves this kind of care, which includes counseling, communicating Biblical life principles, and leadership training, among other things. Such are the responsibilities of any congregational leader called with a Shepherd's heart.
I can sense this common call and gifting in many Gentile church pastors I meet. We have much in common, because we are both helping to bring a body of believers into spiritual maturity. However, as we share experiences, it becomes increasingly obvious that, just as there are similarities between our ministries and congregations, so there are differences as well. What are some of these differences?
Primary among the differences is our foundational identification with the people of Israel. Whereas Gentile churches identify with the worldwide community of [Gentile] believers, Messianic synagogues identify not only with that community but, equally, with the Jewish community worldwide [or else how could the Messianic movement properly evangelize to the Jewish community?]. This is true in spite of the fact that our synagogues are not always embraced by that community. God's perspective is not man's, and He has brought forth Messianic synagogues as the first fruits of the revival and restoration of Israel which Paul speaks of in Romans 11:26.
so all Israel will be saved,
Gentile churches are called to bless the Jewish people. We are part of the Jewish people they are called to bless, as well as part of the body of believers who are called to do the blessing. That is the special position of the Messianic synagogue.
Along with this special position comes a responsibility to uphold and nurture our Jewish identity and actively support our Jewish people. This includes the challenge of raising up the next generation of Messianic Jews--a dimension of our children's education programs that differs from the church. We seek to train our children in the ways of God through the rich reservoir of Biblical Jewish practice and tradition.
In addition, our congregations are called to worship God through the Jewish Shabbat, festivals, and holy days, rather than the Christian holy days most churches observe. [Log onto http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/lamb/holyday.htm to see what "holy days" this refers to, and read about their deep meanings to both Christian and Jewish believers in Yeshua alike.] Messianic congregational leadership meets the challenge of developing Spirit-infused models of Jewish liturgical worship in very exciting and creative ways. I've been to many Messianic synagogues in the USA and abroad, and it's always fascinating to observe the different, original and fresh ways that Messianic worship is expressed through traditional liturgy, Davidic worship, dance and other elements. Though these expressions may vary, they all have one thing in common. They all reflect a worship model in the context of Jewish calling and identity.
Our synagogues are also called to be a beacon of light and a spiritual oasis--a place where whole Jewish families can come to understand the Messiah Yeshua within their own cultural and religious heritage. This calling to be culturally relevant to our own people must remain a priority for Messianic synagogues, though it is not a consideration in the church. We will reach many people of all backgrounds along the way, but our apostolic call is to our Jewish people, just as Peter's was too 2,000 years ago.
Peter and John, those
agreed that we should go
Just as there are many differences between churches and Messianic synagogues, there are also different opinions about the purpose of a Messianic synagogue. As we present the Messianic Jewish vision at Beth Messiah in Cincinnati, we often find that individuals come into our synagogue with visions that are not compatible with the vision God has given us. Some of these visions may be antithetical to Scripture while others may be scriptural but not the vision God has called us to. By listing some of these perspectives below, a clearer understanding of the Messianic synagogue [and movement] and its distinctive emerges.
some see the Messianic synagogue as the "true Church"
[I spent 30 years in the Worldwide Church of God, a Sabbatarian
church which was very "Torah observant", and we
had this misconception of being the "true Church"
for the entire time the church was Torah observant and Sabbatarian
in doctrinal belief]. These individuals feel that the local
church should be modeled after the Messianic synagogue and
that the whole body [he means Gentile and Jewish] worldwide
should be keeping the Jewish Shabbat, festivals, and
kosher laws, among other things. [This belief was completely
mirrored in the pre-1986 Worldwide Church of God, very interestingly.]
In short, for them the Messianic synagogue is living a "more
authentic Christianity" that all churches should follow.
We at Beth Messiah do not agree with this. Ours is a positive
message about the restoration of our Jewish people, not a
negative message about the Gentile church [having to adopt
Jewish days of worship and practices--which the Bible nowhere
commands (cf. Romans 14:5-6,22-23)]. This is true even though
we understand and teach that the church has historically embraced
major errors, such as Replacement Theology. [log onto http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/prophecies
Second, there are those who see our synagogues as two-tiered. In this view, there are some roles that only Jewish members can fulfill. These roles might be liturgical in nature, such as reading or carrying the Torah, or they may be governmental in nature, such as eldership positions. At Beth Messiah, all members (whether Jewish or Gentile) who are fully committed to our synagogue and to its vision, and are maturing in their call, are enfranchised into the various congregational ministries.
Third, some come with a perspective that places Rabbinic Judaism and Talmudic thought on a status above the Apostolic writings of the New Covenant ["New Covenant", Messianic term for the New Testament]. At our synagogue, I make it very clear that we view only the Tanach [Old Testament] and the New Covenant as divinely inspired. We do not view ourselves as being under the authority of the ancient rabbis, but instead under the authority of Rabbi Yeshua HaMashiach [Rabbi Jesus the Christ, or Messiah]. This does not mean that we don't practice many of the traditions that have developed among our people over many centuries--we do. However, we do not view these traditions as divinely imposed.
Fourth, some see "worldwide revival" as having top priority, while Messianic Judaism is seen as a distraction at best, and a hindrance at worst. [This website sees "worldwide revival" as having top priority--of which the Messianic Jewish revival amongst the Jews plays a vital part of this "worldwide revival". I hope this is in line with your beliefs and vision, Michael. editor.] Our desire and efforts to maintain our Jewish identity is seen by those with this view as either unnecessary or, at times, divisive. [Any effort to evangelize to a specific ethnic/people group should never be seen as divisive. Are the Jews any less important in the scheme of worldwide evangelism than reaching the Irian Jaya tribes, or the peoples of India, or China? No they are no less important, but equally so, even though Christianity has basically ignored evangelism to the Jews, the very ethnic race of Jesus. Now the Jewish believers themselves, moved by the Holy Spirit, have taken on the responsibility and task for evangelizing to their own people. This is not divisive, and to call it divisive is to call a move of the Holy Spirit divisive. editor.] While we at Beth Messiah can receive positive spiritual blessings from revivals and renewals in the Gentile Church, the call to our Jewish people and our Jewish identity is God-given and is a part of who we are, and always will be, until Yeshua comes. Without this distinctive there cannot be "one new man" between Jew and Gentile in the body, in the same way that a marriage cannot be "two who are one flesh" without a man and a woman.
Because of the many different views that abound, we at Beth Messiah felt a need to clarify our specific vision and mission as a Messianic synagogue through various practical measures.
Beth Messiah Synagogue, envisioning and assisting in the restoration of the people of Israel to their God and to their calling, will work this out in the following ways:
Taken together, along with the rest of the article above, these vision and mission concepts are what makes a Messianic Synagogue unique as a community. They differentiate our community from Gentile churches with whom we fellowship.