Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Christian Teacher Has Questions About Messianic Judaism

So a teacher (whom I greatly admire) from church asked me the following question in an email just now.  Here's my response:


"I'd like to learn more about your view about keeping the Jewish law.  What aspects of the regulations do you feel still are applicable?"

I love this question!  But it is a deep question.  I'll try to give a concise answer and then you can ask follow-up questions.  Here goes:

I believe that the Prophets talked about a Messiah who would be a not only a Savior, not only the L-rd, but also a great Teacher, who will one day rule from Jerusalem and from whose lips the "Law shall go forth" from Zion.

I believe that Yeshua is that Messiah.  He instructed His disciples how to obey not just the letter but, more importantly, the spirit behind the letter.  And He also explained that while the Law instructs us in righteousness, it does not cause righteousness---in fact, we need Divine help if we are to become righteous.

And so Paul came along and tried to explain this further.  Paul says the Law is holy, just, and good--provided it is used for the right reasons.  He explains that grace does not nullify the Law but rather we uphold the Law.  Yes, the Law is difficult but it represents instructions in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16).  We should try to keep the applicable provisions of the Law (e.g. eating only those clean animals designed for human consumption, keeping the appointed times--especially Shabbat which is a time of rest, healing, restoring familial and communal relationships, and orienting oneself and one's family to G-d, studying His word and worshipping Him in song and in communion).  We should avoid any Rabbinic regulations that, loosing sight of the spirit of the Law, only serve to "set aside" the commandments.  However, if any tradition helps with the spirit of a command (e.g. drinking wine at the start of an appointed time, reciting prepared blessings over food, etc), then that is usually fine to do.

History:

But after Paul left, the original faith of the early Messiah-followers came under attack.  As you know, the Faith of the Early Assembly of Messiah-Followers slowly incorporated some anti-Judaic teachings.  In fact, the Faith became, at times, downright anti-Semitic, which was a far cry from say the message of Romans 11, that the in-grafted wild branches should remain humble and loving towards the natural branches that were cut off.

Flash-forward several thousand years.  The Diaspora ends and the State of Israel is reborn.  Suddenly there's something called the "Messianic movement".  The Messianic idea is very simple:  The Apostolic Writings (New Testament) are not against the Law so much as the abuse of the Law.  

Yet questions remain about the following:

(1) are Messianic Jews and non-Jews subject to (non-Messianic) Rabbinic Authority?  (No!)

(2) are Messianic non-Jews included in the New Covenant made with Israel?  (Yes!)

(3) does circumcision initiate one into the covenant?  (No!)

(4) should Messianics view circumcision in the way that the non-Messianic Jewish community views it?  (No!)

(5) does circumcision make you Jewish?  (No!)

(6) should circumcision be an outward sign of inward faith?  (Yes! Provided one understands that one is included in the Israel of G-d by faith working through Yeshua's gift of grace, not by works of the law such as circumcision)

Finally, how does a Messianic view the end times?  I believe that there will be a Messianic Kingdom (Kingdom Israel) in which the capital is Jerusalem.  The Messiah Yeshua will rule a Kingdom composed of all the nations of the earth (those who survive from the nations who came against Israel in the last days).  As Isaiah says, no longer will uncircumcised men enter Zion.  But all those who join to the covenant (Isaiah 56) will desire to keep the Law (Isaiah 2; Micah 4, etc) and will come up to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage appointed times.  Everyone will have the Law written in their hearts and will feel compelled to be obedient, having a new nature unlike what we have now.

So is the Messianic movement perfect right now?  Absolutely not!  We're very immature.  I don't believe maturity will occur until Jew and Gentile can learn how to come together as one family in Yeshua.  It will happen...one day.  Until then, the duty of a Messianic is to help others explore the roots of the faith, to come to see the Law as wonderful instructions just as the Psalmist.

Here is but a small sample from Psalm 119:

I rejoice in following your statutes
    as one rejoices in great riches.
15 
I meditate on your precepts
    and consider your ways.
16 
I delight in your decrees;
    I will not neglect your word.

17 
Be good to your servant while I live,
    that I may obey your word.
18 
Open my eyes that I may see
    wonderful things in your law.
19 
I am a stranger on earth;
    do not hide your commands from me.
20 
My soul is consumed with longing
    for your laws at all times.
21 
You rebuke the arrogant, who are accursed,
    those who stray from your commands.
22 
Remove from me their scorn and contempt,
    for I keep your statutes.
23 
Though rulers sit together and slander me,
    your servant will meditate on your decrees.
24 
Your statutes are my delight;
    they are my counselors.

3 comments:

  1. I really like this... nice and concise! May I repost on my blog with links back here?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. It is up. Appreciate your blog! Keep up the good work!

      Delete