What I Hear When You Say…

Michelle van Loon, a messianic Jewish believer, offers a brief, clear, and compelling challenge for Christians to be careful how they describe the relationship of Israel and the Church:

What does it mean that God’s calling for Israel is irrevocable (Romans 11:29), or that Gentiles are grafted into Israel? What does that mean for “church”?

I understand that a few words on a blog rarely have the power to shift a core piece of someone’s theology. But I would like to help you hear what I hear as a Jewish believer in Jesus when some of my brothers and sisters in faith say those words to me. When you say ”The Church has replaced Israel”, I hear:

  • It’s OK to treat the salvation story found in the Old Testament as metaphor and preamble.
  • It’s OK to frame the Jewish Jesus in a Gentile context, and to gloss over the fact that the early Church was predominately Jewish.
  • It’s OK to state that God always keeps his promises, but then turn around and insist that this doesn’t mean he keeps the promises he repeatedly confirmed (including during times of national discipline) to his Chosen People throughout millenia of B.C. history.
  • It’s OK to redefine Israel, negating the Covenant relationship God has with my people, who’ve survived dispersion, persecution, and a third of our number put to death two generations ago by people who bent your words into the twisted cross of National Socialism.
  • It’s OK to not engage Jewish believers when these sorts of theological questions arise, as their Jewish identity is a non-issue in your system.

It’s not OK.

And this is where language on a computer screen falls short. I am not angry, though the replacement words make me sad, and sometimes leave me feeling a little vulnerable in ways the speakers of those words may not understand.

So instead of standing on a chair, I write my response in measured words here in blogland. They are a prayer for the body of Christ, of which I am a grateful member. I remember in this prayer that Jesus sought from his Father incredible mercy to give to those who “didn’t know what they were doing“. And they are a prayer for my people, because reconciliation, not replacement, is God’s desire for them.

For each one of us.

– See more at: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/pilgrimsroadtrip/2013/06/when_you_say/#sthash.nVpMln2V.dpuf

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  • Norman

    The church (body of Christ) are people of faith whether Jew or Gentile, Greek or Barbarian. Not all Israel is Israel. Romans 9:6,7,8

  • Norman:

    It is important to be able to understand subtle things in Paul. Sure “not all Israel is Israel” as in, being in the remnant. But all Israel is Israel with regard to the promises through Abraham. You cite a few selective scriptures. Let me do the same: God has not rejected his people (Rom 11:2), all Israel will be saved (11:26), as regards the gospel they [Jews who opposed Paul] are enemies but are beloved for the sake of the forefathers (11:28), the gifts and calling of God [to the Jewish people] are irrevocable (11:29). Your string of replacement texts does not tell the whole picture. It seems Paul is explaining a troubling phenomenon (Jewish unbelief) and Christians should understand Moses and Isaiah had been explaining the same thing for over a thousand years. I blogged about “Jewish ‘Unbelief,’ Romans 11, Isaiah” back on June 5 if anyone is interested.

    Derek Leman

  • Michelle:

    Very well-written. I believe you connect with the key issues where people really are on the ground. Not only Jewish believers like you and I, but numerous non-Jews who place a high value on the Jewish people and God’s plan of redemption for the world from Israel to the nations find this highly problematic. I know many non-Jews who feel sick when attending a church (and many drop out) because of the continually negative references to Pharisees, to Judaism as some kind of false merit-based religion, and to the idea that somehow Christian forms of worship are somehow spiritually superior. Wake up call: Jesus worshipped more like we do.

    Derek Leman

  • Lisa Robinson

    While I appreciate the author’s concerns, I hope that she realizes that there is a difference between the church replacing Israel and the continuity of Israel and the church as one people of God. The language is kind of sloppy in not making that distinction. Keith Mathison’s article that she links to under the Reformed perspective articulates continuity well. But it is not replacement theology.

  • Lisa:

    If by “continuity” someone means “the promise used to be for physical descendants of Abraham but now is only a spiritual promise for Christians” then it is the same thing as replacement (supersessionism). The biblical arc of continuity is Israel is God’s vessel to reveal himself and bless the world, with all the nations as the goal. Israel remains the vessel and Israel must also seek the blessing it brings to the world. The world (nations, Gentiles) must not erase the people who are the vessel nor take possession of the hundreds of promises awaiting the vessel. What are practical ways churches seek to erase Israel? “You don’t need to keep Sabbath or food laws now; that no longer matters.” “Being Jewish is nothing more than an ethnic reality because chosenness has only one category now: explicit faith in Jesus.” “The land does not matter anymore nor descent from Jacob.” I could go on. Meanwhile, the Son of Joseph is returning to that land and that people and final redemption awaits Matthew 23:37-39.

  • Lisa Robinson

    Right, but there is a difference between expansion and elimination. Replacement theology as a distinct articulation advocates for the latter. All I’m saying is that we have to be careful with definitions.

  • Lisa:

    Maybe you and I are agreeing then. Expansion is the exact word I use in my books (I have two chapters, for example, on the book of Hebrews in my latest, Yeshua Our Atonement). What I objected to in your first comment was your claim that Michelle has misstated the issue. She has not. The situation on the ground is exactly as she has stated. Let me add: Scot’s version of continuity in King Jesus Gospel (story of Israel continued in the story of Jesus) is the right kind and I believe Scot reads it as expansion and continuance not new phase and elimination. So, Lisa, in your second comment I feel you choose the right word (expansion) but in your first you seem to deny that elimination is the standard paradigm. R. Kendall Soulen calls elimination the “Standard Canonical Narrative” and shows why it must be rejected as a theology.

  • Phil Miller

    I appreciate the concerns of the post, but this statement somewhat puzzles me:

    It’s OK to state that God always keeps his promises, but then turn
    around and insist that this doesn’t mean he keeps the promises he
    repeatedly confirmed (including during times of national discipline) to
    his Chosen People throughout millenia of B.C. history.

    But God did keep His promises to Israel. Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. When I read this, it’s hard for to understand what exactly the author thinks God keeping His promises looks like. I’m not trying to belittle anything she said, but I guess this is just hard for me to get.

  • Guest

    Phil Miller:

    Perhaps you are unaware that most of the future hope promises to Israel are as yet unfulfilled. In order to be polite and brief I will mention simply a handful: Dt 30:6; Rom 11:26; Ezek 36:24-27; Matt 23:37-39; Rev 11:13-15.

  • Perhaps you are unaware that most of the future hope promises to Israel are as yet unfulfilled. In order to be polite and brief I will mention simply a handful: Dt 30:6; Rom 11:26; Ezek 36:24-27; Matt 23:37-39; Rev 11:13-15.

  • David Valentin

    christian antisemitism at its finest who is your pastor
    adolf hitler or martin luther? Yeshua came to the jews FIRST!. the nations benefit from the gift of salvation by accepting the G-d of israel and their Messiah as their own. you are grafted in, part of the commonwealth of israel. born again as a spiritual son or daughter of abraham. the church is contaminated with paganism, and i want no part in it, as for me and my house we serve the L-rd as he wanted us on shabbat at synagogue and with the Living Torah, Yeshua

  • David Valentin

    the church sure made my jewish wife comfortable in their mist, by calling her people”slaves of the law” the truth is that we only have one thing in common with the church, a belief in Yeshua. we dont need to be associated with them, heck i dont care about them, since all they have to say about Messianic Judaism is negative. comes a time when you just have to quit trying, they dont care, and so should we!

  • Phil Miller

    I would disagree with you on that. I won’t go through one by one here, but essentially all of those prophecies find their fulfillment in and through Christ. Even if they aren’t completely fulfilled yet, they are in the process of being fulfilled by Christ now, and they will find their future consummation through Him as well. The Romans 11 passage is probably the most controversial on your list, but even so, whatever Paul is talking about there, it will only happen because of Christ’s finished work on the cross.

  • Hello Norman: I am a Gentile believer in Jesus as the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. It was a tremendous revelation to realize that Israel is the sole vehicle of redemption for God–the church being an aspect of the expression of His kingdom, but, tragically, an aspect with a long history of anti-Jewish teaching and persecution of the Jewish people and others. To have come into the understanding that we, as Gentiles, are grafted into God’s sole vehicle of redemption, Israel, by faith in Messiah Jesus, is to know my place, my identity, from God’s point of view, the biblical point of view. It is impossible to experience the gratitude of that condition from a position of “replacement”: that the church is somehow the “New Israel,” as wrongly proclaimed by the church fathers. This is the error that contributred so significantly to Christian Europe standing idly by during the Holocaust. To understand the Hebrew prophets properly and know the joy of gratitude we of the nations should have for being included as citizens in the commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2) as well as being supported by the root, grafted into the olive tree of Israel (Romans 11), is to know the deepest truth of my identity in Jesus as my Redeemer. One of the greatest joys on earth, I believe, is for we, as Gentiles, to know our proper place in God’s plan of redemption in order that we may fully know His love for us. Blessings to you and yours… Dan Hennessy

  • Phil:

    That is the classic definition of replacement (supersessionism). God did not mean he would restore Israel. He just meant Jews could become Christians.

  • Phil Miller

    I should add, it’s not that I have anything against Messianic Jews – I count them as my brothers and sisters in Christ! And I do appreciate all the work that is done to bring greater understanding about Jesus the Jew. It’s something the Church at large has been woefully ignorant of.

    But when we start going down the road of encouraging Christians to be Torah observant or other things, I have to admit I don’t understand the motivation behind that. It seems that very early on, the Council of Jerusalem had to deal with the question of just how Jewish a Gentile believer has to be to be a follower of Christ. And the answer they came up with was essentially, they don’t have to become Jewish to follow Christ. Some groups under the Messianic Judaism banner seem to want to turn that around.

  • mark

    I think Michelle gets it pretty much right in her very first bulleted point:

    It’s OK to treat the salvation story found in the Old Testament as metaphor and preamble.

    The alternative is to lose oneself intellectually in a fundamentalist morass, with no clear way out. The way forward is to address questions such as these: if the “salvation story” in the Israelite scriptures is not history, then what is God’s self revelation in Jesus all about? What does it mean, how and why is it relevant, that God revealed himself in Jesus of Nazareth, a 1st century Jew?

    I suggest (capsule version) that Israel, in its history and not simply in its scriptures, represents the human race’s quest to come to know God. IOW, Israel in its history developed through the common stages of human spiritual and intellectual development (cf. the works of thinkers such as Mircea Eliade and Mark S. Smith) to the point that the stage was set for God’s self revelation of his identity in Jesus.

    So, yes, the “salvation story found in the Old Testament” is largely metaphor, i.e., myth, but that doesn’t mean that it’s of no importance. As “preamble” to God’s self revelation in Jesus it remains vitally important, but is not to be taken uncritically as literal–all is subordinate to God’s purpose which is His self revelation to man and his call to man to respond in faith.

  • Norman

    You really need to be more careful in throwing around your anitsemitsm accusations as your approach and some of the other responses to theological discussions here are simply not called for and are out of place. Disagree theologically but keep the personal accusations in check.

  • chris2002white

    Are not the Gentile believers in Jesus full partners with the Jewish believers in Jesus? Why do some Gentile believers think the Jewish are not part of God’s people, the called out ones, the Church? Why do some Jewish believers think that Gentile believers are not full members of God’s people. Has not the wall which separated them been torn down? Has not the Gentiles who were without God and foreigners to the covenant of promises and the sacred Scriptures and without hope, excluded from citizenship in Israel have now been brought near by the blood of Christ? Is not the Jewish believers and he Gentiles believers now one entity that in Jesus the Messiah is joined together as the one holy temple in the Lord? Are not Gentiles through the Gospel heirs together with Israel, members together in one body? Are not all believers in Jesus who belong to the Messiah considered Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise?
    I recognize that the Jewish believers are natural and I, a gentile believer have been grafted into the true vine of Jesus. Does this make me a second-class citizen and not worthy to receive all of God’s promises, or not inherit all of them?
    The Church cannot replace Israel for she is not separate from Israel. The Church is not another name for Gentile believers. The Church, or the called-out ones are God’s people, people of faith, faith in the Messiah, heirs to the promise of Abraham.
    Peace and mercy to us all.

  • Phil:

    You must be hearing me say things I did not say. I do not encourage Christians to keep the Sabbath and food laws. I believe those are only the ways Jews are commanded to keep. What I and other Jewish believers ask is: (1) don’t nullify promises to our people God will fulfill in the future and (2) don’t ask us to become Gentiles in order to follow our Jewish Messiah.

  • Marshall

    Sure, other ways of worship should be respected. Christians have a problem here amongst themselves, if you haven’t noticed. Of course everyone thinks what they are doing is the “right” way, why would anybody set out to do it wrong? Of course many Christians don’t understand Judaism very well, many don’t even understand Christianity very well … I don’t exempt myself. These days it’s hard to fault Christians for support of the State of Israel in Tel Aviv. So?? If you’re trying to say that Jesus didn’t bring something new into the world (eg, the fulfillment of Deut 30:6) … well, I disagree. Hope you can respect that.

  • Phil Miller

    Derek, I wasn’t meaning to refer to you personally in saying that. I was speaking more generally of some of the Messianic Jewish congregations I am familiar with.

    But your response does raise another question for me. Do you believe that a Jewish Christian is required to keep the Sabbath and food laws?

  • Norman

    Likewise I believe you need to stay within Paul’s context throughout Rom 9-11. Paul sets that contextual stage for whom “all Israel” is early on here in Chapter 9. All Israel as defined by Paul is quite clear and one shouldn’t later juxtapose their own beliefs about “all Israel” as one picks and choose throughout these chapters. No one should look back to how Paul clearly defines “all Israel”.

    Rom 9: 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

    And just who are the children of the Promise? Paul is saying they are Abraham’s offspring. The promise is via faith as also laid out by Paul in Romans 4 not of flesh or as John’s gospel puts it not of Blood. Also Genesis clearly lays out that through Abraham the Nations will also be blessed and that is Paul’s overarching theme through much of his writings.

    John 1: 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

    Long before Abraham and Moses there were people of faith: Adam (son of God) Enoch and Noah and as Genesis 4:26 points out that early on in the Patriarchal age People of faith begin to call on YHWH (Israel’s name for God). Hebrews chapter 11 includes them in because of their faith in God as being recipients of Christ fulfillment.

    I do realize that understanding how Paul includes the Gentiles into the root of the Tree is not simple theology as it goes deep into Hosea and other OT accounts where he pulls from to make his case. That discussion will glaze people’s eyes over so I’ll try to steer clear of that discussion.

  • Norman:

    Selective aren’t you? That is how unbalanced theology happens. Try a few more verses to get the balance of what Paul says. And try reading commentators other than supersessionists verifying their own presuppositions by careless readings of Romans. There are plenty of non-supersessionist readings of Romans if you care to expand your mind. Meanwhile, let me mention the #1 text that shows your approach to defining Israel in Romans 9-11 is dead wrong: Romans 11:27-29. Claim what you like about what Paul means, but as long as you are using only part of the evidence, you do Paul a great injustice and you do my people a greater injustice.

  • Mark Teel II

    I see this revealing a deeper schism within the church body. Jesus says at the end of the age that He will remove all those that cause lawlessness from the Kingdom. The question is, have you surrendered everything to Him? Then Scripture is what stands. If you have simply participated in a feel-good romp home to your cultural milieu, then you haven’t surrendered. I can’t see any other way that a Christ-follower could hate the Jewish people.

    Lets pray for those who are lost, who haven’t truly come to know the Living Savior! I do not only believe but know, as I know the air I breathe, that when a person is anointed with the Spirit upon giving their life to follow Jesus, antisemitism is not possible. Period. An incredible love for Israel wells up in me, because I know my Savior came into the world as Jew, and that my Father has chosen and loved them through everything.

    Holy Father, bless your Own, for we love You deeply and all that is Loved by You!

  • Norman

    DereK, you are a difficult one to interface with on a theological level. Your are simply doing what you accuse others of and I find your arguments weak theologically and accusatory in nature as your standard MO. You continually revert to the emotioal to bolster your point.
    I have see Romans 9-11 argueed every way imaginable and your are reading your presuppisitions into it. But hey that’s nothing new for people to use the bible via proof texting. That’s one of the hazards of taking the scriptures literatl where you want to and disavowing what you don’t like.
    You are not the only one who thinks they have a handle on Romans 9-11 and have errors in it. Just ask John Hagee his take.

  • Of course. It is God’s eternal commandment to us. Exodus 31:13, for example. It is a Christian myth that obeying a commandment is engaging in “works righteousness.” Christians obey commandments and somehow that is not judged to be “trying to earn salvation.” Why are we Jews the only ones capable to legalism (according to some people)? I have a book (it’s on amazon) presenting simply and briefly Paul as a Jewish apostle (title is meant to be goofy: Paul Didn’t Eat Pork).

  • Norman, I am comfortable letting readers see your comments and mine and judge for themselves.

  • Norman

    And likewise Derek. It’s obvious to me you are intimidating people in a deceptively urbane way who disagree with you. You really should step back and realize your take is not the end all be all of theology.

  • Phil Miller

    It is a Christian myth that obeying a commandment is engaging in “works righteousness.”

    I said nothing of the sort.

    But, anyway, I can understand some logic in what you’re saying, but it is still hard for me to be believe that what Christ envisioned in the Church is to have two somewhat separate but equal paths of salvation existing within the Church. What benefit is it to maintain a separate Jewish identity marked by Torah observance over and above simply identifying as being a Christ follower?

    It seems to be ignoring all sorts of admonitions throughout the New Testament that call for unity within the body. Also, in Galatians 3:23-25, Paul seems clearly to be saying that the Torah has served its purpose. Also, at end of chapter 3, Paul again emphasizes that the distinction of Jew and Gentile are now meaningless for all those who are in Christ.

  • residentoftartarus

    I am sympathetic with Michelle and other MJs who are trying to reconcile their faith in Jesus with their Jewish identity, however, I find the idea that the one God who made all peoples has an enduring and special covenant relationship with a particular ethnic group disturbingly provincial. If Michelle is right then I have to wonder if, in fact, God is a respecter of persons after all (contra Peter in Acts 10.34)! At least the scandal of Christian particularism is mitigated by the fact that the body of Christ is composed of people from every nation but this kind of particularism reflects an unsavory ethnocentrism.

    On the other hand, if the covenant with the Ancient Hebrews was always anticipatory of the new covenant, with the idea that one day it would be made “obsolete” as in Heb. 8.13, then the problem of God showing this kind of favoritism to a particular ethnic group goes away. So, this is where I am at, Michelle and other MJs can tack labels and hurl charges against this latter view all day long (e.g., “supersessionism” and “antisemitism”) but it won’t change fact that what they’re proposing is unacceptably provincial to many of us.

  • Thanks for the “urbane” compliment, Norman. I’m kvelling!

  • Phil:

    I would try to persuade you against your anti-Torah (anti-Judaism) reading Paul with 5 brief points. Your reading: (1) pits Paul against his own practice of keeping Torah and tradition (Acts 21:20-26); (2) overlooks the fact that Paul writes to Gentiles who do not keep [all of] Torah; (3) does not take into account the range of meaning of “law” in Paul’s writings (needs further explanation, but I am being concise); (4) puts Paul against Jesus (Matt 5:17-20; 23:23); (5) pits Paul against Moses (Exod 31:13, et al).

    Realizing that Paul’s words can be read in harmony with Jesus and with Paul’s own practice is a first step out of the Old Perspective on Paul.

  • Phil Miller

    Well, first I embrace the NPP, for the most part. I don’t believe Jews were or are legalists. But I have not been convinced of is that there is any reason for Jews to continue to observe the Torah in light of what Christ has done. As I mentioned before, Paul seems to clearly indicate that the Torah served its purpose, and the author of Hebrews makes it clear that it is now obsolete.

    Let me ask you this. If a Jewish and Gentile Christians are in the same congregation, would not the fact that there are Jews who observe the Torah and Gentiles who don’t lead to some inevitable conflicts? That actually was probably one reason why Torah observance eventually fell out of fashion in the early church. If you have two groups of people within the same body that practice their faith in such radically different ways, how could they ever claim to be unified?

  • Phil:

    The next step will be radical and will surely seem as if I am out of step with Paul. I don’t think so, but I anticipate major pushback. I believe that primarily Jewish disciples should congregate separately. That is what MJ actually is, a home for Jewish disciples. I know some will say “one body,” to which we reply “one universal body” not “one local body” per city. Some will say, “that is disunity,” to which we reply, “don’t confuse unity with uniformity.” Some will say “all must be together” to which we reply “there are a number of differences which require separate congregating amongst Jesus-followers and this is not wrong.” And we would add: it is wrong to ask a Jew to disobey God in order to have more unity with non-Jewish disciples. We call that Reverse Galatianism (God only loves Gentiles, so quit being Jewish).

  • Norman

    Yep, don’t disagree that you are polished, but modifiers are placed for a reason and shouldn’t be overlooked. 😉

  • Andrew Dowling

    Hint hint . . . both “covenants” are metaphorical. Problem solved.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Actually, the Council still mandated that Gentiles refrain from meat not properly prepared ie non-kosher. How many Christians ignore that completely . . .99%?

  • Phil Miller

    Well, I don’t believe the Council’s recommendation was meant to be something that applied to all Gentile Christians indefinitely into the future. It seems like it was more of a stop-gap measure instituted to keep the peace between Jews and Gentiles in fledgling congregations. Which makes Derek’s suggestion of segregated congregations in his earlier seem all the more ridiculous to me.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “It seems like it was more of a stop-gap measure instituted to keep the
    peace between Jews and Gentiles in fledgling congregations.”
    And you know this based on . . . .?

    It’s clear that Jesus’s Jewish disciples maintained certain aspects of Torah (circumcision and keeping kosher . .well I suppose they were already circumcised :)) following the Resurrection.

    Jesus historically probably demonstrated a ‘looseness’ with certain aspects of Torah (notably the purity aspects) while emphasizing the fundamentals (love they neighbor and all that good stuff) but never, despite Mark the evangelist’s wishes, “declared all foods clean.” Thus, Jesus’s Jewish followers (including post-Resurrection) kept aspects of the Torah running as Jews who had encountered the risen Messiah.

    So if Peter, James, John etc. kept kosher and maintained parts of Torah, why get all agitated about MJ’s following their lead? And how do they want to turn around the Council? To my knowledge none of them say Gentiles have to do what they do, they simply want to retain aspects of Judaism while following Jesus. Considering that’s what the Apostles did, they are on pretty solid ground. Disclaimer: I’ll admit I am not an expert on MJ practices.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    As I noted at the beginning of the post above, a few words on a blog rarely have the power to shift anyone’s theology. I appreciate civil and spirited dialogue that flows out of willingness to listen carefully to one another, even when there’s disagreement.

  • livingparable

    I understand the value of messianic Judaism. I used to be a “messianic” christian. There are some very important things that we can learn from the Hebraic context that Jesus existed in. Learning the culture, customs, and worldview of Jesus is vital to understanding him fully and you can’t do that by looking at stained glass in cathedrals. However, after leaving the messianic camp I must say that there are many pitfalls to avoid with that version of Christianity.

    I certainly don’t have it all figured out but taking Jesus and the new testament seriously seems to humble my own prejudicial “exclusivity” aspirations. Jesus, and the early Christians, seem to me to be the most progressively minded, socially enlightened mass movement in history – and we are still only scratching the surface of its implications.

    Jesus broke down ethnic and cultural boundaries time and time again – demonstrating what the Kingdom of God looks like. He spoke out against the idea of special privilege before God based on ethnicity or even religious devotion. And he demonstrated his principles not only in parable but in countless acts… including the very choosing of his own disciples.
    (Take a close look at who made the cut!)

    Due to the culture and the faith tradition of Israel, there was an obvious question: What about the fact that the Israelites are supposed to be God’s chosen people,etc.? Oddly enough, some who claim Christ come away with an answer that is antithetical to the rest of the message of and about Christ.

    The result?

    The statement, “In Christ there is not jew or greek or slave or free!” must now become, “In Christ there are basically two groups: Believing Jews, the chosen people of God. And everyone else who believes in Christ and luckily gets to be equal to jews in God’s eyes.” Though the difference may be subtle to some it is none-the-less profound in its un-kingdom-like implications.

    When early Christians talked about this idea of all people being one in Christ regardless of ethnicity (jew or gentile), gender (male or female), or social class (bond or free) it was was incredibly revolutionary. INCREDIBLE. REVOLUTIONARY. This is the outworking of Jesus message of the Kingdom working through us… and its liberating, good news for all! Can you even imagine how radical this was 2000 years ago? Do you realize how divided the world was by race/ethnicity, sex, and social class? These crazy Christians were saying that in Christ the world is being made different… being reconciled to God. And these fundamental cultural boundaries would not escape the transforming power of the love of God! Think about it… To live from this worldview is radical today, imagine what it must have been like to talk and live this way then!

    But oddly enough, messianic jews who could benefit Christianity with a fuller understanding of who Jesus is often miss the point themselves. Messianic jews/judaism, tend to see favor, superiority, and preference FOR jews over and against other people. The same is true with many right-wing christians who dictate unwavering support of the state of Israel because they are “God’s chosen people”. Strangely, what they mean by this is at odds with both testaments in the scriptures they say they follow.

    Of course, people who are more knowledgeable about the hebraic/jewish roots of the faith will couch their un-christ-like conclusions in lovely terms that are bolstered by their seemingly thorough understanding of “the true jewish heritage from which Yeshua came from”. However, as a former messianic believer I started departing FROM the way Jesus in the name of being true to the faith of Jesus. I am thankful for the experience I gained and how it actually gave me a greater appreciation of the New Testament and the work of Christ (try living whole-heatedly under the law for a while). But I am glad I came out of it before getting too stuck. I was with the equivalent of the “pharisee’s” all the time, and I was unwittingly becoming one myself.

    If any of this rings true to you, I have one thing to say: That pull towards freedom in the Spirit and away from the Law isn’t your flesh! It’s the Spirit of God calling you to the Way of Christ.

    Learning the context and culture of Jesus is vital to truly understanding the New Testament. However, that doesn’t mean we should pull up a chair, take our place in the outer-court, and make holy donuts with the leaven of the pharisees.

    “Beware of your own religious ambition.” – Jesus, if he were actually speaking through me.

    – Matthew

  • Susan_G1

    There has been contention and wisdom in the posts below. Rather than add my view (similar to livingparable’s), I would like to ask a question or two of Messianic Jews. What was the saving work of Jesus? That is, if Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for our sins, and by so being, he fulfilled the Law of the sacrificial system God had in place to reconcile His people Israel to Him, what value does keeping the old law have for you other than as a cultural heritage, as Jesus wanted to release us from the burden of the law? While Israel was/is God’s God’s chosen people, how do you interpret Acts 10?


  • Phil Miller

    And you know this based on . . . .?

    Just basing it on what actually happened as time progressed. You yourself said 99% of the church doesn’t observe this directive any longer, and I have hard time believing that this is an issue where 99% of the church is wrong.

    I don’t have a problem with Messianic Judaism per se, but I do question the motivation. It seems that the purpose of the Torah was to set the Jews apart as God’s chosen people so they might bring redemption to the world. That redemption has now come through Jesus Christ, and because of the Torah’s purpose has been fulfilled. It seems to me that the Jewish Christians we read about in Acts and the rest of the NT are coming to terms as to what this means for their observance, and how they will integrate Gentiles into their congregations.

    When Paul is writing the epistles, it’s not as if he’s writing to segregated congregations. He writing to people who are dealing with what it means to live together in peace. I just can’t see the Apostle Paul saying that the ideal is Jewish and Gentile Christians to be separated.

  • Andrew Dowling

    I think 99% don’t follow it b/c Christianity as a movement in the gentile Roman Empire could’ve never survived had that been enforced. Just like all religions things evolved to suit the needs of greater evangelism. Just as people cherry pick Bible passages all the time, Peter’s vision in Acts (which I would bet is the product of the evangelist and not of Peter anyway) was and is taken out of context to mean that all of the food laws got magically swept away. Doesn’t mean Peter and James ever intended for Gentiles to go ahead and chow down on that rare steak not properly prepared (especially since the Council occurs after Peter’s vision in Acts; if Peter had received a special revelation from God himself declaring kosher law to be void, why were they still debating it and why did the final resolution still call for Gentiles to eat kosher meat?).

    I guess we are coming at this from two different places concerning MJs.I view their keeping of Torah as more cultural and not as literal “we are still more special than you b/c we have Torah and the convenant” . . maybe I’m wrong but I suspect it’s the former. .

  • Andrew

    What I don’t understand is what a Messianic Jew does with passages such at Acts 10 and this specifically: “and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and [i]crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the [j]air.13 A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, [k]kill and eat!” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything[l]unholy and unclean.” 15 Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider [m]unholy.”

    It would seem to me that they don’t have to keep the food laws. Or with Galatians 3:”Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, [k]be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God [l]would justify the [m]Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with [n]Abraham, the believer.” “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is [aj]neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you [ak]belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s [al]descendants, heirs according to promise.”

    Wouldn’t that make me also a descendant of Abraham? A part of the “people of God”? Isn’t it one big family of believers?

    If we aren’t one big family, then I should convert to Judaism. Shouldn’t I? And if not, why not?

  • Phil Miller

    I can see where you are coming from by referring to keeping the Torah as cultural. In that respect, I don’t have an issue with it. If a Jewish Christians wants to observe the Torah, it doesn’t bother me. However, I am not convinced there is anything that requires them to do it.

    I think in the early church, it came down to an issue of missional expediency and a desire to not add anything to the Gospel. To require Gentile converts to become Jewish was deemed too much of a burden. As Peter said in Acts 15:10,”Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” On the other hand, having a bunch of Jews who stopped observing Torah suddenly would not be good for the new church either. They were interested in reaching out to both Gentiles and Jews, so they came up with what they thought would be a compromise that allowed them to do it.

    And really, that’s why I think I am hesitant to fully embrace MJ. Congregations are not meant to be static things. Not everyone who visits an MJ congregation will be Jewish. But yet they may feel pressured into Torah observance as simply a way to fit in that congregation. And that has been what I’ve seen happen in my limited experience with such congregations. I’ve actually seen the issue cause some division within families. Perhaps it’s not much more different than denominationalism in general in that respect, but I guess this just feels a little bit different because of the history surrounding the debate.