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 REVIVAL MOVEMENT-Messianic Judaism
is an end-time spiritual awakening of God's Chosen People.
We are the first fruits of Israel's salvation, the spiritual
restoration of Israel parallel to the physical restoration
A FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY--While
all spiritual awakenings are of divine origin, the spiritual
revival of God's Chosen People is a direct fulfillment of
prophecy. "For the children of Israel shall abide many
days without a king.without a prince, and without sacrifice.afterward,
shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord their
God and David their king and shall fear the Lord and His
goodness in the latter days" (Hos. 3:4-5). What strength
and encouragement that should give us as we labor in the
harvest fields! We are a fulfillment of prophecy!!
A PRODUCT OF THE RUACH HAKODESH (HOLY
SPIRIT)--This movement was born out of a great spiritual
awakening in the late 60s and early 70s. It was not designed,
inspired or formed by any person(s) but by the Holy Spirit.
Nobody can take the credit for this movement. There are
no architects and no superstars, only Yeshua [Jesus] and
Ruach Adonai. We need to make sure that we are walking in
the Spirit and being guided by Him daily.
CALLED TO KEEP THE COVENANT-Another
great distinctive of this movement is the calling we have
from God to keep the Abrahamic Covenant that established
us a nation and a people. [And I might add here that this
covenant is by God's own words to exist as long as the heavens
and earth exist, cf. Jeremiah 31, whole chapter.] We are
to remain Jewish. We are not to assimilate. We are to be
a distinct light to our people that believing in Yeshua
"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
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.
The Need for Community"
"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
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.
"When they heard this, they praised
God. Then they said to Paul: 'You see, brother, how many
thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous
for the law.'" (Acts 21:20)
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.
"It is my judgment, therefore, that
we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are
turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling
them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual
immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from
blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the
earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."
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.
".We gather that this system was adopted
by the Nazarenes, the leadership of the visiting teachers
being given to Peter, while James the brother of Jesus was
elected Nasi, or president of the Supreme Council, both
on account of his kinship to the Messiah and his noted piety."
(Schonfield, Hugh (1938). The History of Jewish Christianity
From the First to the Twentieth Century. Book out of print,
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
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.
".The vote on the Resolution resulted
in its rejection.By this overwhelming decision the HCAA
has closed the doors once and for all to all Judaizing propaganda."
(Winer, Dr. Robert I. (1990). The Calling: The History of
the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America 1915-1990. Pennsylvania:
Messianic Jewish Alliance of America. P.22)
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.
"So we conducted weekly meetings in
our home with primarily Jewish believers. In these meetings
we ministered to their personal needs, taught them the Bible,
led them in prayer, and encouraged them to show love to
their non-believing family members. These informal, small
groups soon took on a distinctively Jewish flavor."
(Chernoff, Yohanna (1996). Born a Jew.Die a Jew: The Story
of Martin Chernoff, Maryland: EBED Publications. P.80)
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
"I will place shepherds over them
who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or
terrified, nor will any be missing," declares the LORD."
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
"Nevertheless, each one should retain
the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which
God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the
congregations. Was a man already circumcised when he was
called? He should not become uncircumcised. [i.e. he shouldn't
go party with the Gentile Christians at a pork roast barbecue
or put the shrimp on the 'Barbi'] Was a man uncircumcised
when he was called? He should not be circumcised."
(1 Corinthians 7:17-18)." [article written by Michael
Wolf, pastor Beth Messiah, Loveland, Ohio--in the spring
2002 SPIRIT OF MESSIAH magazine.]
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
- That the BIBLE, consisting
of the Tenach (Holy Scriptures) and the later writings commonly
known as the B'rit Hadasha (New Covenant), is the only infallible
and authoritative word of God. We recognize its divine inspiration,
and accept its teachings as our final authority in all matters
of faith and practice (Deut.
119:89, 105; Isa.
Tim. 2:15, 3:16-17).
- GOD - We believe that
the Shema, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord
is one" (Deut.
that God is Echad, as so declared: a united one, a composite
unity, eternally existent in plural oneness [Gen.
1:1 (Elohim: God);
us make man in our image"; Gen.
2:24 Adam &
Eve were created to be as one flesh (basar echad)], that
He is a personal God who created us ( Gen.
1 & 2), and
that He exists forever in three persons: Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit, as mentioned in Romans
Spirit, and Messiah - Son) and Matt.
in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
- GOD THE FATHER (Abba)
Cor 1:3; Gal.
3:5, 21; Jer.
3:4, 19; 31:9;
6:9, 32; Luke
1:14; 4:23; 5:17-26; 6:28-46;
- GOD THE SON (HaBen)
- God does have a Son
1:29-34, 49; 3:14-18].
- The Son, called Yeshua
(Jesus), meaning salvation, came to this world born
of a virgin [Isa.
- The Son is God (Deity),
and is worshipped as God, having existed eternally [Ps.
1 - worshipped
by angels); Rev.
- This One is the promised
Mashiach (Messiah) of Israel [ Is.
9 (esp. verses
1:17, 40-41, 45, 49;
- He is the root and
offspring of David, the bright and morning star (Num.
- He is our Passover,
the Lamb of God ( I
- GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT (Ruach HaKodesh)
- Introduced in Gen.
- In the Tenach, the
Spirit of God came upon individuals during the times
of our forefathers, like Moses, David (see II
and the Prophets, for the specific purposes.
- In the New Covenant,
the Messiah, Yeshua, promised His disciples that "the
Comforter" would come to them after He was gone,
described as the Spirit of Truth (John
who was with them and would be in them. Yeshua further
declared that the Spirit of Truth, would guide us into
all truth and would glorify Him - the Messiah - not
He empowers us (Acts
1:8). He seals
(see NIV and Jewish New Testatment versions)]. If we
have not the Spirit, we are not His (Rom.
8:9). He leads
us and teaches us (Rom.
His indwelling enables us to live a godly life. Acts
"Repent, be immersed, and receive the Holy Spirit."
- Created in the image
of God (Gen.
- through disobedience,
man fell from his first state and became separated from
Therefore, according to the Scriptures, all men are born
with a sinful nature (Ps.
14:1-3; 49:7; 53:13;
3:9-12, 23; 5:12).
- Man's only hope for
redemption (salvation) is through the atonement made by
the Messiah (Lev.
resulting in regeneration by the Holy Spirit (Tit.
is the new birth (John
by grace we are saved through faith, it is a gift of God
- RESURRECTION AND JUDGMENT
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
20:5-6, 10-15; 21:7-8).
- THE MESSIAH - The Redeemer.
The Scriptures promised two "comings" of the
- First coming
- Promised in Dan.
- Its purpose was to
make an atonement for sin (Dan.
- Second coming
- Promised coming in
the air to receive the believers to Himself (I
- Messiah's return to the earth.
- The Redeemer shall
come to Zion (Isa.
- Israel's spiritual
the New Covenant).
- Israel's national
restoration is to recover the remnant of His people
Israel from the four corners of the earth, and restore
the Davidic Kingdom (Isa.
11 - to
re-establish the throne and kingdom of David, which
will last forever) [Isa.
- ISRAEL IN PROPHECY
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
11; 43; 54; 60-62; 66;
also Scriptures under V.
- MESSIANIC JUDAISM
- We recognize that Jewish
people (physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac
and Jacob, whether through the mother's or the father's
blood-line) who place their faith in Israel's Messiah,
Yeshua, continue to be Jewish according to the Scriptures
who place their faith in Yeshua, are "grafted into"
the Jewish olive tree of faith (Rom.
spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham (Gal.
- We observe and celebrate
the Jewish Holy Days given by God to Israel, with their
fulfillment in and through the Messiah Yeshua. We believe
that true "Biblical Judaism," the faith of first
century believers, which we seek to practice, acknowledges
the continuity of faith in the one true God, revealed
throughout the Scriptures, and ultimately manifested in
God's Son, Yeshua the Messiah. We believe that salvation
has always been "by faith," and that works of
law, or righteous acts, have never saved anyone (Gen.
- We acknowledge that
the New Covenant body of believers is composed of both
Jews and Gentiles who have received Yeshua the Messiah
as the Promised Redeemer. The "middle wall of partition"
has been broken down and now we worship the God of Israel
"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
(Used by Permission)
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,
as it is written,
The deliverer will come from
he will turn ungodliness away from Jacob."
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.
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
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
reputed to be pillars, gave me
and Barnabas the right hand of
fellowship when they
recognized the grace given to
agreed that we should go
to the Gentiles, and they to the
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
for a good explanation of some of these theological errors.]
Unlike those who see us as the "true church", we
do not see our synagogues as superior. We are a part of the
body [of Christ], not above it.
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
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
Messiah Synagogue is a manifestation of God's present-day
regenerating and restoring work in the house of Israel
is a faith community where Jews embrace and strengthen Jewish
identity and heritage as believers in Messiah Yeshua
our synagogue, Jews and Gentiles have been made echad
(one) in their embrace of Yeshua as God's atoning Messiah
who will reign on David's throne
Gentiles embrace Israel, prioritize a Jewish expression
of their faith, and serve alongside Jewish believers.
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:
to, and grow in a lifestyle of faith called Biblical Judaism
first to the people of Israel, and also to the world, the
true identity of the Messiah Yeshua
Israel and the Jewish people in opposing all acts of hatred
the brothers and sisters in the Body of Messiah [body of
Christ] to the proper understanding of God's covenant promises
to Israel and their restoration.
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.