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Yeshua Explored

Messianic fellowships

todayMarch 12, 2014 96

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But here’s a warning, addressed to those who have already ‘walked on the Hebraic side’. There are many folk, both Jews and Gentiles, who have already taken on these new expressions wholeheartedly. In many cases it has been just a ‘dip in the water’, perhaps an occasional Passover service in the Church hall, or Hebrew lessons at the local synagogue. But others have gone further.

Messianic fellowships have been founded, where Jews and Gentiles meet together, with an emphasis given to a Hebraic expression of faith in the teaching, liturgy and worship. They tend to still be predominantly Gentile in the UK, with typically no more than 30% of the membership being from a Jewish background. In areas with few Jews I have heard of some such fellowships with not a single Jew in the congregation. One can respect and understand the needs and motivation behind such expressions of faith, but one can also sense the dangers.

Imagine an unsaved Jew arriving at a messianic fellowship with few (or no) Jews, where Hebrew songs are sung, Jewish festivals are celebrated and where many of the prayers are based on the Jewish prayer book. Would this be a good witness to a Jew, conscious of a history of persecution and hatred by the Christian world? His immediate impression is to see the natural and horrific conclusion of 17 centuries of Jewish persecution at the hands of Christians. They have stolen our possessions, our wellbeing, and our lives and now they steal our culture and heritage! Have they left us nothing?

I have been to such fellowships where Gentiles have worn skullcaps and prayer shawls, speak Yiddish and declare, in their testimony, that Messianic Judaism (rather than Jesus) has saved them! I know this is an extreme case, but Gentiles, particularly those who profess to love the Jewish people, must realise that salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious (Romans 11:11), to make them long for what has been lost. It is not to make Israel angry! Are your actions in accordance with this Biblical command?

Gentile Christians who have studied the Jewish roots of their faith have been mightily enriched, particularly when they are able to teach others in their churches or worship with like-minded believers in messianic fellowships. But – and this is a BIG BUT – unless there is a genuine and demonstrable love for the Jewish people – it is a selfish exercise, carried out just for personal blessing. It may bless you but in no way is it blessing the Jewish people or providing a balance in our expressions of our faith. Sure, you can learn from the Jewish roots, but don’t neglect the very people who literally shed their blood to ensure that these teachings have survived to enrich you. It’s not rocket science. Just treat your Jewish neighbour first as a human being and the Holy Spirit will do the rest.

But there’s another danger with these fellowships, particularly when they are named Messianic synagogues and are predominantly Jewish in membership. Two extremes are to be avoided.

Firstly, at all times it must always be the Bible that is the foundational reference, not the Talmud, Midrash, the Joy of Yiddish, or the Jewish Chronicle. Hopefully you get my drift here. The primary emphasis must be Biblical teaching, in a Hebraic environment, not Hebraic culture first. Using technical terms, these fellowships must be Christocentric (centred on Christ) and not ethnocentric (centred on Jewish culture). We must always remember that it is Jesus who is worshipped, even if he is Yeshua and wears a yarmulke (skullcap). Torah is not to be worshipped, nor the Sabbath, however it is dressed up. Jewish festivals are a blessing and fantastic teaching tools, as you’ve already seen, but they are not compulsory and not a salvation issue.

Secondly, don’t forget that One New Man is Jew and Gentile working in partnership, each with his own distinctive. Jew is Jew and Gentile is Gentile. To be Gentile is not to be a wannabee Jew, so don’t accept any teaching that seems to imply that you’ve somehow got to become more Jewish! Also never accept any teaching, dear Gentile, that implies that you’re a second class citizen in the Kingdom of Heaven. All that I can say about that is that it is some kind of sick joke in a clumsy attempt to reverse the role of the medieval Jew in the Christian world, when we were forced to wear a yellow star, considered to be vermin and not allowed to look a good “Christian” in the eye! Some messianic fellowships have a two-tier membership structure, with Jew and Gentile treated differently and a Gentile never allowed into full membership. If heaven is not going to be like that, then neither should Churches or fellowships. ‘Nuff said!

Steve Maltz
April 2013

(This is an abridged extract from Steve’s book How the Church Lost the Way)

Written by: Rufus Olaniyan

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