Thursday, July 15, 2010

Observations of an Outsider

I recognise and confess to the fact that the following is based on personal observations of a very small cross section of blogs that I've found. If anyone thinks I've drawn wrong conclusions, I would welcome being pointed in the right direction.

As an outsider I see little difference between what seems to be happening in the Messianic fellowships and what is going on in the “churches”. Considering how recently the current Messianic movement started, they didn’t waste time finding reasons for disagreement. Ironically, in its attempt to provide a Jewish context for expressing faith in their messiah, most of the controversy I’ve noticed in the Messianic blogs I’ve found has been about how Messianic Jews should relate to gentile believers. Some believe there is no room for gentiles in their congregations, that non-Jewish believers should restrict themselves to attending churches and leave Jewish believers to have congregations of their own. Others see there is room for both as long as the context of the fellowship remains authentically Jewish in its expression.

A contributing factor to the problem is the increasing number of gentiles seeking fellowship within a Jewish context. Some Messianic fellowships are reportedly predominantly gentile in membership. I have even read reports that seem to suggest a prominent (gentile born) Messianic teacher has undergone (or at least seriously considered undergoing) conversion to Judaism (with all that entails), to practice his faith as a recognised Messianic Jewish “rabbi”.

Another feature muddying the Messianic waters is a belief being promoted by some non-Jews that they are descendants of the allegedly lost tribes of Israel. This modern day manifestation previously associated with British Israelism and also adopted by Mormons and the late Herbert W Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God, has pushed its way into the Messianic movement. Of course, there is no genealogical evidence to indicate the validity of this belief. It is all attributed to “spiritual revelation”. Some Jewish believers see the intrusion of these Israelite wannabes as another example of replacement theology in action.*

The questioning of whether gentile and Jewish believers should fit together in fellowship has its foundations in carnality. There should be no separation. We are one in Him. However, due to the actions of the gentile church for at least 1700 years, a division has been created. The theological error and bigotry of a dominant, apostate, gentile church has helped to further harden Jews against the gospel of THEIR Messiah.

In the present day, when Jews are coming to faith in Messiah in increasing numbers, they are still kept at a distance by the majority of the church through the lie of replacement theology or through an apathetic ignorance regarding God’s purposes for the Jewish people. Centuries of hostility and forced assimilation are difficult to overlook, especially when present day theologies show no real evidence of repentance.
Jewish believers are therefore understandably suspicious in their relationships with gentile believers. I’m sure they want to avoid a repetition of history.

Where does the answer lie?
Scripture reveals that salvation came to the gentile to make Israel jealous.
How would that happen?
Clearly not through hostility and bigotry towards the Jewish people.

But then again, is it likely to happen through gentiles envying the Jew and trying to blend into a Jewish cultural expression?

For gentile believers to succeed in making Israel jealous, their relationship to both Israel and more importantly the God of Israel needs to stand up to God’s expectations instead of being driven by faulty theology and/or misguided sentiment.

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* It was a belief that I had not personally come across before (though I was aware of it. However in the past month I have seen it increasing promoted in a variety of places.

10 comments:

Am said...

The issue at the moment appears to be that G-d is calling the Gentiles back to the totality of His Instructions for life and G-dliness. The Gentiles (meaning anyone who is not born a Jew or a convert) are flocking to the Messianic groups seeking to learn more about G-d and how He expects them to live. The Jewish believers, being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and enthusiasm of the Gentile believers, are starting to react to this in various ways - as described in your post.

What I believe G-d is calling for is a "third way" - not Jewish, not completely "lawless" as is taught in many churches, but Gentiles working out their obedience to G-d's Instruction (Torah - the whole of written Scripture) in light of their own cultures and contexts.

I am working towards this end and would appreciate any thoughts/feedback you would like to provide.


http://am-echad.net

Onesimus said...

Am said:
“The Gentiles (meaning anyone who is not born a Jew or a convert) are flocking to the Messianic groups seeking to learn more about G-d and how He expects them to live.”
---

Thanks for your comment Am.

The problem with what you describe above is that the gentile’s doing this are directing their hope the wrong way. They should not be turning to Messianic groups “to learn more about G-d and how He expects them to live”. They need to turn to God Himself and His word.
This situation is not only applicable to gentiles seeking answers from Messianic fellowships – it is the same situation in the traditional gentile churches. Too many people seek answers from their churches rather than seek God personally. Too many soak up their church’s teaching without searching the scriptures for themselves.

All of us need to stop trusting man and seeking man’s interpretations of God’s ways and turn to God for ourselves. His Holy Spirit is the promised teacher.

I learned that lesson the hard way (some of my experience is shared elsewhere on my blog). Basically, through looking to man for answers I fell for false teaching and went through a “spiritual crisis” lasting more than 15 years before I could start recovering from those teachings.
The main lesson I learned was to trust God, to seek Him for answers and not to put my primary trust in men’s teachings or for a church to teach me the truth. Of course God uses men and churches, but not to the extent that we rely upon them at the expense of Him and His word.
They should SUPPLEMENT our life as believers and not replace the scriptures or the Holy Spirit.

As for obedience to Torah, this is a matter I am seeking God about and will maybe post an article in the near future to share my thoughts.

Onesimus said...

In my previous comment I said:
"(some of my experience is shared elsewhere on my blog). "

I have now tried to link all of the "personal experience" articles under the label "Testimony".

Am said...

Onesimus,

I agree with you completely. That's what I tell people - "Don't listen to me, your pastor/teacher/preacher/rabbi or anyone else...go to G-d and see what HE tells you about it."

I believe THAT is the key to getting everyone on the same page.

Good post. Thanks.

Dan Benzvi said...

The bottom line should always be, what do the scriptures say..

Onesimus and Am, Visit here:
http://www.torahresource.com/

It is an eye opener.

Blessings, have a great shabbat.

Onesimus said...

Yes Dan, that is the bottom line.

Unfortunately most people pick and choose which PARTS of scripture that they prefer and ignore those parts that seem a bit difficult or inconvenient.

And then they STILL claim to be basing belief on scripture...

When there is an area of controversy it is always perpetuated because man's theology (with its accompanying SELECTIVE approach to scripture) has taken precedence over an acceptance of God's revelation in scripture as a whole.

Onesimus said...

Dan, I had a very brief look at the website you recommend and see that it seems to promote the idea that all believers (including gentile) are required to observe the law/torah. This is an area that I have started to look at for myself and as a first step I took a closer look at the obvious starting place.

The whole letter to the Galatians gives very clear instruction regarding the law/torah with particular regard to the Gentile relationship to the law. To me the very clear message comes with the following:

Gal 5:2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.

The very clear message here is the circumcision for the gentile (that is for a gentile to become a Jew) is not necessary and is definitely NOT good thing. Anyone doing so will afterwards be obligated to obey the whole law. Again, another very clear message is that gentiles who do NOT become circumcised (to become a Jew by conversion) are NOT obligated to obey the whole law.
And there are far too many parts of this letter to quote here that give similar and supporting understanding to this issue.

I see that the gentile believer in Messiah has absolutely NO requirement to observe those parts of torah that were specifically and personally addressed to Israel.

I hope to do a more thorough study of this issue and will write of my findings later. Maybe my understanding of this matter as expressed above is wrong, and I trust that the Lord will reveal the truth to me by His Spirit through His word.

Dan Benzvi said...

Onesimus,
Hope you have time to read this. Especially i derect your attention to pages 24-31.
http://www.torahresource.com/EnglishArticles/DivineInvitation_Response.pdf

Blessings

Dan

Onesimus said...

Thank you Dan,
I will try to make time to look at the article. I had a quick glance at the highlighted pages.

But before I read the recommended article, I have to stress that I am a firm believer in addressing scripture as written and seeking the Holy Spirit for understanding.

I pay no attention to any teaching that tries to convince me that scripture does not mean what scripture clearly says.

On this matter, the issue will be settled for me personally, according to the clear revelation of scripture and not according to man's interpretations of what scripture "really" means.

On issues where I find no clarity of understanding, I stick with what I DO understand and wait for the Holy Spirit to give revelation when I am ready and able to understand.

Bless you,
Tim

Dan Benzvi said...

Tim,

you seem like a very intelegent man. I am sure you will understand. I pointed to this article because Hegg is able to articulate my thoughts much better than I can....