The Messianic Movement (by Chris Roberts)

This post originally appeared at SBC Focus following a post on Gentiles and the law.

In a separate post, I discussed the clear, firm, and repeated teaching of the New Testament that the Mosaic law has accomplished its purpose, having been fulfilled in Christ, and recognizing that righteousness and salvation come through faith in Jesus Christ, we say with the apostles and the Holy Spirit that the burden of the law has been lifted. Christians are not called to adhere to the dictates of Torah. Quite the opposite – the New Testament, particularly Paul, speaks long and loud against those who would seek to impose the law on gentile believers. Jewish believers are not forbidden from participating in the law, but they are warned against making it a requirement of the faith.

Fast forward to our day. There is a small but growing movement that emphasizes Messianic (Jewish/Torah) forms of Christianity. Ordinarily, Messianic Christianity would refer to Jews who convert to Christianity, worshiping Jesus as the promised Messiah. These Jews, like those of Jesus’ day, might continue in many of the practices of the law but recognize that Jesus is the source of righteousness and salvation. What is peculiar about this growing movement is that its composition is primarily gentiles who advocate a return to law.

Some in the movement believe the law is not necessary for Christians, but nonetheless aids in our pursuit of holiness. Others argue that Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:18 make it clear that the law remains a mandate for all believers. They will acknowledge that some aspects have changed, such as the sacrifices, but nonetheless believe that Christians who do not uphold even the ritual aspects of the law are guilty of sinning against God.

There is no central organizing authority behind this movement, and as far as I know there are no powerful or popular national leaders or preachers. There are plenty of websites, a few conferences, lots of preachers, but none that might be called central figures or events. It is entirely a grass roots movement, though there are some organizational bodies that help people connect. One such body is located within the Southern Baptist Convention: the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship. Browsing through their list of affiliated congregations makes it apparent that many if not most of these are gentile believers returning to the law.

I was introduced to this movement a few years ago while pastoring in Birmingham, AL. A local Messianic group was looking for a place to meet and asked to use our church building for Saturday evening worship. Not being terribly familiar with the movement but being comfortable with the idea of Messianic congregations, we agreed to grant them permission. I sat in on the few occasions that they met with us and I was surprised to see a group clearly made up of gentiles who were returning to the law. Their service would not likely be recognizable to most observant Jews, but it was clear that they were attempting to incorporate ritual elements of the law and Jewish practice, from head coverings and prayer shawls to candle lightings to blowing the shofar and so forth. Since then I have heard of more and more Messianic congregations and have family members deeply involved in the movement. In some cases, established churches have switched to Messianic observances but most groups I’m familiar with are new, independent works without any connection to existing churches.

Practices range from the strange to the downright bizarre. There is often a heavy emphasis on Hebraic forms of expression. For instance, the statement of faith for Beth Yeshua HaMashiach Messianic Jewish Synagogue opens with “We believe that God is One, Echad not Yachid. Not that He is one person, but that He is One G-dhead, family of three; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Abba, Ben and Ruach HaKodesh.” Jesus is usually called Yeshua; G-d or L-rd or YHVH instead of God; Yisrael for Israel, etc. Much emphasis goes to the Torah and Torah observance. Many of these congregations are pentecostal and include dance in their services. Church leaders are often called rabbi rather than pastor.

None of these practices are necessarily wrong in and of themselves (though at best they are ill advised) but they do point to a problem at the heart of this movement: this sense that Christians need to embrace Jewish methods of worship and expression – this despite the fact that most of the methods and practices of these congregations bear very little resemblance to Judaism. There is a sense that they have found the path to a closer walk with God. As expressed by one congregation: “Our hearts desire is to praise and worship the Father in the style that His Son Yeshua, praised and worshipped Him. The Jewish style of Praise and Worship is richer beyond what most of us ever experience. Its’ [sic] traditions, hymns and liturgy brings us to an understanding of who we are and what G-d expects of us.” Some go further than this, teaching that Jewish observance is not just richer, but essential. 119 Ministries is a group that exists to call believers to the necessary observance of the law, claiming that all of God’s requirements are still in force. Bizarre arguments are often raised to claim that passages such as Galatians, Acts 10, Romans 7, etc, do not move us from the law but call for believers to observe the law.

Speaking of bizarre, the interest in Hebrew expressions has led to various translations and alterations of the Bible. One example popular in the movement is the Halleluyah Scriptures, also known as the Restored Paleo Hebrew Name Scriptures. The website acknowledges that there are several other Messianic versions that have “the Name of the Creator restored to It’s [sic] rightful position [but] the majority have used the modern Hebrew…” Evidently, this version is superior because it uses the Paleo-Hebrew form of Yahweh rather than the modern Hebrew script. This particular version has changed a number of words usually found throughout the Bible, deeming those words (such as ‘holy’) to be of pagan origin and concluding that “our Creator is so qodesh that it would be blasphemous to use words derived from pagan deities in an attempt to honor Him.” As their sample from Matthew demonstrates, the end result is at best quite unusual if not somewhat unreadable. Not to be outdone, the Hebraic Roots Version boasts that they have “the first and only New Testament to be translated from Aramaic and Hebrew manuscripts.” Introducing the rather unusual word HalleluYahweh, the House of Yahweh offers their “most accurate and authentic translation of the Bible ever published”. If none of these versions suit you, don’t worry: there are plenty of others to choose from.

Getting back to Messianic congregations, these mostly gentile believers are calling for a return to Torah observance and see it either as an aid or as a necessary part of our walk with God. Setting aside the fact that many of their practices bear little or no resemblance to Old Testament era, New Testament era, or modern Jewish practices, my concern is with their belief that observance of the Mosaic law is still of value to Christians.

We have already seen the clear and repeated teaching of the New Testament that the Mosaic law has accomplished its purpose. It is not abolished or cast in the trash, it is fulfilled. It is not discarded, it is finished. If this were a filing system where we had three trays, Discard, Current, and Completed, then Jesus’ actions had the effect of moving the Mosaic law from Current to Completed. We can and should speak of God’s commands and the requirements of believers to follow his commands and ways, but these commands are not found in the context of Mosaic law but in Spirit leadership. The Spirit – not the law – leads us in the things of God.

One danger from these modern Judaizers is in replacing the work of the Spirit with the work of the law. Where God intends us to walk by the Spirit in the things of God, the Messianic movement would have us return to the rituals of the Mosaic law for guidance. This does not simply misunderstand the New Testament teaching on the law, it undermines a great deal of what Jesus has done with his body the church. Paul’s concern with the Galatians was legitimate and it applies to today’s movements – they move the source of their sanctification from the work of the Spirit to their obedience of the law. To be holy, follow the law. To grow in Christ, follow the law. To be right with God, follow the law. The Spirit’s work, they might say, is to help us follow the law. This in itself borders on blasphemy since the Spirit does not aid us in the law but replaces the law as the guiding principle for our lives (see what we noted in the previous post – Paul’s contrast of law and Spirit in Galatians 5:18 and the surrounding context).

We call Christians to a radical obedience to the Spirit of God – an obedience empowered by the same Spirit who guides our walk. We recognize that the Mosaic law served a significant purpose and function in God’s plan of redemption. It continues to serve a purpose insofar as it is still capable of bringing condemnation to those outside of Christ. Beyond that, the purpose of the law has been completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus has satisfied all righteousness. We call believers not to the rituals of the Old Testament but to the freedom of the Spirit. We have been set free from sin, set free from our failure to perfectly obey God, set free from the many requirements and peculiarities of the law. Jesus did not fulfill the law for us only to have us return to the law. It is finished. It is completed. The veil is torn. In Jesus we have freedom and life. Do not return to the yoke of slavery, the bondage of the law.

Comments

  1. says

    Chris,

    Since I have not spent time studying the Messianic movement, I am a bit wary with respect to making any definitive statements. It does seem, on a surface reading, though, that you have some very legitimate concerns.

    It also seems to me that many of the criticisms leveled against the Muslim and Hindu insider movements would apply to the Messianic movement as well. As I see it, Christ came to break down the dividing wall, not to rebuild it. We are one in the gospel, not our cultural distinctives. Cultural contextualization is good and necessary to the degree it helps people to better understand the gospel, but is counterproductive when the end result is separating one group of believers from fellowship with the rest of the Body of Christ.

    • says

      David,

      Those in this movement would say they are not trying to separate “one group of believers from fellowship with the rest of the Body of Christ” but trying to bring all believers together in the practice of the law.

      In the post, I mention having a relative involved in this. It’s my wife’s brother, who started his own Messianic group with himself as rabbi. I was talking with him about this yesterday and his argument is that Christ has broken down the dividing wall, bringing all people – Jews and gentiles – into the Mosaic law. The law is not just for Jews any longer (was it ever?) but is now for all the people of God. So they do not see the Mosaic law (in all its fullness – ritual as well as moral commands) as separation, but as something to be embraced by all Christians.

      • says

        Wow, didn’t realize that. Do you think that line of thinking characterizes most who call themselves “Messianic”? So, it appears, from what you are saying, they think all Christians, if they are truly faithful, should join them and become part of the Messianic movement. In that case, I would say they are still dividing the Body of Christ, but in even a more serious fashion than what I first thought. It is something akin to the “full gospel” terminology (i.e. “we’ve got it, and you don’t”). In this case, I would agree that this is precisely what Paul was arguing against in Galatians.

        • says

          Do they demand circumcision as well? If not, why not? It seems it would be consistent with the rest of their argument, if I am understanding correctly.

        • says

          David,

          There are variations in the claim. Some insist it is essential for all Christians (as advocated by the 119 Ministry at http://www.testeverything.net/ ) while others say it is a personal choice, helpful to sanctification but not essential.

          On the latter, though, this follows the usual route that goes along the lines: “This is what I have chosen to do. You do not have to do it. God wants his people to do it and I have found it helpful but you do not have to do it.” In my post, I mentioned a letter received by a family in my church. The author of the letter explains why his family has chosen not to follow Christmas but does follow the Messianic rituals. Much of the letter explains how Christmas is a deception from Satan and an import of paganism. But in typical fashion, the author at several places stresses that this is a personal choice and that not all people need to do what he has done.

          As for circumcision, I have not seen it specifically mentioned, but I am confident they would say yes, it is required.

      • Dave Miller says

        David, I am not disagreeing with Chris, because his point is right. But I also think that you are right, that the motivation here seems to be to exalt a certain cultural path, and it tends to lead to isolationism and division.

      • Christiane says

        likely, they WOULD say they are ‘not trying to separate’ but ‘are trying to bring people together’ . . .

        throughout the Old Testament, when there WAS ‘scattering’, it was often seen as the result of some kind of evil

  2. says

    The first problem I see in the OP, is in how he framed the “us vs them” approach. In stating that the law is “done with” and in effect completely useless to the Christian, that can and does lead directly to antinomianism. Saying the Spirit is the only thing needed is all fine and good, but what happens when people start coming and saying the “Spirit” is leading them to do this or that? How do we judge whether a person’s actions are sinful or not? Simple, the scriptures, the LAW! One problem i see many Christians having is their inability to separate the Mosaic Law between it’s civic or ceremonial law and its moral codes. Indeed as Christ has fulfilled the role of the perfect sacrifice, the ceremonial parts of the law are invalid, as we no longer have to take a sacrifice to the temple. Indeed the veil is torn for those who have Christ Jesus in their heart. But the Law of Moses, and indeed Scripture as a whole is more than just the ceremonial law. It also contains a moral code to live by.

    As Christians struggle to walk in sanctification towards Christ Jesus, we have to have a moral code a moral guide to live by. To say “the spirit” leads me, again has and does lead to a type of antinomianism. I dare say that is a much greater danger than anything the Messianic Movement has or will do/teach. So long as their focus is on Christ Jesus who is the savior of mankind, there is nothing wrong with their following of parts of the Mosaic law. It is no different than a baptist church making rules (aka laws) about no drinking, gambling, ect.

    • says

      I make a distinction that the Bible makes between God’s commands and the Mosaic law. We are not under the Mosaic law, but we are still subject to the commands of God. We are not freed from obedience, but we are freed from the law. God had commands even before the law, and he continues to command his people outside the law.

      As for when people claim the Spirit leading in this or that way, we remind them that the Spirit works in us through the Word (Eph 6:17 – what is the sword of the Spirit? The word of God, etc etc). I am firmly against the idea that the Spirit subjectively leads people. Nonetheless, the repeated message of the New Testament is that believers walk in and are guided by the Spirit in daily life. that leading is objective and laid out for us in Scripture, but we do join with the apostles in distinguishing life in the Spirit with life under the law.

  3. Bruce H. says

    It appears that this group is “adding” some new or different way to worship God or live as a Christian. If they are saying that they are not using the law for any favor with God they are no different than Catholics saying that their images and statues are not used as idols.

    BTW, the second Commandment states: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness [of anything] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth; Exodus 20:4

    Many SBC churches hang pictures of Jesus in their buildings now. Bibles have pictures of Jesus and things that are in Heaven. Is it wrong for me to say that is offensive to God and they should take them down? Should I say that LifeWay violates this command in their local stores by selling pictures of Jesus? I wouldn’t go as far as these people are going but I think we need to keep a very healthy respect of what God puts in writing.

    Bottom line, the SBC church today has many things about it that are simply useless but are done just to be different or to “enhance” the worship service. One thing I have found to be true in my life is the need for Bible study, prayer and the ministry of my gift. The outcome will be worship. I must confess that I have recently paused in those activities and my worship has suffered.

    Great post.

  4. says

    This is the same kind of thing that attracted people to the gnostic groups. People like to feel like they are part of a group that is superior, closer to God, better at faith, whatever.

    The more extreme elements of this movement seem to be attracted to the idea that their terminology (using hebraicized names, etc) and their practice (the law) makes them a step higher than normal Christians.

    This attitude, “we are God’s SPECIAL chosen” is pervasive – a natural human tendency.

      • says

        Bob, At risk of running into a controversy that really has nothing to do with this discussion, you raise a significant issue. Because you see, when I was growing up, my mom told me I was special. My mom told me this, Bob. She said that I’m special. Do you want to try and tell me that my mom was wrong? Do _you_ think I’m special, Bob?

      • says

        Chris,

        Dave’s statement was… This attitude, “we are God’s SPECIAL chosen” is pervasive – a natural human tendency.

        My comment was more tongue in cheek… related to HIS statement… we are all special to God… we are all special to our parents… and we can all be special to one another…

        I think you jumped on a bandwagon of your own choosing there chief.

        ><>”

    • Jon says

      Very good, Dave. I think you’re right. But I wouldn’t compare them to the gnostics except with regard to the exclusionary element, unless of course that’s all you meant.

      There’s another aspect no one has mentioned yet. Dispensationalism and dispensational premillennialism feeds off the messianic movement and vice versa. Many Christians really believe we await a recapitulation of Israel in the older sense of the term. That Israel of the O.T. will recur.

  5. Dan says

    I was surprised to see the House of Yahweh mentioned here as a messianic congregation. I grew up down the street from one of their compounds in Texas, and it was well known as a cult. All of the members were required to live in trailer homes on the compound and to change their last name to Hawkins (after their leader, Yisrayl Hawkins). Too many other bizarre things to list, but many are easy to find on their website, like the Prophecy of the Great White Buffalo.

    • says

      Dan,

      Truly bizarre. I’m not familiar with the group but came across them while looking up the different Messianic versions of the Bible. From the website, they look very similar to other Messianic congregations.

    • says

      Scott,

      A great post, I had not seen it before. Thanks for sharing the link.

      One distinction I would note is it focuses on Jewish believers part of Messianic congregations, where I see most growth coming from gentiles who are returning to the law. As I mentioned to David above, some argue that what Christ did unites Jews and gentiles under the law, rather than creating some sort of new separation between Jews and gentiles.

  6. Bruce H. says

    I was part of a SBC church whose pastor followed some of the dietary laws in the OT. One thing in particular that he would not eat was shrimp. He claimed that he didn’t mind if others partook (Yeah, right) but he would not. He even commented one time that shrimp were seen attached to and eating dead bodies floating in the ocean once. That comment told me that he viewed me differently, as if to categorize me as spiritually deficient or spiritually handicap. I use to be legalistic and know full well how they think.

    One thing for sure, anytime we examine ourselves and do not categorize our self like Paul, “chief of sinners”, we have failed the examination.

    Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to the Cross I cling.

    I need no other argument, I need no other plea, it is enough that Jesus died and that He died for “me”.

    • says

      Bruce,

      Some Christians follow the OT dietary restrictions as a personal choice for health-related concerns. To me, that is different than following the law as a spiritual obligation, or saying someone has attained a different spiritual level because they follow the law, or not as spiritual because they don’t follow the same dietary practice.

      • Bruce H. says

        David,

        I understand and agree. I have a friend who is vegetarian and references the Garden of Eden saying we originally were created to eat only fruits and vegetables. That was the only mention she ever used and never promoted it in the church or to her ladies SS class. She only informed people that she was vegetarian ahead of time so they would not be offended when she refused meat at a fellowship or other gathering. Her attitude and the Pastor’s attitude were totally different and it is hard to explain. The phrase, “It takes one to know one”, comes to mind.

  7. says

    Okay, here is where we get a little more close to home, and knowing how to respond to your post gets a little more controversial…

    I think most of us would agree that there are doctrinal matters related to the demand to keep the law, etc., that would set off a particular group as distinct from Evangelical Christianity, and even aberrant (or heretical) in their teaching or emphasis. It seems like at least some of the “Messianic” groups you refer to here may fall into this category. It seems to me (on the surface) that they have a similar emphasis (though different cultural trappings) to the Seventh-Day Adventists.

    At the same time, I think we need to be careful to not broadbrush and accuse groups of heresy if they are not truly teaching heresy. It seems there are probably groups out there who are not teaching a return to the OT law, but rather using Hebrew cultural trappings as a way to present the gospel to Jewish people in a way that is more attractive and, perhaps, even relevant.

    I still think this may well be bad missiology, and a type of cultural contextualization that ultimately proves divisive to the Body of Christ, but it may not fall into the same type of heresy as the other groups.

    My question has to do with the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship. Where do they fall along this spectrum? If they are teaching we, as Christians, must follow the law, how is it that the SBC is giving them an umbrella, so to speak? But if this is indeed not the case, we must be careful not to broadbrush, don’t you think?

    • says

      All good comments. I agree that one should not lump the entire movement under the same assumptions – as in every movement, there are variations. I would say the label “heretical” likely applies for those who insist that Christians must follow the Mosaic law if we are to be right with God.

      As for the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship, I wish I knew more. Their website contains little information. I am curious as to whether or not most of their affiliated congregations are primarily Jewish in composition (not that this really changes anything as far as how Christians should relate to the law). Also curious as to where they fall on the necessity of the law for believers. This information is just not on the website.

      I don’t believe there is any formal connection between the SBMF and the SBC, nor do I think they receive funds. I think the only connection is their presence (including at times booths) at the SBC annual meeting. A little googling turns up an article about one of their meetings in which Ed Stetzer spoke at their gathering. I wonder what he would say about the movement in general and the SBMF in particular. http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=23112

      I did just find one old article which states, “The SBMF is a Jewish Evangelism arm of the Southern Baptist Convention and we work closely with NAMB Church Planting, Ethnic and Language Evangelism. We have now been recognized as an official ethnic and language ministry of the North American Mission Board.” – http://www.sbmessianic.net/2008Booth.shtml so it looks like there is a closer connection. I have no problem with a ministry that teaches people how to better evangelize particular people groups, but I would not support a kind of contextualization that advocates the practice of the Mosaic law, something at least seen in some of their affiliated congregations.

      Also, the Baptist Press article mentions that Sam Nadler was a speaker alongside Ed Stetzer. Nadler heads up Word of Messiah ministries. Looking through his website turns up various articles about the law, including the following:

      http://www.wordofmessiah.org/8/post/2011/07/four-myths-about-the-law.html

      When I read this, it sounds as though they are saying that while the law is fulfilled in Christ, it continues to be in force for believers today. It is fulfilled, but we are still called to obey and observe (with no distinction made between ceremonial and moral commands). But it also looks like something oriented toward Jews, so I am curious if he would phrase this differently when sharing the gospel with people not already trying to follow the law. In other words, would he call for gentile believers to observe the Mosaic law? I don’t know.

    • says

      Christiane,

      That is sort of a complicated question to answer. First, you must understand that many make a distinction between “the law” and God’s commands, with “the law” referring specifically to the requirements God gave to OT Israel as part of their unique covenant with Him. Others see more of a continuation between the OT covenant and the NT covenant, and, thus, feel the laws given to OT Israel are also given to the Church as the NT Israel. Also, some, such as svmuschany above, make a division between the ceremonial, civic, and moral aspects of the OT law. I somewhat agree with him on this point, but I don’t think Scripture is overly clear on this. I also think that if, as Christians, we are expected to abide by a moral command of God, it is generally repeated or clarified in the NT, not just the OT. It is possible that not all Southern Baptists would agree with me on this last point, though.

      Also, as Christians, we are no longer under the law, in the sense that we are subject to the punishment dictated as a consequence of disobeying the law, since Jesus has already suffered the punishment for all our sin(s), and “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).

      The law (at least the moral aspect) does still serve the purpose of guiding us with regard to how we can best honor and glorify God in our life and the decisions we make.

      See, I told you it was complicated…

      Maybe someone else can explain it better.

      • Bruce H. says

        Dave,

        I can’t explain it better, however, I can add to what you said.

        If I do not like hominy as a food and I announce it in a comment to someone who is fixing me a dinner, it would be inappropriate for the chef to include hominy in the dish being prepared. The chef would know that I did not want hominy. That would not change because hominy goes against my character. If God has spoken what He does not want or what He does want, like in the 10 Commandments, that is His nature. Since God’s nature does not change, it would be appropriate to obey what He has commanded. We are not under the law, but, we must obey and conform to God’s nature. The Spirit is there to help and grace is the desire and power to do so.

          • says

            Bruce,

            The Jews were not commanded to symbolically dress and act in certain ways, they were commanded to obey. For instance, consider Peter’s resistance to eating unclean foods in Acts.

          • Bruce H. says

            What is the difference in obeying the 10 Commandments and the ceremonial laws? One seems to be a formality and one depicts the character of God. Does God enforce the requirements of the cloth or His character? If He didn’t want us to have images of things in heaven, per the 10 Commandments, and He required certain clothing or foods in ceremonial aspects of the law it would seem to conflict with the grace we live under. His character is the issue more than the symbolic aspect of ceremonial requirements. Should pastors preach in certain clothing or eat certain foods to promote the gospel to the lost and saved?

          • says

            Bruce,

            I’m not sure that we are talking about the same things…

            The point of my post is that there seems to be a growing number of Christians today who believe Christians – both Jews and gentiles – should be upholding all the commands of the Mosaic law, including the ritual commands such as clothing and dietary requirements. I’m arguing that while God has commands for his people to follow, we are not bound to the Mosaic law and are under no expectation (nor derive any benefit) to follow the Mosaic law. We must obey God’s commands, but that is not the same as being under the obligations and requirements of the Mosaic law.

            I think the 10 commandments serves as a great pointer to those moral commands that transcend the Mosaic law and thus remain part of God’s expectation and demand for his people.

          • Bruce H. says

            Chris,

            I agree. However, we must be careful how we apply certain ceremonial laws. Someone will interpret it differently and apply it the wrong way.

            Lester Roloff preached against coffee and chocolate. He had the right idea for rebellious children, however, it would not work for the regular sinner.

  8. Bruce H. says

    I went to their website and read what they believe. It is vague and they never mentioned Calvin. I’m suspicious!

  9. Jon says

    We are all children of Abraham by faith and we all inherit the earth. St. Paul radically redefined what it meant to be God’s people in light of the cross. I can understand the appeal a certain style may have for someone, though. I happen to prefer church bells and gospel hymns.

  10. says

    Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my LAW in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
    (Jer 31:31-34)
    Please reconcile this passage if you truly believe the Torah(Law) is inconsequential. There has never been anyone from the beginning of time and to its end that have ever been “saved” by anything but Grace through Faith, agreed? So, why do you think it is of paramount importance for the “law” to be written in our hearts as stated above? The word law, above is none other than “Torah” in Hebrew. I only know that the “one new man” is not hostile nor has enmity against the Torah but is teachable and allows the Spirit to write these precepts in our hearts and minds as the “seed’ of Israel. I truly am saddened at the thought of rejecting the teaching of the Spirit and saying His ways are “dead”, “done away with”, or trivial in some way. It just seems insulting when we try to make the Torah go away without truly knowing the working of the Spirit here.
    As a Jew i am content to know the Torah in it’s Spirit and as a “New Man” I am under no delusion about where my feet are in relation to my mouth. The law can’t justify anyone don’t you agree? To me it is a mirror to bring my old nature to the cross of Messiah and its consequential burial. I don’t know maybe I am out there a bit but I was just wondering…
    The Wondering Jew

    • says

      Wondering,

      As always, it is necessary to seek to understand the whole of Scripture, not just a few parts. Jeremiah 31 must be reconciled with the many, many New Testament passages which speak of the law as accomplished and fulfilled (not inconsequential) and no longer the guiding principle for believers. Paul’s distinction is crystal clear: we are not under the law but are led by the Spirit. It is the Spirit who has filled heart and life. Putting this New Testament reality with Jeremiah 31, we realize what God meant through the prophet was to give us a glimpse of the work of the coming Spirit. See 2 Corinthians 1:2 and 3:3 and Galatians 4:6 and see what it is God has done with our hearts – he has not chiseled the Mosaic law, he has filled our hearts with his Spirit and it is the Spirit who guides us in the way of God to grow in obedience to his commands (God’s commands are not limited to the Mosaic law).

  11. parsonsmike says

    Wondering Jew,
    The Torah written in our hearts is summed up this away:
    Love God with all and love others as self.

    It would be impossible to codify every situation that we find ourselves in so as to have instructions on how to love in that situation. It would also be impossible to find such instructions if they were codified.

    Thus we as people of His Spirit rely on His Spirit and on what is written to be guided in walking in righteousness.

    2nd Cor 3:

    uch is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

    Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory so that the people of Israel could not gaze at Moses’ face because of the glory of his face, a glory now set aside, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, much more does the ministry of justification abound in glory! Indeed, what once had glory has lost its glory because of the greater glory; for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!

    Greater than is the ministry of the Spirit over the written law.

  12. Frank L. says

    This week I happen to be in the 14th chapter of Mark in my series on Mark. It is absolutely clear–absent a few myopic scholars–that there is a relationship between Passover and the Lord’s Supper. Jesus used that connection in instituting the supper, but many have lost it over the years.

    I have no desire to promote Judaizers, but my study of the Passover Tradition, biblical and otherwise this week, has given me an even greater appreciation for the Jewish foundations (roots according to Paul) of the Christian faith.

    I greatly appreciate the Messianic Movement, but understand that like all persuasions it can have unhealthy components.

  13. Jon says

    Frank, I often think about the connection between the final Passover and the Lord’s Supper. I don’t believe in the regulatory principle, at least not strictly, but do you ever suppose we should be using real wine? Of course it’s still from the grape, but what are your thoughts on this?

    • Jess Alford says

      Jon,

      I kept waiting for Frank to answer you. I would like to go ahead and
      give you a Biblical answer. We are not to look upon wine when it
      is fermented. Grape juice is unfermented wine according to scriptures.
      As young as we are Baptizing today, I would have a serious problem
      giving fermented wine to little children. They are not even suppose to
      receive alchol until age 21. If we cannot lay alchol down we have a problem. I certainly don’t go back to what God saved me from.

    • Frank L. says

      Jon,

      That seems like an unnecessary distraction. Also, the elimination of chametz is a key element in the Passover (Feast of Unleavened Bread) celebration. It seems leavened wine would be inappropriate.

      Using grape juice seems to eliminate all distractions of that sort without violating any Scripture.

      I am also a tea-totaler by conviction, but not only for theological reasons. My brother took his first drink of alcohol at the age of 14 and it killed him.

      He died 26 years later of alcoholism.

      • Jon says

        I’m so sorry. I think what i was trying to say is that no one strictly applies the regulative principle. It would mean we would have to do a lot of changing.

  14. Jon says

    Jess, I had in mind those who hold strictly to the regulative principle. I guess what I was wondering was, how much can we change? I think there’s room for some adaptation. I’m wondering what a strictly regulatory stance on that one would be, though. If the Passover included wine, and the early church used wine in their assemblies, can a strictly regulatory principle allow for unfermented grape juice?

    • Jon says

      I guess what I’m saying is that none of us really hold to the regulative principle. We’re not living in the Mediterranean world of the first century. We adapt, whether it’s grape juice or what have you.

  15. says

    The moral law of God is written on the hearts of all men. The Mosaic Law, while it incorporated the moral law of God, included many things that were only intended for Israel as the covenant nation of God. Any part of the Mosaic Law that is not found written on the hearts of all men was intended only for the Jews under the old covenant and not for anyone else (in spite of what many believe, the tithe and sabbath are examples of such Jewish-only law).

    As such, what these Messianics seem to be doing is trying to be Jewish as well as Christian—and even as Jews are not distinguishing the difference between the old and new covenants.

    • Christiane says

      yes, the moral law is written on the hearts of all humankind . . . and everyone living has been given an immortal soul and a conscience by God . . .

      that understanding has implications that are often overlooked, but need to be addressed, especially by those going into mission work

  16. says

    There are those in the Messianic movement that would say that we are sinning when we do not keep the Saturday Sabbath, Kosher laws, tassel laws, beard laws etc… in the OT. I would not want them to meet in our church if they hold to these views unless they signed up for a year long study of Galatians!

    I highly recommend Thomas Schreiner’s book: 40 Questions About Christians and/ Law (40 Questions & Answers Series)

    • says

      “I would not want them to meet in our church if they hold to these views unless they signed up for a year long study of Galatians!”

      Agreed. When I first encountered this group and agreed to let them meet in the church, I knew little about their particular beliefs. A family in the church knew them and vouched for them so we let them meet. Only later did I began to suspect – and even later confirm – just what they believed.

      Thanks for the book recommendation, had not been familiar with it.

    • Dave Miller says

      “I would not want them to meet in our church if they hold to these views unless they signed up for a year long study of Galatians!”

      That’s funny.

      We should get you to come be a pastor in Iowa, Kendall.