Common Question Concerning the Messianic Movement
Moriel Ministries regularly receives these kinds of requests:
There is a Netzari/Messianic website that grabbed my attention for more than a month or so. They are believers in Yeshua ha Mashiach of course, but they place extreme emphasis on Torah obedience.
My family and I, whom are former Catholics would like to join the Messianic Movement, but we need some discerning teachers to help caution us from believing just any website that claims to be authentic. While this website has based its teachings directly from the Scriptures, I need to be sure whether they’re serving Yahweh’s divine interests. The website is www.therefinersfire.org. Please gaze upon just some of the articles on this Netzari website and please let us know if you would endorse it.
Greetings in Jesus.
Thank you for your question which we will post on our website without your name or personal details.
The Torah is fulfilled in Yeshua and cannot be truly observed anyway since 70 AD; the Law is not able to function biblically (the Greek term in the New Testament for this incapacity to function is “katargeo”). Much of what is called “Torah observance” as practiced today is, anyway, Talmudic observance originating not in Scripture but in rabbinic tradition, or merely cultural customs adopted from “yittishkeit” (Ashkenazi diasopric Jewish culture).
Observance is optional for Jewish believers and their families for cultural, testimonial, and devotional reasons according to the conscience and culture of the individuals. We cannot judge others either for their observance or personal choice not to be observant (Romans 14:4-5, Colossians 2: 16-20).
Any mandatory observance or erroneous belief that Judaic observance is a key to congregational sanctification or spirituality is a blatantly false teaching (Colossians 2:20-23). Moreover, placing non-Jews under such false legalistic teaching is what the Epistle to the Galatians was written in large measure to in no uncertain terms refute. Galatians calls non-Jews caught up in this deception “foolish” and says they were “betwitched”; calling it a subtle form of witchcraft (using a Greek term meaning “to put the evil eye on” or “to enchant with a spell” as in “to mesmerize”). It is spiritual seduction away from simplicity in Christ.
Placing non-Jews into this contradicts 1 Corinthians 7:17-20 and Acts 15 instructing that diverse peoples within the Body of Christ retain their own cultural and ethnic identities, only being required to abandoned those aspects of a non-Jewish culture that are Pagan or immoral as specifically defined by the New Testament.
Another problem with such practices is that it lifts up Jewishness instead of “Yeshuaness” (you see this at most of their “Messianic Conferences”), and attempts to rebuild the wall of partition Yeshua died to break down (Colossians 3:11 and Ephesians 2:11-15). Unto salvation believing Jews and grafted in believing non-Jews are spiritually one in Christ; it is based not on birth but rather on Second Birth.
The very sad fact of the matter is that 70% of the existing Messianic Movement is run by ignorant kooks who are as illiterate in biblical doctrine as they are in the false Talmudic Judaism they emulate. Many cannot even speak Hebrew. It is a joke. Most simply combine “yittishkeit” and rabbinic legalism with hyper-charismatic extremism. Avoid such folly. Some of these actually urge Gentiles to undergo circumcision, and a few even endorse ritual conversions to Judaism. There are even some (particularly in Israel) who are neo-Ebyonite – rejecting the full deity of Christ. It is a confused movement, too much of which has clearly lost a biblical compass for its sense of direction. Some Messianic leaders are by biblical definition full-blown heretics.
In fairness, there are thankfully some good Messianic congregations, and some are moderately observant (my own family are Israelis and are observant). In addition to a Messianic fellowship on Shabbat we are members of a multi-ethnic local church attended by both Jews and non-Jews. The church teaches the prophetic purposes of God for Israel and the Jews and rejects replacement theology and anti-Zionism as false doctrine. The Messianic meeting, however, is in addition for fellowship with believing Jews and things like Passover Seders and Hanukkah parties used as evangelistic outreach to the Jewish community, but that is all.
Scripture does recognize areas and circumstances of partial exception, but these are always biblically qualified. If a person of one culture is a missionary or evangelist to another culture, “acculteration” as an evangelistic strategy is biblical (1 Corinthians 9; Hudson Taylor did this in China). But arbitrary adoption of an alien culture to the loss of one’s own culture is not “acculteration” but rather “assimilation” and is forbidden by 1 Corinthians 7.
The situation of non-Jewish believers in Israel living in a Jewish national society is again a different situation ecclesiologically also, but that does not apply to your situation. Additionally, if someone marries a Jew and has Jewish children as in the Book of Ruth or as in the case of the parents of Timothy in the New Testament it is a special case of a cross-cultural marriage where, like Ruth, one becomes a Jew by marriage because of the matrimonial and family bond. Likewise there may be special considerations in cases of child adoption. But there is a big difference between a family bond and matrimonial bonding and a twisted religious bondage to the Law of Moses already fulfilled in Yeshua and no longer truly operative but rather corrupted by man-made rabbinic tradition.
Our best advice is to find a good Bible-based church that is not replacementist, that recognizes God’s prophetic and salvific agenda and covenant promises for Israel and the Jews, that is supportive of Israel without compromising evangelism and the Gospel, and that prays for Israel and the salvation of the Jews. Don’t join this crazy congregation that you describe. Having been saved out of the demonic deception of Roman Catholicism you will simply be exchanging one ludicrous form of religious bondage for another.
Having said that, the New Testament just as the Old is a Jewish book given through the Jews, and to be properly interpreted must be understood that way. While non-Jews have no obligation to celebrate Hebrew Feasts, etc., it is indeed important to understand how these feasts foreshadow and typify Christ and the New Covenant. It is important to understand how and why the Jewish authors of the New Testament were inspired to write as they did grasping the Jewish “Sitz im Leben” (cultural background) of the Scriptures. It is important for spiritual growth to understand how the Old Testament illustrates New Testament truth. We are told in 1 Corinthians 3 and Hebrews 6 that those who do not grasp the New Covenant in light of the Old have a spiritual diet of milk, not meat ‚ ““ they only eat baby food impeding spiritual growth. This is a prolific problem in the Gentile church.
Our ministry has a variety of recorded teachings and books geared to redress this problem in the church. We would also, however, point you to the Ariel Ministry directed by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum. For a rich experience in solid Messianic Bible teaching you may wish to consider having your family summer vacation at Camp Shoshanna in upstate New York where you can be immersed in good Messianic theology in an atmosphere of fellowship in Yeshua with Jewish and non-Jewish believers. It is not a ministry of Moriel, but rather of Ariel and Arnold Fruchtenbaum, but it is something we would recommend highly to those in your particular kind of situation.
You need a biblically balanced position and a fellowship that holds to a biblically balanced position. Avoid hyper-Messianic extremists (and non-evangelistic expressions of “Christian Zionism”) on one hand, and the false teachers of supercessionist error and replacement theology and anti-Zionist hypocrisy on the other. The false teaching of both extremes is rat poison.
Stick to God’s Word.
We trust this helps.
J. Jacob Prasch