January 19, 2008

  • Response To A Disenchanted Messianic Synagogue Attendee Of Eight Months


    From the desk of Aviel E. Rodriguez 



    Shalom, brother,


    I commend you for your thoughtfulness and sincerity on this subject.  I also agree with you concerning the overarching centrality of the Cross over and above cultural preferences (i.e., Jewish aspects- as you might see it).  However, I’m afraid that you’ve made short shrift of a very complex matter.  Some believers might reply… “what’s so complex?…it’s simple: ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved…(Acts 16:31)’”.  This is true, so very true… BUT, it’s in the “believing” that the issues lay.


    I, like yourself, am a non-Jewish believer in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ); and thus, I’m a member of the House of Israel according to Ephesians 2:11-14 and Galatians 3:29.  I was ‘born again’ back in 1973.  In that same year, I awakened to the Jewishness of Jesus and to the Jewish origins of our faith.  Although I continued to retain an attraction to the Jewish roots, I, nevertheless, went the ‘denominational route’ at first.  Later, I began attending Messianic Synagogues.  I’ve been a full-fledged member in the ‘Hebraic roots movement’ for many years now.  It’s been a long haul for me… with my own dissenting view- while attending messianic synagogues- that was somewhat indirectly related to yours; and so, I can empathize with your disenchantment to a certain degree. 


    At present, I participate in a home-fellowship with a good number of like-minded believers.  We’re neither a structured messianic synagogue, nor a denominational church.  Yes, the ‘Messianic Synagogue’ is by no means a “perfect model” for Yeshua’s ‘Body-Life’; but then again, neither is the ‘Gentile Church’.  Both have got their serious shortcomings.  However, I believe that what’s at the root of this “messianic faith” versus “gentile Christianity” controversy- as you might be viewing this- is the age-old ”law versus grace” polemic.  Ultimately, this can only be resolved by answering the following important rhetorical question… i.e., “What would Yeshua/Jesus do?”.  Once we’ve established that understanding, then we can go on to ask another equally important question… i.e., “What does it actually mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?”.  Does it mean- as the “Gentile Christian Church” emphasizes- to simply “believe” on the Lord Jesus Christ… OR… does it mean, as a truly Messianic context and perspective would emphasize, to believe in the sense of becoming a “talmid” (disciple)… i.e., to believe and receive him by faith; and to learn all things whatsoever he commanded his disciples (Matt. 28:20)… and to become “faithful” (Jam. 2:20-26).  Moreover, the commands that he gave his disciples were delivered to them within the framework of a very familiar Jewish context… i.e., the Torah (Law) and the Nevi’im (Prophets).


    Yeshua (Jesus) said Think not that I am come to destroy the law (Torah), or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matt. 5:17)  So then, as we indeed look to the Prophets, we see that in the book of Isaiah there’s a very strong principle that Yeshua would surely have agreed with.  I refer to a principle which must be fully understood by anyone hoping to truly comprehend Yeshua’s words.  The Prophet Isaiah said To the law [Torah] and to the testimony [writings of the prophets]: if they speak not according to this word, [it is] because [there is] no light in them. (Isa. 8:20)  Thus, all that Yeshua said and did was predicated upon- and wholly consistent with- that which was written in the Torah (the Law) and the Nevi’im (the Prophets). 


    So, how exactly did Yeshua view the question of the law (Torah)???  Listen to what he says in Matthew 7:22-23: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (iniquity/anomia)… this is Strong’s #458… anomia = lawlessness/torahlessness].


    All that Yeshua spoke and did was according to the Torah (law) and the prophets; therefore, speaking of the law he says “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:19)…… So, what does it mean to truly believe on the Lord Jesus Christthat is, as an ongoing witness to his saving grace [genuine 'free gift' of life] in our lives?





    1John 2:3-6

    And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.



    He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.



    But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.



    He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.



    Most of the Church’s antinomian [i.e., “anti-Torah/Law”] views are based upon the misinterpretations of the writings of the Apostle Paul.  In point of fact, another Apostle, the Apostle Peter (Kepha) had something very important to say about Paul’s writings which the Church seems to want to ignore.  The Apostle Peter said “As also in all his [Paul’s] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as [they do] also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2Pet. 3:16)


    Without understanding our hebraic roots we can’t even understand Paul’s terms: such as “works of the law” and “under the law”.  Paul rightly condemns both of these things as false, heretical, man-made systems which were prominent among the Pharisees who followed the ‘School of Shammai’ in Paul’s day.  In Yeshua and Paul’s day, there existed two principle schools of thought within the Sect of the Pharisees; i.e., the ‘School of Hillel‘ and the ‘School of Shammai‘.  In a nutshell, the School of Hillel took more of a ‘Spirit of the Law’ approach in interpreting the Torah; while the School of Shammai took a very strict “letter of the law” approach.  The influence of the latter seemed to have prevailed at Yeshua’s time with the result that many man-made prohibitions (known as gezerot/decrees)- which in many instances were contrary to the spirit of the law- were officially accepted and enforced by the Jewish Sanhedrin (the ruling body) of Yeshua and Paul’s day.  Much of these decrees, by the way, were to insure separation of Jews from Gentiles.  I believe, therefore, that it was principally this school of Torah interpretation (the harsh ‘letter-of-the-law’ School of Shammai) which the Apostle Paul was primarily combatting in his attempts to proclaim the Gospel among the Gentiles. [Acts 5:1-5]


    The School of Hillel (the more spirit-of-the-law-oriented Pharasaic school) eventually prevailed over the School of Shammai in what later, historically, developed as exilic ”Rabbinic Judaism”- as we’ve known it to this latter day.  Therefore, I believe it was the mindset of the ‘School of Shammai’ [among some Pharisees whom had believed] that Paul was in opposition to when using the terms as “works of the law” [i.e., relative to the strict 'Shammai gezerot'] and being “under the law” [i.e., the strict letter-of-the-law interpretations of the 'School of Shammai'] which he was vehement opposition to. 


    On the other hand, this is what Paul, himself, believed about the true Torah (the five books of Moses):  Romans 7:12;22; 3:31… “Wherefore the law [is] holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good….”For I delight in the law of God after the inward man…”Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”  This “faith” which establishes Torah is the New Testament Greek word “pistis” [Strong's #4102] meaning not just an academic ‘belief’; but rather, a conviction coupled with trust and fervor that, ultimately, leads to fidelity and faithfulness borne out through actions. 


    Although you’re correct, brother, in construing that the overarching gospel-principle is salvation by grace through faith in Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice on our behalf; nevertheless, we are responsible to obey the King (Yeshua) and the constitution of his Kingdom (i.e., His Torah)- even as we’re enlighted and instructed to do so by the Apostle Paul in the following verses:

    Ephesians 2:8-10… “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works [i.e., according to the strict legalistic SCHOOL OF SHAMMAI], lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works [MITZVOT/ COMMANDMENTS], which God hath before ordained [IN HIS TORAH/INSTRUCTION/LAW] that we should walk in them.


    No, brother, I don’t presently attend a Messianic synagogue nor do I attend any Church; but I love my messianic and christian brethren because they, too, as I, are saved by grace through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua HaMashiach on our behalf.  Nevertheless, I do consider myself an Israelite [and NOT A REPLACEMENT THEOLOGIST], who seeks to obey our King (Yeshua), and our King’s constitution (His Torah).  I long ago awakened to my true identity through a wonderful book which I would highly recommend that you read.  It’s entitled ‘Who Is Israel? And Why You Need To Know’ by Batya Wooten.  If you pray and seek the Father- first and foremost- for enlightenment on this issue; and then, let His Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) lead you through the reading of this book… I believe it will change your life in a most wondrous way.


    Shalom u’bracha b’shem Yeshua Moshiaynu (Peace & blessings in the name of our Messiah, Jesus),




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