I am delighted that a growing number of Jewish Believers in Jesus have the opportunity to worship our Father in a Jewish cultural context. The cultural expression of the Christian faith that many refer to today as Messianic Judaism is a welcome corrective to the idea that if a Jewish person wanted to believe that Jesus is the Messiah they needed to “convert,” forsake the eternal covenant that God made with Israel at Sinai (and has been re-making ever since the Golden Calf incident), and join “the Church.” May all Israel be saved soon and in our day!
I consider it axiomatic that neither Jesus nor Paul began a new religion; though they each revealed “new” information about the existing faith that worshiped the LORD. Each (Jesus and Paul) corrected errors and revealed what had been God’s plan all along. Jesus revealed that He was the promised Messiah and corrected errant interpretations of Torah; Paul revealed (though it had been hidden in the Tanakh all along) that the Gentiles were to be grafted in to the covenant people that is properly called “Israel” or “the Church.”
Yochanan ben Zakkai and the proto-rabbinic leaders that succeeded him made the same mistake as the Sadducees before them; they refused to accept new revelation when it came. The contemporary use of the term “Judaism” refers to the religious descendants of those who formed a new variation on the biblical religion. Ironically this is precisely what many have accused the Church Fathers of doing. Consequently, to use the term “Judaism” in today’s world to refer to Jewish Believers in Jesus or Gentiles who worship in a Jewish context is a misnomer. Post-Yavneh the nascent Rabbinic Judaism formed itself increasingly in opposition to the “Sect of the Way,” the fledgling Christianity that had emerged in the witness of the Apostles subsequent to the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus.
Was the Sect of the Way a Judaism of the 2nd Temple period? Absolutely; however, the events of history change the connotation of words. Ever since they were first so-labelled at Antioch those who believe Jesus is the Messiah, whether Jew or Gentile, have been called Christians. So the question is who do you primarily identify with? The sect that rejected Messiah, or the sect that exalted Him?
I’ll be the first to admit that Christianity was often corrupted along the way, and that she lost her distinctive Jewish character, but the reality remains that Christianity is the spiritual descendant of those (originally almost exclusively Jewish people) who accepted Yeshua as Mashiach. While Judaism refers to the spiritual descendants of those who chose to reconfigure their observance of the Torah without Jesus. Those who were called Christians, on the other hand, endeavored to figure out how to live according to God’s ways in a manner that revolved around Jesus. For Gentiles this is entirely appropriate because without Messiah a Gentile has absolutely no connection to the Torah of God. For Jews this is equally appropriate because God revealed first to the Apostle Peter and subsequently to the Jerusalem Council that “we [Jews] will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they [the Gentiles] will” (Acts 15:11b ESV).
Dear Jewish believers in Jesus, please lead the way, show the Body of Messiah the benefit of having practiced Torah for centuries. Help us all to understand the context from which the Scriptures sprang. Aid us all in our efforts to correct the false dichotomy that has arisen between Jesus and Torah. Be blessed in your effort to practice faith in Yeshua within a Jewish context! But please don’t lead us to believe that you are returning to Judaism or that you are something other than fellow members of the Body of Messiah.