I am Messianic Jew. I’ve known and served the Lord for 30 years, during which time I’ve interacted with thousands of individuals and pastors from many Christian denominations. There are today many different denominations teaching many different doctrines. I am going to tell you what I believe and also what I don’t believe and who and what we need to avoid.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, and in Messiah Yeshua, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into Sheol (not Hell. Hell is different from Sheol.). The third day He rose from the dead. He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy universal Church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
I believe that the Holy Scriptures are divinely inspired and are inerrant and infallible. I believe that the Bible is only composed of the Old and New Testaments and not the Apocrypha.
I believe in interpreting the Scriptures from a grammatical, historical perspective. The most important rule for interpreting the Scriptures is “If the literal sense makes sense, seek no other sense.” From this one principle, everything else derives.
I believe in the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I believe that God is Three Persons and yet One in name and nature, deity, and essence, character and attributes, yet distinct as to their Persons. God the Son is not God the Father. While the Three Persons are one in name and nature, deity, essence, and character, there is a hierarchy of position and authority within the Trinity. God the Father is greater than God the Son in position and authority.
I believe that Messiah Yeshua is the Son of God and the Son of Man and is fully God and fully Man.
I believe that the Holy Spirit, while incorporeal (without a body), is a Person who has mind, emotion, and will. He is not an impersonal force.
I am concerned by those in the Messianic Jewish Community who equivocate or refuse to use the term “Trinity.” They argue that it is not Jewish enough or it doesn’t sound Biblical or are afraid that it offends the non-believing Jewish community. But “Trinity” is a good term that accurately reflects what the Bible teaches on the Three-In-One nature of God. The Church over decades closely looked into this doctrine and then properly elaborated the truth about the Trinity, which is found in the Holy Scriptures. The Church got it right. If a doctrine is right and found in the Scriptures of the prophets, apostles, and Messiah of Israel, then it is Biblical and “Jewish”; and we don’t need to be embarrassed by it.
There are some within the Messianic Jewish Movement who deny the Trinity and the deity of the Son of God. This is a serious departure from the truth, and those people should be shunned.
I believe that unregenerate mankind is alienated from the Creator, who is the Source of life, goodness, and happiness. Humanity is fallen, lost, far from God, perishing, without eternal life, headed to the Second Death and Hell, and in the most desperate need of the salvation provided by God and Messiah Yeshua.
I believe that atonement is exclusively through God’s grace when we place our faith in God and Messiah Yeshua. I believe in salvation by grace alone and through faith alone.
I believe in Eternal Security and the Perseverance of the Saints.
Doctrines Concerning Israel
I believe in Dispensationalism and that the Lord has revealed different requirements for different peoples at different times. I believe Israel is not the Church, nor is the Church Israel. (And, yet, I have fellowship with Reformed Theologians.) I believe that the Church is made up of Jews and Gentiles; but Jews remain Jews, and Gentiles remain Gentiles.
I believe in the future restoration and salvation of the nation and the land and the people of Israel. I believe that all of God’s promises to the Jewish people will be literally fulfilled. I believe in a Millennial Kingdom here on Earth during which King Messiah will rule over Israel and the nations for 1,000 years. I believe that the modern state of Israel is not a mere accident of history. God allowed the rebirth of Israel and has protected it against overwhelming forces, all according to His Word. I believe that nations, as well as individuals, who want to please God should stand by Israel. I believe that the rebirth of the State of Israel is a work of God and that, while the nation is imperfect (as is the Church, as are individual believers), Christians should be as supportive of Israel as possible.
I believe that the Jewish people are still the Chosen People, but being part of the Holy Nation does not automatically save anyone. Non-Messianic Judaism is based on a broken covenant that cannot save us. There is no Temple, and there are no sacrifices by which we can be brought near to God and experience genuine atonement. I believe that Romans 1:16 still applies: that the Church should bring the Gospel – the true, God-ordained Message of Salvation – to the Jewish people first.
Tragically there are some Messianic Jewish leaders, especially among the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, who are teaching that Jewish people don’t need to place their faith in Yeshua in order to be saved – that non-Messianic Judaism can save them. These confused souls, in their determination to have the approval of the non-Messianic Jewish Community, are downplaying the need to accept Yeshua and over-emphasizing the importance of rabbinic-style Jewishness. But bold evangelism is at the core of our mission. It characterizes the true followers of Yeshua. Evangelism is part of our armor. It’s part of our protection. We are to be fitted with the readiness to proclaim the Gospel. If we are not living with the desire to tell others about the salvation available through the Messiah, we are lacking part of our armor. We are exposed and unprotected. Any individual, congregation, or denomination lacking focus on evangelism is, by definition, unhealthy. Those who think that, by being more Jewishly orthodox in practice and less evangelistic, we will be more acceptable to the Jewish Community are deluded. Even if such a model were effective (which it isn’t), they would still be wrong for putting the approval of men before the approval of God.
It doesn’t take a doctoral degree in theology to know that Messianic synagogues should be fully supportive of bold evangelism, and Jewish ministries and missions should be helpful toward good Messianic Jewish congregations. The proper attitude should be one of mutual support and appreciation. It is the leadership and the influence of the Paul Saals and the Mark Kinzers that are the obstacles and should be dismantled.
I believe in Dispensationalism. While the word “Dispensationalism” doesn’t appear in the Bible, the concept is taught. Dispensationalism is based on the Greek word oikonomia (sounds like economy or economics since it is related to it). A combination of oikos, “house,” and nomos, “law,” oikonomia means the law of the house, the arrangement of the house, or administration or management or dispensation (the way things are dispensed). Dispensationalism views the world like a household that is managed by God. Dispensationalism sees a progression in salvation history, a progression in the revelation of God’s will. It recognizes that God has made different demands of different peoples at different times. If we are to avoid theological and Biblical confusion and properly understand, correctly handle, and apply the Word of God, it is important to understand that God has different requirements for different people in different ages.
Dispensationalism is based on two main principles. First, it is based on a consistent, normal, literal meaning of the Word of God. The basic interpretative rule in Dispensationalism, known as the Golden Rule of Interpretation, is this: If the plain sense of Scripture makes sense, seek no other sense. Take every word in its primary, usual, normal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and fundamental truths, clearly indicate otherwise.
The second key principle of Dispensationalism arises from the first: There is a consistent distinction in the Scriptures between Israel and the Church. Although there is a relationship between Israel and the Church, Israel and the Church are distinct. Therefore, Israel means Israel and the Church means the Church. The Church does not mean Israel, nor does Israel mean the Church. Israel and the nations, Jews and Gentiles, together make up Messiah’s Holy Community. Jews remain Jews in the Body of Christ, and Gentiles remain Gentiles. The Jewish people form the root of the Church. Gentiles are grafted into the Jewish Olive Tree of salvation and blessing, which is uniquely our “own olive tree.” Messianic Jews serve a dual function. We are the bridge that connects Israel and the Church. We are part of Israel – the faithful remnant within Israel – and we are also part of the Church. We should strive to be part of our people as much as possible and, yet, never compromise our bold testimony. And we should be involved in the larger Body of Messiah and, yet, without assimilating our Jewish identity.
Currently we are in the dispensation from the First Coming of the Messiah to the Second Coming of the Messiah. At His First Advent, Messiah made a New Covenant with the House of Israel and Judah. That agreement also includes Gentiles. The previous dispensation lasted from the Exodus from Egypt and the Covenant made at Mount Sinai to the First Coming of the Messiah. That dispensation dealt primarily with Israel. The Lord was forming a new nation that would be a light to the other nations. The Lord raised up Moses to deliver Israel out of Egypt. The Lord, working through Moses, created our constitution. He gave many new laws to Israel. The laws provide the framework for Israel’s national life. The Temple at Jerusalem, along with the Levitical priests and the God-ordained sacrifices, which could only be offered at the Temple, provided the means of atonement. Meanwhile, the other nations were still operating under the covenant made with Noah but also with a new command – that they learn from and bless Israel.
The Relationship Of Messianic Jews
To The Laws Of The Previous Dispensation
• The covenant upon which much of the Torah is based is a broken covenant. (There is no Temple and, therefore, no sacrifices by which we may draw near to God and obtain eternal life.) It is impossible to keep all the laws of the Mosaic Covenant today. In addition, most Jews live outside of Israel; and many of the laws only apply to life within Israel.
• The laws that are part of the covenant mediated by Moses are still extremely valuable and relevant. The Torah continues to inform and guide the lives of the Jewish people. It teaches us the right things to do and gives us a good way to live. It helps us live an authentic Jewish lifestyle. It helps us remain part of the Holy People. The issue of assimilation is a major problem for Messianic Jews. Historically Messianic Jewish families who make no effort to live a Jewish lifestyle or to be involved in Jewish evangelism will almost always assimilate and lose their Jewish identity within a couple of generations. The issue of assimilation is something that is addressed in the New Testament. Rabbi Paul commands Messianic Jews to not become uncircumcised (1 Corinthians 7:18), which means not to seek assimilation into the prevailing Gentile culture but to continue their Jewish way of life.
• The Torah is more than the Mosaic Covenant. All of the Word of God, including the New Covenant, is “Torah” (literally, “teaching” or “instruction”).
• The early Messianic Jews had a favorable view of the Torah, and many were zealous to live in accordance with it. (See Acts 21:20-26.) History documents that Messianic Jews continued to live a distinctly Jewish, Torah-based lifestyle for centuries after the arrival of Messiah Yeshua. There is no incompatibility with being “zealous for the Torah” and being a Messianic Jew.
Therefore, I am pro-Torah, recognizing that the Covenant made at Sinai is a broken covenant. I am pro-Torah, valuing the great wisdom that is found in the Torah. I am pro-Torah, recognizing that all Believers are in some sense to fulfill the Law (Romans 8:4) but that not all of us are obligated to fulfill the same requirements of the Law. (For example, Gentiles need not be circumcised.) I am pro-Torah, recognizing that nobody (Jewish or otherwise) can be saved by the works of the Law. I am pro-Torah, recognizing that Messiah’s teaching helps return us to the Torah’s original intent regarding issues such as a man being married to only one woman. I am pro-Torah, understanding that one of the main purposes of the Torah is to point us to Messiah. I am pro-Torah, accepting the fact that Messianic Jews who choose not to keep every aspect of the Law, particularly the ceremonial laws, do not lose their salvation. My personal experience is that I have become more observant over time, but it was a process that took years. Therefore, I encourage Messianic Jews to identify with and embrace their Jewish heritage, which in large part is based on the Torah; and I encourage Messianic Jews to be gracious to each other regarding others’ level of Torah observance.
As Messianic Jews work out their salvation with fear and trembling, we need to be gracious to each other in the area of practice. Those Messianic Jews who want to live a life that is more Torah-observant have the freedom to do so, but they can’t demand that others live the same way. Those Messianic Jews who want to keep the customs and traditions of our people are free to do so, provided those customs and traditions do not contradict the teaching of the Word of God. Many rabbinic customs and traditions are profound and are a blessing to Jewish life. But there is a danger. Jewish traditions and practices and forms can be over-emphasized so that Orthodox Judaism is unduly elevated in the minds of our people. The result is that non-Messianic Judaism starts being wrongly perceived as more genuine, authentic, and authoritative. Then some go on to abandon Messianic Judaism and deny their faith in Yeshua altogether. Also, the forms and traditions can become so important that Yeshua is crowded out; and He becomes little more than a bystander in our services or a footnote in our prayer books. Another consideration: Far from attracting more Jewish people, such models of ministry are a turn-off to most Jewish people in the United States and Israel, most of whom don’t want long, Orthodox-style services. A recent study shows that only 9 percent of Jewish people living in the United States in the 30-39 age group consider themselves Orthodox, and 16 percent of Jews aged 18-29 now identify themselves as Orthodox.
I love the Messianic Jewish Movement and am committed to it! I want to see many healthy Messianic congregations with strong Jewish identity and commitment. I want our synagogues to identify with Israel and the Jewish people and also with the entire Body of Messiah. I want to see Messianic Jews taking more of a leadership role in the Christian Church. I want to see us committed to world evangelism, fulfilling our calling to be a kingdom of priests and a light to the nations. I especially want to see our synagogues committed to bold evangelism among our own people (including partnering with Jewish missions organizations). I long for the new wine of modern Messianic Judaism to be Yeshua-centered, with Spirit-directed, bold evangelism as its centerpiece. I want our congregations to creatively adapt to their time and communities, mixing old and new the best of Judaism and the best of Christianity so that it resonates with the souls of the current generation.
The Relationship Of Gentile Christians
To The Laws Of The Previous Dispensation
Messiah’s Holy Community of Jews and Gentiles, while having much in common with Israel, is not identical to Israel. The New Covenant is not the same as the Old Covenant. Jews who enter the New Covenant remain Jews, and Gentiles who enter the New Covenant remain Gentiles. Gentile Believers are not the same as the Gentile foreigners who lived in the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant. Gentile Christians have an elevated status compared with the aliens who lived in the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant. They are fully co-heirs of the Kingdom with the Jewish saints. Being grafted into Israel doesn’t mean that Gentile Believers become Israel or are required to live the same way as the Jewish people. Jews and Gentiles are one because of our One God and Father of all: “One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism.” We share equally in the Spirit of God, who lives in all of us, and have the same hope of living forever in the New Jerusalem. Being one doesn’t negate the differences in roles and calling and lifestyle between Jews and Gentiles.
Keep in mind that most of the laws of the Torah were directed specifically to the Jewish people and not to the other nations. The laws form Israel’s constitution. The laws were meant to keep Israel distinct from the other nations. So wha