By God’s doing you are in Messiah Yeshua, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). I love being Jewish. I love the distinct lifestyle that God has given to His Chosen People, rooted in the Torah, custom and ancient tradition. I encourage other Messianic Jews to embrace this distinctly Jewish lifestyle. But, I am deeply concerned about those who pressure my Gentile Christian brothers to live like us. Their faulty thinking goes something like this:
Bad teaching: Christianity has been mixed with paganism.
Rabbi Loren’s response: I do not believe that practicing Christians are practicing paganism. Well, they may be – if they are praying to Mary and the saints, praying to statues and icons, believing that they are eating the literal body and blood of Christ, or eating the blood of animals (blood sausage, blood soup). Nor do I believe that celebrating Christmas, having a Christmas tree, rejoicing in the resurrection of Messiah on Easter (and calling it Easter), or worshiping on Sunday, is participating in paganism.
Bad teaching: Christianity has many non-Biblical traditions.
Rabbi Loren’s response: True, but customs and traditions, in and of themselves, are not necessarily evil. Some, in fact, are very good!
Bad teaching: The Jewish people are the Chosen People. Therefore living a Jewish lifestyle is superior – it’s more Biblical, it’s purer, it’s filled with more blessings, than those who live normal Christian life.
Rabbi Loren’s response: As Christians draw closer to Messiah, they are holy, complete and righteous. Rabbi Paul, specifically communicating to Gentile Believers writes: “In Him (Yeshua) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete … in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Messiah … He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions … Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Messiah” (Colossians 2:9-17).
You mean a Gentile who is joined to the Jewish Messiah, by having placed his faith in Him, has been made 100% complete? He doesn’t lack anything? That’s exactly what it means! God considers him spiritually circumcised and therefore a full participant in the New Covenant. He is full of spiritual life, and all his sins have been forgiven. He has freedom about what he eats and drinks, and whether or not to celebrate the Jewish holidays and the Sabbath. They are, after all, only shadows, and he is joined to the Reality, which is greater than the shadows.
But he does have the freedom to celebrate the Sabbath, and observe the holidays and keep kosher if he chooses. If a Christian wants to observe a Biblical holiday or custom, there is freedom to do so, but there is no obligation. If a Christian says, “I know that Messiah is my Passover and I don’t need to celebrate a Passover Seder” that’s fine. If another says, “I want to celebrate the Passover because it helps me draw nearer to my wonderful Jewish Messiah, my Passover Lamb” that’s fine too! If a Christian says, “I know that Yeshua is my Sabbath, and gives me rest, but I want to worship God on Sunday, as Christians have done for centuries,” that’s OK too! Nor should our focus be food since “the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
Even though this great Jewish ambassador to the Gentiles himself kept kosher, Paul understood that what Christians eat and drink is not what is essential; what is far more important, and what God is really concerned about is that human beings be in right relationship with Him, have peace with Him and the happiness that only His indwelling Spirit can give. Rabbi Paul wrote to the Philippians, “We are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Messiah Yeshua and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Torah, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of God’s Holy Community – the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Torah, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Messiah.”
You actually mean, Rabbi Paul, that your extensive Jewish upbringing didn’t really profit you when it came to what is most important – restoring a right relationship with God, obtaining salvation, gaining eternal life?
That’s right! Paul went on to write, “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Messiah.”
Paul, do you really mean that Messiah is like the pearl of great price, and you are willing to sell everything else in order to gain Him? Nothing in your life is to be compared to having Him?
That’s right! And that I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Torah, but that which is through faith in Messiah, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; (that’s sanctification – that’s holiness, that’s our walk, that’s our priority, that’s our focus!) in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:3-11).
So Paul, are you saying that what is essential is to personally and intimately know the Messiah, and be joined to Him, thereby having true righteousness, and to be willing to suffer for Him, and have power to live a good life for Him, so that I will live forever with Him?
That’s right! That’s what is really important! Paul expressed a similar thought when writing to the Galatians: “For in Messiah Yeshua neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).
Did I read that correctly, Rabbi Paul? Neither circumcision nor lack of circumcision (understood to mean being Jewish and living a Jewish lifestyle; or uncircumcision – being a Gentile, and not living a uniquely Jewish lifestyle), when compared to having faith, mean anything, because millions of Jews and billions of Gentiles have sinned and are going to Hell?
That’s right! What means everything and must be our priority, is having faith in God and Messiah; and faith shows that it is genuine by being faithful to God and Messiah, and loving other human beings.
Likewise, Rabbi Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. Let each man remain in that condition in which he was called” (1 Corinthians 7:18-20). Paul, do you mean that when Jewish people are saved, they should continue to live a distinctly Jewish lifestyle, maintain their Jewish identity, pass it on to their children, and not assimilate into Gentile society?
That’s right! And similarly, when God saves Gentiles, they don’t need to become circumcised. They don’t need to become Jews, or live a Jewish lifestyle: only that they should desist from those practices inherent in their particular culture that are truly wrong.
Each of us needs to understand that God specifically ordained the distinct circumstances of our life, including our ancestry and nationhood. God does not want Gentiles to become Jews, nor Jews to become Gentiles. African-Americans remain African-American; Asians remain Asian, Europeans remain European, and Jews remain Jews part of their people, and part of their culture. Jews and Gentiles are free to maintain their distinct identities, since both are full and equal members of Messiah’s Holy Community.
Since the coming of the Son of God and the institution of the New Covenant, being Jewish, and living a distinctly Jewish lifestyle means nothing – and being a Gentile and not living a Jewish lifestyle – means nothing. What is more important than our distinct ethnic identities is keeping the commandments of God. But what commandments? All 613 found in the Torah? All of us are to observe God’s commandments, however, not all 613 commandments apply to everybody.
For example, there are laws in the Torah that only apply to priests. For example, the High Priest couldn’t marry a divorced woman or a widow, whereas a regular Israeli could. There are laws that only apply to the king (like writing his own copy of the Torah). There are laws that apply to men and not to women, and vice-versa. Most of the laws directly apply to the Jewish people, but not the Gentiles. The Messianic Jews of the First Century understood that all of us are to “fulfill the Law,” but the requirements of the Law are different for Jews and Gentiles. Messianic Jews continued in their relationship to the Torah (and most were zealous for the Torah) but all that was required for our Gentile brothers, aside from genuine faith in God and love for Messiah, were four requirements found in Acts 15:19-20, along with obedience to the Moral Law that God has written on all men’s hearts (such as not murdering, not stealing, and not committing adultery). Anything beyond these requirements is optional, and a matter of personal freedom.
Knowing Messiah and being connected to Him is so crucial that Paul declared to the Corinthians, “I determined to know nothing among you except Messiah Yeshua, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Really, Paul? You made up your mind to exclusively focus on Messiah, and in particular to focus on Yeshua’s death? That’s more important than everything else? Is knowing Yeshua, and His death and resurrection, sufficient? If we know Him, and have Him, we are hitting the mark?
That’s right! Isn’t Messiah the Creator of the universe – the One through whom God made the world, our sun, moon and planets, this galaxy and all the millions of other galaxies?
Isn’t He the Sustainer of the universe, who upholds the entire universe, every molecule, every atom, and every subatomic particle, with His great power? Isn’t He the Final Goal of the universe – the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End? Hasn’t it been decreed that one day everything that exists will perfectly submit to His lordship? Will He not rule over all in perfect peace and harmony?
Isn’t He El Gibor – the Mighty God, and Immanu-El – God with us, the fullness of God in a human body, the Word made flesh, the very image of the invisible God?
Is He not the exact representation of God’s nature, who shares the same name and nature, being, character and essence as God the Father; the Lord of Glory, who came as a servant, and yet is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
Isn’t He the Messiah, the Anointed Ruler sent to save us, the ultimate King of David’s line who is destined to rule with perfect justice over Israel and the nations, the Bringer of the New and Eternal Covenant that will bless all the families of the Earth?
Isn’t He our Prophet, our Priest and our King, fulfilling all three offices in one Person; the King greater than David, the prophet greater than Moses, the Priest greater than Aaron?
Isn’t Yeshua our Chief Rabbi, our Supreme Teacher who guides us into all truth? Our Wonderful Counselor who will give miraculous advice, unfailing in the depths of its wisdom, to everyone who asks Him for it?
Isn’t He the true Torah, the Living embodiment of the Word of God? Isn’t He the Judge of the Living and the Dead, who will judge mankind, so that every human being may honor Him even as they honor God the Father?
Isn’t He Jacob’s Ladder that connects Earth and Heaven, the one and only Mediator between God and Man, our High Priest, who offers sacrifice for us, who atones for us, who reconciles us to God, who continues to intercede for us, who even now prays for us, and forever saves us because of His eternal life?
Isn’t He our Final Sacrifice, acceptable to God, enabling us to be reconciled to the Creator from whom the whole world is estranged?
Isn’t He our sin offering that atones for us, our burnt offering that enables us to be dedicated to God, the peace offering that brings us wholeness, completeness, well-being and peace with God?
Isn’t He our Sabbath, who brings true rest to the weary human soul? Isn’t He our Passover Lamb, enabling God to pass-over our sins, saving us from our Egypts of sin and death?
Isn’t He our Matzah – the Unleavened Bread, our Sinless One, who was victorious over sin and who can break the cycle of sin transmitted from generation to generation?
Isn’t He our Firstfruits, the First One to be raised from the dead, thereby giving hope that all who believe in Him will likewise be raised from the dead?
Isn’t He our Yom Kippur Scape-Goat, who brings perfect and final atonement?
Isn’t He our Sukkah, who enables the harvest of humanity to dwell with God?
Isn’t He the true Temple in which God dwells? Isn’t He the Holy Ark, in which the Word of God dwelt, over which the presence of God hovered?
Isn’t He our Bronze Altar which atones for us, our Washbasin which cleanses us so we can serve God, our Golden Menorah which sheds the true light on us, our Bread of the Presence which feeds us, our Golden Altar that enables our prayers and praises to ascend and be accepted by God?
Isn’t He the Rock that was smitten, providing us with the living water of everlasting life, so that our thirst for God, for life, for meaning, is quenched?
Isn’t He the Bread of Life that came down out of Heaven, that gives life to the world, infinitely better than the manna that our fathers ate in the wilderness, since they died?
Isn’t He the Wine that gives us joy? Isn’t He the Star that arises from Jacob, and the Bright Morning Star, and the Sunrise from on High, and the Light of the World, shining the light of Heaven to those living in darkness on Earth?
Isn’t He the Branch that brings forth the fruit of everlasting bliss, so that believing in Him is like eating from the Tree of Life?
Isn’t He the Stone that the builders rejected, but the Stone that God set firmly in place to be the foundation of all that God is building; the cornerstone which will support our lives eternally?
Isn’t He the Resurrection and the Life, so that if we join ourselves to Him, we can be raised from death, and live forever?
Isn’t He the True Vine in whom we must abide if we are to be connected to God, and produce any lasting results?
Isn’t He the Door that opens the entrance to the New Jerusalem?
Since we are lost, isn’t He the Way that leads us to God?
Since we are surrounded by lies, isn’t He the Truth that sets us free from confusion, ignorance and evil? Since we are alienated from God who is our Source,
isn’t He the Life that enables us to live forever?
Doesn’t Messiah Yeshua fill everything in every way? Isn’t He the answer to all of God’s promises? Doesn’t all this help us better understand why Paul would write, “I determined to know nothing among you except Messiah Yeshua, and Him crucified”? But if I am a Gentile, won’t I be holier and more blessed if I observe more Jewish laws, holidays, customs or traditions? I don’t know; you may, or you may not be. But I do know that they contain nothing essential to experience the blessings of God! In Messiah you have been made complete. Every spiritual blessing in Heaven is yours!
If you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. You have been grafted into Israel’s Olive Tree of Salvation and Blessing. You have been reconciled to the God of Israel. You have a new and equal access to the God of Israel. Because of Yeshua, God is your Heavenly Father. You are a fellow citizen with the Messianic Jews and the Jewish saints who lived before the Son of God came to Earth, and will live forever with us in the New Jerusalem. You are a full heir of the Kingdom of God. Gentil