24 August 2010
Nothing gives me greater joy than a Jew finding salvation in Jesus and becoming part of His spiritual body, the Church. Yet, just as St. Paul labored to preserve the infant church from absorption into Old Testament legalism, so a similar warning must be sounded today. Evangelical churches are rapidly incorporating Jewish holidays and other philo-Judaic elements into Christian worship.
“Messianic” Jews primarily lead this trend. Messianic Judaism is the belief of many converted Jews that Jesus is properly worshipped in the context in which He was born. They seek to maintain a Jewish, often largely Pharisaic/rabbinic religious structure devoted to continuing obedience to the Mosaic Law. Today there are 250,000 Messianics in America and up to 15,000 in Israel (which include many Gentile proselytes).
Messianics diversely interpret how the Old Testament Torah should be obeyed. One extreme believes it was a mistake to ever share Jesus with the Gentiles; they think Jews “own” Jesus and He should be returned to His role as Messiah of the Jews alone! Persecuted Messianics in southern Israel are much more like “Jews for Jesus;” they simply desire to bring the good news of salvation to their people. (Some deeply appreciate Truthtellers.organd our criticisms of their persecutors, the ultra-Orthodox “Haredim,” and the state of Israel which looks the other way.)
Generally speaking, Messianic Jews are the most passionately pro-Israel of the Israel-first evangelicals. Over the decades, my personal experience has been that if my criticism of ADL, Israel, Jewish control or the Talmud spurs controversy, Messianics quickly appear to assure local Christians that there is no threat in anything Jewish. Such Messianics habitually provide a bridge of persuasion for ADL to the evangelicals. Since they are Jewish, their claim to expertise on all things Judaic gives them tremendous credibility with gullible Christians.
In this category is Messianic Jewish lawyer Jay Sekulow who heads the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). Sekulow has a worldwide audience of possibly 100 million Pentecostals through his program on Trinity Broadcasting TV network. In 2005, Sekulow should have sounded the alarm when the “Philly 11” Christians were attacked as “hate criminals” by ADL. Sekulow did nothing. Along with other TBN Judao-philes, Hal Lindsey and Pastor John Hagee, he has never significantly warned against ADL’s federal hate crimes bill. Instead, they magnify the threat of potential Islamic UN hate laws, acting as pipelines for ADL/Israel propaganda to the church.
Are Christians Indebted to Jews?
Most Messianics and evangelicals believe the Gentile church is incalculably indebted to the Jewish people for making Christianity possible. Yet the Bible says something different. Christians should feel grateful only to a faithful remnant of obedient Jews; they usually constituted the tiniest minority. The Old Testament is emphatic that the Jews were an unusually “stiff-necked” people who habitually ignored or persecuted God’s prophets. These prophets, including Jesus, hardly encouraged perpetual gratitude to such rebellious Jews. Instead they castigated the majority of Hebrews for their sins, setting an example that criticism of evil Jews today is not reprehensible or “anti-Semitic.”
Yet Messianic Jews insistently believe there is a uniquely chosen identity, sanctity and access to God in the Jewish race and its Torah traditions. Messianics are not attracted to Paul’s clear statements: “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek…for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28) “ It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1) Messianics continue to observe Hebrew holy days and rites originating from non-Scriptural sources, such as Chanukah and Purim. They and their evangelical followers reason that, if these holy days were given to the Jews by God, shouldn’t their observance bless believers today?
The answer is no.
The Bible portrays the faithful in ancient Israel (the symbolic “daughter of Zion”) as a bride eagerly awaiting her Husband, intended by God from the “foundation of the world” to be slain in atonement of sins for all who trust in Him and repent. Old Testament rites and observances had only one primary purpose: to prepare the bride for this coming. But now that Christ has come, they are obsolete. It’s unseemly for a married woman to keep reading bridal magazines, posting her profile on dating sites, or looking around at attractive men thinking, “Is he the one?” In the same way, it’s redundant and inappropriate for any Christian to repeat observances which were only meant to anticipate Messiah. Now He has come and we are married. The wife’s role is to lavish her spouse with undistracted love and attention. And now that the Jewish and Gentile bride has been united with her true Husband and the New Testament age of grace is in progress, it is appropriate only for the church to luxuriate in Christ’s presence, giving herself completely to her Husband in exchange for all He has given her.
Complete repentance and surrender of self is all Jesus truly wants from us. When we bring Him trust with the simplicity of a little child, we receive “peace that passes understanding.” In this state of perfect married love and trust, we do not sin. (I John 3:3-9, 5:18) Through continuing daily faith, His Spirit keeps us eternally secure.
Yet Messianic Judaism and countless churches bring Christ that which He now despises: outdated Jewish rites and legalism. These outward signs only incline Jewish and Gentile believers to place false confidence in dead works. Of such observances God told the Hebrews in the time of Isaiah, “I hate, I despise your festivals…” (Amos 5:21) Paul could have easily been speaking to such Messianics and evangelicals, saying, “Oh foolish [evangelicals] who has bewitched you…? Having begun in the spirit, are you now made perfect by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:1,3)
Because of a false infatuation with Judaism and Israel, Messianics and Israel-first evangelicals also encourage establishment of what Revelation calls “ Babylon the Great,” a rising system of anti-Christ Jewish control and oppression centering in Jerusalem. (See, “‘Babylon the Great’ is Israel“) They glorify an apostate religious system of which Christ said He would never be seen again until they say, “Blessed is He (Jesus) that comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matthew 23:39)
Jesus called this rejected system the “synagogue of Satan” for a good reason. Talmudic Judaism masterminded our Lord’s crucifixion. It went on to become the foundation of the modern world revolutionary movement, spawning communism, liberalism, and Jewish financial and media control. (See, “Jewish Activists Created Communism“) Modern, Christ-rejecting Judaism is nothing of which to be proud. Christ and the New Testament command us to beware of it (Matthew 16:6, Philippians 3:2, etc.) and flee from “ Babylon” on penalty of loss of our souls.
Of course there is nothing wrong with Christians worshipping in an ethnic and cultural context (Latino, Russian, African American, etc.). Yet Messianic and increasingly Judaized evangelical churches are not in that category. Most Messianic Jews may not view the Talmud and Kabbalah as inspired, yet they venerate the liturgical and ceremonial structures laid down by the very worst thing that ever happened to the ancient Hebrew religion: the anti-Christ leaders from Babylon — the Pharisees, who wrote the Talmud.
Messianics are playing with fire. Once in the largest Christian bookstore in Portland, Oregon, I entered its “Judaic” section, which caters to the large number of Messianics in our city. To my astonishment, it sold books encouraging appreciation of the Talmud and Zohar, with works by the foremost practitioner of the Kabbalah and translator of the Babylonian Talmud, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz of Jerusalem.
Messianic Judaism is not just Christianity for Jews or even Christianity in a Jewish context. It is the modern equivalent of the “Judaizers” who plagued the New Testament in the time of the apostles. Today, as then, they attempt to bring both Gentile “proselytes” and Jews into bondage to law. Paul told Peter he “stood condemned” for allowing such Judaizers to again impose the bondage of circumcision. (Galatians 2) But many of today’s Messianic Judaizers want to do much more: impose not just mandatory circumcision on their followers but the entirety of the Old Testament law!
“The Law Kills…”
Many evangelicals are attracted to Old Testament legalism because they crave the structure and values so missing in many churches today. A recent Barna poll found that a mature, consistent Christian is increasingly hard to find in the church. (Lack of examples of maturity, vision and courage is much of the reason why the vast majority of evangelical youth abandon Christianity for the greater challenge—even authenticity—of the world.)
Yet any search for spirituality will not be satisfied through return to the dead letter of obsolete Jewish custom, only by a return to the truly spiritual. “For the law kills, but the spirit gives life…” (2 Corinthians 3:6)
What is the spiritual? It is submission to that hard-line message Jesus laid down. Just as He gave up everything in death for our redemption, so we must give ourselves completely to Him as His bride. “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33) Christ’s power came from His willingness to do the perfect will of the Father and even die for the good of others. When we do the same, we receive a victorious peace and marriage to God with which no works, rituals or even emotions could ever compare.
Rev. Ted Pike is director of the National Prayer Network, a Christian/conservative watchdog organization.
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