June 2014 Yavoh

Several years ago, the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) published a pamphlet entitled Defining Messianic Judaism. It was an attempt to define and justify the actions of certain Messianic Jewish leaders as they separated themselves from “Gentile believers.” They explained themselves by saying that Messianic Jews have a “unique” calling in the Lord that Gentile believers are not part of. It was a racist document that offended many believers in the Messianic movement (both Jew and non-Jew).

That document has been followed this year by the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) and the International Alliance of Messianic Jewish Congregations and Synagogues (IAMCS) publishing a document entitled One Law, Two Sticks: a Critical Look at the Hebrew Roots Movement. It has very little to say about the titled subject of teaching the Torah to all people or the prophetic restoration of the Two Houses of Israel. Instead, the bulk of the document is an effort to find fault with independent Messianic teachers. It presents a “rogue’s gallery” of those they take issue with. The actual authors of this document are listed merely as being the “Steering Committee” of the IAMCS. It is strange that they weren’t proud enough to mention their own names, so allow me to supply them to you as listed on the IAMCS website.

Rabbi Frank Lowinger, IAMCS Chairman,
Congregation B’rith Hadoshah, Buffalo, NY

Rabbi David Chernoff,
Beth Yeshua, Philadelphia, PA

Rabbi Charlie Kluge,
Gesher Shalom, Orlando, FL

Rabbi Eric Lakatos,
Tikvat Yisrael, Cleveland, OH

Rabbi Joel Liberman,
Tree of Life, San Diego, CA

Rabbi David Schneier,
The Messianic Initiative, Paris, France

Rabbi Robert Solomon,
Yachad Ministries, Roswell, GA

Rabbi Michael Stepakoff,
Temple New Jerusalem, Tampa Bay, FL

Rabbi Michael Weygant,
Rosh Pinah, Oklahoma City, OK

I am not sure that everyone listed here actually wrote or contributed to any part of the paper in question. Many times, documents published under several names are written by one or two and then endorsed by the larger list to add credibility. It would be interesting to actually question each person on the Steering Committee to see if they really participated in the drafting and fully understood the gravity of this paper. I know some of these men from earlier years and I am saddened that they are part of this.

While I am not going to pick apart their paper, I will use this opportunity to present a Biblical argument for why believing Gentiles are to join believing Jews and are part of the commonwealth of Israel.

Within the modern Messianic Movement, this controversy has been addressed in various papers dating back to when the Messianic Israel Alliance (MIA) was formed by those who taught the future restoration of the Two Houses of Israel. Some of the spokespersons for the MIA overstated their teaching by expressing the belief that Messianic Jews represented the House of Judah and the believing Gentile Christians represented the House of Israel in the restoration prophecy. It was so over-simplified that it didn’t make sense nor did it hold true to the rest of Scripture.  Many believed that the teaching at that time was not fully developed. At the same time, the leadership of the MJAA felt the MIA organization was established to counter them (taking away a piece of the Messianic pie they wanted). They, in turn, enlisted the aid of two doctoral “scholars” to draft a paper called The Ephraimite Error.  The One Law, Two Sticks document cites this earlier work. The Ephraimite Error document was a “straw man argument” (which is defined as misrepresenting the opposition’s position to an uninformed audience and then arguing against that), assigning false values to the MIA’s restoration teaching and then taking issue with them. The document was also written at such a high reading level that it was obvious that it was nothing more than intellectual intimidation and not a positive contribution to prophetic studies. The MJAA hung their hat on it, claiming the debate was over. Adding to the frustration was a written response by a few leaders in the MIA that just further offended the MJAA brethren. The war was on. The MJAA refused to fellowship with anyone associated with the MIA. They threatened Messianic music leaders, including Paul Wilbur and Jonathan Settel, if they led worship at any Two-House venue. If a visiting Two-House teacher was speaking in the same city or nearby town, the regional leaders banned their flocks from attending and harassed the hosts. They referred to the Two-House teachers and leaders as heretics and false brethren, using intimidation tactics.

Paul Wilbur made a genuine effort to seek peace in this matter by inviting Dr. Dan Juster, (founder of the UMJC, leader of Tikkun Ministries, and co-author of The Ephraimite Error paper) to meet with Eddie Chumney (Hebraic Heritage Ministries) and Monte Judah (Lion and Lamb Ministries), with Pastor Paul Zink (Jacksonville, Florida) as a witness, to discuss the matter. Eddie and Monte laid out a Biblical basis for the Two-House prophetic teaching. They answered the objections posed by Brother Dan. The end result was a written statement defining the Biblical teaching by Two-House proponents followed by a written statement from Dr. Dan Juster. Both of these statements were made public. Dr. Juster’s statement read in part that, while he did not place the same emphasis on the prophetic Scriptures in question, there was a Biblical basis for the Two-House teaching. That was a diplomatic way of saying “I don’t want to agree with you, but the teaching is not heretical.” Eddie and Monte felt this was a step toward understanding and future dialogue.

However, the brethren in the MJAA and the IAMCS proceeded to threaten Dr. Juster using the same bully tactics. Sadly, he backed down and withdrew his public statement.

Years have passed with each group continuing their respective ministries and activities. In particular, the independent Messianic ministries that teach the Two-House restoration and that Torah is for all people have continued to grow despite the diminishment of the MIA. Again, this concerns the MJAA because they appear to be losing their desired position of being the leading voice for all Messianic Jews in the midst of the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movement.

To summarize this overview, the MJAA, the IAMCS, as well as the UMJC, hold the position that the Jewish people alone represent all of the ancient tribes of Israel, and that there is no future restoration of the Two Houses of Israel. They believe that elements of the House of Israel drifted back with the House of Judah following the Babylonian exile. Specifically, they consider the “dry bones” prophecy (Ezekiel 37:1-14) to be part of modern Israel today but that Ezekiel 37:15-28 was fulfilled in ancient times. Interpreting Ezekiel 37 in this fashion is patently absurd. Even the Jewish rabbis still speak of the House of Israel returning as a future prophetic event. Furthermore, Ezekiel 37:26 refers to the Covenant of Peace that is prophesied to be part of the Messianic kingdom after the Messiah’s return. Even Yeshua spoke of the restoration as a future thing (at the end of the ages). So the dispute is not about identity with Israel, as they falsely declare; it is a prophetic topic and part of the study of eschatology.

With regard to the Torah being taught to all people, the MJAA’s creed is still intertwined with Church theology. On this issue the rabbis of Judaism agree with them. Stereotyping the world as “Jews and Gentiles” is the work of the ancient Jewish leadership and that of the early Church Fathers. The Scriptures, however, refer to the Gentiles as the nations and the term Jews refers to those who lived in the land of Judea. Jews isn’t even a direct reference to the tribe of Judah as used in the New Testament. The term Jews was applied to priests from the tribes of Levi and Simeon who lived in the same region of Judea. Even the Apostle Paul, who was from the tribe of Benjamin, was called a Jew. The classification used in the Bible to define the occupants of the world was and is believers and unbelievers. The New Testament clearly states that Gentiles who become believers of Yeshua are now part of the promises, covenants, and commonwealth of Israel. The Torah teaches that even if you are not native-born of Israel (directly descended from Jacob) yet you believe in the God of Israel, you are an alien, sojourner, and foreigner, but part of Israel. You are to keep the same commandments, make the same offerings, and be numbered as one of the tribes. That is Torah! The prophet Isaiah specifically reaffirms this position.

Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, everyone who keeps from profaning the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant; even those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. Isaiah 56:6-7

The stereotyping of the world into Jews and Gentiles is a clear departure from the Scriptural definition. It originated at the temple in Jerusalem because of error by the Pharisees and Sadducees. Yeshua chastised them for making proselytes (making Gentiles convert to their version of Judaism).

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. Matthew 23:15

It was an effort by the religious Jews ruling Jerusalem to control their domain and bring others into subjection. It was never God’s intention or the teaching of Moses or the Prophets to do any such thing. Yeshua the Messiah held to this same position, quoting the Isaiah 56 passage when He cleansed the temple!

If you examine the Isaiah passage a bit further, you will discover that the prophet speaks of foreigners (Gentile believers) who keep the Sabbath and hold to the covenant at Mount Sinai with the Torah! This passage alone dismisses every Messianic Jewish teacher who holds to One Law, Two Sticks position paper of not teaching Torah to the nations. Let me add this other point.

One of the greatest prophecies of the Messiah is:

And many peoples [Gentile believers] will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His way, and that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:3

These exact words are also found in Micah 4:2. This is considered a “messianic” prophecy by Judaism, and they are correct in that interpretation.  Judaism says that the Messiah will teach the Torah to all nations in the kingdom, that everyone will come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. I agree with them. However, the IAMCS leaders who profess Yeshua as the Messiah say the opposite. What is even stranger is that these same leaders have used the words of Isaiah (these very words) as themes for their national conferences, apparently with no understanding. It is illogical to me that any Messianic Jewish leader would read these Scriptures and then say the commandments of the Lord should not be taught to “all of the families of the world.”

When Yeshua gave the great commission to his disciples, He commanded them to go into all nations (the Gentiles) and teach them just as they had been taught (the Torah).  That applies to us today.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Matthew 28:19-20

The position of the MJAA, the IAMCS, and the UMJC of teaching the Torah only to Jews is a racist, bigoted position at odds with the teaching of the Torah and the Messiah Himself. When I say racist, I mean it is as vulgar as the Pharisaic tradition was at the temple in Jerusalem during the days of Yeshua and the Apostles. Then, Gentiles were not permitted to come into the temple under threat of death. They were not permitted to stand before the altar and give an offering directly to the Lord. Instead, a wall was constructed, called the middle wall of partition, which was neither commanded by the Lord nor established by Moses, keeping Gentiles from entering the inner courts of the temple, including the Court of Women and the Court of Israel (where the altar was). Only Jews could go there, according to the religious Jews. The Messianic Jewish leaders who oppose the teaching of the Torah to the Gentiles have constructed another middle wall of partition of sorts in their fellowships and congregations. It manifests itself in a variety of ways, such the “associate” memberships for Gentile believers and  "full” memberships for Jewish believers in the MJAA. It stands firm as a testimony against others as they demonstrate their haughtiness and proclaim their “unique” calling in the Lord being Jews. You need to look no further to see the opposite of what Yeshua taught about humility. But the most stunning evidence is their ignorance of what Moses and Yeshua actually taught. This is the reason that their theological argument is shallow and sparse on the two issues. Here is the kicker though… the vast majority of those who attend the IAMCS congregations are not Jewish and don’t profess to be so. Why are they faulting anyone who wants to obey the Lord? They answer this question with a false premise. They say that the motivation for independent Messianics teaching the Torah and believing in Israel’s restoration is based on a desire to be imitation Israelites (Jewish “wannabees”) and an effort to “replace” real Jews—that it is an identity issue.

For the record and for the umpteenth time, no one in the independent elements of the Messianic Movement is asserting that they are physical descendants, either Jewish or Ephraimite, because it does not matter! Our claim to any heritage is based on being the “children of promise,” as taught by the Apostle Paul in Romans chapter 9. We all are adopted, grafted in, and are part of Israel (the name of the kingdom) by the grace of God, not by physical heritage.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. Romans 9:6-8

Independent Messianic teachers believe in the promise of God’s Son; therefore, we are part of His kingdom (Israel). Physical descent is NOT the discriminator for being part of the remnant of Israel. Faith—believing in the promise of God for the Messiah—is the discriminator! This principle is proved in the Torah and restated by Paul in Romans chapter 9. To explain, Ishmael was the physical firstborn of Abraham, but he did not receive the blessing; Isaac did. The same is said of Isaac’s firstborn Esau; Jacob received the blessing. Jacob’s firstborn Reuben did not receive the blessing; Joseph received the blessing of the firstborn while Judah received the blessing of the scepter (leadership). Joseph’s firstborn Manassas did not receive the blessing; instead, it was put upon Ephraim. Later on, the Levites were chosen to be the “Lord’s portion.” So what does this all mean? It is clear that physical birth or birth order is not the discriminator for God’s choice for blessing or leadership. It is done by God’s gracious choice—His alone. So what is the “unique” calling that MJAA Messianic Jews have in the Lord? Answer: it is same “unique calling” every believer has. We serve a Unique God; there is no other god. It is not about us, it is about HIM. Do the Messianic Jewish leaders of the IAMCS understand this teaching? It does not appear so. The One Law; Two Sticks paper testifies against them.

The vast majority of the independent Messianic teachers teach that all peoples, tribes, and tongues are to be taught the commandments of the Lord, regardless of their physical ancestry, that all believers of Yeshua the Messiah are of the commonwealth of Israel. The redemptive work of the Messiah has fulfilled God’s promise to our father Abraham that “all the families of the earth” would be blessed by Abraham’s seed (the Messiah), which is the gospel taught by God to Abraham. Paul elaborates on this point in the book of Ephesians. Therein, he speaks to the Gentile believers, addressing what the Messiah had specifically done to bring them into fellowship with the people of Israel, forming one group of believers.

Remember that you [Gentiles believers] were at that time separate from Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups [Jews and Gentiles] into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall [the middle wall of partition in the temple], by abolishing in His flesh the enmity [the judgment of death upon unbelievers], which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two [Jewish and Gentile believers] into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity [the judgment against all].  Ephesians 2:12-16

The prophets of Israel refer to this same joint group as the Remnant of Israel. James, in his decision of what to do with the new Gentile believers coming to faith in the Messiah (Acts 15), quoted from the prophet Amos detailing God’s ultimate plan for all the Gentile believers joining Israel in the Messiah.

With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, “After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” Says the Lord, who makes these things known from long ago. Acts 15:15-18

James was quoting Amos 9:11-12. The tabernacle of David in this passage is not referring to the temple in Jerusalem. The Hebrew word for tabernacle here is “sukkah.” Sukkot is the name of the final festival—the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Ingathering. Amos was referring to when the final restoration of the House of Israel and the House of Judah would be joined by believers from all of the nations to form one assembly in the Lord. In other words, they will gather others to those already gathered.

3(a)Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from His people.” 6Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, everyone who keeps from profaning the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant; 7even those I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; for My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. 8The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.” Isaiah 56:3a, 6-8

Independent Messianic teachers observe the Feast of Tabernacles and welcome all believers. It is this feast that speaks to a future exodus and ingathering. They teach that we all are broken branches (some are natural and some are wild) that are grafted in by the Messiah to the olive tree called Israel. We do not assert the stereotypical definition of Jew and Gentile within our assemblies. We all are and will be the children of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, and fellow heirs in the kingdom. Isn’t this what Paul is referring to in the book of Ephesians?

By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of the Messiah, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Messiah Yeshua through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. Ephesians 3:4-7

Let me assure you that if the Apostle Paul was with us today and he would hear the teachings and positions of the MJAA and IAMCS, he would adamantly voice his objection. Paul went on to say that Gentile believers are part of everything he was part of.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6

Paul went even further, telling the Gentile believers to no longer think of themselves or behave as “Gentiles.”

So this I say and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn the Messiah in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Yeshua, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Ephesians 4:17-24

Paul’s definition of the “one new man” is a former sinner (Jew or Gentile) who has been transformed by the redemption of Yeshua and the work of the Holy Spirit. He is no longer a man who asserts that he is Jew or Gentile. Instead, he humbles himself and lays aside the worldly definition of his life to be a follower of the Messiah and His kingdom. He follows the commandments and loves God with all of his heart, soul, and might (which is following the commandments). This is the true Remnant of Israel!

Paul doesn’t overstate this nor diminish the obvious differences among us. He goes on to give instruction to husbands and wives. He also talks about the differences for parents and children, masters and servants, but calls all of us to focus on the heart and behavior of a believer versus an unbeliever. Paul does not counter the Torah commandments, separating out the Levites as the “Lord’s Portion” or their service in the temple, but Paul emphatically states that there is no difference in the faith that leads to salvation for a physical-born Jew or Gentile. You would think the matter would be closed, but even in Paul’s day Messianic Jews struggled with this. Take the example  of Peter—he was a Messianic Jew.

There came a time when Peter and Paul were working together with some Gentile believers. But then some other “Messianic Jewish” believers from the Apostle James and those in Jerusalem came for a visit. Peter ate only with them, shunning the very Gentile believers he had been with earlier.

For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he [Peter] used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision [Messianic Jews from Jerusalem]. Galatians 2:12

Paul took Peter to task for his hypocritical behavior. If you recall, Peter received a vision earlier from God that he was not to call Gentiles unclean. It wasn’t a vision to eat unclean things, as taught by churchmen! Instead, Peter learned that the Gentiles could be saved by faith just like him (Acts 10). He refers to the same event and the proper conclusion in Acts 15.

After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith.” Acts 15:7-9

Some of my Messianic brethren with the MJAA, IAMCS, and the UMJC have not learned from Peter’s example. As I said before, Paul would have something to say about the One Law, Two Sticks paper they published, similar to the correction offered to Peter.

I doubt that my Messianic Jewish brethren in the IAMCS are going to listen to my correction. Besides, the Lord has said that He will humble them, and the day is coming when, according to Him, they will bow before the men they have accused and the Lord Himself will testify in this matter.

Yeshua foresaw this problem and spoke directly to us today. Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are letters given by Yeshua to churches to prepare end-time believers for His return. In Revelation 2:9 and 3:9 a terse correction is given.

I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Revelation 2:9

Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. Revelation 3:9

Remember, these are corrections given to believers, not Jews in Judaism. Who among us in the assemblies of faith in Yeshua is asserting their Jewish identity to the harm of others? Who among us is saying the opposite of what Moses, the prophets, along with the Messiah Himself said (committing blasphemy)? Who among us is writing papers to falsely accuse the brethren? Who among us is sitting in the seats of the scornful (Psalm 1) complaining about other brethren? By the way, the synagogue of Satan is for the purpose of falsely accusing the saints before God.

If you examine Yeshua’s statement more deeply, the phrase “behold, I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you” is a quotation from Isaiah chapter 49.

Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations [Gentiles], and set up My standard to the peoples [non-Jews]; and they will bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. Kings will be your guardians, and their princesses your nurses. They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth and lick the dust of your feet; and you will know that I am the Lord; those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame. Isaiah 49:22-23

Who are “they” who will bow down?  The context of chapter 49 is about the House of Israel returning to the Lord, joining with Judah, the gathering of the two Houses, and many Gentiles joining with Judah and Israel, and the deliverance of the Tribulation saints. Judaism teaches this as the “final redemption,” when B’nai Ephraim (the sons of Ephraim) returns and the Greater Exodus begins. The IAMCS leaders responsible for their paper are on the wrong side of the ledger with the Messiah on these issues. But maybe they will reconsider their position when they are humbled by Him.

As James answered the question, “What should the new Gentile believers be taught?” James said…

For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath. Acts 15:21

 If you are a Gentile believer and would like to learn the Torah and God’s plan for the future, let me encourage you to go where Moses is taught in the independent Messianic assemblies and fellowships. There, you will find you don’t need to be Jewish to be part of Israel, and we don’t have a wall of partition set up to keep you from learning or keeping the feasts and festivals of the Lord. However, you do need to believe in the King of Israel.  Yeshua described the two different ways that Torah is taught between the IAMCS leaders and independent Messianic leaders.

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19

Independent Messianic teachers also teach what the Apostle Paul taught.

By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of the Messiah, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Messiah Yeshua through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. Ephesians 3:4-7

There is only one Law and one Lawgiver for all of mankind.  Amen.