Deep within the heart of many Christian leaders today is a God given love for Israel and the Jewish People. Along with this love a genuine sense of indebtedness is emerging. These leaders are truly appreciating the fact that God used the Jewish People to bring the Word of God into the earth to be shared by all nations. There is a growing cognizance that since Messiah came from the nation of Israel, their salvation “is of the Jews.” (John 4:22) Many are courageously standing up in support of Israel during the Palestinian Intifada and opposing the promulgation of horrendous Arab anti-Semitism. I strongly support and vigorously promote this love for Israel and the Jewish people.
Joint projects, trips to Israel and meaningful communication between leaders of the Jewish and Christian communities are developing out of this love. Again, I strongly support this vital communication and working together. However, in their zeal to show love, I have observed a subtle but definite temptation on the part of some Christian leaders to compromise the Gospel of Messiah Yeshua. Let me explain.
It is not uncommon for Christian leaders who are in relationship with Jewish leaders to be asked by these same Jewish leaders not to evangelize Jewish People. They are also asked to take a stand with them against what they call the deceptive practices of Messianic Jews. A Messianic Jew is a Jewish person who has embraced Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah and seeks to retain a Jewish identity. Messianic Jews do the latter for four important reasons: 1) To honor the Abrahamic covenant, an eternal and unconditional covenant God made with the Jewish People. 2) Because faith in Messiah is inherently a Jewish faith that God graciously provided for the entire world. 3) As a testimony to family, friends and the greater Jewish community that one can be Jewish and believe in Yeshua. 4) To insure there will be a Jewish heritage in our children and subsequent generations.
Recently a prominent Christian leader and a prominent Jewish leader together published a letter to the editor of the Toronto Star and appeared together in a televised press release denouncing the alleged deceptive practices of Messianic Jews. But is it deceptive for a Jew who believes in Yeshua to call himself a Jew, retain a Jewish identity and to call his faith a Jewish one? Two thousand years ago the situation was reversed. There were some who insisted that the Gentiles who received the Messiah were to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses. In essence what they said was that Gentiles must serve the Messiah in a Jewish way. The council recorded in Acts 15 settled the issue forever. Gentiles are not obligated to serve the Messiah in a Jewish way.
What about today? Are believing Jews required to serve their Messiah in the Gentile way? Actually, the Scriptures teach that the Gentiles as wild olives were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree. (Romans 11:24) Furthermore, the Scriptures hold out hope that if Jewish People as natural olives do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted in again. (Romans 11:23) Into what will they be grafted? “How much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree.” (Romans 11:24)
To illustrate the importance of Jewish identity I would like to pose a question. Which is more important, the fact that Yeshua is the Son of God or the fact that He is the Son of Man? The only correct answer according to the Scriptures is that both are of vital importance. His natural identity as a man is as important as His spiritual identity as God. Yeshua Himself affirmed in His resurrected state, “I am the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star.” (Revelation 22:16)
However, the fact of Yeshua’s Jewish identity and that faith in Him is essentially a Jewish faith is important not just because of its veracity, but also because of its importance to the Jewish People. For centuries Yeshua has been totally irrelevant to Jewish People. He has been seen as the founder of a foreign religion that has persecuted Jewish People. He has been robbed of His natural Jewish identity and made to look like a foreigner to Jewish People. On the other hand, the Jewish People are looking for a Jewish Messiah. It is only when Yeshua’s Jewish identity is restored that He becomes relevant to Jewish People. That is why there is much opposition to this truth. This opposition is designed to keep Yeshua irrelevant to Jewish People and to neutralize the pressure of the Gospel message presented in its original Jewish context. Jewish People will only consider a Jewish Messiah. But in truth and in fact, Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah, “son of David, son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1:1)
If you are concerned for the salvation of Jewish people, then you must care about restoring the Jewish identity of Yeshua. As their spiritual brothers and sisters, you must also affirm the right of Messianic Jews who have embraced Yeshua to call themselves Jews and live a Jewish lifestyle. Their faith is a Jewish faith. After all, it is “their own olive tree.” I am not advocating legalism or salvation by the Law of Moses, but a Jewish new covenant faith for Jews who receive their own Messiah.
To love the Jewish People means to pray for them, to support the State of Israel, to speak out against anti-Semitism and to develop meaningful relationships with them. It also means to have a burden for their salvation affirming without compromise that the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)
by Messianic Rabbi Jeffrey Forman City of David Messianic Synagogue Thornhill, Ontario, Canada