An Emerging Paradigm: Redefining the Relationship between Christians and Jews (Based on Dr. Mark Kinzer’s book, Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism)

Posted: August 9, 2011 in General

By Rabbi Stuart Dauermann[1] and Rabbi Mark Kinzer[2]

1.      God is honoured by Jewish Torah obedience. This applies no less to Messianic Jews than to the wider Jewish community.

In the Old Testament this is evident from narrative texts concerning the giving of the Law (Exodus 19-20; Deuteronomy 4:5-8). In addition, prophesies concerning Jewish renewal at the end of days state that this end-time turning to God will include a renewal of Torah obedience (e.g., Deuteronomy 30: 1-10, and Ezekiel 36: 24-27). The Newer Testament also extols Jewish Torah obedience for all Jews, including Jewish Yeshua believers. Luke-Acts highlights the Torah obedience and Jewish piety of Zachariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1:6); Mary, Joseph, and the child Jesus (Luke 2:21-24, 27, 39-51); Simeon and Anna (Luke 2: 25-26, 36-38); Jesus Himself (Luke 4:16 and many others); and the Church in Jerusalem (Acts 21: 17-26). Clearly, Jewish Torah obedience for all Jews was presumed to be the God-ordained norm.

2.      Such Torah-faithful Messianic Jews form the living link whereby the Church from among the nations is joined to the Commonwealth of Israel, and serve the Church by helping her reconceive of her identity and vocation as rooted in that of Israel.

The One New Man of Ephesians, chapter two, expresses a unity of two distinct communal realities living together not in uniformity, but rather in love and mutual blessing. These two distinct realities are the Yeshua believers in Israel living as Yeshua’s people in Torah-based Jewish piety, and the Church from among the nations, serving Him in their own contexts, apart from the requirements of Jewish piety. This is why Paul was insistent that Gentile Yeshua believers should not become circumcised and seek to keep the Law: not because the Law has been abolished, but because it is not God’s call and will for Gentiles, who become part of the people of God through Christ alone. This is also why James expected Paul to model Jewish piety, but said he required no such thing of the Gentiles who have believed (Acts 21: 24-25), and this is why the Jerusalem Council disputed long (“much debate”, Acts 15:6) before deciding that Gentiles did not need to be circumcised, and required to keep the Torah. This dispute only occurred because Jewish Yeshua believers assumed they were responsible for continuing to do so. Their debate was over whether the requirement of Torah-obedience applied to Gentiles as well (see Acts 15:1-21). Rather than superseding the Jewish people, the Church instead joins with them as part of the Commonwealth of Israel. Only in this way can the “individual wall of hostility”—which supersessionism maintains—be removed, with Israel and the Church living in the peace Yeshua established rather than in competitive enmity.

3.      Understanding her identity and vocation in this context, the Church will celebrate and support Jewish covenant faithfulness, seeing Yeshua-faith in the power of the Holy Spirit as its perfect embodiment, and will partner with Torah-faithful Messianic Jews as one ekklesia.

By being joined as one ekklesia with the Torah obedient Jewish Yeshua-believers, the Church becomes part of the Commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2: 12-14), and therefore celebrates all of the God-given distinctives of Israel, including her Torah obedience. This position contrasts sharply with the denigration of Jewish Torah obedience so common in Christian thought and thinking. The Church joins with Israel without taking on her unique Torah responsibilities. This balance of unity and diversity is further highlighted in Ephesians 3:6, where Paul says “Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel”. The terms “fellow heirs, fellow members, and fellow partakers” require another communal reality with whom the Gentiles are joined, Jewish Yeshua-believers living as part of wider Israel.

4.      Messianic Jewish outreach to the wider Jewish community involves revealing the Presence of Yeshua amidst Jewish life rather than importing Him as an outsider or exporting Jewish Yeshua-believers to other communities.

The Jewish Yeshua-believers of the Newer Testament believed that in a mysterious manner the Messiah had been with Israel throughout its history (I Corinthians 10: 1-4; Ephesians 2:12). Because of this, they saw in all of Israel’s sacred institutions (e.g., the Temple, the holidays, the Jubilee year) signs of the Messiah’s presence, and proclaimed him to be the fulfilment of Judaism rather than its nullification. Though Jewish communal life has developed over the past two thousand years without explicit faith in Yeshua, we find him present there nevertheless, just as Joseph provided for his brothers who rejected him even before he revealed his identity to them.

5.      Such outreach proclaims the Name of Jesus, not the neediness of Jews.

Sometimes mission approaches to the Jewish people include the assumption or even declaration of the emptiness and inadequacy of Jewish religious practice and faith. In contrast, the apostolic motivation for outreach to Jewish people was driven by the realization that in Yeshua, the long awaited Messiah had come. The oft-quoted passage, “There is no other name given among mortals by which we must be saved”, comes in a context where Peter and John were seeking to lift up the name of Jesus rather than put down the Jewish people: “for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4: 12, 20). We would do well to imitate their example and lift up the name of Yeshua without denigrating the holy things already given to the Jewish people (see Romans 3:1-4; 9:1-5).

6.      The honour of God is enhanced, and His reign fully established, when His people honour the Messiah whom He sent.

Newer covenant texts such as Matthew 23:39, Acts 3: 19-21, and Romans 11:12, 15, imply that Israel’s acceptance of Yeshua will inaugurate the definitive coming of God’s Kingdom, when God’s name will be perfectly sanctified (Matthew 6: 9-10). Looking toward that day, we seek to model and advance honouring Him among our people, Israel.

7.      This paradigm enables concerned Christians to be both deeply faithful to Christ and deeply respectful of the living Jewish tradition and the Jewish community.

Paul himself exemplified this respect when, toward the end of his life, standing before Herod Agrippa, he characterized Jewish piety in this manner: “they earnestly serve God night and day” (Acts 26:7). Sadly, this respect has not generally characterized standard Christian approaches to the Jewish people. Isn’t it about time that it did?

Notes:

[1] Born into a Conservative Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, Stuart Dauermann attended Manhattan School of Music (MSM), earning degrees in Music Theory (1966) and Music Education (1971). In 1962, while at MSM, and working as a professional musician, he attended an informal discussion group and became convinced that Yeshua of Nazareth is Israel’s Messiah.  He’s still convinced and enjoys convincing others.

[2] Dr. Mark Kinzer is the Rabbi of Congregation Zera Avraham in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Born in Detroit in 1952, Mark was raised in a Conservative Jewish home and became an adherent of Messiah Yeshua in 1971. He attended the University of Michigan (B.A., M.A., Ph.D.), and remains forever a loyal Wolverine. Mark is Senior Scholar and President Emeritus of Messianic Jewish Theological Institute, Chair of the Hashivenu Board, and author of Postmissionary Messianic Judaism (Brazos, 2005) and Israel’s Messiah and the People of God (Wipf & Stock, 2010).

Indebted to: Rabbi Andrew Sparks, CEO of Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council, Messianic Jewish Theological Institute, CA, USA.

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