To the Jew First—Doctrine of Favoritism?

Q: Dear Kevin, it seems to me there is an issue that Messianics need to resolve before it makes us crazy. On one hand, Scripture tells us that we are one in Messiah (Romans 12:5, Galatians 3:28), joint heirs (Ephesians 3:6), et cetera. On the other hand, there is the maxim, “to the Jew first, then to the Gentiles.” On the one hand, a doctrine of unity, on the other a doctrine of first- and second-class citizens. Does the maxim “to the Jew first” have any Scriptural basis? If so, how are we to understand it? What place is it to hold in the Messianic mindset? How do we reconcile these two apparently incompatible views?

A: The misperception and perpetuation of first- and second-class citizenship in the Messianic Jewish movement has resulted not only in its tragic fragmentation and the rise of aberrant theological offshoots, but in our near-complete ineffectiveness to fulfill our collective calling in Messiah. This is, therefore, an issue of monumental importance, and—I agree—needs to be resolved. The good news is that Scripture has our answer. Read more

Know Your Teachers

The Tainting of Torah, Part 1

Q: Kevin, I’ve been so drawn to the Messianic way for a few years, but haven’t found a group of Messianic believers who get along. On Facebook there are 3 or 4 different groups who don’t agree with each other. Who can I trust to teach me when they all disagree on different things? Some [are] very legalistic to the point of saying believers who aren’t Messianic are going to hell… others I’m not quite sure what they’re trying to say. If I believe what some are saying, [my husband] is going to hell because he wants to give gifts on Christmas, and because his job requires working Saturday. Shalom.

A: First, let me say that I empathize with you—you are not alone in recognizing the divergent and often antagonistic views in Messianic (or pseudo-Messianic) circles. I think you have already uncovered your answer with regard to whom you can trust to teach you—or rather, whom you cannot. Paul acknowledged in 1Timothy 1:6-7 that even in his day, “certain [men], having swerved, turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of Torah, not understanding either the things they say, nor concerning what they [confidently] assert.” If you’re confused about what they’re trying to say, it may be with good reason—their discussion is most likely “fruitless.” And without a doubt, the Legalist, and the one who condemns “non-Messianics” to hell should not only be completely ignored, but sternly rebuked. As for your husband, I think you already know to discard the words of those “teachers” regarding his fate. Celebrating Christmas—even working on Shabbat—is not going to send him to hell… not even close! Read more

When Never Being Wrong…

… is Far From Being Right

Q: Hi Kevin. I was wondering: we have some friends here that have gotten into the… stuff [being espoused by a controversial Jewish-roots teacher, i.e.], “special” understanding of the calendar, New Moon by email sightings in Jerusalem, etc. We know [from personal experience that the teacher is] bad news. This time around it’s divisive—for example, [while our congregation observed] Rosh HaShannah on 9/8 with the rest of the world, [our friend insisted it should be] on 9/10 when his email says the moon was seen ([and] therefore all the [following holy] days [are to be observed differently] as well). If you choose to observe some other date, [most Jewish people are] only going to be aware of the dates on a generic calendar, and [if they want to attend a Messianic synagogue service]… you miss the chance to witness to them about Messiah. Have you ever had to try and lead someone out of [this] kind of junk? Thanks!

A: On one hand, I’m sympathetic to the desire to follow Israel’s calendar according to observation, rather than the often inaccurate, traditional Jewish calendar. I have to admit that knowledge of the erroneous nature of the currently accepted calendar makes me yearn for the calendar’s restoration.

In my experience, however, most people’s motivation for such a restoration comes not out of a desire for the restoration of the Jewish people, but out of the desire to be “right.” Sometimes this desire is pure, wanting to honor the Word of God, but more often, I have seen it spawn from negative, anti-authoritarian sentiments, usually aimed at proving Christianity wrong—and in this case, it would be to prove everyone wrong, including Rabbinic Judaism. While I am no fan of rabbinics, my personal desire for a restored calendar does not come from a need to disprove a practice of Judaism and assert an alleged spiritual superiority. All that to say, when dealing with such a person, it is crucial to discern the motives of his heart (Prov.16:2) before confronting him about the division that is being caused. Read more