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!

So, who can you trust? It seems to me that before we can truly trust someone who “becomes [a] teacher” (James 3:1), above all, we need to know their character—and this cannot be gleaned merely from one’s public (or online) persona. I think a good starting place for determining a teacher’s character would be Paul’s qualifications for overseers or elders, as he lists them in 1Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:7-9—what his temperament is, how he exemplifies integrity, how he treats Scripture, how he cares for others and leads his family… things of this nature.

And yet, we must be cautious. While such characteristics can be genuine, they can also be counterfeited (indeed, some are very adept at hiding their true selves, even in their private life). We would be extremely foolish indeed to believe that the Body of Messiah no longer suffers from “many [who are] both out-of-control empty-talkers and mind-deceivers… who overturn whole households, teaching things which [they] should not, for dishonest gain’s sake.” (Titus 1:10-11) Many opportunists and power-mongers stalk unsuspecting prey in and around the Messianic movement—indeed, the whole Body—and their motives are not always readily discerned. We should trust only people of impeccable character to be our teachers—and to do that, we need to get to know them personally. Admittedly, such an endeavor is not always practical or possible—for example, if you are separated by a great distance. Nevertheless, by virtue of one’s reputation, associations, and the fruit of their personal lives and public work, a person’s character may be discerned… even when obscured by a mesmerizing torrent of “many words” (Proverbs 10:19).

There are indeed trustworthy teachers out there (I hope I am one of them!). Just use wisdom, being careful to look beyond the surface—both in what they teach, as well as the content of their character (2Corinthians 11:13-14).

What do you think? Weigh in with your comments below.

This “Messy Messianics” article was originally published in Messianic Jewish Issues. Messy Messianics, a recurring feature in Messianic Jewish Issues, is provided as a resource for helping troubled friends back from the fringe.

13 replies
  1. Mary Beth Johnson
    Mary Beth Johnson says:

    Thank you, Achi. I hear you loud and clear. Your word was very encouraging and true. Any chance you would be moving to Southern Oregon, lol? I pray your week is blessed, and an early Shabbat Shalom to you and your family.

  2. Patty
    Patty says:

    Absolutely! Very practical! Additionally practical is the Holy Spirit, by Whom we are assured with peace, and further knowledge and fellowship with the ONE Who loves us so lavishly.

  3. Mona
    Mona says:

    As you so rightly point out… “There are indeed trustworthy teachers out there (I hope I am one of them!). Just use wisdom, being careful to look beyond the surface—both in what they teach, as well as the content of their character ”
    As with anything, act as the Bereans did and search the scriptures to see if they are speaking truth. If they don’t or they’re twisting the message or meaning. I believe that the Torah was written in plain meaning that there was nothing inferred with any secret message. As a ‘Shammash’ in my congregation, I do a little newsletter that I share and put out to teach all of us what is written, understood and revealed to us on how to follow Yeshua HaMashiach.

  4. Newell
    Newell says:

    One place to start is with their Statement of Faith. Almost all teachers that are online will be on a site that posts a Statement of Faith. This statement will at first allow you to see that their world view is consistent with yours and that your core beliefs are going to be nourished and not thwarted. Second this statement should give guidance
    as to who holds them accountable, if they are accountable to God only: then it falls upon you alone to discern if their teaching is true, where if they are accountable to a board of some type this can help keep them from becoming the next Koresh or Camping. Most importantly beware of any teacher that will not publish a Statement of Faith, as this is a sure sign of a charlatan, one who does not want to be accountable to even their own word, and will surely lead you far away from the path Yeshua has for you.

  5. pastor luisito destreza
    pastor luisito destreza says:

    Hi Kevin- I agree to what you’ve said, a real disciple or teacher should be known by the fruit of his doing. let the Torah reads you. before you read , and teach its content. everyone should be a light to among others,and that reflects your doing,and behavior towards others.

  6. Stephen
    Stephen says:

    So, just how important is keeping the Sabbath? The Torah says that the penalty for the breaking of the Sabbath is death. Has Yeshua HaMashiach freed us even from this?

    • Nina
      Nina says:

      Torah is very clear about keeping Sabbath and those who do not are cut off from the camp. To suggest it ok to not keep Sabbath and to continue in Pagan worship thru christmas is very shocking on a site such as this. Why did Israel get scattered in the first place? DISOBEDIENCE! This article is promoting disobedience to Torah. I urge all readers…Pray and read for yourself and stop listening to other people for your wisdom…me and these words included!

      • Kevin
        Kevin says:

        Isn’t it also very clear that Shabbat violators are to be put to death at the hands of their fellow countrymen (cf. Numbers 15:32ff)? Won’t you be a Torah violator as well, headed for hell, if you see someone violating Shabbat and fail in your duty to kill them?

        We need to be very careful how we apply Torah in an individualistic manner — one that does not take into account the reality of Israel not being a united, theocratic nation in the Land.

        I’m not promoting disobedience to Torah in the slightest — what I am promoting is a healthy, balanced, non-individualistic, non-judgmental approach to the only kind of Torah-keeping that is available to us at this time: limited.

      • Aggie Henley
        Aggie Henley says:

        Nina, I celebrate “Christmas” but not the way secular folks do. I don’t do all the gift stuff, and I most certainly do not put up a tree. I don’t go to parties and eat huge meals, etc. But I do set out a nativity scene, and light my candles. I take time to thank G-d for sending His son Yeshua so that we might be saved. I know the date is probably wrong, but why let Satan keep us from giving thanks, and being joyful?
        Judaism is full of traditions that are not scriptural, but nevertheless worthy of our attention. Is it ever wrong to praise Adonai? He wants our hearts, not our rigid rituals, empty of spirit.
        As I learn more about G-d’s appointed times, it becomes obvious that they cannot be carried out. Sukkot, for example, takes place when there is sometimes a foot of snow on the ground here in Montana, and at night it is29 degrees. Ok, so I don’t set up a tent. But just knowing that it is an appointed feast gears my mind toward the Jewish and Messianic people in Israel, and it informs my prayers.It also gives me a great sense of the riches of G-d, even if I cannot participate, and I become whole.

  7. Tammy
    Tammy says:

    Mona I couldn’t agree with you more sister. We MUST always be Bereans. Isn’t there One Head Who is Messiah and we all are the body who assist Him by ministering for Him? It seems there are sooo many who are trying to become another Moses. My hubby says there is One Shepherd and we all are His sheepdogs guiding, building, encouraging, and learning from one another. We all have something Abba has given to us individually that others in the body need. Don’t discount anyone! I agree character is everything too. We all need great discernment in these days to be patient and wait for those we can learn truth from and for those we can have like-minded fellowship with. Experience is the best teacher as we serve a wonderful experiential YHVH.

  8. Kate
    Kate says:

    “Celebrating Christmas—even working on Shabbat—is not going to send him to hell… not even close!”

    Christmas is ABSOLUTELY pagan. No doubt about it. YHVH is very clear about the keeping of HIS feasts, not man’s.

    Not keeping Shabbat carried a death sentence!

    How can you make it sound like these are no big deal?

    • Kevin
      Kevin says:

      What’s a big deal is teachers who promote legalism without a Scriptural leg to stand on. Applying Torah individually in diaspora was never God’s plan. I love the Torah, but I am also painfully aware of the limited degree to which it can be kept in our current state as a people. (Please also see my response to Nina, above.)

  9. Aggie Henley
    Aggie Henley says:

    One of the things I really like about Perfect Word is that there isn’t the back-biting and arrogance that I’ve encountered on some other Messianic websites. It’s one thing to disagree in a debate, with love, and it is completely a different story when believers think they are so right that showing disrespect is acceptable. Also, people find it easier to be downright nasty when they aren’t face to face, hiding behind technology.
    When it comes to teachers, sometimes we do have to rely on this technology, especially if there is no local congregation for 400 miles. So how do we judge, how can we really know? First off, we become autodidactics, spending more time than the average believer in the Word, and in prayer. Yeshua knows the situation. But He also doesn’t leave us hanging. We have to raise the standard we live by when it comes to accountability. We also need to become well versed, so to speak, in hearing His voice, so that when we seek guidance, we aren’t led astray. The Holy Spirit teaches us, and has compassion on those who aren’t blessed by a local congregation or teacher. Is it dangerous territory? You bet. All the more reason to be circumspect, diligent, and faithful. Do I get discouraged at times? You bet. But we do have a measuring line. If it doesn’t match up with the Word, then it isn’t right. What if your interpretation of the Word isn’t right? See where I’m going? We simply can’t give up. I think we need to trust that Yeshua is and will be faithful. As long as we are giving it our very best, we will continue to grow, from faith to faith……


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