A non-denominational movement restoring our Judaic roots
The label "Messianic" that we use today is simply a term describing those who are seeking to understand our faith in its historic, Judaic setting. Messianic's are not seeking to be denomination-alized, nor do we have any organizational hierarchy. Messianic believers, historically called "followers of the Way" and "Nazarenes," were understood as a sect/denomination within Judaism (Acts 6:7; 15:5; 24:5; 28:22). It is with this understanding that the Scriptures breathe new life after 1800 years of western theology.
Messianism (Judaism & Evangelical) is quickly expanding as thousands of believers are learning about the historic roots of our "Christian faith." Messianic's are still learning, finding our footing, and restoring our Hebraic/Judaic roots. Since the 1970's, a growing number of Messianic 'groups' have emerged. While there is some disagreement between the Messianic groups on doctrine, specifically related to Torah, virtually everyone who is Messianic generally agrees with the following distinctives/patterns (organized in this MESSIANIC acronym):
M Messiah. Yeshua is the Messiah who was prophesied to come to redeem His people Israel. Yeshua perfectly fulfilled over 300 prophecies which include the time He would come, His ministry, and His death (Isaiah 53).
E Evangelism. Evangelical churches, from which many new Messianic believers come, are historically known for spreading the gospel. However, many Messianic's make extra effort in trying to reach unbelieving Jews with the good news of Messiah. Most evangelicals do not know how to effectively share the gospel with Jews, but this is a point of emphasis with many Messianic congregations. The Messiah came to redeem all of Israel, and it is through this gift of salvation that God extended to all mankind - to "whosoever."
S Shabbat. A deep appreciation for the seventh-day Sabbath (called Shabbat in Hebrew). There is a variance of application, but it is universally understood as a day of delight that Yehovah gifted to man. This gift was given to all mankind through Adam (Genesis 2:3; 4:3-5; Mark 2:27), 2500 years before it was reiterated to Moses. Most, but not all, Messianic believers meet on Shabbat. Others continue meeting on Sunday often because there are no Messianic congregations in close proximity. (Find a Messianic Congregation)
S Synagogue. There is a great understanding that what we now call the 'Christian faith' was historically the 'Jewish faith'. First-century believers continued to meet in synagogues as long as they could, but then continued most of the synagogue practices once removed (Shabbat, immersion, reading Torah, officers, fellowship meals, etc.). In fact, there were hundreds of thousands of early Jewish believers (Acts 1:15; 2:41, 47; 4:4; 6:7; 8:6-8; 9:31; 21:20; James 1:1; 2:2). Many of the customs churches observe today are an effort to "reverse engineer" what is read in the Scriptures. However, this has furthered the divide between ancient Judaism and modern Christianity since many practices are not fully elucidated in the New Testament as the reader is already expected to understand the customs from a Hebraic perspective. The so-called "Church Fathers" furthered the divide between the ancient synagogue and western church-practice.
I Interpretation. Messianic believers seek to understand the Scriptures the way the original Jewish audience heard and understood them. A strong argument can be made that Messianic's seek an original understanding in a way rarely found in the last 1800 years of western Christian thought. This might be the case, not from a higher sincerity or study intensity, but from referencing different sources with a more Hebraic perspective. This can be summarized in the following:
- Concrete. The Hebraic lifestyle and mindset was concrete, not abstract. The Jews language, thought process, and spiritual teachings were concrete in nature - that which can be touched, tasted, seen... As Western theology emerged in the third century (the Church Fathers), so did a more abstract view of the teachings in Scripture.
- Context. The teachings by Yeshua and the apostles must be contextualized in the Second Temple period in which they lived. This includes studying and referencing contemporary Jewish and rabbinic literature as an aid to deepen our understanding of the setting behind the New Testament teachings, particularly the literature written 200 years before Yeshua begins His ministry.
- Continuation. The New Testament should never be understood in isolation of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the Torah (teachings and instructions) in particular. The dictionary for the New Testament is the Old Testament -- the Tanakh.1 It was never God's desire that we should understand the New Testament in isolation from the Old Testament..
A Annual Festivals. There is near universal agreement that we should keep Passover, and general agreement that we all should keep Yehovah's seven festivals (feasts). (Some also include Purim and Hanukkah [John 10:22-23] as Yeshua did.) Some keep the biblical festivals in their most basic form, others more traditionally. Most Messianic's do not celebrate Good Friday, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. Yehovah's feasts are:
||Matthew 26:2, 17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 2:41-42; 22:1, 7-20; John 2:13, 23; 6:4; 11:55; 13:1-30; Acts 12:4; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; 7:10-16 (dealing with ritual purity for feast observance)?; 10:1-15 (four sons), 16-17; 11; 11:23-29
|2. Unleavened Bread
||Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 2:41-42; 22:1,7; Acts 20:6
|3. First Fruits
||James 1:18?; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23
||Acts 2; 16:12-13?; 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8
||Matthew 24: 30-31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 11:15
| Days of Repentance
10 Days of Awe
||Romans 13:11-13?; Ephesians 5:14-16?; Matthew 3:11 (see below).
Greek: baptize with water unto repentance (with water = במים).
Hebrew Shem Tov: baptize in the days of repentance (in the days of = בימי).
If the Hebrew is correct, it could be a reference to either the 10-days or 40-days of repentance (Teshuvah) preceding Yom Kippur (Yemei Ratzon). If the 40-days, it's plausible that Yeshua was baptized & then fasted for the duration of this period (Matt 3:16-4:2).
|6. Day of Atonement
||Acts 27:9-10; Romans 3:25-26; 11:26-27
||John 7:1-2,8,10,14,37; Acts 18:19-21; Revelation 20:6-15; 21:1-3
| Last (Great) Day
N New Testament. We firmly believe that the New Testament teaching didn't originate as a new religion called Christianity, but was a continuation of historic Judaism with the new understanding that Yeshua (Jesus)2 was the Messiah. Further, we believe that the New Testament letters contain the application, the halakhah, of the Old Testament - elucidating righteousness for the people of God.
I Israel. God did not abandon, forsake, or forget His foreknown people Israel. Israel is God's elect (Deuteronomy 7:6; Isaiah 45:4; Amos 3:2; Acts 13:17; Romans 11:1-2; 1 Peter 2:9-10; Revelation 7; 14; etc.). When He gathers His elect from the four corners of the earth, He will make a new covenant with them (Jeremiah 31:31-33).
C Covenant. God made a blood covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 17:1-21; 22:15-18) that preceded the Instructions given to Moses for Israel by 430 years (Galatians 3:17). While there is some debate on whether Messianic's should keep the Instructions/Torah today, the Abrahamic covenant is completely independent of this discussion, and is without question in effect today. This covenant includes four main elements in which God will:
- make a great nation of Abraham,
- give Abraham's seed a homeland (Israel),
- bless those who bless Abraham's seed,
- require circumcision as a sign of this blessing.
While non-Jewish believers are not 'required' to be circumcised, most Jewish believers circumcise their sons. As can be seen in the believing communities, the issue was only whether non-Jewish believers should be circumcised, not whether Jewish believers should (Acts 15:1-32; 21:17-26). Jewish believers keep the sign of the covenant physically while non-Jewish believers keep the sign of the covenant spiritually (Colossians 2:11). As Galatians clearly points out, circumcision has no relevancy to anyone's salvation, but as it also points out, the Abrahamic covenant is still very much in effect for Jewish believers (Romans 3:1-4; 9:4; 11:29). Just because a Jew becomes a believer in Yeshua as the Messiah, it does not annul his physical genealogy and promised blessing.
The above nine distinctives / patterns are generally agreed upon by all Messianic believers. All in all, Messianic believers give diligent effort to understand the Scriptures in their original Hebraic setting, which often produces a richer understanding with many a "ah-ha" moments :) May you be enriched with understanding as you continue in your pursuit of truth.
1 The Hebrew word Torah (תורה) means "instructions, direction, or teaching", not "law". It comes from archery where a person is trying to hit the mark (as opposed to missing the mark [sin]).
2 There is some debate on whether Jesus' Hebrew name was Yeshua or Yahshua. One can learn more of on this debate by researching the "sacred name" debate. However, for purposes of this site, we use the name Yeshua. Further, there is debate on the pronunciation of God's name from the tetragrammaton YHWH or YHVH. For purposes of this site, we use the name Yehovah based on YHVH. There are many good loving believers who use the name Yahweh based on YHWH (among other pronounciations).