What’s the purpose of the Messianic movement?
I came across a Facebook thread this week that showed to me again the confusion about the purpose of the Messianic movement.
As someone who has been in the Messianic movement since childhood, I find a lot of his reasons for leaving the Messianic movement come down to misunderstanding what our purpose is.
The Messianic movement doesn’t exist to confirm modern Judaism
“I got into the Messianic movement, due to my desire to confirm to the Jewish faith (as it exists today).”
In my experience, this sentiment often leads to apostasy.
Setting out to confirm an existing religious sect is as wise and fruitful as a Southern Baptist searching the Scriptures trying to confirm Southern Baptist doctrine. Or a Sadducee setting out to confirm their now-obsolete brand of Judaism. The whole premise is wrong.
Our goal must be seeking God and Messiah above everything else. If we place other ideas, philosophies, and even religions above that, we are creating a kind of idol.
Yes, Messiah closely aligned with Hillel Pharasaic Judaism. And in the Scriptures, Paul identifies himself, post-Damascus, as a Pharisee. But does that mean the Pharisees were correct in everything or that Pharisaic Judaism is God’s Approved Brand of Religion? Of course not.
If your desire is simply to confirm a particular Judaism, you’re not seeking God or Messiah first. You’re seeking religion first, and probably an identity within that religion; apostasy.
And for folks looking to confirm modern Judaism by practicing Messianic Judaism, you’re in for a world of hurt. Messianic Judaism is rejected by the Jewish world as anathema: worshiping Messiah as God is considered idolatry, and therefore Messianics and Christians are seen as idolaters.
This leads a person to say, “Well, I know Judaism isn’t the problem – since I’m trying to confirm it – so the problem must be with the Messianic ideas. Ideas like Messiah being the gateway to God, Messiah giving eternal life, granting forgiveness of sins, Messiah’s sacrifice on the cross, and Messiah’s divine and eternal nature.
A person pursuing that is quickly led away into apostasy.
As one Messianic blogger wrote in his final post announcing his apostasy, “Judaism is more important to me than Yeshua.”
The Messianic movement is not a movement to confirm modern Judaism. The Messianic movement exists to confirm the identity of Messiah, not to confirm a particular kind of Judaism.
The Messianic movement doesn’t support low views of Messiah
“I was leaning strongly towards the Messiah being a created being instead of the eternal word of God. It wasn't until I read that the early Jewish believers had 'rites' like the Orthodox Churches that I truly repented of all that.”
In this gentleman’s case, he got into the Messianic movement because he had a low christology – that is, a view of Messiah that sees him as something less than the gospels make him out to be – and he believed the Messianic movement would be a good home for that belief.
Some folks have hangups about the exact nature of God. Others fear gentile influence with regards to the trinity or other formulations of God’s oneness. For these reasons, some move into a position that is easy to hold intellectually, but difficult to hold scripturally: that Messiah is a prophet and human messiah, but not God.
It’s easy to hold that view intellectually: God reveals to us in the sh’ma that God is one. Yeshua, then, becomes a king, prophet, and messiah, but any worship of him or prayer to him becomes idolatry.
But the problem with this view is the Scriptures themselves:
God reveals to us in the gospels that Messiah is more than a man; he’s divine and one with God. He’s worthy of worship, praise, honor, power, glory – the kind befitting only God himself. Revelation speaks of the throne of God-and-the-Lamb, as if God and Messiah are singular. Even the old Messianic prophecies of the Tenakh – like Zechariah 14 – say that it is Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey – the personal name of God, Yahweh – who sets his feet on the Mt. of Olives, vanquishes Israel’s enemies, and brings world peace. In Isaiah, God has become my salvation, every knee bows to God and confesses him. In the New Testament, God becomes salvation (in Hebrew, Yeshua), and every knee will bow to him and tongue confess him as Lord. (Philippians 2:11)
To hold a view that the Messiah isn’t divine, isn’t one with God, isn’t an emanation or image of God, well, we must eventually throw out the New Testament.
The Messianic movement exists to confirm the identity of Messiah as both Lord and God. Anything less is a departure from what we’re about.
So far we’ve discussed what the Messianic movement isn’t: it’s not a welcoming home for low christology, nor a home to simply confirm modern Judaism.
In the next post, I’ll address this man’s comments about Messianics and liturgy: are we Messianics opposed to liturgy? To rote prayer? More when I return…after shabbat. Shabbat shalom.