An Ecclesiological Concern with Messianic Judaism

Let me be very straight-forward (as if that’s unusual).

Messianic Judaism is something that makes me feel… uncomfortable, not for ethnic or cultural reasons, but theological ones. I say “uncomfortable” because, although I’m not sure I could clearly articulate my thoughts very well at this point, I have a sense of theological uneasiness in regards to this movement. I may be able to identify some of my concerns, e.g., Messianic Judaism seems to be a practical outcome of viewing Israel and the Church as two separate peoples of God (clearly an unbiblical concept). But I need to do some more thinking about what’s causing this theological nervousness.

Nonetheless, I’d like to share an excerpt from a blog post (via PyroManiacs) by a Jewish Christian named Steve Kreloff who articulates rather well what is probably my central concern with Messianic Judaism.

One of the great truths of the New Testament is that the Body of Christ is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. It is an unbiblical concept to have a local church that is distinctively Jewish or Gentile (by necessity the early church in Jerusalem consisted of all Jews because the Gospel had not been presented to the Gentile world). Thus, the nature of messianic synagogues—with their unique Jewish distinctions—violates the very spirit of fellowship among believers of all backgrounds and cultures.

The Apostle Paul told the Ephesians that Christ has reconciled both Jews and Gentiles in one body through the cross (2:16). Through His death on the cross Jesus Christ abolished all the Old Testament ceremonial laws that made Jews distinct and separated them from Gentiles (2:15). As a result He has “made both groups (Jews and Gentiles) into one” by removing all spiritual distinctions between believers (2:14, 15). While maintaining ethnic and social differences, the Bible declares that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). By encouraging messianic synagogues, Messianic Judaism promotes division in the Body of Christ that is contrary to the teachings of the New Testament.

Rather than establish a distinct Jewish assembly, local churches should bring together both Jews and Gentiles in membership. To remove Jewish believers from Bible-believing churches is to essentially rob the Church of the richness of fellowship God intends Jews and Gentiles in Christ to enjoy. All spiritual fellowship should be based upon our relationship with Christ—not our former religious backgrounds.

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2 thoughts on “An Ecclesiological Concern with Messianic Judaism

  1. Thanks for sharing! I face a similar uneasiness. I have to say it makes me pretty uneasy that traditional dispensationalists and Messianic Jews have much agreement in eschatological terms. It seems nigh impossible that someone could be so far off in ecclesiology and still understand exactly what will happen in the kingdom. Thoughts?

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    • Hey, Josh. Thanks for reading. And thanks for the comment.

      – – – – –

      This post is even more interesting to me now, because I literally just got back from a two hour conversation with two Messianic Judaism “pastors” (rabbis?).

      After talking to them, I think I want to recognize that this issue is messy. The whole idea of Messianic JUDAISM definitely makes me uncomfortable. But a church that understands and emphasizes a legitimate Jewish heritage is different.

      I don’t want to argue that Jews have to become gentiles to enter the Church. But my biggest concern is rebuilding the wall of hostility, the law and commandments (Eph 2:14-15). We don’t want to make it seem as if gentiles have to become Jews either if they were to join these congregations. We don’t want divide the body of Christ with these Jewish congregations when Christ has done such a work so as to bring them together. And, particularly by calling these assemblies synagogues or referring to it as Judaism, I’m afraid it communicates something other than the ONE people of God, the Church.

      – – – – –

      Regarding your comment.

      You’re right. Ecclesiology affects eschatology because ecclesiology exposes how one understands the Church’s relationship to Israel. And that affects eschatology. Does God have a separate program for Israel still in the future? Or, are God’s “not yet” promises to be fulfilled in the Church (in my opinion, including ethnic Israel), the true Israel.

      But this issue is probably even more obvious in terms of hermeneutics. Such a view reviews a skewed hermeneutic, which affects one eschatology even more than ones ecclesiology I think.

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