Dan Juster

Director
Tikkun Ministries International
 
 
 
 
 
 
"Some Messianic Jewish streams strongly embrace outward signs of the power of God ... and some do not."
 
 
Read this article in French

This accusation is raised against some Messianic Jewish congregations. It is directed at those who embrace modern worship styles and gifts of the Spirit, by:

  • Jewish people who do not follow Yeshua.
  • Other Messianic Jews who prefer more traditional forms of worship.
  • Those who do not accept modern claims of the supernatural dimension.

The Messianic Judaism expression is accused of being inauthentic - a Pentecostal Christianity with superficial Jewish garb. Ironically "Pentecost", (the Greek term for Shavuot/Feast of Weeks) refers to the inauguration of the Messianic Jewish community - 120 Jewish disciples receiving flames of Holy Spirit fire in Acts 2:1-4.

The accusation of "Pentecostalism" as used by our critics, vaguely refers to the movement that started at the beginning of the 20th century. It grew out of the healing revivals and holiness movement of the late 19th century, with Methodist roots. The Pentecostals experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and then worked out a theology that cohered with their experience of physical healing, tongues, interpretation and prophecy.

Pentecostals fostered many denominations1. They emphasized exuberant classical hymns, invitations to receive salvation and the baptism of the Spirit and other manifestations like falling in the Spirit. Holiness codes were established - avoiding movies, alcohol and make up; and fostering modesty. When one looks at the Messianic Jewish world, one sees little that looks like classic Pentecostalism. So the critic must have something else in mind when he uses the term.

Roots in the Jesus Movement

The real roots of much of the Messianic Jewish Movement were in the Jesus Movement. This amazing outpouring of the Spirit for evangelism swept millions of young people into the Kingdom in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Many of these new believers were Jewish. They helped formed the nucleus of Messianic Jewish congregations established in the 1970s and 1980s. The Jesus movement developed a whole new style of exhilarated worship led by musicians who were strongly influenced by the newly popular folk/rock music. These forms have since become commonplace world-wide. Initially the Pentecostals largely rejected the Jesus Movement. Over the decades they accepted more and more of its trends, as the charismatic and Jesus movements merged.

In the 1970s, some early leaders of the Messianic Jewish movement consciously embraced the new forms of worship, along with developing Hebraic themes and flavor. Indeed, the young people were attracted by this new way of worshiping. This is hardly Pentecostalism. It was much more a youth revolution in style. Many Messianic Jews also embraced Jewish liturgical worship. This combination of modern worship style together with Jewish liturgy, is the most common expression of Messianic Jewish worship in the West.

In Israel, embrace of the liturgical is very limited. This gives critics some of their grounds for claiming that we are merely Pentecostal. Though many Israeli Messianic Jews believe their Israeli identity makes synagogue expressions irrelevant, I feel that this is not the case.

Embracing the Power of God

Some Messianic Jewish streams strongly embrace outward signs of the power of God. A number in the West and in Israel believe that when the Spirit moves, there will be manifestations of His power such as those found in the 1st century Messianic Jewish movement: healings, prophecy, tongues and interpretation. The movement in Ukraine under Boris Greshenko is the most noteworthy for this, and Boris leads the largest Messianic Jewish congregation in the world with over 1600 people.

Are these manifestations really of the Spirit? One cannot judge by external appearance. It is important that the fruit and the reality of healings and miracles be tested by empirical evidence. At any rate, these aspects are more akin to third-world power Christianity, not classic Pentecostalism. Psychiatrist John White, in When the Spirit Falls with Power, has written the best book on the universal aspects of manifestations in the Spirit. With no prior influence from other revivals, some of the manifestations in vastly separated locations are very similar. In his view, we can therefore say that such manifestations are objective signs of the Spirit and not mere culture.

Some Messianic Jewish congregations embrace these manifestations, and some do not. In any case we must all seek the genuine anointing, presence and work of God's Spirit.

Messianic Jewish Applications

One can see from this analysis that the accusation of Pentecostalism is at least partially unfair. I believe God has led many to employ modern styles of musical worship to attract and embrace a new and young generation. This need continues. In addition, the real power of God is crucial to the advance of Messianic Jewish faith. However, I would agree with the critics in one regard. If our worship has no distinctive or classical Jewish expressions, we can look as if we are not distinctively Jewish at all, but more akin to universal modern Christian expressions of faith. In that, I think, there is an important criticism for some groups. If Messianic Jews do include such expression, celebrate the Feasts, keep the Sabbath and include the Hebrew language, then I think the criticism becomes baseless.

Let us not be shaken by this accusation, which can be quite shallow. But rather let us seek a mature response that embraces the leading of God's Spirit!

1 The African American Church of God in Christ, the Assembly of God, the Church of God, Cleveland, the Pentecostal Holiness Church, and finally the Four Square Gospel Church. In England, there are two main-line Pentecostal denominations: the Assemblies of God and the Elim Pentecostal Church.

By Daniel Juster
Dan Juster leads the overall ministry Tikkun International Donate to Tikkun International.
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Comments:
11:59 03Jul14 Pastor Mark McLellan -
Geza Vermes in his groundbreaking and authoritative work "Jesus the Jew" (Macmillian Publishing Co., Inc., New York 1973) made the statement that "a distinctive trend of charismatic Judaism existed during the last couple of centuries of the Second Temple is undeniable." He goes on to make the case that the center of charismatic Judaism was none other than Galilee. This is intriguing when we remember that Yeshua, the Galilean, begins his ministry in Galilee and it is described in the terms of charismatic power (Matt. 4:23-25). Why should we then be surprised? There were other noteworthy charismatic rabbis in Galilee like Rabbi Honi the Circle-Drawer and Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa who also did miracles. It appears that Yeshua's ministry and legacy is thoroughly Charismatic and should be seen within the context of Galilean streams of charismatic Judaism versus non charismatic forms of Judaism such as the sects of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Essenes. In fact, may I be so bold as to say, any Messianic Judaism which denies the charismatic power of the Holy Spirit, is deficient at best and aberrant at worst. Yeshua the Messiah was not only pro Israel, pro Jewish, and pro Torah, He was and is pro charismatic as seen in His offer to all of us His powerful outpoured Spirit!

  -- Dr Juster replies: Great comments. I think that what you are writing is true. I am familiar with the ancient figures as well. However, I don't think anyone ever operated in the kind of direct immediate power like Yeshua. He was in a class by himself

12:28 03Jul14 Steve -
Outstanding article and analysis of the details. This is an extremely old argument among Jews, see Acts 23:8-10. It seems those who say that there are neither angels nor spirits are still criticising those who believe otherwise. King David was criticised for his dancing and celebration before the Lord and his response was unequivocal and efficacious, see 2 Samuel 6:13-23.

13:18 03Jul14 Jay Axtell -
Excellent article. Speaks to some issues with some in our congregation. For me, timely and Spirit-led.

17:21 03Jul14 John Peacher -
When the Spirit really moves there is an undeniable Presence and manifestation in the very atmosphere. As a child I can remember attending meets when the hair on my arms would tingle and tears would flow freely. A truly unforgettable experience. I would think on those meetings for weeks as a child.
I still do at 60 years of age. I have experienced the same feeling in my private time but not in meetings for years. Several years ago I went to a church camp where I had a deep experience with the Spirit of God. The altar where that happened had been torn from the front of the church. I stood and wept ... There was no replacement altar.

22:42 03Jul14 Doris -
May the Lord bless you, Im sorry for this false accusation. Many people - even Christians - judge in a superficial way. Surely

02:17 04Jul14 Elsje Stroh -
Thank you for this article. I pray for the Messianic Jews and your insight gives me direction in my further intersession. May our Lord Yeshua strengthen His church all over the world and sharpen their discernment. We need His precious Holy Spirit to guide and teach us.

16:58 07Jul14 Linda Hammer -
I find it a little disheartening that "pentecostalism" is used pejoratively. I am a pentecostal Christian - baptised in the Spirit, Praise the Lord!- and I believe this is why I have such a love for the Jews and my Messianic brothers and sisters - because the Spirit puts it there. Whereas I have noticed many Evangelicals have more of an attitude of "the Jews aren't any more special than any other people group that needs the Savior."

  -- Dr Juster replies: I agree. Most of those who make this argument see Pentecostalism as mere culture and do not deal with the real power of Gods challenge to the whole church that the Pentecostals and Charismatics (now growing closer together) pose. Yes

that need not be adopted, but the criticisms of both Pentecostalism and Messianic Judaism are unfair.')

16:05 20Jul14 Eva Haglund -
I think you can both be open for the Holy Spirit and to keep a Messianic Jewish style in congregations. Worship for instance is important in Christian meetings and it opens up for the presence of God and the Holy Spirit. I think you can have both songs for instance in English but also in Hebrew but with translation in. It is important to keep a Messianic Jewish way and not leave this style and at the same time be open for the Spirit.
The Bible talks about sign and wonders, speaking in tounges and healings but it does not mean that the Messianic Jewish way is taken away. We need it. I think all Christians need the Hebrew roots. We need the power of God today but we must remember that for instance signs and wonders for instance is not more important than God as a person. He needs to be in centre as person and that is why worship is so important because it has to do with the relation. We need prophetic words but we must remember that love is bigger than all prophetic words. 1 Cor.12

17:14 01Sep14 Shirley -
I'm shocked to hear that Israel and Tel Aviv have such a homosexual problem but I guess that I shouldn't be. These are the end times and I shudder to think how bad it will get before Yeshua comes for us ... I will continue to pray for Israel ... God help us to stay true to his Word.


Also in this issue of the newsletter:
Daniel Juster's article in French: Le Mouvement Messisnique N’est-Il Que Du Pentecotisme En Habits Juifs?
Eitan Shishkoff: Availability
Tikkun Network Celebrates 30 Years
Asher Intrater: The Israel Land Question
Moti Cohen: Syria's Hell