ASSIMILATING JEWISH CHRISTIANS
By Daniel C. Juster, Director

The Beginnings of the Messianic Jewish Movement

In the early 1970s, a significant number of Jews committed their lives to Yeshua and came to the conviction that they should call themselves Messianic Jews rather than Christians. There were several reasons for this. One was the history of institutional Christianity and its impact on the Jewish people. From a Jewish perspective, Christianity was a movement of semi-paganism, oppression and anti-Semitism. We wanted to project ourselves in such a way that the Jewish people would take another look at Yeshua without the barriers of their pre-formed perceptions of Christianity. In addition, we really wanted to promote the truth that Jews who come to faith in Yeshua are still called to identify and live as part of the Jewish people. Romans 11:29 states that the Jewish people are the subjects of an irrevocable election and calling from God. Romans 11:5 identifies Jewish believers in Yeshua as the saved remnant of Israel.

We wanted our people to see that embracing Yeshua does not mean betraying and abandoning our Jewish heritage. If we do not live as part of our people, we are not showing ourselves as the saved remnant that sanctifies the whole (Romans 11:16). Planting Messianic Jewish congregations was considered a central part of the vision. We also saw Jewish believers in Yeshua living and identifying as Jews as a key to ushering in the last days and the catalyst towards all Israel being saved. Some of us also understood how important it was at the same time to live out the truth that we are one with the Body of believers as a whole. This was somewhat controversial since we were the only movement that professed oneness with the Body of the Messiah that did not use the word Christian as our self-designation.

The history of the last 35 years has been one of great gains in the Messianic Jewish movement; hundreds of congregations have been planted in the United States, hundreds more in Europe, Russia, and Ukraine and about a hundred in Israel along with scattered congregations in South America, Africa, and Australia. All these grew from a mere handful of congregations before 1975.

The Present Situation

Now it is 2009 and we still find that the great majority of Jewish believers in Yeshua are in Christian churches and identify themselves as Christians. In addition, this great majority is not living a Jewish life and is often strongly resistant to the Messianic Jewish call. They and their children are assimilating into the Gentile world and do not strengthen the saved remnant of Israel, but are instead weakening the numbers of the Jewish people. It is likely that later generations may not identify as Jews in any way.

On one occasion I spoke to a Jewish missions leader who recommended church membership to Jewish Yeshua-believers. He was totally blind to the diminishing of Israel/Jewry that was taking place. Assimilation was not a problem for him. I pointed out to him that if it were not for assimilation, there would be hundreds of millions of Jews today. Wars and pogroms alone where many were killed cannot explain the demographics. We are a small number of only 13 million according to mainstream Jewish statistics. Messianic Jews who count children of Jewish fathers add many millions to these figures, but it is still a small number in world population terms.

Are we willing to lose what may amount to hundreds of thousands of Jews in churches that are assimilating? (There are of course exceptions, and there are some examples of Jews in churches committed to Jewish life.) Is there a mission to them, something that can be done to recover them and their children to be part of our people?

Some are Threatened by the Message of Jewish Calling

The message of Jewish calling proclaimed by Messianic Jews is a threat to assimilating Jewish Christians who perceive it as a message that rejects their experience and commitment to the Christian churches. Pastors are also threatened; they think that if their Jewish members accept this message, they will lose them. Many of these Jewish Christians have had a positive experience in the churches. They enjoy and appreciate the Christian heritage, much of which is worthy to be appreciated! In addition, many were won to Yeshua through the powerful witness of Christian friends. Modern Jews have many more contacts with Christians than with Messianic Jews. If these Christians display the reality of Yeshua in their lives, it is natural that these Jews follow them to their churches.

A very few Messianic Jews have been so greatly pained by this process that they want to exhort Christians not to win Jews to Yeshua. They say that only Messianic Jews should do this so that the new believers stay within the Jewish world. This is not biblically defensible. Christians are called in Romans 11 to make Jewish people jealous.

The Answer: A Mega-shift in Church Leadership

I am convinced that the answer is a shift in the pastoral leadership of the churches. Church leaders must adopt a doctrinal foundation that insists that their Jewish members identify and live as Jews. This was anticipated in R. Kendall Soulen's book, "The God of Israel and Christian Theology." In this monumental study, Soulen approvingly quotes Jewish Orthodox theologian Michael Wyschogrod, who argues that we will not see full repentance for anti-Semitism in the churches until the pastors of the churches teach their baptized Jewish members that they are called to live Jewish lives based in the Torah. Without church leaders teaching the reality of the Jewish calling, the Jewish Christians in the church will not take that call seriously.

Recently, I have been in contact with four Jewish pastors of large Christian churches who have come to the conviction that this is true. They have embraced their own Jewish identity and are now seeking to engage their Jewish Christian members to join them in creating space for Jewish identity, Jewish life patterns and celebrations while at the same time embracing the culture of Christianity for the majority of the members. One has actually planted a Messianic Jewish congregation affiliated with his church. I have been a secondary influence, but I have to give primary credit to Coach Bill McCartney and Raleigh Washington of Promise Keepers and Road to Jerusalem. As an African American Christian leader, Raleigh has been especially effective. He first points to his own identity as an African American and its importance to him. Then he notes that Jewish identity in Yeshua is more important because it is mandated in Scripture for world historic purposes.

It is far too early to judge this yet, but what might happen if it became a trend? Let us dream! What if, from such an orientation, there were more and more Jews in churches who identified as Messianic Jews and who joined together in Messianic Jewish fellowship groups connected to the churches and also connected to the Messianic Jewish synagogues? Could we even see their children returning to their Jewish calling, and some making aliyah (becoming Israeli citizens and residents)? Could some even train to be leaders in Messianic Jewish congregations? Such a change could strengthen the whole movement.

Let Us Not Abandon the Assimilating Jewish Christians!

I for one, am not willing to abandon the assimilating Jewish Christians in the churches and see them lost to the Jewish people! Many are mature Christians. I am not willing to abandon the hope that there can be a shift in church leaders' understanding. Such efforts as Toward Jerusalem Council II, our effort to see the churches officially align with the Messianic Jewish movement, and Road to Jerusalem that has similar goals (led by Coach McCartney and Raleigh Washington), could be instruments in facilitating this "Mega" shift. At any rate, a great change is needed. If so, and some of these would come to Israel, we would be much closer to that 144,000 in the land of Israel described in the Book of Revelation chapter 7. That would be a great step toward "All Israel being saved," and "Life from the dead." (Romans 11:25-28, 15)

By Daniel Juster


Dan Juster leads the overall ministry Tikkun International. Donate to Tikkun International.

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Comments:
12:36 07Oct09 Andrew Yliniemi -
What does assimilating into the Torah for the Jewish people mean? Just celebrating the feasts? Or is it voluntarily coming under the Law again? I have heard it said that Messianics have a problem not getting trapped under the Law. (Even some Western Gentiles have this problem.) It's a very dangerous thing to get 'caught' under the Law again. For instance, here beside me is my Power New Testament which has a Jewish swing to it. I love it except when it notes 1 John 2:3 (And by this we know that we have known Him, if we keep His commandments) saying that "To John His commandments refers to all those in the Tanach, the OT." In that case I am disqualified from knowing God because my commandments are to believe in Jesus and love people which John later states (1 John 3:23). When we become one NEW man in Yeshua, it wouldn't make sense for the Gentiles to became an old man under the old Jewish tradition and for the Jewish people to remain old under their old tradition. I would love to celebrate Jewish feasts and such and I love blowing the Shofar at church, but it is a danger for every Christian to revert back to the Law instead of being led by the Spirit. And if we are all led by the Spirit, why would He tell Jews to go back to the Law and Gentiles not to? "As you have received Him so ye walk in Him." We received Jesus by grace, faith, repentance and obedience all by the Spirit. Let us continue in this walk. I comment in fear and trembling before God when I write this because I know God is setting up Israel for His planned purposes. And it would be lovely for all the Jewish people to live in Israel as a strong people since that is the land that God gave them. But I also want them to continue their walk in Yeshua by being led of the Spirit and not Law keeping.

  -- Dr Juster replies: First of all, there are many more commandments in the N.T. than to just follow the Spirit. Yeshua said that we are to teach them to observe all his commandments and how to take his words in Matthew 5:17, 18 in a way that does not seek to apply the Torah in the New Covenant is very difficult.
The historic church did seek to apply the universal commands of the Torah in the New Covenant for all, especially Reformed thought. My own approach is that we are to seek to apply the Torah in a way that fits the New Covenant order. I have a whole book on this that has been through many printings. It is called Jewish Roots. It gives my sense of this.

12:53 07Oct09 Sue -
Well, here is an example of another thought on Jews being Christians; Christians were the Gentiles who followed Christ after hearing the good news preached to them by the Messianic Jews who recognized Yeshua as the Messiah.

16:45 07Oct09 anonymous -
I so wish, as you do,that this would happen. So many problems arise first within families -- such as my own. When I die, if none of my grandchildren desire to reach out to their Jewish ancestry -- our lineage will die with me. If this should happen, the great mystery in my life will be -- Why was it so important to ABBA to have me remember it? If HE had called me out when my children were small, they would have been reared as Messianic. However, even though I don't understand His Divine Reasoning, I know that His Plans are always perfect.

  -- Dr Juster replies: With prayer and more, it is not over. Who knows what they will discover in the future.

18:16 07Oct09 John Carter -
As always, The Jewish beleivers are leading the way into the future. This is an outstanding article that will certainly prick the hearts and minds of many. It is the correct time for this as we are quickly moving toward the fulfillment of many end time prophecies regarding Israel and more specifically , Jerusalem. Very soon the Word of the Lord will go forth FROM JERUSALEM and not to Jerusalem. Your article is a Wake Up call for those that are still inside the mainline churches to come out and live their lives as Jews.

18:28 07Oct09 S. Joy Glick -
Thank you for a well thought out and provocative article. This is something I've thought about for quite some time. Yes, we can dream. The perception of my Christian stepmother has been that I have gone back to the law and that I should not be a practicing Jew. In order to bring Jews who believe in Messiah Yeshua into Messianic Jewish groups and synagogues perceptions of Christians need to be changed. I agree with you that it starts with pastors and teachers. Bill McCartney and Raleigh Washington can help in this endeavor but we must all do our part to bridge the gap that exists by talking with Christians about our faith and why we practice as Jews.

19:02 07Oct09 Pelham Gross -
Thanks Dan! I am especially thrilled to know that Coach and Raleigh are on the mark still, since their move back to Promise Keepers. What you lay out, I have no doubt, is God's plan and strategy. My only "sideways" concern has to do with what I keep sensing in my spirit as "LATER THAN YOU THINK! LATER THAN YOU THINK! LATER THAN YOU THINK." I know, as Raleigh says, we have to keep plowing concrete, but I'm beginning to think God's getting ready to blow-up a bunch of it to help us out. There's an old farm joke about the old farmer who would go around and whack his mule up side the head. Looked terribly cruel to the neighbor. Farmer said, he won't do a thing you say until you get his attention. 'Glad God made the clock--and the calendar, so to speak.

19:49 07Oct09 anonymous -
I agree whole heartedly with you! We attend a fellowship that is affiliated with the Assemblies of God. When we can (which is not often enough!) we attend special services at El Shaddai Congregation in Frederick, MD. I strongly identify with both. One of my fondest memories is as a child, watching and listening to my Grandfather sitting at the kitchen table talking of King David, Samuel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Apostles of Messiah. He reminded me of Father Abraham. It has been said that my Grandmother's people came from Bylorus area of the former USSR and that she was from a Jewish family. Perhaps, just perhaps, the fire that is in my bones from Israel emanates from this. In regards to the workings of the Spirit of God, we can try to run, but we can never hide! Both Christian and Messianic Believers working, worshipping and praying together will happen; I feel God Himself is behind this momentous event at the end of this age.

02:55 08Oct09 anonymous -
My grandmother was Jewish. My grandfather was not. Where does that put me? Truly assimilated and, I like to think, somewhere in the midst of the following passage: "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father." Ephesians 2:14-18 NKJV

03:00 08Oct09 Jonathan -
From a halachic point of view, it depends on whether this was your maternal or paternal grandmother. If maternal, then both your mother and you are halachically Jewish. If paternal, then your father is halachically Jewish and you are biblically Jewish, as you would be with any one of your four grand-parents. You are a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The thrust of Dr Juster's article is that he is saying that many people like you, biblically part of the Jewish people, are being called out to be identifiable as such and taking your place spiritually within Israel, living as Jewish people.

05:12 08Oct09 Adrian Freed -
Praise the Lord. I agree with you all the way.

13:35 08Oct09 Patricia J. Kessler -
I was raised as a Methodist and after knowing Jesus through personal salvation at age 40 I came into life as true Christian. It was in 2003 that I was first introduced to the Messianic movement and at that point the Joy of my Salvation began to manifest in new ways after the initial grieving associated with delving into Christian history and seeing what we had lost when we departed from our Jewish roots. Torah for me is a joy for I do not look at it as 'law' but as Instruction which is the more accurate translation. Being Messianic has also opened Yeshua's teachings to me in ways I never understood as a Goy. I look forward to the 7 Feasts each year and observed them as a Messianic Jew. I feel certain I actually am of Jewish heritage which has been buried because of various pogroms; notably the one in Europe/Russia around 1860 to 1920. My ancestors came to the U.S.A. in 1885 with no historical background except they sailed from Germany in the Baltic area. Trying to trace them has so far proved fruitless. I am of the persuasion that non-Jewish Christianity has much to gain by returning to their Jewish roots.

  -- Dr Juster replies: I think we all agree with the Church returning to its Jewish Roots, but we do not see this as Christians embracing and keeping all the Sabbaths in the Bible; this was never given as a responsibility for Gentiles. However, some Gentiles are called to join Israel, and we have a paper on this. All are called to respect and understand biblical roots and to uncover those Christian practices that are really rooted in Judaism.

13:52 08Oct09 Francine Turgeon -
I believe that there will come a time that revelation of the "One Man" will become widespread. Jew and Gentile coming together as one ... and living the way that Yeshua did. In order for more Messianic Jews to embrace their Jewish roots and practices, the Christian needs to be taught the Jewish way of life and learn to think like a Hebrew. Very few Christians are even aware of the Festivals and Feasts that they are to celebrate as the Jew does. I am very hopeful that the time will come when all things will be realigned properly and in the timing of G-d.

14:42 08Oct09 Estee Zimmermann -
Amen! As the Gentiles are called to provoke Jews to jealousy, I have to say (as a Gentile) that nothing provokes me to jealousy more than learning from a Messianic Jew. The Feasts are latent with history, purpose, symbolism. They are, after-all, instituted by the Lord, our story is wrapped up in them! They are His times and seasons for ALL people and should be recognized by all believers, Gentiles and Jews alike. How the Gentile Church would benefit and be blessed by recognizing the weekly Shabbat rest, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur ... wow, life is TRANSFORMED once you have revelation on these things!!
Romans 11:11-12 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, HOW MUCH GREATER RICHES WILL THEIR FULLNESS BRING!
This is the hour we are in, may we recognize it! The Jews are called to be a royal priesthood, may we honor our Jewish brothers and sisters and join in the ancient ways, celebrations and feasts. It is a privilege!! Our King is a Jew after all!!

  -- Dr Juster replies: I think understanding these matters is important, but I do want to maintain that Gentiles are not responsible for keeping the actual dates as sabbath days or to do the celebration in a post Biblical Jewish synagogal way.

17:22 08Oct09 Susan Stanage -
I have a Messianic friend who fellowships at my Church off and on and is very fractured. This article has helped me to understand her heart's desire to see the Body become One from both the Jewish and Gentile Believers' sides. I plan on sharing this with my Pastor who is Pro Israel as is the rest of the congregation.

19:03 08Oct09 Vic -
The article will create interest and no doubt debate. The answer to Christian responsibilty as to the Law is fully covered in the book of Galatians. Anyone who has a desire to seek the truth can read for themselves after praying for guidance and understanding, use a commentary if you must and the answer should be brought to light.

00:10 09Oct09 Spyros Karalis -
Terrific article! If this was followed by Church leaders, it could change all the streams of Church History! We could see the Resurrection of all Jews to the faith of Yeshua. I hope that could be the timing of God!

22:56 09Oct09 Levi -
Where we're at, our experience with Messianic Congregations has sadly not been a good one. Nor is their reputation very good with the Body of Messiah at large. Legalism, isolationism, self-righteousness and even disdain for the Church and all their Christian "errors" seemed to be the norm. To achieve what you wrote, the Messianic movement will have to do its own house cleaning and separate itself from such attitudes. It has been our experience that many in the Church have been willing to embrace Messianics, as we are, far more than some in our own movement. Cleaning up our own act, as well as reaching out to the gentile Believers in Messiah will have to be achieved first before we'll have the unity of which you wrote.

11:45 10Oct09 Dr. Nicholas Marziani -
Also of significant benefit to congregations that seek to encourage Jewish lifestyles among their members of Hebrew descent is the positive effect upon the Gentile contingent. This was the thrust of my doctoral study, concluded in 2003, that noted a remarkable increase in Gentile Christian appreciation and appropriation of Old Testament wisdom and grace by virtue of explicit association with Jewish believers. The Gentile church itself, no less than Jewish believers, has much to gain from this kind of quality interaction, graced and enabled by the Holy Spirit.

22:08 10Oct09 A.T. Emet -
Perhaps we can receive new wisdom and understanding of the issues raised in the article by asking new questions based on three themes: identity-maturity-destiny of the Jewish people and the Gentiles. For each people group: How to re-covenant ourselves to G-d? What is our calling from G-d? How do we become a people called by His Name? What is the destiny we have been called to fulfill? How do we move from where we are as individuals and collectively from where we are now towards our destiny? What is the Father's Business that G-d wants us to engage in? What does an army of G-d's righteous look like and do? Based on instructions in Deuteronomy, what does G-d describe as obedience and pleasing Him/blessings and disobedience and displeasing Him/cursings? Both affect the Jewish people keeping and remaining in the land. What transformation and fulfillment does 'Turning back to G-d' look like and are we willing to be forerunners? As we see or realize the position and calling of each people group,the Jews and the Gentiles, we can forsake all that hinders us from loving each other and focus on completing the race well as we have been called to do.

11:24 12Oct09 Margarita -
Your article is a wonderful way open our minds to the new beginning of the Messianic Age. I did not know that I was descendant of the Sephardic Jews until now, and this has been the greatest revelation to me after seeking for so many years the truth of my heritage in Yeshua HaMaschiah. My prayer everyday is to be next year in Israel, my soul, and spirit city of my Redeemer.

13:46 27Oct09 Marta -
Having just returned from my yearly visit to Israel I was made acutely aware this year of the assimilated Jewish Christians. Not all, Baruch HaShem ,but many of the Jewish believers in the Land do not want to be associated with their Jewish heritage when it comes to their faith. They will argue that Jesus did away with the law and they want no part of it.
This creates a bigger rift between the believers and the Orthodox community. The Orthodox fight hard to dissuade their people from becoming Christians because their whole identity is being robbed from them in the name of this gentile god Jesus.
If believers in the Land (and in the US) want in any way to reach out to the Orthodox community they must give up the notion that being Torah observant is being "under the law". This is just one more lie the adversary uses to keep the Good News from the hearts of God's People.

16:52 29Oct09 Peter Hartgerink -
I am a Gentile believer in Yeshua but have had many contacts over the years with Messianic Jews and friends of Messianic Judaism. I so appreciate Dr. Juster's perspective on the different callings of Gentile and Jewish believers. I found the article very refreshing and agree that Christian leaders (many of whom have little awareness of these issues although they are usually sympathetic to Israel) would do well to encourage Jewish believers to consciously adopt a Messianic identity. When Jewish believers adopt a Jewish identity while remaining open to the validity of the Gentile expression of faith as taught by Paul, you enrich us (Gentile believers) as well. We need you to be who you are.

09:52 09Jun12 Don Bozack -
You can say with certainty that there is much quibble in the New Testament about the observation of the law. Was the aim of this argument to tell us that we must continue to practice Mosaic law? If this is so, why did Jesus go through all the bother of manifesting himself and being crucified? Hebrews 8:13 shows that the old covenant was made obsolete. "In that He says 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete."
Yes, the apostles who were Jews may have continued in some of their practices, but as the verse continues,"Now what is obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away."

  -- Webmaster replies: I think you fail to grasp the kernel of Dr Juster's article. It is not in any way that he is advocating Jewish practice as a means of salvation. After all, Sha'ul makes it clear in Galatians 3:21 that this was never the point of the Torah - that being, the way that those called and chosen in the Mosaic covenant were supposed to live their lives.

Galatians 3:28 says that there is "neither Jew not Gentile, neither male nor female, neither slave nor free, for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua". Since G-d is clearly not blurring gender boundaries (contrary to some) and there are no queue of men forming up to have babies, this is a picture of the miracle of the one new man: three groups of people, who are not supposed to blur and become homogenised, are nevertheless working together and being part of the body of Messiah. If you take every man and woman and make them identical in appearance, form and function, then the new man is no miracle. Similarly, if you take Jew and Gentile and make them identical in appearance, form and function, then the new man is no miracle.

Finally, on the particular issue of Jew and Gentile, let me point you to another of Sha'ul's writings:

1 Corinthians 7:17-24 Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.
Jews are to remain identifiably Jewish: without being in bondage to ritual and tradition, of course. Gentiles are remain identifiably Gentiles, similarly without being in bondage to ritual and tradition. We remain as we are when we are called for "the calling and gift of G-d are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29). This means resisting the presure of assimilation in either direction.

11:38 29Oct12 Brooklyn -
Thankyou for these comments; I am a CATHOLIC / GENTILE looking for my roots and am realizing the Messianic Jewish movement -- FINALLY!


Also in this issue of the newsletter:

Eitan Shishkoff: Come Out of the Cave!
Eric Morey: Kehilat Poriya Update
Asher Intrater: God's Transforming Presence
Asher & Betty Intrater: Prince & Princess