Question: What did you mean when you said "so-called Messianic congregations?" |

TBC Staff

Question [Dave Hunt classic]: You claim that “The Galatian problem remains within some so-called Hebrew-Christian or Messianic congregations today.” You accept your saved brethren in all churches; why are we “so-called”? I do not have any opposition to your suggestion that there is a Galatian problem [but] are you closing the door to accepting us because of some congregations who go overboard in their zeal to be Jewish so that they can reach their families and community with an acceptable Jewish gospel? Do Chinese stop using chopsticks because they accept Jesus, or Asians stop cooking curry? Why can’t you allow us to follow the calling and heritage of our ancestors as with other ethnic minorities…?

Response: I almost wept when I read your letter. I have a deep love for Israel and for Jewish people and have been involved in seeking to introduce Jews and Israelis to their Messiah for many years. The suggestion that I might be even slightly anti-Semitic and unwilling to accept Jewish believers in our Lord Jesus as brethren in Christ is the opposite of the truth and most distressing.

Perhaps the adjective “so-called” was badly chosen on my part. I meant no offense, merely to suggest that “Hebrew-Christian” is neither a biblical expression nor accurately descriptive. Doesn’t it imply that Hebrew-Christians are different from just plain Christians? Why not French-Christians, Swiss-Christians, etc.? The term “messianic congregation” seems an improper designation. Don’t all Christians believe in the same Messiah? Isn’t the Messiah of Israel the Savior of the world? I made no blanket judgment of such groups; in fact, I often speak to and fellowship with them and have never expressed disapproval of such designations.

Of course, your analogy of chopsticks for Chinese and curry for Asians doesn’t fit because neither has any religious meaning. But I don’t deny to Jewish believers in Jesus the keeping of religious feasts. I appreciate your desire to retain your Jewish customs. Paul did the same. My concern is for the tendency of Gentiles to adopt these things. For them, they could have no meaning, and therefore they become a religious connection between Jews and Gentiles, whereas we are united only in Christ (see Ephesians 2). Keeping the Passover is meaningless for Gentiles.

The concerns I expressed were for the false assumption among some groups that the practice of Jewish customs adds a helpful element to Christianity, and the unbiblical adoption of Jewish customs and feasts by Gentile believers, as though that makes them more spiritual, along with the well-meaning but improper attempts to teach the gospel from extrabiblical traditions (i.e., the Seder). It could hardly be helpful to find certain parts of Jewish tradition that seem to support the gospel when so much contradicts it.