The Effect of Mysticism and Gnosticism on the Messianic Movement – Part 1 – 01 March, 2018

The Messianic community today, as many of us genuinely know, has a great potential to enact a sizeable difference in the lives of many Jewish people and evangelical Christian Believers. Already in our generation, we have seen many scores of Jewish people come to faith in Messiah Yeshua, and many Christians embrace their Hebraic Roots and a life of Torah in a very tangible way. There is no doubting the fact that our Heavenly Father is accomplishing something very unique and quite special with the contemporary Messianic movement. We could very well be in the early stages of the final period of time before the Lord’s return, when the Apostles’ question regarding the restoration of Israel’s Kingdom will finally get answered (Acts 1:6)!

As a still-developing and still-emerging faith community, today’s Messianic movement faces many questions. We are wrestling with the issues of seeing Jewish and non-Jewish Believers come together in mixed assemblies, and inevitably with this come some clashes of ideology and worldview. Jewish Believers are obviously coming to faith in Israel’s Messiah, and in the Messianic movement do not have to give up on their Jewish heritage and (mainline) traditions. Non-Jewish Believers, coming out of evangelical Christianity and embracing a Messianic lifestyle, enter into the Messianic movement for a variety of reasons. Presumably, the common thread for all of us should be that we are all trying to grow and mature in our faith, abiding in the Lord (John 15:4-5; 1 John 4:15).

No one should be under any allusions that bringing Jewish and non-Jewish Believers together as one in Messiah Yeshua is an easy process. It is not! Many mature Messianic people are rightly aware of the fact that our faith community has a treasure trove of Jewish and Christian insights to consider from over the centuries, which are spiritually edifying and will aid us in the times ahead. But, many of us are also aware that there are Jewish and Christian theological positions and ideologies, which are not only not Biblical, but can be very damaging to the work of the Holy Spirit in our day.

All of us, regardless of our backgrounds, are to be seeking truth, and eliminating theologies, ideas, and attitudes, which are clearly in contradiction to the ways of God. The Lord has given us as born again Believers His Holy Spirit, not just so that we would be able to commune with Him, but also so that we may be empowered to discern between truth and error. As Messianic Believers, we should have the Holy Spirit convict us when we fall short of God’s standard contained in the Torah, and the Spirit should be leading us all to keep God’s commandments, study Scripture, and adequately apply Scripture for our modern times. We should also have the Spirit to distinguish who false teachers may be, and what the problems are with their teachings. The Apostle Peter attested that there will be false prophets circulating in the Last Days:

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1).

While Peter’s words are sometimes applied by Messianics to refer to some false, non-Biblical Christian teachings—they could just as well refer to certain Messianic teachers and/or populist figures, who are leading people astray into aberrant teachings, or worse, onto a path of falling away from faith in Yeshua. Let not any of us, in arrogance, think that we have “arrived” or “understand all things.” Let us be willing, as Messianic people, to put our feet to the fire sometimes and examine the errors that we as a community might have among us, which require an analysis and response.

One particular aspect of the broad Jewish theological tradition, the phenomenon of Jewish mysticism, is something that gets many Messianic people rightly disturbed. Many Messianic people, when hearing a teaching or viewpoint expressed from the Kabbalah, or quoted from the Zohar, for example, might get upset and a bit unnerved. It is unfortunate that there is a growing acceptance, in not only sectors of the more fringe and disorganized Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement—but also within established Messianic Judaism itself—to (highly) consider the Jewish mystical tradition. The problems that this can cause are immense—the foremost of which is that ideas from one sector of Judaism from the Middle Ages, can be anachronistically passed off as though somehow they are the ideas and worldview of Yeshua and His Apostles in the First Century C.E. Beyond this, some of the ideas and philosophies, represented by Jewish mysticism, might not have too much of a basis in rational or reasoned thought, and more of a basis in a Gnostic-style of spirituality.

The Jewish mystical tradition and associated ideas and beliefs, have notably never had a huge foothold within mainstream Synagogue teaching. Yet, today’s Messianic Believers need to begin to be much more discerning, and think much more critically about this. We will not only need to evaluate a few things originating from Jewish mysticism which have “slipped in” unnoticed, but as we consider what is in store for us in the future, and things which we must be a bit more careful of.