Messianic Apologetics

Addressing the Theological and Spiritual Issues of the Broad Messianic Movement

Messianic Lifestyle

There is a great deal of significance attached to this day in Jewish theology, as it is most often emphasized as a time when God looks down from Heaven and reconsiders where He stands with people. It is a time where we are to rejoice and celebrate, remembering His goodness to us, but also begin a sober examination of our humanity, and consider faults and sins that must be rectified.

The Day of Atonement for Messianics can equally be a challenge, because of a possible emphasis on celebration at Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah, instead of a serious attitude and call to reflection from the sounding of the shofar. Many Messianics likewise have difficulty reverently focusing on their relationship with the Lord, and in considering where they need to improve in their spiritual walk. For us, while recognizing that our ultimate forgiveness is indeed found in Yeshua, we still need to know that we are humans with a fallen sin nature, and that we need the Lord to empower us for good works. We need to be reminded that without Him, we are nothing, and we need to intercede for the salvation of others.

Today’s broad Messianic movement does adhere to some form of post-resurrection era validity to the Torah of Moses. At the very least, today’s Messianic people believe that the weekly Torah portions should be read and contemplated, as we let its accounts inform our understanding of how God works in history, and how we need the salvation of Yeshua the Messiah. By virtue of holding its main worship services on Shabbat or the seventh-day Sabbath, observing holidays and festivals not adhered to by most of today’s Messiah followers, and being concerned about clean and unclean meats—today’s Messianic people do inevitably have some conflict with a great deal of contemporary Christian thought and theology, which teaches that the Torah or Law of Moses has been abolished.

If there is any area where today’s Messianic movement tends to absolutely excel, it is with integrating a wide selection of the mainline Jewish traditions and customs for observing the Sabbath. Regardless of their background before coming to Messiah faith, religious or secular, today’s Messianic Jews tend to remember Shabbat with the common elements of lighting candles, breaking challah, drinking wine, and attending synagogue services with traditional liturgy and Torah readings. Non-Jewish Believers who have been led by the Lord into the Messianic movement, seeking to embrace more of the Hebraic and Jewish Roots of their faith, have also taken a hold of Shabbat, the opportunity for rest it offers to the people of God, and many of the significant traditions that can make the Sabbath a very holy and sanctified time.

How the Messianic community is to properly keep Shabbat, or any Biblical commandment for that matter, is a mystery for many. There are many issues and questions that have to be weighed and taken into consideration when establishing a proper halachic orthopraxy for oneself, one’s congregation, and the movement as a whole. In the Jewish community, whether you are Orthodox or Conservative, keeping the seventh-day Sabbath is an important sign of who you are as a Jew. It is the sign that God gave the people of Israel from Mount Sinai to distinguish them from the world.

Over the past few years, I have become consciously aware that some serious challenges and tension are in store for the Messianic movement. We are going through some growing pains, and issues are on the horizon that too many are unprepared for. The world at large is certainly not getting any less complicated, and globalization and the mass market mean that old ways of doing things may not necessarily work any more in the Twenty-First Century. Both the Jewish Synagogue and Christian Church are beginning to recognize this—which means the responsibility for Messianics is twice as high as it is for your average Jew or Christian. We need to be a people stirred to action, and guided by the Holy Spirit as we prepare to enter into a new chapter of our development.

Each one of us, who find ourselves attending a Messianic congregation or assembly, brings our own series of expectations, needs, and wants. Jewish Believers in Israel’s Messiah have certain needs—and indeed requirements—as they involve the local Messianic congregation not only being a “safe space” for them to maintain their Jewish heritage and traditions, not assimilating into a non-Jewish Christianity, but most especially as a place where they can bring their non-believing family and friends to be presented with the good news of Yeshua. Non-Jewish Believers called into today’s Messianic movement, from evangelical Protestant backgrounds, bring a selection of needs as they become involved in Messianic congregations. Some of these concern a genuine, supernatural compulsion to reconnect with their spiritual heritage in Israel’s Scriptures, participate in Jewish outreach and evangelism, and to some degree reproduce the First Century experience of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers fellowshipping in one accord in mixed assemblies. Other non-Jewish Believers entering into the Messianic movement, do so only for a season, usually being attracted to Messianic congregations because of the music, Davidic dance, intriguing teaching, or the food—but then later move on to something else.

Observing and/or adopting kosher eating habits is admittedly one of the most difficult things for many Messianic Believers to do. There are many theological arguments made from the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) that when viewed a particular way, can seem to suggest that the importance of the dietary laws was rendered inoperative via the work of Yeshua the Messiah. Once a person has overcome many of these theological hurdles in his or her Messianic quest, and sees the validity of the dietary laws in the Bible and how the Apostles continued to eat a degree of kosher, the question of how one is to follow them in a Twenty-First Century world needs to be asked.

Much of the Messianic community has promoted what it considers to be “Biblically kosher,” which primarily begins and ends at not eating pork and shellfish. In traditional Judaism, however, what it means to be kosher is much more involved than observant Jews not eating certain meats labeled to be “unclean.” Kashrut involves classification of unclean meats to be sure, but also involves some significant traditions regarding the butchering of animals, how meat is to be prepared, what can and cannot be eaten together, separation of utensils and cookware—as well as a variety of theological and philosophical reasons proposed for the institution of these Biblical instructions, and their subsequent interpretation and application over the centuries by Jewish religious authorities and diverse Jewish communities.

It should not be a great surprise to anyone studying or evaluating the kosher dietary laws, principally contained in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, that the question “Is eating kosher really healthier?” is something commonly asked. There is little doubting how the Hebrew Scriptures are materialistic, in the sense that normal human activities like eating or drinking, are not to be looked down upon or spurned.

There is little doubting that within the broad Messianic community, there can be huge debates over the application of the Torah’s dietary laws. Most frequently, as has been our family’s experience, the perspectives surrounding kashrut have been too quickly polarized into the realms of those who keep “Biblically kosher,” versus those who keep “Rabbinic kosher.” Those who keep “Biblically kosher,” are those who often have eliminated pork and shellfish from their diet, but at the same time will often buy commercially processed meat at the supermarket, will not look for a hechsher or approved Jewish seal on many food products, and will eat out at most restaurants (perhaps even including fast food). Those who keep “Rabbinic kosher,” are those who will only purchase traditionally slaughtered meat, will look for a hechsher on most food products, will not eat out at most restaurants, and will observe practices such as not mixing meat and dairy, having multiple sets of dishes and utensils.