Messianic Apologetics

Addressing the Theological and Spiritual Issues of the Broad Messianic Movement

One area that receives some discussion, in various parts of the Messianic movement, is whether or not the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)—which we usually refer to as the Torah—should ever be called the Law. A statement that can be heard from time to time in our Messianic faith community, is: The Torah is teaching. The Torah is not the law. It is said that Torah just means Teaching or Instruction, and should never be referred to by the term law.

Today’s broad Messianic movement is of the conviction that the Torah or Law of Moses is relevant instruction for God’s people in the post-resurrection era. This is a conviction firmly rooted within the teaching of Yeshua the Messiah, who explicitly said that He did not come to abolish or eliminate the Torah (Matthew 5:17-19). Yet throughout much of Christian history, and even more so today, many theologians and examiners have argued that Moses’ Teaching has been rendered inoperative, and/or that it was only to be followed by those in the pre-resurrection era. Many of today’s Messianic people, while having a witness of the Spirit that God’s commandments are to be written on their hearts and minds via the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27), are not equipped well enough to answer common arguments delivered by evangelical Protestant family members, friends, acquaintances, or even various pastors or teachers that they know—when they quote verses to them from the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament), in support of the premise that the Torah of Moses has been abolished.

“Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?’ And she said, ‘I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.’ Then the angel of the LORD said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.’ Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, ‘I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.’ The angel of the LORD said to her further, ‘Behold, you are with child, and you will bear a son; and you shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. He will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of all his brothers.’ Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God who sees’; for she said, ‘Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?’” (NASU).

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:26-28, NASU).

“Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’—therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken” (Genesis 3:22-23, NASU).

“‘Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city” (Genesis 11:7-8, NASU).

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.

This publication, Salvation on the Line: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity, affirms a high Christology. Not only does it affirm a high Christology of Yeshua being God, it very much defends the view that while understanding all of the intricacies of Yeshua being God is not required for salvation, recognizing Yeshua as the Lord (YHWH/YHVH) of the Tanach Scriptures (Old Testament) most certainly is required for salvation (Romans 10:9, 13; cf. Joel 2:32).

Matthew 23:2-3 is a passage which has been used to justify everything from today’s Messianic Jewish Believers following almost every single halachic ruling of the ultra Orthodox and/or Chassidic Jewish authorities and their literature, to Messianic Believers completely disregarding all forms of ancient and/or modern Jewish tradition in their approach to the Torah or Law of Moses, totally dismissing works like the Mishnah or Talmud as valuable historical records. Unfortunately, for whatever reason or series of reasons, moderating the extremes on Matthew 23:2-3 has not been too permitted in the Messianic movement of 2013—for it is easy to see the negative spiritual and theological fruit of the extremes of Matthew 23:2-3, either (1) representing a widescale dismissal of all forms of Rabbinic Jewish tradition and custom, or (2) requiring a blind obedience to Orthodox Judaism on the part of contemporary Messianic Believers. A third, depolarizing alternative to the current interpretations widely touted, desperately needs to be presented.

Mark and Margaret Huey, and John McKee, each talk about what it means for today’s Messianic movement to see itself as recapturing the First Century faith experience in the Twenty-First Century. (1) Mixed assemblies of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers; (2) a polytheistic and immoral Roman Empire; (3) small home fellowships of Believers.

The One Law/One Torah sub-movement has been the cause of a great deal of legalism, judgmentalism, and condemnatory attitudes that we should not want to see present among born again Believers. The One Law/One Torah sub-movement, while having rightly encouraged non-Jewish Believers to pay attention to the Torah’s Instruction, has been responsible for invoking spiritual dynamics from various Torah passages—which we do not want to see present in our Messianic congregations and assemblies.