As we look to answer the question “why Messianic Judaism?”, I thought it would be good to look at be UMJC’s statement, defining messianic Judaism, this being a formalized statement that was crafted by respected leaders in the UMJC and affirmed by the membership. The statement gives us a brief but a good jumping off point to define the why of messianic Judaism and help us start defining the purpose of Messianic Judaism.
Messianic Judaism is a movement of Jewish congregations and congregation-like groupings committed to Yeshua the Messiah that embrace the covenantal responsibility of Jewish life and identity rooted in Torah, expressed in tradition, renewed and applied in the context of the New Covenant.
In the Summer of 2002, at the annual conference of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations the delegates approved the above statement that was written by Dr. Mark Kinzer and Dr. Daniel Juster. In a bold step that came with controversy then and continues today (and maybe for years to come) the UMJC’s leadership decided that as we seek to build a Messianic Judaism for the future that most basic to this process is a self-definition. There are hundreds if not thousands of definitions of what Messianic Judaism is or should be and as one of the larger mainstream voices in the mix, the UMJC put forward the task for a statement to be written and tapped two of the tested and respected thinkers of our movement to write a basic statement on what Messianic Judaism is or more appropriately what it should be. With the various voices out there putting forward misguided and outright anti-Biblical “Messianic Judaism” or “Messianic Movements”, like the Ephraimites and others, it is of great need for there to be a reasoned voice to step forward and say “This is what a true mature Messianic Judaism is” and our task is to make the statement a reality.
My first take on the basic statement is that if you are truly seeking to live in Messianic Judaism how can one find problem with above. Yet there are those who critique it. I say if you can’t deal with a Messianic Judaism made up of Jews (and Judaism-respectful non-Jews) that is firmly grounded in Jewish space, reflecting a desire for Torah living and seeking to honor Yeshua within an identifiable Judaism then there is an option (actually tens of thousands) for you to live as a follower of Yeshua and this is your local Church. Messianic Judaism is a Judaism, if you can’t deal with living within Jewish space then Messianic Judaism may not be the place for you.
Now to a little commentary:
Messianic Judaism is a movement of Jewish congregations and congregation-like groupings
The Messianic Jewish congregation and congregation-like groupings make for the great distinctive that we offer as a movement. Messianic congregations are living breathing Jewish faith centers that are in the midst of the Jewish community wherein our righteous Messiah is glorified within Jewish space where the Torah is honored and the God of Israel is worshipped. In contrast to the “missions model” that involves standing on street corners with tracts, the messianic congregation allows for both the message of Yeshua to be made known to the not-yet-Messianic Jews and even more it is an ongoing Jewish community that is part and parcel of the lives of those who attend. It is the messianic congregation that is the key vehicle for making our Messiah credibly known in the Jewish world. For the congregation-like groupings, I think that these are vitally important to play a role in extending the Messianic Jewish presence throughout our world. I think that we need to supplement our mostly regional Messianic congregations with home groups and chavurot and seek to build these congregation-like groupings into future Messianic congregations.
committed to Yeshua the Messiah that embrace the covenantal responsibility of Jewish life and identity rooted in Torah
This phrase sets out the two vital parts of what being a Messianic Judaism is and that is to understand that our identity is tied to a union of a life living within Torah faithfulness with faith trust in Yeshua, our righteous Messiah. Without the Torah, we may be a Messianic movement of which the Church is a Messianic movement. Without a faith trust in Yeshua as our Messiah, we may be another Judaism and then we would just be an independent movement of Jews. But as we should be we are Messianic Judaism, a Judaism that embraces covenantal responsibility and commitment to Yeshua. To unite our Torah and our Messiah as who we are is the only way we can truly live out a true Messianic Judaism.
expressed in tradition
This may be the most controversial part of the basic statement, the affirmation of Jewish tradition’s role in who we are to be a Messianic Judaism. We must understand that there is not a vacuum of Jewish life from 70 CE to today. Messianic Judaism may have some connection to the Judaism of the early Yeshua believers in that we serve the same Messiah and also like them we are familiar with the teachings of their communities as expressed in the Brit Chadasha, but we are not in all reality a reviving of 1st century Messianic Judaism, we are building a Messianic Judaism within the context of Judaism as it has developed over the last two thousand years. This being said, we need to look at how Jewish people have done Judaism and are doing Judaism today as we build a Messianic Judaism for the future.
renewed and applied in the context of the New Covenant
As the basic statement concludes we come to the role that the Brit Chadasha (New Covenant/New Testament) plays in our movement. Along with the development of Jewish life over the last two thousand years we also have the reflections and guidance of the Brit Chadashah to guide us and to inform our creation of a mature Messianic Judaism. So then we have both the Rabbinical sages and the New Covenant writers to inform us in our living out our lives within a Yeshua honoring, Torah living life within Jewish space. We in essence can build with multiple sources something that is both old, renewed and new all at the same time.
So then we are now 13 years since the ratification of this statement.
Where are we in the process of making it a reality?
What have you done to make it a reality?
What are you going to do to make it a reality?
So now to our task, may we one day be living within a Messianic Judaism that will reflect this vision and this calling.
May God grant us the workers to make it happen and may each of us to do what is needed as we seek to build a mature Messianic Judaism.