Wednesday, 29 April 2020
Messianic Jewish Outreach (8)
Last time on this subject, several weeks ago, we were considering Stuart Dauermann's differences between Messianic Jewish outreach and evangelism. Picking up the thread, today we're going to look at the third difference: Jewish repentance is not the same as repentance for Gentiles.
R. Kendall Soulen points to a fundamental distinction that although intrinsic the the Bible - and to be found in almost all its constituent books - is almost completely ignored (and resisted when it is brought up) by the church:
Christians should recover the biblical habit of seeing the world as peopled, not by Christians and Jews, but by Jews and gentiles, by Israel and the nations. ... The Bible, including the Apostolic Witness, presents the distinction as an enduring mark of the one human family, still visible in the church and even in the consumated reign of God. (R. Kendall Soulen, "The Grammar of the Christian Story", The Institute 10, Autumn 2000)
While, as Paul makes clear, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), Jews have sinned by departing from Torah, while Gentiles have sinned by ignoring the revelation of God in the world. As Dauermann says, "If departure from Torah living is the measure of Jewish sin, should not a return to paths of Torah be a sign of Jewish repentance?"
What evidence do we have for this? Dauermann takes us to the Scripture, which he says, "provides ample support."
Nehemiah 9:26,29 Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. ... And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules.
This is confirmed in the New Testament writings, reporting here Stephen's words:
Acts 7:51-53 Stiffnecked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You continually oppose the Ruach HaKodesh! You do the same things your fathers did! Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who told in advance about the coming of the Tzaddik, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers! - you!- who receive the Torah as having been delivered by angels - but do not keep it!
The distinction is emphasised again by Paul, who writes to the Romans:
Romans 2:12 All who have sinned outside the framework of Torah will die outside the framework of Torah; and all who have sinned within the framework of Torah will be judged by Torah.
The point, as Dauermann explains, is simple: "As Jewish sin is measured by violation of Torah, Jewish repentance inckudes a return to obeying God's commands." We need to apply one caveat to this: Torah is not necessarily rabbinic Judaism. Our people have often added to or changed the meaning and even values of Torah, so that while much that is good and faithful to the Torah has been preserved, there is also much that is unhelpful and, in the extreme, denies Yeshua. Discernment and a return to the biblical Torah is required. Let's let Dauermann brinbg this series to an end:
While Hebrew Christians and missionaries have long emphasised the need to repent for rejecting God's messengers, a return to the paths of Torah has not generally been part of the message presented in outreach to Jewish people. In this, the message proclaimed has been un-Jewish and incomplete.
Taken from Stuart Dauermann, "Messianic Jewish Outreach", chapter 7 in Introduction to Messianic Judiasm, edited by David J Rudolph and Joel Willits, Zondervan 2013, pages 9s5-954.