The Berean Call
This month’s Q&As were answered by Dave Hunt and were originally printed in October 2005 and June 2007
Question: [You have] objected to the use of the terms “Messianic Jew” and “Messianic movement” as not biblical….I would differ with your explanation of Jesus and His followers not being observant Jews after the cross. The apostles did continue to observe Sabbath after the cross (Acts:13:14, 42, 44; 16:13; 17:2; 18:4, 11; two Sabbaths at Antioch, one Sabbath at Philippi, three Sabbaths at Thessalonica, seven to eight Sabbaths at Corinth). The feasts of Scripture were to be everlasting for the Israelites and could be partaken of by the strangers among them. Most were everlasting observances, and…will continue in the future….God does not change His mind (Lv 23:14, 21; Zec:14:16-19). As a Gentile in a “Messianic” congregation, I have the liberty to keep these Feasts.
Response: I am sorry if there are Christians who want Jews to deny their heritage as the chosen people of God descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were delivered from Egypt and brought into the Promised Land. That is wrong. Yes, the stranger who became a Jew through keeping the law, including being circumcised, was to keep the feasts of the Lord. But for a Gentile to keep those feasts today would be a fraud. His ancestors were not delivered from Egypt by miracles and brought into the Promised Land to inherit it, nor has he joined the nation of Israel.
None of the verses you list declares that the apostles kept the Sabbath but only that they went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. Obviously, that was because the Jews gathered together there on that day, and this was the best way to reach them with the gospel. In the early days, the apostles did observe the law and keep the feasts in order not to offend the unsaved Jews. This was only, however, for the sake of winning them to Christ: “For though I be free from all…yet…unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law…that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor:9:19-22).
There are many warnings against becoming entangled in Jewish observances: “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike….He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it” (Rom:14:5-6). That passage certainly closes the door for Jew and Gentile upon obligatory observation of the Sabbath or any other Holy Day.
The very term “Messianic Jew” makes a distinction between Jews and Gentiles that does not exist in Christ. Am I a “Messianic Gentile”? There is neither Jew nor Gentile; we are one in Christ.
Question: I have read your articles on replacement theology and Israel. You stated that Gentiles observing the festivals and other Torah laws were frauds. Could you please explain?
Response: That is not what I actually said, nor would I accuse those who sincerely think they are doing God’s will of being “frauds.” I would reserve that term for those to whom it properly applies. What I did say was that “for a Gentile to keep those [Jewish] feasts today would be a fraud”—and I stand by that.
The Passover, for example, was clearly to be kept by Jews as a “memorial” of the deliverance of their ancestors from slavery in Egypt and as proof that they were the chosen people of “the God of Israel” to whom that land belongs today. It would, therefore, be improper for Gentiles to celebrate the Passover—and the same is true of the other Jewish feasts. Though all relate to the gospel symbolically, they are specifically for Jews to keep as part of their heritage in relation to the land God gave to them alone.
And yes, I have made it clear that I reject categorically the very word “Messianic.” It is confusing and is not found in the Bible. To speak of a “Messianic Movement,” or “Messianic Christians,” or “Messianic Jews,” etc., is not biblical. Such expressions were never used by Christ, the apostles, or the early church. Yet one gets the impression from “Messianic” believers that they are being more biblical by using that term.
The Hebrew word “Messiah” (mashiah) appears only twice in the Old Testament, both in the same passage (Dn 9:25-26). The Greek form of it, Messias, appears only twice in the New Testament (Jn:1:41; 4:25). In Israel, prophet, priest, and king had to be anointed with a special oil symbolic of the Holy Spirit. The words “Messiah” and “Christ” signified the Anointed One, in whom all three offices would be fulfilled.
In contrast to only four appearances of “Messiah/Messias” in the entire Bible, the word “Christ” (Gr. Christos ) occurs hundreds of times in the New Testament. So it would seem more biblical to refer to “Christ Movement,” or “Christ Christians,” or “Christ Jews” than to “Messianic.” That word purports to call us back to the “Jewish roots” of our faith. Unfortunately, “Messianic-whatever” implies that observing Jewish practices ensures that one will be closer to God—and it often becomes an excuse for imposing the law and Jewish observances upon Gentile Christians. This is unbiblical and something that Paul combated in his epistle to the Galatians.
The gospel is all about Christ, who died for the sins of the world . Everyone, Jew or Gentile, must believe on Christ in order to be saved. All who believe on our Lord Jesus Christ in response to the gospel have embraced the Messiah—but not in the exclusively Jewish sense of the Anointed One who will rescue Israel at Armageddon and reign on the throne of David forever.
The term “Messianic Christian” makes an unbiblical distinction between two classes of Christians: “Messianic” and “Non-Messianic.” Yet Jews and Gentiles who believe the gospel have been made one in Christ. If one is a Christian, whether Jew or Gentile, he has believed on Christ the Messiah as Lord and Savior. There is no other basis of salvation.
The gospel that the apostles preached and that we are to preach doesn’t have the word “Messiah” in it. The gospel is that “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Cor:15:1-8). It would not be more biblical to preach, “Believe on the Messiah, who died for our sins.” The early church was all Jews, but it is never called “Messianic.”
Scripture refers to “Jews…Gentiles…the church of God” (1 Cor:10:32). “Messianic” describes none of these. Jews and Gentiles who believe on Jesus before He comes visibly at Armageddon are in the church; Jews and Gentiles who do not receive Christ as Savior until He appears at the Second Coming will inhabit the earth for eternity—Jews in the special relationship to their Messiah promised to Israel, Gentiles as part of the nations that remain on earth (Rv 21:24; 22:2) along with Israel but distinct from her.
Again, it is presently impossible for anyone to be “Messianic” because all who believe on Christ (Jew or Gentile) are in the church, with Christ ruling as Lord in their hearts. They are part of the bride that will rule and reign with Him eternally. They will not be among the Jewish subjects in the Kingdom over whom the Messiah will reign on the throne of David. To call some Christians “Messianic” is not biblical but confusing.