How do you assess the Messianic Jewish movement – what are the things we can learn from them and where are they in error?


I am sure you do not need me to tell you, as you already know, that we can learn from any sincere-minded group of believers, even if we do not agree with all of their doctrines or practices.  This applies to the Messianic Jews.   From our Pentecostal friends we can learn about how to better keep in step with the Spirit.  From our Catholic or Orthodox friends we can learn about spiritual practices.  From our Messianic Jewish friends we can be more in touch with the Jewishness of Jesus and even the Jewishness of Christianity.  We cannot fully understand Jesus if we lose touch with the fact that he was a practicing Jew his entire life. We can learn, both from the aspects of Jewish tradition he practiced, and from the smaller range of traditions he rejected.
But… our Messianic Jewish friends will tend to swing the pendulum too far, suggesting or even demanding that we accept certain Jewish practices into our Christianity.  We ought to, as they say, eat the fish and spit out the bones.  But, in particular, from these groups the “fish” will be a reminder of how Jewish Jesus was.  This will help us to put his sayings into context, but it will also inform our worship and even our theology.  We may find ourselves honoring the names of God more, or appreciating the relevance of Jewish holidays, even for Christians.  But we should not be intimidating into reversing the changes in worship initiated by the primitive, apostle-driven church, such as worshiping on Sunday or the lack of necessity of observing Sabbath or the eating of certain foods or of male circumcision or tithing.
So, let us remind ourselves of Coll 2:13-23, in which Paul warned us against the excesses of Messianic Judaism, reminding us that such practices do not, in and of themselves, lead to greater righteousness, but let us also remember that Paul was himself Jewish and he observed many Jewish practices until the end.
John Oakes

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