I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven (Acts 26:19).
The great apostle, Sha’ul-Paul, defended his ministry on the basis that he was true to a vision from heaven, to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom to the nations, and to go first to the Jew first in this mission. The completion of the Gospel witness to Jews and Gentiles would issue in the return of the Lord and the fullness of the Kingdom. Paul also made it clear that he laid foundations as a wise master builder and warned others concerning how they should build on this foundation. Some would build with good material that would last, but others would build on wood, hay and stubble that would be burned up.
The Messianic Jewish Vision from Heaven
I believe that in the early 1970s God revealed an apostolic vision from heaven. I was not the first to receive this vision, but I was one of the early leaders in the contemporary Messianic Jewish movement. Let us call those leaders who received this vision and had leadership in the Messianic Jewish movement from 1970-1975 the fathers of our movement. What was the vision of the fathers? It was to be instruments to plant congregations that would be effective in bringing Jewish people to the Messiah and that would disciple these Jewish believers to remain part of their people. A congregational people movement for Yeshua was to grow up within the Jewish community. I spoke in those years concerning the importance of discipling Jewish believers in their covenant responsibilities since the Bible says that the gifts and call of God (to Israel) is irrevocable (Romans 11:29). Again and again Paul makes it clear that Israel still counts and that Jewish believers are both part of the larger Body of Believers and part of the destiny and purpose of the nation of Israel. This teaching became foundational in the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations and continues to be foundational to this day. It was also foundational to the formation of Tikkun International.
As for those from the nations, the Gentiles, these were most welcome as equal partners in this task if they received a calling from the Holy Spirit to give their lives in a primary way to reach the Jewish community.
Passion for the Salvation of the Jewish People
The fathers of the modern Messianic Jewish movement were passionate about the salvation of Jewish people. They shared something of Sha’ul’s great anguish of heart for his people, a heart that could wish to be cut off for the sake of their salvation (Romans 9:3). Passion for outreach to the Jewish people indeed was foundational to all the fathers and to the whole movement in those days.
We can do many good things, but if we miss the center of our first priority, to see Jewish people come to faith in Yeshua and to fully enter the Kingdom of God, we will lose our primary reason for being. Nearly twenty years ago, my dear colleague in Israel, Asher Intrater, came to the conclusion that he was doing many good things, but not the most important thing. To lose the most important thing for good things is wrong. He gave up many of his other responsibilities and gave himself to reaching out to Jewish people who did not know Yeshua. This has been effective and very fruitful.
The Passionate Center of our Movement and the Danger We Face
The goal of growing a movement for Yeshua that is Jewish is the passionate center of our movement and a key to the favor of God. Much fruit has been produced world wide. In Russian-speaking lands and in Israel, a wonderful growth has taken place.
Yet there is a danger. It is that some are following a different vision and calling it Messianic Judaism. This vision is more to see the Church embrace its Jewish roots. This is important when done in balance, but is not the center of Messianic Judaism. Others are seeking to provide a place where Gentiles can live a Jewish life. There is nothing wrong with Gentiles loving Jewish culture and expressing their faith in Jewish ways. Yet this is not the center and without Jewish believers, is inauthentic. In addition, not all Gentiles have a responsibility to live and identify as Jews, but only those who have a special leading of the Spirit. To form congregations of Gentiles who follow Jewish liturgy, and chant the Torah while having no Jewish members was not a goal of the “fathers.”
We began the race running well. However, it was harder to win Jewish people than some thought. When the Church in the area is not in revival, it is harder. It requires much prayer, time building relationship in the Jewish community and supernatural power. It is easier to see Gentiles engage in Jewish practice than to see Jews embrace Yeshua. There are, after all, so many more Gentiles and so many more Christians. So, when there is failure in winning the Jewish people, some have comforted themselves with the “success” of having won Gentiles to live a Jewish life. We now have movements that are primarily geared to this. Indeed, some of these movements even say that the true Christians are really the lost tribes of Israel. These groups have conferences, publications and more. They call what they are doing Messianic Judaism. What has happened?
Let’s say the government of the United States decided to send men to Mars. The rocket is sent up with great excitement and fanfare. However, the report later comes back that the rocket did not reach Mars, but instead landed on an asteroid only half way there. What would you say if the astronauts and government leaders all joined in great celebration for landing on the asteroid and declared that this was as good as the original goal?. Then they took another step and declared the asteroid to be Mars. This is analogous to what is happening in some circles regarding Messianic Judaism.
There is an apostolic vision from heaven called Messianic Judaism. It was delivered by the fathers of this movement and all are called to be faithful to it. Anything less is not really successful by the standard of the original goal. In addition, any other vision is not Messianic Judaism. May we all face our responsibility to embrace our true purpose, a purpose that is the passion of Tikkun International in every place where we minister. That vision is to bring Jewish people to the knowledge of Yeshua and disciple them while maintaining genuine corporate Jewish identity. The acid test of the success of our movement is to bring Jewish people to Yeshua.