Saturday, September 12, 2009

Unpacking Luther’s Baggage, Chapter 2

The contraband that I am thinking of in Luther’s legacy is the animosity of all things Jewish that permeated Catholic teaching and would later express itself as replacement theology. Just as the children of Israel had been in Egyptian bondage for 430 years, so Protestantism would lie in ignorance of their Jewish heritage between the time Luther wrote his treatise “On the Jews and their Lies” in 1543 until the Jesus People movement brought this error to light 430 years later. And how did they do that?

This hippie flavored movement of the 1970's brought thousands of young people into the church. Among this group were many Jewish high school and college students who discovered Jesus. As they circulated within the churches they began to realize that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah who was actually named Yeshua, and his story was written by Jews in a Jewish context. They studied the texts in the original languages, and in the process, found that the Bible had often been misunderstood and misinterpreted by Gentile Christians. They compared the Bible’s teaching with the church’s traditions and decided that it was better to fellowship with others who taught the whole Word. And so they began Messianic synagogues and developed their own music and worship. Their level of scholarship and discoveries created a mountain of evidence that was getting hard to ignore.

Soon Gentile members of these evangelical churches began reading Messianic books, attending Messianic conferences and services, and studying the Torah with its Biblical calendar. When they mentioned these things in their churches, they were generally ignored or marginalized. In frustration, some joined the Messianic gatherings as well.

Most evangelicals believe that their doctrinal tenets paint a faithful picture of New Testament Christianity. And it certainly is closer to the truth than what is found in Roman Catholicism. But the baggage that Luther inherited dated back only to the 4th century; by then much had changed since the first century. For its first ten years, the Church in the book of Acts was almost entirely Jewish; after Acts 10, Gentiles began to come in, first in trickles and then with a flood, but it was under the tutelage of the Jewish leadership. When Paul returned to Jerusalem after his second missionary journey, he was greeted by James with these words:
"You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Torah.” Acts 21:20 ''
This period was a golden age that would never be repeated again.  The Jewish community, as well as the Messianic believers, had good relations with the God fearers and new converts from paganism. The only Bible they had was the Tanakh (Torah, Prophets, and Writings), with a few apostolic writings here and there. The commandments were respected by the Ecclesia and served as the foundation for its development, as the following quotes testify: 

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:2-3
“This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” 2 John 1:6
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. Rev. 22:14
Given these positive statements, it is hard to understand why the church became so negative on the subject of God’s commandments. The average Evangelical church is ignorant of the Jewishness of Jesus, the Torah, and Israel while the Messianic synagogue is on the other end of the spectrum. I would like to look at this dichotomy and see if there is a middle ground between these two camps. In a way, I’d like to return to Acts 15 and see how Paul bridged the gap between Messianic Judaism and the new church that was full of Gentiles who had just come out of paganism.

No comments:

Post a Comment