Dismantling Legalism in the Messianic Movement (Messianic Literary Corner) - Messianic Literary Corner

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Dismantling Legalism In The
Messianic Jewish Movement
by Marshall Beeber

The  greatest threat to the Messianic Jewish (Hebrew Christian) Movement in  the 21st Century is the de-spiritualization of it's ranks by legalism in  the form of mandatory Torah observance. I believe  the reason for  "Torah observant legalism" overtaking the "gospel of grace" is from  unbiblical compromise and conformation to a false spirit of religiosity  among Messianic Jewish leaders. To make the situation worse, grace  oriented Messianic Jewish (Hebrew Christian) leaders have themselves  been polarized by various secondary issues.
To  reverse the stemming tide of legalism before the entire movement is  lost, we must put aside our differences and work together for the common  goal of the gospel. To combat these false spirits, believers  who know the true gospel of grace must pray continuously for the Spirit  to shake off the complacency that has permitted this error to  perpetuate itself.  Believers opposing legalism must not only be  doctrinally correct, they must also be empowered by the Spirit to  convince those in error to change.

Let  me take some time to explain why legalism in the form of strict Torah  Observance has successfully overtaken the correct doctrine of Grace and  how Grace oriented Messianic Judaism can regain the hearts and minds of  believers. The Messianic Jewish Movement grew out of rebellion against  Protestant Christian missionary programs which did not understand the  needs of Messianic Jewish (Hebrew Christian) believers. Doctrine was  oriented towards grace, with oversight that would prevent believers from  professing and teaching Torah observance. Such programs only  perpetuated a "second class" Hebrew Christian citizenry within the  Church, causing worshippers to mistrust their leadership. In the late  70s through the 80s the Messianic Jewish movement teaching in most  congregations was still largely Grace oriented, accompanied with some  Torah observance. This form of worship and daily practice still remained  true to New Covenant standards and gave worshippers the freedom to  express their Jewishness.

In the mid-1990’s David Stern’s  revolutionary book , "The Messianic Jewish Manifesto" started turning  belief towards strict Torah Observance. I believe that Stern’s intent  was that of dismantling the "Pauline" teachings of Grace, to revert back  to the Law. He and other supportive Messianic Jewish teachers perceived  the Grace teachings of the Apostle Paul to be the greatest stumbling  block to evangelizing the Jewish people. He therefore intentionally  rebelled against New Covenant doctrine believing that Jews would not  accept any Gospel except one that was totally Torah observant. In doing  this, he and other supportive teachers adopted a dangerously heretical  course. Strict Torah observance has now become the standard in many  parts of the Messianic Jewish movement. Stern's book adopts a "Cultural  Marxist" form of deception by promoting an erroneous historical portrait  of Paul to conform to his religious and social agenda. Cultural Marxist  deceit justifies promoting the "big lie" if it serves to promote the  continuity of their social cause.

In developing a deceptive  historical portrait of Paul that would accept Torah Observant legalism,  these Messianic Jewish teachers had to take an approach that would  disregard the accurate history of Paul in his evolution from "Saul of  Tarsus" persecutor of the Church in Israel and the Diaspora, to the  "Apostle Paul", church founder, teacher and evangelist to both Jew and  Gentile alike.  They would have to sell to their flock the idea that  "Rav Shaul" remained Torah observant, even while ministering to the  Gentiles in the Greco/Roman provinces of Asia Minor.  They also had to  assert that the proselytes of Rav Shaul were Torah observant.  The task  of selling this "spin" was simple for most of the devoted believers  within the Messianic Jewish movement, but much less so for those  educated in Church history and New Covenant teachings. Today, most  Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles have accepted Anti-Pauline  doctrine unknowingly by believing in a distorted historical portrait of  Paul.
Today  almost all dissenting teachers have been ostracized from the movement.  Those that remain but disagree have learned a certain "politically  correct" posture to take regarding legalism and have therefore been  neutralized. Major ministries like Jews for Jesus and Chosen People  Ministries spend little effort in combating this legalism, despite their  Grace oriented teaching. They have both largely capitulated their  efforts in maintaining basic doctrinal integrity within the MJM as a  whole. It looks like the battle against legalism is being lost! But the  legalist leaders have not yet faced the repercussion of their folly ,  nor the full opposition of their Grace oriented Messianic Jewish and  supportive Christian brethren. It is my intent to structure a logical  and persuasive campaign to cause Grace oriented Messianic Jewish  brethren to rise to the cause, rather than shrink away in defeat.

If  a grace oriented gospel is to successfully combat legalism, grace  oriented leaders must first pray and repent of their complacency. These  leaders must be empowered by the Spirit to achieve their goals. They  must also realize that they cannot succeed in defeating the well planed  "Torah observance" orientation without a well structured program  confronting the "Rav Shaul" error and offering a freedom of choice for  those who choose to remain Torah observant in a non-obligatory fashion.

Torah  observant Messianic Jews and Gentiles too must realize that they cannot  continue to teach doctrine opposing basic New Covenant truths without  suffering the paralyzing spiritual consequences. The constant hope for  "revival" in the MJM cannot be met until the Spirit is given the freedom  to touch individuals. The perceived strength in legalism is it’s  insistence upon conformity within the movement. This of-course, has  always been the true weakness of the Law. It cannot succeed in  emancipating souls by liturgical means. Only by the Spirit and the  freedom of Grace are sinners truly freed from the bondage of sin and  death.

Lastly, for those Messianic Jewish ministries  that profess to be grace-oriented and also offer Torah observance, it is  of the utmost importance that doctrinal teaching supporting the  freedoms taught in the Pauline Epistles are stressed over that of Torah  observance.  Otherwise a preoccupation with Torah observance will  continue to exist in those ministries which would quell New Covenant  freedoms and Spiritual growth.

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