Matthew 5:17 Ministries

Colossians 3:10–11 (CJB)
“The new self allows no room for discriminating between Gentile and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, foreigner, savage, slave, free man; on the contrary, in all, the Messiah is everything.”

Divisions

Today, the family of believers in Yeshua (Jesus) is characterized by divisions between denominations and movements. Not so within the assembly of the first Believers in Yeshua in Israel. The Book of Acts reveals that the original followers were in total unity as they worshiped at the Jewish Temple, praying together and sharing in common what they had (Acts 1:14; 2:44).

Acts 2:46 (CJB)
“Continuing faithfully and with singleness of purpose to meet in the Temple courts daily, and breaking bread in their several homes, they shared their food in joy and simplicity of heart.”

As well, the expression of their faith was entirely in keeping with Judaism, for it was not the intention of the Messiah to start another religion. But we see from the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) that disagreements first arose between Jewish Believers after the Gentiles began coming to faith.

Early Disputes Disrupt Unity In The Sheepfold

Some Jewish believers in Yesuah felt that the Gentile believers should submit to the entire ritual conversion process and become fully Jewish. This group believed that people who were not Jewish by blood could not be saved without undergoing circumcision. Of course, this would mean that they would have to take a vow to keep Torah’Torah’sndments and the traditional law, which is much more extensive than the 613 commandments found in Torah.

In a council meeting with the apostles and elders in Jerusalem to decide how to proceed in this matter, Sha’ul (Paul) and Bar-Nabba (Barnabas) described how G-d was moving among the Gentiles without any conversion rituals. Kefa (Peter) also stood up and presented his position, saying that G-d was pouring out his Ruach HaKodesh, just as he was on Jewish believers.

Ya’akov, who led the Council, then stood up and expounded upon the prophetic significance of the Gentiles coming to faith in Yeshua, linking it to the end-time restoration of Israel and the appearance of Gentiles who are called by Yeshua (Acts 15:16– 18; Amos 9:11-14). In light of the law of Moses being heard every Sabbath in the synagogue of every city, James then suggested that a letter be sent to Gentile believers as to what initial instructions they should observe in order to keep the peace with the Jews.

Acts 15:28–29 (CJB)
  “For i “seemed good to the Ruach HaKodesh and to us not to lay any heavier burden on you than the following requirements: 29 to abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will be doing the right thing. Shalom!”

While scriptures say that the Torah’s commandments are not difficult to keep (Deuteronomy 30:11–14; Romans 10:8), the early followers of Yeshua concluded at the meeting that the extra man-made traditional laws were too burdensome for Gentile believers and the conversion process to Judaism was unnecessary for salvation.

Nevertheless, Ya’akov indicated that he expected Gentile believers to learn the law of Moses (Acts 15:21) so they would grow in their understanding of how to live a holy, transformed, and conformed life through the Torah. And so we see here a picture of Gentiles and Jews uniting in one sheepfold as Yeshua promised in John 10:16: “Also “have other sheep which are not from this pen; I need to bring them, and they will hear my voice; and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

Sha’ul states in Romans 11:11–31 that Believers are grafted into one tree—a Jewish tree, and all are nourished from the same root. Gentiles have been grafted into this tree as wild olive branches, while Jewish believers are on the same tree, which is their own tree. It seems, however, that Paul had to address some arrogance among Gentile Believers who looked down on Israel for not accepting Yeshua as their Messiah nationally. However, Sha’ul addressed some arrogance among Gentile believers who looked down on Israel for not accepting Yeshua as their Messiah nationally.

Romans 11:19–21 (CJB)
“So yo “will say, “Branc “es were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 T” ue, but so what? They were broken off because of their lack of trust. However, you keep your place only because of your trust. So don’t don’trogant; on the contrary, be terrified! 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he certainly won’t won’t you!” Sha’” lSha’ul them in verse 23 that falling back into unbelief could cause them to b “cut “ff: “Moreover, the others, if they do not persist in their lack of trust, will be grafted in; because God is able to graft th” m bac” in.”

In the last century or so, a move has taken place among the Jewish people that has seen many grafted into their own tree. That move continues to grow and prosper, especially in Israel, where faith in Yeshua as the Messiah is flourishing and being increasingly accepted by the Jewish people living there.

We can see from Sha’ul’s analogy of the olive branches being grafted together that God intended the Gentile Believers in Yeshua to live in unity with the Jewish People at large, especially with Jewish Believers, who would naturally maintain their Jewish identity.

So what happened?

Arguments Over the Passover

In the early congregations, Jewish and Gentile Believers prayed together and celebrated the Jewish festivals and holidays, as did Yeshua. As the nations came to faith in Yeshua outside of Israel, Gentile believers maintained a relationship with the Jewish people; for instance, to celebrate the resurrection of Yeshua, they consulted with the local rabbi, who would tell them when the Passover holiday was to take place. How then did the celebration of Passover among Gentile believers develop into the Easter tradition? The first accounts come from the second century A.D.

Some Gentile believers kept very close to the Jewish roots, celebrating Yeshua as the Passover Lamb on the first night of Passover, which is the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nissan. Others emphasized the resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week. Most of these believers lived in Asia Minor. The believers in Rome moved the observance of the resurrection to Sunday and began the celebration of Easter.

A controversy arose when those called the Quartodecimans (Latin, referring to “fourteenth”) followed the Jewish practice of fasting on the eve of Passover. This fast was followed by the Passover celebration beginning at sundown on the 15 of Nissan in close adherence to the Jewish tradition. This tradition was established by the apostle John and practiced by his disciples, including Polycarp, who was the bishop of Smyrna (c. 69 – c. 155), one of the seven churches of Asia, and Melito of Sardis (died c. 180), another church in Asia.

Meeting on the First Day of the Week (Yom Rishon)

Yeshua’s followers gathered to break bread after the Sabbath on Saturday evening. And so, we find an account in Acts 20 of Sha’ul talking late into the night in Troas. A young man seemingly sunk into a deep sleep and fell three stories to his death around midnight. Sha’ul stopped teaching and went down, throwing himself on the man and raising him from the dead. Then he went back upstairs, broke bread, and continued talking until daylight, Sunday morning, before going on his way. However, eventually, Gentile believers began meeting on Sunday morning.

Although Jewish believers continued to attend the synagogue, they began to experience some pressure, especially after the destruction of the Temple. While the original Believers who lived in Jerusalem practiced Judaism and visited the Temple on a daily basis, the emergence of the Jewish revolt would lead to much turmoil and persecution. The Jewish believers escaped Jerusalem, as described by an early church father and anti-semite, Eusebius, and crossed over the Jordan and went to Pella, a Nabataean fortress in the mountains. They thus escaped the onslaught of another Roman general, Titus, who totally destroyed the city and Temple; still, they incurred the wrath of their fellow Jews, who now saw them as deserters and traitors.

It is generally believed that the entire body of Jewish Believers managed to leave Jerusalem and avoid its destruction by the Roman forces. Pella became a major center of worship. Following the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., many of the rabbinical leaders still considered Gentile believers in Yeshua to be Jews. Still, some began to discourage their presence in the synagogues.

One factor that contributed to Gentile believers separating themselves from their Jewish brethren was Rome’s institution of the Fiscus Judaicus or Jewish Tax. The Roman Empire imposed this tax on Jews after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70. It replaced the Temple tax and was used for the upkeep of the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter in Rome. Only those who had abandoned Judaism were exempt from the tax. The tax, therefore, became an impetus for Gentile believers, who were considered a sect of Judaism until then, to disassociate themselves from Judaism.

Another force that contributed to division in the late first century was the inclusion of the Birkat HaMinim—the 19th blessing in the Amidah, a request of divine punishment (a curse) from G-d directed against the paroshim—those said to have separated themselves from the community. They were associated with the minim or heretics, which were understood to be the Jewish believers (Messianic) in Yeshua and perhaps the Essenes. In this way, Jewish/Gentile believers in Yeshua could no longer lead prayer without evoking a curse on themselves. This benediction went a long way to make these believers feel unwelcome in the synagogue, causing them to worship separately.

Early writings confirm this curse, including Justin Martyr in his 2nd-century Dialogue with Tryphon; Origin, who lived in the third century A.D.; and Epiphanius, who lived in the fifth century A.D. and stated, “Three times a day they say: ‘May God curse the Nazarenes.’” The term Nazarenes (Notzrim) referred initially to the first Believers in Yeshua; however, it also referred to the 4th-century sect of the Nazarenes, Believers who considered themselves Jewish (thought to have originated with the Believers who fled Jerusalem) and kept the Torah. The term also applied to Gentile followers of Yeshua in general.

The First Council of Nicaea

Over time, Gentile believers began to incorporate pagan observances and rituals over Jewish practice in their worship. In 325 A.D., the First Council of Nicaea was convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine in order to set church doctrine. None of the 318 bishops attending were of Jewish ancestry. One of the main acts of the Council resulted in the establishment of a separate celebration of the Passover from the Jewish Passover. This later became identified by the pagan name of Easter (from the Babylonian fertility goddess Ishtar).

The Council also decided, partly thanks to Easubus’s input, to establish Sunday as the new Sabbath or a day of rest instead of the Biblical seventh-day Sabbath. The following Council of Antioch prohibited Christians from celebrating the Jewish Passover. The Council of Laodicea shortly after prohibited the celebration of the Biblical or Jewish Sabbath. Christians were even prohibited, under penalty of death, from marrying Jews. Jews became second-class citizens.

Anti-Semitism was so rampant at this time that a 4th-century church in Constantinople held the following creed known as the Constantine Creed:

I renounce all customs, rites, legalisms, unleavened breads and sacrifices of lambs of the Hebrews, and all other feasts of the Hebrews, sacrifices, prayers, aspersions, purifications, sanctifications and propitiations and fasts, and new moons, and Sabbaths, and superstitions, and hymns and chants and observances and Synagogues, and the food and drink of the Hebrews; in one word, I renounce everything Jewish, every law, rite, and custom and if afterward I shall wish to deny and return to Jewish superstition, or shall be found eating with the Jews, or feasting with them, or secretly conversing and condemning the Christian religion instead of openly confuting them and condemning their vain faith, then let the trembling of Gehazi cleave to me, as well as the legal punishments to which I acknowledge myself liable. And may I be anathema in the world to come, and may my soul be set down with Satan and the devils.”

Subsequently, particular creeds were drafted, to which the Christian (Catholic) would have to swear, such as:

“I accept all customs, rites, legalism, and feasts of the Romans, sacrifices. Prayers, purifications with water, sanctifications by Pontificus Maxmus (high priests of Rome), propitiations, and feasts, and the New Sabbath “So! dei” (day of the Sun), all new chants and observances, and all the foods and drinks of the Romans. In other words, I absolutely accept everything Roman, every new law, rite, and custom, of Rome, and the New Roman Religion.”

Did G-d intend such a disassociation from Judaism? No. In fact, what ties together Jewish and non-Jewish believers is their shared faith in the Jewish Messiah; it is their common root, as described by Sha’ul, along with the Torah, Jewish faith and beliefs. We know from the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) that Yeshua lived as a Jew in his time, observed Jewish festivals and holidays, and kept the commandments. Yeshua never taught his disciples to break these commandments, although he often called into question the traditional laws or teachings, such as not eating without before ritually washing hands (Luke 11:38).

Replacement Theology Versus the Word of G-d

In addition to authorizing that Jewish practices be replaced with non-Jewish traditions, the Catholic Church considered itself the new inheritor of the promises G-d had given Abraham and his seed. But the Scriptures make it clear that it is G-d’s intention for the Jewish people to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6) and that the nations will stream to Israel. This idea precludes the unity of the One New Man. Thus began replacement theology—the Christian belief that the church has replaced Israel—an idea that remains today.

Zechariah 8:22 (CJB)
“Yes, many peoples and powerful nations will come to consult ADONAI-Tzva’ot in Yerushalayim and to ask ADONAI’s favor.”

Also, Ezekiel speaks of the restoration of Jerusalem. In Ezekiel 34:23–24, we read, “I will raise up one shepherd to be in charge of them, and he will let them feed—my servant David. He will pasture them and be their shepherd. 24 I, ADONAI, will be their God; and my servant David will be prince among them. I, ADONAI, have spoken.”

From this, we understand that when Israel is returned to its land, the kingdom of David will be restored. Although the Jewish people are again in their land, the kingdom has not yet been restored. This will happen in the future and involves unity between Israel and Gentile followers of Yeshua. In Acts 2:29–36, Peter tells us of the relationship between David and the Messiah when he says:

“Brothers, I know I can say to you frankly that the patriarch David died and was buried—his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that one of his descendants would sit on his throne, 31 he was speaking in advance about the resurrection of the Messiah, that it was he who was not abandoned in Sh’ol and whose flesh did not see decay. 32 God raised up this Yeshua! And we are all witnesses of it!
33 “Moreover, he has been exalted to the right hand of God; has received from the Father what he promised, namely, the Ruach HaKodesh; and has poured out this gift, which you are both seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into heaven. But he says,35 ‘ADONAI said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”; 36 Therefore, let the whole house of Isra’el know beyond doubt that God has made him both Lord and Messiah—this Yeshua, whom you executed on a stake!”

Jeremiah 23:5–6 also makes the same connection: “Therefore this is what ADONAI, the God of Isra’el, says against the shepherds who shepherd my people:

“You have scattered my flock, driven them away, and not taken care of them. So I will ‘take care of’ you because of your evil deeds,” says ADONAI.
3 “I myself will gather what remains of my flock from all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their homes, and they will be fruitful and increase their numbers.
4I will appoint shepherds over them who will shepherd them; then they will no longer be afraid or disgraced; and none will be missing,” says ADONAI.
5 “The days are coming,” says ADONAI when I will raise a righteous Branch for David. He will reign as king and succeed, he will do what is just and right in the land.
6In his days Y’hudah will be saved, Isra’el will live in safety, and the name given to him will be ADONAI Tzidkenu [ADONAI our righteousness].”

Not only had the Messiah come, but He had poured out the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) upon His talmidim (disciples)— a sign of the coming fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy in Ezekiel 37:27: “My home will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people.” When Yeshua returns to reign from the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, it will be dramatic proof to the nations that G-d has not forsaken Israel.”

Ezekiel 37:28 (CJB)
“The nations will know that I am ADONAI, who sets Isra’el apart as holy, when my sanctuary is with them forever.’”

Israel and the Jewish people are central to God’s plan for the nations. In the last days, Israel and the Gentiles, the nations of the world, will live in unity—that unity He originally intended and tasted among the first followers of Yeshua. As those days approach, we see that Israel increasingly recognizes the support of Gentile Believers in their right to exist as a nation. G-d’s prophetic plan is that all of Israel will be saved. These are exciting times as we see this plan so clearly unfold in our own generation and can choose to be a part of it. We can choose to unite with Israel and the Jewish believers as One New Man, defying and healing the division that was sown early among Believers in Yeshua. As we are living in the Last Days with Yeshua’s return not far away, let us be diligent to redeem the time.

Psalm 90:12 (CJB)
“So teach us to count our days,
so that we will become wise.”

Jeremiah 31:6–7 (CJB)
“For here is what ADONAI says:
“Sing with joy for Ya’akov!
shout for the chief of the nations!
Proclaim your praise, and say:
‘ADONAI! You have saved your people,
the remnant of Isra’el!’
7(8)  Look! I am bringing them from the land in the north,
gathering them from the far ends of the earth;
among them are the blind and lame,
women with children, women in labor,
all together, a vast throng
returning here.”

For More Helpful Information

Additional information about Messianic Torah-Observant/Conforming Faith and Messianic Jewish congregations and organizations can be obtained at these websites.

(www.umjc.org ), “Tikkun International” (www.tikkunamerica.org), and (www.mjaa.org).