“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Yeshua the Messiah and Him crucified.”– 1 Corinthians 2:1-2
Matthew 28:16-20: “So the eleven talmidim went to the hill in the Galil where Yeshua had told them to go. When they saw him, they prostrated themselves before him; but some hesitated. Yeshua came and talked with them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim, immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son and the Ruach HaKodesh, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember! I will be with you always, yes, even until the end of the age.”
The MAIN THING…
We have covered the “Divine Dissatisfaction” in another article, which describes many people’s reaction to the present day church as compared to the power of the first century meetings of Messiah’s body when the Holy Spirit had begun a great and powerful work, adding to the members of believers almost daily. The message of salvation was spreading like wildfire, people were being saved, healed, delivered, baptized into the Holy Spirit (the Ruach HaKodesh) and lives were drastically transformed.
In these days, the “church” has become worldlier, less inspired and less concerned for lost souls and more of a sacred club (socialized). Those who still have the embers of a dying fire are searching for a more meaningful relationship with the Savior and some are discovering the Hebrew Roots or Messianic Movement and learning the ways of Torah and the necessity of being obedient to Yah’s commands as opposed to the worldly drifting and dying church.
Unfortunately, the Messianic Movement has not moved in the right direction either. The main focus; that of building the Kingdom of YHWH on earth through evangelism, and by becoming laborers in the Harvest Fields, most have instead become consumed by learning all of the points of Torah doctrine, along with criticism of others who they deem to be doing everything “wrong” instead of targeting and practicing evangelism as was the example of Yeshua and each of His followers.
Unfortunately, departure from a “church off the rails” to a new way of living has also fallen short. I have yet to encounter a Messianic group where new converts are coming into the Kingdom, miracles are happening or the brotherly ahava love is demonstrated as it was in the first century. Therefore, the Divine Dissatisfaction continues with a little different focus.
In these that we believe to be the “Last Days”, at least some are becoming concerned about the warnings of 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.
“Using the grace God gave me, I laid a foundation, like a skilled master-builder; and another man is building on it. But let each one be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Yeshua the Messiah. Some will use gold, silver or precious stones in building on this foundation, while others will use wood, grass or straw. But each one’s work will be shown for what it is; the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire — the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work someone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward; if it is burned up, he will have to bear the loss: he will still escape with his life, but it will be like escaping through a fire.”
Another Great Awakening is the greatest need today among all believers; both in the churches and in the Messianic Movement. Without growth and increase for the Harvest of souls, all is vanity. Religious observance alone has little benefit.
In contrast to his rabbinical knowledge before the Damascus road encounter, Sha’ul (Paul) makes it clear that, after his born-again experience, his learning did not come from books, commentaries, men or religious doctrine but “through the revelation of Yeshua the Messiah” (Galatians 1:12). If I may put it this way, flesh and blood did not reveal it to him, but the Father in Heaven revealed it to him by the Holy Spirit. Knowledge may fill the brain but spiritual revelation goes straight to the heart. Having received this revelation from Yeshua and, after spending some time in Arabia, Syria and other regions, Paul took this simple message of the gospel given by Yeshua to the nations.
When he came to the believers in Corinth – they with their Hellenistic background and pagan roots and he with his Hebraic background, training and vast knowledge of Scripture – it is blatantly apparent that Rabbi Paul could have easily regaled them with endless hours of information, word studies, and dissertations and then left them wide-eyed, their heads spinning and their brains on information overload — but he didn’t. If ever a man had the opportunity to elevate himself, by parading his knowledge of things sacred before the spiritually destitute, it was the “apostle” Rav Paul. Yet, he made it very clear that this approach – expounding upon man’s wisdom – was not conducive to the success of his evangelistic mission. To the contrary, in regard to his theological pedigree, he told the congregants at Phillipi:
“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Messiah.” Philippians 3:7
Put simply, all that knowledge and all that information in his head just wasn’t as important as the pure Gospel of the Messiah. He told the people of Corinth that:
“My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:4-5
Basically, he told them that, though he could have used eloquent and persuasive words of human (religious) wisdom – those things he had been taught all of his life – he refused to do so. Why? Because he didn’t want the Corinthian believers to put their faith in a man’s ability to regurgitate what he had learned from other men. He didn’t want them to put their confidence in the opinions and doctrines of men – sincerely and innocently conceived though they may be. He didn’t want them to place their trust in knowledge and intellectual stimulation; rather, he desired that they would put their confidence in the Holy Spirit and power of God that raised Yeshua from the dead.
Let me put it this way; if Rabbi Paul were alive today, I don’t know of one Bible teacher who would think so highly of himself as to ask Paul to keep silent while they taught. No, I’m confident that anyone with half a brain would be wise enough to be silent, sit down and yield the floor in order to hear what this brilliant and insightful man had to share. So then, if Rabbi Paul were alive and speaking to us today, what great mystery of the universe would he reveal to us? What kernel of Scriptural wisdom would he bestow upon us? According to his own words, he would be determined not to know anything, not to speak of anything or emphasize anything that would distract us from the greater message – “Yeshua the Messiah and Him crucified.” This is the core of evangelism. Apparently, he was convinced this truth was the most important piece of information anyone could share.
Think of it this way; we will mostly all study the Scripture for the rest of our life and, if you are like me, you have already come to realize that it will take that lifetime of study just to scratch the surface. Frankly, the more I learn of the Word, the more I realize how little I know of the Word. The result is that, in my mind anyway, at the end of my life, though I will have accumulated more knowledge, I will also be faced with the fact that there were a lot of doors I didn’t have the chance to go through.
Don’t get me wrong: I believe that we should continue to study, discuss, analyze and debate the Scripture but with this acknowledgment – that all our learning is to be founded upon the revelation of Yeshua the Messiah; that He is the Messiah and Son of the Living God. Our salvation and our life are only available through Yeshua, our Messiah. Our study of the Word should not serve to display our intellectual abilities or our zeal to be right but to show ourselves approved, rightly dividing the Word of Truth that we may, when called upon, contend for the faith that was delivered to us; that we would be ready in season and out of season to convince, rebuke, exhort and teach with the objective that men would know that Yeshua is the Messiah and Son of God! That being said, I also believe that there will be times when intellect and memory will fail us and we will, as Yeshua warned, need to rely solely upon His Spirit to teach us and give us the words to say (Mt. 10:16-20).
Having been part of the Messianic, Hebrew Roots or Restoration Movement (whichever you prefer) for many years now, I am acutely aware of the seductive nature and lure of knowledge alone and its negative impact on the Hebrew Roots community. So many Messianics have, in my opinion, sought knowledge and information under the influence of anger, distrust and disillusionment toward their former church, pastor or family to the degree that some decided to discount or dismiss EVERYTHING they had been taught by Christianity. Folks, not everything we learned in Church was wrong! Though this pursuit of knowledge appears to be good – (it is seemingly centered upon understanding more of the Word of God) – somehow the results, in many instances anyway, are catastrophic: strife, envy, division and, unfortunately in some cases, abandoning belief in Yeshua as Messiah and Son of God, while immersing ones self in Judaism and Jewish traditions.
I have witnessed many who have turned away from Messiah into Jewish traditions– or at least diminished His role in their lives – in order to embrace knowledge. I have seen how zeal for the Torah of Moses became a quest to be right in the eyes of one’s peers rather than an exhibition of love for Messiah and a commitment to follow Him. The irony of the situation is that to truly learn and understand what Moses wrote means to find and to know Messiah as explained by Yeshua on the road to Emmaus. To defend their diminished view of Yeshua, many of those I am describing will say that their commitment is to the Father and their goal is to follow His Torah and glorify Him. In response to that position, I would repeat what the Father said:
“This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” – Matthew 17:5
Listen to Him. Listen to what He said on the eve of His crucifixion.
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Yeshua the Messiah whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work, which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” – John 17:1-5
First we need to accept that, more than knowledge and information, we need what Paul spoke of; we need revelation that comes, not from man but from YHWH God!
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:37-40
For clarification, let me stress that I am NOT abandoning my long held belief that we are being called to return to the Hebrew roots of our faith. I am also accentuating my belief that my identity is defined as being “in Messiah” (Galatians 3:29) and not necessarily being “Messianic” because that term, unfortunately, has come to mean different things to different people. Technically, “messianic” means “things pertaining to the Messiah.” However, in my opinion, it has devolved into something other than that.
Without growth, evangelistic increase of the Harvest is not possible. Instead, all is vanity.
In these present days, darkness covers the earth and gross darkness, the people. That is apparent, but He who rules the heavens and the congregations of Yah tells us that it is apparent that we are to be a light unto the world. If we allow our Light to go out, there is no hope for the world that YHWH God loved so much that He gave His only Son, the redeemer of lost Israel and her companions. That same redeemer commissioned us to bring that same Holy Light to point the way to eternal life in Messiah, Yeshua. HE is the way, the truth and the life. We, as the lesser lights, are to reflect His light for all to see. Our light should be searching for the lost sheep of the House of Israel as instructed to be our first priority. Israel is His House and also ours!
The Messianic Movement needs an infusion of renewed life as badly as the church also needs the same infusion of life and light. Learning the truth is vital, but then using it, as the Lord of the Harvest commands is essentially the MAIN THING!
In light of this, being labeled “Messianic,” “Hebrew Roots” or, for that matter, “Christian” should not be our goal and should not be the reason for keeping the Torah commandments of our God. According to Rabbi Paul, Messiah is the “goal of the Torah” (Rom. 10:4). So then, if we are zealous to keep His Torah shouldn’t we be more Messiah-like? Consider that the fruit of the Spirit did not magically appear within Paul’s letter to the Galatians; no, the fruit of the Spirit is revealed within the Tanakh. So then, if we are striving to keep His commands shouldn’t that endeavor be characterized by love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Why then do we see so much bitterness, impatience, criticism, anger, division and strife? Unfortunately, at least as I see it, the emphasis we’ve placed on being “Messianic” or “Hebrew Roots” has sometimes been to the detriment of being Messiah-like.
So then, I believe we need to reevaluate our motives, our methods and our evangelistic fruit to determine if we truly are in harmony with our Father’s Word; are we truly submitting to His Will and to His instructions with our whole heart or have we, once again, been seduced to eat from the forbidden tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Have we taken God’s Torah and added our spin, this guy’s opinion and that rabbi’s halachic decision while, simultaneously, deleting its essence, that is, the weightier matters of Torah – justice, mercy and faith? My conviction is that where one stands on the pre-eminence of the Messiah and His humble example of servitude will provide the answer for each individual and to the Body at large. If we truly turn away from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil and focus on Him, who is the Tree of Life, then our actions, our disposition – our fruit – will testify of the same. Knowledge puffs up but charity love edifies and builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1) and eating of that strange tree fruit got the first couple thrown out of the Garden! As for me, I have realized that all I have learned from studying God’s Word through the years falls short IF it does not lift up the name of Messiah. I will continue to study, I will continue to learn and, if allowed, I will continue to share but, when all is said and done, more than anything, I wish to continue being conformed to the image of the Son of God. Therefore, I have concluded – to borrow from Rabbi Paul – not to know anything among you except Yeshua the Messiah and Him crucified. I do hope and trust that you hear my heart. Shalom!
Walking on the road to Emmaus together,
Rabbi James and Erlene Talbott, Yeshua HaTikvah Yisrael Ministry