I frequently find myself losing popularity rapidly whenever I broach the subject of non-Jews and their relation to Torah. I will not try to delineate here or summarize the many pseudo-Messianic movements out there that love Torah but think Israel is nothing special. I just know that many people, who are not Jews, come into Messianic Judaism assuming that all of Torah is a requirement for them.
When I tell them this is not true, I am a bad guy, a wet blanket, a loser.
I am starting this series of blog articles to deal with the issues. I will try to be thorough enough not to leave holes. I invite dialogue and debate, BUT I set these conditions:
1. Do not write comments that are too long. Say it in 700 words or less (use a word processor to write and count your words before commenting).
2. Do not try to discuss the entire issue all at once. If we are talking about Genesis 9, non-Jews, and Torah, don’t send me your exegesis of Acts 15.
So, let’s get this thing started.
What role does Torah have in the life of non-Jews in Messianic Judaism today? Are all followers of Jesus obligated to keep the Torah in its entirety? What does God have to say about this?
I begin with the idea that Torah is God’s gift to Israel. Paul said as much: “the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2).
God is doing something remarkable through Israel that is very obvious at this stage of history. The Great Commission to the nations is winding down. Let me use a term I learned from Rabbi Stuart Dauermann: the Greater Commission to Israel is coming into play more than ever before.
Why does Rabbi Dauermann call it the Greater Commission? Because Paul says in Romans 11:12 that the fulness of Israel is greater. That is, when Israel did not believe, the good news went to the nations. When Israel does believe, the dead will live (Rom. 11:15). The good news to the nations is good news, but the good news to Israel is better news.
Many non-Jews have been attracted to Torah. Some have been attracted to Jewish customs (or even Fiddler on the Roof).
This attraction in many cases is due to a poor reading of the Bible. It is an assumption that God’s commands are the same for everyone: for Israel and non-Israel, for male and female, priest and non-priest, leader and member, etc.
I, as a non-Jew involved in Messianic Judaism, do not want to discourage non-Jews from being part of Messianic Judaism. I want to encourage you to be involved for the right reasons and with the right roles. Be in MJ because you want to join in what God is doing with Israel in these last days. Partner with Israel. Worship alongside the Jewish people, or if you feel called, join with Israel. Do not, however, usurp Israel’s place. A non-Jew’s place in MJ is alongside the Jewish people, not in some sort of becoming or replacing Israel.
In this series, I will try to persuade of the Jewish view of Torah: it is God’s covenant with Israel. Much in the Torah applies universally, but not all. Some of Torah commands are Jewish identity markers, God’s signs of Israel’s unique place. The Torah itself teaches this.
If you are a non-Jew and you claim to keep Torah, do you keep the parts of Torah that distinguish the nations from Israel?
In this series I will consider the following (and perhaps more as well):
1. Genesis 9 says that the nations may eat all moving things (yes, even bacon!).
2. Exodus 12:48 says that circumcision is optional for even a Sojourner living in Israel (much less a non-Jew living in Roswell).
3. Exodus 31:13 says the Sabbath is a sign between Israel and God (not a universal command).
4. Deuteronomy 14:21 says that a Jew may sell unclean meat to a Sojourner living in Israel. Thus, the dietary law is not God’s requirement for non-Jews.
5. The one law for native and sojourner cannot mean the same relationship to Torah because Torah specifically says it does not.
6. In the Age to Come non-Jews will keep Torah with Israel (cf. Isa. 56), but that is not yet a requirement.
7. Acts 15 declares that non-Jews do not need to live as Jews. It specifically says circumcision and Torah-observance are not laid on the nations.
8. Acts 15:21 does not overturn the message of the rest of the chapter.
9. Romans 14 distinguishes between Jews and non-Jews, warning non-Jews not to belittle Jews for keeping God’s commands.
10. Galatians severely rebukes anyone who tries to compel non-Jews to live as Jews.