Perhaps the very warmest memory I have of our recent trip to Israel was the incredible peace and unity at the First B’ney Yosef Congress. I really do not remember a single theological debate or discussion. Surely, between 135 people, Jew and non-Jew, representing 12 different nations from all over the planet, there had to have been some theological differences, but I saw zero manifestation of disagreement. Our focus was how to be used of Abba to begin taking steps to bring the Kingdom back together.
Since being back, I have had the joyous task of visiting several congregations and fellowships to report on what we did, discussed, and plan going forward. One such report to a Sunday school class I have been guest teaching for the last five months was recorded and posted on this blog as part of the ongoing series. Then, this week in that same class I posted the video of us beginning to tackle some of Paul’s seeming ‘hard verses’ concerning obedience to the instructions of our Father. As part of the introduction to the next couple lessons, I shared several resources for the new Messianic to consider. More than the lesson itself, it was the resources I mentioned that generated discussion, primarily because neither of the authors (Tim Hegg and JK McKee) agree with the so called ‘Two House movement/theology’ in exactly the same way most attendees of the First B’ney Yosef Congress see Scripture.
***Now, I am NOT calling out anybody or pointing any fingers!***
What I do want to do is make a few observations that will be of value to the larger Messianic Movement, and especially of value for any who are seeking peace and unity for the sake of the Kingdom.
First, a little more background… Over the last two weeks I have been pondering the clear evidence in Isaiah 11:13 and Ezekiel 37:22 that in the latter days there are two clearly defined and discernible entities/groups/families/kingdoms.
Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart and those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah and Judah will not harass Ephraim. Isaiah 11:13
and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms. Ezekiel 37:22
Without opening this can up for debate, my perspective is that these are unfulfilled prophecy and the prophecy demands two clearly identifiable groups; Judah and Ephraim. Judah is obvious. In my effort to more clearly understand who Ephraim is, I began going back and looking into multiple resources on my shelf as well as a few online. I then remembered how divided the Messianic is on this particular point. (And, we have many such points of contention.)
During my review of material, I looked at resources by Hegg and McKee, among others. It was at the same time that I recommended both authors, particularly McKee’s The New Testament Validates Torah, as quality “middle of the road” apologetics for non-Jewish observance of our King’s Instructions. It was pointed out in the comments of one post that neither of the resources I recommend agree with ‘Two House’ and therefore potentially lead to confusion. So, having just come back from this incredible experience of peace and unity with brothers who do not all have identical beliefs, I’m faced with the challenging reality of the Messianic… Disagreements that lead to division.
Majoring in the Minors!
What I found interesting as I reviewed material that revealed parts of this sharp disagreement is that all parties have major points of agreement. (Again, I am not picking on anybody in particular, Hegg and McKee are just the primary sources I pulled off my shelf or viewed online. )
I would venture to guess that more than 2/3rds of all Messianics agree that,
- in the end, there will be One Body, One Lord, One Faith, One baptism.
- Abba YHVH has One Torah/Law for Israel and the alien who sojourns with them.
- faith in Yeshua is critical to entering the Covenant.
- Yeshua desires that we grow in unity and peace.
- the falling Tent of David will be restored!
Where there is disagreement, particularly in the area of ‘Two House’ theology, is in the mechanics of how Abba restores the Kingdom to Israel. We do not disagree that it will be done, we are scrapping over how it will be done. And, those disagreements, particularly when viewed by new people drawn out of the Church to follow the Messiah and be obedient to His Law, lead to confusion and side-taking.
I am reminded of several verses:
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions (KJV: ‘doubtful disputations’). Romans 14:1
10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I Cor. 1:10-13
I Corinthians 3 is also applicable!
If, as a Body, we are to come together in unity and walk with the true power and authority of our King, then here is what we need to do:
Unity in the essentials and charity in the non-essentials.
I am guilty and openly confess, I have been dogmatic on issues before that later I came back and think differently about. The question we must ask is, ‘Is this essential?’ From my perspective, here are a few examples of non-essentials that are NOT worth dividing over:
- How to pronounce the Name
- Calendar issues
- How the Kingdom is restored
- Tzitzits in or out…
- and, a 100 other items of minutia…
Are some of these topics worthy of exploring? Absolutely. We need scholarship, but it should inform us so that we can see multiple perspectives, then allow the Spirit to lead. He got us this far and I am pretty sure He will finish the job despite ourselves.
As we embrace and educate the new people that the Spirit is leading into our midst, we must be careful to give them room to grow and explore, explaining what is essential and what is a ‘200 or 300 level topic’ that may take a little maturing to finally settle on. In those matters, we must exercise charity and a willingness that they come to different understandings and conclusions on non-essential matters.
Teachers, myself included, need to be careful to not disparage those with whom we disagree and we need to be willing to discuss/debate subjects but with the careful caveats that they are ‘non-essential!’ We also need to continually be humble before Abba in recognition that we may not be right on a matter. (Heaven forbid!)
As we learn to walk in humility and charity toward one another, we will cease to shoot our selves in the foot and will come to a place where we can fellowship in love without the need to be right or to be building our own ‘name brands’ or ministries.
There is much more my heart wants to say on this topic, but I have a full day ahead and need to get moving… I love you guys and pray for us all to experience the love and fellowship that I witnessed at the B’ney Yosef Congress in Israel. May Abba mold us into One Body that exhibits that joy, peace and unity I witnessed there.
Many blessings and Shabbat Shalom to each of you!!