Today there is a need to have more sound and functional Messianic congregations that effectively testify that Yeshua is the faithfulness of God to both Israel and the nations. It is my desire and goal for “all Israel to be saved,” that is, for the Jewish people as a whole to come to personal faith in Messiah Yeshua (Romans 10:1; 11:26). In Jeremiah 31:35-37 God has made a gracious commitment to preserve the Jewish people as an identifiable nation:
Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day, and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The Lord of hosts is His name; “If this fixed order departs from before Me,” declares the Lord, “then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation forever.” Thus says the Lord, “If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,” declares the Lord.
A Messianic congregation serves as an expression of God’s gracious commitment and is essential to His Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Yeshua has “all the authority in heaven and on earth,” and with that authority He has commanded us to make disciples (Matthew 28:18). If we are convinced of His Lordship, we must therefore be committed to His discipleship, for He said,“Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). This means raising new believers in the faith so that they will live out God’s faithfulness in their circumstances.
The primary function of any congregation is to be a disciple-making center, even as the Lord’s faithfulness is evidenced in a discipled believer. If a new believer understands his or her Jewish identity in Messiah then it will serve as a testimony of His grace to the Jewish community. Also, as Gentiles are saved through the evangelistic work of Messianic congregations they will be grounded and grow in the same faith, by the same discipleship. This makes their own communication of the Good News more clear and meaningful to their Jewish friends and neighbors. Despite all that the enemy has attempted to do, the Jewish people have been kept by God. In Messiah, we, as a remnant people, are restored to God’s service and testimony. The existence of Messianic congregations testifies to God’s triumph.
We are blessed to live in such a time where we see Messianic congregations springing up in the last century as part of the renewal of the Jewish testimony to Yeshua. Therefore, Messianic congregations serve as centers for worship, instruction, fellowship, and proclaiming the Good News of Messiah.
The ministry of the Word has two dimensions of service: inward and outward. Within the body of Messiah, the Word (Torah) provides edification, and outside the body, that same Word ministers evangelization. The Word testifies of Yeshua, and “the testimony of Yeshua is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). We proclaim the Living Word according to the written Word, and proclaim the written Word to exalt the Living Word.
A Biblical Strategy
In Acts 20, Paul was speaking to his own disciples, who were now leaders of the congregation at Ephesus. He reminded them of the time spent with them, of his investment into their lives:
“You yourselves know…how I kept back nothing that was profitable, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20).
Paul says he “taught publicly.” A biblically strong pulpit ministry in the congregation is vital.
Proper discipleship includes one receiving public teaching. When individuals want personal teaching (including counseling) I encourage them to come to services regularly (Heb. 10:25). In this way, they can gain the big picture from the weekly expository teaching.
However, Paul also taught “from house to house.” He encouraged personal application for the believer from the principles he gave publicly. Paul was not merely being sociable, but was seeking to build up individual lives. In addition to public teaching from the pulpit, there needs to be personal discipleship of individuals. New believers need to be individually grounded and rooted in the faith.
Don’t Hold Back
Paul says that in his teaching he “kept back nothing that was profitable,” that is, useful and beneficial to their spiritual lives. From this we learn aspects of the content of his discipleship work.
Kept back nothing. This word “kept back” was used by the Rabbis in the Septuagint (Greek text of the Hebrew Bible) for show partiality, as when Job skewers his friends for their speeches to him: “Will you show partiality for God?” (Job 13:8). Too many teachers shrink back from teaching publicly or privately the most difficult subjects of the Scriptures.
Leadership demands boldness to stand for the truth. Failure comes from cowardly rather than courageous leadership. Paul details the teaching further in Acts 20:21, “solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.”
Testifying is also used in Luke 16:28 and it means to give warning. Whenever one teaches the word of God, one never preaches an unimportant message. It is either vital or it is not worth anyone’s time to hear it. The unique unity we have in Messiah means no one may be excluded. We teach what is sufficient for all people, which results in unity in Yeshua for both Jews and Gentiles.
Repentance and faith, that is, turning from sin and also trusting in the Lord. The focus, though, is not what we have given up, but to Whom we have turned. This encompasses the grace of God and the whole counsel of God. A directive style of expository teaching helps the congregation to understand the focus of Scripture. The congregation is the place to give full discipleship, teaching the full counsel of God.
“Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:26-27)
Presenting the whole counsel of God was liberating to Paul and kept his conscience clear. Is courageous, constructive, and comprehensive teaching going on in your congregation? We would love to be praying for and assisting you in developing a 20/20 Vision, making maturing disciples who will glorify the Lord. May we all press on to finish our race with joy, and the ministry which we’ve received from the Lord Yeshua, to testify to the Good News of the grace of God. Please pray for us as we plan Congregation Planting Conferences in 2014 on the East Coast and let us know if you would like to be involved.
Zionism is the belief in a Jewish homeland, an organized return of the Jewish people to Zion. The word “Zion” represents the Land of Israel, though it originally referred to Jerusalem (1 Kings 8:1; Psalm 51:18).
It is no secret that Israel’s neighbors oppose Zionism. In fact, the Muslim world has never acknowledged Israel’s right to exist-- hence, the continuation of war and terrorism with which we are all too familiar. Recent movies and books from even so-called evangelical perspectives have sought to critique “Christian Zionism,” which is the phenomenon of fervent Christian support for the state of Israel.
Yes, there is always a danger of prioritizing the politics of Israel over proclaiming Good News to the Jewish people. God’s Good News expresses His love in Yeshua which is for the redemption of all people, and this certainly includes Arabs. However, most evangelical critics of Zionism parrot an extreme anti-Israel viewpoint, a perspective which often descends into anti-Semitism and madness. Theologically, they push the notion that Israel continues only as “the Church” and that the Jewish people as such are no longer relevant to God’s plan. Thus, they fail to consider that even as there are Arabs who are believers, God has done a work in raising up Messianic Jews in the Land. Both are a part of God’s redemptive purposes as they reach out to all with ears to hear.
God is a Zionist. He is committed to and concerned with the return of the Jewish people to Zion. Let us consider what the Scriptures say.
“Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths’” (Isaiah 2:2).
“Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, They shout joyfully together; For they will see with their own eyes when the LORD restores Zion” (Is. 52:8).
“Again, proclaim, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “My cities will again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.”’” (Zechariah 1:17, Isaiah 14:32, 35:10, Jeremiah 31:6)
The prophets are clear that God will restore His people in their land. His love never fails.
He Hasn’t Changed His Mind
In light of all the troubles that Israel has endured, including the many hundreds of years the Jewish people had gone without a state, one might think that perhaps God has changed His mind and forsaken Israel as a nation. Not so. The Scriptures are clear that even if the Jewish people themselves would think this, it is never the case that God could let go of Zion.
“But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you ... Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me” (Isaiah 49:14, 16).
“‘For I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds,’ declares the LORD, ‘Because they have called you an outcast, saying: “It is Zion; no one cares for her”’” (Jer. 30:17).
God actually chose Zion (not Mecca, Rome, or Salt Lake City) as the place where He would dwell with His people.
“For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation.” (Psalm 132:13) “Blessed be the LORD from Zion, Who dwells in Jerusalem.” (Ps. 135:21).
He never changed His mind on the matter (Romans 11:1,2). In fact, the Lord’s future headquarters will again be Zion.
“‘Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,’ declares the LORD” (Zech. 2:10).
When Yeshua returns, it is to Zion: “Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives” (Zech. 14:3,4). Therefore He will dwell there in the Kingdom age:
“Thus says the LORD, ‘I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain’” (Zech. 8:3).
All of the seething anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism we see today is but a foretaste of a future war by the nations united against Israel (Zech. 14:2). In this attack, God is giving over the nations to their own evil desires and wicked ways (Romans 1:24-28). This “giving over” reveals the truth that the anti-Semitism of these nations is really anti-God:
For behold, Your enemies make an uproar, and those who hate You have exalted themselves. They make shrewd plans against Your people, and conspire together against Your treasured ones. They have said, ‘Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.’ For they have conspired together with one mind; against You they make a covenant. (Psalm 83:2-5)
Again, the Good News is God’s priority and must be ours as well. The Lord’s Return to planet Earth is linked to Israel’s repentance and faith in Him (Matthew 23:39; Zechariah 12:10; Acts 3:19-21). Part of the enemy’s strategy, then, is to prevent believers from “praying for the peace of Jerusalem” (Ps.122:6). The enemy does this by obscuring
1. Israel’s Biblical right to Israel and Jerusalem,
2. the only means of obtaining peace, through the Prince of Peace (as opposed to political solutions), and
3. God’s provision for the true spiritual need of Israel: forgiveness of sins through Messiah Yeshua.
Let us not be deceived by the schemes of Satan to destroy Israel, but rather pray and proclaim Good News to Israel and the Jewish people around the world, while we still can.