For Gentile believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are happily known as Christians. But for Jews who come to know Jesus as personal Saviour during this church age, how do they identify themselves? There have been many names over the centuries, such as Nazarenes, Hebrew-Christians, Jewish-Christians, Jewish believers and Messianic Jews. The Modern Messianic Jewish Movement (MMJM), describes the larger community of Jewish people who have embraced Jesus and continue to self-identify as Jewish.
Messianic Jewish practices have evolved and adapted just as traditional Jewish observance has adapted within different cultures. In the first century, followers of Jesus were fully integrated within the Jewish community. However, over time, most Jewish believers were discouraged by Gentile believers within the church from practicing Jewish customs. However, when the MMJM emerged in the 1970’s, Messianic Jews proudly identified as Jews and sought to practice “Jewishly” in their congregations and homes. Today, most Messianic congregations hold weekly services on Shabbat; observe Jewish holidays including Passover, Hanukkah and the High Holidays; and also include some amount of Jewish liturgy in their services such as the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) and the Amidah (a traditional Jewish prayer).
And while we rejoice that many Jews have recognised Jesus as Lord and Messiah, we must caution that there are some groups whose teaching is not only questionable, but also unbiblical. One group who readily accept the title of “Messianic Jew” more particularly describe themselves as Nazarenes-Netzarim. Their goal is to “help Christians who love Yeshua (Jesus) to return to the Hebrew roots of the original true faith and the authority of Torah. We focus to provide ministers and congregations the knowledge of Nazarene Judaism by the first Jewish believers of the time of Yeshua.” But what is “Nazarene Judaism”?
According to their website: Nazarene Judaism (sometimes called Netzarim Messianic Judaism) is a monotheistic religion based on the belief of the existence of only one Elohim (God). It is centred on the life and teachings of Yeshua HaMashiach (a Jewist Rabbi living in Israel between 6BC and 33AD). His followers as they are known believe Yeshua (Jesus) to be the Messiah (Christ in Hebrew) prophesied in the Torah as the Saviour. They also believe He is the Son of Elohim, and that He is not Elohim.
So, as you might have noticed in the description above, they do not believe that Jesus is God incarnate and therefore deny the Trinity. Further, they do not ascribe to the virgin birth and believe that Jesus was fathered by Joseph. In a somewhat confusing statement, they believe that Jesus gets His divine attributes from the fact that after the resurrection, He saw the Father.
In that greatly loved passage, John 14:6, we read: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me. That, I believe, is a very clear statement that if a man or woman desires to be saved, they must accept Jesus Christ as Saviour by exercising faith in Him. However, the Nazarene Jews believe that John’s Gospel is metaphorical and that John’s intention was only to express that Jesus lived, preached and behaved like the living Torah. In fact, they recommend a change to the passage to read instead; I, the Living Torah, am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father, the creator of the universe, but for me, the Living Torah, His given Word. So here we see that the Nazarene Jews believe that strict observance of the Torah (the commandments of God) is the method of salvation, rather than the true path of salvation through faith in Christ.
You see, their goal is to “strive to influence non-Jews to return to the Hebraic Roots of the original one true faith, to Jewish Halachah (rabbinical laws), to Rabbinic authority and to Torah.” This is not God’s design for the church. As I said earlier, we rejoice when Jews come to know Jesus as Saviour, but clearly some of the teaching being espoused is not in line with Scripture.