Good question ... Messianic churches do attend to the feasts and many of the traditions because they are Jewish just as other ethnic groups often incorporate their cultures and traditions into their faith. There is nothing wrong with that in itself. Concerning the Jewish traditions, they are much like the ordinances of the church ... nothing to determine salvation but a time to remember God's salvation. There is good substance to experiencing the feasts but nothing that determines righteousness or holiness. Remember, the early church had a problem where the converted Jews were forcing the customary traditions (circumcision, feasts, etc) on the converted Gentiles ... they were told not to ... that it wasn't an important issue. Then the Apostles gave the Gentile believers were given simple guidelines ...
Act 15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.
These four suggestions were not demands ... and they had nothing to do with holiness or sanctification. They had everything to do with not alienating the Gentile believers from the Jewish believers. In other words, it could be said, "if you want to keep them (the Jewish believers) from stumbling concerning their fellowship with you, you would help them by following these advised guidelines." Jewish believers were still Jewish .. they had been raised to abhor certain activities and these four were central.
I read Refiner's Fire's claim on the above passage (http://www.therefinersfire.org/faq.htm#answer31). Their claim on Acts 15 is incredibly off in my opinion ... it specifically states that it was in observance of Jewish tradition .. not local governance ... and they were under Roman leadership, not Jewish. The writers of this website propose that Luke was not intending for this to be construed to undermine the Torah, but a simple reading of the passage and its context leads to no other conclusion. The Jews were pressuring the Gentile believers to hold to their traditional customs and God Himself disagreed (see also Acts 10 - Peter and the blanket of food). They also repeatedly use a Freudian technique in defending their position. They build walls that force any questioner or person with an argument against their claims to be automatically classified as rebelling against Scripture by using very strategically selected Scriptures that when alone do seem to back up their claims but when properly applied in their contexts and in the dispensations written for the people they were written, they are out of line and out of sinc. Jesus made it clear that the letter of the Law was not as important as the spirit of the Law, and that under the Law no human had hope.
So then the age old question exists ... what do you do when the experts disagree? When it comes to worldly things I suggest give good ear to the one NOT trying to sell you their (or their friend's) product or keep you from buying a competitors. When it comes to Biblical doctrines I suggest look to the ones NOT trying to point you away from Jesus ... NOT trying to place you under any bondage that is not specifically named a sin ... NOT trying to heap condemnation onto anyone for simply disagreeing with vague doctrines that are not clear ...
Please forgive my naivety, but until a few months ago I was not aware of how cruel, vengeful, demeaning, and basically psychotic many sects who claim to be the true Christians (claiming all other modern denominations and affiliations counterfeit) act. Not only do the exist but they also are in full operation with websites, online schools, etc. We've all heard of the one church that pickets all of the soldiers' funerals (won't even give them the credit of a name) ... but this was sadly enlightening. I have been sought out by a few of these and their rants are nothing short of foolish. They have already decided that all who agree with one of their multiple doctrinal demands are hell bound and worthy of their rebuke and verbal assaults. It's like they are holding a middle school flow chart where every yes leads to another crazy pointed question and every no yields "end of test, person goes to hell." There was no concern for my soul that they were certain to be damned ... they actually seemed to take pleasure in it ... almost like they were teasing me. If this is what the secular world sees of modern Christianity, I cannot be surprised at their hostility towards us. I have always wondered why sensible people (not the crazies) seem so bent at not even hearing the gospel ... not saying this is it ... but it certainly may be part of "it" ... it was a sad lesson. End of soapbox.
The people that run the linked site boast on their being scholars but offer no credentials that have to do with official Biblical training. One man single handedly translated the entire old testament (sounds very familiar to two modern cults) and found discrepancies ... and its not all over the news!?! They (the media) love to find stuff to pick us (the Church) apart. Theologians would be scurrying like mice to food. This is an elitist group ... and that's unfortunate because there are always grains of truth ... sometimes strands. They can be very deceiving while very convincing. But a careful look at what they say reveals their faulted stance. I constantly remind people ... warn people ... not to erect walls to stand back against in defense that God has not formed ... the will crumble. Look at a direct quote from one of their claims.
"Because there's more to having a relationship with God than just "believing in Jesus." The thing is, our Creator has some rules to follow, and if we refuse, then we don't belong to Him...." (http://www.therefinersfire.org/challenging_christianity.htm)
OK ... there is more to salvation than just believing. James said that too ... faith without works is dead. He warned that the demons believe and tremble, yet their destiny is hell. So we agree, there is more than just belief ... that there are works that are to follow our belief ... but those works are explained in detail! Read the whole book of James in one sitting ... it is a short book. You will see clearly the "works" he is speaking of: meet the needs of those around you, control your tongue, control your temper, pray for the sick, repent and be honest, etc (see also Gal 5:22 - the fruit of the Spirit). His point was and is that if a person claims faith in Christ but fails to back it up their faith is empty. Not a single apostle even hints a suggestion that we should follow any of the prescribed feasts, traditions etc. They are putting people under condemnation and bondage - a very serious thing.
Continuing ... they claim that Nazarene's were the first followers of Jesus ... the disciples were not Nazarenes. This is similar to the RC church saying Peter was the first pope. That's absurd. Anyone can claim anything ~ that's their rights but ... wow. They use scriptures vaguely that have nothing to do with who they are aiming it towards as a muddled form of rebuke. They claim to be unique in the belief that we do not realize that Jesus was not a Christian or that He wasn't born on Dec 25th ... they have a lot of good information but then sour it with a net of accusations cast extremely wide. Simply put, one of the underlying themes of their website is that if we don't agree with all of their findings and rulings, we are lost in our sins and heading to hell. They repeatedly claim that the definition of "Torah" as "God's divine instructions" is unique to them. Therefore they also repeatedly assert that the meaning of "Torah" is not "law" and suggest that the Torah is separate from the Law ... that any Christian who does not follow their doctrine is characterized as "abolishing" the Torah or feels it should be so done. They completely miss the concept (or ignore it) that the Law ... as God called it which includes the Torah and all customs and traditions was fulfilled, not abolished, when Jesus gave His life. His words were clear concerning all of the previous instructions on righteousness under the Law ... let's look at them; it's pointedly clear.
Matthew 5:17-18: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18: For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Matthew 19:25-26: When His disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26: But Jesus beheld them, and said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
John 14:6: Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by Me.
John 19:28-30: After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst." 29: Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. 30: When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, "It is finished:" and He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.
So let's be clear: Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law. He showed us that even those who claim to uphold the Law have not given up the one thing that the whole Law and prophets pointed to - forsaking our greatest possession: the rights to our own lives - and therefore still fall short. The very attempt to validate our righteousness through the Law in the eyes of God is nothing more than vile. Then, when the disciples were close to disillusion, He comforted us that if left to ourselves, we have no hope, but left to Him, we have every hope. He gave us the road map to our eternal destiny with Him ... Himself ... then He fulfilled the very issue that prevented us from being justified before God's throne ... He paid the debt with His own blood. The words "it is finished" were not His telling us that His life was over and He was going to die, it was the greatest and most powerful statement that has fallen on men's ears. The divide was bridged ...
"He paid a debt He dot owe ... I owed a debt I could not pay"
Let's look at the instructions given by the most decorated pharisee to stand for Christ:
Romans 8:1-8: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3: For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5: For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6: For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7: Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8: So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
Clearly Paul states that anyone who attempts to validate his own righteousness through the Law is in the flesh and that God is not pleased by it.
There are many people who claim to have an inside understanding of the Jewish cultures ... I doubt how many were ever Jews formally trained in traditional orthodox Judaism. People ... many people ...have tried to side step the grace of God and the submission of their abilities to Him by finding "loopholes" ... "secret Bible codes" ... and the like. They claim to know all and be the subject matter experts on all things God and Jesus ... any thought contrary to theirs is heresy ... we've seen this before (inquisition anyone?) and we call it spiritual elitism ... it borders on gnosticism and it is dangerous ground. Paul himself said that we [the best of us] only know "in part." Check it out for yourself.
I Corinthians 13:8-12: Charity never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9: For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10: But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11: When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12: For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
If any of us demand that our whole view of God and His divine nature are without flaw, we are in disagreement with scripture.
For a real Jewish perspective on Christianity, I strongly suggest the following ministry and have linked his page. This ministry is from a Jewish that have been freed from the weight of the Torah in Christ and have valid ministries that free those in bondage to religion and salvation through works.
Ariel Ministries run by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum. Website: www.ariel.org
I do wish to state for the record that I have thoroughly read The Refiner's Fire's information ... over the last few months since I was sent this question. I respect the original purpose of starting their site ... to prevent Jewish believers from being reconverted back to Judaism. But, like many talented people I've seen in ministry, I believe too many decide for themselves they should do more and assume the authority to do so. When this happens, lines are drawn that should not be drawn, and people get hurt. I stand in firm opposition to just about everything they demand that followers of Jesus must do in order to please God ... it is faith that pleases God. Faith, obedience, bravery, honesty ... these are the vital tenants of a strong Christian walk in the faith. Everything we need to know was instructed by Jesus Himself. Any man who claims that the simple instructions need further and deeper restrictions add bondage to what He came to set us free from in the first place. To be honest, I don't get worked up at too much concerning the sin of sinners ... it never surprises me. But I do get a fire lit in me when I see people under the guise of Christianity working to put God's people back into the very chains He died to free us from.
Since I run this site with the promise to answer any question sent with my honest opinion making known separation between Scripture and its interpretation as well as open a forum for others to speak, I hope many of the readers who stop in and read who have Jewish history will offer their opinions and perspectives even if they are in opposition to mine.
This was a great question. I always enjoy getting them ... it is humbling that people continuously feel that this site is a valid source for getting questions answered and so I will keep answering ...
That's my take anyways ... awesome question. So what are your thoughts?
Don't be confused. LEARN STUFF!!!
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