3 For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship by the Ruach Elohim and glory in Messiah Yeshua and have not depended on the flesh—4 though I myself might have confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he might depend on the flesh, I far more—5 circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel; from the tribe of Benjamin; a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the Torah, a Pharisee;6 as for zeal, persecuting Messiah’s community; as for Torah righteousness, found blameless.7 But whatever things were gain to me, these I have considered as loss for the sake of the Messiah.8 More than that, I consider all things to be loss in comparison to the surpassing value of the knowledge of Messiah Yeshua my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things; and I consider them garbage in order that I might gain Messiah9 and be found in Him not having my righteousness derived from Torah, but one that is through trusting in Messiah—the righteousness from God based on trust.10 My aim is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the sharing of His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death—11 if somehow I might arrive at the resurrection from among the dead.Philippians 3:3-11Copyright © 2014 – Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society
If anyone can call himself “Jewish” – it was Paul! His pedigree was beyond reproach, to those in his day, and even to this day. He was a learned scholar, a bold zealot, and impeccable in his following of Torah. No one could say that he wasn’t qualified to be a religious authority. He studied under Gamaliel and probably forgot more than most of us will ever know.
This Saul was the most zealous persecutor of the first Messianic Jews. He witnessed, if not condoned or instigated, the stoning of Stephen, the first Messianic Jewish martyr (Acts 7:58-8:1; 22:19-20), and became the driving force in the persecution of the Messianic community (Acts 26:9-11). He decided that throwing the Messianic Jews of Jerusalem into prison and condemning them to death wasn’t enough and he took his show on the road to Damascus. It was this trip that would change his life.
1 “Brothers and fathers, listen to my defense which I now present to you.”2 When they heard that Paul was addressing them in Aramaic, they became even more quiet. Then he said,3 “I am a Jewish man, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, trained strictly according to the Torah of our fathers, being zealous for God just as all of you are today.4 I persecuted this Way to the death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prisons—5 as the kohen gadol and all the council of elders can testify about me. I also received letters from them to the brothers, and I went to Damascus to bring back to Jerusalem even those who were there in chains—to be punished.6 “But it happened that as I was traveling and drawing near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly flashed all around me.7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’8 “I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “He said to me, ‘I am Yeshua ha-Natzrati, whom you are persecuting.’Acts 22:1-8
Copyright © 2014 – Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society
It was this encounter, which left Saul blind for three days, that changed the history of the Messianic movement. Saul/Paul was commissioned by God to go to the nations and proclaim to the Jews and Gentiles there that Yeshua was the son of God.
“And he said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
Acts 22:21Copyright © 2014 – Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society
His work centered on speaking in the synagogues of the diaspora and then in the surrounding Gentile communities. He worked miracles, planted congregations, and diligently taught the believers about God’s word and how to understand and apply it to their new lives. His encouragement of these new Messianic communities was vital to their health and continuation. While Peter and James were the caretakers in Jerusalem, Paul oversaw the Messianic believers in the diaspora. The man who was the most zealous persecutor of the Messianic Jews, became a Messianic Jew willing to die for his belief in Yeshua.
Then Paul responded, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but to die for the name of the Lord Yeshua!”Acts 21:13Copyright © 2014 – Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society
We see that God chose two very different men to lead this new group of Messianic Jews and Gentiles. Each of them had a purpose. Peter brought miraculous signs and Paul was sent with great wisdom. Their upbringing and education, or lack thereof, made them uniquely suited to their task. They were the most unlikely choices for their positions – a thread that we see woven throughout the Bible. God chooses the most unlikely person for the job so that his power is fully displayed.
22 For Jewish people ask for signs and Greek people seek after wisdom,23 but we proclaim Messiah crucified—a stumbling block to Jewish people and foolishness to Gentile people,24 but to those who are called (both Jewish and Greek people), Messiah, the power of God and the wisdom of God.25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.26 For you see your calling, brothers and sisters, that not many are wise according to human standards, not many are powerful, and not many are born well.27 Yet God chose the foolish things of the world so He might put to shame the wise; and God chose the weak things of the world so He might put to shame the strong;28 and God chose the lowly and despised things of the world, the things that are as nothing, so He might bring to nothing the things that are—29 so that no human might boast before God.30 But because of Him you are in Messiah Yeshua, who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and holiness and redemption—31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in Adonai.”
1 Corinthians 1: 22-31
Copyright © 2014 – Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society
It is easy to look at our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord and be filled with envy, jealousy, misunderstanding, or condemnation. We may not understand their calling or part in the body, or we may wish that we had that calling. Rather than waste time and energy, we would do best to appreciate each other as unique parts of the Messianic Jewish whole. The variety and flavor in Messianic Judaism is what makes this movement work. We very much mirror the diversity of the greater Jewish community.
At the conference I attended, though I had that one unpleasant experience, I was challenged and edified by the teachings that I heard. Worship was filled with beautiful liturgy and new to me songs. I came back to my home congregation with new ideas for how to reach out to the community and ways to strengthen our own members. I appreciate the knowledge that was shared and recognize that the unique gifts of those that I met fill specific places in the Messianic Jewish Community. Some of us may be more like Peter and some of us are more like Paul, but all of us are called by God to work together for his glory and to bring about the Kingdom. Know your calling and do it well.