Let me first make a clear statement. Unless a fellowship or a believer responds to the call to be grafted properly into the Saviour (John 15:6), which is symbolised by being properly grafted into the same olive tree as the Jewish believers (Romans 11) then, in the coming days, there is the danger of being seduced by growing deception. Deception may be harder and harder to discern, so the time is now, to explore and rediscover the roots of our faith I want to make just a few comments in this our first edition of Tishrei.
This is to encourage our readers and to suggest that there is a way forward that is not beyond us. Even the idea of a scholarly journal is too much for some Christians to take, let alone study up on all the history and theology that is drawn into focus. Nevertheless, we must affirm that it is the Holy Spirit who will lead us into all truth, and He has managed to minister to each of us at the point of our need up to now, so I do not think that He will fail us in the next phase of history. Furthermore, we are called into a body with a range of complimentary ministries and gifts.
Thus, in the coming days of restoration, more than ever before are we going to need to live as a body. The day may be coming where smaller and more intimate fellowships will consolidate their life of faith together, making use of homes, devoting themselves more deeply to each other. This is how it was in the early church. This is a picture for fellowships across the world rather than for any particular country. However, we must be open to variety and individual characteristics of cultures to be retained, which are not contrary to disciplines of our faith.
Nevertheless, surely we must not cling to the past, particularly where dryness and staleness, even rottenness has entered our experience of lives as believers. This will require a teachable spirit to be abroad in the Church, in every believer. It may lead to repentance, particularly from pride, and possibly from antisemitism and other forms of racism, as we seek to emerge from a parochial view of Christianity, and even a past heritage. There may be a time when the existing structures of denominations are too rigid to hold what God would lead believers into. In short, there must be an openness to change.
Openness to change will raise up many questions, and it is in the asking of questions that momentum grows towards reformation – even revival. Indeed, I would suggest that revival in the established Church will be in the context of recognising what God is doing in the world, particularly in Israel. How else can God revive and bless and bring increase? It would be asking God to expand that which is not right and which can be put right.
It is the responsibility of the Bible Colleges and other training institutions to reconsider their teaching programmes and prune out the irrelevant aspects of their programmes to make way for the more relevant. This does not mean everything has to change, of course! But I do think there is room for radical thinking in some institutions. The teaching of Hebrew should be emphasised once more.
There should be a right emphasis on the Old Testament and an understanding of how the Old is fulfilled in the New. The expertise of Jewish scholars should be sought, to develop a way of thinking and interpreting the Scriptures which reflects their deeper meaning. There are scholars in Israel and elsewhere who have already investigated these issues to some degree so that there are good starting points for reworking of our training courses. These scholars and resources should be sought out. It is a time for taking counsel together and sharing of resources. There may be room for the development of the new colleges and new courses, such as correspondence courses, which can be made available for those unable to attend full time courses, so that the local church, which is the key focus of Christian life, can feel the impact.
There could be opportunities given for the retraining of full time pastors and teachers where, in retreat settings, they could avail themselves of library resources and inspirational teaching.
There is, therefore, the place for retreat centres to begin, along with the colleges, to develop library resources for the exploration of the Judaic/Hebraic roots of the faith. Then there can be a taking back to local fellowships the fruits of this teaching for all the people.
It is time for bookshops to stock up with books that emphasise the roots of our faith, to investigate the availability of resources worldwide and begin to bias their stock of books in a way which will serve the communities of believers in this area. Such resources are available here and there and now is the time to discover appropriate lists of books and acquire stocks.
It is not only through library resources that we will reestablish our roots. We are to be properly grafted into the olive tree alongside our elder brother, the Jew. It is a family that we come into by adoption, so it is time to live as if this were so.
We should find opportunities to make bridges of fellowship and friendship to the Jews whether saved or unsaved. We should appreciate their culture, their history, their language, their land. Much can be achieved on a rightly focused study tour to Israel, which can be more than a sightseeing trip and a remembrance of past history. Bridges should be made into Messianic fellowships. There is joy in sharing worship together – worship of the same God and Father. Surely we are in the days when this should become a priority. These suggestions that I am making are quite naive, but they are a start, a move, a motivation in the right direction. There is something for the scholar, for the teacher, for the pastor, for the administrator, and God will show us what is applicable to us all and will lead us Himself when we are willing to go.
We should praise Him for allowing us to be born into His family at such a time as this, and the deepening of our faith should be the priority of our lives. We should praise Him for the nation of Israel. Whatever their situation and need, God has given us a direction to look, a direction to pray, a way of seeking and knowing His ways.
Am I exaggerating the importance of this? Think back to the time of the return from the exile at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. This is the main focus of Scripture and, therefore, history at the time. There were many people in the world in many other countries, but God was working through Israel and very little else is recorded in Scripture.
Today we are living in a time of even greater fulfilment. If Scripture were being written today I suggest that it would seem as if the main focus would be the gathering of God’s people for salvation. For the Jew, that is first in terms of a return to the land. On this particular return, however, the Gentile world can also be included in what God is doing, and there will be a last and major harvest as the work is completed.
The focus on the return to the land and the establishment of a properly rooted company of believers, worldwide, is the major priority in the world and in the closing phases of history.
We must acknowledge this priority by taking whatever action is necessary to be properly rooted together, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and according to His revelation.For His is the sap which sustains both trunk and branches.
(First published in Tishrei Vol 1 No 1, Autumn 1992. The Journal Tishrei was launched in 1992 to highlight the need for the Church to return to its Jewish roots)