In recent years the Holy Spirit has been graciously restoring Christians to their once lost, biblical Hebraic heritage. In the process, some believers have progressed far beyond in-depth biblical studies, to regularly researching Talmudic, Halachic and other Jewish texts. Many are being discipled in person or electronically by Israeli rabbis. Some of these rabbis specialize in end times messianic studies, from a traditional (Jesus rejecting, anti-Yeshua) viewpoint. Some focus on Jewish mysticism, sometimes secretly calling on the spirits of dead rabbis for guidance.
To be sure, rabbinic scholarship and insights of respected Jewish sages can be helpful in studying the Scriptures. Some traditional insights genuinely reflect the anointing or “advantage” still on the Jewish people to preserve God’s Word. (Romans 3:2; 9:3-4) But too often the supplementary, extra-biblical writings on which traditional rabbis rely can wrongly dazzle Gentile Christian seekers of “deeper” truth.
Sadly, some Israel-loving Christians are being captivated by Jewish teachings that have a form of godliness — yet deny The Power thereof. Seeking to honor the Jewish people, these believers can unconsciously and gradually begin to worship the Jews or Jewish knowledge. The process is subtle. But eventually, some Christians decide they’re not as sure as they once were that Jesus is the only atonement for human sin. They question whether His statement, “Nobody can come to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6) still applies. Aligning with traditional rabbinic belief that Israel inherits a special covenant of salvation, some Christians have lost faith in Jesus altogether and converted to Judaism. We’ve watched this sad turn of events many times over the years. We can’t help but wonder if some of these rabbis, who perhaps do mean well, are in fact “wolves in sheep’s clothing” according to Matthew 7:15.
To repeat, there is a degree of wisdom and benefit to be gained from some sources of traditional Jewish study of the Word. But wisdom and benefit will never come at the expense of the Word itself, especially the truth of the Gospel. Believers relying on the insights of nonbelievers should proactively remember they (the believers) carry the overarching truth and power of the Gospel. Messiah has called them to make disciples. How good and right can it be, therefore, to regularly, as a main source of instruction, ingest the teachings of spiritual leaders who deny that Messiah has come in the flesh? Is it possible to sit regularly at the feet of an anti-Messiah rabbi and not at the same time sit at the feet of a type of anti-Christ spirit?
The Word of God addresses this matter. The so-called Judaizing phenomenon is not new; it began in the early church. So for Christians seeking deeper knowledge of their Hebraic roots, here are five New Testament based questions you may wish to consider.
1. Is the spirit driving the teaching or teacher from God — or from an antichristian spirit? “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not … is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist.” (1 John 4:2-3, 2 John 1:7-8) This does not mean nonbelieving Jews have nothing to offer or teach believers. But it does mean you should exercise cautious discernment in what you learn from such teachers.
2. Are you consuming the Bread of Life or leaven of the Pharisees and Saducees? “‘Be careful,’ Yeshua said, ‘be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees’.” (Matthew 16:6) The Bread of Life is the pure Word of God. Centered on Yeshua, it nourishes and matures your spirit, soul and body. But leaven or yeast, which is a metaphor for pride, contaminates and puffs up with hot air. This is why the apostle Paul writes that knowledge for the sake of knowledge “puffs up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1-3) Extra-biblical Jewish teaching may intellectually stimulate or fascinate you. To what extent does it also empower you fulfill the Greatest Commandment or Great Commission? (Matthew 22:37-38, 28:18-20)
3. Are you studying much, but not walking in greater and more intimate Truth and Holy Spirit power? This was the situation for some who studied under false teachers in the early church. (2 Timothy 3:7) Keep in mind the goal of your instruction is supernatural love. (1 Timothy 1:5) Remember that truth without God’s love in Messiah is not full truth. Are you loving the Lord and others more, and in a fruit bearing manner, as a result of non-Yeshua centered Jewish studies?
4. What is the straightforward and clearly expressed position of your Jewish teacher toward Jews who follow Yeshua? His or her attitude toward Jews who believe in Jesus will generally reflect the extent to which he or she may be influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by an antichrist spirit. To our knowledge, all or practically all non-Messianic Jewish rabbis reaching out to, or discipling Christians, intentionally distance themselves from Jews who follow Yeshua. The mere mention of our existence can enrage them.
5. Are you praying for, and speaking into, the salvation of your Jewish teachers? God’s call on Gentile believers is to provoke Israel to jealousy for her Messiah. To be sure, He has invested great treasure in Israel from which you can benefit. But Israel’s greatest treasure is the Savior of Humankind, whom her rabbis still reject. God’s greatest desire for Israel, expressed by the Jewish Apostle Paul, is that she – and her rabbis – be saved. (Romans 11:28, 10:1) Is that yours?