Do I Have to be Jewish to Attend?
"He did this in order to create within Himself one new man from the two groups, making shalom"
- Ephesians 2:15
A common question that almost all Messianic Jewish congregations are asked is, "Do I have to be Jewish to attend?" Of course, our answer is always, "No. You don't have to be Jewish to attend. Everyone is welcome." This was true in Biblical times and still remains true today - that both Jew and Gentile can worship together as one before G-d.
Many may not realize that even before the advent of Messiah, Gentiles were welcome in both the Temple and the synagogues. These Gentiles were called, "God-fearers" (Acts 13:16; 13:26; 17:17). "God-fearers" were Gentiles who observed Shabbat as well as the Feasts of Adonai. However, these Gentiles were not considered "converts," because the males did not receive circumcision, which was required for full conversion to Judaism. So, therefore, among "religious Jews" these Gentiles were still considered "impure" and had to remain in the Court of the Gentiles, which was the most outer court of the Temple. In the synagogues, they weren't allowed sit among the Jews. This meant that Gentiles still remained apart from Adonai because they were uncircumcised and unable to adhere to the covenants of Adonai - specifically the Abrahamic Covenant.
However, through Messiah Yeshua, the Abrahamic Covenant would also be extended to the Gentiles. As it is written, "And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed" - Genesis 12:3b. Rav Shaul would address this when he wrote, "For we consider a person to be set right about from Torah observance. Is God the God of the Jewish people only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also. Since God is One, He will set right the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith" - Romans 3:29-30. Now, this doesn't mean that circumcision was done away with for the Jew, but that faith doesn't come through circumcision. As Rav Shaul went on to write, "Do we then nullify the Torah through faithfulness? May it never be! On the contrary, we uphold Torah"- Romans 3:31. Therefore, salvation is available to both the Jew and the Gentile and faith should be expressed inwardly: "Rather, the Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is the heart - in the Spirit not in letter. his praise is not from men, but from God" - Romans 2:29.
If you are a Gentile who wishes to attend and even become a member of a Messianic Jewish Congregation you must be aware of differences that exist between Christian Churches and Messianic Jewish Synagogues. The first difference is that services are mainly held on the Biblical day of Shabbat, which begins Friday after sunset and ends Saturday after sunset (Genesis 1:31). Shabbat services may be held either on Fridays or Saturdays. Another difference is that Messianic Jewish services are liturgical. Meaning that there is a traditional order of service, which include readings from the Torah, the Prophets and the New Covenant (Nehemiah 8; Luke 4). There is also the wearing of Tallits (prayer shawls) and Kippahs (Yarmekuls), the sounding of the Shofar, prayers in both Hebrew and English and Davidic Dance. All of which is followed by a teaching from the Rabbi or Rabbis.
There also exist some theological differences and terminologies that Messianic Jews do not adhere to yet, Christians practice and teach. Such as, the majority of Messianic Jews don't call themselves "Christians." This is because, as ethnic Jews who believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, don't convert to Christianity. We remain Jewish. Christianity is considered a Gentile practice and expression of faith rather than a Jewish expression of faith. This is mainly because Christians observe days of worship and traditions separate from the Scriptures. The majority of Messianic Jews consider Messianic Judaism a branch of Judaism and not Christianity. Therefore, in addition to Shabbat, Messianic Jews do not practice or observe the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter as well as Communion. Messianic Jews observe the Biblical Holy Days, known as the Feasts of Adonai (Leviticus 23): Pesach (Passover), Chag Matzot (the Feast of Unleavened Bread), Bikkurim (Firstfruits), Shavuot (Pentecost), Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (Tabernacles). Messianic Jews also adhere to the kosher dietary restrictions found in the Scriptures and therefore, do not eat any pork or shellfish (Leviticus 11). While indeed there may exist differences of opinion and interpretation between Messianic Jews and Christians regarding Messianic Jewish observances of days and diets, we ask not to be judged or condemned (Colossians 2:16-17). The majority of Messianic Jews do not condemn Christianity as a true expression of faith in Messiah Yeshua. As a matter of fact, many Messianic Jewish congregations support and are partnered with Christian denominations - working together as one new man to spread the Good News of Messiah Yeshua.
Messianic Jewish congregations are vital for Jewish people to express their faith in Messiah Yeshua, the Holy One of Israel. They serve as a witness that there is nothing more Jewish than to believe in the Jewish Messiah as well as remain a way for us to retain and express Jewish identity. Everyone is welcome to attend a Messianic Jewish Congregation, because through Messiah, we are all one in Him. As it is written, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female - for you all are one in Messiah Yeshua. And the if you belong to Messiah, then you are all Abraham's seed - heirs according to the promise" - Galatians 3:28-29