What is a Messianic Baptist?
So, just what is a Messianic Baptist? It took me about three years to come to a conclusion on this. I grew up in Baptist churches, Independent Baptist since High School. Since 2003 we have been attending a ‘Messianic’ congregation on Saturday and Independent Baptist on Sunday. During this time I have been able to make some interesting observations about 'Independent Baptist' as compared to 'Messianic Judaism.'
Growing up I remember hearing my mother say on a number of occasions, "Don't listen to what they say, listen to what they do." In other words what a person REALLY believes will be found in what they do not in what they say. In doing this I have discovered that what a person believes based on what comes out of their mouth and what they believe based on their life is almost always two entirely different animals. When I compare Baptist and Messianic beliefs based on what is preached from the pulpit they seem, at least on the surface to have some significant differences. However, when I look at the life and practice of the average person in the Baptist church and the average person in the Messianic congregation I notice that what they really, at a core level, believe is so similar that I wonder if even Yeshua could tell the difference.
Both groups will pay lip service to the fact that they believe that one should keep God's commandments, or at least some of them. Both groups are experts at managing to avoid the commandments that they don't like. In fact not only is this true of the Baptist and the Messianic but to one degree or another is true of all those who would claim to believe in Yeshua.
When looking at what I consider to be the four major groups of those we might call 'Christian", Catholic, Protestant, (Ana)Baptist and Messianic, the primary difference between them comes down to the degree they believe that we need to follow the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament, generally referred to as the law). The Catholics believe that as the official church, God has given them the right to change anything that they feel a need to change, thus church tradition trumps the written word. Thus when the church found themselves in a situation where virtually no one could read they got the great idea that the word of God could be communicated through art. The fact that the Torah clearly stated that there were to be no images was not a problem because they simply with their God given right to change the word, created images. God obviously agreed with them because he blessed them with tremendous church growth. We shouldn't be to hard on the Catholics because even in non-Catholic faiths we tend to claim that God has put his blessing on our work when our churches grow.
Protestants and Baptists would both condemn the Catholic for believing that anytime they don't like a commandment they can just change it. They believe that the correct way to get around these commandments is not to change them, it is to nail them to the cross and claim to be under grace and not under law. Of course grace only works with the commandments they don't want to do. Break one of the commandments that they like and you find very little grace from God or the church. Excommunication is the word. The differences between Protestant and Baptist and even between different Protestant or Baptist churches depends on which commandments are put on the cross and which are kept off the cross. This list can even change from one Independent Baptist church to another Independent Baptist church. Some put drums on the cross and others don't. Some put a woman wearing pants on the cross and others don't. Etc, etc, etc. Where do they go to support these positions? Generally to the Torah (law). They really do believe they are under the law or at least some of it. 1 John 3:4 (KJV) Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also some of the law: for sin is the transgression of some of the law.
What about the Messianic? Just like the others they have commandments they don't like. They join with the Baptists in condemning the Catholics for changing what they don't like. On the other hand they would condemn the practice of nailing anything to the cross. They believe that all commandments are to be kept, but do they keep all of them? Absolutely not. How do they get around the ones they don't like? Simply ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist.
Again, the difference between these groups does come down to the degree to which they keep the Torah and depending on which part of the Torah we are talking about the Messianic is not always the best. In some areas the Baptists are far better Torah keepers. One area that all four groups have a problem with is in the area of mixing pagan practices into their worship of God and they all do it. For instance, the Messianic has a major problem with the Baptist for mixing the pagan feast of Christmas into their worship. And they are correct. However, most Baptists have a problem with any congregation that would use rock music in their worship because most Baptists understand that rock music is as pagan as Christmas ever hoped to be. And they are correct. I once had a Baptist ask me what was worse in the eyes of God, worshiping God in a Baptist church with a pagan Christmas tree in the foyer or a Messianic church with pagan music on the platform? Good question. Is anyone starting to figure out where the term 'Messianic Baptist' came from?
I know almost everyone would agree that Christmas could be considered to be pagan at least in origin. For those of you who would question rock music's pagan roots I will simply refer you to, "The Christian and Rock Music: A Study on Biblical Principles of Music" by Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi. (www.biblicalperspectives.com)
One major thing that the Torah very definitely forbids that we all, be it Baptist, Messianic or other, ignore through the use of one of the above mentioned strategies, is debt. I know very few people, be it Baptist or Messianic, that are debt free. I must say that I do know a number in both camps that based on their understanding of Torah are debt free. They are an extreme minority though. I know that for many people this to move toward a debt free position would really cramp the lifestyle so this becomes a subject to be avoided. Why do we avoid topics like this? We are afraid that we might find out that God really does have a problem with our debt and if that were to happen our love of Him would require us to get rid of it. Since we really don't want to have to do that we chose to remain ignorant. Once again what we believe as evidenced by what we do finds itself in conflict with what we believe as evidenced by our speech. We teach that when we get to heaven we will not be able to plead ignorance, but by deliberately remaining ignorant we evidence by our actions that we do in fact believe that a plea of ignorance just might work.
Once again I am not going to try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to what God has to say about debt. I will refer those of you who are brave enough to face it to what I believe is the best material on the subject. "Money and Wealth in the New Millennium" by Norm Franz (www.whitestonepress.com)
Another area that both sides chose to ignore and go with mans tradition instead of what God intended is in the area of marriage. When we things Gods way we receive blessing and when we do not we receive cursing. One can hardly argue the fact that our marriages are as cursed as those of the world. The divorce rate is virtually the same. We must be doing something wrong.
Genesis 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. What is interesting about this verse is that it speaks to the nature of God. He created male and female in His image. God put some of His attributes in the male and others in the female. Marriage is to simply be an earthly representation of His full nature. How many couples have his checkbook and her checkbook, his this and her that. Definitely sounds like they are one and as such a good representation of God's nature.
Another area of marriage where we miss it is with our definition of marriage. When you ask someone to define marriage they will tend to define it in terms of mans tradition and the laws associated with those traditions. Ask them to define it strictly in terms based on the word of God you will get something entirely different. And yet this is not something that is difficult. I have asked teenagers what marriage is based on the word of God, disregarding societies definition. The only answer is that two people were married at the moment of intercourse. Exodus 22:16 "And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife." No mention in scripture of a marriage license and the blessing of the state. However, we insist on doing it mans way and his laws. The same laws that in some states and soon to be all that there is such a thing as same sex marriage that flies in the face of two being one flesh that reveals the very nature of God.
So what is the result of doing it mans way instead of God's? A young man and young woman have intercourse and we say that because they did not follow mans traditions and laws that they have committed adultery and that they should live apart. The young man should return to his parents and the young woman should return to her parents. What does God say? They have committed marriage and that they should live together as one and that they have responsibilities toward each other. To not do so is sin. What happens to these two, now living with their parents? Eventually they find others and having learned their lesson concerning the laws of man now get married with the blessing of the state. However, from God's perspective they were never divorced from their first spouse and have now committed adultery. So what have we done? We have called marriage adultery and adultery marriage. And we wonder why our marriages are cursed to the same degree as the worlds marriages. It's no wonder when we do it the exact same way as the world does. God will forgive sin, he does not forgive marriage.
Well so far I've touched on pagan practices in our churches, improper use of money and the incorrect definition of marriage. It's probably time to switch gears before someone labels me a heretic. How about this, Why would I say 'Messianic Baptist' and not 'Baptist Messianic'?
Very simple. There is a verse, Hebrews 13:8 which says, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." The Messianic believes that the word yesterday implies from the creation until the present. The Baptist, while they would deny it (based on teaching) really does believe (based on action) that it implies from the cross until the present, because if we really do not have to keep all the commandments then obviously God changed his mind about how he expects his children to behave while on the cross. Things like the mixing of pagan practices with the worship of him (like Christmas) that before the cross caused him to become quite upset now cause him great joy. Yesterday, to day and forever cannot possibly mean from eternity past to eternity future. It can only mean from the cross until the end of the tribulation and God really is quite schizophrenic. Quite frankly this makes no logical sense. Hence, Messianic would be closer to correct than Baptist. However, sense I do not believe, for instance, that there is no magical line where we could say that so much paganism in our worship is okay but more is not and since I believe that God has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to mixing pagan practice in our worship and thus doesn't really care if its a tree or music, when it comes to practice they both are quite short.
In short what it boils down to is that the heart wants what the heart wants and generally the heart gets what it wants. This is why God tells us to circumcise the heart. Of course many never get around to doing this because after all circumcision is quite painful especially when it involves the heart.