What are the primary differences, theologically, between Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Christianity regarding the role of works?
This week we continue to delve deeper into each on the categories we discussed at a high level 5 weeks ago.
Before we begin a brief disclaimer - We do not believe everyone has to believe exactly as we do to have a relationship with G-D, and for that relationship to result in that person spending eternity with G-D. We also believe strongly in the promise that Rabbi Sha'ul (Paul) stated that "all Israel will be saved." We do not want to be dogmatic about exactly what that means, as views differ. We also believe scripture clearly teaches that Jews, Christians, and Messianic Jews will make up the Kingdom. As for our Sunday brothers and sisters, whether Protestant or Catholic, many truly love G-D and will inherit the Kingdom.
Theologically, Judaism, Messianic Judaism, and Christianity began on a common road that split into 3 separate paths. One of the key areas involved in this split was the role of Works.
In traditional Judaism, the results of Faith is seen as more important than Faith alone. Thus, many traditional Jews will say "Judaism is a religion of deed, not creed," in contrast to their opinion of Christianity. This sometimes leads to charges that Judaism is Works based. While the concept of Works is very important, and "fixing the world" is a key concept; to characterize Judaism as Works based would totally disregard the reason one does the Works - to sanctify G-D's name!
Traditional Christian doctrine is denominationally dependent with sometimes confusing and contradictory doctrines.
Catholicism stresses the importance of Works which sometimes leads to charges that they are relying on Works to be saved. This is a highly suspect claim as Works resulting from Faith are truer indicators' of a persons spiritual condition than Works or Faith alone.
Many Protestant denominations stress Faith alone; some almost implying Works are "evil". This is totally against Scripture, as Messiah said, "Take up your cross and follow Me." Thus, He is making it clear that a concrete action is required to follow Him. Ya'akov, incorrectly translated James, says that "Faith without works is dead Faith."
The singular fixation on "Faith alone" stems from Rabbi Sha'uls (Paul) statement that "the just shall live by Faith," (Rabbi Sha'ul is quoting Habakkuk 2:4). Thus, many Protestants give Paul more dominance than is proper, placing his words over that of the other Emissaries, and seemingly over the Messiah Himself. Scripture has to be taken in context, and all of Scripture consulted. Faith in G-D's provision for salvation is absolutely required, that is what Sha'ul is speaking of. He makes it clear in other places, as do the other Emissaries, that saving Faith in G-D's provision for Salvation spurs us to do Works that glorify G-D!
Messianic Jewish theology varies; many groups follow the dominate Protestant theme that Faith is paramount, and that Works are of little importance. Others, including our Congregation, seek a more balance approach.
This approach is very consistent with Traditional Jewish thought, while fully recognizing the need for Faith in the One Who saves us and gives us the power to do the Works. We strive to walk by Faith, doing the good Works that have been given us to do. This brings praise to our G-D and His Messiah.
Most of us realize talk is cheap. Doing the Works G-D has given us to do on the other hand (loving others, helping the needy, bearing one another's burdens), etc., costs time, energy, and love. Which do you think betters exhibits the love of G-D; telling someone, who is cold and hungry, to be full and warm, or clothing and feeding them?
'Show me your Faith by your words; I'll show you my Faith by my Deeds'. Which one do you think the world will believe?
Next week we will address in detail the other Theological differences.
Shalom - Rabbi Gavri'el