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I am convinced that there is only one true and universal “Miqra” [the “Called Out” Holy Community, erroneously translated as “Church” in most English Bibles], which is the Body and Bride of Yeshua HaMashiach, that it is a spiritual organism of which Yeshua is the Head, and that it is made up of all the redeemed [“born-again”] persons of all historical ages or epochs.
The establishment and continuity of local assemblies (also called congregations, synagogues, or “churches”) is clearly taught and defined in the Ketuvei HaShalichim [the Apostolic Scriptures, Brit Chadasha, or erroneously so-called “New Testament”], that the members of this one spiritual Body are directed by Adonai Yeshua to associate themselves together in local assemblies, which are to be true communities of believers, not just organizations, and that those local assemblies should willingly cooperate with each other for the presentation and propagation of the true Faith, once for all delivered to the Saints.
I believe in the autonomy of the local assembly, composed solely of truly “born-again” believers, free from any external authority or control, with the right to be totally free from the interference of any hierarchy of individuals or organizations outside of that local congregation.
Each local assembly, through its Elders [beit din] and their interpretation and application of the Scriptures, should be the sole judge of the measure and method of its cooperation with other congregations, as well being the sole judge of all matters of membership, policy, discipline, benevolence, and government (remembering that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation without the illumination of Ruach HaKodesh).
Yeshua said, “… on this rock I will build my miqra, and the gates of She'ol will not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18) When his words were translated into Greek, the word ekklesia was substituted for the Hebrew miqra that He actually spoke. A comparison of the two words will show the accuracy of that substitution. (Source: http://bible.crosswalk.com/Lexicons/)
a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly
a. an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating
b. the assembly of the Israelites …
convocation, convoking, reading, a calling together
a. convocation, sacred assembly
The inaccuracy of the common interpretation in the modern “church” comes not in the translation from Hebrew miqra into Greek ekklesia, but rather in the later translation of the Greek word ekklesia into English. Although I do not necessarily object to others using the word “church,” it should be clearly understood that the use of the word “church” in the English “New Testament” has absolutely no valid linguistic reason or precedent beyond Gentile (specifically Roman Catholic) tradition, and I personally resist referring to a local Christian assembly as “church.” It is a mistranslation of the Greek word ekklesia, which is a valid translation of the Hebrew word miqra, and which should be translated as either “called out” or “called out ones,” “assembly,” or “community.”
The word arqm (miqra) is repeatedly used in the Tenakh [the Hebrew Bible, or erroneously so-called “Old Testament”] to speak of the holy convocation or holy assembly of the faithful, particularly for the observance of the Feasts of ADONAI. The word is based on the root word arq (qara') which means to call and commission or endow, to be chosen, or to be called out, or to be named. It is specifically used of those who are “called by the name of YHWH” in 2 Chron. 7:14, Isa. 43:7, Daniel 9:19, and Amos 9:12. We must therefore conclude that Yeshua’s Miqra includes the faithful of Israel both before and after the cross, into which holy assembly the believing Gentiles have been grafted or adopted.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you — a wild olive — were grafted in among them and have become equal sharers in the rich root of the olive tree, then don’t boast as if you were better than the branches! However, if you do boast, remember that you are not supporting the root, the root is supporting you. So you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” True, but so what? They were broken off because of their lack of trust. However, you keep your place only because of your trust. So don’t be arrogant; on the contrary, be terrified! For if God did not spare the natural branches, he certainly won’t spare you! So take a good look at God’s kindness and his severity: on the one hand, severity toward those who fell off; but, on the other hand, God’s kindness toward you — provided you maintain yourself in that kindness! Otherwise, you too will be cut off! Moreover, the others, if they do not persist in their lack of trust, will be grafted in; because God is able to graft them back in. For if you were cut out of what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree! For, brothers, I want you to understand this truth which God formerly concealed but has now revealed, so that you won’t imagine you know more than you actually do. It is that stoniness, to a degree, has come upon Isra'el, until the Gentile world enters in its fullness; and that it is in this way that all Isra'el will be saved. As the Tanakh says, “Out of Tziyon will come the Redeemer; he will turn away ungodliness from Ya'akov and this will be my covenant with them, … when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:17-27 CJB)
Although it cannot be absolutely proven without a shadow of doubt, there is significant evidence to be found that the modern English word “church” is derived from the Middle English word chirche or kirke, which is related to “circle,” which is in turn related to the name of the false goddess Circe, and refers to the practice of worshipping Circe while standing in a “circle.” My personal research of the subject leads me to believe that in its later application during the centuries immediately before and after the birth of Messiah, the term also refers to the “inner circle” of priests of Roman form of the the Babylonian Mystery Religion, which was the “official” Roman state religion. When Emperor Constantine, pontifex maximus (“supreme bridge” or high priest) of the Babylonian Mystery Religion blended early fourth-century Messianic Judaism with the Babylonian Mystery Religion to form what he called “Christianity,” he named this “inner circle” of pagan priests as “bishops” over his unified apostate Roman religion. It is our considered opinion that this same group of pagan priests is now the College of Cardinals in the Roman Catholic Church. (See “Where Did the Word ‘Church’ Come From?”)
There are many within the Messianic Restoration (myself included) who object to the use of the word “church” for three primary reasons:
(1) there is absolutely no linguistic reason to have ever translated either the Hebrew word miqra or the Greek word ecclesia as “church” except in deference to the pagan Roman Church;
(2) because of the pagan origin of the word and what it originally represented; and
(3) because of the historical persecution of the Jews by the apostate Roman “Church” and its many descendants.
I also strongly object to the anti-Semitic
practice of using the word “church” to teach or support any
form of “replacement theology” in which the Gentile believers in
Yeshua either “replace” Israel in
I am firmly convinced that neither Yeshua HaMashiach nor the Shliachim intended to start a “new religion,” but rather only to fulfill, complete, and correct what was missing in the Judaism of their day. I therefore believe that the most valid form of worship is that practiced by Yeshua and His talmidim (disciples). Our ministry has therefore chosen to identify with that group of believers that is known variously as “the Messianic Movement,” “Messianic Judaism,“ or “Messianic Restoration.”
I further believe that much of the conflict that exists between Jewish believers in Mashiach and Gentile believers in Mashiach has been caused by anti-Semitic and anti-Gentile language that has crept into the household of faith. (See “Antisemitism in the Church.”) For example, the word “Jesus” is nothing but a compounding of errors. Nobody who every knew Yeshua in the flesh ever referred to Him by that word. In fact, it is grammatically impossible to say that word in either Hebrew or Aramaic, as neither language has the “jay” sound.
When His name was transliterated from the Hebrew
of the original Apostolic Scriptures into Greek for transmission to
the Gentile and Greek-speaking Jewish Messianic Believers in the
Diaspora, the name was rendered in Greek as “Iesu.” When the
“church” became centered in Rome and the Greek Scriptures were
translated into Latin, the Romans added an "s" on the end of His
name (because virtually all masculine Latin words end in "s") making
it "Iesus." Then the Germans came along during the Reformation and
changed the "I" to a "J" making the word "Jesus." And then the men
who translated the Latin and German version of the Scriptures into
English didn't bother to correct the error. In the meantime, as more
and more Gentiles were brought into Nazarene Judaism, Yeshua became
thought of less as the Jewish Messiah and more as the “Gentile
As the Gentile “church” became more and more anti-Semitic and the persecutions “in the name of Jesus” became increasingly severe, Jews around the world began to hate that word more and more, and for good reason. But just stop and think how difficult that persecution would have been if the Gentiles had remembered that they were nothing more or less than “adopted” members of a distinctly Jewish sect. And how much more difficult it would have been to persecute Jews “in the name of” Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah. (See also our discussion on the word Jehovah.)
The one and only supreme authority for the Miqra is Adonai Yeshua HaMashiach, and that the order, discipline, and worship are appointed through His sovereignty. Since the Bible is the literal written Word of God and the only true and reliable source of His revelation for His Miqra, the Bible is the ultimate and final source of authority for all matters of faith, practice, and polity.
The Apostolic Writings teach that the biblically-designated shepherds serving immediately under Yeshua and directly over the congregation are called Elders, Overseers, or Pastors. These three titles are properly used interchangeably. The term “Elder” refers to the man’s spiritual maturity and position within the family of God, “Overseer” refers to his responsibility and God-ordained authority to rule benevolently over the family of God, and “Pastor” refers to his shepherding responsibility to lead, guide, feed, protect, and care for the well-being of the children of God, to whom the LORD Yeshua referred as His “sheep.” Elders are called, ordained, and specially equipped by God for His ministry, and they are spiritual gifts given by God to the Miqra.
I personally specifically reject any idea of apostolic or prophetic succession through which the offices of Apostle and Prophet are present in the Miqra today in the technical sense of those titles. I do, however believe in and teach the continuance of all four functions fulfilled by the Elders as recorded in Ephesians 4:11, namely:
Apostles (in the generic sense), which refers to Traveling Elders, those elders whom God has called to travel from place to place as messengers or missionaries;
Prophets (also in the generic sense), or Preaching Elders, whom God has called to specialize in preaching the Word of God;
Evangelists, those Elders who have been called to specialize in presenting the Gospel (the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Adonai Yeshua) to the unsaved, or “Gospelizing” Elders; and
Pastor/Teachers, those Elders whom God has called to fulfill a shepherding ministry over a local assembly of believers, also called Shepherding Elders or Ruling Elders.
The pattern clearly established in the Bible is that there are to be multiple Elders in every local congregation. The number of Elders in not specified in Scripture, but there should be a sufficient number of Elders to effectively meet the spiritual needs of the congregation and to efficiently conduct its ministry. As the first-century synagogue, from which we are descended, had as their rule a minimum of three Rabbis to serve as “beit din” (literally, house of judgment; those who had to make halakhic and legal decisions for their community), it stands to reason that three should be the minimum number of Elders for each local assembly. The duties of the Elders include, but are not limited to, the following activities defined in Scripture:
Their primary duty is to give themselves fully to study, prayer, and the ministry of
God’sword (that is, as their full-time occupation whenever possible).
They are to lead
God’speople by their example in word, conduct, love, spirit, faith, and purity.
They are to benevolently rule over the local congregation of Believers and, when necessary, they are to rebuke and exhort with all authority.
They are not to be dictatorial in their leadership, but are to be to the congregation as a loving father is to his family.
They are to equip the saints to do the work of ministry.
They are to pray for the sick and visit those in their time of need.
They are to oversee the entire ministry, willingly and eagerly, knowing that when Messiah the chief Shepherd appears they shall receive a “crown of glory that does not fade away.”
Elders must initially meet and then maintain rigid spiritual qualifications, and that God will hold them strictly accountable for both their actions and their attitudes as leaders over His Miqra.
They are to be appointed for the congregation by the other Elders (Titus 1:5), and not elected by the congregation.
If a spiritually qualified man, believing that He has been called by God, expresses his desire (1 Tim. 3:1) to commit himself to a lifetime of service as an Elder, his abilities, qualifications, and knowledge of the Apostles’ doctrine (1 Tim. 3:2-7; Titus 1:5-9), as well as the fact of his calling, must be carefully examined by the Elders. After careful examination of the candidate, extensive prayer, and thorough deliberation by the Elders (1 Tim. 5:22), having determined the candidate’s call, willingness, and ability to enter a lifetime of service to Messiah and to the Miqra, the Elders may appoint and ordain the candidate as an Elder, thus providing confirmation to both the local congregation and to the Miqra at large of the LORD’s ordination of the new Elder.
That the four essential continual activities of the community of faith as taught in the Apostolic Writings are to be:
1. Devotion to the apostles’ teaching,
2. Constant fellowship both at and away from the meeting place,
3. The breaking of bread (frequent communal fellowship meals), and
4. Prayer without ceasing (Acts 2:42).
Personal evangelism and spiritual and numerical growth of the assembly will be the inescapable result of these activities.
Messiah has established two memorial ordinances which are to be faithfully observed by the Miqra until His bodily return: water baptism by immersion (mikvah) and the Passover Seder.
Mikvah (Water Baptism)
Inasmuch as the clear teaching of Scripture is that salvation is by grace through faith apart from any form of works, I therefore conclude that the act of baptism or mikvah (immersion in water) is in no way a condition of salvation, nor any part of the salvation process. Rather, immersion in water is an outward demonstration of the inner change (the irrevocably positioning of the believer by Ruach HaKodesh [the Holy Spirit] into the mystical Body of Messiah with its resultant salvation and positional justification) that has already taken place in the life and heart of the new Believer in Messiah. It is a demonstration of Ruach HaKodesh’s immersion of the believer into the Body of Mashiach, which results in salvation and positional justification. In its form, it is a graphic picture of Yeshua’s death, burial, and resurrection, and expresses the Believer’s identification with Mashiach. We believe that a desire for immersion in water should be the immediate response of all those who have been truly “saved” (Acts 2:37-41; 8:12; 8:35-38; 9:11-18; 22:16; 10:47-48; 16:14-15; 16:25-34; 18:8; 19:1-5). For this reason, it is also called “Believer’s Baptism.”
As to form, I perfer the traditionl Jewish method of self-immersion as it was practiced in the first century, with the participant immersing him/herself and the Elder merely observing and lightly assisting if the self-immersion is not total.
Just as the Scriptures clearly teach that it was (and still is) faith and not circumcision which brings salvation to the sons of Israel, so it is faith and neither the water itself or the act of immersion which brings salvation to the Believer in Mashiach. However, just as circumcision is the sign of Israel’s participation in the Original Covenant, so water baptism (mikvah) is the sign that the Believer in Mashiach participates in the “Renewed Covenant.” The “traditional” Jewish community had (and has) the right to assume that all male Jews would submit to the rite of circumcision as a sign of identification with that community. In the same way, the community of Messianic Believers has the same right to assume that all Believers will submit to the rite of mikvah as a sign of identification with our community.
In the Levitical system established by
God for the spiritual leadership of Israel, all priests
were “ordained” to their office at the age of 30 by immersing
themselves in water in a special ceremonial pool of “living water”
called a mikvah. This process was itself therefore also
referred to as mikvah, and was performed under the authority
Messiah has established His Body as a Royal Priesthood and has commanded that all members of that priesthood should undergo their own mikvah for entrance into that priesthood. It is the responsibility of all His people to be obedient to His command.
I recognize the right of each Believer under grace to disagree with me on any doctrine that is not essential to salvation and, having defined water baptism (mikvah) as not essential to salvation, I defend the right and responsibility of each Believer to decide for him/herself whether to be obedient to that ordinance.
Nevertheless, since this mikvah (water baptism by self-immersion) is to be the newly-born-again Believer’s first public act of obedience to the Lord Yeshua, and since evidence of a life of obedience is a responsibility of membership in a biblical fellowship, obedience in this matter should be a prerequisite to full membership in the congregation.
I further urge in the strongest possible terms that all Believers in Mashiach who have not previously done so observe this mitzvah in obedience to the Lord.
Click here for a complete 4-lesson Bible study on the subject of baptism.
That the so-called “Lord’s Supper” (more properly it should probably be called “the Lord’s Seder”) is a memorial activity in which the Miqra shares symbolically in the body and blood of Mashiach. It is an integral part of the annual Passover Seder, as instructed by Yeshua HaMashiach.
In ancient Jewish tradition, it is the date of a person’s death that is memorialized rather than the birthday. There is no clear biblical precedent for the so-called “Lord’s Supper” as practiced weekly, monthly, or quarterly in the Church. The practice only pays homage to the Roman Catholic mass and is inappropriate for Messianic believers.
As the Master was sharing His final Seder with His Talmidim, He instructed that they were to “Do this as a memorial to Me” (1 Cor. 11:24-25). Considered in context, He was clearly referring to the entire Passover Seder, not just the loaf and cup alone. All Messianic Believers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, therefore have an obligation to observe Passover in its Messianic context.
It is altogether appropriate to observe the Jewish tradition of partaking of wine and bread each Shabbat, both at home and in the assembly, and that practice should should be accompanied by the appropriate Hebrew b'rakhot [blessings] over the wine and bread. It would be quite difficult, indeed, for a believer in Messiah to not be cognizant of the parallel of this practice to the Passover memorial of Yeshua.
Stewardship in the Miqra
The biblical rule for giving the in Miqra is twofold:
1. That the work of the ministry be adequately supported; and
2. That the needy be provided for.
Giving within the Body of Messiah is therefore to be done:
2. In proportion to God’s prospering;
3. Into a private fund (“put aside”) at home from which fund the Believer makes distributions according to the direct leading of Ruach HaKodesh; and
4. Presented to the Elders regularly when the congregation meets to celebrate Shabbat.
Every Believer should be a faithful steward of all his resources (time, talent, Spiritual gifts, finances, and other material possessions) for the support of the local assembly and the furtherance of the Gospel at home and abroad. The example established in the Apostolic Wrtings that we are to follow is that the congregation is to deliver their gifts to the Elders for distribution according to the direction of the Lord. A Believer relinquishes all rights to direct the use of the tithe or offering once the gift has been made.
Inasmuch as the primary responsibility of
the Elders is to give themselves fully to study, prayer,
and the ministry of God’s word, the Scriptures are clear that it is
The Miqra and Civil Government
ordained all authority consisting of three basic institutions:
(1) the home; (2) the Miqra; and
Believers should categorically reject as totally unbiblical the false and arbitrary concept which is commonly referred to as “the separation of Church and state” as it is commonly interpreted by our federal, state, and local governments.
The Scriptures are clear that God has ordained human government. However, if human leaders were God-honoring, the resulting form of government would be a Theocracy, as will exist when Messiah reigns physically from Jerusalem. The literal and historical interpretation of the founding documents of the United States of America, and the obvious intention of the founders of this country, indicate that the only valid government is that government whose God is the LORD, the God of Avraham, Yitzhak, and Ya'akov. Further, Believers should reject as totally false and Satan-inspired the interpretation of the Second Amendment by the United States Supreme Court that there is to be a “wall of separation between the Church and the State,” and should support the obvious intention of the literal wording of that Amendment which provides for the protection of the Body of Messiah from any interference by secular government.
The Miqra of Yeshua HaMashiach therefore owes allegiance to the civil government in all areas except those which infringe upon our allegiance to our Savior and only Sovereign Lord Yeshua HaMashiach and to our obedience to His clear commands, precepts, and principles.
The Bible requires the Elders of the Miqra to lovingly discipline the children of God for the purpose of their instruction and restoration to full fellowship. The Scriptures clearly teach that the Elders are to stand firm against all forms of false doctrine and to firmly rebuke those who would lead the Elect astray.
God has given the Miqra a Great Commission to proclaim the Gospel to all nations so that there might be a great multitude from every nation, tribe, ethnic group, and language group who believe in the LORD Yeshua HaMashiach. As ambassadors of Messiah we must use all available means to go both to this nation and to the foreign nations with the Gospel of Yeshua HaMashiach.
The scriptures are clear that there is only one true and universal Miqra of Yeshua HaMashiach. Within the Body of Messiah there is room for differences of opinion concerning nonessential doctrines and polity, and Messianic Believers of similar preferences in the nonessential areas should fellowship together.
However, any form of strife, jealousy, or spirit of unhealthy competition, or any form of divisiveness either within or between any congregations of the LORD’s Elect is an abomination before the LORD.