As Devar Emet is a Jewish community which has been formed by a particular religious faith, it is essential that members agree wholeheartedly with the following statement of faith and the Addendums that follow.
We affirm the following:
- There is one G-d, who has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Every divine action in the world is accomplished by the Father working through the Son and in the power of the Spirit. This G-d has revealed Himself in creation and in the history of Israel as transmitted in Scripture. (Gen. 1:1; I Cor. 8:6; Eph. 4:4-6)
- G-d is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He created humanity in the divine image to serve as creation’s priest and ruler. G-d’s intention for creation involves an order of differentiation, interdependence, and mutual blessing. (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15; Eph. 1:4-6)
- Through the exercise of free will, human beings disobeyed G-d, tarnished the divine image, and abandoned their privileged vocation. As a result, G-d’s consummating purpose for creation met with initial frustration, and all relationships within creation became subject to violence and disorder. (Gen. 4:8; 6:5-7; Rom. 8:20-22)
- G-d chose Israel, the Jewish people, and entered into an everlasting covenant with them so they might be the first fruits of a renewed humanity, who would mediate blessing and restoration to all the nations of the world. In gracious love, G-d gave to Israel the holy Torah as a covenantal way of life, and the holy Land of Israel as an inheritance and pledge of the blessing of the World to Come. (Gen. 12:1-3; Jer. 31:34-36, 35-37; Rom. 11:28-29)
- In the fullness of time, the Divine Son became a human being - Yeshua the Messiah, born of a Jewish virgin, a true and perfect Israelite, a fitting representative and one-man embodiment of the entire nation. He lived as a holy tzaddik, fulfilling without blemish the mitzvot of the Torah. He brings to perfection the human expression of the divine image (Isa. 7:14; John 1:14; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 1:1-4; 4:15)
- Yeshua died as an atonement for the sins of Israel and of the entire world. He was raised bodily from the dead, as the first fruits of the resurrection promised to Israel as its glorification. He ascended to heaven and was there enthroned at G-d’s right hand as Israel’s Messiah, with authority extending to the ends of creation. (Isa. 53:4-6; Ps. 110:1; Matt. 28:18; Mk. 14:61-62; I Cor. 15:3-8; Phil. 2-9-11)
- G-d poured out the Divine Spirit on the community of Yeshua’s followers, so that they might be joined intimately to the Messiah as His Body and become the preliminary representation of the New Covenant fullness promised to Israel. To this early Jewish community G-d added partners from among the nations, who heard the news of G-d’s work in Yeshua and responded to the good news with faith. (Isa. 66:20-21; Acts 2:1-21; 10:44-48; 15:8-9; Eph.1:13; 2:11-22)
- Messiah’s community is a single community expressed in diverse forms within the Jewish community and among the nations. All are called to a dedicated life of worship, neighborly service, and public testimony to Yeshua. Unity and love throughout the entire community confirm Yeshua’s role, as the One sent by the Father, and G-d’s purpose in Messiah for Israel and the Nations. (John 17:20-21; Acts 21:20; Gal. 2:7-8)
- Spiritual life is grounded in godly family units within the relational framework of congregations, whereby persons are to be encouraged, trained, and disciplined. Families in Messianic Jewish congregations should be strengthened and established in their Jewish calling to covenant life. Messianic Jewish congregations are called to connect in Messianic Jewish associations, where they will find mutual enrichment and accountability. (Matt. 18:15-18; Gal. 6:1-2; Rom. 9:1-5; I Cor.7:17-20)
- The Torah is G-d’s gift to Israel. It serves as the constitution of the Jewish people and thus also of the Messianic Jewish community, which comprises Israel’s eschatological first fruits. The Torah does not have the same role for Messianic communities from the nations, though it does provide spiritual nourishment as a witness to the Messiah. The Torah also provides universal norms of behavior and practical life teaching for all. The Torah is to be applied anew in every generation, and in this age as is fitting to the New Covenant order. (Matt. 5:17-20; II Tim. 3:16-17; I Cor. 7:17-20)
- Forgiveness of sins, spiritual renewal, union with Messiah, the empowering and sanctifying presence of the indwelling Ruach HaKodesh, and the confident hope of eternal life and a glorious resurrection are now available to all, Jews and Gentiles, who put their faith in Yeshua, the Risen Lord, and in obedience to His word are joined to Him and His Body through immersion and sustained in that union through Messiah’s remembrance meal. Yeshua is the Mediator between G-d and all creation, and no one can come to the Father except through Him. (Matt. 28:19-20; Lk. 24:46-48; Jn. 14:6; Rom. 6:22, 23; I Cor. 11:23-27)
- Messiah Yeshua will return to Jerusalem in glory at the end of this age, to rule forever on David’s throne. He will affect the restoration of Israel in fullness, raise the dead, save all who belong to Him, judge the wicked not written in the Book of Life who are separated from His presence, and accomplish the final Tikkun Olam in which Israel and the nations will be united under Messiah’s rule forever. This restoration will bring everlasting joy for those who belong to Him. They will live forever in an order of mutual blessing and fellowship with G-d, in a cosmos perfected beyond description. (Isa. 9:4-5/5-6; Rom. 8:18-19; Rev. 20:11-15; 21:1-4)
- The writings of Tanakh and Brit Chadashah are divinely inspired and fully trustworthy (true), a gift given by G-d to His people, provided to impart life and to form, nurture, and guide them in the ways of truth. They are of supreme and final authority in all matters of faith and practice. (II Tim. 3:16, 17; II Pet. 1:19-21)
- The Jewish tradition serves as the living link that connects us as contemporary Jews to our biblical past and provides resources needed to develop a Messianic Jewish way of life and thought. Furthermore, the Christian theological tradition offers riches of insight into the revelation of the Messiah and His will, and Messianic Jews need to draw upon this wealth. (I Thess. 2:15, Rom. 13:7; Jude 3)
Devar Emet has adopted this above Statement of Faith, which is the Statement of Faith of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, approved by the Delegates unanimously on July 19, 2012, as its own.
G-d called a people to Himself who are the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: the Jewish people. This special people, the Jewish people (also called Israel), were chosen by
G-d to be a holy nation and kingdom of priests. The election of Israel is irrevocable despite her national rejection of Yeshua the Messiah. G-d will purge Israel of unbelief during the Great Tribulation, "the time of Jacob's trouble," ultimately resulting in her national acceptance of Yeshua as her true Messiah. (Zechariah 12-13, Romans 11)
There is much discussion today about who is a Jew. For the purposes of Devar Emet and these By-Laws, a Jew is someone who is born of at least one parent with Jewish identity that can be objectively verified, who was raised from childhood with at least a minimal understanding of their identity as a Jew and as a member of the Jewish community at large, and who has personally chosen to singularly identify as a member of the Jewish community. This is consistent with the Law of Return, which is the Modern State of Israel’s minimal requirement for rightful immigration for those of Jewish background. The position of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations regarding this is helpful:
Jewish identity is best understood as neither a strictly religious category nor a strictly ethnic category, but as membership in a people. The primary criterion for defining Jewish identity is Jewish birth. Traditional Judaism recognizes one born of a Jewish mother as Jewish. Based on biblical precedent and reflecting the practice of some elements of the wider Jewish community, we also consider one born of a Jewish father and a Gentile mother to be Jewish, if he or she has identified with the Jewish faith and people through public, and formal actions or commitments. Therefore, for the purposes of UMJC membership requirements, the minimal standard for Jewish identity is at least one parent with Jewish identity that can be objectively verified. Since Jewish identity is not strictly ethnic the discovery of Jewish ancestry beyond ones grandparents does not in itself render one Jewish. (affirmed by the UMJC Delegates: July 2015)
Israel is distinct from the Body of Messiah (the worldwide community of believers in Messiah Yeshua, both Jewish and Gentile). Jewish believers, therefore, have a unique twofold identity: first, as the spiritual remnant of physical Israel and second, as members of the Body of Messiah.
G-d has made an unconditional covenant with Israel that has remained unfulfilled, which includes the provisions of seed, land, and blessing. The seed aspect refers to a descendant who would come to redeem Israel. The land aspect of the covenant refers to the land of Israel. The blessing aspect of the covenant refers to the blessings of the entire world through Israel and her Messiah. G-d intends to fulfill all His promises to Israel in a literal way, just as His warnings and judgments were fulfilled in a literal way. In the Messianic kingdom, the Jewish people will know G-d personally through Messiah Yeshua and will possess the entire land of Israel according to its biblical boundaries.
Intermarriage typically leads to assimilation. For this reason, it is our conviction that Gentiles married to Jews should commit themselves to living as part of the Jewish people and to make their home unambiguously a Jewish home. At the same time, Jewish believers should encourage their children to seek out and marry other Jewish believers for the sake of Jewish continuity and Messianic Jewish witness. This Messianic Jewish Congregation shall always be a warm and accepting place for intermarried families to attend and grow spiritually and personally in their faith in Messiah Yeshua and in their Jewish life and practice.
We believe that G-d gave the practices of the Torah (Mosaic Law) for moral instruction and as a body of cultural-national practices which would point forward to the Messiah's work. The Torah is valid as a reflection of G-d's righteous standard and as a means of preserving a distinct nation Israel. Fulfillment by the work of Yeshua does not imply the abrogation of the Torah; therefore, within the universal Body of Messiah, Jewish people should maintain their distinctive biblical and cultural identity. The traditional Jewish applications of the teachings of Torah provide guidance for how to live out Jewish life, but they should not be understood as authoritative; Scripture is our authoritative standard for faith and life. Torah observances are not a means of atonement for sin; this is by faith alone in the atonement Messiah Yeshua provided through his death. Neither are they to be a source of pride, resulting in the reinstitution of the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile. Rather, for Jewish believers, these observances are biblical expressions of a G-d-given Jewish identity and a means of fulfilling our covenant responsibility. They are also a testimony of G-d's faithfulness to the entire Body of Messiah and the non-believing world. (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:17-18; 17:6-9; Exodus 19:6; Numbers 24:9; Deuteronomy 7:6-9; 14:1-2; 29:1; 30:10; 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Jeremiah 30:7; 31:31-37; Ezekiel 20:33-42; 36:25-28; Hosea 3:4-5; Amos 3:2; 9:8; Zechariah 12:10--13:9; Matthew 28:18-20; John 4:22; Acts 13:46; 21:24-26; Romans 1:16; 6:14; 8:2; 9:1-5; 10:1-4; 11:1-5, 25-29; 1 Corinthians 9:20; 2 Corinthians 3:1-11; Galatians 3:1-6, 11; Ephesians 2:14-16).
Addendum 2--The Role of Gentile Believers in a Messianic Jewish Community
When a Gentile becomes a Believer in Messiah Yeshua he is grafted into the “olive tree” whose root is the Patriarchs (Romans 11:17-24), and becomes with Jewish Believers part of the “one new man in the Household of G-d”, having been brought near through the blood of Messiah Yeshua’s sacrifice (Ephesians 2:11-22). However, it is also clear from the New Testament Scripture that the Gentile Believer does not become a Jew. He does not have the same role and responsibilities as a Jew, although by no means is he a second class citizen. As discussed above, G-d’s plan is for there to be one “called out Community of Believers”, consisting of both Jews and Gentiles. Though this is meant to specifically refer to a spiritual reality and is spiritually true, the physical reality of this in our time is lacking as we can see by the plurality of congregations and denominations among followers of Messiah Yeshua today. Since the creation of a Messianic Jewish Congregation could not be this “ideal” community, the role of Gentile Believers with no connection to the Jewish community either by family or personal relationships needs to be limited. First, the goals of this uniquely Jewish community would limit a Gentile Believer’s role since by definition a Messianic Jewish community requires that the membership and leadership must always be predominantly Jewish. Second, when a spokesperson for the community or a community spiritual leader is chosen, it would be consistent with the purpose of this congregation for that individual to be Jewish. Because of this, very few Gentiles with no connection to the Jewish Community would consider joining themselves to such a body, yet G-d does burden at times some who do feel called to cast their lot with the Jewish people. These individuals should be willing to acculturate themselves by learning Jewish history, culture, and tradition. They should be willing to wrestle with and apply the full instruction of G-d found in the Scriptures, especially the Torah. They should realize that this is a “Messianic Jewish” congregation with a unique function and not just another “Christian” congregation. At no time is the purpose of this Synagogue to be a place where Gentile believers attend and join for the purpose of simply learning the Jewish roots of faith in Messiah Yeshua.
Addendum 3 -- Women's Teaching and Authority Roles within the Synagogue
Paul's purpose for writing 1 Timothy chapters 2 and 3 is to clarify instructions for corporate worship and spiritual authority within a community of Yeshua followers. In verses 2:1-7 he is encouraging corporate prayer for leaders and those in authority. In 2:8-10 Paul is stressing the importance of worship from a proper motivation and spiritual condition, avoiding the superficial elements that many associate with worship. From 3:1-13 Paul is giving instruction on specific spiritual authority roles within the congregation.
In 1 Timothy 2:11-15, in between his teaching on proper worship and spiritual authority roles, Paul begins a new thought when he says "Let a woman....". Here he is authoritatively instructing Timothy regarding the specific issue of women's roles within the congregation, seeking to clarify appropriate actions for women during corporate worship. The thought pattern is as follows:
1) Women are to receive spiritual instruction from men with a quiet and submissive spirit.
2) Women are not to exercise spiritual authority over men within the corporate worship
3) Women are to accept these role limitations as part of G-d's design based on the order of Creation as well as due to the disobedience in the Garden of Eden
This pattern for women's roles within corporate worship is stated as well in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and 14:33-35. Here the emphasis is on submission to spiritual authority and maintaining proper order within the corporate worship of the congregation. These verses are not actually stating that women cannot speak at all during the corporate worship of the congregation, but they are saying, when compared with 1 Timothy 2:11-15, that women are not to do anything that would be perceived as an exercising of spiritual authority over the congregation during this time; and teaching, according to this text, would be an example of an exercise of spiritual authority.
This limitation for women concerning the role of teaching within the corporate worship of the congregation, is not meant to withhold opportunity for ministry from women. This is a limitation based on G-d's design, just as the Levitical Priesthood was limited only to the males from the tribe of Levi based on G-d's design. This limitation was not cultural, nor was it temporary for just that time; it also is not because, as some falsely believe, that women might have a more limited Scriptural knowledge than men. It is a limitation placed on women due to G-d's design and expectation for men to step up and, seek and exercise their role of spiritual authority.
Although teaching as part of the corporate worship of the congregation is not an available role for women to participate in, there are many opportunities for women to teach outside of this specific context within the congregation. Small group Scripture studies, Shabbat school, children and youth education, encouraging others with portions of Scripture, and women’s discipleship groups are just a few obvious opportunities where women can use their abilities and the exercising of inappropriate spiritual authority is not an issue.
In conclusion, the Scriptures indicate that a woman may participate fully in corporate worship and congregational activities, but she is limited during corporate worship from activities where it could be perceived that she might be exercising spiritual authority, teaching being one of these activities.
Addendum 4 – Statement on Marriage (UMJC Theology Committee Statement)
Scripture portrays, discusses, and defines marriage extensively, beginning with the earliest accounts in the book of Genesis through the book of Revelation. Messiah Yeshua cites texts in Genesis to provide a definition of marriage, which he gave in response to a question about divorce.
Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’ [Gen. 1:27], and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ [Gen. 2:24]? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what G-d has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matt 19:3-6, NRSV)
Messiah’s words indicate that G-d is the one who brings man and woman together in sexual, emotional and spiritual union. Therefore, marriage is defined a as a sealed and divinely affirmed religious covenant made between three parties, to which the community bears witness and pledges its support. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman, under the blessing of G-d, with the community bearing witness. Hence, it is not a strictly private matter, nor solely the domain of individual choice.
From this simple picture, and from the discussions of the parameters of marriage found elsewhere in Scripture, we can derive several points relevant to community life among our congregations. These points are intended to bring clarity and guidance for our congregations, they are not intended as direct comments on public policy. This working definition is intended as a starting point for more discussion and writing in the future.
Singleness - While scripture affirms and supports family life, and the special needs of small children and their parents, the Bible does not minimize the significance or participation of couples without children, as well as singles. Singleness is a legitimate option for members of our community. In addition, various factors in today’s culture can delay or preclude marriage as a possibility for many, or result in divorce even when one party does not initiate or accept it. Therefore, singleness can be discussed without stigma, and even at times affirmed as beneficial (i.e. 1 Corinthians 7), without minimizing the difficulties and challenges, whether taken on as an intentional calling or simply through circumstances.
Sex and Marriage
- Sexual intimacy within marriage reflects the one-flesh union of man and woman. It has significance and value in marriage as a source of shared pleasure and enhanced intimacy between husband and wife. Sex is an intimate and holy act and an important part of the marriage relationship, whether or not procreation is the result. Even in cases where procreation is not possible, sexual intimacy is still encouraged for its emotional, physical, relational and spiritual benefits. (i.e. Gen. 2:24; Prov. 5:18-19; 1 Cor. 7:3-5)
- Scripture asserts that the proper venue for sexual expression is marriage. (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-5)
- Adultery is sexual union between two partners, at least one of whom is married to someone else. It is pictured as a grave sin throughout Scripture. (Gen. 39:7-10, Prov. 6:32, Matt. 5:28, Heb. 13:4; 1 Cor. 7:1-2)
Family – The fundamental purpose of marriage in Scripture is to create a family. This involves not just the nuclear family of parents and children, but also the extended, multi-generational family, and the spiritual community of which they are a part. As noted in our statement of faith, “Spiritual life is grounded in godly family units within the relational framework of congregations, whereby persons are to be encouraged, trained, and disciplined. Families in Messianic Jewish congregations should be strengthened and established in their Jewish calling to covenant life. Messianic Jewish congregations are called to connect in Messianic Jewish associations, where they will find mutual enrichment and accountability. (Matt. 18:15-18; Gal. 6:1-2; Rom. 9:1-5; I Cor. 7:17-20)”
Same-sex union – Messiah Yeshua’s definition of marriage follows the definition of Torah itself in beginning with, “G-d created them male and female.” Indeed, marriage as the one-flesh union of two individuals is possible because of the complementarity of the two, as male and female, man and woman. Whatever the status of sexual union between two individuals of the same sex, it is not marriage in the sense portrayed throughout Scripture, and affirmed by the unanimous witness of both Jewish and Christian tradition. Marriage therefore, is a sealed and divinely affirmed religious covenant between a man, a woman and G-d.
Divorce – Messiah Yeshua cites the passages in Genesis to balance the implicit permission for divorce found in Deuteronomy 24. He says that divorce is permitted “because of your hardness of heart” (Matt. 19:8), but is not G-d’s intention from the beginning. The Apostolic Writings explicitly grant permission for divorce in the case of sexual infidelity (Matt. 5:32) and possibly abandonment (1 Cor. 7:15). Local communities may need to assess whether divorce would be necessary in other cases, such as one in which the safety of one spouse or the entire family is at risk because of the marriage. (Deut. 24:1-4; Mal. 2:15-16, Matt. 5:31-32, 19:9, Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; Rom. 7:3 1 Cor. 7:10-15, 27-28)