When Bad Theology Leads to Deadly Anti-Semitism

By Nic Lesmeister
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Posted in Featured Articles on May 12, 2019

MJBI has made engaging the Church on Israel-related issues a major part of our mission for well over a decade. Our Board of Directors realized that Christians have a major role to play in loving the Jewish people, with some even being called into formal Messianic Jewish ministry (like Dr. Wayne Wilks and myself). In Romans 11:11, Paul declares that salvation came to the Gentiles in order to provoke the Jewish people to love for Yeshua (Jesus).

The first leaders of “the called out ones” (later called the Church) were all Jewish. And the three major leaders of the early Church – Peter, Paul, and James – each clearly taught that Gentiles coming to faith in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, had the mandate to love the Jewish people with the same selfless love Yeshua showed them.

When the Romans crushed Jerusalem in 70 AD (and then again in 135 AD), the Jewish identity of the Church began to erode. Once in the minority, Gentiles became the majority. Subsequently, this new Gentile leadership made great efforts to disconnect the Church from its Jewish roots and practices. Over many centuries, the Church went from selflessly loving the Jewish people to actively persecuting them. (For a detailed history of this, I highly recommend Dr. Michael Brown’s book, “Our Hands are Stained with Blood”)

The centrally accepted basis for this Christian persecution and violence against the Jewish people was founded in the horrifically errant doctrine of Replacement Theology, or Supersessionism. This is the belief that the Gentile Church has “replaced” or “superseded” the Jewish people as God’s new, spiritual and physical covenant people for world redemption.

A central tenant of this doctrine is that the Jewish people were replaced, forsaken and punished by God for rejecting Jesus as their Messiah. Further still, those adhering to this unbiblical belief sometimes hold the Jewish people historically and presently responsible for crucifying Jesus.

At this point, you might find yourself thinking “Whew, I am so relieved those days of Christian church history are over!”

The deadly crack of gunshots on April 27 (the final day of Passover) at a Chabad synagogue in Poway, California painfully remind us they are not.

A 19-year old young man fatally wounded a lovely Jewish woman, Lori Kaye, in a blatant act of anti-Semitism. As the news began to unfold, an understanding of the shooter’s motives arose: he hated the Jewish people. What made him different, however, was the apparent faithful adherence he had to his Evangelical Christian faith.

In a seven-page tirade, the shooter listed his many reasons why Jewish people deserved to die, ultimately believing killing Jews would glorify God. You can imagine how shocked his pastor was to read this hate-filled composition, especially as the shooter’s father was an elder at the small church he led. How could such a seemingly devoted, sincere, Evangelical Christian hold anti-Semitic beliefs so contrary to the Bible?

A recent Lifeway survey among younger American evangelicals showed that only 41% of respondents disagreed with the statement “The church has fulfilled or replaced the nation of Israel in God’s plan.” It is frightening that 59% (a majority!) of the younger Christians polled either hold to Replacement Theology or are unsure whether it is right or wrong.

Unfortunately, the church denomination to which the Poway shooter belonged states on their website that they believe the Church has replaced Israel as the new covenantal people of God. In no way do I hold the church, pastor or denomination directly at fault for this atrocity, but I do believe it should alarm us, especially those of us concerned about the under-30 generation of believers in Jesus.

Against this backdrop, the mission of MJBI to engage the church on Israel takes on even greater, more immediate importance. If Paul’s vision was for the Church to lovingly and sincerely provoke the Jewish people to envy for Yeshua (Rom. 11:11), then how far have we in the Church fallen from this mandate?

Just fifteen verses later, Paul declares that “all Israel WILL be saved” (Rom. 11:26), after an eloquent illustration of Jewish and Gentile equal identity as the grafted-in remnant of God through the olive tree picture. The Gentile Church does NOT replace, fulfill or supersede the Jewish people. We are enjoined to their covenantal destiny through Yeshua, the Messiah OF the Jewish people.

Paul tells us that when the Gentiles lovingly provoke the Jewish people to faith in Yeshua, there will be a “life from the dead” revival in the non-Jewish nations of the earth. (Rom. 11:15) And in the book of Ephesians, we see a similar theme repeated in Paul’s writings on the “one new man” of Jew and Gentile, equally united in the Messiah, but distinct in their Jewish and Gentile identities. Loving the Jewish people unto a sincere faith in Yeshua is one of the highest Biblical mandates for every non-Jewish follower of Yeshua! The Gospel is “to the Jew first, and then to the Gentiles” (Rom. 1:16), and there is an incredible blessing in store for those who actively participate in this ministry. (Genesis 12:3)

Please do not minimize the recent rise in anti-Semitism. Bad theology has always been at the heart of any Christian anti-Jewish belief. And the only possible way to combat this is to teach accurate theology on Israel and the Jewish people – that they are beloved of God, and of priority to Him for salvation in Yeshua!

At MJBI, we have been determinedly accelerating our mission to engage the Church and equip Gentile leaders to love the Jewish people and make them a priority in their efforts to bring the Good News of Yeshua to the world. The Poway shooting only emphasizes our need to expand this mission to the wider reaches of the Church in America and abroad.

Thank you for being one who is committed to a biblical theology on Israel and the Jewish people. You are more informed than you may think to bring this healthy understanding of Israel and the church to your friends, family and faith communities. And we have ample resources to help you understand this even more deeply, so please take advantage of them!

May the LORD continue to guide us all to be bearers of Yeshua’s light “to the Jew first,” and then to the nations… starting in our own churches and congregations!

Nic Lesmeister

Nic LesmeisterNic Lesmeister
President & CEO