Month 7:18, Week 3:3 (Shleshi/Bikkurim), Year:Day 5937:196 AM|
SUKKOT IV, Dedication of Solomon's Temple 4/8
Gregorian Calendar: Tuesday 22 October 2013
Sukkot IV 2013
From Church to Messianic Israel
Continued from Part 3
Chag sameach Sukkot kol beit Yisra'el and welcome to this fourth assembly of the final festival of the year in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name! As on the previous two days we have had some very lively and deep discussions with those who have been able to stay on.
Naming of People and of Elohim
The other day we were looking at the essential meaning of names - of our own personal ones and what it means to have a shem tov or good name in Yahweh, and following on from that we looked a little at the Name of Elohim (God) - Yahweh - and what that meant.
What Should we Call Our Church?
Today, in asking Yahweh what I should talke to you about, I was given the very clear davar (word) to talk about church, assembly and denominational names, since there are not only so many of them but also because there are some groups of believer who insist that not only should we all use the same, proper name of the messianic fellowship in B'rit Chadashah Scripture (New Testament) times but, in some cases, to go exclusively to those who claim that they alone have been authorised to use that name! So we have quite a bit to cover today though I will try to keep it as brief as possible.
Yahweh's View of Sectarianism and Unity
Any time a group of believers decides to get together to form a new denomination or congregation they are faced with the question: what should we call ourselves in order to be distinguished from others who believe slightly differently to us? The fact that there are differences at all is, of course, a problem in itself because separation or sectarianism is not regarded positively by Yahweh in His Davar (Word). There is supposed to be only one fellowship of believers and they are all supposed to be united by a common doctrine and practice - the officers and gifts in the local assembly are given to maintain that continuing unity in "all truth" (Jn.16:13):
The Reality of Divisions
"He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Messiah, till we all come to the unity of the emunah (faith) and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim (God), to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the emet (truth) in ahavah (love), may grow up in all things into Him who is the head -- Messiah -- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in ahavah (love)" (Eph.4:11-16, NKJV).
Sectarianism - the breaking up into sects - is, sadly, one of the signs of apostacy, but it is nevertheless a reality in our world that we must deal with and understand. There are many believers, with noble and righteous intentions, who resist the tendency for churches and congregations to split when there are differences. Some of the differences can be quite petty and have more to do with personalities than with principles.
The Roman Catholic-Eastern Orthodox Split
It it hard to believe, considering how diverged they have become, but the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches originally separated over a single word which has become known to ecclesiatical historians as the Filioque Controversy, a word which in the Latin means "from the Son". The two factions of that Church were debating the nature of the Godhead which we don't have time to get into today as to what the essence and origin of the respective Persons of the Godhead are. My point in raising this, though, is that though churches tend to split over little things, in the process of time the gap simply widens. And the reason this happens is because there were other unresolved doctrinal issues that invariably lay behind whatever it was that catalysed the divisions into formal separation.
The Myth of the 'Church' and the Origin of the Circus
One of the biggest problems we face in addressing this issue of congregation names is that in the days of Messiah and the apostles there never was such a creature known as a 'church'. It never existed in Tanakh (Old Testament) times and it never existed in Messianic Scripture (New Testament) times either even though our English Bibles use the word 'church' over a hundred times. It comes as a huge shock to most Christians (who don't just stumble over the emet (truth) and then walk right on as though nothing had ever happened, as I quoted Winston Churchill yesterday) to learn that the word 'church' comes not from the Greek word ekklesia which is purports to translate from (and from which we get the English words ecclesia and ecclesiastical) but from the Roman goddess of magic called Circe. 'Church' or Circe was anciently a pagan goddess, a demon from the Roman pantheon. It is from this same word that we get the English word 'circus'.
Origin of the Word 'Church'
Most Christians when they learn these facts are at first shocked and then pretend there is no issue. They move on, unwilling to confront the implications of this emet (truth) because it challenges the whole basis on which their corporate worship structure is built. In Greek, Circe was known as Kírké which is why the Scots called the church a 'kirk', the same word as the Norwegian kirke (who brought it over to England with the Vikings) and to the Swedish kyrka and the German Kirche. Kirche, kirke / kyrka, kirk, kírké and church nevertheless all come from the same source, the Roman goddess of magic, Circe, who was also known as a nymph, witch, sorceress and enchantress. She was almost certainly a real person a long time ago - probably one of the nephilim or giants, whose doings later became incorporated into Greek mythology.
The Story of the Witch Circe
According to the legend, Circe murdered her husband, the prince of Colchis, and was expelled by her subjects and placed by her father on the solitary island of Aeaea. Later traditions tell of her leaving, or even destroying, the island and moving to Italy. In particular Cape Circeo in Italy is named after. By most accounts, Circe was the daughter of Helios, the sun-god (whom the founder of Catholicism, Constantine, worshipped ), and of Perse, an Oceanid. Her brothers were Aeëtes, the keeper of the Golden Fleece and Perses, and her sister was Pasiphaë, the wife of King Minos and mother of the Minotaur. Other accounts make her the daughter of Hecate, a demoness that holds great sway over feministic women in particular. In any event, she was almost certainly a descendent of one of the giants or nephilim that we are told were sired when Watcher malakim (angels) left their first estate, lusted after earth's women, married them, and produced a race of violent giants, some as tall as 13 feet, which terrorised the planet and nearly corrupted the human genetic population before they were eventually wiped out in the flood. Noah and his family alone did not have their DNA corrupted and so were preserved as the Messianic Line. It's a long and involved story which we can talk about another time. Addionally, Circe at some point became identified with various grain crops and it is also from her that we get the English word 'cereal'. In fact, like me, you were probably eating from 'church' or circe this morning for breakfast!
'Church' is a Demon and Should Not Be Mentioned
Whether you like it or not, and whether you are aware of it or not, every time you refer to a 'church' or its related words like 'kirk' in Scotish English or Kirche in German, you are bringing to memory an ancient witch who was likely descended from one of the rebel Watcher malakim (angels) and whose name is associated with a demon. Knowing what the Bible says about such things, I hope you are appalled if this is new information to you. If not, I have to wodner why, because the Tanakh (Old Testament) commands is to not even mention these gods. Yahweh said to Moses and to the children of Israel:
Speaking to the children of Israel, Joshua would later say:
"And in all that I have said to you, be circumspect and make no mention of the name of other gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth" (Ex.23:13, NKJV).
Don't Use the Names of False Gods
"You shall not make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause anyone to swear by them; you shall not serve them nor bow down to them, but you shall hold fast to Yahweh your Elohim (God), as you have done to this day. For Yahweh has driven out from before you great and strong nations; but as for you, no one has been able to stand against you to this day" (Josh.23:7-9, NKJV).
Here you have your minimum requirement of two witnesses to establish an emet (truth) - we should avoid using the names of these gods as much as we possibly can, so that we do not give them honour. For they delight in nothing more than in having their names repeated. Needless to say there are spirits behind demon names and when people start getting overly fond of churches and descending in what I call 'churchiolatry' - setting up the church as an institition which supposedly has Yahweh's blessing on it - then what you are in reality dealing with is the worship of a false god competing with worship of the True One.
The Ekklesia, Koinonia and Kehillah
The Greek word Ekklesia, which we translate into 'church' in modern English Bibles, means 'the called out ones', literally the qodeshim, saints, holy ones or set-apart-ones. In other words, believers. It never refers to an organisation or a denomination, even if our modern English word 'ecclesiastical' that derives from it, has not come to mean 'of the Church'. The Greek word used to describe the spiritual fellowship between those who are the ekklesia or called-out ones is koinonia. The modern Hebrew equivalent of ekklesia is the Kehillah or 'congregation' which is used by many Messianics groups.
Churches Did Not Exist in Biblical Times
If there were no 'churches' in biblical times, what were there? Before the time of Moses and the restoration of Torah, we are not told very much because Genesis is such a condensed history covering a vast span of time . One thing we do know was that Yahweh's people were patriarchal and family-based. They would congregate for worship as families, clans and tribes that included not only blood relatives but also servants and perhaps even some family friends. Abraham's family, which became a very large clan, would worship as a single unit before El Elyon, the Most High with Abraham as family cohen or priest. Such clans would, on average, contain about three generations, and this is partly why Yahweh is known as "the Elohim (God) of Abraham, the Elohim (God) of Isaac, and the Elohim (God) of Jacob" (Ex 4:5, NKJV; also 1 Ki.18:36, etc.), and He continued to be known as such even into B'rit Chadashah Scripture (New Testament) times (Mt.22:32; Mk.12:26; Lk.20:37; Ac.3:13; 7:32).
Now in those days they didn't have 'organisations' as we have them today becase the congregation of Yahweh consisted of families and clans who assembled together to worship at the times appointed such as the sabbath. If you are looking for a name for this worshipful assembly then the nearest that I can come up with would me Mishpachah Avraham or the 'Family of Abraham'. That is why this assembly here where we are worshipping today is called Mishpachah Lev-Tsiyon, of the 'Family of Lev-Zion', which is my Hebrew name. The ancient patriarchal 'church', so-called, was quite simply a family or a family of families.
The Scriptural Definition of the Body of Believers
And basically that divine tavnith or pattern has been the worship structure ever since. When Moses was called to restore the Torah it was in behalf not of a 'church' but a FAMILY and that family was known as ISRAEL, the name given by Yahweh to Jacob after he had wrestled with him and overcome his carnal nature. Israel, which means 'he who prevails or overcomes with Elohim (God)', is therefore the name given to those individuals who are overcomers. There was never an 'organisation' or 'ekklesia' known as the 'Assembly of Israel', for instance, as we understand the term today, but it was simply a Family of families under a tribal head (Moses) under B'RIT OR COVENANT and that b'rit or covenant was the ketubah or betrothal contract entered into under a canopy, booth, tabernacle or sukkah known as a chuppah, which physically was the smoke or cloud that covered Mount Sinai and the people of Israel; and the terms of the ketubah or marriage contract was the TORAH! Yahweh's people have always been individuals within families who are under the Torah or Betrothal Covenant made at Shavu'ot (the Feast of Weeks, wrongly called 'Pentecost') who assembled at Yahweh's appointed times or moedim. There was never an 'organisation' known as the 'Assembly of Israel' or, if you like (Yah forbid), the 'Church of Israel' (as some scholars describe it), but there was, is, and always will be a FAMILY that assembles together for worship, and that slide of time when those Israelite families gather together is what is called an 'Assembly' or an 'assembling together'. THERE IS NO SUCH THING BIBLICALLY AS AN ASSEMBLY OR A 'CHURCH' because we are not defined by the organisation, convention or denomination we belong to but by the covenant or b'rit that we are under.
New Testament Designations of Believers and Their Fellowships
But, you might argue, doesn't the New Testament speak of the 'Church of God' and the 'Church of Christ'? Well, yes and no, our English translations certainly speak of these the "Church of God" mentioned eight times , though interestingly there is not a single mention of the "Church of Christ" or "Church of Jesus Christ", though there are plural designations like 'churches of God' mentioned three times  and 'churches of christ' mentioned once . Additionally, believers were also known as followers of "the Derech" or "the Way" , talmidim (disicples) 274 times - in other words, those under the discipline of Torah  - and only on three occasions, 'Christians', a name invented by their enemies . There was never an organisation like the 'Church of God' or the 'Church of Christ' because the fellowship or koinonia (in Greek) of believers was always ISRAEL, the called-out ones or overcomers, and never those who were mere members of an organisation.
The Perpetuity of Israel
Israel never ended, it simply continued under a B'rit Chadashah or New Covenant replacing the former Covenant which we colloquially refer to sometimes as the 'Covenant of Moses' or 'Old Covenant' though neither of these are actually biblical terms. Believers often speak of Yah'shua (Jesus) as "King", as He rightly is, but forget that He is a king of a 'Kingdom' called Israel which is both inward ("not of this world [system]" - Jn.18:36) and outward as a theocracy. When the Jews rejected Him as King of Israel they ceased being Israelites and reverted to becoming the mere sons of unsaved Jacob. Indeed Scripture speaks of a number of covenants, twelve in total , not just 'Old' and 'New' but we don't have time to get into that today. To distinguish the Israel of the former covenant established through Moses we therefore refer to this continuing Israel as New Covenant Israel or Messianic Israel which consists of overcomers like Jacob (renamed Israel) under the ketubah or marriage contract of Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus). The teaching that the 'church' replaced Israel - known as Replacement Theology - is a false one, but equally false is the claim that all the modern Jews are Israel because unless they have accepted King Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus) they are no longer entitled to the name 'Israel'. The true Israel is born-again, Torah-obedient believers.
Churches and Their Bylaws and Creeds
If you have joined a 'church' with a list of 'bylaws' that requires you to subscribe to this or that creed like the Westminister Confession, one or more or the Trinitarian Creeds, and so forth, then there is a risk that you are under a corrupted betrothal contract that partly honours Yahweh and partly honours the traditions of man. This is something that you seriously need to look into. That is not to say that congregations don't need rules and authority structures in order to function smoothly but it is to say that they must be Torah-based.
What is Our Constitution?
Now I realise it over-simplistic to declare that our 'Constitution' or Ketubah is "the Bible" (all Bible-believing Christians ckaim that) or "the Torah" (all Messianics claim that) because we then return to the age-old problem of who will interpret it? Sad to say, there are messianic cults who claim the Torah as their final authority just as there are Protestant and other cults which focus around one or more charismatic leaders. That is not to say, if I might borrow a Ghanan term, that there is anything wrong with the concept of a 'one man church' provided it is understood that what you have is a GATHERING OF ISRAEL - of talmidim or disciples who, as we saw yesterday, are focussed around obedience to Torah and emunah (faith) in Messiah for there is no one single way that Messianic Israel can gather while we lack a land to live in, namely, our own country. For Israel is both a "family of families" and a country or a nation. Until we have a proper theocracy - and we won't get that until Messiah returns in the Millennium and we are gathered in the Holy Land - we are going to have to make some compromises, of necessity, in what is less than an idea situation until the nations have been judged and we can return home.
Two Ways of Organising Whilst in Diaspora
So I want to propose to you two valid ways in which Messianic Israel can assemble while we are in diaspora or scattered throughout the nations, and they are these:
Strengths and Weaknesses of a Central System
- 1. They centre around a particular family whose head (father, husband) is acknowledged as having been gifted, anointed or called to be a leader - not by compulsion, but by free choice of assembly. This would resemble something like Abraham's family or Mishpachah Avraham or Mishpachah Avraham, Yitchak & Yakov - the Family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Those families which assembled together with this central mishpachah or family would do so of their own free will and would be free to leave to assemble with others if they so chose later; and
- 2. Various Messianic Israelite families voluntarily associate together as a confederation of families led by a council of family heads with perhaps, up to three, being designated as Presiding Zaqenim or Elders (a Pastorate), after the B'rit Chadashah pattern of apostles. There could, if necessary, be a rotating presidency of sorts.
There are inherent weaknesses in both arrangements. In the first, there is the risk of the presiding head becoming a dictator which is why there should be freedom of families to leave if they so choose. One thing that must be avoided is the all too prevalent 'one-and-only-truth-church' syndrome that Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and others have, including some messianic groups and evangelical churches led by strong charismatic personality-types who demand unquestioning obedience and who threaten God's retribution of they disobey or leave - Benny Hinn springs to mind cursing those who oppose 'God's anointed'. Most of these authoriatian types use Tanakh (Old Testament) scriptures to justify their tyranny and dictatorship, forgetting that this was a theocracy which does not exist today because we are not in our own country. The strength of this system is that strong leadership enables a family of believers to go far quickly.
Strengths and Weaknesses of a Dispersed System
The weakness of the second system, which is based on the Tribal Confederacy model of pre-monarchy Israel, is the risk of power struggles between carnal men and women. Both systems would employ a Councils of Elders - essentially Patriarchs - who consult and pray with each other. We have quite a well developed system given to us by revelation which is to be found in the Olive Branch though it has little been implemented by us because of fewness of numbers in the past. This is something we will need to discuss again as we get reorganised.
'Church' vs. New Covenant Torah
But what is important for now is the understanding that there is no such thing as a 'church', which is of pagan Roman origin, and that we are all a part of a nation in dispersal, namely, Israel, and that our 'creed' is New Covenant Torah- - that Torah given at Sinai which Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) "filled up", "completed" or "fulfilled", not replaced, done away with or destroyed.
The Reorganisation of the B'rit Chadashah Assembles of Yahweh
We must now seriously consider these things as new congregations abroad are seeking to be joined to us. I will be saying more about this in the near future but for now I wanted to make everyone aware - including those in Africa, Asia and elsewhere who wish to connect to this Mishpachah - how the biblical system actually works. We have ourselves had a lot of names over the years and have, pending further revelation, made the following decisions:
Maintaining the Work of Elohim
- 1. That the central congregation or assembly here in Scandinavia shall retain its name of Mishpachah Lev-Tsiyon to which all other congregations wishing to affiliate be connected to, and to the apostles as they are once again commissioned;
- 2. That those in affiliation with us be known, collectively, as the B'rit Chadashah Assemblies of Yahweh, or New Covenant Assemblies of Yahweh if they prefer , and that each local congregation or fellowship be known, as in Biblical times, by the name of the place in which the believers gather for worship - for example, Lagos (Nigeria) B'rit Chadashah (or New Covenant) Assembly of Yahweh, Shanghai (China) B'rit Chadashah (or New Covenant) Assembly of Yahweh, or Düsseldorf (Germany) B'rit Chadashah (or New Covenant) Assembly of Yahweh, and so on; and that we retain our colloquial name of Messianic Evangelicals as describing what we are theologically; and
- 3. That we continue with our former system of admissions for congregations abroad wanting association by assigning a three year probationary period during which we instruct these congregations and pastors as to the doctrines and practices of New Covenant Messianic Israel during which time they will, first, consult their elders and deacons to get approval of the changes, and finally, their membership, so that all is done by free consent and over a sufficient period of time to make the necessary doctrinal and practical adjustments, with of course the freedom of any congregation to pull out of this probationary period if they do not feel called to continue into full union with us.
We will discuss these proposals amongst the members of the central Mishpachah here in Scandinavia and then in due course announce our final decision. We will then get in contact with the various congregations in Africa and elsewhere so that they can consider our new proposals. It is not our intention to by any means rush ahead, but to wait on Yahweh to see what it is He desires of us at this time. These are obviously early days. What we are keen to do is ensure that this remains a work of Elohim (God) and not a work of man.
Staying Clear of False Systems
One thing is absolutely certain, though, is that we dare not imitate either the Roman church or Jewish systems in any way unless they are fully aligned with Scripture, and that we adhere strictly to the terms of the B'rit Chadashah or New Covenant laid down in the whole Bible. Our motto remains All Emet (Truth) and we shall not compromise with that at any time.
We shall continue discussing this after the meeting so that we don't run overtime as we did yesterday. May Yahweh bless us in our prayerful deliberations as we seriously consider our reorganisation under the canopy of Sukkot (Tabernacles) and the King of Sukkot, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). Amen.
Continued in Part 5
 The cult of the dying and resurrecting god Mithra which became blended with Yah'shua (Jesus) to form the new religion known as Roman Catholicism, major elements of which - including Roman Sun-day worship - passed into Protestantism
 Various apocryphal and pseudepigraphraphical texts like the Book of Yahshar (Jasher - which is probably a fraud) and the Book of Enoch (which seems to have become slightly corrupted) purport to go into greater detail of this period of interesting history
 Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 3:5
 1 Corinthians 11:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:4
 Romans 16:16
 Acts 9:2; 19:9; 24:22
 So a denominational name like 'Disciples of Christ' is much more scriptural than those using the title of 'Church(es) of Christ'
 Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16
 The Babylonian Circus: Has the Torah Been Abolished?
 'B'rit Chadashah Assemblies of Yahweh' shall be the official registered name but in Muslim countries where Hebrew words might provoke an unnecessary backlash, 'New Covenant Assemblies of Yahweh' shall be considered acceptable; and in a country like the Republic of Israel where the pronunciation of the Divine Name 'Yahweh' is viewed a blasphemy and might equally provoke an unnecessary backlash, 'B'rit Chadashah/New Covenant Assemblies of YHWH' shall also be considered permissable or even a complete translation into Hebrew substituting 'Assembly' for 'Kehillah'