‘Distinction Theology’ or Distinguished By Love?

Upon attending a Messianic Jewish congregation for quite some time recently, I was introduced to a relatively newer labeled theology unfamiliar to me known as ‘Distinction Theology’, which sets apart Jewish people from Gentiles even if both are believers in Yeshua/Jesus. The congregation used resources from First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ), a Messianic Jewish ministry, which is how I discerned this fascinating, but what I believe to be false doctrine. Moreover, it reveals the importance of being familiar with the word of God, having the Holy Spirit, and discerning all that is being taught as well as the fruit manifesting from various doctrines. In FFOZ’s recently published Messiah Journal, they define Distinction Theology as such:

What is distinction theology? It’s the premise that there is a difference between Jewish people and Gentiles, even after they become Yeshua followers.” , D Thomas Lancaster, First Fruits of Zion, “Distinction Theology and Diversity in the Communities of Yeshua”, Messiah Journal Issue #134, Summer 2019

In the article, Mr. Lancaster goes on to explain this theology is based off of Exodus 19:4-6, which defines Israel as a holy nation and set apart priesthood. After breaking down the verse being exclusively for Israel being the chosen nation and chosen elite priests, Lancaster pens the following,

Likewise, as a holy nation, Israel is set apart. The Jewish people have special priestly duties that the rest of the nations do not. There are things they are required to do that the rest of the nations are not required to do. They also have privileges and prerogatives that the rest of the nations don’t have. That’s what distinction theology is about.

The distinction between Priest and High Priest by uniform and duties could be a prophetic clue to come.

However, when we study the entirety of Scripture along with Exodus 19:4-6, what we will find is the only ‘distinction’ God seems to stress upon believing in His Son, Jesus/Yeshua, and receiving His Holy Spirit, which is the same Holy Spirit dispersed to all of us, is that we be distinct from the worldly lifestyle as set apart people not distinct from one another. In fact, numerous Scripture reveals that once a person believes in Jesus/Yeshua as Messiah, they are considered to be united with Him and others in Him. I suspect in an effort to thwart Anti-Semitism and the false notion that Yeshua came to start a new religion, distinction theology, promoting ethnic Jews and Judaism, was birthed. But rather than emphasizing our genetic and cultural differences, and yet still esteeming Israel at the same time, Scripture seems to implore Jewish believers to no longer view Gentile believers as a lesser ‘unclean’ (Acts 10) class and for Gentiles who believe and follow Yeshua to no longer self-identity as ‘Gentiles’, for Gentiles were not of God, rather now, having been ‘brought near’ or ‘grafted-in’, Gentiles now are apart of Israel…they now are also apart of an eternal, holy nation, a greater or enlarged priesthood alongside believing Jews, and therefore, NOT distinct from Jewish believers in Yeshua. Believing Jews and Gentiles were worshiping together in the early assemblies/synagogues after Yeshua’s resurrection until the works of some UNholy spirits divided them.

Moreover, now that we are a new creation in Messiah (2 Corinthians 5:17), consisting of one unit, one body, one faith in Him, we are to be one as we are set apart or distinct from a worldly lifestyle, not each other. Compare the following Scriptures:

  • “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh– who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands- that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:11-13 (NKJV)
  • “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29 (NKJV)
  • There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. ” Ephesians 4:4-6 (NKJV)
  • “You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief (faith & obedience) they (natural Israelites) were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear (keep God’s laws). For if God did not spare the natural branches (Israelites/physically Jewish people), He may not spare you either (grafted-in Israelites/spiritual Jews/former Gentiles). Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but towards you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they (natural Israelites/physical Jews) also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.” Romans 11:19-23 (NKJV)
  • “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind, let nothing be done in selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Philippians 2:2-3 (NKJV)
  • Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Ephesians 2:19 (NKJV)
  • “not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;” 1 Thessalonians 4:5
  • And do not pray like the Gentiles…do not be like them..” Matthew 6:7-15
  • “This is what the LORD says: “Do not learn the ways of the nations (gentiles)…” Jeremiah 10:2 (also see Deut. 12:4,29-32; 13:1-8)
  • Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and LAWLESSNESS, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14 {Note the antithesis to being right with God (righteousness) is lawlessness (not obeying God’s laws).}
  • “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. ” Ephesians 4:17-24

Furthermore, since Distinction Theology emphasizes the priesthood being exclusive to those of Jewish descent, let’s see what God has to say about the priesthood throughout Scripture for further insight. We see the Apostle Peter directly references Exodus 19:4-6 in 1 Peter 2:9 as well as earlier in verse 5 when He addresses believers in Yeshua are as priests.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. ” 1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

One could argue that the Apostle Peter, being a minister to the Jews (Galatians 2:7), was directing his letter to Jewish believers as hinted at by addressing those in the Diaspora/dispersion of Jews throughout the world in 1 Peter 1:-1-2. Fair enough! Keep in mind though, Peter writes some important truths in this letter such as “the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work..” in 1 Peter 1:17 and believers are to “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God…” (2:17). We also see the Apostle Peter says in chapter 4:3, “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles-when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, abominable idolatries..” So even though all of Peter’s writings can easily be applied to a believing Jew and believing Gentile, let’s just say for the sake of argument, Peter was definitely writing specifically to believing Jews and not Gentiles indicating the believing Jews are exclusively the priesthood. But then how would you explain away in Revelation 1:6 the Apostle John’s reference to the non-Jewish (Gentile) ekklesia/assemblies/churches (for they all were in Gentile areas such as Ephesus, according to Revelation 2-3) when John states Christ “made us kings and priests to His God and Father..” ? These are clearly Gentile churches he is writing to as “priests”. Or how would you explain Revelation 20:6 which defines those who made the first cut, the first resurrection, as, “priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” as being exclusive to Jewish believers? By the argument distinction theology is trying to convey, this would mean only Jewish believers in Messiah will be resurrected, so obviously we can throw that logic out. Not to mention, as a side note, the logic of First Fruits of Zion establishing a ministry called ‘Torah Club’ teaching Torah to the Gentiles, when according to their own distinction theology, Torah is not for the Gentiles (they believe only the 7 Noahide Laws apply, but Gentiles can tag along in the other commands if they want). Also, how would one reconcile their Distinction Theology with Revelation 5:10 where it defines these believers also “reigning on earth” (with Christ/Messiah) just like Revelation 20:6 and Revelation 1:6 infer as the priests do? Additionally, the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian ekklesia/church, who were non-Jewish, the same exact sentiments that the Corinthians (formerly known as Gentiles) will also rule and reign judging the earth (1 Corinthians 6) imploring them to learn how to discern and judge spiritual matters now for it is all practice for what is to come. Indeed! We need to better discern through the lense of the Holy Spirit rather than fleshly spirits the entirety of the Word of God and stop fashioning doctrines off one or two verses to appease tradition and other motives while producing bad fruit of division and pride.

Now that we have reviewed a plethora of Scripture revealing there absolutely is NO distinction between Jewish and Gentile believers in Yeshua/Jesus while understanding both believing Jew and Gentile are apart of Israel as well as the priesthood, let’s examine the bigger purpose as to what the role of the chosen enlarged priesthood actually is all about. First, we have already discovered in the above mentioned verses, our set apart calling is not about our flesh or ethnicities for our flesh is temporary, but it is all about the eternal Spirit within us and what it produces in us and through us. In other words, our role in Messiah is not about how we were naturally born nor our ethnic upbringings, but it IS about how we are supernaturally born and that we be brought up to love God and others by serving them like the priest demonstrated.

If we want to understand what our purpose is and how we are to be distinct from the nations/unbelievers, being we are one nation of Israel in Him as believers in Messiah, we would be wise to look at the Biblical priesthood described for such concepts seem to be prophetic clues to our future.

–> First and foremost, we know Yeshua/Jesus is The High Priest (Hebrews 7-10).

–>Second, we know there were numerous distinct roles within the priesthood. So if you are hoping to be “distinct” in God’s perspective, then you will want to pay close attention to this next point.

–>Thirdly and moreover, the purpose of the priests were to serve God and serve others…in other words, they had to specialize in loving God and loving others while teaching others to do the same. The priests had to be experts in knowing God’s instructions, in knowing His boundaries, in knowing His laws, knowing the difference between holy and unholy, clean and unclean, and how to teach the people in such matters. The priestly role also required many other legal transactions such as judging matters that inevitably manifested.

And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and clean. In controversy they shall stand as judges, and judge it according to My judgments. They shall keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed meetings, and they shall hallow my Sabbaths.” Ezekiel 44:23-24 (NKJV)

Simply put, the priest need to lead in love…they need to be firmly rooted and matured in love or perfected in love (Ephesians 3:17, Colossians 3:14, 1 John 4:12). Since we see all throughout Torah how the priests were indeed discerning or judging delicate matters as well as teaching people God’s instructions accordingly, those historical inspired writings would seem to be a good role model for how we are to live today as the “priesthood” as well as prophetic clues to our roles in the Messianic Era when Yeshua returns to rule and reign. Perhaps when Yeshua/Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-19 that whoever teaches others not to live by His commands, His instructions, His Torah, will be “considered least in His Kingdom” could be because of the priestly roles established in the hierarchy. Under the High Priest, you had many priests, even broken down into families, each with a separate but highly important role all working as one priesthood…in the Spirit of love and authentic worship. Some were performing the sacrifices (Leviticus 1-6), some were singers (1 Chronicles 9:33), some were gatekeepers/security (1 Chronicles 9:17-21), some were taking things down and were meant to protect the sacred items (Numbers 4:4-14), some were in charge of the oil and menorah lighting (Numbers 4:16) and making ointment of spices (1 Chronicles 9:29-30), some carried the curtains, chords, screens (Numbers 4:21-28), some manages the pillars, boards, sockets (Numbers 4:29-33), some were bakers (1 Chronicles 9:31-32), some were schlepping sacred objects around (Numbers 4:15), whom I affectionately call the “schleppers”, etc. Perhaps likened to the hierarchy of the Levitical Priesthood, there will be a similar manifestation when we all are gathered to Israel upon His return to rule and reign with Him, with Yeshua our High Priest. Depending on if we are good stewards in the flesh now or how we lead in love now may determine our priestly role in our transfigured spirit bodies one fine day. So be careful what doctrines you teach and that you not devour one another in the process or you could end up a “schlepper” in the priesthood to come. Ha ha!

In all seriousness though, after a careful study of Torah and the Scriptures penned afterwards, we know the spirit of all of God’s word is to love God and love others; hence, the instructions on HOW to do so. The Apostle Paul declares over and over again the laws of God are fulfilled when we love God and one another for the Torah and all of Scripture is all about love, including tough love, discipline, self-control and overall distinction from the ways of those who don’t believe in Abba Father and His Son…who don’t have His Holy Spirit guiding them and instructing them, not distinct from those of us who believe in Jesus/Yeshua for we are to be one priesthood.

Like the Apostle Paul described, we are one body with many roles and many giftings and yet, without love, we are just clashing cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1-5). If you want to be distinct, be distinguished by your love for God and for one another.

Shalom and Amen.

Carrie R Turner 10.24.19

Boundaries // Don’t Judge Me?

After a difficult week dealing with a problematic pet and while noticing other issues, I share in this teaching video some truths I have come into along my journeys. This week in particular seems to be crying out for such truths! Watch the video or continue reading to learn more!

In our American culture and even the Christian culture, we tend to be confused on the importance of boundaries and what love looks like. We tend to equate love with tolerance and rebel against structure, laws, and boundaries in general not wanting to offend or judge others in matters. Just look at our society today. Look at our churches, our schools, our homes, and our individual lives. We have become chaos and confusion under the guise of peace and safety…under the terms of tolerance and love.

dontjudgemeBoundaries are essentially a defined space, defined rights, responsibilities, or terms providing a healthy environment to genuinely respect and love one another. An illustration of such boundaries and their purpose would be the laws of the road. These laws, such as the speed limit, lines of a lane, red lights, traffic signs, destination signs, etc all are boundaries that when abided by or adhered to or followed allow for each of us to safely and peaceably reach our destination. Other forms of boundaries are fences, walls, doors, gates, usernames and passwords, contracts, lease agreements, and other legal terms. Boundaries define our rights and responsibilities…what is expected of each of us in order to operate in a respectful, loving, safe, and peaceful manner.

torahLikewise, G-d has boundaries. In fact, He is the original and ultimate author of boundaries. His laws are His ways and His will, which we can find throughout the holy Scriptures, namely throughout the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The rest of Scripture, including the lives of many before, but especially, Jesus or Yeshua, in His Hebrew name, helped demonstrate the meaning and purpose of G-d’s boundaries.

Furthermore, without G-d’s Torah, or boundaries..His written Voice, we would have no understanding of right and wrong, clean and unclean, holy and unholy and so forth (Romans 7:7; 15:14; 1 John 3:4).  We would not even be able to accept G-d’s grace without G-d’s definition of sin found in His word. Unfortunately, many have fallen for the great deception that G-d’s laws no longer apply for we are under grace, twisting Paul’s words to fit their rebellious hearts (2 Peter 3:14-18), but Scriptures reveal *because* of G-d’s grace and subsequent acceptance of His gift of grace..His promise, which is G-d’s Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:8; Acts 1:4-5; 2:38-39), He will cause us to submit to G-d’s laws (Ezekiel 36:27; Jeremiah 31:31-33), not do away with them (Matthew 5:17; Romans 7:7,12), which is rebellion, sin, and bluntly speaking, witchcraft (I Samuel 15)!

deceivedsoulwinners

Moreover, we have adopted the false notion that we should not discern nor speak out against what G-d defines as unholy, unclean, unrighteous. In our cowardness and complacency in our freedoms of faith in this country, we have succumbed to remaining silent captive to the deceiving chain of not wanting to judge others. It has been taught to many of us in Christian circles that to judge others is to not demonstrate love. But what does Scripture actually say about judging one another? Could discernment, judgment, and action be a form of love in G-d’s eyes? Let’s take a look together!

Tough love is a form of true love.

While most of today’s Christian culture eagerly propagates passages and doctrines of G-d’s abundant love, prosperity, and purpose to serve humans, the Scriptures within context, have a more balanced perspective. While G-d is a merciful, forgiving, and gracious holy G-d, who most certainly abundantly loves, He also is just. For without His justice, He could not be Holy, nor forgiving and gracious. Many fail to comprehend that tough love is a required form of true love. In fact, by remaining silent, doing nothing, in the name of grace, only further enables, approves, and reproduces the unholy, unjust sin that circumnavigates our globe readily. In other words, there is a fine line between exhibiting gracious acts and exhibiting grievous acts.

There is a fine line between exhibiting gracious acts and exhibiting grievous acts.

Consider the concept of disciplining your child. Does it benefit your child, their futures, or those who encounter your child now or later in life to squander correcting bad behavior now? Parents who turn the other cheek, so to speak, end up producing a spoiled, entitled monster who terrorizes others (see Proverbs 13:24). By failing to establish and enforce healthy boundaries, whether that be in our children, pets, or other types of relationships, we invite chaos and further harm in our lives and those around us. Additionally, it harms the “boundary buster”. A boundary buster, is a term I created to label those who fail to respect others’ boundaries, whether that be one’s personal boundaries or boundaries defined by G-d.

stopsignEstablishing and enforcing healthy boundaries could be considered synonyms for judging others. Many Christians and those of the unbelieving world would say, “Don’t judge me!” or “Don’t worry, I’m not judging you..” in fear of what other’s may think, say, or do in response. After all, we are a society of walking on eggshells not wanting to dare offend anyone. When in reality, we have done exactly that: bred a society of the hyper-offended, just as Yeshua/Jesus prophecized (Matthew 24:10-13)!

“And then many will be offended, betray one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because LAWLESSNESS will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” -Yeshua, Matthew 24:10-13

Many believers have taken Jesus/Yeshua’s words and the Apostle Paul’s words out-of-context stating we should most definitely not judge others for this is not love and thereby, not Christ-like.

But is that what Scripture actually reflects? Let’s investigate a few passages to dig deeper. In Matthew 7, Jesus instructs His listeners to not judge others when you yourself struggle with the same or similar heart issue. Paul expresses similar sentiments in Romans 2. Furthermore, Scripture reveals that we are and in fact WILL BE judging others one day and that these encounters we experience in the here and now are training and testing us for future discernment opportunities. Explore these passages to learn more:

  • Matthew 7:1-6
  • Romans 2
  • 1 Corinthians 5 (Notice Paul says in verse 3 he judges/discerns the matter and in verses 4 and 5, Paul speaks to the importance of tough love for the betterment of the rebellious and disobedient “believer”. In verse 9 and onward, Paul explains to not only judge believers who are blatantly dishonoring G-d (and His ways), but to essentially shun them, which is a form of discipline and a very clear boundary to be established and enforced. He goes on to clarify, he does not mean to judge and discipline non-believers, for they do not know any better and are still lost, but to to judge and discipline those who claim to accept Yeshua and be in covenant with G-d/Abba Father. For clearly, if a person is pursuing sexual sin, as an example, they are demonstrating fruit of the flesh and not fruit of the Spirit. Such issues of the heart need to be addressed by speaking the truth in love (boundary) and enforcing it. Always check you own motives though before doing so and do so within the realms or boundaries Yeshua defined for us in Matthew 18:15-20. Furthermore, you cannot judge or discipline a fellow brother or sister in Christ when you yourself are still dealing with the same root issue. For example, if you yourself are a fornicator, adulterer, struggle with pornography, or some other form of sexual lust, who are you to judge and address a fellow believer who may be in a lifestyle of homosexuality? For you yourself are producing fruit with the same root of sexual lust.
  • 1 Corinthians 6 (Notice in verse 2 Paul reminds the Corinth church that believers or saints will be judging the world and even angels -see verse 3).
  • The Book of Jude in verses 14-15 (expresses similar sentiments of the saint will judge the world)
  • Revelation 20:4-6 (also explains the martyred saints will rule and reign and judge the world along with Christ).
  • Ezekiel 44:23-24; Isaiah 2; Micah 2; Zechariah 14 (In the millennium, we see the Levites will judge and instruct others in G-d’s laws as will Yeshua).

FB_IMG_1528553504768So you see, dear brother and sisters, we need not be afraid nor be ashamed to “judge” or discern matters much less address them in truth and love. Boundaries are established so that we can BE love, as our Heavenly Father and Elohim designed.

Fear not! Rather, love G-d and love others for tough love is true love. Amen.

boundaries

For further reading, consider the book “Boundaries” by Townsend and Cloud. Other than the Bible itself, this faith-based book, along with others in their series, changed my life for the better.

(updated 10.2.19)