Is First Fruits of Zion a Worthy Organization?
First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) is a ministry with a lot of tempting resources for Christians and Jews seeking to return to a faith that both affirms Messiah Yeshua and also affirms loyalty to Him by keeping his Laws, i.e. the Torah. But we should be aware that not everyone or every organization that displays the correct outward signs of truth really has the truth. Nor does teaching some truth mean that an organization is completely kosher. Mixtures of truth and error are common, and often leadership is committed to promoting the error part while using the truth part as the bait.
This is not unlike much of the social engineering that comes out of the entertainment industry. They start out with a good show which succeeds wildly and then they ruin it by cashing in the popularity of the show for social engineering or darker themes. This is exactly what happened to the StarGate Series when it morphed into StarGate Universe. A lot of religious organizations or movements are like this. They begin well and then they transubtantiate into something dark.
It is best to examine an organization by what they write and the opinions they promote, and then to compare it with Scripture. And so I will do with FFOZ. In a Nov. 13, 2015 article called Talking at the Table —A moving example of interfaith dialogue between Roman Catholics and Messianic Jews, Jacob Fronczak, the author, makes the following assertions, which I have distilled from the article after eliminating all of the packaging and self promotional talk:
Dr. Kinzer outlined three convictions that distinguish Messianic Judaism: (1) the universal redemptive work of Messiah for Jew and Gentile, (2) the identity of the Jewish people as the people of God, and (3) that Jewish identity encompasses a currently active priestly vocation. On these three convictions Dr. Kinzer and many Roman Catholics—in fact, the official teaching of the Catholic Church—have found consensus.
Many Messianic Jews and Gentiles who grew up in Protestantism have inherited the belief that Roman Catholicism is the great enemy. The 2015 Gershom Lectures have demonstrated yet again that it is far past time to discard that caricature and take a more genuine approach to Catholics and to Catholicism.
Dr. Kinzer’s collaboration with Fr. Garrigues and their regular mutual participation in broader Catholic-Messianic dialogue is having an impact that will continue to be felt for decades, as future generations of Catholics reflect on the ramifications of their own Catechism.
Let's take up the first set of points. How can something distinguish Messianic Judaism if a non Messianic body like the Roman Catholic Church agrees with it? Further, if Messianic Judaism agrees with the RCC on what the “universal redemptive work of Messiah,” it only means then they are in trouble. The RCC teaches that grace comes through participation in the sacraments: baptism for the remission of the original sin, and the transubstantiated Eucharist. The Scripture teaches that baptism (immersion) is a symbol of active faithfulness to Messiah, and likewise that the third cup at the Seder is a symbol of Messiah’s blood. The RCC has replaced both the redemption of Messiah and the means for obtaining it with substitutes. They have replaced the need to affirm and confirm one’s personal faithfulness to Messiah with necessary participation in the sacraments. And they have replaced the good news with the sacraments. True grace comes on the basis of confession of sin and repentance from sin in conjunction with embracing the promise of forgiveness along with acceptance of Messiah's payment of a punitive penalty for our sin commuted from the penalty of eternal death.
Forgiveness and divine favor do not come through the sacraments. Neither baptism nor the Eucharist has this power.
Now I turn to the next point,
(2) the identity of the Jewish people as the people of God. How does this distinguish Messianic Judaism? It doesn't. Dispensationalists believe the same thing. We really cannot say it counts for much if the RCC or Messianic Jews embrace this belief. It needs to be informed by two other Scriptural truths to have a Scriptural import, both of which are widely rejected by Messianic Jews! Firstly, Jews are chosen on the basis of their descent from Abraham, being the people of God in a general and national sense. Secondly, they are saved and only the people of God in the spiritual sense if they confirm their faithfulness to Messiah Yeshua. If they fail to accept Messiah before they die, then the grace period of continuing in the People of God runs out for them.
The other major Scriptural truth this needs to be balanced with is that Jews are not all Israel. But the house of Israel is separate from the house of Judah, and the house of Israel was scattered among the nations, and there mixed with the nations. The grace period for the house of Israel ran out almost 3000 years ago when they were sent into exile. But, on an individual basis, if any from the nations accept Messiah Yeshua, and they confirm their faithfulness to him, and they are not Jews, then they are counted as belonging to the house of Israel, that other non-Jewish part of the nation of Israel descended from the Northern Kingdom, also called Ephriam.
Therefore, Jews do not have a unique claim on being the people of God. They have to share it with non-Jewish Christians who truly accept Messiah and confirm their faithfulness to Him by obeying his laws. The only difference is that Jews have been restored from exile. But Messianic Judaism should not boast this as an exclusive benefit of Jews, because Messiah is going to restore the house of Israel also to the land, and that means non-Jewish Christians linked to the nations and the exile of Ephraim. The RCC does not embrace this truth, and neither does FFOZ or Messianic Judaism in its main forms, UMJC, MJAA, and IAMCS. To summarize, they are teaching heresy on the identity of Israel.
The next point is stunning,
(3) that Jewish identity encompasses a currently active priestly vocation. In light of the fact that the RCC has appointed its own non-Levitical priests to serve at altars in every parish Church, it seems a bit strange that a FFOZ writer would assert and agreement between Messianic Jews and the official teaching of Rome. Furthermore, the author means it of all Jews, and not just Jews who embrace Messiah. What then becomes of the priesthood of the faithful? Are those who refuse to confirm their faithfulness to Messiah his representatives? Surely not. The Scripture does teach a general priesthood of the faithful apart from the Levitical Priesthood. But this is because the word Cohen in fact means “minister,” and there are biblical examples of ministers who are not Levitical Priests. The Son of David is a Minister of Justice, but he is not a Levitical priest. The service at altars with sacrifice was limited to the Levites. Chief among the sins of Jeroboam were that he chose non-Levites to serve as priests. Therefore non-Levitical priests (and the RCC priesthood) are a cause of stumbling into error to the Northern Kingdom, and Christians in general. The RCC surely emphasizes its active priesthood contrary to God’s commandments. And Messianic Judaism is seemingly making a mockery of the notion of the all the faithful in Messiah being ministers by comparing it to what the RCC practices and believes and by extending it to unfaithful Jews.
Main point #2, 2.
Many Messianic Jews and Gentiles who grew up in Protestantism have inherited the belief that Roman Catholicism is the great enemy. The 2015 Gershom Lectures have demonstrated yet again that it is far past time to discard that caricature and take a more genuine approach to Catholics and to Catholicism. Whether the RCC is a great enemy or an enemy is a moot point here. But historically, the RCC has been the greatest enemy outside of Islam and paganism. Not all non-Jewish faithful grew up Protestants. We of baptist origins descend from the the Ana-Baptists, and these faithful ones were condemned by both the RCC and the Protestants.
There is little to say that is genuine about the dialog being attempted by Messianic Judaism around these points. It is mostly about sweeping the real differences under the rug. When the truth is hidden like this then the real good news can only suffer. Catholic teachings on baptism, the Eucharist, and the Priesthood are being caricatured by the author of FFOZ’s article, because he belittles these points in trying to support his fantasy that FFOZ can agree with the RCC on the subjects of priesthood, who is the people of God, and how the redemptive work of Messiah is embraced. Where he thinks he agrees, he departs from Scripture.
The last point,
Dr. Kinzer’s collaboration with Fr. Garrigues […] I put this in because FFOZ and the UMJC so love titles. They call their pastors Rabbi and their scholars Dr. So they fail to see how revealing it is when they use the spiritual title, “Fr.” (=Father), which Messiah forbade us to call any man “Father” (Mat. 23:9)
If the article reviewed here reflects FFOZ even partly, then it is not a worthy organization, but is one well down the path of apostasy and looking more like the emergent Church movement every day.
The reason it referred to it this way, "spiritual title, “Fr.” (=Father)," was because I don't think "father" as a physical relationship and nurturing title for ones children is prohibited. He is only banning it as a religious title, exactly the sort that the RCC gives to its priests.
Rabbi = my great one. = dynamic equivalent Reverend. The root for Rabbi is Rav which means great. The English equivalent to this title is Reverend. It is not exactly correct to say that it means just "teacher", even though Rabbis and Reverends are most often teachers. Yeshua does not prohibit calling someone Rabbi, but he does prohibit wanting to be called Rabbi or taking the title. Mat. 23:8.
I think a principle is also implied by Yeshua's instructions. Any title suggesting inappropriate spiritual status or rank should be avoided. Some people insist on being called Dr. so and so. So if the principle is applied to the modern era then according to principle some titles will have to be added to the list.