Love is the heart of the Torah, and it should be the heart of any statement of faith as well. However, walking love out as a group can be challenging, and from experience we have found it can help to have a brief summary of our faith, so that people can know whether or not they want to associate, or join with us for fellowship.
You can associate and fellowship with Nazarene Israel without agreeing with everything in our statement of faith (halachah), so long as you meet the four minimums of Acts 15, and are not behaving in hurtful ways. While this halachah is the result of years of study and effort, we are not Elohim, and our understanding may change as Elohim (G-d) continues to help us learn and grow. If you see something that needs to change, please contact us, as we are always looking for ways to improve our halachah, and make it better.
1. Acts 15 and the Minimum Entry Requirements for Fellowship.
The assembly is a kind of “sanctuary,” or a “safe haven” from the world. Families need some loving place where they can all support each other, and their children can grow up safely, with others of our faith. In practical terms, the only way to do that is to exclude those with harmful spirits, and those who do wrong things. In order for that process to be orderly, there must be rules. Thankfully, Scripture provides them.
In Acts 15, Yaakov (James) judged that those gentiles who were (re)turning to Elohim from out of the nations could come into the assemblies for fellowship, if they would but abstain from four basic behaviors that endanger the “safe haven” atmosphere.
Ma’asei (Acts) 15:19-21
19 “Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are (re)turning to Elohim from among the gentiles,
20 but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood.
21 “For Moshe from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”
In context, Yaakov seems to be saying that those who have Yeshua’s Spirit can come into the assemblies if they will abstain from four abominations that Yahweh prohibits all throughout Scripture:
A. Idolatry (i.e., spiritual adultery)
B. Sexual immorality (including wrongful divorce)
C. Strangled (or unclean) meats
In context, these four prerequisites are by no means a “safe stopping place.” Once he comes into the assembly, his walk of learning and growth has just begun. In context it is also implied that he will support and abide by the servant leadership of the assembly, so that the proper order can be maintained.
A more detailed discussion of these things can be found in “Unity Through Acts 15.” However, even if we take these four prerequisites at their face value, we still have to define them. Nazarene Israel defines these four things more leniently for new believers, and more stringently for leaders and teachers, as leaders and teachers are held to a much higher standard.
For beginners, “leave the statues and idols outside.” Don’t bring little golden idols into the assembly, and teach others to worship them. Just come into the assembly, and learn what Yahweh’s word says, and learn from others in the fellowship.
For leaders and teachers, idolatry is any spiritual adultery. That is, idolatry is when we take our focus off of the invisible Elohim, and place it on any other spirit, person, place, or thing. As we show in “About Service,” Yahweh considers “worship” or “service” as giving any time, effort, energy or attention to any object, symbol, thought, concept or thing, and He is upset when we place our attentions on anything He has not commanded. Also, for leaders and teachers, teaching that Yeshua is not Elohim, or any teaching against His virgin birth, is considered idolatry (John 10:30, John 3:18, etc.).
In its purest sense, idolatry includes any deviation from the worship commanded in Scripture. Leaders and teachers should neither keep nor teach Christmas, Easter, Sunday, or any other non-Scripturally-commanded holiday (including birthdays and Thanksgiving). However, in the dispersion leaders need to be extremely gentle and loving in their approach to these topics, as it is only by bringing people inside of the assemblies that they can be taught the truth.
We should never remove anyone for participating in these kinds of “quasi-Christian” festivals, so long as they do not attempt to lead others away from the true worship. However, if any congregant should practice or promote any overtly Satanic, Wiccan or pagan festival day (such as the Spring and Fall Equinoxes, the Winter and Summer Solstices, the human life sacrifices of Imbolc, Moloch, etc.), leadership should quietly make an appointment with that individual, and ask him gently but firmly to make a decision with regards to his membership.
Yahweh commands certain religious icons and images to be displayed in His temple or tabernacle. However, it is questionable whether or not we should make copies of these things, and display them in our homes, or in our assemblies. Purists may wish to avoid any and all images altogether, because the worship of images is an integral part of Satanism, paganism and Wicca (witchcraft). Satan’s goal is to get us to take our focus off of the Creator, and put it onto objects of the creation. (Judaism considers that even the temple had become an idol by Jeremiah’s time.)
Leadership is encouraged to avoid any religious image Yahweh does not command us to display (and in any place Yahweh does not command us to place it). Purists might eschew images with symbolic meanings such as the Cross (the symbol of the sun god Tammuz), the Star of David (the Hexagram/Star of Remphan/Kiyyun), the Menorah-fish (Dagon/Kiyyun), the Hamsa Hand (Kabbalah all-seeing-eye hand) and others. Purists would say that these distract us from focusing on our invisible Elohim.
Non-religious images such as schematics, wire diagrams, educational videos, children’s movies, and so forth, are not an issue, because these do not invoke feelings of reverence, praise, and worship. They simply convey information. However, look around a friend’s house, and see if the pictures and things they showcase on their walls do not show what is dear to their heart. Are these things related to serving Yahweh and His people? Or are they related to activities and pursuits in the world?
Many Ephraimites come out of the church system, where pagan religious iconography is customarily displayed, and pagan religious festivals are routinely observed. Our Jewish brethren also customarily display religious icons and symbols. It is also sometimes said that Judaism customarily exalts physical objects (such as Torah scrolls) over the One who gave them; and that this also distracts from maintaining one’s focus on the invisible Elohim. It is not Nazarene Israel’s policy to condemn anyone for displaying religious icons quietly at home in the Dispersion. It is also not Nazarene Israel’s policy to police people’s homes. However, it is Nazarene Israel’s duty to help educate people as to what the Torah says, and to help them cultivate a heart attitude of wanting to obey all of Yahweh’s Torah eagerly, out of a fullness of love for Him. Because of this, leaders and teachers are encouraged to keep their places of assembly free from all unnecessary images, so as not to violate the First or Second Commandments.
B. Sexual immorality.
Yahweh’s ideal in marriage is that one man marries one woman, and that this union lasts for life (e.g., Matthew 19:8-12). Both parties are to love each other at least as much as they love themselves (if not more so). The Torah is also clear that the only right place to express sexuality is within the confines of such a loving, dedicated marriage. Marital unions should ideally be monogamous, and last for the life of both partners. This is the general rule for the vast majority of all Israelites. However, there are some legitimate exceptions, which we will explain below.
Yahweh does call some to celibacy, and this is a valid alternative to marriage (Matthew 19:8-12). However, this is the exception, rather than the rule. Nazarene Israel only advocates celibacy for those who believe Yahweh is calling them to that walk.
Yahweh only commands polygyny (often called polygamy) when brothers live together, and one of the brothers dies without having a male heir. In this circumstance Yahweh commands polygyny, so that the dead brother’s name may be kept alive (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). In English, this is called “Levirate marriage,” while in Hebrew it is called yibbum (“yee-boom”).
While polygyny is not Yahweh’s ideal, historically it was considered acceptable, and was used as a social support mechanism for widows (since Torah does not provide any Social Security). However, it cannot be overstated that polygyny should never be used as a means of “increasing marital satisfaction,” or seeking sexual outlet. It is never Yahweh’s ideal, and is only allowable in certain limited situations.
Because leadership serves as an example to Yahweh’s flock, and because Yahweh’s ideal is that of “one man, one woman for life,” leaders should have no more than one wife, unless they find themselves in a yibbum situation (which is rare). Leaders who purposefully take a second wife after the come to the faith (and for reasons other than yibbum) should step back from leadership (1Timothy 3).
The conditions of the marital contract are also important. When a man and a woman enter into what either party believes will be a monogamous marriage, both parties are bound to keep the marriage monogamous. Only if both parties agreed to a polygynous marriage at the time of their marriage (or later, by mutual consent) is it proper for such “plural” marriage to take place. Yet even then, while husbands may have more than one wife, wives may never have more than one husband. As explained in, “Yahweh’s Heart in Marriage,” when a woman remarries, it irrevocably severs her prior marital contracts, and once she has remarried, she may never go back and remarry the same man. She can only remarry the same man if she has not married anyone else since her divorce. Nazarene Israel considers that a marriage exists when both parties take a vow of marriage unto Yahweh, and then consummate the marriage by a physical union (even once), regardless of whether or not children resulted. If there was no vow, there is no marriage; yet if there was a vow, there is a marriage, even if there was never any piece of paper.
Since Yahweh is moving internationally, we must take care to have an awareness of different cultures. If a man in a country where polygyny is lawful converts to the faith, and he already has multiple wives, it is Nazarene Israel’s judgment that he may serve in a leadership position provided he does not advocate polygyny for others in leadership, or advocate polygyny as Yahweh’s ideal. (“Let each one remain in the calling in which he is called.”) However, if he begins to advocate polygyny for others in leadership, or if he advocates polygyny as Yahweh’s ideal, he should step down from leadership.
Polygyny is a difficult topic in western societies, because of the strong cultural biases. In many western societies a man can have children by several different women without marrying any of them. However, if he then repents and marries these women, he can go to prison, even though this would not contradict Scripture. In contrast, if he has a string of monogamous marriages he will not go to prison, even though this is considered sexually immoral in Scripture.
Nazarene Israel believes it is important for men to take responsibility for their actions, and live up to their vows before Yahweh. If a man in this condition should get saved, it would be more honest to consider all of these women his “lawful” wives, even if he can only make one of them his “legal” wife, by giving her a piece of paper. A man who repents like this could serve in a leadership position, so long as he does not advocate anyone else in leadership taking more than one wife, and as long as he does not teach polygyny as Yahweh’s ideal. As long as he is teaching the right thing, the appropriate maxim would be, “Let each one remain in the calling in which he is called.”
Nazarene Israel cannot “endorse” polygyny, as it is not Yahweh’s ideal. However, since our job is to provide shelter for all of Yahweh’s children, and since some of Yahweh’s children are going to practice it, Nazarene Israel is put in the position of needing to condone it (except for leadership). That is, although it would raise eyebrows in America, if Jacob (Israel) or King David were alive today, we would not put them and their wives outside the camp. However, at the exact same time, we also cannot advocate breaking the laws of any of the countries in which we reside. This means that only one woman at a time can have the “legal” paperwork (and all of the legal protections and guarantees that come with it). Under no circumstances do we permit a man to take more than one lawful wife, if his wife did not agree to such “plural” marriage at the time of their wedding (or later, by mutual consent). (For a more detailed discussion, please see both “Polygyny, Concubines, and Kingship,” and “Abstinence, Celibacy, and Nazirites,” both as part of Covenant Relationships.)
Nazarene Israel considers a “first wife” to be a wife with full legal and marital rights. She is not to be neglected in any way (either physically or emotionally) if he takes a “second wife” (and to neglect her is considered sexually immoral, as it breaks the terms of his marriage). A “concubine” is a wife with limited legal rights, as agreed to at the time of their marriage. The modern “prenuptial agreement” is an example of this. She has limited legal recourse in court in the event of any legal disputes, but is otherwise a “real wife.” No wife can ever be “bumped” to the concubine role, and no wife or concubine is to be put away (divorced) unless she is being sexually immoral (i.e., is committing adultery). As explained in “Yahweh’s Heart in Marriage,” Yahweh considers divorce to be a temporary disciplinary condition for women who are behaving in sexually immoral ways, and it is only supposed to last for as long as they are being sexually immoral. As soon as she stops behaving immorally, Yahweh’s example is to take her back. This is seen in the example of how Yahweh treats Ephraim, and how Hoshea pursued his harlot wife Gomer. Only if the wife takes another vow is her original vow of marriage severed, and her former husband released from his vow. Yet if the woman does take another marital vow, she can never go back to her former husband, as that would be to defile the land (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).
As explained in “Yahweh’s Heart in Marriage,” if a man put his wife away when she has not committed adultery, that is sexual immorality in Yahweh’s eyes, and he may not enter any Nazarene Israel assembly until after he repents, and begins treating her like his wife again. (The same holds true for concubines.)
While we do not wish to cause any upset, or be involved in any controversy, Scripture only approves of unions between a man and a woman (and ideally, just one man and just one woman). Because we believe Scripture, we are not able to recognize or perform any other kinds of marriages. Please do not take this as a hard thing, and please do not seek an excuse to persecute us.
These are very delicate matters, and so long as we are in the Dispersion they must be handled very delicately, so as not to bring a bad report to Yahweh’s name.
Those who commit sexually immoral acts may not enter any Nazarene Israel assembly until after they have repented of their actions, and have done all they can to restore right relationships with all affected parties. It makes no sense to say “Shalom” to anyone when one is not doing what one can to live in right relationship.
C. Strangled Meats.
Nazarene Israel takes this at its face value, with the understanding that unclean meats are also prohibited (as unclean meats are not even considered food in Hebraic thought).
There is a counter-argument, which is that when the apostles prohibited “strangled” meats, they were establishing rabbinic “kosher” meat as the standard. This is based on Talmud Tractate Chullin 18a, which tells us that if animals are not drained of blood in accordance with rabbinical “kosher” killing procedures, then “it is as if (the meat) had been strangled.” Nazarene Israel rejects this view, as it has always been lawful in Torah to eat hunted game, provided one bleeds the animal first (e.g., Genesis 25:28, Genesis 27:3, etc.). It is highly unlikely the apostles would have set a standard different than the one Yahweh gave in the Torah, as that would establishing “another Torah” (which they would not have done). Yet even if the apostles hypothetically did establish “another Torah” (Elohim forbid), it is not lawfully binding, because the words of men can never supersede or contradict Yahweh’s Torah.
[While Torah commands the establishment and exercise of temporal authority, the only words Nazarene Israel accepts as being “inspired” are the words of Yahweh the Father, Yeshua the Son, and/or the words of Yahweh coming through the mouth of one of His prophets (during the time he is prophesying).]
Nazarene Israel considers the prohibition against strangled meats to be exactly what it says: a prohibition against eating meat from animals that have been strangled. Some hypothesize that this was a pagan ritual in the first century (similar to boiling a goat kid in its mother’s milk). It should also be mentioned that the clean and unclean meat laws of Leviticus 11 would also apply, because those are also in Yahweh’s Torah.
Other prohibited meats would be things that cause natural revulsion, such as animals that have died of natural causes, animals that have died due to illness, animals that have been torn by beasts (e.g., Exodus 22:31), road-kill, and German Bloodwurst (blood sausage).
Nazarene Israel does not believe that the “kosher” designation accurately describes the Scriptural standard. Meats that are clean for human consumption are listed in Leviticus 11. Nazarene Israel endorses (but does not require) organic and non-GMO foods, as being truer to the kinds of “clean foods” Yahweh wants us to fill our spiritual temples with.
Nazarene Israel believes this is a prohibition against eating or drinking blood, and/or products made with blood (such as German Bloodwurst (blood sausage).
There is an alternate argument, which is that the apostles established the rabbinical “Laws of Niddah” (or the “Laws of Family Purity”) as a requirement for entering the assemblies. Nazarene Israel rejects this, as these laws are based on the ritual purity laws of Leviticus 15, which only apply to the temple (and not to the assemblies).
(For more information, please see, “About Ritual Purity.”)
2. Additional Theological Definitions
It would be so nice if we could just say, “Let’s just follow the four prerequisites of Acts 15, and the Spirit will do all the rest.” However, the reality is that people interpret various passages differently. Scripture commands us to establish leadership, and leadership has to work from common definitions in order to be consistent, so that justice can be maintained for all people. That is why, in addition to clarifying the meanings of the four minimum entry requirements of Acts 15, we have also defined the meanings of the Ten Commandments (the “Ten Things”), as well as some other points of halachah where there have been questions in the past. The purpose is only to clear up confusion.
a. The Ten Commandments (The “Ten Things”).
1. Worship only YHWH.
Shemote (Exodus) 20:1-17
1 Then Elohim spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am YHWH your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out
of the house of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other Elohim before Me.”
For beginners, do not worship anyone but Yahweh, and destroy any and all foreign worship materials. Do not keep any holidays but the ones Yahweh tells us to keep.
For leadership, gently teach people to avoid any converted pagan festivals such as Christmas, Easter and Sunday worship, as well as Satanic days of worship, such as birthdays. Gently teach people not to display any non-commanded or non-necessary images (such as the Cross, the Star of David, the “Menorah-Fish”, the Hamsa Hand, and others). Also gently teach the importance of keeping our focus on Yahweh, rather than objects of the Creation.
2. No idol worship.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in
heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.
5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, YHWH your Elohim, am
a jealous Elohim, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the
third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,
6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and
keep My commandments.
If anyone is in blatant idol worship (such as the worship of Buddha statues or figurines, or believing the Koran or the Talmud as doctrine/canon), an appointment should quietly be made, and the matter lovingly and gently discussed. If the member is aware that his actions are contrary to the Ten Commandments, but he continues to do it, then leadership should ask him politely but firmly to make a decision with regards to his membership. In the cases where the idol or object worship is not overtly either Satanic, wiccan or pagan (such as lighting candles to figurines, Mary candles, the display of crosses in one’s own home, stars of David, the Kabala-Hamsa Hand, pictures or statuettes of Yeshua, or Miriam, the menorah-fish, etc.), leadership should lovingly try education first. If education is not effective, the matter should not be considered grounds for disfellowship so long as the individual is not attempting to recruit others to his point of view.
The worship of idols and images in any form is not permissible for teachers or leaders, as it sends the wrong message to His people. If Nazarene Israel becomes aware of a leader or teacher promoting idol worship, a meeting will quietly be made.
3. Do Not Take His Name in Vain (do not misuse His name).
7 “You shall not take the name of YHWH your Elohim in vain, for YHWH will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
The word “vain” is Strong’s Hebrew OT 723, “shav.” This word indicates not only misusing YHWH’s name, but also letting it fall into disuse. However, YHWH also tells us that He wants us to glorify His name, and this means not just in the pronunciation, but in the way we treat each other. In Hebrew, the concept of one’s “name” also includes the concepts of “reputation, fame, or renown.” It is important that we give Yahweh a good “name” by our actions, and arguing over how to pronounce His name does not do this.
That said, Scripture shows us that Yahweh wants us to pronounce His name (and that He gets upset when we don’t). Once we know His Hebraic name, we should use it, just as we would want someone to call us by our real name once they know what it is. This is often a controversial issue, since written Hebrew vowels did not exist until the Middle Ages, and no one can prove for certain exactly how His name should be pronounced. Therefore, let us agree to disagree in love (and without becoming disagreeable, for that is displeasing to His Spirit).
Nazarene Israel encourages leaders to use the Hebraic form of His name that they feel most convicted of (whether Yahweh, Yahuweh, Yahuwah, Yehovah, etc.), and lovingly encourage others to use the Hebraic form they feel most convicted of. However, this should never be made an issue for congregants. Just set a good example, and let the Spirit lead the people into the use of the Hebraic forms at their own pace, as the Spirit leads them. (The point to remember is that we are not His Spirit, and so
Nazarene Israel rejects the rabbinic tradition of substituting titles such as “Adonai” and “HaShem” for His name. In ancient times, YHWH’s people used His name in everyday greetings and blessings (e.g., Numbers 6:24, Ruth 2:4), and we are told that His name is to be a memorial for all generations (e.g., Exodus 3:15). It is clear that the patriarchs called on Yahweh’s name, and Yahweh tells us that He wants us to glorify His name to the nations. In practical terms, this means we need to not fight over His name, but only behave as exemplars, so that people are attracted to the faith, because of the way we love and serve others.
As important at the correct pronunciation is, many people have been saved and brought into relationship with Elohim while calling on the Hellenized versions of the names (e.g., G-d, L-rd, and J-sus). While we do believe that the Hellenized conception of “J-sus” is very different than the Hebraic concept of the Torah-obedient Yeshua, the fact remains that people do come into relationship with Elohim all the time, while calling on the Hellenized names. That said, Nazarene Israel’s policy is that we need to allow people to develop at their own pace. There should never be any “pressure” on congregants in this regard. Let His Spirit be the one to do the convicting. All leadership needs to do is to set a good, loving example.
4. Set the Sabbath Apart.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it set apart.
9 “Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of YHWH your Elohim; in it you shall
not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your
female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.
11 “For in six days YHWH made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all
that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore YHWH blessed the
Sabbath day and set apart it apart.
Nazarene Israel teaches the seventh-day Sabbath, which lasts from the evening ending the sixth day of the week (Fr-day night) to the evening ending the seventh day (S-turday night). Although Nazarene Israel does not judge those who keep the so-called “Lunar Sabbath”, we are unable to accommodate their calendar, as they meet on different days.
Leviticus 23:3 calls the Sabbath a “holy convocation” (i.e., a “set-apart gathering”). In Hebrew, this word is “miqra” (מִקְרָא). The root of the word is kara (קרא), which means “to call”, and it refers to a public meeting. This plus the prefix mem (מ), which indicates “massing,” gives a picture of the nation publicly massing together on His day. We strongly encourage everyone to fellowship with others on Shabbat, as He allows.
Being an Israelite is about serving Him together as a people, and that takes building relationships. At the end of the day, His kingdom is nothing but a collection of many individual relationships, and ideally those relationships need to be as good and as loving as possible. For this reason, leadership should either offer or attend meetings in their own local area, and encourage others to attend.
5. Honor Your Father and Mother.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which YHWH your Elohim gives you.
Many of us are blessed with parents who behave honorably, and many of us do not. However, either way, this is one of the commandments that is “written in stone.” Even if our parents do not behave honorably, we still have a requirement to honor them, as we can. However, there are many different ways to do this, and we must apply wisdom when interpreting this rule. For example, Jonathan honored his father King Shaul, and even died remaining loyal to him (1 Samuel 31). Nonetheless, Jonathan sided with David when he knew his father was in the wrong (e.g., 1 Samuel 19-20). Michal also lied to her father in order to save David’s life, when she knew David was blameless (1 Samuel 19:17). Similarly, Yeshua honored His father and mother, but He also knew that if His biological family either opposed, or failed to be involved in YHWH’s work, then His greater loyalty needed to lay with those who were seeking to do YHWH’s work (e.g., Luke 18:19-21). This shows us that while we should honor our father and mother, if our biological family is not part of YHWH’s spiritual family, then our priority needs to go to our spiritual family.
6. No Murder.
13 “You shall not murder.
There are many times that Israel is commanded to kill, yet Scripture prohibits killing without cause (i.e., murder). If a congregant commits murder (Yahweh forbid) and does not sincerely repent, he must be “put outside the camp.” However, if he does sincerely repent (which involves making restitution as he is able), he should not be removed from the congregation. However, he should not hold a leadership role again until such time as complete repentance has been achieved, and there is full transparency in his life and in his testimony. Ordinarily this would take many years.
7. No Adultery.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
Adultery is defined as sex outside of marriage while one is married. This is distinct from fornication, which is sex outside of marriage when one is not married. Fornication does not carry the death penalty in Torah, while adultery does, because adultery involved breaking a covenant vow, and Yahweh considers covenant vows to be very sacred. Neither adultery nor fornication has any place in Nazarene Israel congregations.
All acts of adultery or fornication should quietly but firmly be addressed by leadership, following the Matthew 18 process. Persons refusing to repent of adultery should quietly be asked to make a decision regarding their membership in Nazarene Israel. Persons committing adultery should not hold a position of leadership until it is clear that complete repentance has been completed, and there is full transparency in their lives and in their testimony. Ordinarily this would take years.
8. No Stealing.
15 “You shall not steal.
Those who steal should be put outside of the congregation. This includes what by the world’s standards would be even “petty” infractions, because he who is not faithful in little is not faithful in much. This also includes stealing from the government, via tax evasion or tax fraud. If someone steals and sincerely repents, he should be let back inside of the congregation. However, he should not hold a leadership role until after he has sincerely and completely repented, and there is full transparency in his life and his testimony.
9. No False Witness against your Neighbor.
16 ” You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
This is more than a simple “Do not lie,” and wisdom needs to be applied in interpreting this passage. YHWH hates a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:17), and in general, YHWH does not favor lying. However, examples of “righteous lying” exist in Scripture. For example, David feigned madness in order to save his own life (1Samuel 21:14). Michal lied to her father King Shaul in order to save David’s life when she knew David was not at fault (1Samuel 19:17). Ya’akov (Israel) deceived his father Isaac at his mother Rebecca’s request (Genesis 27:13). The midwives lied in Egypt, to save the male children from being born. What this shows is that it is correct to tell a lie in order to save life, or in order to make the right thing happen. However, such lying is the exception, rather than the rule; and for any lie to be justified, it has to have a purpose in Him.
Family loyalty is never an excuse to commit injustice before YHWH, and no untrue statement should ever be made if it would hinder or obstruct YHWH’s justice from being done. To tell even small lies for personal gain is a great sin, because to do anything for selfish reasons indicates a selfish (rather than a selfless) attitude. That is of Satan.
If someone should be caught lying and should sincerely repent, he should be allowed back inside the congregation. However, he should not hold a leadership role until he has sincerely and completely repented, and there is full transparency in his life and testimony from that time forth.
Technically what is prohibited in the 9th commandment is giving false witness against your neighbor (i.e., against other Israelites) in a court of law. This does not technically preclude giving false witness against Israel’s enemies in a court of law. It is often thought of as the commandment not to lie, and since honesty is generally a good thing, this misinterpretation has stuck.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
In order to walk this commandment out properly, we need to remember that YHWH Elohim is completely in charge of all things, and that He gives us what He wants us to have at any given moment in time. That being the case, we always have whatever He wants us to have; and if we covet anything we do not have, it is kind of a “slap in the face” to Yahweh, as it indicates we want something more than what Yahweh has given us. If we want something, all we need do is to go to Yahweh and ask: that is why coveting is such a sin, is that it effectively denies the full extent of YHWH’s true power. It is also to take our eyes off of Yahweh, and to desire to take something that belongs to our brother.
b. Other Issues.
Beyond the four entry requirements of Acts 15 and the Ten Commandments, there are several other issues that frequently come up, so it seems beneficial to define our position on them. If there are other issues that should be included, please write us, [email protected]
We believe that YHWH is the Creator of heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them. He is eternally pre-existent. It is our duty to praise Him, serve Him, and obey His Instructions. He commands that we worship Him and Him alone (Exodus 20:1-2). He also tells us not to worship him in the manner that any of the other false elohim (‘g-ds’) are worshiped. This is a “salvation issue,” and we do not ordain teachers who are not in agreement with this point of doctrine.
We believe that Yeshua is the Son of the Living Elohim, born of the virgin Miriam and the Ruach HaQodesh (the Set-apart Spirit), paradoxically both man and divine. He is a manifestation of Elohim. More details can be found in the study, “Yeshua: Manifestation of Elohim.” We may allow congregants into the assemblies if they are not sure about Yeshua’s deity, but we do not ordain teachers who do not agree that Yeshua is the Son of the Living Elohim.
3. Salvation is by Favor (Grace) Through Faith, not Works.
Salvation comes only as a result of Yahweh’s unmerited favor (grace). When we believe on Him, He gives us His favor (grace)—and His favor is what yields salvation. Yet even our faith does not come from us, because He loved us, and chose us first, while we were yet sinners, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 5:8). We do not perform works in order to become saved, we only do works to please Him because He chose us first. This is much like any parent loves his children, but is pleased when his children do what he asks. He can see that his children love him, because of their obedience.
We accept the 24 books of the Hebrew Tanach (“Old Testament”) and the 42 books of the Renewed Covenant (the “New” Testament) as our canon. We do not accept the Talmud, Kabala, the Apocrypha, the Gnostic Gospels, the Book of Jasher, or the Book of Enoch as canon.
Nazarene Israel generally believes in a Semitic inspiration of the Brit Chadasha (Renewed Covenant), with early translation into Greek. Nazarene Israel rejects the Catholic doctrine that all of the words of Scripture are “equally inspired.” Rather, as explained in “About Inspiration and Scripture,” it is only the words of Elohim (Yahweh, Yeshua and the words of the prophets when they were prophesying) that are inspired. All of the other words of Scripture are important, but the words of men can never supersede or compete with the words of Elohim. In other words, the words of the apostles are never “equal” to the words of Yahweh, and they can never be used to “explain away” the words of Elohim. The words of Elohim are always highest, and the words of men are only helpful insofar as they explain or clarify the words of Elohim.
Reference the Nazarene Israel study, physical circumcision is one of at least three eternal signs of the Covenant (the other two being the Sabbath and the Passover). Physical circumcision is not required to attend the assembly, but physical circumcision is required in order for males to partake of the Passover (Exodus 12:48). Circumcision is ideally performed on the eighth day of a male child’s life, but if circumcision was performed on some other day, or if the exact date of physical circumcision is not known, “re-circumcision” is not required. It is also not necessary to remove the whole foreskin, but only to be circumcised “in the foreskin.” For more details, please refer to our study on Home Circumcision.
Nazarene Israel teaches the Torah Calendar (i.e., the Aviv Barley and Crescent-New-Moon Calendar). The Rabbinical Calendar is not encouraged, as even the rabbis agree that it is not the calendar Scripture commands. Leaders in Nazarene Israel should teach and keep the Torah Calendar, but congregants should never feel any pressure with regards to calendar issues. (Without any judgment, Nazarene Israel is unable to support those who observe the so-called “Lunar Sabbath” Calendar, because they meet on different days.)
8. Marriage and Divorce.
The traditional two-parent family unit is the basic building block of all successful societies, and Nazarene Israel believes that the overwhelming majority of Nazarene Israelites will be called to marry and raise a family. Scripture shows us that marriage is a blood covenant, and transgression of blood covenants incur the death penalty in Torah (e.g. Leviticus 20:10). Once husband and wife take a vow before Yahweh and are joined together in set-apart union they become one flesh (Genesis 2:25), whether or not any piece of paper exists. This is the basic rule that the entire discussion of marriage and divorce must rest upon, and refers to.
Ideally, Spirit-filled believers would marry only other Spirit-filled believers, so as not to become unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14). Ideally, both spouses will put YHWH first in their own lives, and also in their marriage; and they will raise their children to believe and to walk the same way (Proverbs 22:6). In this way, each generation should ideally be better than the one before. However, this does not always happen.
YHWH tells us that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). Yeshua tells us that what YHWH has joined together in marriage, man should not separate (Matthew 19:6). Yeshua also tells us that adultery is the only legitimate reason for one Nazarene Israelite to divorce another; and that the reason divorce is allowed in the case of adultery is only that it is a more compassionate alternative than stoning (Matthew 1:19). Yeshua also specifies that if a Nazarene believer puts his spouse away except for the cause of fornication, he commits adultery (Matthew 19:8-12), and that anyone who marries a wife who was put away for adultery also commits adultery. The text does not indicate the past tense (“committed” adultery), but the present tense (“commits” adultery), meaning it sets up a wrong condition that remains wrong until corrected. Further, only men have the authority to initiate a divorce. For more details, please see, “Yahweh’s Heart in Marriage.”
While pornography is a sin, pornography does not constitute physical adultery, and therefore it does not constitute grounds for divorce. If a woman notices her husband viewing pornography, she should first speak with him about it privately. If that is not successful she should then contact leadership for intervention and marital counseling.
In the dispersion, divorce may be prescribed if there is physical abuse or neglect, but pornography alone does not justify divorce. Rather, the one who is viewing pornography needs to recognize that he is not modeling set-apart behavior, and that this shows a wrong heart condition (which needs to be corrected).
9. Tithes, gifts and offerings.
There is a difference between tithing under the Levitical and Melchizedekian orders. When we live in the land of Israel and there is a cleansed Levitical order, then the three tithe system is obligatory. However, when we live in the dispersion and we are under the Melchizedekian order, tithing is a privilege, and Yahweh wants us to be joyful to do all that we can to help further His work, by all available means. YHWH promises to pour out abundant blessings on those who willingly give to Him and His work (Malachi 3:8-9). In this context, we should also mention the concept of “stewardship,” which goes above and beyond the tithe. The idea is that we are all given certain resources in life, and our purpose is to “steward” all of our resources in such a way as to do the maximum amount of overall good for His kingdom. It is this desire to honestly utilize everything that YHWH gives us for the furtherance of His kingdom that He loves to see, and while there is no “command” to tithe to His work while in the Dispersion, if we are not joyful to give to help further His kingdom, then something is wrong with our heart.
YHWH loves a cheerful giver, and He loves it when His people are eager to give something back to Him willingly, not grudgingly or out of necessity (i.e., of being forced). This is much in the same way as any parent loves it when their child wants to take ten percent of his time to help out around the house much more than when a child is “forced” to do chores he does not want to do.
There are some specifics to the tithes. Before the Levitical order was instated, YHWH’s people tithed to the Melchizedekian order (Genesis 14:20, 28:22). Because the Melchizedekian order does not require a standing temple but the Levitical order does, the Levitical order had to step down at the time the Romans destroyed the temple. At this time the Melchizedekian order was brought back into service (Hebrews 7:11-12), and will remain in service until the Ingathering takes place, and the Levitical and Melchizedekian orders are merged (Isaiah 66:21, Ezekiel 44).
After the Ingathering, when the Levitical Order is re-instated, we will return to the “three tithe” system (plus gifts, plus offerings). However, there is only one tithe (plus gifts, plus offerings) mentioned with regards to the Melchizedekian Order (Genesis 14:20, Genesis 28:22), and so that is all Yahweh wants while in the Dispersion. Yet like our example of the child eager to help out around the house, Yahweh does not want compulsory tithes, but eager hearts that love our Father, and want to “help out with His house.” Therefore, each one should give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly, or of necessity (2 Corinthians 9:7). YHWH is well able to make us abound, should we obey Him in this.
In like fashion, just as tithes, gifts and offerings are given freely in the dispersion, there should also be no “strings attached.” Once the tithes, gifts, offerings or donations are given, it does not entitle the giver to any form of “control” or “say” in the ministry. If it is freely given, then it is a gift—and as such it should not have controls.
It is sometimes thought that since the Levitical tithes in Torah applied to farm produce, only farmers have to tithe. This argument, however, alleges that Yahweh treats His people unequally, using equal weights and measures. Further, it neglects the fact that tithing is central to the worship, as it gives each of us an opportunity to show Yahweh how much we value and want to serve Him.
It is also sometimes thought that since we are called to be a nation of kings and priests (1Peter 2:9, etc.), that there is no longer any Melchizedekian or Levitical order to tithe to. This argument asks us to ignore huge swaths of Scripture, including the fact that the Apostle Shaul asked the people to help him stay at the ministry work full time in nearly every letter he wrote.
A more complete discussion of Melchizedekian and Levitical tithes is found in Torah Government. As long as Nazarene Israel remains in the Dispersion, the tithe and the offering will be treated as voluntary, for those who want to receive the fullness of Yahweh’s blessings.
10. One Body (No sectarianism).
Scripture is clear that there is only one body of Messiah (1 Corinthians 12), and that all the many ministries need to be working together as one (just as there was only ever one single nation of Israel in the wilderness). Sectarianism is prohibited by Scripture.
11. Fivefold Ministry.
The collective body of Messiah is to be served and raised up according to the Fivefold ministry model. There are five main gifts (or offices), those of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher, and these need to operate together, as part of one singular overall body. Apostles establish things according to Yahweh’s plan, prophets speak Yahweh’s words, evangelists reach out to others, pastors raise people up in love and in fellowship, and teachers teach on important points. Key to this is the understanding that the apostolic and prophetic network is supposed to tie the nation together in a very real way. (For more details, please see “The Fivefold Ministry”, as part of Torah Government.)
Yeshua tells us that YHWH’s house is not to be made a house of merchandise (John 2:16), and YHWH tells us that His word is to be without cost (Isaiah 55:1). These passages tell us that YHWH’s word is not to be sold for profit. From a certain perspective, monetizing the free gift means that it no longer belongs to YHWH, but to the one who sold it. If we will consider the topic, we may see that the overall effect of applying the market principle to ministry is to divide the body into sectarian, separate ministries (plural). When the people follow one minister or another, they see no reason to join together in one single united organization, and thus unity within the body is thwarted. In this way, merchandising leads to disunity in the body. The method prescribed in Scripture is for the people to support their ministers, and for their ministers to survive from the tithes, gifts and offerings of the people. Sales are not the same thing, and they have a scattering effect.
At Matthew 23:8, Yeshua tells us not to be called “rabbi” or “father.” We can find ways around Yeshua’s words, but Nazarene Israel rejects this practice. None of the apostles ever took titles, but were simply known by their names, and their function in the body.
14. Gender Roles.
There are three classical offices in Scripture, that of the king, the priest, and the prophet, while the judge is a special combination of all three. While Scripture does give us examples of women judges (e.g., Deborah, Judges 4), but we have no Scriptural examples of women priests. We do have some examples of women teachers (e.g., Priscilla, Acts 18:26), but when women serve in this capacity it must always be under the headship and accountability of her husband, who serves as her covering.
15. Judicial Authority.
The preferred method of leadership is that of example, but there are times when disputes have to be settled in love. Apostles have judicial authority over the congregations they serve. Further, there has to be an order between the apostles, with the greatest servant of all taking the lead. The key to making this process work is for all parties to listen to Yahweh.
Nazarene Israel is a pro-Semitic organization. Our purpose is to bring both Jews and Gentiles together as one in Messiah Yeshua. Hateful or disparaging remarks towards any Jewish, Ephraimite or Christian person is not always helpful. Sometimes people believe they are doing a good thing by attacking Christians or Jews when their beliefs depart from Scripture. However, while we are commanded to speak the truth, we are commanded to speak the truth in love. Therefore, even when speaking about doctrinal issues, we encourage everyone to keep a positive focus, and speak the truth in love (and not hate). This gives a much better witness.
17. Equal Weights and Measures.
Historically, many gentiles have been joined to the nation of Israel. All that is required to join the nation is to accept Yeshua, to surrender to His Spirit, and to walk in repentance towards His Torah, as the Scriptures say. When one does this, one is automatically joined to the nation. There is only one Torah for the foreigner, and for the native born (Exodus 12:49, Numbers 15:6, etc.) Notable persons who have no Israelite descent, but who have joined themselves to the Nation of Israel, include Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and King Solomon’s son’s wife Na’amah. These four notable women were part of the royal lineage, showing us that gentiles have always been able to graft into the Nation of Israel, and enjoy full status.
18. Respect for Government.
We are told to obey the governments established over us (Romans 13:1-8, 1 Peter 2:13-17, Titus 3:1-8), insofar as they do not lead to the death of other Israelites, or prevent us from witnessing our faith in Yeshua. It is only when the governments of men ask us to stand by while other Israelites die, and when they tell us not to witness our faith in Yeshua that we must disobey them (Acts 4:19-20, Daniel 3:12, etc.). (For more details, see “Obedience to Government.”) Nazarene Israel does not support or condone tax evasion, or anti-government activities in any form (Romans 13:1-8, 1 Peter 2:13-17, Titus 3:1-8).
Scripture commands us to wear tassels (tzitzit) in the four corners of the garments with which we cover ourselves, so that we may look upon them, and remember to perform all of Elohim’s commandments (Deuteronomy 22:12, Numbers 15:38). According to Torah, these tassels are to have a thread of blue in them. Archaeology and word studies indicate that the blue used was probably natural indigo. Nazarene Israel does not believe that sea snails are the source of the blue dye specified in Scripture, since this dye was too rare to be found in the quantities necessary in the middle of the Wilderness of Sinai. However, indigo dye was commonly traded in that area, in that time.
Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:9-11 tell us not to mix fibers in clothing. While these passages are translated into English in various ways, it is clear that the context of these passages is generally against mixing. Nazarene Israel recommends that people wear pure fibers (i.e., 100% linen, 100% cotton, 100% wool, etc.), but this is not a “point of doctrine.”
21. Headcoverings for men.
Exodus 39:28 tells us the Levitical priests are to wear two headcoverings when they are on duty in the Temple (as a uniform): a turban and a “bonnet” underneath. However, the priesthood was also commanded to leave their priestly garments (including the headcoverings) inside the physical Temple when they were off duty (Leviticus 16:23). Nazarene Israel believes that when the Melchizedekian and Levitical orders are merged and the temple is rebuilt, that the renewed priesthood will likely wear two headcoverings also. However, they will probably also leave their priestly garments in His temple. Beyond this, it is difficult to apply the priestly roles to the fivefold ministry model, as not everyone is a “priest.” However, Nazarene Israel believes that 1 Corinthians 11:4 is commonly mistranslated. In context, what 1 Corinthians 11:4 says is that men are not to decorate their hair (as women do). (For more details, see “Head Coverings in Scripture” in Nazarene Scripture Studies, Volume 1.) Since the rules for the temple do not always apply to the assembly, there is no agreement as to whether or not there is a requirement for leadership to wear headcoverings in the assemblies. Nazarene Israel advises praying, and following His voice, and allowing others to do the same.
22. Headcoverings for women.
There is no “thus sayeth Yahweh” commandment for women to cover their heads. Female headcoverings are a Hebraic tradition, with married women covering their heads (and concealing their beauty) in order to indicate that they are “taken.” Women who are “available” leave their hair (i.e., their beauty) uncovered, to indicate their receptivity towards male interest. Hebraic custom is for all women to cover their heads in the assembly, so as not to distract the men from focusing on Yahweh. However, the only “thus sayeth Yahweh” instruction we have with regards to female head coverings is found in the “Torah of the Jealous Husband.” We can state clearly that if a man and woman go into the temple in fulfillment of this Torah, the woman should enter the temple with her head covered, so that the priest can uncover it, in accordance with the Torah commandment. However, beyond that, we have no “thus sayeth.” (For more details, see “Head Coverings in Scripture.”)
23.Yahweh’s Word is the Final Authority.
It is the duty of all Israelites to read and study Yahweh’s word for themselves. This Halachah is a living document. If at any time we become convinced that any point can be amended, to make it more Scriptural, we will do so. Yahweh’s Word is always more important than man’s.
Norman B. Willis