BACK TO YOUR (HEBREW) ROOTS?

“A confused effort to live like Old Testament Jews and help Christians to appreciate Hebrew roots they do not actually possess.”

By Mike McGuire

For several years there have been movements encouraging Christians to get back to their roots, their Hebrew roots. Many movements, called Messianic movements, have led some Christians to celebrate Jewish feasts and to feel spiritually superior to other Christians who do not follow Jewish feasts. These movements are not new. Paul dealt with “Judaizing” in the first century. Many of the teachers believed that people had to become Jewish before they could become Christian.

“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17 NKJV). Here Paul deals with the same idea of keeping feasts and observing sabbaths. Some believers felt superior to others and required them to observe festivals, new moon celebrations, and sabbaths.

Today some Christians worship on the Sabbath. They feel that they must do so because the Ten Commandants say to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. They feel that not having church on Saturday is a violation of that commandment. Many Christians worship on Sundays in honor of Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week. Christians followed this tradition in the New Testament. Jesus appeared after his resurrection on the first day of the week as the apostles gathered together (John 20:19). Christians gathered together on the first day of the week to break bread and Paul preached (Acts 20:7). Paul also asked the Corinthians to take up an offering for the church in Jerusalem on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2). No commandment was ever given for a day to esteem as holy among the Christians.

Paul also wrote in Romans 14:5, “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” Paul never indicated that one day to worship was better than another. He said that each person should be convinced in his own mind. If you and your congregation worship on Sunday, Paul said that it was all right. Those who worship on Saturday should not try to force others to worship then. Those who worship on Sunday should not seek to force others to do so. Whichever day you chose, you do it unto the Lord (Romans 14:6).

Besides Sabbath worship, author Todd Friel lists nine additional things that characterize Messianic movements:

  1. Celebrating Old Testament festivals
  2. Obeying select Old Testament laws
  3. Circumcision upon conversion
  4. Keeping kosher or partially kosher
  5. Elevating unbiblical texts like the Mishnah to the level of Scripture
  6. Calling Jesus by his Hebrew name, Yeshua
  7. Never spelling G-d
  8. Women wearing long skirts and head coverings
  9. Men wearing untrimmed beards

(Friel, Todd, Judge Not, p. 163, 164)

Friel calls this a confused effort to live like Old Testament Jews and help Christians to appreciate Hebrew roots they do not actually possess (p. 164). The New Testament never even hints that Christians should follow Old Testament Laws or extra-biblical teachings. The danger is that we cannot select which laws to obey. A Christian who tries to follow certain laws becomes obligated to keep all of them. This is what Paul meant by falling from grace, not losing one’s salvation, but trying to earn salvation by keeping the law (Galatians 5:2-6). Paul wrote: “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21).

James echoed the same message: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (2:10). If we try to keep the law, we must keep all of it, not just certain parts, like the festivals or Sabbath attendance. If we fail in one part, we become guilty of breaking it all. We cannot keep the Law regarding sacrifices because there is no Temple and no altar. If we try to follow the Law, we will fail at the point of the sacrifices.

The Church dealt with this issue at the Council of Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15. There the Judaizers wanted to make the Gentile Christians follow Jewish practices to become followers of Christ. The Church and the Apostles debated the issue. They finally arrived at the conclusion that they would not “test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” (15:10).

Can we Christians learn from studying the festivals? Yes. Can we learn from studying the Laws? Yes. Are we better off if we follow them? Resoundingly no. These things were shadows that led us to Christ, who is the substance. Why do we need to go back to the shadows when we have the light? The old covenant is obsolete (Hebrews 8:13)

Learn more about the new covenant at Crescent Park Baptist Church, Odessa, Texas. Mike McGuire is the pastor. You can leave comments at www.mikemcguireministries.com Also available in Hard copy. Look for Embracing Faith on amazon.com.

FREEDOM IN CHRIST

Not long ago the sound of fireworks started splitting the air. At all hours of the day and night you can hear fire crackers and rockets. It reminds us that Independence Day is coming soon. We will celebrate two-hundred and forty-two years of Independence. Many of our ancestors came to this country because they wanted to experience freedom to worship God the way they felt led. They wanted to break away from the forced religious practices of Europe only to establish colonies that were just as religiously oppressive and legalistic as in Europe. Although free from European religion, their colonies were not free. You were free to worship if it fit within the religious framework of that colony.

Christ brought freedom from the religious legalism of the Pharisees of His day. His was the sacrifice that did away with the sacrificial system of the Torah. Galatians is the Apostle Paul’s treatise against the Judaizers who followed him and wanted the Gentile Christians to follow all the Mosaic law before becoming Christians. Paul preached freedom in Christ. Speaking to the Galatians who had been “bewitched” (3:1) by the Judaizers, he wrote, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). That yoke of bondage referred to the covenant of Mount Sinai in Galatians 4:21-31.

Today there is a movement of Judaizing among Christians. A website I have seen recently is New2Torah.com. They teach that real Christians are discovering and returning to the Torah and becoming better Christians. Referring to the rite of circumcision that the Judaizers wanted to impose upon Gentiles, Paul wrote, “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law” (5:3). If anyone wants to keep a part of the Law, Paul says he or she is obligated to keep all the law. “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). The Jews couldn’t keep the Torah. Neither can Christians.

No one can keep all the Torah. You cannot pick and choose what parts you want to keep such as Sabbath worship or dietary laws. To keep the Torah, you must keep the required sacrifices of the Torah. Take this passage referring to making a sacrifice to God in Leviticus 3:1-2 from the Torah: “And if his oblation be a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offer it of the herd; whether it be a male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord (Yahweh). And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron’s sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.” Aaron is no longer alive, and if you tried to perform this today you would be arrested for cruelty to animals. What’s more, there is no place to offer such a sacrifice as the Roman Army destroyed the Temple in AD 70. Further, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). There is no forgiveness in the sacrificial system, only a reminder of sin (Hebrews 10:3).

Hebrews 10:1, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” The substance is of Christ (Colossians 2:17).

The problem with Judaizers like those of New2Torah is that they accuse of lawlessness anyone who does not fall back into their system. That is a false dichotomy. Being free from the law does not mean freedom to sin as Judaizers misinterpret it. Paul dealt with this charge as well. He recognized that Christians are no longer under the law, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15). Peter echoed in 1 Peter 1:16, “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.”

Galatians 3:10-12a, “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law to do them.’ But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  And the law is not of faith’” If you go back to the Law, you are cursed. The purpose of the law was to point to the need of a Savior. No one can keep the Torah. The law is like a mirror that a person looks into and sees himself or herself. (James 1:22-25) The perfect law of the Spirit gives freedom, but the letter of the law kills. (He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6) Paul also wrote, “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”(Galatians 2:21).

For more about the Hebrew Roots movement, see: https://www.watchman.org/staff/jwalker/ProfileHebrewRoots.pdf