From Andrew Strom
RETURN of THE JUDAIZERS??
-by Andrew Strom.
I have friends who call Jesus “Yeshua”. I don’t mind it at all. I have other friends who keep the Saturday Sabbath. It doesn’t bother me too much, unless there is a kind-of “aggressive attitude” about it. But in recent years I have witnessed a worrying trend – that in my opinion is growing worse – and we need to address it.
Today when a Christian tells me that they are “Torah-observant” then all kinds of alarms go off. It may be that they are just into ‘Hebrew roots’ – but usually it is a lot more than that. We all know that in the early church, the biggest problem they had was with the “Judaizers” who went around trying to convince the Gentile Christians that they must obey the letter of the Old Testament Law. This shipwrecked the faith of many. It was the biggest problem they had. The book of Galatians is all about it – and many other sections of the New Testament. It was a battle between the old Law – with its subtle bondages – and the new walk of the Spirit and of grace.
A few months back, we published the testimony of a Christian woman who got involved with a Messianic group that slowly under-mined her faith in Jesus – and basically converted her gradually into a practicing Jew – even though they all thought of themselves as “Messianic Christians”! She realized later that in almost every way she had slowly had her faith in Jesus and the New Testament replaced with the keeping of the Torah. She had been “Judaized”! And I fear this is happening to a great many Christians today – in all kinds of subtle ways.
This is exactly what the Bible warns against – losing the “simplicity” of the faith. And that is why Paul was so strong against the Juda-izers. He saw that Christians were being tempted – not to place their faith in Christ alone – but rather in Christ PLUS the keeping of the Law. It was no longer a simple trust in JESUS to be their righteousness. They now started to feel they had to keep the letter of the Old Law too – in order to be truly “holy”. And so they became “Judaized”. This is the worst trap possible. And so subtle!
Let us look at a few vital Scriptures. Please open your Bible to Acts 15:1-29. This whole passage is about a great meeting of the apostles to decide whether – with the new Gentile Christians – it was “necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (v 5). So what did the apostles conclude about this? As Peter declared during the debate about it, “Why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (v 10).
At the end of the great meeting, the apostles put out a letter to the Gentile Christians that declared: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.” (v. 28-29). And as far as the Old Law went, that was it!
In other words, no “Torah observance”, no Sabbath, no circumcision, no Old Law apart from these few things. This brief list only. That was the pronouncement of the apostles. If they wanted to tell the Gentiles, “You must keep the Jewish Sabbath,” then this was the place to do it. But it is definitely not included. And neither are a thousand-and-one other things from the Old Testament. [including tithing – editor]
Of course, this should be no surprise to us. In Colossians 2, Paul tells us very clearly that Christ has “wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us” by nailing it to the cross (v. 14). He then goes on to say: “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.” (v. 16-17).
So all these Old Testament practices are only a “shadow” of the New. In fact, as Hebrews makes clear, the entire Old Covenant was only a ‘type’ or shadow of that which was to come. It was not the real thing! It does not make us more “holy”! The substance is found in Christ – and Him alone. The Old Torah “requirements” were nailed to the cross with Jesus. We don’t need them any more. If anybody ever tells you that the New Testament is simply a “continuation” of the Old, run a mile from that person. They simply do not know what they are talking about. In fact, what they are spouting is dangerous heresy.
Thus, as Paul tells us in Romans, observing the Sabbath is only necessary if our conscience is weak in this area – and we feel we have to:- “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it” (Rom 14:1-6).
So we do not “have” to observe the Sabbath. It does not make us more ‘holy’ or righteous to do so. It is simply a matter of conscience. This runs against a lot of the teaching that is doing the rounds right now. There is a lot of dangerous “Back to the Torah”-type emphasis that is bringing a lot of harm to a lot of people. Many of them don’t even realize what is happening to them.
Paul clearly tells us in Galatians that you can lose your salvation by beginning to rely on the Law in your Christian walk: “You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain” (Gal 4:10-11). He then goes on to say, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Gal 5:4). Alarming statements, are they not?
You see, it is a direct insult to the work of Christ and to God for us to go back to the “works of the Law” to try and make us more ‘righteous’ in His sight. It is placing our trust in something other than just Jesus. We are “adding works” for our salvation. And it will not do.
[I’m not sure where Andrew is coming from here, but the Bible clearly teaches we’re not only to trust in Jesus, but we also must abide in Him (John 15). And Paul clearly states in Romans 8 this:
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law couldn’t do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh; that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
And Paul completes his law discussion in Galatians with this statement in chapter 5:
14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you don’t consume one another.
Jesus’ Second Greatest Commandment has now replaced and superseded the old covenant law. The law has now been replaced by and superceded by the law written in our hearts.
Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5) that if we aren’t hating we won’t be killing and that if we’re not lusting in our hearts we won’t be committing adultery externally.
The law was replaced by something greater, now that the Holy Spirit now abides in us. We have the ability to overcome at a deeper level. And we’re required to.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, 21 envyings, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts.
In the new covenant, it’s not just a matter of trusting, but abiding — life in the Son – editor]
I believe that just like the Galatians, a lot of people today need to repent of trying to add the Old Law to their salvation – sometimes in subtle ways – sometimes major. This is not the kind of thing to toy around with. It can be utterly deadly. If you are someone who is adding “Torah observance” to your faith, I urge you to repent.
The testimony of the woman who slowly lost her faith in Jesus through Messianic Torah-observance can be found at the top of our website. Here is the link-
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“TORAH OBSERVANT” – A DECEPTION??