Having debated with those in Law-keeping sects for the last couple of years, the following are some truths that I’ve found to be of particular frustration and annoyance to them as they try to convince me that those in Christ are mandated to ‘keep’ Torah:
1. Yes, it is the NEW Covenant, not the RENEWED Covenant. To get to the idea of a ‘Renewed’ Covenant, one must play fast and loose with the language of the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament. (See also Hebrew Roots Movement – New Covenant or “Renewed” Covenant?)
2. Paul’s letters, read as written, really do teach that the Body of Christ is no longer under the Law. (See most of New Testament.) Paul was given revelation directly from Christ (2 Corinthians 12, Galatians 1, Ephesians 3) and his writings were recognized by the other Apostles as Scripture (2 Peter 3:16). Christ foretold of greater revelation concerning the Church, making it understood that there was more to come, that the Holy Spirit would reveal much to the Body of Christ through His Apostles (John 16:12-16), making it clear that Torah was not the end all and be all to what God wanted to communicate to His people. What Christ did matters.
I so tire of Law ‘keepers’ who say things like,
“If there is one person most MIS-understood and most MIS-quoted it is the Apostle Paul. Almost as soon as Paul penned his words, the church began twisting them to say the complete opposite of what he had intended.” (source)
The above is a common mantra throughout the Hebrew Roots/Messianic Judaism/Law ‘keeping’ sects. They accuse the Body of Christ of, at best, misinterpreting Paul’s writings to Her, at worst, outright lying about the words Paul penned to Her. What is really amazing is that everyone but those in the contemporary HRM/MJ movements and their sects have had it wrong for nearly 2000 years? How is it that God would allow such a thing?! Only now He’s allowing His Truth to be known? Are we really to believe that?
When I heard the Law-keeping rendition of Paul’s letter to the Galatians (one of my first exposures to the HRM), it was almost comical to see how Paul had been turned on his head by those who assert that he advocates Torah observance for Gentiles. And it was not because I am so steeped in ‘church tradition’ that I say that what I heard from these Law ‘keepers’ was error. A simple reading of the writings of Paul reveal his intent, and Torah is not central to his writings, but Jesus Christ, His work, and His absolute authority are repeatedly established and hailed as paramount.
Paul centered EVERYTHING he taught on the completed work and authority of Christ. Torah is a part of what Paul taught, but Jesus Christ – Who He is and what He did - is central to what Paul taught the Body of Christ:
1 Corinthians 2:2
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Then there are those who realize that for them personally to retain any credibility the Scriptures that Paul penned cannot be twisted to such a point where they support their theology and so they choose instead to throw Paul under the bus altogether.
3. God is eternal, Torah is not. Torah is created, not eternal. There is an attempt in the Law keeping community to attach godly attributes to Torah, when in reality Torah is representative of God’s character and expectations, not an embodiment of them. You may hear the Law ‘keeper’ say things like,
“Torah was before time”, “God spoke creation into being, and what did He use to do that? His Word! What is His Word? Torah! What does John 1:1 say? The Word was with God in the beginning . . . therefore Torah is eternal!”
They will also take that train of thought (right off a cliff!) and say that the Word in John 1:1 is Torah and turn that into “Yeshua is the Living Torah”, totally misusing the Greek word logos John uses for the word, Word. I used to think this was more of a fringe belief in the Hebrew Roots/Messianic Judaism and Law ‘keeping’ sects, but the belief that Yeshua is the Living Torah is a fairly widespread belief. They are undoubtedly preaching a different Jesus.
2 Corinthians 11:4-6
4 For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
5 I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” 6 I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.
4. The catch-22 problem with the ‘Yeshua is the Living Torah’ doctrine: If Yeshua is the Living Torah, then the Law DID die. If the Law died, then it is no longer in effect. If you are a Law ‘keeper’, are you going to come back and say that the Law rose from the dead? Are you going to pick the Law apart like you do to ‘keep’ it? Can you pick Yeshua apart and say that only ‘parts’ of the Word were put to death? Was the Law resurrected?
Sound doctrine elevates Yeshua to the fullness of God as the Scriptures say He is (Colossians 2:9-17). The doctrine Law ‘keepers’ believe diminishes Yeshua to a written code. If you hold to the ‘Yeshua is the Living Torah’ doctrine, the Law died.
The Bible says that Christ is the end of the Law for all who believe (Romans 10:4). That indicates a change in relationship to the Law for the believer. It seems that sound doctrine has more respect for God’s Law than does ‘Yeshua is the Living Torah’ doctrine does. (See also The Law of Christ – Defined and Defended to explore the believer’s relationship to Law in Christ.)
5. It was our SIN that was nailed to the Cross, not just man’s additions to or the curses of the Law. What was blotted out and nailed to the cross? What stood against us? Convicting us in the sight of God? That which the Law defines – SIN. Law Keepers assert that Christ merely nailed human traditions added to the Law or just the curse of the Law to the Cross. Jesus accomplished so much more than that.
**This entry has been edited after a fellow contender for the faith corrected me. They say it best, so I’ll post what they wrote to me here (Many thanks CIAN!):
“The LOM did NOT die on the cross, Jesus did, and through HIS death on our behalf, all believers have DIED as well — The LOM is NOT dead, but WE are DEAD to IT (a crucial distinction) … It is our SINS which Jesus took upon His own head on the cross when He became SIN for us (He did NOT become the LOM) — I think that is a pivotal point to keep in the forefront of our thinking as we read this passage & others relating to it … WHAT is REMOVED in Col.2:11 ??? NOT the LOM (!!!) but our body of flesh, our body of dead works, our body of SIN … The decrees certified against us in verse 14 have been CANCELLED out and taken away (Because our Transgressions were forgiven, having been Nailed to the Cross in HIS Body) and the charges have been dropped against US since they were levied upon Jesus (in our stead) who PAID our DEBT BOND, He Himself being the Surety Forfeited because of our DEFAULT.”
Seeing that human tradition carries no authority to convict man in God’s sight and sin does, that it was merely human tradition or just the curse of the Law that Law ’keepers’ assert was nailed to the cross simply fails in light of the facts and the context. Once sin is washed away, the Law is done with us . . . it has led us to the Cross – and there we become a New Creation! We no longer have the same relationship with the Law as we did before the work of Christ in our lives!
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
6. The Holy Spirit is perfectly capable of sanctifying the believer apart from observing Mosaic Covenant Law. The Holy Spirit works righteousness from the inside out, where the Law merely restrains sin from the outside. Where the Law instructs man regarding his sinful condition, the Gospel transforms man regarding his sinful condition! The believer walking in submission to the Holy Spirit will not be led into sin. The believer walking in rebellion to the Holy Spirit will be miserable!
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
11 See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!
12 Those who want to impress people by means of the flesh are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 Not even those who are circumcised keep the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your circumcision in the flesh. 14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.
Does that mean that we as believers cannot learn from the Law? Of course not! ALL Scripture is profitable . . .
2 Timothy 3:14-17
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
7. Law is not law unless it is enforced. Those in the Hebrew Roots/Messianic Judaism streams of thought pick and choose what laws they follow. They call it being ‘Torah pursuant’ – doing what they can as they are ‘led’. God’s Law does not allow for this practice! To follow that way of thinking is to cheapen both the Law and the Holiness of God Almighty!
Those who are Torah ‘pursuant’ completely ignore the very important enforcement aspects of Mosaic Covenant Law. It would seem that the judgement aspects of the Law are part of the jots and tittles, if you know what I mean. If you want to see some Torah-pursuant back-pedaling, see how your Law ‘keeping’ friends respond when you ask them why they don’t obey Deuteronomy 16 and 17. (See also Is Law Really Law Without Enforcement?)
8. The fruit of the Hebrew Roots/Messianic Judaism belief systems and related sects is not good. While attempting to sway you to a Torah-pursuant lifestyle one may appear to be sweet and nice at the outset, but consistently challenge them on their beliefs with contextual Scripture and look out for the teeth and claws! (Edited to add: An example of what I’m talking about can be found in a run of comments from ‘Brandon’ found HERE at JGIG.) There are several who have lined up to be ‘witnesses against me’ at the judgement because I disagree with mandatory Torah observance for those in Christ. Apparently I am not alone as one who has witnesses lining up against me . . .
This came to a fellow believer/friend of mine who had a civil discourse with such a person. Then this, after my friend clearly was rejecting Law keeping doctrine (bolding, color, spelling, and exclamation points all by original author):
“According to Heb 10:26 you are headed for the fire!! and this direction you are on will lead to destruction!!! and I am one witness who will testify of your disobedience in front of Yahushua (Jes*s), I pray you will obey YHWH (GOD) before there comes another witness!
And according to 1 Jon [sic] you are a liar so, dream what you will regarding your understanding… but don’t let your dreams keep you from experiencing everlasting life with the Creator of the universe! REPENT NOW BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!
My last post to you!
GO AND SIN (LAWLESSNESS) NO MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…….eversasting [sic] ”
Other Christians who contend for the Faith on debate forums have had similar threats leveled at them. Beyond the obvious problems with the above, I’ve had false witness borne against me by Law ‘keepers’ countless times, one has threatened me with legal action for content on this blog, and I’ve received veiled threats because I stand by the completed work of Christ at the cross!
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
9. Torah is not our access to God and His Character or His promises. Faith in Jesus and belonging to Him is. There is relationship with God that is available to us that was not available to those under the Law.
2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
39These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
10. The hermeneutic (a method or principle of interpretation) used by those teaching HRM/MJ doctrines is fluid. There is no stable underlying framework from which those in Law ‘keeping’ sects interpret and teach Scripture. They make use of eisegesis over exegesis, transliteration, Midrash, proof texting, and shift back and forth between ‘Hebraic’ thought and Western thought when it suits their purposes.
Some will even go so far as to use ‘re-translated Scriptures’ - those translated from what they claim is the original Hebrew or Aramaic New Testament writings. In other words, they reject the Greek Primacy of the New Testament Scriptures, opening up all kinds of new interpretations of the writings to the Body of Christ as they purpose to substitute specific Greek language that the Apostles actually used in their writings with what HRM/MJ teachers consider to be Hebrew or Aramaic ‘equivalents’. Key Biblical doctrines affected by this practice are those hinging on words such as justification, repent/repentance, Word, commandment, fulfill, etc.
If it (HR/MJism) were indeed truth, the belief system would be able to stand on a plain reading of Scripture and not have to build all kinds of theological interpretive contraptions to get Scripture to mold to their way of thinking.
11. Those in Law-keeping sects seek to make the simple complicated. Notice when someone like me comes along with a simple New Covenant concept like the realities of grafting or the Law of Love how some Law ‘keepers’ go on and on about how I “just don’t understand – here – let me throw 30 different Old Testament passages and a couple of out-of-context and/or misapplied New Testament passages at you to show you how you’re wrong”.
12. Law ‘keepers’ cannot deal with contextual writings written to the Body of Christ, or their theology falls apart. It is on the core issues of the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that belief systems stand or fall. Who Jesus Christ is, what He did, and that He instituted the New Covenant in His Blood, making a way for all men, through faith in Him, to have relationship with God – these are core issues that are muddied by those in the Hebrew Roots Movement/Messianic Judaism streams of thought. Some key results from those muddied issues:
- Jesus for them becomes the Living Torah, not the Living God.
- The New Covenant becomes the Renewed Covenant, a complete misuse of the language of both the OT and the NT, and indicating a turning back to Mosaic Covenant Law when the Gospel requires nothing of the sort.
- A perversion of the word repentance, again saying that it is a turning back to God in the form of turning back to Mosaic Covenant Law, not in a turning away from sin and to the Cross and the New Creation that God desires us to become in Christ!
- It’s always a Jesus + equation for the Law ‘keeper’ . . . for them it is believe on Jesus (Yeshua or however they choose to spell the sacred name at any particular moment), and then there are things you MUST do. If you don’t you at best will be called least in the kingdom, at worst, be utterly cast out.
- They are Torah-centric, not Christ-centric, resulting in obvious idolatry, rectified in their minds by the first point noted above.
- Some resort to mystical interpretations of the Scriptures, using Talmudic sources and methods, not realizing where those things are rooted. If they do become aware of the mystical roots of such sources and methods, by that point they no longer care, as they are so tied to the Law. The veil is by then firmly in place (2 Corinthians 3).
There are more points I could raise here, but a dozen is a nice round number and I thought it would be nice to have a post that comes in under 3000 words for a change!
(Full disclosure . . . added a few more Scriptures. Clocked in at 3112, 3138, 3401+ words. Oh well.)
Other articles of interest:
- Tzit Tzit For the Believer In Christ?
- 12 Undeniable Truths That Drive Law ‘Keepers’ Crazy
- Old Testament Believers and New Testament Christians – From the Articles Page – Addresses the issue of how OT saints were ‘saved’ vs. how NT saints are saved, i.e. what salvation meant and how it was obtained before and after the actual work of Christ on the timeline. It clarifies several points that we see Law keepers bring up in debate over and over again as they misapply the phrase from Scripture, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” and couple that with the claim that the Church (ekklesia, Body of Christ) also existed in the Old Testament. It did not, and this article clarifies the difference between OT believers and NT Christians. Excellent study. Highly recommended.
For more resources regarding the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements see the Post Index and the Articles Page. General study helps, discernment, and apologetics sites can be found HERE. Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.
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