I’ve been debating with myself and praying about how to present to you, the reader, that which I’ve learned this past winter about those who consider themselves to be Christians, yet choose to live under the Law of Moses, i.e., those who are Torah observant. The course of action I’ve landed upon is to take you on the journey (wild doctrinal ride, really) that has been my experience.
Last Fall, I noticed that the Law and Grace issue had bubbled back up on the mom’s forum I subscribe to (which has been a very big blessing in my life, by the way – so helpful and challenging and edifying and encouraging in so many ways) as it periodically seems to. I blew by the posts on the Law, first because they were really long and I didn’t have the time to read them thoroughly, and second, because I knew if I read them thoroughly, I’d probably feel compelled to put my two cents worth in on the subject, and I just did not have the time.
Fall came and went, Christmas came and went . . . and the Law posts kept on coming. And their tone had changed from “This is what we do in our family” to “If you really love God and want to please Him, you must do this” and “If you follow Jesus and love Him you must follow His commandments (code for Torah)” and “This is the way the early Church worshipped . . . even Gentile Christians were required to abstain from certain things (Acts 15:19-21) and that as the Gentiles were taught in the synagogues it was ‘understood’ that within the one or two years that they were under that teaching that they would be fully Torah compliant.”
That’s the one that got me. NEVER, EVER, had it EVER, in reading the New Testament about the Church and its founding, floundering, and growth, did it even remotely occur to me that we, as Christians, especially Gentile Christians, were to put ourselves under the Law of Moses. In fact, it was very clear to me that we were not to put ourselves under the Law. For those who were Jewish Christians, it was not expected that they would reject their customs and heritage (rich and meaningful!), but even they were admonished to not live by the Law, as they were now under Grace. Letters written to the churches in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Colosse, and to Jewish converts addressed in the book of Hebrews all contain repeated admonition and exhortation that we are not under the Law, but under Grace. To say that the early Church was operating under Torah at the direction of God? Sorry, just didn’t square with Scripture from what I could see.
Not only that, but the Gospel was rarely, if ever, mentioned. Nor were the gifts of the Spirit, the fruits of the Spirit, The Great Commission . . . And the only times that Jesus was mentioned were the times that Law Keepers would talk about how they were following His example of how to live a holy life by the Law and that He personally had commanded us to do likewise. Every example that they gave was pre-work-of-the-Cross. It was like the Crucifixion, Death, Burial, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus were inconsequential to those who were posting about Torah observance. Their claim was that people would be drawn to Christ by their “being set apart” resulting from their Law keeping, when in reality what they were advocating was isolationism, not at all what Jesus intended when He said “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations . . .”
At this point I was somewhat confused about why they believed the way they did in light of the completed work of the Cross. I went to the archives for that forum’s posts and looked at the “Law” posts from the previous Fall, just to make sure I was understanding correctly exactly what they were saying. Following is the first of three posts I wrote on that forum questioning the logic of Torah observance for Christians:
I can’t believe I’m jumping into this can of worms, but I can refrain no longer. Here goes . . .
I have noticed in many of the posts of those who are Torah observant that discussion of Grace and the shed Blood of Jesus is glaringly absent or greatly diminished. What about the Blood of Christ? What Does it DO? What DID it do? HOW does the Blood affect our relationship and standing with the Father in reality?
Let me give you an idea where I’m coming from. I believe that as repentant, born-again, cleansed by the Blood of Jesus believers, there are core issues which are indisputable. One God existing in three parts: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Divinity of Jesus Christ. The Virgin Birth. The sinless life of Christ. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The sin nature present in every human (original sin). Repentance from and confession of our personal and original sin, and the cleansing of that sin by the shed Blood of Jesus, the free gift of God by His Grace, resulting in restored relationship and fellowship with Him. The in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit in every believer, as promised by Jesus at the Ascension. Those basic, essential beliefs are at the core of Redemption as God has promised and designed it according to His Word. [To see my complete statement of faith, click here.]
Outside of that core of essential beliefs, there are secondary, disputable issues. Just to name a few . . . Method/style of worship: Musical instruments or not? More formal or casual dress? Weekly, monthly, quarterly or whatever schedule of the taking of communion? Hymns or Praise and Worship or a mix of the two? Baptism – by immersion or sprinkling . . . of infants or professed believers? (Many put Baptism in the indisputable core issues category. For me, as salvation is not contingent upon Baptism, but Baptism is a public profession of conversion, I fall in the immersion-of-professed-believers camp, but recognize that salvation hinges upon repentance and the cleansing of sin by the Blood of Jesus alone.) Method/percentage of tithe and offerings? Sabbath keeping or worshipping on Sunday? Church government and structure? Spiritual gifts for the Church today or dispensationalism [I have since learned that the more proper term for the gifts not being in operation today is more accurately referred to as “cessationism”.]? The drinking or not of wine? etc. etc. etc.
These secondary, disputable matters are issues about which believers have strong convictions, varying by degrees. Believers who are like-minded concerning such issues tend to gravitate together and worship together. For those who forge their path in Love and Grace (Romans 14), the Gospel is exalted and preserved. For many, the secondary issues overtake the Gospel and the Gospel is forgotten in a sea of religiosity.
Then there are issues that I would classify as issues of personal obedience: Homeschooling, head coverings, dresses only, tv or no tv . . . things like that. These are things which God may or may not call an individual or a family to that may be for a season or for a lifetime.
You may have noticed that I did not put Torah Observance in the above paragraphs. Should Torah observance really have a place in practice in the Body of Christ?
I’ve shared several posts from this forum concerning Torah observance from both sides with my husband and his response (as well as some good discussions) was that Judaisers are alive and well in the Church today, resulting in the dilution of the Gospel. Indeed.
It is a humbling thing to receive Grace.
Can you imagine, as Jesus bent to wash the disciples’ feet, how they must have felt? The God of all creation washing their dirty, dusty, (think of the streets of the day) feet? Jesus came to Peter, and Peter said, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No”, said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you , you have no part with me.” Peter knew Jesus wasn’t just talking feet now, and realized the spiritual implications of what Jesus was saying and doing and said, “Then, Lord, not just my feet but may hands and my head as well!” (John 13:6-9) Peter was all in! His first inclination was that he was too lowly and too dirty to let God in the Flesh wash his dirty, nasty, feet (self). We would do the same thing – “NO! I should wash your feet, Lord,” is what I can imagine many of us saying to Him. But by humbling himself, Peter realized that JESUS is the One who does the washing, and unless He does it, and we LET Him do it, we have nothing to do with Him. Of course, the washing Jesus was referring to was the washing He was preparing to do with His Blood.
What about the Blood?
What did the washing away of our sin with the Blood accomplish?
Why did Jesus do what He did if the Law is still to be observed? The tearing of the curtain . . . restoring fellowship with God . . . the atonement of sin . . .
Which brings me to . . . our realistic place before God because of the Blood. We are sinless, blameless, sins washed away, sanctified, justified, our sins are as far as the east is from the west. (Ephesians 1:3-8, Acts 22:16, 1 Corinthians 6:11, much of the letter to the Hebrews, Psalm 103:12, and BUNCHES of other places in Scripture!)
IF that is true, WHY would one think or feel that there is a need for the Law to be observed? I’m not speaking of learning or knowing about the Law, but of carrying out its edicts. The Law is for the lawless. Its purpose was to show us God’s standard and our inherent inability to be righteous before Him. To show us our need for Redemption through repentance and our dependence on God’s Grace and Mercy. Our need for Jesus! Are not we, as repentant believers, free from that sin, and from practicing the Mosaic Law because of the Blood of the Lamb?
What about the Blood?
So that was the question I had for the families that had chosen to place themselves under the Law (it is still bizarre to me to write that . . . that there are those who choose to be Torah observant in light of the Cross).
The responses I got were at the same time enlightening and confusing. Those responses prompted me to ask the question “Where is this teaching coming from??” And the research began. I began to look in the archives for that forum for postings by the most prolific writer about Law keeping for titles of books, websites, names of teachers/preachers/authors . . . anything that would give me insight as to where this teaching was coming from.
It is at this point that I want to make something perfectly clear: I do not doubt the sincerity or hearts for God of any of these women or their families who are Torah observant. I believe that they believe that they are doing the right thing. They do what they do out of love for God and a desire to please Him. That’s what has added an element of confusion for me about this whole issue, after all, how can loving God and wanting to please Him coupled with adhering to His Law be a bad thing?!
God, in His faithfulness, has provided answers to these questions. And amazingly enough, research revealed the “movement” that had grabbed my attention to meet one and in some cases both criteria for false teaching/religions – denial of the Deity of Christ (some in the movement outright, and others more subtly, in the form of denying the Trinity) and perpetration of the Original Lie, “You will be like God”. It took a while before I saw how/where those two criteria fit, and it at first glance is subtle, but definitely there. Stay tuned for Part 3 . . .
For a complete listing of posts at JGIG regarding the Hebrew Roots Movement, click HERE.
Other articles of interest:
A clear presentation of the Gospel can be found HERE. 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. Good, foundational studies with a special emphasis on Old Covenant/New Covenant Truths can be found HERE. Be sure to check out the Testimonies Page, as well. 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.
Filed under: "Law Keepers", Belief Sytems, Discernment, Formulas, Grace and Law, Hebraic Roots, Hebrew Roots Movement, Legalism, Sacred Name Movement, Torah | Tagged: "Law Keepers", Discernment, Grace and Law, Hebraic Roots, Religion, Torah |